With Blade Runner 2049 ready to premier on October 26, marketers are pulling out all the stops to bring in the bodies. Advance reviews are great, but why take chances? So the studio commissioned and has released three free shorts that fill in some of the story gaps in the 30 years that were supposed to have passed since the original.
Entertainment properties can take time to become blockbuster brands. Look at George R. R. Martin and Game of Thrones. Marvel spent decades building a fan base, which enables the popularity of its movie and television exploits.
Blade Runner, roughly based on a Phillip K. Dick novel, is different in that no one had been actively extending the fan base or creating additional properties. After 35 years, even with all the hype surrounding the sequel, it helps to bridge an enormous actual time gap, both between the releases and the years in which the films are supposed to take place.
The writer and director could try to fill everything in, but that presents some difficulties in storytelling and filming. So the studio and director Denis Villeneuve invited some other filmmakers to create a series of backstories for the new movie. They're both prequel to Blade Runner 2049 and sequel to the original. Each tells one part of the time gap, from a revolution and destruction of global communications, the creation of a new version of the synthetic humans called Replicants, and a hunt for one of the Replicants. Below are the three: the first in anime and then two live action.
Over a few months, they've given fans something to chew on, get excited over, and promote virally. It's a clever approach that builds on what studios have previously done to add live to existing properties, whether offering blooper reels, behind-the-scenes videos, or launching online games in support of marketing.
You can also think of this as a variation on what other companies have done with their brands, like merchandise sales. The more you can keep top of someone's mind, the more easily they will remember you when you come around to sell something new.