Tri-Star Pictures will release "Terminator 2," the sequel to its 1984 hit starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, July 3.
Who is the heir to Batman and Dick Tracy in this year's summer-movie merchandising tie-in sweepstakes?Get ready for Robin Hood breakfast cereal, Terminator video games and Rocketeer watches. Add in a few "101 Dalmatians" and Happy Meals from McDonald's as well.
If Hollywood's production companies have their way, you'll be seeing a lot of these characters on T-shirts and pajamas, as toys and video games. One major studio plans a massive sweepstakes contest with lotterylike scratch cards and prizes from major corporations as a way to lure audiences to its summer films.
Most movie companies are reluctant to discuss or are staying completely mum about their promotional strategies and product licensing plans. The aim, of course, is to to keep their competitors guessing as long as possible. And with an estimated 55 movies from the major studios to be released between late May and September, that means a lot of competition for moviegoers.
About 35 percent of yearly movie admissions are sold during the summer. "When you've got that kind of potential for audience," says Carolco Pictures' president of licensing, Danny Simon, "the kind of exposure you get with film tie-ins is vital for us."
Carolco and Tri-Star Pictures will release "Terminator 2," the sequel to its 1984 sleeper hit starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, July 3. Simon estimates that Carolco's promotional plans for licensing the Terminator name and image could mean an additional $3 million to $5 million in TV advertising support for the film.
Citing high audience recognition of the title, plus Schwarzenegger's drawing power, Simon says that the corporations that have signed licensing agreements are "feeling mildly ecstatic" about the sales prospects. Among the tie-ins: a "Terminator" line of toys and puppets from Kenner Products in time for Christmas; pinball and video arcades games using actual footage from "Terminator 2" from Williams Bally Manufacturing Co.; a Marvel Comics series; a Bantam Books novelization; trading cards from Impel Marketing that will be available in 300,000 U.S. outlets; Milton Bradley jigsaw puzzles; and a home video game from Acclaim Entertainment.
There will also be an eight-week "meal deal" promotion from the Subway sandwich chain and Pepsi tied to "Terminator," with the image of Big Arnold staring at customers from signs in all of Subway's thousands of U.S outlets. Simon says that the movie will also get "sensory support" from a male fragrance called Hero, from Faberge Inc. The toiletry and cosmetic manufacturer will promote the line with special "Terminator" displays at the 20,000 U.S. retail outlets that carry its products.
But even before the campaign for "Terminator 2" gets under way, Warner Bros. will be in full swing promoting its big June 14 summer entry, "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves," starring Kevin Costner. The Oscar-winning producer-director of "Dances With Wolves" is shedding his Civil War soldier's uniform, mustache, beard and Indian garb for Robin Hood's pre-Renaissance costume.
But just as in "Wolves," he will be riding a horse and shooting bows and arrows. All of which will be capitalized on by Kenner Toys, which will introduce a line of toys just as the movie opens, featuring Costner's likeness on the boxes. The toys will re-create Sherwood Forest and its environs, catapults, and characters like Robin Hood, Friar Tuck and the Sheriff of Nottingham.
You will see Robin Hood on the grocery shelves too. Karine Joret, Warner Bros. director of worldwide public relations and international marketing, confirms that Ralston Purina will offer a "Prince of Thieves" breakfast cereal in June. Joret describes it as "wholesome" and "fruit-flavored" but wouldn't say what shape the cereal is in.
There will not be a fast-food tie-in for "Robin Hood," after talks with the Taco Bell chain fell through, according to Warner Bros.' president of worldwide advertising and publicity, Robert Friedman. But Friedman promises that the Kenner and cereal deals are "the underpinnings to a very massive marketing push" that will include such other "Robin Hood"-inspired items as leather and suede outerwear, sleeping bags, T-shirts, pajamas and video games and computer software.
Orion Pictures is promoting its May 10 release of "FX 2 - The Deadly Art of Illusion," the sequel to the 1986 thriller "F-X," starring Bryan Brown and Brian Dennehy, with a telephone sweepstakes contest that began this month. It also signed with Budweiser to sponsor preview screenings in the 25 top markets, which were promoted by Budweiser's network of distributors and supported by local radio advertising. Also planned are "FX 2" contests, sponsored by GM-Pontiac dealers in association with local theaters and radio stations.
Without the benefit of a previous film or highly recognized image, Walt Disney Pictures has its work cut out for it with the June 21 release of "The Rocketeer," which reportedly cost $35 million to produce. The movie features Alan Arkin and Timothy Dalton in leading roles, but the title character is played by relative unknown William O. Campbell, who previously had a minor role on the TV series "Dynasty."
Disney reportedly plans a major television advertising campaign to sell "The Rocketeer," which is based on the character from a not very well known comic book of the same name about a daring pilot who flies using a rocket pack.
Expect to see corporate tie-ins for "The Rocketeer" - nearly 30 in all, including such products as m&ms and Mars candies, fashions, toys and watches. Disney says it will also utilize its publishing, merchandising and Disney Channel subsidiaries to promote the film, as it did with "Dick Tracy."
Then, along about July, watch for Disney to go all out for its re-release of the 1961 animated favorite "101 Dalmatians." The trade paper Advertising Age says that Disney will team with McDonald's for a Happy Meals promotion, Mattel will introduce a plush toy dog line and 35 million specially marked Cheerios boxes will have "101 Dalmatians" toy coupons inside. - DAVID J. FOX
- Works in (much) progress:
HOLLYWOOD - What do you get when you mix the director and writer of the quirky little black comedy "Heathers" with big-spending, action-adventure producer Joel Silver and actor Bruce Willis? The answer is "Hudson Hawk," an oddball caper comedy masquerading as an action-adventure movie. And so far, at least, test audiences don't quite know what to make of it.
At a recent research screening in Long Beach, Calif., the Tri-Star film elicited poor ratings, according to sources close to the project. Since then, director Michael Lehmann has recut the movie - moving it more in the direction of his own vision, rather than following the earlier dictates of Silver and Willis, according to sources - and test scores have improved.
Still, Tri-Star's marketing team faces a gigantic hurdle in communicating to audiences that while "Hudson Hawk" is a Silver production laden with special effects and Willis' action exploits, they should expect something more like "Naked Gun" than "Die Hard." (Dan Waters, who wrote "Heathers," rewrote a screenplay by Stephen de Souza of "Die Hard" fame; the original idea came from Willis.)
The film has had troubles from the beginning. A general strike in Budapest, Hungary, and bureaucratic tangles in Italy - including the Vatican's refusal to let the crew film there - caused unexpected delays.
Back in Los Angeles, the tabloids went wild with unfounded reports that Willis' wife, Demi Moore, had insisted that lead actress Maruschka Detmers be replaced. In fact, sources close to the film said, Detmers' back problems forced the producers to substitute Andie MacDowell.
However, rumors that Silver and Willis, who co-produced the film, repeatedly tried to steamroll the younger and less experienced Lehmann were pretty much on target, as the director subsequently acknowledged in published reports.
The industry trade paper Variety estimated that the film, originally budgeted at about $40 million, went at least $15 million over budget. Tri-Star officials are mum on the cost, but one source close to the project estimates that the film will cost a hair under $50 million.
Reached at his office last week, Lehmann declined comment on the film except to say this: "I hope no one loses sight that this is an innovative kind of movie. If that gets lost in all the controversy, it will be a shame." - NINA J. EASTON
- Look who we found:
HOLLYWOOD - Michael Moore, the journalist-turned-filmmaker whose $160,000 "Roger & Me" took in $20 million worldwide, has added yet another line of work to his resume. In addition to his new film project - a fictitious look at President Bush's "new world order" - Moore has become a philanthropist.
With his profits from "Roger & Me," a satirical look at the impact of General Motors plant shutdowns on his hometown of Flint, Mich., Moore has set up a foundation to fund independent filmmakers and political groups such as Earth First and the Nicaragua Network. The foundation divides up the $100,000 annual interest on $1 million, or half of his "Roger & Me" profits.
Dubbed "Idiot Grants," in contrast to the prestigious MacArthur "genius" grants, the money is for projects that, in Moore's opinion, expose the "idiocy" of our times. The first Moore-backed film to appear: "Take Over," a documentary about the homeless, that will have its Los Angeles premiere at the American Film Institute International Film Festival on Tuesday. Bruce Springsteen also donated $20,000 to the filmmakers.
"I'm all for giving awards to a bunch of eggheads who attend Yale and Princeton and are rewarded for sitting in labs all their life," Moore says. "Occasionally, there's even an Errol Morris ("The Thin Blue Line") or a John Sayles ("Matewan") singled out. But so many others are overlooked. I've backed a film about neo-Nazis and the Klan in the Midwest, another about mothers and children with AIDS. What I liked about `Take Over' is that it isn't just another `victim' film done by liberals on PBS or the nightly news - shots of poor people with shopping carts. It's a film showing organized action by the homeless last May, portraying them as aggressive participants in change."
As for his own film career, Moore just felt the need to put a spin on the world after the Persian Gulf war. The movie is being developed with Warner Bros. having the deal for a first look. "Watching the (Persian Gulf) war, I felt the need to do something," Moore says. "Something other than watching CNN 18 hours a day and getting depressed. This country is badly in need of political comedy. We need an approach other than tying a yellow ribbon around everything." - ELAINE DUTKA
- Troubles Dept.:
HOLLYWOOD - Gary Oldman ("Sid & Nancy") as the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas. His real-life wife, Uma Thurman ("Henry and June"), as Thomas' wife. The appeal of the $4.5 million "Dylan," to be produced by London's Harlech Films (a division of HTV International) and distributed by Miramax, was apparent. But something unexpected happened on the way to the screen.
Nine days into the late-January shoot, Oldman apparently collapsed on the set in Wales, said by doctors to be suffering from "nervous exhaustion." The production was shut down, in the words of a press release, "until such time as Oldman has regained his health and is available to restart work."
Some insiders - as well as the irrepressible London tabloids - have cast the incident in a different light, however, claiming that Oldman's collapse was precipitated less by fatigue than by creative conflicts on the set. It is a charge that Harlech (which has filed an insurance claim for the $1.5 million lost) disputes.
"There were no creative differences, to the best of my knowledge," says Paul Sarony, general manager of Harlech and the producer of the film. "No one got canned. The director, David Drury, did resign afterwards but, then, we couldn't keep him on hold forever. What happened is very simple: Gary got sick. Doctors confirmed it. Anything else is pure speculation, making a mountain out of a molehill."
Harlech is trying to get another incarnation of the project (new director, heavily rewritten script, bigger budget) off the ground in the fall - hopefully with Oldman in tow. No prospect of lawsuits at the moment, Sarony claims. "Certainly not between the production company and Oldman. But whether the insurance company will go after the actor I can't say."
Oldman is currently in Dallas tackling his next role: Lee Harvey Oswald in Oliver Stone's "JFK," an investigation into the assassination of President Kennedy. Kevin Costner also stars as former New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison. - ELAINE DUTKA
- The last word on Lean's last project?
HOLLYWOOD - Officials at Tri-Star, which was to release "Nostromo," the $40 million film renowned British director David Lean was preparing before his death last week at 83, say they have no plans to go forward with the film.
Based on the Joseph Conrad novel and starring Dennis Quaid and Isabella Rossellini, "Nostromo" had been scheduled to start filming March 4 in France but was postponed because of the director's illness.
"Nostromo" producer Serge Silberman, reached at his Paris office last week, said it is too early to discuss the future of the project, which he and Lean worked on for three years.
"You can ask later," Silberman said. "For the moment I am just crying that he has passed."
Silberman added, "We have lost not only a great human being, but a giant, a filmmaker the likes of which we'll never see again." - NINA J. EASTON