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Hollywood’s early risers

Teasers looking more and more like trailers

Pretty soon they’ll have to start saying “Coming not so soon to a theater near you.”

Auds who turned up for “Casino Royale” when it bowed Nov. 17 were treated to the full trailer — not a teaser, mind you — for “Spider-Man 3” nearly seven months before the franchise sequel opens on May 4.

Teasers — which typically don’t reveal much about a movie other than that it’s in the works — are a familiar part of movie marketing.

For instance, Warners shot special footage of Vince Vaughn bickering on a couch with Paul Giamatti for “Fred Claus,” which isn’t due until next Christmas, and attached it to prints of “Happy Feet.” And back in March, 20th Century Fox announced that a “Simpsons” movie was in the works in a teaser it sent out with prints of “Ice Age 2,” promising to deliver the film next July.

But trailers themselves — the 2½-minute preview that includes footage from the finished film — are hitting earlier and earlier. In fact, Sony first unveiled its “Casino Royale” trailer when “The Da Vinci Code” bowed in May.

The strategy behind both moves, says Sony chairman Jeff Blake, is to use one blockbuster to create another since, it’s hoped, Bond fans will largely overlap with the Spidey supporters.

“It’s a gift to have one hit help another,” he says. “You want to create a favorable impression.”

The only limitation, is whether there’s enough finished footage to cut a decent trailer.

With studios seeking to whet audience appetites for their tentpoles earlier and earlier, the whole definition of what’s a trailer and what’s a teaser has been blurring for a while.

Warners has started running a “teaser trailer” for its next Harry Potter installment, which will be released next June.

“A teaser used to be more clearly defined,” says Trailer Park CEO Tim Nett. “It used to be just an announcement piece that doesn’t get into the specifics of what the movie’s about. The trailer was the big piece that has to do everything for everyone. What ends up happening is you end up having several trailers.”

A few years ago, more people were likely to see a 30-second TV spot than the official theatrical trailer. But now Internet sites like Apple’s Quicktime site, Yahoo! Movies and AOL’s Moviefone, have widened the audience exposure to trailers.

“I have always said that the war is won on TV,” says Nett. “But the dynamic has changed a little bit because of the Internet.”