CULTURE POP;MOVIE MARKETING;WARNING: THE MEN FROM MARS ARE COMING!

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Just when you thought your local cineplex was safe from little green men, Warner Bros. will launch another alien-invasion flick on Dec. 13-with a twist.

`Mars Attacks!' is based on the old Topps trading card line about an alien invasion. The movie is kind of like "Independence Day," only more campy.

Warner Bros. has been trying to build a buzz around its film, which features a star-studded cast, including Jack Nicholson in two roles.

But the real stars of the film are the aliens. The raygun-packing, big-brained invaders from "Mars Attacks!" are prominently featured in pre-release advertising, handled in-house.

The aliens are also the stars of Warner Bros. Consumer Products' licensing program, strategic and limited at this point to 15 partners. Highlights include one of this holiday season's potential hot gift items: action figures from Trendmasters that speak threatening Martian.

Expect more product next year: Michael Peikoff, VP-property development for Warner Bros. Consumer Products, has finalized a deal with Cinema Secrets for props and costumes for Halloween '97.

"We think this could be a franchise property. The movie definitely has the legs to run into next year," said Mr. Peikoff. "I don't think we're on the wrong side of sci-fi's curve. It's a genre that's just now coming into its own."

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