Indie film lands rare promo partner


NEW YORK -- In a rare marketing achievement for an independent film, "Funny Money," starring Chevy Chase and being distributed by ThinkFilm, has lined up Consolidated Resorts as a cross-promotional partner, adding millions of dollars in radio and national cable TV ads to its marketing budget.

While cross-promotions with major brands are the norm for tentpole studio releases, it is unusual for an indie film to convince an advertiser to put marketing dollars behind a movie with uncertain distribution and no major marketing budget of its own. Advertisers like to tie in with major studio releases because the studios turn the movies into nationwide events with their own multimillion-dollar budgets.

"It definitely is rare for an independent film to have brand promotional partners because advertisers want to associate themselves with well-known projects and big studio projects," said John Owen, president of Set Resources, an entertainment marketing firm. "The distribution on independent films is typically questionable. It's hard to convince a client to trust in an independent film because they don't have the marketing budget to get the word out."

Executive producer Jeff Franklin, however, convinced Consolidated Resorts, which has time share resorts in Hawaii, Las Vegas and Orlando, to promote "Funny Money" in its TV and radio ads.

Valcom Studios hooked up Franklin and Consolidated, which spends $35 million annually on TV and radio advertising. The company is expected to spend millions marketing "Funny Money," which cost slightly more than $7 million to produce.

"The film was made for under $10 million and they're getting millions of dollars of advertising that normally you wouldn't see happen with an independent film of this size," Consolidated Resorts chairman and president Michael Kaplan said.

Most of the radio ads are running on Clear Channel and CBS stations. They feature Chase and co-star Penelope Ann Miller in two-minute interviews speaking about the film, their careers and the promotion for a complimentary stay at Vegas hotels. The TV spots will be more like typical film commercials but will be tagged with a voice-over about the offer of a free stay. They will run on MSNBC, CNBC, ESPN, FX and Comedy Central.

Kaplan said "Funny Money" is a good fit for Consolidated because the film reaches its target demographic of 25- to 60-year-old couples; Chase has an association with Vegas from his "Vegas Vacation"; and there is a natural association between Vegas and the film's theme of money.

The movie, based on the hit London play, opens Jan. 26 in Los Angeles and expands to Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Phoenix and San Diego in February. It is about a wax fruit factory worker who finds a briefcase containing $5 million that belongs to a Romanian mobster.

"Funny Money" marks Consolidated's first foray into feature films. Kaplan said the company already has been approached by other independent filmmakers as well as major studios since launching the cross-promotion. He said Consolidated most likely will participate in additional film tie-ins in the future.