Internet



MOVIE PROMOTION ON THE INTERNET

In the summer of 1995, media and advertising executives announced that the Internet had become the "new frontier" in film promotion. Marketing Batman Forever (1995), Warner Bros. was the first to promote a major feature film using a Website as the campaign's center-piece. The Web address (or URL) was included on posters, print and television advertisements, and radio spots, and the Batman Forever logo appeared with the URL without elaboration at bus and train stations. The film's Website offered a hypertextual narrative that linked to plot twists and hidden pages for users to discover by correctly answering a series of concealed questions posed by the Riddler, one of the film's main characters. The Batman Forever Website also cross-promoted ancillary products from its sister companies, including the soundtrack recording and music videos.

In June 1995 Universal Pictures partnered with leading Internet service providers American Online and CompuServe to present the first live interactive multisystem simulcast to promote a film on the Web with Apollo 13 star Tom Hanks and director Ron Howard before the premiere. The Website later included special Internet video greetings from some of the film's stars and digital still pictures from the film's Los Angeles premiere. Another notable early example of Internet promotion was the Website for Mars Attacks! (1996), by Warner Bros., which included an original fifteen-minute Internet "radio play" about a truck driver who evades Martians while attempting to deliver the only print of Mars Attacks! in time for the premiere. In late 1996, the Star Trek: First Contact Website received over 30 million hits during its first week of release, at that point the largest traffic ever for a film Website, and by the end of 1996, movie trailers, digitized stills, actor and filmmaker profiles, and computer screensavers were available online for almost every major film released. Web addresses were also commonly included in theatrical trailers, TV commercials, print advertisements, and posters. In 1997 studios were spending approximately $10,000 to produce an independent film's Website and at least $250,000 for blockbuster studio films, which accounted for an extremely small portion of the overall promotional budget.

In 1999 studios began to coordinate Website tie-ins with pay-per-view orders, allowing viewers to "play along" at home through synchronized Web content. Viewers who purchased the December 1999 pay-perview release of New Line Cinema's Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me were offered an interactive television experience synchronized over the Web. For the DVD release of The Matrix (1999), Warner Bros. scheduled a synchronized screening and Internet chat session with the film's directors. In 1999 Apple Computer launched its very popular movie trailer Web page to promote its QuickTime video software, receiving over 30 million downloads for the Web-based trailers for Star Wars: The Phantom Menace (1999) alone.

Throughout 1999, the major studios also established online retail stores in partnership with their studios' other Web operations. Increasingly since the 1980s, the film studios have become part of larger transnational media conglomerates that often have holdings in other industry sectors. The Web is thus inordinately well suited to this structure of convergence and integration, providing a retail and cross-promotional portal to sister and parent company products, services, and subsidiary media outlets.



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