The power of a wide theatrical release was realized this weekend by streamer Amazon in its pivot back to the big screen with MGM/United Artists Releasing’s Creed III. It easily minted the best opening ever for the Seattle-based parent, as well as for the Rocky franchise, with $58.6M domestic, $100.4M worldwide.
While Amazon has snapped up some tentpole movies during the pandemic for the service — i.e. Paramount’s Coming 2 America and Skydance’s The Tomorrow War — Creed III repped a big commitment by them for the big screen following their $8.45 billion purchase of MGM back in May 2021.
Talk about downstream revenues here: Creed III was made for $75M before P&A, and is easily poised to profit. Kudos to Prime Video and Amazon Studios SVP Mike Hopkins and Amazon Studios Head Jen Salke for keeping in place MGM’s distribution boss Erik Lomis and theatrical marketing apparatus of Gerry Rich, MGM Creative Head Mike Pavlic, and Stephen Bruno. They teamed with newly installed Amazon Marketing Studios Head Sue Kroll for a campaign that pumped up the turnout of diverse and younger audiences in the third go-round, while also harnessing the synergistic power of Amazon.com.
Rich and Bruno worked for two years, fine-tuning the positioning of the first film in the series sans Stallone. Warner Bros. vet Kroll had longstanding relationships with Creed III filmmaker/star Michael B. Jordan (going back to the Burbank, CA studio’s drama Just Mercy), producer Ryan Coogler, and the Warner Bros International Marketing teams, who rallied a near $42M start for the threequel in 75 offshore markets.
Teeing off the success of Creed III this weekend was the quintessential release date. The movie was originally scheduled to go in the franchise’s previous launchpad of Thanksgiving. However, UAR stayed away, foreseeing Wakanda Forever‘s momentum over that holiday (not to mention Coogler directed that pic, and Jordan costarred in it).
The first weekend of March (which is where Warner Bros. launched Batman last year) enabled Creed III to have access to Imax screens. Those auditoriums were a must, given how Jordan shot Creed III with Imax cameras. A special Imax trailer piece ran before Avatar: The Way of Water in theaters.
Then there was the first trailer drop in October — which was so noticeable in its traffic that rivals largely kept their tentpoles away from Creed III this weekend. Together with an extended Super Bowl spot, three trailers for Creed III amassed over 400M views worldwide across digital platforms. The trailer also ran in such movies in-theater as Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, Avatar: The Way of Water, Wakanda Forever, M3gan, Devotion, Glass Onion, Violent Night, Cocaine Bear, House Party, Plane and Titanic.
In Comscore/Screen Engine PostTrak exits, moviegoers said 29% caught the trailer on Instagram, 28% in theaters, 26% online, and 26% caught the Creed III TV spot that aired on SNL when Jordan hosted. In addition, spots ran during the Grammys, NBA All-Star weekend, as well as NBA games, HBCU Legacy Classic, DAZN Boxing, Top Rank Boxing, UEFA Championship League, UFC, and WWE, with a broad reach in primetime, early morning, late night, Spanish-lingo, and local TV in the top 20 markets.
Major motion picture studios often talk about the cross promotional power they have for their tentpoles among the subsidiaries in their entertainment conglomerate, i.e. broadcast, cable networks, and theme parks. However, those largely pale in comparison to the 2 billion reach of Amazon.com, which was a lightning rod in the promo push here for Creed III.
It’s that type of marketing power Amazon has with its customers which truly scares rival studio bosses (One entertainment conglom boss once equated Amazon’s promo power to me as being akin to a powerful bank in the 1980s, which was able to sign customers up with free toasters). Natch, there was a Creed III landing page (amazon.com/creed), where fans could discover everything about the film, buy tickets, go behind the scenes, and shop the Creed store.
Going after a younger demo (Creed II pulled in 66% under 35, an audience share maintained here in part 3), the pic was promoted on Amazon’s fanboy livestream portal Twitch with a “Fit to Fight” live stream on Feb. 24. Twitch streamers Agent00 (1.8M followers) and Zoomaa (917K followers) took on different physical challenges for a Creed III prize belt. Ringside announcers included Storymodebae (85K followers) and ActionJaxon (235K followers), with KhleoThomas (1.4M followers) serving as the referee. Mirroring a boxing event, the stream format consisted of three rounds of boxing challenges, each with an interactive buff/debuff, with live commentary provided by two anchors.
Creed III one sheets were also splashed across Amazon Lockers. During January, fans were able to visit Amazon Hub Lockers nationwide to scan a QR code for a chance to win Creed III prizing, including two tickets to Los Angeles for the premiere of Creed III.
Further dynamiting the Amazon partnership, Creed III had a promo partnership with the shopping site’s subsidiary Ring Video Doorbell. Ring released its first celebrity-voiced Quick Replies to bring Adonis Creed to doorsteps. Available in the Ring app, consumers were able to activate the limited-time Creed-themed responses to play when someone rings a Ring Video Doorbell. Jordan filmed a promo video for the Creed-themed Quick Replies.
Another big deal, and a first for Amazon: Jordan embarked on a Tom Cruise-style global promotional tour that included fan events, stunts, premieres, and Black and diverse community outreaches. This all culminated in Creed III pulling in more Black moviegoers (38% vs. 24%) and Latino and Hispanic (28% to 22%) moviegoers over Creed II.
Among the tour stops, Jordan and Jonathan Majors showed up to discuss the movie at ComplexCon in Nov. 2022, a panel which was then broadcast on Amazon Music Twitch and Amazon Music Live on Prime Video.
Jordan also received a ceremonial Letter and a Proclamation from the Atlanta City Council for his contributions to the city from The Mayor of Atlanta Andre Dickens. There was a community give-back visit with Jordan, Majors and Mila Davis-Kent at The Salvation Army Bellwood Boys and Girls Club near Chicago.
Also in the Windy City, the duo visited Urban Prep High School, a nonprofit charter academy innovatively designed to educate Black youth in urban communities, and made a donation towards school equipment. There were also stops in London, Paris, and Mexico City, with the duo also heading to Salt Lake City, UT to introduce the NBA Dunk Content during All-Star weekend.
Jordan surprised 1000+ AUC college students with customized food trucks and an invitation to the exclusive sneak peek of the trailer from various HBCUs, including Spelman College, Morehouse College, Clark Atlanta University, and Morris Brown College in the Atlanta market. Five lucky students won $3K scholarships for their education.
There was also a Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Creed III screening, which included such attendees as Congresswoman Sydney Kamlager-Dove of Los Angeles; the president of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Nicole Austin Hillery; the executive director of the Congressional Black Caucus, Vince Evans; the vice chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Chaka Burgess; as well as congressional staff, social justice advocates, and students from the Howard Entertainment program at Howard University.
A Q&A with Kamlager-Dove followed the screening in a conversation that canvassed incarceration, recidivism, trauma, toxic masculinity, Black mental health and wellness, and diversity in film. In Creed III, the pic’s antagonist, Majors’ Damian Anderson, is an ex-con and old youthful friend of Creed’s who reenters his life, looking for a second chance.
Also making a go at younger audiences, Creed III served up a Fortnite skin in conjunction with FaZe Clan, followed by an interview with Jordan, live gameplay of the skin and showing of Creed III at an in-theater fan event. There was a national lens takeover on Snapshat on March 1 which featured an augmented reality game where users showed off their boxing skills against Adonis Creed.
Partnerships with Instagram and TikTok creators zeroed in on art, fitness, and lifestyle, including a custom Creed III skull created by artist Butch Locsin (whose work was also featured in the film) and a video created by Jason Hoang, a deaf fitness creator who gives his take on the authentic representation of the deaf community in Creed III. “Choose Your Fighter” ads ran on TikTok and Hulu, where one could choose to be in the corner of Adonis Creed or Damian Anderson. There was also a Creed Camp influencer activation whereby ten influencers participated in a Creed-inspired intense, boxing workout hosted by celebrity trainer Mark ‘Rhino’ Smith. Each participating influencer rolled out custom creative pieces to document their intense workouts.
There was also a takeover of BossLogic’s social channels the week of the pic’s opening, rolling out a new piece of Creed III art every day. RelishMix told Deadline that the overall social media universe for Creed III spanned TikTok, Youtube, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook clocking just under 354M (+69% over Creed II‘s social media universe).
Promo partners for Creed III included cognac brand Hennessy with Creed-themed windows in stores and cocktail couriers and radio, social, Snap filter and outdoor ads and a themed pop-up in Los Angeles.
Crunch fitness featured Creed III-themed cardio-boxing workout classes and social promotions.
There was also exclusive Creed streetwear and performance-wear collections launched at ShoePalace and BoxRaw.
Ralph Lauren created “Made to Measure” events in Los Angeles and New York flagship locations, featuring a live Q&A with Jordan and the pic’s costume designer Lizz Wolf. There was also a Creed III Ralph Lauren print campaign in major market newspapers.
Also, rounding out the 360-degree marketing campaign for Creed III was Propel fitness water with Creed-themed bottles as well as sports streaming service DAZN which created Creed III moments on air initiated during “Round 3” of live fights.