7 Beyond Crazy Movie Marketing Stunts (That Actually Worked)

People are literally flying.

I live in New York City, so going to the movies is roughly a $20 ordeal. That’s a pretty steep price for just one ticket, so I’m not exactly dancing at the cinema all weekend. However, what can get me in a cushy red chair is a kick-ass marketing campaign that entices the hell out of me. Film companies have to cut through the clutter in an awesome way to get us to shell out cash for tickets. Sometimes, they have to get a little crazy…like these seven stunts. But don’t judge them, because they effing worked.

  1. Carrie (2013)

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    Getting people excited about the remake of an already iconic movie can be challenging, but the folks at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer knew exactly what to do: set up hidden cameras in a Manhattan coffee shop and make customers think some crazy girl has real telekinetic powers. The result? People were freaked the hell out (and the film grossed more than $85 million worldwide).

  2. The Simpsons Movie (2007)

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    In order to get fans stoked about seeing Homer and the gang on the big screen, marketers did something pretty awesome: open up IRL Kwik-E-Marts (actually 7-Eleven stores undergoing a temporary makeover) in several locations around the United States. For a few weeks, Kwik-E-goers got to nom hard on everything from Buzz Cola Squishees to pink-frosted donuts. The flick made around $530 million at the end of its theater run, so it looks like the snack-happy stunt paid off.

  3. The Blair Witch Project (1999)

    Artisan Entertainment

    This remains one of the most brilliant film marketing campaigns ever. The buzz around Blair was astronomical because many people believed these three students were real documentary filmmakers and the film was the actual documentation of their witch-hunting. Why did people fall for that? Because the promo peeps quasi-confirmed that it was all real. They convinced IMDb to write “presumed dead” on the actors’ profiles. Plus, “missing” fliers started popping up all over the place, and the stars made zero appearances for the movie. The perfect formula to create suspense and make a killing at the box office. Approximately $250 million, which is staggering for a film that had a $20,000 budget.

  4. Monsters University (2013)


    Let’s face it: People were pumped enough for this flick that it barely needed any marketing. However, that didn’t stop the overachievers at Pixar from literally making a college website fashioned after Monsters U. From admissions to academics and campus life, you can navigate the site as if it is your own alma mater. We wonder what the school’s mean SAT score is….

  5. Chronicle (2012)

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    How do you get peeps hyped about a movie with people flying? Have people actually fly around NYC, of course. “It’s a bird! It’s a place! No, it’s just good PR.”

  6. House of Wax (2005)

    Warner Bros.

    People were surprised when Paris Hilton was cast in this highly-anticipated horror reboot. However, after the marketing campaign, it became crystal clear why casting directors picked the socialite: so she could die. Paris was one of the most hated people in the world at this time, and the cool kids at Warner Bros. capitalized on that by making “See Paris Die” one of HoW’s slogans. (It was even printed on T-shirts.) People rushed to theaters after this to see Miss Hilton’s head impaled.

  7. Paranormal Activity (2009)

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    Instead of focusing trailers on quotes from critics, PA marketers flipped the switch; they let audience reactions steal the show. During several 2-minute spots for this film, we see audience members who attended screenings of PA jump, scream, clench their fists, and cry on the inside (and outside). In fact, the actual footage from the film is basically background noise. It was a bold move, and it definitely paid off in the form of $193.4 million.