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Lost in Cyberspace

Movie studios take advantage of the 'Net

This article was originally published on January 11, 2000 by SignOn San Diego and Copley News Service.

Some of the most imaginative uses of the Internet for marketing and promotions are coming from the movie studios – which is more than a little ironic, given Hollywood's hosility toward the Internet as a supposed bastion of intellectual piracy.

But few outfits do a better job than the studios at combining all the different media of the Internet – video, audio, text. Just about every major release (and even low-budget independents like "The Blair Witch Project," which owed its success to a clever Internet campaign) has its own Web site. You can generally find interviews with the stars and director, photos from the movie (which you can save to your hard drive), and a short promotional video promoting the movie (generally the same trailer you'd see at the theater).

One of the better movie sites is for "The Talented Mr. Ripley", the new movie based on Patricia Highsmith's noir classic. What sets the "Ripley" site apart is its use of e-mail correspondence to keep visitors interracting with the site – you can sign up for eight daily e-mails which contain a link back to "letters" from the different characters in the movie to one another. After the eighth letter, you can watch a short clip taken from the movie.

Another site that's different is for "Any Given Sunday". The interactive and animated Flash introduction is entertaining and clever.

It's hard to gauge how effective a campaign like this is, but the reality is that it remains likely that a quarter-page ad in Friday's Des Moines Register or Dayton Daily News is still worth more bodies in the theater than the entire run of Internet promotions for a film. That will change as the Internet grows in popularity and online connection speeds increase – allowing folks to watch the trailers without a 20-minute download, or to load Flash pages without a five-minute delay.

A good place to see upcoming movie previews, and to find links to the various studios, is at Apple's QuickTime site: You'll need QuickTime 4 to watch them from here, but it's free and available for both Macs and Windows machines and works seamlessly with your browser.

Yahoo's movie site has pages devoted to all the latest releases; each page will have photos and links to the official site. Netscape also has a movie site, as do Excite, Lycos) and Snap.