LUNAR LUNACY? FOR ITS ANDY KAUFMAN BIO-PIC 'MAN ON THE MOON,' UNIVERSAL STEPS OUTSIDE USUAL AD APPROACH

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Even for the sophisticated "Saturday Night Live" viewer, the ad packed a jolt. Wedged in a commercial break during that show's 25th anniversary special Sept. 26, the spot shows actor Jim Carrey striding onto a stage, grinning and not saying a word.

A reaction shot features a slightly perplexed "SNL" Executive Producer Lorne Michaels. There follows the panicked whisper of a crew member: "This is dead air." The spot ends.

A commercial for Sprint PCS intervenes. Then Mr. Carrey appears again, simply standing.

After 7 long seconds, he puts on a record and lip-synchs to the "Mighty Mouse" cartoon theme, "Here I come to save the day!"

The second 30-second spot ends with a title slate saying, "Milos Forman's 'Man on the Moon.' "

INSPIRED BY ANDY

Reflecting the subject of its Andy Kaufman bio-pic directed by Mr. Forman, Universal Pictures is using a performance art approach in its marketing. While the effort will be later augmented with more common movie-marketing tactics closer to the picture's Christmas Day release, the initial ads, at least, have no traditional trappings of a TV campaign for a feature film.

No heavy-handed voice-over describing the film, no music and no quick-cut scenes filled with fast dialogue quips.

"This broke the traditional rules [of movie marketing] in a large way," said a Universal marketing executive who requested anonymity.

"It took the themes and the style of Andy comedy, and worked them into the campaign -- a style that is performance art. But the trick is to do it in a way that brings people into this," the executive said.

Universal will be running three of four other spots in the same vein; all were produced in-house by Universal VP-Creative Advertising Adam Fogelson.

Similarly, the film's one-sheet poster campaign also employs lunar lunacy, showing the intense, steady stare of Mr. Carrey as Mr. Kaufman on stage, with the copy: "Hello, my name is Andy and this is my poster." It was produced by BLT & Associates, Los Angeles.

FOR THE HIPSTERS

This early teaser campaign is targeted for one of the prime demographics of the movie -- the hip group of avid fans of Mr. Kaufman, a frequent guest act on "SNL" in the late '70s. But as with any big-event Hollywood release, Universal vitally needs other audience segments to make a film work, marketing executives say.

"We have a lot of challenges with this movie," said the Universal film executive. "There are people who are Andy Kaufman fans. There are people who are avid fans of Jim Carrey -- but they are not necessarily the same fans.

"There are also a lot of people in the prime moviegoing demographic who don't know who Andy Kaufman is. There are also people who hated Andy Kaufman, as well as people who didn't understand what the big deal was."

Peter Graves, former president of marketing for Polygram Films, said Universal's strategy appears to be a good one: Start with Mr. Kaufman's core young adult audience, then broaden the movie out in an emotional pitch to all audience segments.

He added that Mr. Carrey in an entertaining film role is in itself enough of a reason for people to consider the movie.

"Jim Carrey playing a funny guy is about 80% of the sell," Mr. Graves said. "Now if you have Jim Carrey doing something funny in the TV spots, you're home."

To attract more general filmgoers, Universal already has taken a more traditional approach for "Man on the Moon" during its movie trailers. The 21/2-minute trailer shows the full spectrum of the deceased comedian's life, including some tender moments with his girlfriend and fellow industry supporters.

NEW SONG FROM REM

The famed rock song about Mr. Kaufman, "Man on the Moon" by REM, is featured throughout the trailer. REM also will write a new song about Mr. Kaufman for the movie itself.

Portraying Mr. Kaufman as a real person in the trailer is key to the picture's marketing strategy, Universal insiders said, because there's a strong perception that his on-stage act was a reflection of his off-stage personality. The trailer was produced by entertainment boutique creative shop Ant Farm, Los Angeles.

In about 60% of the country, Universal got the trailer to run before its baseball film "For Love of the Game," a romantic movie starring Kevin Costner.

Similarly, the trailer will run before Universal's upcoming romantic thriller "Random Hearts," with Harrison Ford in the lead role.

An outdoor campaign for "Man in the Moon" will launch before the release in November. A radio effort also is being considered.

OPENING CHRISTMAS DAY

But even the opening date presents Universal with a hurdle. "Man on the Moon" will debut Dec. 25, which could hamper its box office potential. Because Christmas Eve falls on a Friday, this cuts the regular three-day box office results to two days, essentially, because few moviegoers view films on that day.

On the plus side, the Kaufman film is the only true comedy starting that day. Its main competition will be Sony Pictures Entertainment's "Hanging Up," a bittersweet story about three sisters (Diane Keaton, Lisa Kudrow and Meg Ryan) and the impending death of their difficult father (Walter Matthau). The week before, "Bicentennial Man," a Robin Williams comedy from Walt Disney Pictures, debuts with Mr. Williams playing a robot yearning to be a human.

Consumer expectations seem to be high for the movie. Hollywood Stock Exchange (www.hsx.com), which is a widely used stock market simulation game, put "'Man on the Moon" movie stock at $82.44 on Sept. 30, a steep rise from the $30 to $35 range in May.

FOLLOWING THREE HITS

Universal is on a hot streak, basking in the glow of three box office hits this summer -- The Mummy," the raucous "American Pie" and romantic romp "Notting Hill." Each booked more than $100 million in U.S. box office receipts this year.

For the period, the studio pulled in $368.5 million in box office revenue -- the third best of all Hollywood studios.

From an entertainment industry perspective, "Man on the Moon" also will get a jumpstart from an expected avalanche of coverage in consumer magazines.

"Everybody in town wanted to play the part," said one film executive, "and every

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