CULTURE POP: MOVIE MARKETING: HOLLYWOOD SPEWS FORTH 2 VOLCANO FLICKS

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Coming April 25 to a theater near you: A long-dormant volcano reawakens and transforms daily life in one U.S. city into a catastrophe.

If you're thinking Universal Studios is re-releasing "Dante's Peak," think again. This is "Volcano," which Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp. plans to uncork in two weeks, after conceding the race to Universal earlier this year, saying they could spend more time sharpening the special effects.

But Hollywood observers wonder if Fox should wait even longer, doubtful moviegoers are ready for another volcano flick so soon after "Dante's Peak," which erupted strongly but lost steam. It has percolated about $65 million at the box office.

"I don't think the market's ready for another film like `Dante's Peak,' even if it is better," said one studio promotions executive. "I doubt it'll reach anywhere near $100 million."

The dilemma of the dueling volcano flicks is the latest example of the Hollywood law that if something works, copy it. So last year's rebirth of the disaster genre, thanks to "Twister" and even "Independence Day," is this year producing flicks about volcanoes, floods and other natural disasters.

This is not to say Fox is incapable of generating some must-see buzz for "Volcano," although the studio didn't return calls about its "Volcano" plans. But Fox has been positioning "Volcano" as an event flick, launching its ad campaign six weeks prior to release with the tagline

"The coast is toast."

On April 1, Fox produced a newspaper insert that looked like the front page of a real newspaper, with stories chronicling the destruction of Los Angeles wreaked by the volcano and the heroism of one Angeleno in particular (Tommy Lee Jones).

Advanced screenings have been promoted with newspaper ads, positioning the film as cool enough to want to see before anyone else. The movie even has a few promo partners, including Land Rover.

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