Don’t cry for her, Liz Smith. Although new mom Madonna has suddenly turned media shy, Disney has more than picked up her publicity slack: Witness the hype campaign the studio has mounted for Evita. Its marketing mavens took out full-page ads announcing advance ticket sales for the Material Girl’s opus in The New York Times back on Sept. 8 — a full three and a half months ahead of the film’s arrival. ”We’ve got a big-time event move, and we want to let everybody know about it,” says Lylle Breier, Disney’s VP of special events.
Disney’s not the only one jumping the holiday gun. Universal began running 60-second TV spots for Sylvester Stallone’s Daylight — which doesn’t open until Dec. 6 — in September. And TriStar started airing commercials for Tom Cruise’s Jerry Maguire in mid-October, two months before the film’s Dec. 13 release. Most observers single out Independence Day for this premature-hype trend: While traditional campaigns would begin about three weeks before a film’s release, ID4 ran its first TV ad during last season’s Super Bowl, five long months before its premiere. Planting these ”pre-awareness” spots, as marketing gurus call them, is equivalent to firing a warning shot to competing projects. ”It says, ‘Look, we’re coming out Dec. 6,”’ says Daylight director Rob Cohen. ”’Stay off our date!”’
Whatever the logistics, the early hype seems to be working: Disney says more than 150,000 Evita tickets have already sold. ”It’s a runaway train right now,” gushes Terry Curtin, senior VP of publicity for Disney. ”We couldn’t stop it if we wanted to.” Yeah, but would this work for The Mighty Ducks 4?