Have you heard of the biggest new film in the land? Odds are if you're reading this, you have, and 10 Cloverfield Lane blipped onto your radar even before its impressive debut over the weekend.
Now - quick - had you heard of 10 Cloverfield Lane's director before this month? Odds are, unless you're a pretty geeky cinephile, the name "Dan Trachtenberg" didn't spur the sudden urge to plunk down a sawbuck for this new film.
The name "JJ Abrams," on the other hand ...
Coming so soon after the record-setting success of the Abrams behemoth Star Wars: The Force Awakens (the biggest domestic performer ever at $930 million), the strong opening performance of 10 Cloverfield Lane burnishes producer Abrams' credentials on the big screen.
We have now reached the point where an Abrams project not only stokes interest if his name is attached. He now has also bolstered his status as a household name-brand recognised even by tykes - an A-list filmmaker who doesn't necessarily need A-list actors to topline his movies. He is the topline.
Abrams, in other words, has now reached a certain Spielberg status as a box-office lure, in that the mere attachment of his name is enough to intrigue the masses to even smaller, quirkier projects with narrow-window promotion.
The masses, of course, have long known the Abrams name, given his two decades of television and film successes, from Felicity and Regarding Henry going forward. But rare is the one-man Hollywood brand who can wait to see his film truly marketed till not 10 weeks ahead of release (in this case, around the Super Bowl); largely keep most of the film's details a secret (sometimes a great part of the coy fun with the marketing of an Abrams movie); cast just one beloved household name (John Goodman) in the film - then see the relatively lower-budget flick open to $25 million domestically, good for second behind the reigning-champ powerhouse that is Disney's Zootopia ($50 million second weekend; $431 million total globally).
The man who gave us 2008's brilliantly marketed fluke Cloverfield in 2008 (remember that 2007 trailer without a title?) has now flown into that rarefied Hollywood air, particularly as a sci-fi filmmaker. 10 Cloverfield Lane, as a "sister movie" to Abrams' earlier film, received strong reviews and praise for Goodman and co-star Mary Elizabeth Winstead (and we choose to remember her sharp Ramona from Scott Pilgrim over her "scream queen" roles). And this film even puts Trachtenberg on the map.
But now, as with "peak Spielberg" or Scorsese, Abrams has our great collective attention if his name is any way attached. The Emmy winner has us on board for not just the next Star Trek and Mission Impossible franchise films, but also Roadies (with Cameron Crowe) and even curious reported projects like Portal and Half-Life.
Because now, when Abrams is involved, even the most mainstream viewers know they're especially in clover.