CAMPAIGNS: Stirring interest in a desert storm - Film Publicity

The English Patient, scripted and directed by Anthony Minghella, is an epic tale of love, war and betrayal. Based on Michael Ondaatje’s Booker Prize-winning novel, the film features a clutch of experienced actors such as Ralph Fiennes, Kristin Scott Thomas and Juliette Binoche.

The English Patient, scripted and directed by Anthony Minghella, is

an epic tale of love, war and betrayal. Based on Michael Ondaatje’s

Booker Prize-winning novel, the film features a clutch of experienced

actors such as Ralph Fiennes, Kristin Scott Thomas and Juliette

Binoche.



The film was financed by Disney company Miramax after 20th Century Fox

backed out over the casting of the relatively unknown Scott Thomas.



Shot on location in Tunisia, Venice and Tuscany on a pounds 19 million

budget, the film topped the US box office in October 1996 and was due

for release in the UK by Buena Vista International on 14 March 1997.



Objectives



To establish the film as ’an event picture’ and to achieve ’bums on

seats and big receipts’ at UK box offices by highlighting the British

author and actors involvement in the film and its Oscar potential.



Tactics



Buena Vista’s prime concern in October 1996 was that interest

surrounding the film’s US success had crossed the Atlantic and was in

danger of fizzling out prior to the UK release. To pace and sustain the

publicity campaign through to March 1997, it hired film PR specialists

Corbett and Keene.



In a carefully timed campaign the agency sent journalists invitations to

screenings in January and February, with a variety of dates to choose

from.



One of the main headaches was co-ordinating availability with the stars

and passing every interview and picture with their individual

publicists.



Nevertheless, press conferences with Minghella, Binoche and other stars

were set up in February and March. The regional press were brought to

London for a separate conference with Fiennes and Scott Thomas at the

Dorchester Hotel on 3 March.



Throughout this period Corbett and Keene played up the film’s success at

the Golden Globes in January and its 12 Oscar nomimations.



At the end of February, competitions were run on national radio and GMTV

to win holidays to Tunisia, courtesy of the Tunisian Tourist Board. OK

magazine ran a competition in the week of 7 March, to win a holiday to

Tuscany.



As Fiennes was starring in Ivanov at the Almeida, the premiere at the

Curzon Cinema, Mayfair was held on 2 March. This was followed by a

dinner for 500 at a private house.



Results



The launch generated news stories and features across the national

dailies and Sundays as well as across the glossy consumer magazines and

specialist film titles. Media Research, which monitored the broadcast

coverage, said that the film had generated 180 clips on television and

radio, overtaking the coverage for last year’s blockbuster Independence

Day.



To date, The English Patient is reported to have taken over pounds 11

million in the UK. This is impressive, considering that its length

confined many cinemas to just one evening showing. By comparison, Jerry

Maguire starring Tom Cruise, which has been out two weeks longer, has so

far netted pounds 9 million in the UK.



Verdict



Undoubtably this film was an enormous success. Serious media interest

was shored up by accusations - notably from the Daily Telegraph - that

the film was not British but a Hollywood blockbuster whose success was

down to the Disney machine.



However, the reason your average punter paid to see it seemed to be

because everybody was talking about it.



Nick Higham, BBC News arts correspondent, says: ’The film was clearly

well sold by its publicity. But after all the hype, when I finally saw

it, I was disappointed.’



Client: Buena Vista International Ltd

PR Team: Corbett and Keene

Campaign: UK launch of The English Patient

Timescale: October 1996 - July 1997

Cost: pounds 13,500



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