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Hollywood Weaves a Marketing Web

It was Friday night and this writer was at a friend’s apartment waiting to head out to dinner, when she found herself joining the crowd around the computer screen to watch the trailer for the upcoming "Harry Potter" movie. This, of course, led to watching the "Lord of the Rings" trailer, and vain attempts to explain "buffering" to the less technologically immersed viewers. And all the while she kept thinking, "Real people really do watch these things."

Movie trailers have been showing up on the Web for years, since streaming technology first became available, and some big-budget films have been drawing large audiences online with teaser trailers. RealNetworks has an exclusive agreement with New Line Cinema for the release of the "Lord of the Rings" trailer and according to Lucy Mohl, programming director at RealNetworks, the trailer, was streamed hundreds of thousands of times daily.

Mohl believes that trailers are perfectly suited for Internet distribution. "On the Internet you get the biggest hits out of really strong shorter bursts of content, so a trailer is perfect. They are little bits of entertainment, and usually the trailers are produced really well," says Mohl.

Sites that host movie trailers have seen a steady increase in interest from the studios in this method of marketing, according to Glenn Bulycz, senior manager, QuickTime TV. "The interest level that studios show has steadily grown, as they increasingly integrate it into their marketing campaigns. Now they plan ahead to have web-based components that they might not have had, even six months ago," says Bulycz.

Mohl agrees, stating that all of the major studios now submit at least some of their trailers to RealNetworks for distribution.

Going Beyond Trailers

Some moviemakers, however, are taking it to a whole other level, creating entire experiences based on the themes of the movies. Peter Broderick, president of Next Wave Films, an Independent Film Channel company that helps filmmakers from the United States and abroad launch their careers, believes that while having a good trailer on the Web is helpful for a film, trailers do not take full advantage of the medium.

"Trailers have become formulaic, with the same voice-over touting actors’ names, and I think the Web offers an avenue for promotion more tailored to a specific movie," says Broderick.

He gives the example of www.otnemem.com, a promotional venue for the British independent film "Memento." The URL is the movie title spelled backward, as the movie itself tells a story backward. The main character suffers from a rare form of short-term memory loss and the film follows his attempt to remember who murdered his wife, using notes and pictures to help him along. The site opens to a newspaper article with certain words highlighted, which lead to other clippings, notes and pictures. The user is put in the shoes of the character, trying to piece together what happened. A second page is opened in the background with all the pertinent information on the movie, such as release dates and cast members.

"They are trying to create a buzz on the Web, and it works because it’s different from all the other sites that just have all the movie information," says Broderick.

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