Nicole Kidman stars in a first-of-its-kind ad campaign for AMC Theaters that sets out to convince film fans that “We Make Movies Better.” However, with the world still struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic, many saw the spots as inherently tone-deaf and took to the internet to make their frustrations known.
The international cinema company told CNN that the $25 million advertisement effort “is the first such multi-media campaign in AMC’s 101-year history,” and potentially the first rolled out by a major American theatre. Businesses like AMC previously had little reason to advertise on multiple platforms, especially on outlets such as network television, as they rely on the extensive marketing campaigns run by individual films to bring viewers to their locations. AMC might then play ads to a captive audience, but they are rarely seen outside that space.
The ads will run across the United States and in nine European countries, according to The Hollywood Reporter, and debuted with a 60-second spot that featured the face of the campaign, Kidman, visiting an empty theatre. However, the advertisement’s emphasis on the superiority of the moviegoing experience, instead of the global health crisis that has devastated theatre attendance, has upset more than a few film fans.
Fans took aim at AMC’s failure to address the challenges of the pandemic
In AMC’s ad that premiered on YouTube, viewers see Nicole Kidman stride into an empty movie theatre while listing some of the unique qualities of the experience that set it apart from streaming a movie at home. Kidman describes “dazzling images on a huge silver screen” and “sound that I can feel” as clips from films like “La La Land” play onscreen.
Many on Twitter were not impressed and took the ad to task for its unrealistic portrayal of theatres and lack of information regarding how the company would deal with issues like social distancing. @Jon_Wolfoso wrote, “Yeah, If I was rich enough to buy all tickets in the theater, I guess I’d go back too in the middle of a pandemic.” Likewise, @heatherfink said, “You spent 25 million & chose not to address the Covid concern keeping people home.”
Others commented on the issue affecting theatres before the pandemic crippled the industry — competition from streaming services like Netflix. That rivalry has only intensified thanks to experiments with debuting new movies like “Wonder Woman 1984” on HBO Max. @GuyLikesThat wrote, “Covid just gave us what we always wanted–the means to watch new movies at home.”
While theaters are in a tough spot, glossy ads of empty seats may not be the best way to buy goodwill online. “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” just smashed box office records, showing that, while theaters have a new battle to fight, the war isn’t entirely lost yet.