Great Bear Rainforest captures the beauty of Canada’s remote Pacific coast rainforest and brings attention to a place so wild, few ever have the chance to see it. Protected for the past thousand years by the region’s indigenous people, the Great Bear Rainforest is home to grizzlies, coastal wolves, sea otters, and the infamous all-white spirit bear. IMAX Victoria saw an opportunity to drum up excitement in their local community and beyond, to get audiences excited to come witness their backyard wonder from the comfort of a giant screen theater.
Campaign Strategies, Goals, and Tactics
The film launch campaign was strategized by a number of carefully planned tactics, including building audience anticipation, working closely with film talent and press, and creating a detailed marketing campaign that would constantly keep the film top-of-mind to locals, tourists, outdoor enthusiasts, and media.
IMAX Victoria set four clear goals for their marketing plan:
- Get the word out early.
- Build community engagement.
- Generate word-of-mouth marketing.
- Have a strong opening and maintain attendance throughout the summer tourist months.
Sneak Peek Event
IMAX Victoria hosted a two-night, behind-the-scenes sneak peek in advance of the film’s release. In November 2018, Director Ian McAllister and Sound Engineer Tim Archer presented the film and their experience with it to packed houses. Audiences were left excited and full of anticipation for the film’s debut release.
The event, titled “A Sneak Peek into the Great Bear Rainforest: The Making of an IMAX Film,” detailed how the film team captured footage and sound. The wolf howl in a dark theatre was particularly intriguing to audience members, and an impressive 1,500 people saw the sneak-peek presentation. This helped build word-of-mouth marketing. (click here to view a short video of Tim sharing the wolf howl story)
Ian McAllister and Tim Archer at the sneak peek event
Advertising and Marketing Efforts
Following the sneak peek, throughout the following months IMAX Victoria continued to include Great Bear Rainforest in their communication and advertising efforts. IMAX Victoria began advertising 14 weeks in advance leading up to the theater premiere of Great Bear Rainforest.
They engaged the media early and often and followed up with beautiful imagery and assets. They made sure to let the press know that they had the opportunity to interview the film’s director, Ian McAllister, as soon as the film opened.
Social media engagement was off the charts. Due to the early advertising and sneak peek behind-the-scenes event in November 2018, by the time IMAX Victoria started posting formally about the film in January 2019, there was already a core group of people out in the marketplace who were passionate about the film. They engaged strongly with the Great Bear content and created an extended reach for organic posts.
IMAX Victoria made sure to create a marketing campaign that incorporated both outdoor imagery and media press directed at locals and tourists to help keep the film top-of-mind.
When it came to IMAX Victoria’s 2019 Annual Pass campaign, they included a photo provided by Ian McAllister that was plastered all over the town, including on posters, TVs, bus shelters, lamppost banners, and varies other places their budget allowed. The main message was to drive people to purchase an annual pass—with the underlying theme of not missing out on the Great Bear Rainforest.
Paid advertising included a 20’x 30’ banner outside of the 10th floor of the museum, a large graphic on the interior of the theatre, lamppost banners throughout the museum courtyard, an 8’x 6’ entry window graphic, 50,000 rack cards, 1,200 posters distributed throughout town, radio newspaper and magazine advertising geared for both locals and tourists. Their total dedicated spend was $25,000.
Columnist Jack Knox, who had attended IMAX Victoria’s sneak peek and behind-the-scenes events, completed his column, published on February 15, 2019, with information gathered at both events.
Using the Film’s Talent
Taking advantage of Ian’s availability, the theatre held a Meet-the-Director on opening night and sold out the show.
Ian was interviewed on radio and television, and as a result of the early event and follow-up, four full pages of photos with captions, plus an above-the-fold front page lug, were published in the Times Colonist newspaper (weekly readership 200,000+). This was media at no charge to the theatre, estimated at $12,000+ in advertising value, which is paled by the amount of earned media value.
The film opened on February 15, 2019. Ian McAllister’s organization, Pacific Wild, and major sponsor Seaspan, both located in the area, helped organize the premiere, with an invited guest list that included a blessing by the First Nations in the area and speeches by those involved in the filming. It was an exciting and powerful evening with compelling messaging about the importance of preserving the Great Bear habitat.
IMAX Victoria successfully exceeded the four goals set for the film launch campaign.
- Thirteen sold-out shows in a row, 4,680 people: school kids, seniors, families, outdoor enthusiasts, armchair travelers, people from every group came out to see Great Bear Rainforest.
- It continues to be a topic of conversation for many and is still firmly on the schedule and obtained record attendance.
- The educator’s screening and direct mail piece resulted in Great Bear Rainforest enjoying the majority of school bookings, almost twice as many as any other film.
And some comments from IMAX Victoria’s membership:
- “I've just returned from this wonderful event! Tim and Ian's presentation was excellent!”
- “I can't wait to see the finished IMAX film [Great Bear Rainforest] in February 2019. Thank you so much for this extra event to your always excellent 45-minute shows. I'm a big fan of IMAX.”
- “A great presentation this morning. Very enjoyable. Thanks.”
- “Just to say thanks for a great event last night! It was fascinating to learn what happens behind the scenes.”
- “We both thoroughly enjoyed the presentation—what amazing insight into the production—and look forward to seeing the film in February. We renewed our annual passes so are ready for next year!”
- “Wonderful presentation last night! Well done to you, Paul, and the rest of the team.... All said, we will be renewing our memberships today. Thanks again for delivering a great year!”
For more information about the campaign, please contact Marie Zirk at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also check out the GSCA webinar Digital Marketing Tools for Theaters and Distributors, where Lea Silver, IMAX Victoria's Sales and Membership Services Manager, shared lots of information from their Great Bear Rainforest campaign.
Written by Candice Currie, MacGillivray Freeman Films