Web-Surfing for Cinema

The makers of a Hollywood movie these days can expect to spend nearly half their budget in advertising. A film that cost $50 million to make will end up costing something in the neighborhood of $25 million to promote itself. You've seen the way new movie promotions seem to temporarily take over the world: TV ads, print ads, movie trailers, video games, lunch boxes and the occasional Happy Meal are all tried and true methods for grabbing the public's attention and whetting their appetite to see a particular film. In the never-ending search for new ways to hawk their wares, however, Hollywood has made the great technological leap onto the Information Highway. The increasingly popular Internet is the newest outlet for movie studios to promote their alms.Up until late last year, the only movie-related pages you could find on the World Wide Web were those created by eager fans to show support for their favorite cult films (e.g. "Offworld: the Blade Runner home page," or the ever-fanatical "Church of Tarantino"). Nowadays, new film pages are cropping up almost daily. These pages are sponsored by the movie studios themselves and deliver some of the most advanced computer interfacing available on the Internet.The Internet is becoming so popular that many studios are bypassing the traditional methods of promoting their films to concentrate their efforts on the computer front. This is especially true for science-fiction alms, which could easily find their niche market among the Internet's dedicated techies. The new sci-Þ film Johnny Mnemonic, for example, lists the film's Web site right on the theater's promo poster. Going one step further, advance posters for the soon-to-be-released video game-turned-action film Mortal Kombat don't even list credits -Ñ just the film's Web site alone.So what do these computer sites offer? Let's take a quick tour through a few of them...Tank Girl (http://www.mgmua.com/tankgirl/) Metro Goldwyn Mayer/United Artists spent little money on TV ads or advance screenings to promote this film, relying instead on computerized word-of-mouth off its Internet site. Unfortunately for the movie company, the film did poorly at the box office, proving that using the Internet as a sole source of publicity is a mistake. The Tank Girl movie and comic book still maintain a strong cult presence on the Internet, however, as witnessed by this Tank Girl home page. This site still boasts perhaps the largest and most complex workings of any home page. The graphics are just wild. There are literally dozens of short movie clips, sound bites and cast photos that can be downloaded. Links to the Cardiff Movie Database provide detailed biographies of the film's stars. While here, you can also play a Tank Girl adventure game in which you must navigate around TG's post-apocalyptic world trying to reunite movie characters with their most prized possessions. It's fairly challenging and kind of fun. A link is also provided to the excellent Unauthorized Tank Girl home page (something most corporations frown upon and occasionally sue over). Overall, this site does a superb job of capturing the movie's bizarre flavor and bad attitude. Johnny Mnemonic (http://www.spe.sony.com/pictures/sonymovies/06jonmnu.html or http://mnemonic.idirect.com/) The first site is American; the second site is Canadian. The Canadian site boasts a pretty good contest with different prizes every week (like a William Gibson autographed movie script); unfortunately, it's only open to Canadian residents. The American site has a rather detailed run-down of the movie, a few photos (not nearly enough for hard-core Keanuphiles, I'm sure) and a section that promises a "tour of William Gibson's Cyberspace." Unfortunately, this "Virtual Reality simulator" only works with a 486 or Pentium PC. All you Mac-users out there are S.O.L. Congo (http://voyager.paramount.com/congo.html) Slow link, but excellent graphics. This site doesn't play like a normal movie promo. Instead, it masquerades as a high-tech control room for the telecommunications corporation featured in the film. Visitors are treated to a detailed graphic array of monitors and computer panels. Clicking on different monitors will produce different results. Some contain photos from the film, others lead to dossiers on the film's characters. Seems a satellite transmission team has gotten lost in the African jungle and is beaming back mysterious pictures of what looks like a lost city. Like many sites, visitors are invited to enter a contest. Unlike many sites, this contest actually requires a little work. A new picture is downloaded every day or two from the ÒlostÓ transmission team. Visitors must decode a secret message hidden in the time codes of the pictures. The message isn't hard to find, but at the rate they're going, the pictures will take nearly a month to download. There are tons of prizes to be won, however (thermoses, action figures, video games). You also have the opportunity to participate in a ÒSave the Lowland GorillaÓ campaign. Free prizes and environmental awareness all in one electronic package.Batman (http://batmanforever.com) Warner Brothers has certainly touted the hell out of this site. They sent out a three-page press release on it and are allegedly planning a huge promotional campaign which will plaster the Web site address on buses all across America. For all the hoopla, though, the site isn't especially exciting. There are the standard downloadable photos, a few Quicktime movies to view and a lot of pleasing graphics, but nothing very groundbreaking. The "Gotham Radio" page allows visitors to sample selections from the movie soundtrack. Downloadable icons and Batman-related wallpaper designs (available in both Mac and PC formats) are nice, provided you have the proper translator programs. There are two "hidden" pages on this site, accessible only if you locate and solve the Riddler's hidden riddles. The riddles are easy to find and even easier to solve, but they grant you access to "the Riddler's hideout" and ultimately "the Batcave." The Batcave features sketches, photos and blueprints of various bat-related gadgets (Batmobile, Bat-a-rang, Batsuit). Different pictures are available every day, promoting regular visitation. Each week also features a different section of behind-the-scenes info (costumes, make-up, cast). There's also a contest that can be entered. It simply requires you to input your name and address. Unfortunately, the cheapskates at WB are only giving away one crummy jacket.Mortal Kombat (http://www.directnet.com/kombatbegins/) Nice computer graphics, but fairly cheesy site, aimed mostly at pre-teen fans of the popular video game. The evil sorcerer Shang Tsung has allegedly "taken over" this Web site and will not allow anyone to use it. Rayden (I guess he's the good guy) guides you through Shang's secret island fortress, which contains about five different pages. Some contain photos from the movies. One has a short film clip. Rayden occasionally warns you to steer clear of the evil Shang Tsung. Shang shows up once in a while to taunt you and boast of his world-conquering powers. Not much else happens. A game along the lines of the Tank Girl site is implied, but it never pops up. You are, however, encouraged to register your name so that Rayden may send you further bulletins about the "approaching evil." He's probably talking about the movie's release date.

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