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Movie studios gambling on ads during Super Bowl

Published Jan. 26, 1997|Updated Sep. 30, 2005

(ran SS edition of METRO & STATE)

Three studios will spend millions of dollars Sunday to promote eight movies during the Super Bowl XXXI telecast, trying to duplicate the success of last year's ad for Independence Day.

The lineup includes a pair of potential science-fiction blockbusters _ Universal's Lost World and Sony's Men in Black _ that will not be in theaters for another four and five months, respectively.

With studios typically spending $15-million to $20-million to promote a movie, spending a significant chunk of that on a 30-second spot represents a risky strategy if the ad does not stand out. It also reflects the increased pressure studios feel as the number of major releases coming into multiplexes continues to escalate.

Studios usually have bought time during the Super Bowl, expected this year to reach more than 40-million households and become the top-rated program of the 1996-97 season. But 20th Century Fox was the only purchaser last January with a memorable introduction of the campaign for Independence Day with the shadow of an alien spacecraft over the White House.

Independence Day, which was released more than five months later July 2, took in $306-million domestically, making it the sixth-highest domestic grosser ever. Analysts believe the film's long-term approach to marketing was a key element in maximizing its box office performance, as the campaign persuaded rival studios to abandon head-to-head openings except for Disney's Phenomenon.

Universal will open The Lost World, Steven Spielberg's sequel to Jurassic Park, on May 23, while Sony has a July 2 opening set for Men in Black.

Universal did not disclose the contents of the spot for The Lost World, directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Jeff Goldblum and a variety of computer-generated dinosaurs. A short "teaser" trailer has been showing in theaters in recent weeks.

Sony's spot for Men in Black, featuring Independence Day star Will Smith as an investigator on the trail of intergalactic terrorists, will be the last of three 30-second spots Sony is stringing together during a 90-second break in the third quarter.

The trio of ads, costing nearly $3.5-million, starts with a close-up of a remote control and voice-over saying, "Get up, get out of the house and get ready to lose control." The remote then blows up, followed by an ad for Devil's Own, a thriller opening March 6 starring Harrison Ford and Brad Pitt as an Irish immigrant; an ad for Bruce Willis' thriller The Fifth Element, opening May 9; and the spot for Men in Black.

The spot concludes with Sony's Columbia and TriStar logos, with the narrator saying, "You can return to your nachos now."

Universal and Paramount did not disclose how much they are paying for their spots but the going rate has been estimated at $1.2-million per 30-second ad.

Paramount has bought time for its Howard Stern comedy Private Parts, opening March 7, and its thriller The Saint, based on the 1960s television show, with Val Kilmer in the role of Simon Templar. Industry tracker Reel Source has estimated Private Parts, which has a reported $25-million budget, should be highly profitable with a domestic gross of $60-million.

Besides The Lost World, Universal is also buying Super Bowl spots for volcano adventure Dante's Peak, opening Feb. 7 with Reel Source predicting a $175-million domestic gross, and a Jim Carrey comedy Liar, Liar, opening March 21 after being pulled from last fall's schedule.

Despite its success with Independence Day and the fact that the game is being telecast on the Fox Network, 20th Century Fox will not air ads this year.

Its major upcoming releases are the Star Wars trilogy, due out starting Friday, and an Alien sequel, Alien Resurrection, coming this summer.


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