When Jo Koy started out as a comedian, he spent hours making flyers at Kinko’s and putting them on car windshields in mall parking lots to peddle his latest gig.
“I used to get in trouble with the security guards,” Koy recalls. “I was the boring guy who would do anything to promote himself.”
Three decades, three Netflix specials and hundreds of sold-out engagements later, Koy continues to jostle as he strives to garner attention for “Easter Sunday,” Universal’s upcoming comedy based about his Filipino American family.
But this time it goes way beyond photocopying: During his shows, Koy shared a trailer for “Easter Sunday” and urged viewers to purchase tickets using an interactive QR code displayed on large format screens surrounding the stage. As an added incentive, Koy offered fans who buy tickets the chance to enter a lottery to see the film’s world premiere.
Given that Koy performs to crowds of 15,000, the results have been encouraging, with up to one in three people using the QR code at some shows. And the chance to speak to such a captive audience led film backers Universal and Amblin to offer tickets on Fandango six months before the film’s August 5 debut. It’s the furthest from a theatrical release that the studio has ever started selling tickets.
“It was a chance to fish where the fish are,” notes Justin Pertschuk, senior vice president of digital marketing at Universal.
This kind of innovation is important because “Easter Sunday” isn’t part of a pre-established franchise and isn’t based on a comic book, making it a summer box office anomaly. But Universal and Amblin felt Koy had other qualities that will help the film compete.
“Jo has spent his career building an incredibly loyal following and we realized we had a chance to engage them early on to not only build awareness but also sell tickets,” said Jon Anderson, senior vice president of the marketing at Amblin Partners. “Jo sells arenas, so while it’s not usual to focus on ticketing for several months, we had this perfect opportunity to reach a quarter of a million people in our primary target audience, so we decided to try it.”
And “Easter Sunday” benefited from something else. At a time when COVID has led restaurants to abandon menus in favor of QR codes, people have become more comfortable with technology.
“I’ve been doing digital marketing for 20 years, and God knows we tried to get people to use QR codes, but that all changed with the pandemic,” says Pertschuk.
As for Koy, the comedian recognizes that “Easter Sunday” is an opportunity to showcase his community on the big screen, and he’ll stop at nothing to make it a success.
“It’s a huge studio that shines a light on a culture that you know about,” says Koy, “but don’t always see on screen. You will laugh, you will cry and it will be beautiful. And maybe you’ll realize that we’re not that different from you.