Super Bowl draws $9 mil in movie ads

NEW YORK — Three major studios are spending more than $9 million in advertising on Sunday’s Super Bowl in a quest to re-create the early buzz enjoyed by 20th Century Fox with last year’s spot for “Independence Day,” five months before its theatrical release.

“Independence Day” went on to gross more than $300 million at the domestic box office. This year, Sony, Universal and Paramount hope to reap similar rewards from exposure on what’s easily the year’s top-rated program, expected to reach more than 40 million households.

Sony will promote three upcoming releases — “The Devil’s Own,” “The Fifth Element” and this summer’s “Men in Black” — while Universal is expected to trot out trailers for “Dante’s Peak,” “Liar, Liar” and “The Lost World,” the sequel to “Jurassic Park” coming to theaters on May 23. Paramount will air spots for Howard Stern biopic “Private Parts” and “The Saint,” both due in March.

Of course, studios are accustomed to spending freely on network airtime, and most have bought into past Super Bowls, although Fox was the lone spender last year on NBC. But the notion of jumpstarting a summer film with TV ads in January is new, and execs concede they were egged on by Fox’s audacious move last year, which introduced the ominous image of a spacecraft’s shadow enveloping the White House to a much wider audience.

“We felt like it had a huge impact,” said Bill Fay, one of “Independence Day’s” exec producers. “There was already a kind of buzz out there, but when we hit with the Super Bowl, it got a lot of attention.”

Equally important, Fay said, was the message the ad sent to Hollywood. “It said to the other studios, ‘Independence Day’ is coming on the Fourth of July, so look out. And within a few weeks, we wound up with a clear date for the release.”

Above the fray

Fox, however, chose to spend this year’s Super Bowl on the bench, even though the game airs on its own network.

Universal, however, is expected to use a version of a theatrical teaser trailer now running in theaters and featuring new dinosaur footage from “Lost World,” while Col will hype the futuristic sci-fi release “Men in Black.”

But succeeding with early promotion can be dicey. “That’s a big chunk of change when you’re not sure how much of an impression it’s going to make,” said Anthy Evergates-Price, senior VP-media at Universal Pictures. “If you don’t have creative that’s groundbreaking, spending that kind of money early out isn’t wise.”

And in some cases, the lack of actual film footage early enough to make a broadcast buy can force an expensive shoot to simulate it for a commercial unlikely to air again.

Presented with the opportunity to buy a single 90-second spot, Columbia TriStar Pictures jumped at the chance “to think about how we might creatively pull something together worthy of the sweepstakes the Super Bowl has become,” said Bob Levin, president of worldwide marketing. “How many places can you get over two-thirds share with a 44 rating in television these days?”

Remote detonation

Sony’s spot, at a cost of nearly $3.5 million, fills an entire commercial break during the third quarter. As an extreme closeup of a remote control fills the screen, a voiceover urges viewers to “Get up, get out of the house and into the theater, and get ready to lose control.” The remote blows up, segueing into 27-second spots for each film, in chronological order of release.

“Devil’s Own,” starring Harrison Ford and Brad Pitt, opens March 26, followed by Luc Besson’s Bruce Willis thriller “The Fifth Element” on May 9 (after its debut at Cannes), and “Men in Black” on July 2, the anniversary of “Independence Day’s” release. A final shot in the Super Bowl commercial shows the Columbia and TriStar logos as a narrator says, “You can now return to your nachos.”

Price and other Universal execs refused to confirm the titles promoted in the studio’s football buy, but Par con-firmed plans to run 30-second spots for both “Private Parts,” due March 7, and “The Saint,” which follows a week later.

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