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BELL BUOYS LIZARD

Godzilla' taco tie-in worth $20 mil

TriStar Pictures’ “Godzilla” will open next summer with an estimated $20 million in media support from Taco Bell, the restaurant chain currently tied into the Warner Bros. franchise “Batman and Robin.” “Godzilla” is targeting a May 20, 1998, bow.

TriStar had been in talks with Taco Bell and Burger King for the film, which is being brought to the screen by “Independence Day” filmmakers Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin. Taco Bell agreed in principal to join hands on “Godzilla” about two weeks ago and the eatery is scheduled to announce it to their franchisees at their annual meeting in Atlanta today.

The tie-in is significant for a number of reasons, not the least of which is how Taco Bell has been able to benefit from the exclusive arrangement between McDonald’s Corp. and the Walt Disney Co., which takes McDonald’s out of the marketplace.

In fact, the McDonald’s/Disney deal is probably the best thing that ever happened to Taco Bell. “Godzilla” is the second major event film that Taco Bell has been able to nab since the two giants joined hands.

The deal also is a sign that Sony Pictures Entertainment, under worldwide marketing president Robert Levin and senior VP of strategic marketing Mark Workman, are resuscitating the studio’s feature film promotional activity. The two formerly worked together at Disney and helped to build the division with Brett Dicker (who still is at Disney).

High visibility

Taco Bell, a Pepsico subsidiary, has been increasing its promotional budget year by year. Although the chain does not bring in the kind of money that a Burger King can, it’s not impossible that the Taco Bell tie-in might spark interest from other Pepsico branches (a la “Star Wars”). As negative costs and marketing budgets rise on feature films, promotional tie-ins have become increasingly important as a way to leverage the studio’s media money.

The “Godzilla” promotion, which runs four to six weeks, will be adult-themed and a kid’s program is expected. Premiums also are being developed.

Begs the Burger question

The “Godzilla” tie-in leaves a question as to what Burger King will do. The burger biggie has been given the right of first refusal on Warner Bros.’ “Superman,” but has not yet made its decision for summer 1998. BK still is looking at DreamWorks’ live-action/CGI film “Cat in the Hat” starring Tim Allen, which also is scheduled for summer 1998.

It’s no secret that Burger King and Warner Bros. have not had a cozy relationship over the years. Last year, when it came to choosing between animated properties, BK opted for 20th Century Fox’s “Anastasia” over WB’s “Quest for Camelot,” which left WB with burger house Wendy’s for a partner. In previous years, the studio often brushed BK aside to partner with its No. 1 rival McDonald’s.

There has been talk about Taco Bell still possibly tying in with “Superman,” but it’s not clear whether the restaurant chain would be able to shoulder two heavy promotions back-to-back. “Superman” is scheduled for a July 4, 1998, release.

Meanwhile, Warner Bros. still is in the process of putting together “Superman” with Tim Burton at the helm. A new script is being drafted. There has been talk about Jim Carrey for the role of Brainiac, but his manager Eric Gold of Gold/Miller said Thursday the actor will not be in “Superman.”

Carrey also has been talked up for a remake of “The Incredible Mr. Limpet” at Warner Bros., but is currently mulling an offer from 20th Century Fox for its comedy “The Undertakers” about two brothers who are fierce competitors in the undertaking business. Carrey has been offered both roles.

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