Why Paramount Didn’t Market ‘Mean Girls’ as a Musical: ‘People Tend to Treat’ Them ‘Differently’

You’d be forgiven if you thought butter was a carb, just like it’s totally understandable if you didn’t know the new “Mean Girls” is a musical.

Paramount, which released the movie over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend, chose not to explicitly market it as a song-and-dance spectacle, according to the studio’s president of global marketing and distribution Marc Weinstock.

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“To start off saying musical, musical, musical, you have the potential to turn off audiences,” he says. “I want everyone to be equally excited.”

The PG-13 film triumphed in its box office debut with $33 million over the four-day weekend. But despite the cultural prominence of Tina Fey’s 2004 comedy, which propelled Lindsay Lohan, Rachel McAdams and Amanda Seyfried to stardom, Weinstock’s job – selling the masses on (and clearing up any confusion about) “Mean Girls” – was trickier than trying to make fetch happen.

The story is the same, following Cady Heron as she moves to Illinois from Africa and navigates the lawless jungle of high school. But this rendition – adapted from the Broadway show – has singing and dancing. It isn’t a remake or sequel, and there are new actors (“Sex Lives of College Girls” star Reneé Rapp and “Spider-Man: No Way Home” actor Angourie Rice led the cast) embodying the Plastics.

“This is a movie within the ‘Mean Girls’ world,” Weinstock says. “We didn’t want to distill it down to one thing, because it’s not one thing.”

Where do you start with marketing such a familiar property? 

There are two audiences: the audience that grew up with “Mean Girls,” and the audience that didn’t. On “Mean Girls” Day, which is Oct. 3, we released the entire movie on TikTok in 23 separate clips. Non-fans started watching and were like, “Wait, this is a great movie.” They immediately got familiar with the world.

Some fans of the original felt strongly about the tagline, “This is not your mother’s ‘Mean Girls.'” What were you trying to convey?

People kind of misconstrued it and took offense. All we meant to say was that it’s a new twist. People took it literally. “What do you mean? I’m not a mom!” We moved away from that and toward “A new twist from Tina Fey.” It’s her vision, and it’s fantastic.

Did you intentionally avoid advertising the movie as a musical?  

We didn’t want to run out and say it’s a musical because people tend to treat musicals differently. This movie is a broad comedy with music. Yes, it could be considered a musical but it appeals to a larger audience. You can see in [trailers for] “Wonka” and “The Color Purple,” they don’t say musical either. We have a musical note on the title, so there are hints to it without being overbearing.

A bus advertisement for the new “Mean Girls” movie musical
A bus advertisement for the new “Mean Girls” movie musical

How did you make it clear from the first trailer that new actors are playing Regina George and Cady Heron?

Our first teaser was Reneé Rapp to the camera singing “My name is Regina George.” It did so much for us because immediately it said, “This is your new Regina. Lindsay Lohan and Rachel McAdams are not in this movie.” We did have Tim [Meadows] and Tina in the spots to show familiarity.

Did you take any lessons from another very pink movie, “Barbie”?

It was the campaign of the year. They did a great job in ubiquity, and that’s the one thing we tried to do: be anywhere and everywhere. I get excited when people come up to me and say, “It’s on my [social media] feed every two seconds.”

What kind of fun did you have with quotable lines from the 2004 film?

We didn’t want to copy the lines exactly because we didn’t want people to think they were getting a version of the old movie. We used odes to it, like a bus ad that says “Look both ways, Regina!” It’s a funny line for those who know, and those who don’t know want to investigate it. We were conscientious that we weren’t like, “Here are all the lines from the first movie! It’s back again!” We wanted to show there was something fresh.

I saw that people online were upset the premiere was held on a Monday and not a Wednesday.

I know. That was due to talent availability. It’s a boring answer.

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