'Squares' circles around new Hollywood release

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"Hollywood Squares" is going Hollywood for its first movie tie-in promotion. During all five of its shows this broadcast week, the King World Productions' syndicated game show will promote Universal Pictures' upcoming comedy "The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas," set to open April 28.

As part of the push, the three stars of the "Flintstones"--Kristen Johnston, Jane Krakowski and Mark Addy--will appear as guests on the game show.

All five "Squares" shows will include heavy "Flintstones" trivia and content, as well as dinosaur-theme subject matter. The movie logo and fonts for the show's graphics will be presented in a "Flintstones" motif. Clips from the movie will run during the show, as well as preceding commercial breaks. Universal also will buy advertising time in the show.

"If you are a movie star and appear on all three morning network shows--as well as 'Rosie O'Donnell,' 'Oprah Winfrey'--those total appearances will get you 16 million viewers a week," said Ed Wilson, president-chief operating officer of CBS Enterprises, which oversees marketing and advertising for "Squares." "We deliver 33 million viewers." "Hollywood Squares" is earning an ACNielsen household rating of 4.4 this season, up 7% from last year's 4.1.

OTHER DEALS PLANNED

While the effort is the first such promotion for "Squares," it may not be the last. Comedies such as "The Flintstones" work well in "Squares," a game show with heavy comedic content, said Pat Lee, executive producer of Moffitt-Lee Productions, one of several producers of "Hollywood Squares." Other deals are planned, but Ms. Lee wouldn't disclose details. She said these would most likely be comedies or action-adventure theatricals.

Future deals could include films from Sony Pictures Entertainment and New Line Cinema Corp., executives said.

Such tie-ins could be a tough sell to film actors. "It takes a whole day to produce five shows," Ms. Lee said. "Sometimes that's why it's tough to sell to the talent."

But studio executives increasingly are pushing for new ways to gain promotional spin for their films. Media promotions, especially at this time of year, are important as the competitive summer season is approaching. Marketing executives said it's rare for a single show to devote this much time to one promotion.

Universal certainly will benefit from the show's strong viewership among adults 18 to 49 and particularly from its high female viewership. On the other hand, the "Flintstones" effort could help drive younger viewers to the game show.

Along similar lines, "Squares" has an upcoming September promotion for the October issue of Teen People. During that effort, the show will feature musical artists such as 'N Sync.

Copyright April 2000, Crain Communications Inc.

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