NL points 'Compass' ahead

Studio mounts promo for Dec. '07

While most of the studios are focused on this year's awards campaigns, New Line Cinema is looking ahead to next December.

Last week, the company sent out a handsomely produced promotional brochure heralding its big-budget fantasy movie "The Golden Compass," an adaptation of the first installment of Philip Pullman's best-selling "His Dark Materials" trilogy, which Chris Weitz is directing. It is set for release Dec. 7.

The booklet — oversized and on heavy stock paper — has full-page photos and bios of the main actors: Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig and newcomer Dakota Blue Richards. It includes shots of a fantastical Victorian-like world and a section on the supporting cast, producers and below-the-line talent such as the film editor, costume designer, production designer and director of photography.

Rolf Mittweg, president of worldwide distribution and marketing at New Line, said the booklet is not an awards play.

"The intention is to tell the world that next year, next Christmas, a major blockbuster from New Line is arriving at a screen near you," he said. "It wasn't geared to the awards season. If it happens, that would be nice." He said the booklet was earmarked for exhibitors, distributors and the media.

New Line used a similar awareness campaign for its blockbuster "Lord of the Rings" trilogy with a pamphlet that it circulated two years before the movie opened and a calendar that it sent out a year in advance of the debut of the first movie in the trilogy. At the time, New Line wasn't positioning "The Fellowship of the Ring" as an Oscar contender, though, as realized by Peter Jackson, the first two movies ultimately received numerous Academy Awards and nominations, while the third installment, "The Return of the King," swept the 2003 Oscars with 11 wins.

"Golden Compass" is an important movie for New Line, which has been idling at the boxoffice since "King" was released in 2003. The studio's biggest movie since then has been 2005's "Wedding Crashers." This year, New Line's biggest boxoffice winner has been "Final Destination 3," which grossed $54 million domestically.

"Golden Compass" is budgeted at $150 million-$180 million, making it one of the biggest projects in the company's history and a potential franchise if it succeeds at the boxoffice.

"There's a lot riding on the success of this film," Mittweg said.
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