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The summer isn't all "Star Wars," baby.

That's what New Line Cinema is slyly suggesting with its $18 million marketing campaign for "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me," the spy genre spoof. Playing to a savvy, filmgoer audience, the effort spoofs itself and "Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace."

But the question remains: Is it enough to power "Powers"?

Some recent outdoor ads for "Austin Powers" read "Bigger, better than 'Star Wars,' " with the words "bigger" and "better" crossed out and "funnier" substituted in their place. In a similar vein, "Austin Powers" movie trailers have been running with dramatic voice-over. "If you are going to see one movie this summer . . . see 'Star Wars.' But if you are going to see two movies, see 'Austin Powers.' " Some TV spots also will allude to "Star Wars." Trailer Park, Los Angeles, produced some TV work.


Marketing executives applaud the campaign's direction toward a public sophisticated about competing films, release dates and box office revenue.

"It's exactly what everyone is thinking," said Craig Murray, president of Craig Murray Productions, a Burbank, Calif.-based entertainment advertising agency. "It's real world situation in which everybody knows that 'Star Wars' is the 900-pound gorilla."

New Line wouldn't comment about its campaign. But film marketing executives said industry research shows there is a greater than 80% awareness level among moviegoers for "Austin Powers," a high percentage for an upcoming release. On the "definite interest" scale among men under 25, "Austin Powers" ranked near the 50% level. But the film's weakest demographic is women over 25, giving it a limited appeal that could hold back box office revenue.

That puts it behind "Star Wars" from the start, which has built-in appeal to all four of the strongest moviegoing demographics -- and which has already pulled in $102.7 million during its five-day opening, an industry record.

Two weeks after its opening, "Austin Powers" also will have to contend with Sony Pictures Entertainment's "Big Daddy" starring Adam Sandler; Mr. Sandler and "Austin Powers" star Mike Myers have virtually identical young male audience appeal. In the hopes of stealing some of the "Austin Powers" audience, "Big Daddy," started TV advertising five weeks before its debut, some two weeks earlier than normal.


Another problem for "Austin Powers" is the sophomore jinx. "Sequels generally have a shorter shelf life," said Peter Graves, former president of marketing at Polygram Filmed Entertainment.

New Line's media spending on "Austin Powers" is less than the average wide release, which is about $22 million, according to the Motion Picture Association of America. About $15 million will go into TV and $2.5 million into newspapers for "Austin Powers." As is now common practice, big summer movies pare media costs by maximizing media dollars from tie-in partners.


"Austin Powers" benefits from a full array of tie-in partners. Newly announced deals include First USA's Austin Powers Titanium Visa Card and an Internet program with togglethis, New York, that allows computer-savvy movie fans to download an "Austin Powers" cartoon and manipulate characters from the film.

In addition, Mitsubishi Motor Sales of America is sponsoring a special area of the Mr. Showbiz site (www.mrshowbiz.com) that lets users customize a 2000 Mitsubishi Eclipse using '60s memorabilia.

Previously, New Line inked deals with Virgin Atlantic, Maverick Records -- for a deal that includes a new video by Madonna, called "Beautiful Stranger" -- Elias Bros. Corp.'s Big Boy Restaurant & Market and Cadbury Schweppes' Mott's, which is bringing out a new drink line.

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