The Jigsaw Halloween Blood Drives Have Saved Over 360,000 Lives
Saw, the film series in which piles of unlucky people are killed in ironic and gruesome ways isn't exactly what you'd call "elevated horror." After raking in somewhere around $1 billion in worldwide ticket sales, however, it's hard to argue against the effectiveness of the franchise, even if your tastes run somewhere closer to a moody thriller than "torture porn." Even if you're not into the brand of horror that Jigsaw and his crew of helpers are selling, you have to give them credit for saving more lives than they've taken. Alongside the theatrical release of each film in the series, the Jigsaw Halloween Blood Drive offered every John Kramer fan a free ticket in exchange for a pint of blood.
This "blood for a free viewing" promotion is right up there with William Castle's most eccentric tactics to get people in the theater but with a philanthropic spin. Not only have the filmmakers saved thousands of lives with their buzz-generating blood drives, but they've also helped change the way the American Red Cross takes donations and how people see the horror genre on a whole.
The first blood drive was meant to drum up press
Before Saw became a worldwide success and gave director James Wan a career, it was just a weird little movie made by a couple of Australian guys who happened to find enough money in their budget to book Cary Elwes. To generate press for their blood-soaked release, Lionsgate Entertainment announced the creation of the Jigsaw Halloween Blood Drive. People who didn’t want to plonk down their hard-earned cash to see a risky new horror movie by an untested director could give some blood to earn a free seat in the theater. As goofy as the idea sounds, they ended up bringing in a healthy number of donations for the American Red Cross. Never underestimate broke horror fans. By the 2009 release of Saw VI, the Saw team had taken 120,000 pints of blood from fans of this brutal franchise. As strange as it may be, this is the one horror film franchise that's actually managed to do some good while grossing out fans.
The Jigsaw Halloween Blood Drive was an early proponent for LGBTQ rights in blood donation
The rules for LGBTQ blood donors are different from the rules for other members of the population. Specifically, because of the higher perceived risk of HIV infection among homosexual men, no man who has had sex with another man in the previous 12 months can donate blood, even if they're in a decades-long monogamous relationship.
With the release of Jigsaw in 2017, Lionsgate and the Saw franchise took a stand against regulations that don't allow members of the LGBTQ community to donate. Along with their usual posters imploring fans to give blood, they encouraged fans of all genders and sexualities with their "All Types Welcome" campaign. Aside from simply featuring members of the LGTBQ community in their ads, the campaign made large strides in making the FDA aware of the potentially discriminatory ramifications of such practices.
Lionsgate partnered with the American Red Cross for the Jigsaw Halloween Blood Drive
To everyone's relief, executives from Lionsgate weren't just sending out bloodthirsty maniacs in nurses' outfits to take blood in movie theater parking lots. They actually formed a partnership with the American Red Cross to ensure the safety and legality of the Jigsaw Halloween Blood Drive. It was a win-win relationship: Lionsgate and the Saw franchise got the official American Red Cross seal of approval and the ensuing press, and the American Red Cross got new clients (and their data) to keep the blood flowing through these United States. In a 2007 press release, Gregory S. Ballish, Senior Vice President of Biomedical Services for the American Red Cross, said of the group's partnership:
Working with Lionsgate Entertainment provides the American Red Cross an opportunity to expand its support of blood donation ... On behalf of the patients we serve, we thank Lionsgate and the Saw franchise for their commitment to our blood program and look forward to a successful campaign.
Jigsaw saved a lot of lives
Elaborate traps meant to inflict ironic deaths upon unsuspecting sinners may be Jigsaw's onscreen bag, but offscreen, he's just trying to save some lives. Every year that a Saw film was released, the Jigsaw Halloween Blood Drive brought in thousands of pints, all of which resulted in blood transfusions that saved lives. As of 2017, the blood collected during the drives resulted in 360,000 lives saved. When was the last time a Best Picture winner at the Academy Awards did that? Producers for the film told ComingSoon.net:
We are very proud of the continued growth and success of the Saw blood drives and would like to thank Lionsgate for their boundless creativity and the incredibly loyal Saw fans who bleed for us, literally.
The blood drives have really cool campaigns
Aside from the whole "saving lives" thing, the coolest part of the Jigsaw Halloween Blood Drive is their marketing. Rather than just set up outside of a theater on opening day, Lionsgate and Twisted Pictures have created the creepy character of the Saw nurse to feature in the marketing for the drives. While she doesn't appear in any of the Saw movies, the character has become as much a part of the franchise as John Kramer or Donnie Wahlberg.
In 2017, the Saw nurse got an upgrade in the marketing campaign by changing the character from a creepy nurse covered in blood to something more aesthetically interesting. The backgrounds were given a cool silver and white, antiseptic hospital vibe, and the nurse became several nurses made up of people from across the LGBTQ community. The photos each played on a different visual fear (the photo with the gloves is a real "no, thank you"), and they almost create their own mythology outside of the films.
For the new nurses, the team from Lionsgate reached out to social media influencers with a positive presence in the LGBTQ community, allowing Saw to reach audiences who otherwise might not sit down for such a gore-fest. Former marketing chief Tim Palen told The New York Times:
Everyone's making content, everyone's a creator, everyone has a microphone. So to have the nurse campaign play in that space and have personalities feel some ownership in the campaign felt like a great way to evolve.
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