Sony Pictures
Don't Breathe

Digital & Experiential Campaign

To watch 360 degree videos, you'll need the latest version of Chrome, Opera, Firefox, or Internet Explorer on your computer. On mobile, use the latest version of the YouTube app for Android or iOS. View in Google Cardboard with headphones for the most optimal experience.


Don’t Breathe, Sony International’s psychological horror thriller, is a twisted cat and mouse game between a group of wayward teens and a blind man who is not what he appears to be when the hunters become the hunted. Written and directed by Fede Alvarez, a highly regarded up and coming filmmaker, the thriller seeks to satisfy fans in their unquenchable thirst for new films in the genre.

Sony wanted to create a complete digital marketing and PR package to promote the film in an interactive, engaging, suspenseful way across platforms and mediums, without revealing too much of the plot. As a longstanding partner, AvatarLabs was enlisted to ideate and execute a digital campaign from concept to creation: an original 360° video experience that was embedded as Snapchat’s first 360° video ad, a real-world recreation of the experience for press, and a social content and online media campaign.

The goals were to connect first with influencers and press, and then with fans leading into the film’s premiere.


Original 360° Video & Snapchat’s First 360° Video Ad

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Working with Sony, AvatarLabs proposed an original 360° immersive, cross-platform, virtual reality video experience. The creative process began with identifying one of the most nerve-racking, edge of your seat scenes that would parlay well into an interactive experience: a scene that centered on the main characters being chased by a gun-wielding, blind murderer through a treacherous, pitch-black basement.

The director and studio wanted the experience to feel like exclusive additional footage from the film. Unlike many 360° videos where viewers simply turn in place, AvatarLabs designed the innovative production to push beyond this limitation, allowing viewers to not only rotate their view 360° but also move forward, providing a much more dynamic view of the terrifying scene and characters within. The video was designed with a virtual reality experience in mind; viewable on YouTube via desktop, or in virtual reality via a mobile device and Google Cardboard.

AvatarLabs scouted a location in Los Angeles eerily similar to the basement in the film and cast similar-looking actors to bring the suspenseful scene to life. Knowing that the editing process for this unique type of piece would be more efficient if there weren’t visible camera tracks to remove in post, a 360° camera was affixed to a custom motorized rig so that the camera could record while it was moved forward via remote control through the tight space.

The 1:30 minute piece was captured as one continuous shot, and in total darkness. This required intense rehearsal from the actors, and numerous takes. Great sound design, which is key to the experience, was created using audio from the film, original music composition and sounds captured the day of the shoot. The resulting experience fully immerses the viewer into the harrowing scene, giving him the unsettling sense of what it feels like to be hunted.

After launching on YouTube and Facebook, the video was debuted as Snapchat’s very first 360° video ad, which launches with a 10-second clip users to swipe on to see the full 360° video. This ad tech “first” generated domestic and global press from Variety, MediaPost, and more.

Press & Influencer Mailer

To promote film a month out, AvatarLabs concepted and created a special mailer. A branded paperboard box was designed to deliver customized items relevant to the plot, including a badge with a URL and QR code that launched the 360° video, giving influencers early access to the experience before it went live to the public. A thumb drive contained a special video message from director Fede Alvarez. The package also included a lenticular that was inspired by the social campaign; a series called “duality” in which the two sides of each character are contrasted. Turn it one way and it looks like a harmless blind man; turn it the other way and it’s a war veteran, ready to shoot at the slightest provocation.

Experiential Press Event

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The week of release, Sony hosted an event for international and domestic media at the swanky SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills. AvatarLabs was brought in to create an experiential walkthrough of the basement set used in the 360° video for the press to navigate through in pitch darkness, after watching the video with Google Cardboard. Given three minutes to make their way through the “basement,” the press were subjected to “real life” terrors, including walking through “cobwebs” (strings hung from the ceiling) and being chased by a “madman” (the actor who played the Blind Man in the 360° video).

Eight hidden speakers with strobe lights were set off remotely to enhance the experience whenever The Blind Man “shot” at them. Each journalist’s reaction was recorded with night vision cameras. A final recorded interview, still in the dark, provided one last chance for The Blind Man to terrify before they were set free. All their recorded reactions were provided to the journalist on a USB at the end as a memorable keepsake and shareable collateral.

Social Content

Created for international territories to use on their various social channels, a series of cinemagraphs, microvideos and GIFs were created by AvatarLabs that speak directly to the main themes of the film, including the duality between the “good” and “bad” sides of each character, and the hunter becoming the hunted. To create these, AvatarLabs custom composited green screen images and used photoshop heavily to incorporate imagery of the scenes from the film.

In addition, AvatarLabs created the “Three Blind Mice” custom video series, inspired by one of childhood’s most demented nursery rhymes. The well-known “Three Blind Mice” tune was adapted by a musician to create an eerie song rendition and was combined with video clips from the film for original :15 second videos that depict the three blind mice as the three robbers and the farmer’s wife as the Blind Man.

Online Media Campaign

To give the banners more depth, AvatarLabs added motion to the end frames and four second rollover easter egg that played on the themes of the film.


In the first 72 hours after launch on YouTube and Facebook the 360° video garnered more than 700k views, and has been viewed more than 2M times to date. Viewers commented: “this has to be the only ad I've ever liked, this is really cool” and “that was so so so so so so cool. I will definitely see that movie”.

The live media event attracted more than 40 journalists and was very highly regarded with press.

The film came in #1 at the domestic box office opening weekend at $26M, with what The Wrap called a “shockingly massive” debut, besting the studio’s expectations and ending Suicide Squad’s three-week reign at #1.


Variety: Snapchat’s First 360-Degree Video Ad Is For Sony Thriller ‘Don’t Breathe - “ ‘It’s not just about one-sheets and trailers anymore, but about creating incredible experiences,’ said Aaron Wahle, Sr. VP of international digital marketing at Sony.”

Mediapost: Sony Pictures First To Use New Snapchat Feature

Collider: ‘Don’t Breathe’ Teaser Is Snapchat’s First 360-Degree Video Ad

JoBlo: Live Out a Scene From Don't Breathe in this 360° Video - "Don't Breathe is the latest to employ the trend of 360° videos, dumping you right into the middle of a scene from the film, complete with horrifying plunges into darkness. It's pretty exciting."

Dread Central: Don’t Breathe Virtual Reality Video Puts You Inside the Movie - "Even without a VR headset, this is pretty damn cool...!"

Bloody Disgusting: Enter the World of Don’t Breathe in This Interactive Trailer

SciFi Now: Don’t Breathe 360° Trailer Traps You in The Blind Man’s Basement - (Features images of our custom press kit)

Deadline Hollywood: Don’t Breathe Screams $26M+ - “Beamed Sony’s worldwide marketing and distribution chief Josh Greenstein... ‘This is the strongest digital campaign we’ve had to date at Sony where we used the power of social media to sell and reflect the experience that director Fede Alvarez created in the movie.’ ”

The Wrap: 5 Reasons Why ‘Don’t Breathe’ Had a Shockingly Massive Debut - “Including the launch of the first-ever 360 Snapchat ad for a film, Sony has been changing up the ratio... the studio devoted 50% of its marketing to digital campaigns, which is more than double the industry norm.”