Vid blitz for AFI pix push

Joint marketing campaign a milestone

For the first time in the history of the homevideo industry, the video arms of 13 major studios will team in a joint marketing effort to herald the release or reissue of the best 100 films of the past 100 years, as selected by a panel of industry professionals. The move is part of a promotion sponsored by the American Film Institute.

The AFI-led homevideo event — the centerpiece of which will be a three-hour CBS TV spec airing on June 16, during which the names of the 100 best pics will be announced — will be backed with an aggressive, multimillion-dollar print and TV advertising campaign, in-store banners, Internet tie-ins and sponsorship from General Motors’ Cadillac division.

The U.S. Postal Service will also help tout AFI’s ambitious program, which was officially kicked off during a press conference held Thursday morning at the org’s headquarters and attended by homevideo industry leaders.

AFI’s director of marketing Lee Tomlinson described the campaign — valued at $30 million — as an “industrywide marketing program intended to increase interest in, as well as drive sales and rentals of, not just the 100 greatest movies of all time from the first century of America film, but indeed of all the great cinematic masterpieces from each of these studios’ rich catalog.”

As a result of the studios working together, the program will also serve to tout the virtues of homevideo, resulting in an image campaign for the entire vid industry, something that previously hasn’t been able to lock in industrywide support, despite proposals by the video trade org Video Software Dealers Assn.

“I ask you to consider the last time you’ve seen all the studios uniting under one banner,” said AFI Board chairman Tom Pollock. “While it routinely happens at AFI board meetings, bringing these business leaders together in a revenue-generating enterprise is truly historic. It should give you an idea of how excited we are about the sell-through and rental potential of this video program.”

The program has been in the works for more than 2-1/2 years, said Tomlinson.

The advertising blitz, which will begin in May and continue through August, will be augmented by cabler TNT’s 10 one-hour specs about the selected pics, which will be cablecast after the CBS spec.

The goal is to generate billions of consumer impressions and create a campaign that has shelf life beyond the May-through-August ad and marketing effort schedule, which drives store traffic.

The TNT specs will also repeat in the first quarter of 1999.

Virtually all of the selected pics will be released on homevideo, and a “DVD initiative” is being developed, according to Tomlinson.

Pics which made the list of 400 finalists (films released by December ’96 were eligible) run the gamut from the 1912 “Richard III” to such obvious classics as “Citizen Kane,” “Gone With the Wind,” “Casablanca” and “The Grapes of Wrath” to contemporary offerings including “Jurassic Park,” “Fargo” and “Jerry Maguire.”

Criteria for selection include the film’s “critical recognition, popularity over time, historical significance, cultural impact and major awards,” said Tomlinson.

A special commemorative edition of Newsweek, dedicated to the centennial of moviemaking and with an emphasis on the AFI “100 Years … 100 Movies” campaign — will be released the day after the spec and will also identify the 100 selected films.

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