Blue Beetle is the first major film of summer 2023 that didn’t have a press tour banked before the SAG-AFTRA strike kicked off on July 14 (this is implied Meg 2: The Trench shade and I won’t stand for it). Star Xolo Maridueña has been unable to promote the film, there was no appearance at Comic Con, no hype-machine world tour and red—blue?—carpet appearances.
So, how does a studio promote a film without stars or junkets or public appearances? Well, for one thing, you lean on the director, in this case Ángel Manuel Soto, who is notably not on strike and can appear at “fan screenings” around the country. In the case of The Haunted Mansion, which had its world premiere the day after the actors’ strike was called, director Justin Simien stepped out for his film, too (alongside producers, Disney employees, and influencers).
But Blue Beetle is taking a more grass-roots approach, tapping into community organizations to support the film (full review coming later), which stars the first live-action Latine superhero. And it’s working—a month ago, the film was tracking for a rather poor $20 million opening, but as the grass roots effort has taken hold, that figure has moved north to a less disappointing $30 million. (That’s still not great, but this is a film without a name star, and centered on a character unknown to general audiences. Plus, it’s DC and their track record is terrible lately.)
Key to raising awareness for the film, in lieu of more traditional media efforts, is an open letter to support Latine creatives signed by 27 Latine advocacy groups. There has also been support from Gold House, a non-profit supporting AAPI creatives. They’ve previously raised awareness for films like Crazy Rich Asians and Shang-Chi, but have been showing intersectional support for Blue Beetle online, re-posting social media hits for the film.
The fear for Blue Beetle is that if it doesn’t do well, its failure will be held against the Latine community and representation in film, in general, regardless of mitigating factors like the strike. It’s not an unfounded fear, despite continued statistical evidence that the Latine community, which makes up 19% of the US population, consistently over-indexes for films to the tune of 29% of movie tickets sold in 2020 (weird year for statistics, but okay). Like any underserved community, when they are represented on screen, they show up. Whether or not that will make a big enough difference for Blue Beetle, we’re about to find out.
Live long and gossip,