Coming 2 America, the long-awaited (not sure anyone was) sequel to the Eddie Murphy classic opens this weekend on Amazon Prime. In Hollywood, not much is considered a guaranteed sure thing, but there is one certainty the movie going public can almost always count on, and it’s this – if a motion picture is a hit, particularly if it stars one of the most popular box office stars of all time, it will eventually be followed up with a sequel.
In most cases, sequels hit theaters within a few years of the original, to keep the momentum going, the ticket sales flowing and the magic of the original cast, director, screenwriter, and so on, intact.
That being the case, it’s no surprise that one of the biggest grossing and most-beloved comedy classics of the 1980’s would get an update. What is a surprise is how long it took to become a reality and the way the movie was promoted to increase the likelihood, that it, too, would become a smash hit.
Starring legendary comedian and SNL alum Murphy, and pioneering late night TV talk show host and comedian Arsenio Hall, the R-rated Coming To America premiered in the summer of 1988 and earned nearly $300 million worldwide, making it the top grossing picture of the year for Paramount Pictures and the third-highest grossing film of the year in the U.S.
That it took so long to become a sequel is because Murphy and Hall both felt, that true to the fairy-tale spirt of the story in the original, in the end, everyone rode off into the sunset and lived happily ever after.
So, in their opinion there was no need for a sequel.
However, when Murphy realized how much of a lasting impact the movie has had on pop culture since its theatrical run, he decided the time was indeed right to attempt to rekindle the majestic mojo of the Kingdom of Zamunda. Then, as fate would have it, the stars all lined up just so, making the new iteration of the tale seem prophetically, and perhaps gloriously to its legions of fans – inevitable.
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Coming 2 WilPower
To ensure that the word got out to potential viewers the studio felt would be an obvious key audience – African American movie-goers, Amazon Studios hired WilPower Integrated Marketing, a powerhouse multicultural marketing company, to promote it.
Founded by CEO Wil Shelton in 1996, the Cypress, California-based creative consultancy deploys a wide-range of grass roots, ‘under the radar’ methods to promote the work of its clients.
For this project, WilPower targeted its immense network of over 100,000 independent barbershops and salons all over the country to promote Coming 2 America to Black would-be audiences, informing loyal patrons in their favorite neighborhood establishments about the upcoming release with in-store promotions.
Through this association and with trusted relationships built over decades, WilPower was able to generate interest for the film and connect directly with Black consumers in environments where they are more likely to make powerful, immediate and meaningful impressions that can result in dramatically increased awareness and greater sales.
These are businesses with deep roots in the Black community that exist as legitimate cultural touch points which are in 2021, still an untapped source of potential sales for advertisers and brands of all sizes, on a local, national and global level.
In past efforts, WilPower Integrated Marketing has achieved remarkable success for a wide-range of companies, like Fox, Interscope Records, AT&T and others.
Amazon Studios is hoping that’s a formula for success with Coming 2 America, given WPIM and the connections it makes with more than 100 million customers annually in the top 40 AA (African American) markets across the country.
A company that has built a well-earned reputation for breaking through the clutter of traditional advertising with innovative programs and campaigns it features on behalf of its clients in Black salons and barbershops in cities from coast to coast.
Coming 2 America is currently at 48% on Rotten Tomatoes. The Critics Consensus says, “Decades after its predecessor joked about the fine line between love and nausea, Coming 2 America reminds audiences that there’s an equally fine line between sequel and retread.”
It seems like the film can use the help.
Kevin Miles covers the Black experience as it relates to advertising, entertainment and production.