Holiday movies: Fantasy fight in fourth quarter

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This holiday movie season the second installments of blockbuster franchises "Harry Potter" and "The Lord of the Rings" have a head start on marketing as each has continued to tout the brands non-stop since they made their debuts last holiday season.

"Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," the forerunner to "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets," and "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring," which will be followed up this year by "Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers," each posted $300 million-plus in box-office revenue-easily becoming the two biggest movies of 2001.

Bridging the marketing for their initial theatrical movies and the marketing for new theatrical releases, both franchises have had separate TV campaigns for DVD and home-video releases throughout 2002.

Studios "are afraid to lose momentum," said Paula Silver, president of Beyond the Box Productions, a Los Angeles theatrical-marketing company, and former Columbia TriStar senior marketing executive. "It's kind of like fast food. The audience is already peppered."

Because of the unusual yearlong blitz, both are being marketed differently from traditional theatrical sequels, which typically appear two to four years after the original.

"These are not really sequels-more of a continuation of stories," said Craig Murray, president of Craig Murray Productions, a Los Angeles entertainment-marketing boutique. "With a lot of sequels you need to start over again" with marketing. But the new trailer and TV spots for Warner Bros.' "Potter" don't need to. Instead, an announcer says, "For Harry Potter another year begins..."

New Line Cinema does much the same for "The Two Towers." Marketing materials don't explain the story of the first film. Instead, an initial title slate on the trailer reads simply: "The Fellowship is Broken."

Beyond "Potter" and "Rings" dominance, other familiar holiday movie franchises are hoping for boffo box-office receipts as well.

MGM Distribution Co.'s franchise opens its 20th Bond film, "Die Another Day." Pierce Brosnan, who stars as James Bond, shares time in TV spots, trailers and outdoor ads with co-star Halle Berry, the first time a female character has gotten equal billing with Bond.

"Bond has to redefine itself," said Ms. Silver. "They need to grab the next generation."

Other movies in the coming weeks include Paramount Pictures' "Star Trek: Nemesis" and Universal Pictures' "8 Mile" starring rapper Eminem. Leonardo DiCaprio stars in two films in December: Miramax Films' "Gangs of New York," directed by Martin Scorsese and Dreamworks Pictures' "Catch Me If You Can," directed by Stephen Spielberg.

Targeting kids this season, Walt Disney Co. opens "Treasure Planet," an animated effort that's offers a twist on the classic "Treasure Island." Sony Pictures Entertainment offers the animated "Eight Crazy Nights" featuring Adam Sandler. "The Santa Clause 2," from Walt Disney Co., starring Tim Allen, is already a hit, earning $29 million since it opened

Heading into the holiday period, the movie business is in great shape, according to Tom Borys, president of ACNielsen EDI. So far, movie revenues are up 13% over last year to $7.2 billion.

"The challenge is that we had a very strong holiday season last year," Mr. Borys said. "It's going to be hard to grow."

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