Behind The Headlines: Hannibal hype looks set to silence the critics

Since the Silence of the Lambs sequel Hannibal opened in the US last week, the UK media has been awash with hype counting down to its box office opening this weekend.

Since the Silence of the Lambs sequel Hannibal opened in the US last week, the UK media has been awash with hype counting down to its box office opening this weekend.

Driving this campaign, which leans heavily on memories of Silence of the Lambs, is experienced film PR company Dennis Davidson Associates.

It was recruited by distributors United International Pictures on the back of promoting Hannibal director Ridley Scott's recent epic Gladiator, and its handling of the 1991 PRWeek award winning campaign for Silence of the Lambs.

DDA senior vice-president Graham Smith says the campaign for this outing of the cannibalistic killer was very different because the final cut of the film was only released at the beginning of this month due to production delays.

A UK release days after opening in the US is most common with films that expect bad reviews.

Smith believes this has been potentially detrimental rather than a bonus.

'We didn't have much to go on so it was a case of just talking it up, based partly on the phenomenal success of Silence of the Lambs and hoping that his (Lecter's) appeal would endure,' he said.

Appointed last November, the first major PR push by DDA was the TV screening of a 60-second trailer during ITV series Cold Feet on Boxing Day.

A range of editorial pieces has been pushed since then with key film journalists targeted, despite the film's stars not being available for interview.

Ridley Scott has been unavailable due to other filming commitments, as has Anthony Hopkins who has only done one UK interview (in The Guardian).

Undeterred, DDA advised British journalists to attend press conferences with the star in the US to gain greater UK coverage.

UK news agencies were alerted to the link between the film's opening sequence, where a flock of pigeons morphs into the face of Lector, with London Mayor Ken Livingstone's policy on the pigeons of Trafalgar Square.

So far, reviews have been mixed, with many stating that Hannibal is simply not as good as Silence of the Lambs.

But negative reviews have not put off US audiences.

The film took pounds 40m in its first weekend, the biggest R-rated opening ever. It would be a huge surprise if Hannibal didn't repeat this success in the UK.



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