Case Study:
Grand Canyon Adventure

how close collaboration between partners led to great success on the giant screen and greater awareness of water issues



The need.

In 2006, MacGillivray Freeman Films began production on the company’s first 3D giant screen project, a film that would combine exhilarating river-rafting action on America’s most iconic river with the first-ever IMAX 3D images of the Grand Canyon. On the river expedition were Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and author/anthropologist Wade Davis, and each of their eldest daughters, Kick Kennedy and Tara Davis. The film would tell an important story of how ordinary people can make a difference for our parched planet and raise awareness about water issues around the world.

The goal was to bring the film to the widest audience possible, showcasing the cause, the sponsors, and, of course, the amazing footage and storytelling.

The solution.

In order to help theatres successfully launch the film and sustain a strong audience throughout the film’s run, we implemented national, regional and grass-roots promotions. The campaign reached millions of people and generated early word-of-mouth, with a reach estimated at 86.8 million impressions for national and regional publicity, plus an estimated 21.9 million impressions for local publicity in 33 markets.

  • 86.8 million impressions for national and regional publicity
  • 21.9 million impressions for local publicity
  • 33 markets

Key support came from our sponsors. Teva developed an enter-to-win sweepstakes, featuring a trip for two on the Colorado River. In just one month, 5,000 people had registered for the sweepstakes, simply by learning about it online. That number continued to grow as the sweeps was promoted in over 100 outdoor retailers across the country. Teva also dedicated their website to the Grand Canyon expedition and film promotion for the first quarter of 2008. Teva promoted the film in all of their GO branded shoes, achieving an estimated distribution of 1 million shoeboxes! Local retailers gave away film tickets in-store with $40 Teva purchase. Teva and Outside Magazine ran dedicated film ads as a part of their advertising support, plus Teva tagged their Teva product ads with the film’s logo.

Kohler coordinated water conservation events with their regional product distributors at 28 theatre exhibitors in the US and Canada. They provided theatres with 213 new water-saving fixtures to update theatre’s restroom facilities and help promote the film’s water conservation message. Installation of the provided fixtures helped save 1.4 million gallons of water a year. Kohler also provided 50 products to theatres as promotional prizes.

At MacGillivray, we know that bringing the right talent to a project is critical to the artistry of the film, as well as its commercial success. Academy-award winner and noted environmentalist Robert Redford narrated the film. Plus, we tapped the Grammy award-winning Dave Matthews Band to contribute songs and music for the film, and Dave Matthews Band bass guitarist Stefan Lessard co-composed the film’s original score with longtime MacGillivray collaborator Steve Wood. Dave Matthews Band announced Lessard’s collaboration with the film on the official DMB website, on the band’s Facebook page, and sent an email blast out to 1.1 million fans.

The results.

Grand Canyon Adventure made a splash at IMAX theatres, premiering on March 14, 2008 in anticipation of World Water Day.

$1 million in gross ticket sales at the North American box office after just three weeks of exhibition

The first original 15/70 giant screen documentary of 2008 to cross the million-dollar mark

Over 65 theatres booked the film in its first year of release

More than $50,000 raised to bring fresh water to thousands of African school children

Local river cleanups and environmental education in conjunction with the film opening in some markets

Broke the longest-line record at the Telluride MountainFilm Festival!

Overall, a creative and well-integrated campaign, made possible by the full support of all of the film’s partners, resulted in a top-grossing film, incredible consumer engagement with the film’s partners and a reminder to the world about the impact of their actions on the water supply.

  • MacGillivray Freeman Films’ ability to weave together partnerships that are not only effective, but authentic and powerful, is a true testament to the unique creativity and vision of their talented staff.  They are ever conscientious of opportunities to involve, support and leverage their partnerships to bring greater visibility and success to each project and benefit all parties involved.

    Liz Ferrin
    Liz FerrinGlobal Promotions Manager, Teva
  • For Kohler, the Grand Canyon Adventure Film project went way beyond our expectations.

    Shane JuddCommercial Product Manager, Kohler Co.