Reservation Road: A Study in how NOT to launch a movie on the ‘net

By Carrie Hill, SEW Expert, Little Biz

Our Editor at SearchEngineWatch, Kevin Heisler, threw down the gauntlet – he wants the blog contributors and SEW Experts to collaborate on a project. The goal? We need to “get the word out” about Reservation Road, a new feature film from and director Terry George starring Joaquin Phoenix and Mark Ruffalo.

After poking around and seeing what’s already existing around the ‘net? We found the studio to be lacking a few basic “musts” for setting their film up for success in the online market and blogosphere.


First of all, there is no site dedicated solely to the movie and the news surrounding the movie. When you visit the site “” you’re redirected to the homepage that talks about a variety of movies they’re producing. If you select the link for “Reservation Road,” you’re taken to a page with a note saying “website coming soon” and a pic of the movie poster – oops.


The film didn’t have a MySpace page – something I think is probably a must for any movie that wants to attract a large audience. If you look at the homepage of MySpace today, you’ll see a huge layout and ad for the new National Treasure movie starring Nicholas Cage – score one for Disney.

I set up a MySpace page for Reservation Road and threw some movie trailer clips on and a few photos. That seems to be another issue, as there aren’t that many great photos out about the movie for people to share and talk about. I found a few here and there, and there is a photo gallery at – but the photos aren’t really promotional, just movie stills and somewhat dull.


Because there are so many varied critical opinions associated with movies, I think it’s important to have good search engine saturation from the get-go. To be honest, Reservation Road doesn’t deliver. I just did a Google query (see below) for “Reservation Road” and a new news item is showing in the #1 position – basically a review saying it’s cliché and to skip it from MSNBC – oops again.

You can also see Focus Features is buying PPC ads (again, see below). This is great but the ad isn’t really saying what the movie is about and who is starring. For a movie with little to no buzz, my opinion is they should really be talking about who is starring, what it’s about and some other text about the Oscar buzz I’ve been hearing about but can’t seem to find online.


So – what are the lessons here?

1. Be prepared and have a site ready to go and live at least a week before your film premieres – I’d probably even have a site as soon as you have a title and put updates on filming, timeline and some blog posts from the stars of the film to age the domain and the “power” it can create.

2. You’re going to get some bad reviews, that’s the nature of show business – so be ready and have your film saturated across the web with news items, press releases, Web site mentions, and social media blitzes (MySpace et. al.)

3. A new movie is like a new brand – you need to get it out there, use paid search to your advantage and keep in mind that you have limited real estate available to get your point across.

We’ll keep you updated on our progress and if (and when) you’ve seen the movie, let us know what you thought about it at the Reservation Road MySpace page.

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