What to do? If you're New Line Cinema, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp. or Warner Bros., you leap for their coattails and hope for a decent ride. All used print ads that parodied those of Universal Studios' "Lost World" or Columbia Pictures' "Men in Black."
New Line employed the tactic for its "Austin Powers, International Man of Mystery," which opened May 3, getting a two-week jump on "Lost World," which opened Memorial Day weekend.
The next week, New Line tried to slow the bleeding with ads that had Austin Powers bursting through a faux "Lost World" logo. Varied copy lines pegged the title character as yet another dinosaur that survived extinction.
"We ran a gamut of alternative ads in order to break through the clutter and get attention," said Mitch Goldman, New Line's president of marketing and distribution, who credits the ads in part for "Austin's" $51 million success.
Universal's lawyers, said Mr. Goldman, sent a cease and desist letter days after its "Lost World" parody ad.
"Our ads were completely in 'Austin's' spirit of satiric comedy," he said. "I seriously doubt we hurt 'Lost World's' box office."
"Lost World" has generated $218 million at the box office in seven weeks.
By contrast, Columbia was flattered by what it saw in newspapers over the July 4 weekend, when its "Men in Black" opened. Warner Bros. had the teen stars of "Wild America" wearing "Men in Black's" visual signature: Ray-Ban sunglasses. Fox had "Out to Sea's" Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau decked out in the shades and black suits.
"Men in Black" finished its first six days with $84 million. In their first five days after release, "Out to Sea" mustered $7.7 million and "Wild America"