Hollywood is facing more and more challenges when it comes to theater sales. With the growing use of streaming services, people have more options than ever for consuming entertainment. This is especially evident in younger audiences, as the Millennial generation has one of the lowest rates of theater attendance. At the same time, the media environment has become increasingly cluttered. This has raised the need for creative and non-traditional marketing strategies in order to break through that clutter. Guerilla marketing, pseudo-events, and viral marketing are creative, non-traditional strategies that provide opportunities for consumer engagement, and that create buzz. This study focuses specifically on the use of pseudo-events in viral marketing. While most of the movie industry has been facing a decline, the horror genre has seen growth over the past few years. In using pseudo-events and viral marketing, there are ethical considerations that must be addressed. Martin Buber's I-It, I-Thou philosophy provides an ethical framework that encourages marketers to view target audiences as not just numbers, but as people who possess value. This creates the possibility of a reciprocal relationship, and aids in avoiding exploitation or the perpetuating of stereotypes. In order to examine what practices are likely to lead to success in film marketing, a qualitative research analysis of the marketing techniques used for the top 15 highest grossing horror films from 2007-2017 was conducted, in which five major themes (Prolonging Mystery, Audience Involvement, Immersion, Online Integration, and Creativity in Traditional Outlets), and subsequent subthemes of common practices, were drawn. Two to five best practices were drawn from each sub-theme to inform the formation of a guidebook for communication professionals in the film industry.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Dissertations (MA) -- Communication; Viral marketing; Motion pictures -- Marketing; Horror films

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Seaver College



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Amaro, Lauren M.