The Unbearable Timeliness of Movies
This is a tricky one for 20thCentury Fox. The studio has a big-budget summer movie on its hands that bears the unfortunate title, Neighborhood Watch.
The teaser for this film couldn’t have come at a worse time. As the world knows, George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch captain in Sanford, Fla., fatally shot Trayvon Martin on Feb. 26. The killing has reignited a national dialogue about race and spurred angry protests.mer movie on its hands that bears the unfortunate title, Neighborhood Watch.
Neighborhood Watch the film—starring Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Jonah Hill—is about residents of a suburban community who are determined to keep the place safe from aliens—not the undocumented kind, the ones from outer space.
Although Neighborhood Watch is billed as a comedy, right now nobody is laughing, least of all the filmmakers and the studio, which released a teaser movie trailer in late February that’s almost as unfortunate as the title.
According to reports, the 20th Century Fox has pulled back on all of its advance publicity and is wondering what to do with a film that cost $50 million to make and is budgeted for millions more in marketing. Delay the release? Change the name?
First, 20th Century Fox should pull that trailer and re-cut it to make it slapstick funny and obviously about the threat of space invaders. Second, it should keep the film on schedule but change the title and any collateral publicity materials that hint of vigilantism. Third, determine whether or not to delay the film’s release or change the marketing strategy further based on reactions from multi-ethnic test audiences.
There’s no telling how the events of the Martin case will unfold, but more information will certainly become available in the months to come. Emotions are not likely to subside by July when the film is set for release.