With 'Inception,' did Warner Bros. sell more by giving away less?

By T.L. Stanley on Mon Jul 19 2010

Inception

You know those trailers that give away every detail, plot twist, emotional hook and big joke in the movie? You hate that, right? Then you were probably among the throngs of people who helped Inception deliver an amazing $60 million opening this weekend. A study from online ticket service Fandango, done before the movie's release, found that 93 percent of planned Inception ticket buyers were "more intrigued" to see the sci-fi action flick because the plot had been kept under wraps. (The Warner Bros. marketing has been purposefully vague, and entertainment coverage hasn't spilled any beans either.) The studio relied heavily on having fanboy favorite filmmaker Christopher Nolan out in front of the advertising campaign—the line "From the director of The Dark Knight" is even more prominent than the on-screen talents' names, and only slightly more people told Fandango they were interested in the cerebral thriller because it stars Leonardo DiCaprio (82 percent) than because of Nolan (81 percent). Also, this crowd seems to be especially affected by sequel fatigue—66 percent described themselves as tired of reboots and retreads. Inception, meanwhile, racked up some fairly stellar reviews, including one in The Hollywood Reporter that tagged it "devilishly complicated," "fiendishly enjoyable" and "thoroughly compelling." Critics have been slobbering over the effects-heavy fantasy to such a degree, pumping box office expectations, that some in the industry started to wonder if the much-anticipated movie can possibly live up to the hype. Looks like it did. And then this coming weekend, we'll watch Salt and Angelina Jolie mop up the floor with all comers.

Looney who? Can Warner Bros. revive the Looney Tunes brand?

Posted on Mon May 24 2010

Looney-tunes

Warner Bros. is preparing to relaunch its classic cartoon characters, something they do every few years or so, with a half-hour show on Cartoon Network. Called The Looney Tunes Show, it will cast all the familiar faces as neighbors in a contemporary cul-de-sac. Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck will be roommates, which will only add fuel to the implicitly gay fire that's been blazing around their feet since my parents were little. Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote are also being pulled out of mothballs for some 3-D shorts, the first of which will hit movie theaters in July. What separates this project from all the other failed ones, according to Warner Bros., is the lack of forced modernization: Bugs etc. will be presented as they were during their golden era. Which is fine by me—Space Jam and Tiny Toons were the only updates to make money, and they both sucked—and Warner seems to be investing serious money and time into making this thing work. But they risk looking like a once-great company still trying to squeeze blood from old ideas, as opposed to Disney's parallel operation of creating new characters and maintaining their classics. Plus, Warner's theories about how to connect to modern audiences are often, uh, misguided. But as long as they don't revisit their basketball phase, I wish them luck.

—Posted by David Kiefaber

Clickable trailer reveals loads of trivia about 'Sex and the City 2'

Posted on Wed May 12 2010

Sex-and-the-city-2

If you're one of those people who desperately misses VH1's Pop-Up Video and can't get enough of Sex and the City 2, there's a just-launched mashup that may thrill you. (I'll admit to hitting replay a couple times.) A new company called iTrailers has equipped the sequel's two-and-a-half-minute trailer with all kinds of info and behind-the-scenes tidbits, accessible with a mouse click. There are 59 "hot spots" where you can dig deeper. For instance, you can find out that Carrie and Big's apartment "was designed to reflect how Carrie would interpret them as a couple" (whatever that means) and that black and white (versus color) is a theme of the rom-com. And you can amaze your friends by knowing that Carrie, Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte trek across the same sand dunes where the epic adventure Lawrence of Arabia was filmed, and the Speedo-clad guys flirting with them around the pool are the members of the Australian rugby team. Moët Champagne, a tie-in partner for the Warner Bros. film, gets a shoutout in a trivia pop-up (you, too, can have the Fashionista, the Player, the Socialite and the Bombshell—Moët cocktails inspired by the flick), as do Skyy Vodka's specially themed Couture Cocktails. This will likely be the first of many enhanced trailers, not all of them about mixed drinks and designer outfits. So hang on, horror fans, and you'll probably be able to find out more about all those nifty torture gadgets in Saw VII.

—Posted by T.L. Stanley

Wild Things invade NYC in celebration of the Warner Bros. movie

Posted on Thu Oct 15 2009

Wild

In New York City, the Wild Things have come to town. In celebration of Friday's nationwide release of Where the Wild Things Are, NYC & Company (the city's official marketing, tourism and partnership organization) organized "Wild Things Week" in the Big Apple. It worked with Warner Bros. Pictures to promote the film via several "wild" events since Monday, including exhibits, celebrity appearances and other festivities. Greenwich Avenue and Christopher Street were renamed (for a day) as Maurice Sendak Way and Wild Things Way at the Greenwich Village intersection where they meet, in honor of the place where NYC native Sendak wrote the book on which the film is based. The celebratory wraps up tomorrow, as the city's wild things head to theaters without having had their supper, dressed in their crowns and wolf costumes.

—Posted by Elena Malykhina

Twinkies faring better than Coke, Pepsi in current film cameos

Posted on Mon Oct 5 2009

It was a big weekend for product placement at the movies, with Hostess Twinkies mentioned almost as often in Zombieland as Jesse Eisenberg's rules for avoiding the living dead. (Rule No. 1: Cardio). High-concept comedy The Invention of Lying also takes a stab at advertising in a world where there are no fibs. A Coca-Cola ad features an unenthusiastic pitchman who says: "I'm Bob; I work for Coke, and I'm asking you to not stop buying Coke." The tagline for the soda is, simply, "It's very famous," but no one's pretending it's not "just brown-colored sugar water" that makes you fat. The slogan for Pepsi sums up what we're all thinking anyway: "When they don't have Coke." (Don't look for the brand-backed cross-promotions on that flick.) Sony Pictures' Zombieland, where even a truckload of pink Sno Balls didn't make the snack-cake cut, led the box office this weekend with $25 million. Warner Bros.' The Invention of Lying, from first-time director Ricky Gervais, pulled in a sad $7.3 million. There won't be a sequel. No lie.

—Posted by T.L. Stanley

Music alone isn't enough, so Warner Bros. tries the visual album

Posted on Fri Aug 7 2009

It's a rock opera, of sorts, paired with a cool animated Web series from the folks who brought us the Gorillaz music videos. Bottom line: It's a new way to sell music at a time when the traditional record industry is seriously on the ropes. Warner Premiere, the division of Warner Bros. that handles direct-to-video titles, plans a September release of The Adventures of One Eskimo. It's dubbed a "visual album," which means it's a CD from British indie band One Eskimo with nearly 40 minutes of animation to go along with it. The content will be broken into 10 episodes, with a song to accompany each, and will be distributed across iTunes, pay-per-view, VOD, wireless and most any other available platform. (It's all about reach—Warner Bros. Digital Distribution is heavily involved.) Depending on the response, it may get a DVD release as well. The story follows a character named One Eskimo, who's trying to rescue his mate, Little Feather, from enemy-of-love Mr. Top Hat. He has help from a cadre of adorable critters (monkey, penguin, giraffe). There's a viral campaign, findlittlefeather.com, where fans can join the quest. Warner Premiere trotted out the band at the recent Comic-Con, where it wowed the assembled geeks on a brief break from its tour with Tori Amos. The studio is on the lookout for other music-Webisode-animation combos, with more visual albums to come.

—Posted by T.L. Stanley

Hollywood-obsessed 7-Eleven preps for role in 'Terminator' flick

Posted on Mon May 4 2009

7-eleven-terminator

Maybe it's time for 7-Eleven to get a SAG card. The convenience-store chain will become even more ubiquitous this summer, this time on the big screen. It will get valuable face time in the much-anticipated sci-fi action flick Terminator Salvation, with members of the Resistance taking refuge in a worse-for-wear version of the retailer (shown above). A big battle scene happens with the store's sign clearly visible in the background. And it's not just a cameo. The marketer is extending its on-screen exposure by promoting the Warner Bros. release with an Apocalyptic-Ice-flavored Slurpee, 3-D collectible cups, character straws, an online sweepstakes and licensed swag.
  The chain also appears in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, with The Blob taking a swig from a Slurpee in a key fight scene. (There was an accompanying monthlong in-store promotion with that, too, continuing the savvy marketer's cozy relationship with Hollywood). And that may not be the end. A company exec hints there are more feature-film roles to come. Now, what the studios will want to know: Work for scale?

—Posted by T.L. Stanley

'Wild Things' film now battling poop along with everything else

Posted on Fri Apr 10 2009

Spike Jonze has suffered from persistent blog rumors about his "deeply troubled" production of Where the Wild Things Are. His take on the classic Maurice Sendak children's book began filming three years ago, but has been plagued by a "the plot is too dark for the children!" whisper campaign, followed by the usual studio meddling and extensive rewrites, pushing the release date back to this October. A trailer is out, and the film looks promising, albeit precious in a Wes Anderson "Look what I made!" hipster handcrafted sort of way. But now, the Warner Bros. film has a new nemesis: poo-poo jokes.
  This parody of the Wild Things trailer uses Everyone Poops, Japanese illustrator Taro Gomi's 1993 paean to feces of various species, as the alt-kids-lit source material for its Jonze-ian cinematic treatment. The mock mini-movie was written by sketch comedy group The Landline, while improv/sketch troupe Action Pals had some sort of involvement, too. "Spike Jonze wastes no time adapting another 10-page children's book into a film," reads a blurb posted with the clip, which is on YouTube and Landlinetv.com. In it, the zen picture book is adapted into a story about a young girl and her plushie unicorn pal, who gives her the 411 on number two. The send-up swaps a talking toilet for a Sendak monster and has some fun with the original trailer's precious hand-lettered titles that the Newer New Hollywood so loves. "Inside all of us is hope" (and "fear" and "adventure"), the Wild Things trailer states in pulsating white-on-black block letters. The parody offers, "Inside all of us is poop."

—Posted by Becky Ebenkamp

Pizza Hut assisting robotic alien invaders with 'Terminator' tie-in

Posted on Mon Apr 6 2009

Terminator-salvation

I know this sounds paranoid, but I think Pizza Hut is in league with killer robots from the future, and I have proof. OK, so I got this press release today, and it says the pizza chain is going to send a lucky fan and a guest to the world premier of Terminator Salvation. Beginning today, people can go to PizzaHut.com and enter to win. This is obviously a ploy to collect names for termination by the T-600. What's more, the first prize-winner will get a life-sized "replica" of the Terminator sent to their homes. But here is where it gets really creepy. On May 21, anyone named Sarah Connor or John Connor can get a free pizza if they go to their local Pizza Hut. "Just bring your government-issued I.D. to claim your free pizza," reads the release, which sounds like it was written by a robot. Listen, this is exactly what the machines want so they can find the real John and Sarah Connor. Free pizza just isn't worth it, Sarah and John. Stay away. You've been warned.

—Posted by Kenneth Hein

Warner Bros. aims to make sure the Watchmen are unavoidable

Posted on Thu Feb 19 2009

Fanboys are a given, but what about the kids, book club members and Nip/Tuck viewers?
  After the massive $1 billion success it had with The Dark Knight, Warner Bros. is looking for an audience beyond genre geeks with ads and swag for Watchmen, the upcoming release based on the Alan Moore graphic novel. A two-and-a-half minute ad running on cable has director Zack Snyder talking up the source material for those who aren't familiar but realize cultural import when they hear about it. "It's on Time magazine's list of the 100 greatest novels of the 20th Century," Snyder tells us and was "instantly viewed as a classic or as a work of literature that was beyond its own genre." Gravitas is good.
  On the other end of the spectrum, this week's New York Toy Fair unveiled prototypes of Watchmen products, "The End is Nigh" baseball caps, Dr. Manhattan lunchboxes, Rorschach ski masks, that are likely to cause the fervently iconoclastic, anti-consumerist Moore to have an aneurism. (He's already said he won't see the flick). Loyalists are no  doubt sharpening their claws for the inevitable blog attack on the tchotchkes.
  That's not stopping Warner from  going full force. If the movie can just live up to its hype, all these machinations could be quickly forgotten. But the coasters, doomsday clocks and cigarette cases? That may take some time.

—Posted by T.L. Stanley


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