R-rated ‘T3’ brings rise of marketing machines

Intermedia, C2 to blanket biz with promos

Studios often shy away from launching major licensing programs for R-rated pics. But the producers of “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines” are betting that the actioner will be a hit at the B.O. as well as for retailers.

In an unusual move that guarantees filmmakers a percentage of all product sales, Intermedia and C2 have retained the licensing rights from Warner Bros. for “T3” and are readying to roll out a series of branded merchandise.

Distrib Warner Bros. is overseeing the marketing and promotional tie-ins.

Altogether the second sequel boasts 32 licensees for the usual action figures, comics, calendars, bobbleheads, T-shirts, screensavers, trading cards, lunchboxes, pinball machines and skateboards.

But the merchandising campaign also will include more high-end product:

  • A Toyota Tundra truck, featuring a special edition “T3” accessory package for $5,600. Roughly 850 of the trucks will be built.

  • Fifty limited-edition Indian motorcycles, going for $27,000.

  • Leather jackets modeled after the one worn by Arnold Schwarzenegger in the film. Three versions are being made, selling from $200 to $4,000.

  • “T3” sunglasses featured in the film from Sama Eyewear that sell for $175.

  • Audemar Piguet watches, selling for $20,000 a piece.

  • A videogame based on the film produced by Atari that, for the first time, features Schwarzenegger’s likeness.

A predetermined participant pool of producers and filmmakers as well as Schwarzenegger, will split royalties and upfront advances collected from the merchandising deals.

“It was our point of view that we should all share in the wealth,” said Paula Hoppe, who oversaw the “T3” licensing program for Intermedia and C2.

In the past, an R has usually forced studios to merely ink product-placement and promotional tie-in deals with brands, considering that it’s harder for studio merchandising mavens to entice retailers to support a pic because of graphic content.

“As an R-rated film, there are only so many markets you can get into,” Hoppe said. “Wal-Mart basically owns the universe. If you don’t get into Wal-Mart, good luck.”

“Terminator 2: Judgment Day” is the most successful R-rated film license, having rung up over $1 billion in merchandise sales since bowing in 1991. That doesn’t include homevid or soundtrack sales.

Intermedia and C2 felt the third installment in the franchise could perform just as well, especially given that Schwarzenegger, who is protective of his likeness, has approved the use of his image for “T3” products, something he did not do for “T2.” That pic could only use the pic’s logo and robots.

‘R’ for resistance

“It’s an R-rated movie, so studios tend to shy away,” said “Terminator 3” producer and C2 co-topper Andrew Vajna, who was bitten by the licensing bug with the “Rambo” pics when its distrib didn’t want to create any merchandising tie-ins. After everything from beach towels to knives sold well, “It got us thinking that merchandising is a big part of this business.”

Because of its rating, “T3” producers had to content themselves inking deals with Toys R Us, Suncoast, Blockbuster and specialty retailers like comicbook stores. “Warner Bros. felt they could only do so much,” Vajna said. “If we were just going to sit on a shelf, we felt we could exploit the property ourselves.”

Despite the “Terminator” franchise’s appeal, producers know that the R still doesn’t guarantee a slam dunk for sales of traditional movie-related merchandise. Thus, the focus on more high-end product.

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