Anthy Price

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It's a late weekday afternoon and Universal Pictures' Anthy Price is embroiled in hammering out a major TV promotional deal for an upcoming theatrical movie.

A few feet away on her office balcony-one of the few outdoor spaces at the Universal City location-various executives mill around, smoking and talking.

"It's gotten to the point, that I don't realize they are there because I've gotten so used to it," says Ms. Price, 43. "There is like a permanent pathway in the carpet. It's kind of crazy."

For some this would be a distraction. But not for Ms. Price, senior VP-media and a 16-year veteran of Vivendi Universal's Universal. Monitoring industry buzz is part of her job-as is finding the right mix of media tools to market movies with a budget nearing $200 million annually. The results speak for themselves, as Ms. Price has contributed mightily to Universal's soaring success over the last two years.

The studio pulled down five consecutive No. 1 openings at the box office in 2000, and four more top opening weekends this year with "The Mummy Returns," "The Fast & the Furious," "Jurassic Park 3" and "American Pie 2."

One major strategy for Vivendi Universal's studio unit has been to nail special tie-in programs and promotional deals with broadcast and cable networks. "One of the things that are incredibly key is picking media partners," says Ms. Price.

Take the surprise hit "The Fast & the Furious." Universal tied the movie to a sweepstakes targeting young males before the release. Prizes included a free trip to the X Games run by Walt Disney Co.'s ESPN. "It really helped position the movie more of as an event," she says.

For "The Mummy Returns," Universal hooked up with Turner Sports' National Basketball Associa-tion coverage for a promotion offering a free trip to an NBA game. Universal gained key exposure for the movie through film footage integrated into promotional spots created by AOL Time Warner's Turner.

Perhaps its most ambitious media effort this year was with General Electric Co.'s NBC-TV for "Jurassic Park 3." Universal got the network to run the original "Jurassic Park" movie on a Saturday night. During the commercial breaks, Universal, with the help of NBC, produced interstitials for the latest sequel.

"They had in-house people who worked on the creative," Ms. Price says. "They were open to letting us into the process-even though it's their promo air. That's great. And they got their highest rating in five years for a Saturday night movie."

Ms. Price's passion shows up during off-hours such as when she attends her local theater in the San Fernando Valley to see movies with her family. According to Universal Pictures Vice Chairman Marc Shmuger: "If she doesn't see our posters up, she is the first one to storm her way to the manager."

"If I'm at the theater and there's no [Universal] trailer attached to a certain movie that we are supposed to have, I'm getting the manager and I'm complaining," Ms. Price says. "You better believe it."