When ‘Worlds’ collide . . .

Day-and-date pressures pit PR machine vs. the media

The “War” drums are beating overtime. But it isn’t the Martians that are on the warpath.

Media around the globe have been up in arms about over the restrictions imposed by Paramount and DreamWorks as “War of the Worlds” bowed in Tokyo, Berlin, Paris, London, Marseilles, Madrid and New York.

The publicity backlash points up the perils of day-and-date openings. Overseas journos, accustomed to writing about films that have already opened in the U.S., are being asked to see a film — and then refrain from writing or talking about it for several weeks.

To top it off, they’re meeting the star, but being given limits on the conversation.

The result is day-and-date media hostility.

Given piracy fears and security concerns over Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise, the June 23 N.Y. preem featured four-hour security lineups, which caused media grousing.

That was matched by grumbling over the New York print media being shut out of the preem (Variety was one of the few allowed in).

And though studios routinely put an embargo on review dates, Germany’s top film critics association launched an official protest against what it called “a violation of basic constitutional rights” over the studio’s review restrictions.

The Brits were generally appalled at Channel 4’s prank “interviewer” getting Cruise with a squirting microphone. But the mainstream British Guardian speculated the gag may have been “a strange, watery satire on the transparent tasteless nature of a red carpet plug for a tiresome remake of an already tiresome film.”

And, though most media pundits hadn’t seen the film, one Brit talking head on the night of the London preem noted solemnly, “When the studios try to keep the press away from the film, it usually means it’s a stinker.”

Add to that the ongoing baggage of the Cruise-Holmes relationship, which has been endlessly reported in the tabloids as well as the mainstream press.

Will their romance help or hurt the B.O.? “Gigli” proved that a celeb-centered PR blitz can create a backlash, though speculation on Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie‘s romance seemed to fuel the B.O. of “Mr. & Mrs. Smith.”

“War” has a June 29 global bow. And the question is not the media reaction, but the public’s. In the novel, H.G. Wells imagined an end to the interplanetary war by the spread of a virus.

So the question on “War” is: Will the viral spread of negative buzz have any effect, or is the tentpole pic immune?

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