Nicole Kidman can’t catch a break. The Academy Award-winning actress has become a meme queen with behavior that has made her the unintentional darling of social media. It probably started in 2001 when Kidman was photographed leaving her lawyer’s office after finalizing her divorce from Tom Cruise. There was the famous “seal clap” at the 2017 Oscars which was supposedly her trying to protect her rings, but which just looked downright weird. Then there was her reaction to Will Smith slugging Chris Rock at the 2022 Oscars. But it was Kidman’s ad for AMC which began running on TV and prior to the theaters’ main feature in September 2021 that has probably garnered the most snark.
The dramatic ode to cinema narrated by Kidman was meant to inspire audiences to return to theaters following Covid. In the ad, Kidman enters and sits alone in an empty AMC theater while delivering a monologue describing the pleasures of the moviegoing experience, such as the “indescribable feeling we get when the lights begin to dim and we go somewhere we’ve never been before.”
Kidman leaving her lawyer’s office
The commercial became a surprise hit among audiences, who came to appreciate its unintentional campiness, particularly the line “Somehow, heartbreak feels good in a place like this.” In addition to countless internet memes, it has inspired parodies and audience participation such as reciting the lines along with Kidman. Word is that with Kidman signing on as AMC’s spokesperson for another year, a “sequel” has been filmed, which will begin showing in theaters at the beginning of 2024.
With momentum like that, it was probably a no-brainer that another marketing campaign would use Kidman’s ad as a parody; which is exactly what the people promoting the new Saw X movie did.
Kidman’s creepy Oscars clap
Though I’m aware of them (you can’t be in the horror industry and not be), I have never seen any of the previous nine Saw movies. When the first installment hit theaters in 2004 a friend who had seen it called it a “sociopath training film” while another used the term “torture porn.”
The franchise has been hugely successful for Lionsgate and I’m in no way knocking fans who have supported the storyline to its tenth iteration. It is simply a personal preference that I do not enjoy the subject matter of Saw films, or the various offshoots it has spawned.
Kidman reacting to Will Smith slugging Chris Rock
That said, I have nothing but awe for Lionsgate and their ad for Saw X which took poking fun at Kidman to a new level.
For a hot minute last week, Lionsgate released an ad for Saw X which completely and hysterically knocked off Kidman’s loving tribute to the cinema experience. “We come to this place for reawakening,” Jigsaw’s Billy the Puppet from the franchise says in the opening shot. “Blood-soaked blades on a huge silver screen… fear that I can feel. Somehow, self-amputation feels good in a place like this,” he says as the minute-long ad spotlights scenes of characters from the film being tortured. You can check it out for yourself here as I can’t embed the link like I usually would. Here’s why…
I was curious if AMC signed up to allow Lionsgate to spoof its ad, or if all this was done without permission. Turns out that shortly after the Saw X parody dropped via social media, it was quickly pulled, which is why there is no embeddable link for me to share. This was either because trouble was brewing between Lionsgate and AMC, or the whole thing is a brilliant bit of guerilla marketing.
I did some digging and found an article in Fast Company which stated Lionsgate declined to comment on why the Saw X ad was pulled, and AMC didn’t respond either. Because of the whole “no comment” business, I think there’s a 50/50 chance that it was probably an agreed-to arrangement. Both companies have enough lawyers to fill an IMAX, so I’m highly skeptical that Lionsgate would roll the legal dice and release the parody without running it past AMC first; knowing full well that if they did, AMC would be peeved.
In any case, it was highly effective because here’s me, along with the rest of the world, talking about it. As marketing vehicles go, that’s pure gold.
Saw X is in theaters on September 29th.