The Super Bowl is usually a big chance for Hollywood studios to hype up their blockbusters for the coming year by spending millions on ad time for new trailers and footage. But with the COVID-19 pandemic still hanging over the industry, particularly big-screen releases, many studios and streamers are sitting this year out.
Representatives for Warner Bros., Sony Pictures and Paramount have told TheWrap that their studios will not have any ad presence during the big showdown between the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers this Sunday. On the streamer side, HBO Max, Netflix and Hulu will also be on the sidelines.
Disney, on the other hand, is again planning a big spend — both for big-screen releases as well as projects on its Disney+ streaming service. The company is expected to air ads for the MCU’s next two series “Falcon and the Winter Soldier” and “Loki,” which will premiere on Disney+ in March and May, respectively. Disney is also releasing an animated feature next month with “Raya and the Last Dragon,” which got a new trailer last week and will be released in theaters and on premium on-demand for Disney+ subscribers on March 5.
Universal, meanwhile, will debut a new trailer during the Super Bowl… but it’s not expected to be a hype bonanza like the one the studio threw last year for “F9,” which was expected to hit theaters last spring but has been delayed until May 2021 at least (and may be delayed again if movie theaters are unable to reopen nationwide by Memorial Day weekend). Instead, the studio will promote M. Night Shyamalan’s new thriller “Old,” which the director is teasing on social media ahead of a planned theatrical launch this July.
In this pandemic-marred year, studios aren’t the only ones forgoing a big Super Bowl ad spend — top advertisers like Budweiser, Coke, Pepsi and Hyundai are also skipping the Big Game this year. For Budweiser, this is the first time in 37 years that it will not have a Super Bowl ad.
Don’t blame the pandemic entirely, though. Some studios just don’t use the game as part of their marketing strategy — especially since spending an estimated $5 million on a 30-second spot can blow a big hole in a film’s overall marketing budget. Warner Bros., for example, hasn’t released a Super Bowl trailer in several years, using other events like San Diego Comic-Con as the major marketing platform for its tentpoles. Sony tends to take out Super Bowl ad for only its biggest four-quadrant projects, such as “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” back in 2014.
But Paramount’s absence is a big shift from last year, when it spent millions on ads for films like “The Spongebob Movie: Sponge on the Run,” “A Quiet Place — Part II” and “Top Gun: Maverick.” All three of those films have yet to be released because of the pandemic, with “Spongebob” set to debut on PVOD and the rebranded Paramount+ streaming service on March 4.
One former Paramount release, the Eddie Murphy comedy sequel “Coming 2 America,” will get a Super Bowl ad this year — but from Amazon Studios, which acquired the film for $125 million back in October and plans a streaming release on March 5.
“Paramount has to be more strategic and prudent with their expenditures and marketing budgets,” Comscore analyst Paul Dergarabedian said. “Every penny has to be looked at in terms of cost/benefit. It’s about weighing the value of a Super Bowl ad vs. having a strong marketing budget for when these movies actually release, and with films still shifting it just makes less sense for them to spend money on ads for this weekend.”
The biggest question is whether Disney will use the Super Bowl to promote “Black Widow,” the Scarlett Johansson-led Marvel movie that has been left in uncertainty for months over multiple changes to its release date, which is currently set for May 7. Many expect another delay in the release — or a decision to open the film simultaneously in (limited) theaters and on Disney+ either at no extra charge or as a premium offering. With studios already abandoning plans to release films theatrically in April, it may be only a few weeks before Disney tips its hand on how to release their next Marvel feature.