Madison + Vine Exclusive: 'Green Hornet' shops for a car

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Miramax Films is shopping the largest automotive product-placement deal ever in a feature film, asking for over $35 million from whichever automaker signs up to have its car star in the summer 2005 release, "The Green Hornet."

And the movie company is out looking for a partner before it has a screenplay or a director.

"The Green Hornet" will feature a sedan driven by the superhero's chauffeur and bodyguard, Cato, that will be so prominently featured the car will essentially be a star in the film, said Lori Sale, exec VP-worldwide promotions for Miramax Films, a Walt Disney Co. unit.

The Hornet's car in the original ABC TV series was a 1966 Chrysler Imperial nicknamed "Black Beauty." In the show, the car had a mind of its own, coming to the aid of the Green Hornet in emergencies.

Miramax's goal is to top the record for a car theatrical promo-Ford Motor Co.'s $35 million global media and marketing deal with MGM Distribution Co.'s James Bond movie, "Die Another Day." That deal promoted three Ford brands-the launch of the new 2003 Ford Thunderbird, the 2003 Jaguar XKR and 2003 Aston Martin V12 Vanquish. Previously, BMW had marketing and media deals in place with Bond movies in the $15 million range.

"It's not very often where the product is one of the cast," said Ms. Sale. "This is one of those films that don't come around too often. We want to make this the largest single automotive placement ever." Ms. Sale says her company has been in touch with several automakers about the project, but refused to identify them.

Jim Schroer, exec VP-global sales & marketing, Chrysler Group, told Advertising Age that he was unaware of the Miramax project. Although the Chrysler Group no longer manufactures the Imperial, at the New York Auto Show the company previewed a Chrysler 300C, a similar luxury sedan that is slated to appear in dealer showrooms in 2004. The Chrysler Group's Jeep brand recently inked a marketing deal with Viacom for Paramount Pictures' "Tomb Raider II: Cradle of Life" in which the heroine drives a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon. According to the terms of the deal, Chrysler and Paramount will run TV and cinema commercials and promotions at movie theatres and Jeep dealerships when the film opens in July. Chrysler also just announced that it will introduce a limited edition 2003 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Tomb Raider model, also in July.

In order to participate in "Green Hornet,"an automaker does not have to pay Miramax directly, but it does have to agree to spend in excess of $35 million in paid media promoting its car in the movie, working with Miramax to create the campaign.

`cultural touchstones'

But the association with the movie can pay off in a wider way in the culture. "It's about deepening ways to show value," said Stephanie Sperber, senior VP of Vivendi Universal's Universal Partnership Development. "Cars and movies will always be together. They are cultural touchstones. Two of the easiest ways to define yourself." The fact that Miramax doesn't have a director or a script is a plus, Ms. Sale said, because it gives a potential marketing partner major access in influencing how the cars are used in the film.

"It has to be a cool car," Ms. Sale said. "Minivans need not apply."

Ms. Sale wants to strike a deal in the next few months. Typically automakers need to have at least 18 months of lead time to work up a theatrical marketing promotion. Whatever automaker is selected, Ms. Sale said, it will need to work with the movie's other marketing partners, yet to be decided. Ms. Sale is considering technology, fast food and others.

contributing: jean halliday

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