Summer films scarce on Super Bowl telecast


If you're expecting to see a splashy trailer for Sony's sure-to-be-colossal May release "Spider-Man 3" during CBS' telecast of Super Bowl XLI on Sunday, think again. By and large, motion picture studios are passing on the big game this year, notwithstanding the last-minute purchase of media time at "firesale" prices.

Of all the major distributors, only Buena Vista and Lionsgate have decided to pay the millions it costs for advertising time. The former is booking two 30-second spots to promote the Tim Allen-John Travolta road-trip comedy "Wild Hogs," set to open March 2, and the animated "Meet the Robinsons," which is set to debut March 30. Lionsgate will advertise its March 23 release "Pride," a sports drama starring Terrence Howard and Bernie Mac.

This stands in sharp contrast to recent years of movie-marketing strategy, which has held that the biggest releases of the year -- particularly of the summer -- should get a giant push during the year's most-watched TV spectacle. Last year, for example, promos for blockbusters such as "Cars," "Click," "Mission: Impossible 3" and "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" all ran on Super Bowl Sunday, and for the past five years running, studios have promoted roughly 10 movie titles during the telecast.

So, why aren't studios advertising this year's crop of summer films? Well, officially, they won't say. But some insiders have speculated that since many of the summer tentpoles are sequels to well-established franchises, marketers might be saving their money for a concentrated buy just before the film opens.

"It appears to be the rule of three with some studios," says one studio marketing executive who asked to remain anonymous. "With (new installments in franchises) like (Paramount's) 'Shrek,' (Buena Vista's) 'Pirates of the Caribbean,' (Sony's) 'Spider-Man' and (Warner Bros. Pictures') 'Harry Potter,' awareness couldn't be higher. If they were running (in the Super Bowl) at all, it would just be for vanity."

The executive adds that for his upcoming release, the $2.6 million cost of a 30-second spot during the game Sunday "buys a nice little cable-television run."

Another key reason studios might have opted against a Super Bowl spend, according to one advertising creative director, is that "(studios) can't be as creative as they want to be. They're not getting the kind of buzz with trailers as other advertisers (do with their commercials that are produced specifically for the game)."