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Trailer hitch

Lucas link to 'Monsters' irks rivals

HOLLYWOOD — “Star Wars” fans rejoiced Monday at the official word that a new trailer for “Episode II” will screen Friday before Disney/Pixar’s “Monsters, Inc.”

Studio distributors are angry at the arrangement, however, as it reps a rare attachment of one studio’s trailer to another’s feature. The teaser for “Attack of the Clones” will be paired with a trailer for Disney toon “Lilo & Stitch,” which opens next summer just four weeks after the George Lucas epic.

Under Motion Picture Assn. Of America guidelines, only 2½ minutes of trailer time may be “attached” to the feature at the film processing lab. An attached trailer plays more frequently and in more prominent slots than trailers shipped separately to exhibitors.

Neither Fox, which is distribbing the “Star Wars” pic, nor Disney, which is handling the Pixar toon “Monsters,” could be reached. But industryites disparaged the deal, widely believed to have been struck by Lucas and Pixar topper Steve Jobs.

That agreement can be linked to Lucas’ financial stake in Pixar, and the immense power that both film companies wield over their respective studios, which do little more than market and distribute the pics.

The Lucas-Pixar relationship is close enough that a promo trailer for the THX sound system was scrapped because it featured characters from “Shrek,” animated archrival of Pixar’s “Monsters, Inc.”

Rival distribs have also marveled that Fox will wind up with a Disney tie-in for its “Episode II” trailer a week before a major Fox film, “Shallow Hal,” hits theaters.

“This opens up a big can of worms,” said one distrib prexy.

In November 1998, the trailer for “Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace” played before Universal’s “Meet Joe Black,” an ignominious host which “Star Wars” fans walked out of after getting their trailer fix.

While that feature and trailer did not come from the same studio, the difference between that and the current flap was that Lucas shipped the “Episode I” trailer separately rather than attaching it to “Joe Black.”

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