Two weeks ago in this space, I shared my conversations with Blair Witch mastermind Harry Clein about the hype and glory surrounding the film’s Web site, which raised the bar to Shaquille O’Neal heights.
Two weeks ago in this space, I shared my conversations with Blair
Witch mastermind Harry Clein about the hype and glory surrounding the
film’s Web site, which raised the bar to Shaquille O’Neal heights.
The question, of course, is what’s next - and don’t think that Hollywood
PR and new media types are lacking for answers.
’Expectations have been fueled more, perhaps, by the attendant publicity
about the site than the site itself,’ says Don Buckley, SVP of new media
at Warner Bros. ’The film’s heat said ’the Internet did it,’ which has
been mostly good for people who do what I do. There’s greater awareness
and support of the medium among studios and filmmakers - and, in some
cases, bigger budgets.’
Web sites precede a film’s release by months, allowing sneak peaks at
photos and trailers, even second-guessing of casting decisions. Case in
point: Frank Herbert’s Dune, the upcoming six-hour Sci-Fi Channel
miniseries based on the seminal 1964 novel.
Sci-fi buffs tend to be fiercely possessive of the genre’s celebrated
works and closely scrutinize any adaptations. Hence Frank Herbert’s
Dune, in part due to the unsatisfying 1984 cinematic adaptation, is
being eyeballed like the last doughnut in a police station.
Craig Engler, who’s doing the Frank Herbert’s Dune Web site, says fans
sounded off about the cast from the get-go. He claims reaction was
mostly favorable, though some skepticism was directed toward newcomer
Alec Newman in the lead role. However, the majority of Newman’s critics
hadn’t even seen the Scotland native act - unless they happened to be
pub-crawling in Edinburgh and stepped into a theater by mistake.
’Web sites extend a show’s viewing experience by leading up to airdate
with information and then providing a forum for viewer discussion
afterwards,’ Engler explains. ’Sites also promote secondary selling
points that a mainstream campaign may not emphasize - such as, in Dune’s
case, empowered women’s roles.’
Even Oscar loves the Web. At the podium, an exuberant visual effects
designer for The Matrix exhorted everyone to check out the film’s
Traffic at whatisthematrix.com immediately jumped nearly 1,000%. Only
Milton Berle was left watching the show.
And Hollywood Web sites generate print press. The Lord of the Rings’
site registered 1.7 million hits on its opening day, grabbing ink in
Newsweek for surpassing the record set by Phantom Menace. For
perspective, 1.7 million is more than the number of people who like
asparagus, but only a sixth of those who watch pro wrestling every
The next logical step? Producers casting projects based on Web
reactions, or studios conducting online test screenings. This would,
alas, rob Simi Valley - which hosts many such funfests - of its
reflected Hollywood glamour.