Marketing the Miracle: It’s Groovey!
By Joshua Cornelius
20th Century Fox’s fabled studio boss, Darryl F. Zanuck, allegedly balked at the idea of a film like Miracle on 34th Street being released during the cold holiday months during which the film takes place. Though the rigors of test marketing would prove him right in the ensuing decades, Zanuck claimed simply that more people saw “pictures” in fair weather.
As such, the advertisements of Miracle on 34th Street eschewed the idea that it was a holiday film at all. The ridiculously meta marketing for the film in the above promo, features a group of faux studio honchos speculating on how to market the film. Through a series of run-ins and foibles, an actor portraying a caricature of studio bosses like Zanuck himself, discovers that the film is everything his marketing department is claiming it to be. The film is romantic, adventurous, a knock out for men and the kind of film women will hold dear. In one of the best moments of the promo, a young actress proclaims the films groovey-ness (sic) after almost running over the studio boss while learning to drive… on the backlots of 20th Century Fox studios.
In the end, next to nothing is revealed about the film, other than the cavalcade of well known actors that make an appearance. Regardless, Zanuck’s gamble worked. Miracle on 34th Street was both a critical and financial success, and garnered three Academy Awards and a nomination for Best Picture. In an age where small films like Drive are being sued for allegedly misleading advertising (portrayed like a Fast and Furious film, not David Lynch meets Gaspar Noe), such a move would likely go over like a lead balloon.
What can we say, it was a different time. Audiences were in love with the deceptions of cinema, and at the time, the tricks were still fresh.