Junkets harness star power to start buzz

Day-and-date releases put pressure on events

For foreign press covering entertainment in Los Angeles, the movie junket is the one-stop shop where they can get the kind of access to stars they need to sell their stories.

And the bigger the star power, the better the junket. “You’re looking for the really big names you can sell around the world,” says Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. VP Mike Goodridge.

Junkets, of course, can be expensive, but Goodridge notes that despite their costs, junkets are unlikely to be affected by the recession. “The economy doesn’t impact that because the movies and the lives of these actors are the perfect escape.”

Murray Weissman, a veteran publicist who runs his own PR shingle and was once head of theatrical publicity at Universal Pictures, agrees that high-profile talent at a junket produces the biggest results.

“The press want to talk to the biggest stars on your movie because that’s what people want to read about, and that hasn’t changed. Junkets are set up to give as many journalists as possible as much access as possible,” Weissman says. “Without a famous name you’ll have to be more clever or do an event with a tie-in to your movie.”

Weissman points out that junkets are a highly efficient publicity device “because you can’t hold onto the stars too long. They often have other projects coming up, so you’ve got to get them in and out fast,” says Weissman, who remembers when movie press tours took much more time. “I worked on ‘Love at First Bite’ (1979) with George Hamilton, and we were traveling with him for three weeks, moving from city to city.”

Weissman and Goodridge both cite today’s compressed release schedule — with some films released simultaneously in many territories — as a challenge. “It can mean putting things together on a larger scale because you have everyone from all over the world doing interviews in just a couple of days,” Weissman notes.

But while junkets may now be shorter, their multinational nature dictates that luxury is still de rigueur. “It can be exhausting for talent if they’re promoting a film in several countries, so it makes sense to do something luxurious at a great location because then it turns it into a getaway for them instead of sitting in one place for 10 hours answering the same five questions over and over,” says a publicist who works with an agency representing A-list clients.

The rise of the Internet has enhanced the value of junkets, Goodridge believes. “Once it’s up on someone’s site, anyone can read an interview,” he points out. While a roundtable with a star may not be as exclusive as a one-on-one, “You generally only have one or two other journalists from your territory, so it’s possible you’ll have some good quotes,” he adds.

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