Traffic jam for Sony blockbuster season

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Swinging into the summer with potential blockbusters such as "Spider-Man," Sony Pictures Entertainment will be juggling more film marketing campaigns than any other major studio-and hoping to keep those competitive films from getting tangled up in its web of activities.

"Spider-Man," which opens May 3, is expected to post the season's first significant box-office revenues. According to Hollywood Stock Exchange's HSX Research, a theatrical marketing research group, "Spider-Man" could snag some $213.4 million during its first four weeks.

Sony is also counting on big business for "Men in Black 2," "XXX," "Mr. Deeds" and "Stuart Little 2."

use time wisely

With so many major releases, Sony hopes to use its in-theater movie trailer time more wisely. Typically, a studio attaches a two-and-a-half-minute trailer to features. In addition, that same studio usually gets another two-and-a-half-minute trailer in a reel of four to five trailers put together by the theater owner. Sony this summer wants to attach five minutes of Sony promo time to its films-starting with "Spider-Man"-in order to gain more flexibility in the number of movies it can promote. Whether or not it will be able to jam pack its trailers depends on the theater owners.

The problem is if Sony does it, other studios will want to as well. "This is very valuable real estate-we would consider it as well," said Rolf Mittweg, president-chief operating officer of worldwide distribution and marketing for AOL Time Warner's New Line Cinema. "But exhibitors need to agree to this."

Some exhibitors have already signed on. Loews Cineplex Enterainment will comply with Sony's request.

Jeff Blake, president-worldwide marketing and distribution for Sony's Columbia TriStar Motion Pictures Group, said negotiations with exhibitors were going well. "We've gotten good feedback," he said, but wouldn't elaborate on any details. Another marketing tact Sony will take for "Spider-Man" will be to aim ads at older females, or moms, who would be less inclined to put the movie at the top of their must see movie list.

"Traditionally, it wouldn't be the type of movie that women over 25 would say, `I'm going to that movie,"' said Geoffrey Ammer, president of Columbia TriStar Marketing Group. "You are going to make sure there is that tug-on-the-pants factor-having the child say, `Mom or Dad, I want to go to that."'

Smart marketing will help them curtail some of the usual steep falloff in box office revenue following a movie's opening weekend. Summer movies lose 50% to 60% of their initial box office numbers in proceeding weeks. "If you've got under a 40% drop, you would be happy," said John Jacobs, a veteran movie marketing consultant/executive.

This year, MGM Distribution Co.'s "Windtalkers" debuts June 14, the next weekend brings Stephen Spielberg's "Minority Report," while the week after brings Adam Sandler's "Mr. Deeds, followed by "Men In Black 2" on July 3. The pressure on these films is to deliver boffo opening weekends, since executives anticipate drop off will be steeper than usual given this year's increased competition.

Fast Facts

Blockbusted: Four consecutive opening weekends impair potential for summer blockbusters:

June 14: MGM's "Windtalkers"

June 21: Dreamworks' "Minority Report"

June 28: Sony Pictures' "Mr. Deeds"

July 3: Sony Pictures' "Men In Black 2"

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