Studio offers video contest to attract viewers

MGM is going to let the masses spread the word about “Lions for Lambs,” United Artists’ first release under Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner.

In an effort to build buzz for the drama, which bows Nov. 9, the Lion has inked a deal with Google and YouTube to launch a competish for which individuals can produce a 90-second video discussing the social issue they’re most passionate about.

Vids will be featured on a specially designed Google “gadget” — essentially a mini-website within a site — that will enable visitors to watch and vote on their favorite submissions. A winner will be chosen Nov. 9 and awarded $25,000 to go to a charity of their choice. Acceptance of submissions begins today.

A dedicated YouTube channel will screen the shorts as well, and ads for the pic will be targeted across Google’s network to potential auds based on their interests.

Executives at Google and YouTube consider the effort an example of how the companies’ network of sites, which attract millions of users, can promote Hollywood productions, and hope it will help entice studios and distribs to devote more of their online marketing budgets to the two Web giants rather than go to rivals like Yahoo.

“Lambs” is the first pic to use multiple elements of Google and YouTube on a large scale, the companies said.

The key to the campaign is giving potential auds “an enlightened sense of engagement,” said Adam Stewart, Google’s industry director of media and entertainment. “We knew that within YouTube we had a community that would respond to this message.”

And MGM and UA could use the marketing support.

“Lions for Lambs” could be considered a tough sell, despite a cast that includes Tom Cruise, Robert Redford and Meryl Streep.

“We really wanted to bring out the themes of the movie and tell a story in a relevant way,” said Amy Elkins, senior VP of theatrical marketing for MGM. “To do that, we wanted to look at the widest platform we could and build a community around the film’s message, namely ‘What do you stand for?’”

At the same time, each short will serve as another trailer for the film, working alongside the pic’s more traditional in-theater and TV spots — especially after the film has opened, potentially allowing it to play longer in venues and giving it legs.

Elkins said the shorts will serve as “ambassadors” for the pic. “We are trying to remove the film from talking to people,” she added. “It allows the user to have a voice and become the entertainment.”

Deal with Google and YouTube will serve as the cornerstone of the online marketing effort for “Lambs.”

“There’s a huge commitment to really making this the spine of the (online) program,” Elkins said.

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