Chris Nolan’s “Oppenheimer” First Poster Arrives Just in Time
Although I don’t know (and wouldn’t tell you if) whether audience members who show up at Nope tonight will be shown an announcement teaser about Chris Nolan’s Oppenheimer. I wouldn’t be surprised. Three years ago, Hobbs & Shawin IMAX received a barebones and cryptic teaser for Nolan’s TENET. This teaser was theatrically exclusive. Since The Dark Knight‘s bank robbery prologue was first shown in December 2007, Nolan has done such things. Again, I don’t know and wouldn’t spoil the surprise. We are now exactly one year away from Oppenheimer’s 2023 release on July 21, 2019. This announcement/teaser poster shows again that Nolan is committed to long-lead advertising.
Even before Covid, we saw shorter marketing campaigns. Studios realized that the general public only began paying attention to marketing campaigns within the last two months. It’s also not like the “real”, marketing campaigns for The Dark Knight Rises and Dunkirk didn’t begin until six to seven months prior to the theatrical release date. That announcement teaser for The Dark Knight was released in July 2007, with the opening night The Simpsons. After that, there was mostly silence (online/viral mystery advertising notwithstanding) until the trailers and IMAX prologues were available in December 2007. This was just seven months away from the film’s July 18, 2008. release. Ditto Dark Knight Rises (teaser with Harry Potterin July; trailer with Sherlock Holmes and Mission: Impossiblein December).
If we can get a teaser trailer tonight, I will save the history of long-lead advertising. In terms of announcing the existence of the film, the poster does the job. The poster is cryptic and contains imagery that could suggest an atomic bomb blast or Cillian Murphy going to the bathroom (see also: Scarlett Johansson’s explosive farts during The Avengers). The online chatter about the number of white men in the cast is interesting. I find it fascinating that there are three men (Murphy and Matt Damon) and two women (Emily Blunt, and Robert Downey Jr.). This has been a long-running project and I can recall when there were two women in the above-the-line credits (and eventually character posters).
One skewed challenge for the film will be dealing in a media environment where Greta Gerwig’s Barbieopening will be supported. This was evident when Tom Cruise’s Edge of Tomorrowwas compared against Shailene Whiteley’s Fault in our Stars in June 2014. It is likely that there will be a narrative wanting Nolan’s historical drama, which is supposedly earnest, “beaten” by Gerwigs bubble-gum comedy. Edge and Fault were both among the year’s top mainstream pictures. The biggest problem for sci-fi actioner was its $175million budget, which wasn’t enough to cover $375 million global. Oppenheimer cost around $100 million. Its big stars took home $4-$5 millions plus theatrical backends. Oppenheimer would accept even Tenet-level grosses of $366 million globally.
My feelings are mixed about what happened two years ago with Tenet‘s theatrical release. Perhaps Nolan wanted the film to be released mid-summer in order to “save theaters,” but then he jumped ship anyway. WB may have released it in August 2020, because Jason Kilar and his friends knew that he wouldn’t be interested in the HBO Max/Project Popcorn plan. It’s likely somewhere in between those extremes. Tenet was successful overseas ($305 million), but it only suffered in North America, when Los Angeles and New York theaters closed. The $366 million gross was a goal for 2020 and 2021. It would be ironic, but it is not fair to call Universal Nolan’s best friend when Oppenheimerearns gross roughly on par with TENET in more aggregable circumstances.