Miramax release: Mitsubishi closes in on 'Hornet' flick

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Mitsubishi has auditioned its cars for the role of Black Beauty in Miramax Films' 2005 blockbuster "The Green Hornet" in what could be one of the largest product-integration deals yet.

But the pact is not yet inked, so the studio is keeping the line open to rival automakers.

Miramax and Mitsubishi Motors North America were close to an agreement said to include $35 million in marketing support to feature one of its vehicles in "The Green Hornet," according to executives with knowledge of the talks. But the deal was apparently delayed after recent executive changes at Mitsubishi, including the appointment of Finnbar O'Neill, former president of Hyundai Motor America, as CEO last month. A Mitsubishi spokeswoman declined to comment on talks with the studio, saying, "We have nothing to talk about at this point."

`perfect car'

Miramax VP-Marketing Lori Sales said she is still in talks with auto- makers interested in what the studio calls a starring role for the lead character's car.

"We've had lots of offers," said Ms. Sales. She said the $35 million figure was not accurate, but declined to give a value for the deal. "The number is not what's important," she said. "What's important is to find the perfect car to be cast as the Black Beauty." Ms. Sales said Miramax has been looking at new car models that are still in the "earliest stages of their design or redesign."

"It's not like we are pulling a car off the lot."

The car model that signs with "The Green Hornet" will be featured not just as set dressing, but as a sort-of character in the film, much like the Green Hornet's car in the original ABC TV series, a 1966 Chrysler Imperial. The Imperial had a mind of its own and would come to the rescue of its master when he was in danger.

diamante favored

The Chrysler Group no longer manufactures the Imperial, and Miramax did not approach the company about participation in the movie, said executives at Chrysler.

Mitsubishi was approached early in the search, said executives with knowledge of the talks. During the negotiations, the automaker, consulting with ad agency Deutsch, Los Angeles, is said to have favored offering its redesigned Diamante luxury sedan as the closest equivalent to the original Black Beauty. A spokeswoman at the Interpublic Group of Cos. shop referred calls to the automaker.

The terms of the deal being discussed are said to require Mitsubishi to support its participation in the film with a major paid-media campaign that would promote the car and movie. Studios see such deals as a way to extend the reach of their marketing campaigns to drive consumers to the box office.

Mitsubishi recently spent some $25 million to co-promote Universal's "2 Fast 2 Furious," which prominently features several of the automaker's vehicles. The film's stars Paul Walker and Tyrese Gibson appeared in TV commercials for Mitsubishi.

The Diamante sells in low volumes. Mitsubishi sold just 6,567 through August, according to Automotive News. The 2004 model, the first update since 1997, is due in November.

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