Weaving Spider's web

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Sony pictures entertainment's "Spider-Man" has drawn first blood as one of the lead films for next summer's big movie season with at least four major corporate sponsors-amounting to about $40 million in additional paid media for the movie.

Tricon Global Restaurants' Taco Bell and Kellogg Co. will sign on for Sony's big event movie of the summer, according to executives close to the companies. Sony is also nearing deals with Cadbury Schweppes' Dr Pepper, as well as a candy company.

"It's the most-hyped movie for next summer," said one studio marketing executive.

Sony could also add a wireless phone and an automaker as partners for "Spider-Man," according to movie-marketing watchers. Nokia has done a product-placement deal in the film; a Nokia phone is clearly seen in its teaser trailers.

Neither a Sony spokeswoman nor a Taco Bell spokeswoman would comment about the deals. Kellogg's could not be reached for comment. By signing with Sony, Tricon apparently will depart from Lucasfilm's "Star Wars" franchise; "Star Wars: Episode II" gets released next summer.

Tricon put together a massive multimillion dollar tie-in with "Star Wars: Episode One-The Phantom Menace" in 1999. A major part of the promotion was a sweepstakes where consumers needed to go to all Tricon restaurants-Taco Bell, KFC, Pizza Hut-to enter the contest. To many executives, both at Tricon and at Lucasfilm, the deal was a failure.

Lucasfilm had been considering not doing any "Star Wars" partnership deals after the problems with Tricon, according to people familiar with the situation. But now, marketing executives said, Lucasfilm has signed on General Mills and PepsiCo's Frito Lay, which are worth, collectively, about $16 million in paid-media, according to some executives' estimates. Frito Lay had been a partner in the "Phantom Menace." Lucasfilm executives didn't return phone calls by press time.

Other major film franchises will also compete heavily for movie eyeballs next summer, including AOL Time Warner-owned New Line Cinema's "Austin Powers 3," AOL-owned Warner Bros.' "Scooby-Doo," Sony's "Stuart Little 2" and "Men In Black 2," and Walt Disney Co.'s Dimension Films' "Spy Kids 2: The Island of Dreams."

DreamWorks SKG and Walt Disney Co. will go head to head with animated fare next summer. DreamWorks has "Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron," a story about an untamed horse. Disney will have "Lilo & Stitch," an animated tale about a girl who adopts a dog that turns out to be an evil alien prison escapee. Disney will use its exclusive partner, McDonald's Corp., for this movie.

Still undecided is major movie corporate tie-in player Burger King Corp. One executive said the Diageo restaurant chain is leaning toward "Men In Black 2," and that "Star Wars" and "Austin Powers 3" weren't a consideration. Another studio marketing executive believes Burger King is looking for more of an adult-targeted promotion. A Burger King spokeswoman said: "We don't comment on speculation." Burger King can typically spend $20 million to $25 million in paid media toward a summer movie. Wendy's Restaurants International had been a promotional partner for the "Men In Black" TV cartoon series.

In late 2002, Warner's "Matrix 2" will be released. General Motors Corp.'s Cadillac provided several million dollars worth of prototypes, or hand-made cars, according to an executive close to the situation who asked not to be named. The spotlighted Caddy is the CTS sedan, which won't go into production till late this year and goes on sale early in 2002. The Cadillac Escalade sport utility also plays a major role in the film.

GM has a long-term contract with Warner. As part of the deal, GM must promote the film, although the deal doesn't specify whether that's in measured media or via events and promotions. The automaker's plans aren't finalized. A Cadillac spokesman declined comment.

Contributing: Jean Halliday and Kate MacArthur

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