New Line’s ‘Golden’ opportunity

Nine-minute promo reel, trailer of 'Compass' shown

New Line gave its ambitious pic “The Golden Compass” the grand Cannes treatment, the kind usually reserved for films in Competition here. This one has barely finished shooting.

However, buyers from most all territories around the world already signed on the dotted line a year ago for the pic (or have output deals with New Line). Since they’re all here on the Croisette, they have, for the last couple of days, been ushered in to see a nine-minute promo reel and trailer.

Based on Philip Pullman’s book trilogy “His Dark Materials,” “Companss” is the first installment in a planned movie trilogy.

The hoopla for a pic that’s still filming is something New Line pioneered with its sales campaign for “Lord of the Rings” in 2001. On just a 20-minute tape, the company managed largely to sell the world. It went on to be a B.O. hit and an Oscar winner.

But with “Compass,” New Line is using Cannes as the global marketing kickoff for the film. It’s also making an effort to describe and promote the picture on its own merits — and not as simply another “Lord of the Rings.”

Lead actors Daniel Craig, Sam Elliott, Eva Green and Dakota Blue Richards posed for a photo op at the Martinez and manned a press conference Monday — events that were packed with the press.

A number of questions from journalists circled the biggest challenge for the movie: Would the amazing CGI effects overwhelm what is intended as an affecting story about love and human interaction?

“The effects are working well,” director Chris Weitz told the press. “And the effects, I think, are working well with the actors. It’s still the story that counts.”

Later, responding to a question about how jaded audiences were becoming to visual effects for the sake of visual effects, the helmer added, “The main challenge is to infuse humanity and spirit into these special effects and make them serve the storyline, not vice-versa.”

Asked if there would be other films to come out of the Pullman oeuvre, producer Deborah Forte said that she thought the company would “definitely make more films. Pullman is one of the greatest living storytellers. We’re confident we’ll be doing more.”

Weitz told Variety he was contracted to helm the second and third parts, if they do indeed go forward. The second script is already being written.

In other remarks earlier at the New Line sales office, execs were busily showing footage of “Compass’ as well as other upcoming product.

“We’re showing our buyers the first teaser trailer — it’s our first visual — which will go out in American cinemas with ‘Pirates’ on May 25,” said New Line Intl prexy Camela Galano Sunday in Cannes. She said the trailer would also be available in many foreign territories.

Pic opens Dec. 7 Stateside and will go day-and-date in most major territories.

New Line also took the top off of “Hairspray” Sunday with a packed screening for 200 buyers. The only two major territories still unsold are Italy and Japan, both of which topper Rolf Mittweg said will likely be done by market’s end.

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