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Fox thaws ‘Ice’ vid plan

Studios see $ reaching 'Phantom,' 'ID4' numbers

Fox is mounting a glacier-sized promotional push for the Nov. 26 video release of “Ice Age,” the studio’s biggest animated film ever.

The $85 million marketing campaign for one of the top 10 animated films of all time exceeds anything Fox has created for a video release, including its bigger theatrical hits like “Home Alone.”

Fox executives believe the 81-minute “Ice Age” could match or surpass the studio’s best-selling titles, “Independence Day” and “Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace,” which each have sold about 18 million copies each.

And while all the talk in recent days has been Disney’s economically produced “Lilo & Stitch,” which cost about $80 million, Fox Filmed Entertainment chairman Tom Rothman said “Ice Age” was made for considerably less than that by Fox-owned Blue Sky Studios.

That savings on production costs “lets us put a lot of media support behind the picture,” Rothman said.

It also meant Fox could let Blue Sky follow a pattern with computer-animated movies that began with DreamWorks’ “Shrek” last year and continues Sept. 17 with Disney’s “Monsters, Inc.” Blue Sky created a new five-minute CGI short especially for the VHS and double-disc DVD versions of “Ice Age.” (Blue Sky is working on its next CGI movie for Fox called “Robots,” due out in 2004, with a sequel to “Ice Age” to follow.)

The short, “Scrat’s Missing Adventure,” features pic’s rodent star attempting to put a nut in the one remaining spot in a tree with thousands of other nuts when the ground shifts, sparking a global impact that shapes the future of the planet. Scrat will be the centerpiece of the promo campaign.

Other extras on the DVD (suggested retail price $29.98) are six deleted scenes, commentary from co-directors Carlos Saldanha and Chris Wedge and Wedge’s Oscar-winning short “Bunny.”

In “Ice Age,” the surprise hit of the winter at theaters — it had a record March opening weekend of $46.3 million and went on to gross $175 million — Fox is capitalizing on a product that was not oversaturated in the market during its theatrical run, according to Mike Dunn, Fox video executive VP sales and marketing.

Fox has recruited 14 promo partners for the video, including Papa Johns, Coca-Cola, Dole, Carl’s Jr./Hardees, Microsoft, Bloomingdale’s and the National Hockey League.

Fox and its partners are laying out $40 million in “hard” media buys for the Thanksgiving week release, with the remaining $45 million coming in promotional activities.

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