At a meeting in late February to discuss Burger King's promotional program for this fall's "Anastasia"-Fox's first try at a Disneyesque animated event flick-the studio is said to have discussed a long-term, non-exclusive strategy with the No. 2 burger chain.
PACKAGE OF FILMS
Fox is offering a package of films that includes "Dr. Dolittle," an Eddie Murphy-starring remake of the kids classic that's slated for a 1998 release; "Planet Ice," an animated sci-fi yarn planned for next year or 1999; and a trio of films based on Marvel Comics' super-hero properties-"Fantastic Four," "Silver Surfer" and "X-Men"-that would arrive in theaters within the next five years.
The pitch was endorsed by top studio brass, said executives familiar with the talks, and Burger King is said to have walked away from the meeting impressed with the offer.
The studios' rush to secure Burger King's marketing support for future projects positions the fast-food chain to get involved in the movie-making process earlier than usual. Burger King is finalizing a deal with Warner Bros. to tie into "Superman Reborn," a movie that has yet to be cast and is only tentatively scheduled for a summer '98 release.
BEYOND MOVIE THEATERS
The Fox pact would allow Burger King that kind of early access as well. It's said that the deal would also encompass any other programs related to those properties, like home videos or possible TV spin-offs.
What is not being discussed is an exclusive alliance similar to the 10-year McDonald's Corp./Walt Disney Co. pact, the deal that's driving all the other big studios to Burger King's door.
Officially, a Fox executive said no formal proposal was made to Burger King at the "Anastasia"
meeting; talk of other projects "consisted of five sentences, at best, as we were all walking out the door," the executive said.
A Burger King executive also downplayed discussions about future Fox properties, although she admitted there have been talks about "Dr. Dolittle."
The executive added that because Burger King's recent product-based marketing has proved so successful, movie promos are currently not a top priority.
ALLIANCES GAIN IMPORTANCE
But as more studios restructure their businesses to focus on event flicks-potential blockbusters that can launch TV, home video, merchandising and publishing spinoffs-they are looking to strike alliances that will supplement their marketing resources.
Studio executives said Burger King enjoys its free-agent position too much to settle down with one studio. They said the fast-food chain is wary of the potential pitfalls of the Disney-McDonald's deal, which has cost McDonald's a shot at the "Star Wars" franchise and hot properties like "The Lost World: Jurassic Park" and "Batman & Robin."
"It would take a deal of unprecedented scope to get Burger King to commit to an exclusive alliance," said one studio executive.
Contributing: Bill McDowell