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Studio inks with iFilm for online promos

Miramax Films has inked a multiyear pact with online film portal iFilm to promote its pics. The deal, worth several million dollars, comes at a time when Hollywood’s major studios are teaming up with the Internet’s biggest players to promote their wares.

The companies declined to disclose financial terms of the deal.

However, the pact marks the first time one of iFilm’s studio clients — including Warner Bros., Disney, Universal and Fox — has agreed to expand its relationship with the Los Angeles-based Netco beyond buying advertising on iFilm’s portal for short films or using the company’s Online Testing Exchange service to test market content such as trailers or DVD packaging.

Miramax was already a client, but in a limited capacity, and was in the midst of looking for a way to increase its Internet marketing endeavors after finding success with online campaigns for “Spy Kids,” “Bridget Jones’s Diary” and “Serendipity.” It’s planning large Web efforts to push “Spy Kids 2” and “Gangs of New York.”

The deal with Miramax calls for iFilm to provide the distrib with custom direct marketing campaigns, such as AudienceLink email alerts, online ads, film-related content showcases and OTX-powered audience response research and analysis of materials associated with the release of pics.

Andy Robbins, veep of marketing and new media for Miramax, will oversee the Miramax content that appears on iFilm.

The partnership with iFilm is a clever one for the notoriously cost-conscious Miramax.

Instead of inking a similar pact with the more expensive Yahoo!, for example, the distrib opted for more bang for its online marketing buck, teaming with iFilm, which happens also to be featured as a movie channel on Yahoo!, RealNetworks’ RealOne and Microsoft’s WindowsMedia players.

“IFilm has proven itself not only as a rare Internet survivor amid the carnage of the entertainment category, but in fact as an innovative content purveyor capable of achieving stunning audience growth in the worst possible environment,” said Mark Gill, prexy of Miramax/L.A.

Hollywood has been looking for innovative ways to reach more auds on the Web, with movie marketers focusing on moving away from spending a large percentage of their budgets on a pic’s official Web site and devoting more of it to where Netizens surf most.

Last week, Fox inked a major theatrical and homevid promo deal with Yahoo! Last year, Sony inked a similar across-the-board pact with Yahoo! to push its pics, homevids, TV shows, Web sites and gaming properties. Warner Bros. is paired with AOL and Netscape.

“We have an opportunity to prove that the Internet can help open movies,” iFilm CEO Kevin Wendle told Daily Variety. “It’s been fashionable to kick the Net while it’s down. But you can’t argue with the Internet’s reach and the quality of the audience you get. You’re dealing with the first people who go to see movies, the first people who tell their friends to see movies and the first people to generate buzz. Intuitively, you can’t get a better audience to market your films to.”

The Miramax deal is a major coup for iFilm, which has undergone a transformation over the past year, going from an entertainment Netcaster to an online portal for all forms of video on the Web. Site attracted about 3.2 million unique visitors in February, according to Jupiter Media Metrix. Company also runs iFilm Publishing, which includes the Hollywood Creative Directory, and OTX.

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