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'10 Cloverfield Lane': How producer J.J. Abrams shocked Hollywood

Less than a month after Abrams' movie 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' was released, Abrams surprised the moviegoing public with the news that a movie related to the hit 2008 film 'Cloverfield' was coming out – and it would debut in March. The film is now in theaters.

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    '10 Cloverfield Lane' stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead.
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The new movie “10 Cloverfield Lane,” a spiritual successor to the 2008 film "Cloverfield," is the latest film to be produced by J.J. Abrams of "Star Wars: The Force Awakens."

“10 Cloverfield Lane,” now in theaters, is also unusual in that almost no one knew it was happening until two months ago. 

The movie tells the story of Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), who is involved in a car crash and after the accident awakens in an underground bunker. Howard (John Goodman) tells her he rescued her from the crash but that she can't leave due to nuclear fallout.

John Gallagher Jr. of “The Newsroom” co-stars. 

The film follows the original “Cloverfield” movie, which centered on various New York residents as the city is attacked by a giant monster. 

The plot for “10 Cloverfield Lane" is similarly mysterious and most critics are avoiding commenting on the details.

“10 Cloverfield Lane" is, like “Cloverfield,” produced by Mr. Abrams, who is currently best known for reviving the “Star Wars” franchise with “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” which pleased fans and critics and is now the highest-grossing movie of all time in the US without adjusting for inflation. 

The movie took people by surprise when a trailer for “10 Cloverfield Lane" was released in theaters in January with no news of the film beforehand.

“Abrams pulled off a stunt many thought impossible in this spoiler-obsessed world,” Los Angeles Times writer Meredith Woerner wrote. “… Many audience members will be able to attend this film unspoiled by over-zealous marketing, blissfully unaware of the plot. Exactly as Abrams intended.”

In a culture where movie fans dissect every detail of an upcoming blockbuster movie, particularly if it’s an anticipated follow-up (something Mr. Abrams might have experienced on, oh, a little film called “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”), “10 Cloverfield Lane" has stood out from the pack before it even came to theaters. 

“It just felt like, why not break the template we're all used to and make it fun for the audience?” Abrams told the Los Angeles Times

Rolling Stone writer David Ehrlich called the decision “a game-changer.” 

“If the music industry is a shark, the film business is a giant cruise ship with a broken rudder – it focuses on what's coming five years down the line because it takes that long to turn,” Mr. Ehrlich wrote. “But Abrams has repeatedly illustrated a knack for reading the tides. He possesses a rare understanding of the idea that marketing is an act of storytelling unto itself.”

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