×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

New ‘Star’ born with firm terms

Exhibs expected to abide by rules

George Lucas’ “Star Wars” prequel is making major waves on three fronts, affecting exhibitors, advertisers and even critics.

Exhibitors lucky enough to book “Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace” into their theaters will have to abide by some strict rules — or else — but distrib 20th Century Fox is giving a break to Cannes-bound critics. And Lucasfilm has signed an unprecedented deal of food tie-ins that will link Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, KFC and 8 billion Pepsi cans.

Fox has warned theater owners that they will pay a penalty — and may even have their prints confiscated — if a litany of requirements is not met. But exhibs, who are expecting to get news as early as this week about which complexes will be offered the sci-fi prequel, are not likely to balk at the strict rules.

Most cinema execs believe “Menace” will be one of the biggest blockbusters of all time and are willing to do whatever it takes to get their hands on it.

Conditions for playing the highly anticipated pic include:

  • The film must run in the largest auditorium in the complex and cannot move to a smaller room for the minimum length of the run without permission from Fox (Variety, March 22-28).

  • Minimum runs are eight or 12 weeks — depending on the market — for theaters that open the film on its May 19 release date. A four-week run is available for theaters that start playing the film five weekends later, on June 18.

  • If an exhib commits to playing the film on two or three screens in a multiplex, the film must stay on those screens for the minimum run as well.

  • In competitive zones — where more than one exhibitor has theaters — the film must play on at least three screens.

  • Exhibs will get 100% of their house allowance for the first screen, 50% for the second and 25% for any additional screens.

  • Interlocking, which allows theaters to use one print to present a film on two screens, is prohibited.

  • Exhibitors may not deduct additional security expenses from rental fees.

  • Theaters are not to honor passes for the first eight weeks.

  • Payment is to be made within seven days (30-60 days is typical) for the first several weeks.

  • Paid onscreen advertising is prohibited for the first two weeks.

  • No more than eight minutes of trailers are to run before the film. (Fox has attached 2-1/2 minutes of trailers to the beginning of the pic.)

  • Theaters can begin playing the two-hour, 11-minute film at 12:01 a.m. on May 19.

While some exhibitors griped that Fox is taking advantage of the expectations surrounding the film, many believe studio reps could have gotten pretty much whatever they had asked for.

“These are all things that have been done before,” said a former exhibition exec.

“Menace” will screen for exhibitors in early May. A senior Fox exec declined to comment on the requirements.

Marketing pact

Under its $2 billion, exclusive marketing pact with Lucasfilm, PepsiCo. Inc. recently wrapped TV spots promoting its various tie-ins for “Phantom Menace.”

But in a unique twist to traditional fast-food and snack-food tie-ins, Tricon Global Restaurants, the fast-food chain operator that Pepsi spun off in 1997, will use the initial TV spot to advertise “Phantom Menace” contests and promotions at all three of its restaurant chains — Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and KFC.

The “Phantom Menace” spot, which will begin running in early May, marks the first time the three chains have used a joint campaign. (Pepsi inked its promotional pact with Lucasfilm in 1996, so by the time the soft drink behemoth spun off its fast-food divisions a year later, Tricon was able to hold onto its share of the “Star Wars” deal.)

According to one source close to the project, the first TV ad features a young boy who is intent on seeing “Phantom Menace” on opening day, and eventually finds a way.

Sources said Pepsi and Tricon also shot individual spots for each of the restaurant chains, as well as for Pepsi’s own soft drink division and for its snack-food subsid, Frito-Lay. As part of the cola campaign, Pepsi will reportedly distribute 8 billion cans of its various soft drinks featuring “Phantom Menace” characters.

Yoda and Dew

Additionally, instant prizes will be given to the recipients of randomly-placed, limited edition Yoda cans (leading one to envision the spot for Pepsi’s Mountain Dew with Yoda spouting his signature: “No, try not. Dew or dew not. There is no try.”)

Each of the restaurant chains also will offer instant-win prizes for food and soft drinks, and collect-and-win prizes, highlighted by a $1 million cash award.

But more than the free tacos, pizza and fried chicken, Tricon is betting that customers will flock to its three chains to collect the 28 new and different “Star Wars”-related toys Taco Bell, KFC and Pizza Hut will be giving away in kids’ meals and selling separately.

Each of the three chains will have toys or promotional products that will be unique to its restaurants.

Lucasfilm did not return calls seeking comment.

Crix options

Last May, Sony didn’t seem to mind that most of the leading film critics in America would be at the Cannes Film Festival when “Godzilla” was unveiled for the press stateside, and therefore would be reviewed by second-stringers in many top newspapers and magazines.

A similar situation is cropping up this year in regard to “Star Wars: Episode I — the Phantom Menace,” but Fox is offering an alternative solution.

The year’s most anticipated film — which should, admittedly, be critic-proof — is set to open May 19, during the May 12-23 Cannes fest. Twentieth Century Fox is accommodating fest-bound critics, providing they’re willing to stop off in Gotham on their way to France, by permitting them to attend either one of the pic’s first two screenings at the New York City junket on May 7 or 8.

That will give them enough time to file their reviews in advance and still hit the Croisette by Cannes’ opening day. The first West Coast screenings of George Lucas’ space epic aren’t planned until either May 10 or 13.

(Todd McCarthy contributed to this report.)

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Josefina-Molina

    Josefina Molina: Still Battling After All These Years

    SAN SEBASTIAN  — She isn’t done yet. The battling character of Josefina Molina, winner of Spain’s 2019 National Cinematography Prize, was glimpsed in her acceptance speech at the San Sebastian Festival on Saturday. She used part to thank those who had given crucial help, such as, among women, editors Nieves Martin (1981’s “Función de Noche,” [...]

  • Suro

    Lastor, ‘The Endless Trench’s’ Irusoin, Malmo Team for Mikel Gurrea’s ‘Suro’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    SAN SEBASTIAN – Barcelona-based Lastor Media and Malmo Pictures have teamed with San Sebastian’s Irusoin to produce “Suro” (The Cork), the feature debut of Mikel Gurrea and a product of San Sebastian’s Ikusmira Berriak program. The film stars Laia Costa, who broke through with Sebastian Schipper’s “Victoria” and also serves as executive producer, and Pol López [...]

  • Ane

    Madrid’s ECAM Incubator Develops Terrorism Drama 'Ane'

    SAN SEBASTIAN — For the second year in a row, the ECAM Madrid Film School has paired a number of up-and-coming filmmakers with various industry veterans for an Incubator program part of the school broader development arm called The Screen. For its initial edition in 2018, this Incubator selected five feature projects, putting the selected [...]

  • Roma Cinematography

    'Mission: Impossible - Fallout' and 'Roma' Win LMGI Awards for Motion Pictures

    Two major 2018 releases – actioner “Mission: Impossible – Fallout” and critics’ darling “Roma” – were honored for film location work by the Location Managers Guild International at a ceremony this evening at the Eli & Edythe Broad Stage in Santa Monica. The 6th Annual LMGI Awards also recognized “Chernobyl” and “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan” [...]

  • Soho House

    Soho House Lands In Downtown Los Angeles

    Warner Music, Spotify and Lyft are poised to welcome a new neighbor to downtown Los Angeles’ Arts District with Soho Warehouse, the third California outpost of the Hollywood-loved members-only club — and the largest North American opening to date. Hot on the heels of the Soho House Hong Kong debut earlier this summer, the private [...]

  • Born to Be Live: 'Easy Rider'

    Born to Be Live: 'Easy Rider' Gets a Concert/Screening Premiere at Radio City

    In a year full of major 50th anniversary commemorations — from Woodstock to the moon landing — why not one for “Easy Rider,” Dennis Hopper’s hippie-biker flick that was released on July 14, 1969? That was the idea when a rep for Peter Fonda, who starred in the film as the laid-back Captain America, reached out [...]

  • Costa Gavras

    Costa-Gavras and Cast on Nationality, Identity, and Cinema

    SAN SEBASTIAN  —  Though he’s been based in Paris since 1955 and came up through the French film industry, director Costa-Gavras has never forgotten his roots. “Those who are born Greek,” said the Peloponnese-born filmmaker at a Saturday press conference,  “stay Greek all their lives.” The once-and-always Greek was not just in San Sebastian to [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content