"The Santa Clause," produced by Walt Disney Pictures and sister unit Hollywood Pictures, is the early leader, grossing nearly $40 million in the first two weeks after opening Nov. 11. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp. still believes in "Miracle on 34th Street," even though the remake earned just under $3 million in its opening weekend, Nov. 18-20.
But when it comes to promotional tie-ins, the standings are reversed: "The Santa Clause," starring "Home Improvement's" Tim Allen, has just one partner, Subway Sandwich & Salad Shops.
"We don't do promotions for promotions' sake," said Brett Dicker, senior VP of promotions for Walt Disney Pictures. "We choose only those that will bring value to a movie."
Disney may choose its promotional partners carefully for value, but Fox offered a five-day blanket guarantee of value. Print ads, created in-house, promised those who went to the movie Nov. 23-27 they'd like the remake, or get their money back. This is believed to be the first time such a movie guarantee has been made on a national level.
And so far, the film's marketing partners-Dairy Queen, Keebler Co. and Seven-Up USA-appear to be satisfied themselves, despite the lackluster debut. Fox executives say they try to create programs for their partners that are bomb-proof.
"Nothing is certain in Hollywood," said Steve Ross, VP-worldwide promotions for feature films and video for Twentieth Century Fox. "That's why we try to create programs that can work independent of how the film performs."
There's plenty of other family film firepower out there as well. Fox last weekend unveiled "The Pagemaster," supported with a $100 million promotional push by the likes of Pizza Hut and Nabisco Foods.
Also in theaters are Disney's re-release of "The Lion King," backed by another Burger King Corp. promotion, and New Line Cinema's "The Swan Princess," which can claim Dole Food Groups as a marketing ally.
The arrival of "The Pagemaster" was backed by one of the biggest promotional tie-in campaigns ever. The star power of Macaulay Culkin likely lured marketers, as did the film's pro-literacy themes.
But for partners like Pizza Hut, which based its entire holiday promotional campaign on the film, "The Pagemaster" must perform. Other partners include Nabisco Foods and Tropicana Pure Premium juice.
Coming in December: Disney's "The Jungle Book" and Fox's "Trapped in Paradise." Neither film has marketer tie-ins.
Kate Fitzgerald contributed to this story.