Thinking out of the box office

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Just like politicians, actors and movies have their own constituencies. But if you're a movie marketer, your job doesn't end there. The goal is to stump for more votes and expand the business.

"The first dilemma is defining the audience, and making sure the core audience shows up," said John Jacobs, most recently exec VP-marketing with Destination Films. "The second dilemma is finding a broader audience."

So it is with four coming efforts by proven stars: "Driven" with Sylvester Stallone; "The Adventures of Joe Dirt," with David Spade; "Bridget Jones' Diary" with Renee Zellweger; and "Town and Country" with Warren Beatty.

"Town and Country," will no doubt skew to the older set, the 25-to-54 or 35-to-64 demographic-the first of many problems for the film, according to analysts. Mr. Beatty and co-stars, Diane Keaton, Garry Shandling, Andie MacDowell and Goldie Hawn, are all recognizable, but also grab an older, mostly female audience. That in itself wouldn't be a problem except for the movie's budget, thought to be somewhere in the $80 million range-a high number for a non-action relationship movie.

"From a marketing point of view, basically it's a delicate situation," said a movie marketing executive. "This is a flawed movie with no real audience."

There is hope. Movies such as "The First Wives Club" and "Fried Green Tomatoes" scored well at the box office, in mostly targeting an older women audience. But right now, the Hollywood Stock Exchange (HSX), the Internet stock market game of buying and selling movies and actors, is only showing the movie in the H$21 range. That equates to predicted real world box office of $21 million over the first four weeks, according to HSX's research model.

"Driven" is an action-drama about Formula One auto racing. The trailer and the TV commercials are action-packed, trying to reach a young male audience. But according to industry observers, those marketing tools don't tell you much else-like the story line, for example. Out of this group of pictures, "Driven" is the only one to significantly increase in value on HSX.

With Mr. Spade's "The Adventures of Joe Dirt," you have a "young, dumb and physical," comedy targeting a young male crowd, said the veteran marketing analyst. Since the movie isn't a costly affair, and Mr. Spade will do more than his fair share of publicity, you "don't have to knock yourself out as a marketer," said the executive.

Miramax Films is pushing "Bridget Jones' Diary" as a wide-release film. The romantic comedy, based on Helen Fielding's popular book, is about a British single woman in her 30s who explores love, sex, work, hopes and dreams.

"But the question is how broadly does it play?" asked Mr. Jacobs. "Do you want to pay to see a cute American actress play a British single girl, and will that sell in Texas or St. Louis?"

Consumer expectations aren't high for this film; "Bridget's" HSX stock price has moved glacially toward H$40. But that would give it, according to HSX's real world model, $40 million in box office receipts over the first four weeks of release-which should mean a profit, according to analysts.

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