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Studios will start using ‘Net, sez Berg

Success of 'Blair Witch' may prompt trend

The phenomenal $28 million opening box office enjoyed by “The Blair Witch Project” could be the greenlight Hollywood’s major studios have been waiting for to devote a larger percentage of their marketing dollars to the Internet, said ICM CEO Jeff Berg Tuesday.

Berg made the prediction at the Herring on Hollywood Internet confab at the Century Plaza Hotel.

Success of “The Blair Witch Project” has been attributed in part to its Web site, launched by Artisan Entertainment, which attracted 54 million hits prior to pic’s wide release.

Although most film Web sites feature little more than bios of the cast, photos, pic’s trailer and some behind-the-scenes info, Blairwitch.com played along with the pic’s premise of three filmmakers who disappear while shooting a documentary on a mysterious legend.

Despite the Web site’s pull, some industryites insist the site doesn’t feature anything that other sites haven’t.

Until now, studios have been slow to use the Internet as anything more than a promotional tool, launching basic Web sites for their pics and TV properties, only to see other companies such as fan site creators Geocities, Tripod and Angel Fire, as well as e-tailers, cash in on entertainment-related properties.

Berg’s reaction to studio uncertainty over how to use the Web echoes comments from panelists from the majors who spoke at the confab.

“The studios and networks missed out on cable, video and now the Internet,” Berg said. “It’s part of their genetic code. If you catch that wave, it builds new revenue models.

“It’s vexing for traditional companies to deal with. But studios have to get comfortable with it. They have to make it their friend. Studios know it’s out there. They know it works in practice, but they’re asking whether it works in theory.”

Although ICM does not yet have a Web site, Berg said the agency is in talks with USWeb to develop certain properties. Berg said he doesn’t believe a site is necessary for a company to become a player in the interactive arena.

Berg is a strong supporter of interactive TV services, sitting on the board of digital video recorder maker Replay Networks and Oracle.

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