Focus taking unusual approach to marketing pic

The widespread marketing push for Focus Features’ “Babies” — opening today in theaters — is unusual for a specialty release, especially a documentary.

And if online chatter is any indication, then “Babies” has a chance of doing solid biz. Baby-haters are even weighing in, which only ups the film’s profile.

Directed by French filmmaker Thomas Balmes, “Babies” chronicles the first year of life for four babies in Mongolia, Namibia, San Francisco and Tokyo. Focus is opening the docu in 534 theaters across the U.S.

“Babies” is leveraging the subject matter in numerous ways: a tie-in to Mother’s Day, promotional partners including Kodak, support from the March of Dimes, public service announcements, an iPhone app and theater standees.

A clutch of contests include a baby-crawling event at the Angelika Film Center in New York and a search for the cutest baby photo.

Film’s Facebook page has more than 33,000 members, with 1,000 new fans each day. Focus staff, including James Schamus, have posted their own baby pics on the page.

Focus has targeted marketing efforts to mommy bloggers, the faith-based community, educators and retail outlets across the country.

Trailer for “Babies” premiered in theaters alongside the release of “Where the Wild Things Are” on Oct. 16. A month later, the Internet trailer went live.

Film’s tagline — “Everyone loves …’Babies.’ “

“We found that to be true,” Focus prexy of marketing David Brooks said. “The trailer really got the buzz going. There was a connection to it that you don’t normally see.”

In fact, there’s so much buzz that Focus is now in the position of having to manage expectations.

There’s been rampant speculation as to whether “Babies” will be the next “The March of the Penguins,” the Warner Independent Pictures docu that grossed north of $120 million at the domestic B.O.

Documentaries don’t usually play to kids, but like “Penguins,” “Babies” could.

Focus decided to release “Babies” over Mother’s Day weekend after the first several research screenings.

“People said they wanted to come see it again with their mom,” Brooks said.

It’s no surprise that “Babies” is skewing female, providing strong counterprogramming to Paramount’s “Iron Man 2.”

One note: “Babies” is rated PG, for “maternal nudity” throughout.

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