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Gottohaveamoviewebsite.com; Digital Hollywood – Picking Up The Pieces

Gottohaveamoviewebsite.com

Digital Hollywood – Picking Up The Pieces

The Internet can make a small movie, like “The Blair Witch Project,” a hit and help propel the success of blockbusters, such as the “Star Wars” films. But Hollywood studios might not be making the most of what is a cheaper and, sometimes, extremely effective way to market a movie.

“Having a Web site is a must-have (for a movie) but not something that necessarily gets a lot of attention,” said Stacey Herron, an analyst for Jupiter Research, which specializes in business and technology market research. “Most of these feel like you’re flipping through a brochure.”

The extent of those brochures varies. New Line Cinema’s site for “Austin Powers in Goldmember” is a lively mix of cast biographies, trailers and other information about the movie. But it also includes a few extras, such as desktop downloads and a section that allows visitors to create their own “spy profiles.”

By contrast, DreamWorks’ “Road to Perdition” site is a spare collection of production notes, biographies and ticket and show-time information.

Regardless of content or sophistication, few of the studios’ movie sites get any reportable traffic, Herron said. The sites that draw significant audiences are those about movies, such as Fandango.com and MovieFone.com, where visitors can find reviews and show times about any number of films.

That might explain why the studios put so little money into creating these sites. Between 1 and 10 percent of a movie’s marketing budget is dedicated to online promotion. “I already have all the information they have before they put it up,” said Harry Knowles, founder of popular film Web site AintItCool.com. He rarely visits the studio sites and considers them nothing more than “little press books.”

A Jupiter Research survey of online users found that 70 percent visit movie sites before seeing a film, while only 9 percent do so afterward. The remaining 21 percent said they never visit movie sites. Among those who use the Internet to get movie information, 36 percent want to read reviews, 25 percent seek details about tickets and show times and 23 percent watch trailers.

Knowles figures the studios invest little in their sites because it’s difficult to measure how online marketing affects box office sales.

“It’s a component of the overall campaign,” said Andrew Robbins, vice president of marketing and new media at Miramax.”

Perhaps no studio has ever made better use of the Internet than Artisan Entertainment with “The Blair Witch Project.” The low-budget thriller managed to bring in millions of dollars at the box office thanks, in large part, to the hype generated on the Internet.

“‘The Blair Witch Project’ was a phenomenon we probably won’t see again, and I think it’s folly to try to repeat that,” said Don Buckley, senior vice president of interactive marketing for Warner Bros. Pictures. “It just had its moment in time.”

While the power of the Internet as a promotional vehicle can’t be denied, its impact on the bottom line isn’t even a secondary issue for the studios.

“We’re not trying to make money on the Internet,” he said. “We’re simply using it as a tool to market to make money at the movies.”

Claudia Peschiutta

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