All over the Austin-based confab like a jailhouse tattoo, I’ve learned Fox is planning a multi-tiered Prison Block branding campaign of themed escape rooms, social media marketing and the now-obligatory preview screening and cast Q&A. As AMC’s ambitious Better Call Saul pop-up restaurant and Preacher and The Son activations, Amazon’s The Man In The High Castle connected Resistance Radio and Showtime’s Twin Peaks Double R Diner pop-up shop make clear, Fox is far from the only such heavy pitch presence at SXSW, which runs March 10-17.
However, the April 4-premiering Prison Break revival may pose a triple threat that could actually generate the sort of shared excitement networks desire by playing to its source material. Simply put, the advanced screening on March 12 aside, is there any show more suited to the very popular escape rooms, both in bricks and mortar form and digitally? After all, the whole point of Prison Break is, well, a prison break, and that’s what Fox is giving folks in Texas this weekend.
Before you roll your eyes at the attempt to chase the ever-elusive buzz, remember that this is the show that saw its official trailer top 50 million views on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook in less than 48 hours when it was posted in January. That’s the best any Fox show has ever done that fast.
Aiming for a sliver of that attention, Prison Break will be skinning Escape Game Austin with a look and feel familiar to fans of the show that ran on Fox from 2005-2009. Open for free on a first-come first-serve basis all day March 11 and March 12, the one-hour game of “can you get out?” will also reward players. Not only testing their ability to escape, like Miller’s Michael Scofield and Purcell’s Lincoln Burrows did on the series and will for the nine-episode event series this spring, but giving them a Prison Break photo of themselves – one that Fox makes no secret of wanting fans to share on social media ASAP.
And if you can’t wait to get into Escape Game Austin while you are at SXSW, Fox is igniting an Instagram-based digital Escape Room on Friday. The multi-room digital @OneLastBreak set experience will present Scofield-designed origami cranes as a path to a form of freedom. Those who make it all the way through will be rewarded with the reveal of a new Instagram handle featuring a message from Miller’s character and an exclusive scene from the revived show’s premiere.
Add to that, Fox is engaging the more than 13 million followers Prison Break has on Facebook with a global challenge based on the show’s history that’s voiced by actor Robert Knepper in his T-Bag role. And, after appearances at San Diego Comic-Con and more over the past several months teasing the show, there is that March 12 preview screening with Purcell, Knepper and Sarah Wayne Callies in attendance along with show creator Paul Scheuring and fellow EPs Vaun Wilmott and Michael Horowitz.
— Prison Break (@PrisonBreak) March 7, 2017
Will it all add up to more sets of eyeballs watching the show when it airs on the first Tuesday of April, or is it just preaching to the Prison Break choir? In terms of real metrics, Fox and we will never definitively know – that’s their escape plan.