Studios expected to advertise seven pics during big game

More studios will sit on the sidelines this year than usual when the Super Bowl kicks off Sunday.

Only three of the majors — Paramount, Disney and Universal — will pony up about $3 million per 30-second-spot during the NFL’s championship match between the New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts in Miami. That’s down from five studios last year.

Hollywood has promoted nine movies during the last two Super Bowls. This year, that figure is expected to drop to seven, still far more than when only four were shown during the 2007 game.

Paramount is buying ads to tubthump “Shutter Island” and M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Last Airbender.” “Iron Man 2,” which Paramount is distributing for Marvel, won’t have an ad in the big game.

The studio had three spots last year for “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” “Star Trek” and “G.I. Joe.”

Disney and Universal are sticking with their usual strategy of being tight-lipped about their Super Bowl plans, looking to buy an element of surprise with the considerable coin they’re spending to reach the 100 million people that tune into the game each year.

It doesn’t always pay off: While the studios scored with ads for “Up” and “Fast and Furious” last year, pricey spots for “Race to Witch Mountain” and “Land of the Lost” couldn’t stop the pics from fumbling at the B.O.

The Mouse House’s playbook is often predictable, with the studio buying an ad to promote an animated film and a live action tentpole each year. This year isn’t expected to be any different, with “Toy Story 3″ and “Alice in Wonderland” likely to get the big push. It also has “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” that would certainly appeal to football fans, given it’s a big-budget actioner based on a popular videogame franchise.

Universal will likely promote “The Wolfman” and Ridley Scott’s “Robin Hood.” There’s there’s also been speculation that the studio will promote its summer 3D-animated comedy “Despicable Me,” considering it’s the first of a slate of toons produced for the studio through Chris Meledandri’s Illumination Entertainment.

Should Disney and U end up with three spots, that would up the tally of pics during the big game to nine, the same as last year.

Others are also buying ads during the pre-game show, with Sony’s “Bounty Hunter” expected to be one that unspools during that timeframe and Overture’s “The Crazies” set to be plugged during the post-game wrap up. Ad rates are cheaper before and after the Super Bowl.

In the past, studios often used the Super Bowl to start hyping their summer tenptoles by giving moviegoers a first-look at highly anticipated projects.

But with more than 60 spots competing for attention (last year’s telecast boasted 45 minutes of ads), studios worried that their ads would get lost in the shuffle and figured their money could be spent more wisely elsewhere.

An increasing number of events throughout the year like Comic-Con, this year’s Winter Olympics and even the Oscars (which started accepting movie promos last year), have given marketing mavens other outlets to roll out big reveals. Using the Internet for such big splashes has also proved a far cheaper alternative. An extended trailer for “Iron Man 2″ bowed at Comic-Con last July, for example, while “Prince of Persia” trailers have also been out for some time. The “Shutter Island” Super Bowl spot already is online.

This year, studios are opting to use the steep fees the Super Bowl demands to run ads that can help turn films with earlier dates on the calendar — like “Alice in Wonderland” and “Shutter Island” — into high-profile events. That’s considered especially key as audiences develop ever shorter attention spans for commercials, given how many they’re bombarded with across various media platforms.

Warner Bros. and 20th Century Fox haven’t purchased Super Bowl ads since 2008, when WB promoted “Poseidon” and “16 Blocks,” and Fox pushed “Jumper.”

DreamWorks Animation generated considerable buzz for “Monsters vs. Aliens” last year, when it paired up with promotional partners Intel and Pepsi’s Sobe Lifewater to air a 90-second ad in 3D.

The decision not to advertise during the Super Bowl has enabled other entertainment companies to step up.

Universal Studios Orlando will use airtime to promote the spring opening of its Wizarding World of Harry Potter theme park at Islands of Adventure.

Timer Warner-owned cabler truTV also will have an ad to promote the new series “NFL: Full Contact.” The buy is the first time a Turner channel will be promoted during the Super Bowl.

Meanwhile, videogame publisher Electronic Arts is buying its first ad during the Super Bowl to push the Feb. 9 release of its new game “Dante’s Inferno,” which is competing with Sony’s popular “God of War” franchise. “God of War III” bows in March.

“The Super Bowl stands apart, almost as a national holiday,” said Frank Gibeau, president at EA. “The Super Bowl is a bull’s-eye in terms of cross-over to our core demographic and the reach is outstanding. Not only does it draw 100 million viewers, but most people watch the Super Bowl live, a rarity in the world of DVRs.”

CBS, which sold an ad to Christian advocacy group Focus on the Family to promote family counseling, requested EA change its planned tagline, “Go to Hell” to something less objectionable to viewers. The new one: “Hell Awaits.”

CBS, which is airing this year’s match up, doesn’t need to worry that marketers are pinching pennies.

The network said it completely sold out of its commercial time a week before the game, with 90% of the inventory accounted for in December. Analysts say marketers will spend more than $200 million during the game, and pre- and post-game shows.

NBC earned a record $206 million from selling 69 ads during the game last year. CBS charged between $2.5 and $2.8 million per 30-second ad this year, according to TNS Media Intelligence.

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