×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

F/x & trailer hitches

Marketing machines gear up before pix are finished

HOLLYWOOD — Given the $150 million-plus production and marketing costs of summer tentpoles, it’s no surprise that studios are desperate to start hyping their films as early as possible.

But f/x wizards are often fine-tuning CGI sometime days before a pic’s release — meaning the costly and groundbreaking f/x shots usually aren’t available come teaser time.

For example, more than a year before “The Hulk’s” June 20 opening, Universal Pictures and Marvel Entertainment wanted to start the marketing machine.

But the angry green meanie wasn’t ready yet. Techies at Industrial Light & Magic were still trying to finalize the Hulk’s CGI look.

The teaser that finally ran featured star Eric Bana and an exploding house in a scene that was shot separately and isn’t in the final film. The f/x work wasn’t even handled by ILM, but another facility.

The same is true for several of this summer’s other players.

Last year, the first teaser the Warner Bros.-distribbed “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines” only had the film’s logo to entice auds; Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean” also boasted a logo and one brief f/x shot, a stomping skeleton leg.

Few of next summer’s anticipated biggies — including U’s “Van Helsing,” Fox’s “I, Robot” and “Day after Tomorrow,” Warners’ “Harry Potter” and “Catwoman” and Col’s “Spider-Man 2” — have yet to release a logo to theaters.

Thus far, filmgoers have seen teaser trailers for just one summer pic for 2004: “The Punisher,” Artisan’s adaptation of a lesser-known Marvel comic, starring Thomas Jane and John Travolta.

“You want to have that one money shot or two money shots that will entice people to put a film on their calendar,” says Sony marketing chief Geoffrey Ammer.

Given a tight production schedule for “X2,” Fox assembled the first trailer, with CGI footage of a jet navigating a swarm of tornadoes, in November, while the film was shooting in Vancouver. It also created the biggest theater standee — in the shape of the “X-2” logo — ever to come from the studio.

“It’s hairy,” says Fox co-prexy of marketing Tony Sella. “I don’t believe you can start too early. But once we start, we don’t like to take the pedal off the gas.”

It’s routine at studios for the marketing department to break down the script on big movies and work with f/x facilities to move up the production schedule on sequences that might lend themselves to trailers.

“It’s incumbent on the director and the advertising guy to sit down and determine early on what images they need so that the production can start working on scenes early enough,” says Joel Wayne, exec veepee of creative advertising for Warner Bros. Pictures.

But with sequels, the urgency isn’t quite as intense. Sony hasn’t yet released an image of “Spider-Man 2,” which began production in New York in April. The first trailer isn’t timed to hit until November, to capitalize on the crop of holiday movies.

Says Ammer, “If I were trying to sell the franchise for the first time, you’d probably see something now.”

More Film

  • Alfonso Cuaron's 'Roma' Companion Album to

    Alfonso Cuarón's New 'Roma' Album to Feature Beck, Patti Smith, El-P, T Bone Burnett

    Not to be outdone by Ariana Grande’s impending record news, filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón has announced the track list and release date for his new album, which, coincidentally, is also due Feb. 8. He’s the curator of “Music Inspired by the Film Roma,” which was already teased by a Billie Eilish track, and is now revealed [...]

  • The Beach Bum Trailer

    Watch: Matthew McConaughey Stars in Groovy New 'The Beach Bum' Trailer

    Matthew McConaughey takes on new levels of drug use in the latest trailer for “The Beach Bum.” True to the film’s title, the trailer opens on a trashy beach town stage where McConaughey’s character Moondog is waiting to accept some sort of musical award. “Before I accept whatever award it is they’re giving me today, [...]

  • SAG Awards Placeholder

    SAG Awards Unveils Presenters After Accusing Academy of 'Intimidation'

    The SAG Awards has unveiled its first round of presenters, including Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper, Rami Malek, Chadwick Boseman, Adam Driver, Sam Elliott, and Constance Wu. Wednesday’s announcement comes two weeks after SAG-AFTRA accused the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences of intimidation in trying to limit actors from presenting on awards shows other [...]

  • Kevin Hart Fatherhood

    Kevin Hart Partnering With STX on Two Comedies (EXCLUSIVE)

    Kevin Hart is partnering with STXfilms to produce on a pair of comedy movies through his HartBeat Productions with an eye to star in both projects, Variety has learned exclusively. The announcement comes on the heels of Hart’s solid box office performance in “The Upside,” in which he co-stars with Bryan Cranston. STX’s comedic drama, co-produced [...]

  • Yalitza Aparicio as Cleo, Marco Graf

    Disruptor Netflix Joins Big Studios at the Table With MPAA Membership, Analysts Say

    Netflix is starting to look a lot like the media institutions it has been disrupting for years. In one fell swoop on Tuesday, the streaming giant racked up an impressive 15 Academy Award nominations, including a best picture nod for Alfonso Cuaron’s black-and-white, Spanish-language drama “Roma.” Hours later came official word that the company had [...]

  • Italy's Notorious Pictures Expands Into Exhibition,

    Italy's Notorious Pictures Expands Into Exhibition, Plans 200 Screens by 2023

    Italian distribution and production company Notorious Pictures is branching out into exhibition, aiming to have 20 multiplexes up and running within the next five years. The company has appointed former UCI Italy chief Andrea Stratta to head up a new Notorious Cinemas unit. The company said it was already in the process of taking out a [...]

  • cats logo

    As 'Cats' Starts Production, Downtown Lands Admin Deal for Andrew Lloyd Webber's Music (EXCLUSIVE)

    Downtown Music Publishing has entered into a multi-year publishing administration deal with Faber Music, which represents the musical repertoire from “Cats,” the beloved and long-running Broadway sensation currently being turned into a feature film starring Taylor Swift, Jennifer Hudson, James Corden, Idris Elba and Judi Dench, among others. The Universal picture, directed by Tom Hooper, recently [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content