Inside Move: Fox goes ‘Ape’ online

GPS users can play cache catch in global campaign

Can online movie marketing get any more bizarre?

In the wake of the Web fervor created by Warner Bros.’ “A.I.” campaign, 20th Century Fox has outgeeked the competition with its recent promotion for “Planet of the Apes.”

Known as Project A.P.E. (Alternative Primate Evolution), campaign centers on “geocaching” — a techie term for worldwide scavenger hunting, which, according to the folks at Fox, is “the latest and hottest online gaming phenomenon” affecting “families,” “Boy Scouts” and “outdoor enthusiasts” alike.

To play, users first must purchase a Global Positioning Satellite unit. Once restricted to military use, GPS units are now available to the general public for around $100 at most consumer electronic outlets. Using the GPS units and coordinates supplied every Friday at the pic’s official site (www.planetoftheapes.com), players then race to locate a cache, usually hidden in a park or woods near a major metropolis anywhere around the world.

The cache contains a prop from the pic, a camera and a log book. The winner can then take a picture of himself that will be posted on the site with his comments about the experience. In the 13-week campaign, Fox will hide caches in eight U.S. cities and five international locales.

But how many people own GPS units and are willing to play such an odd and involved game with a limited number of prizes (13) and humongous playing field (Earth)?

While most critics would tally that number in single digits, the studio insists that thousands will participate, with hard-core “cachers” learning about Project A.P.E. at community site Geocaching.com, which currently offers 2,303 lockers hidden in 42 countries.

The first Project A.P.E. cache was located in San Francisco. It contained an ornate metal ape spoon and a certificate of authenticity from Fox.