If dinosaurs had been marketed half as well as they’re going to be in Steven Spielberg’s $60 million-plus Jurassic Park, they would never have become extinct. Based on Michael Crichton’s 1990 best-seller about theme-park dinosaurs running amok, the film will open June 11 backed by a $65 million licensing and promotional campaign — one of the biggest movie-marketing crusades since brontosauruses roamed the Earth.
The main selling tactics for the Universal film, starring Laura Dern, Sam Neill, and Jeff Goldblum, include:
*Intense, anticipation-building secrecy. Spielberg is keeping his take on T. Rex and pals under wraps, says a Jurassic insider, ”to make audiences think of them like the shark in Jaws and the alien in E.T.”
*Promotions with 100 companies (from Kenner Toys to Kellogg’s) that will generate 1,000 products (from sleeping bags to fanny packs), as well as screenings of trailers in Japan through Panasonic, which is owned by Matsushita, Universal’s parent.
*A Jurassic Park Information Center at the Universal Studios theme park in Hollywood.
*A planned Jurassic water ride at Universal’s Orlando park that could cost more than the movie itself.
If all this makes Jurassic Park sound like a kids’ movie, it isn’t. Spielberg has reportedly toned down the violence in Crichton’s book (which opens with a dinosaur eating a baby human) and includes ”good” dinos (read: cute and plant-eating) along with the nasty meat-gobblers. Still, ”the movie is closer to Alien than to E.T.,” a source says. And one cast member adds that the film’s carnage sends human body parts flying (Spielberg is aiming for a PG-13 rating).
On the other hand, says a Spielberg spokeswoman, ”No other dinosaur movie has ever been truer to life.” Or had so many studio jobs riding on it. If the film flops, it will be felt deep within the executive ranks at Universal, where Scent of a Woman is the only recent hit. The stakes are even higher for Spielberg, who needs a rebound from 1991’s Hook, which made $119 million but failed to live up to industry expectations.
So far, indications are that Spielberg is not about to become an endangered species. His movie’s marketing blitz has many studios jockeying to avoid Jurassic’s release date. ”No one’s madly rushing to go head-to-head with an 800-pound gorilla,” acknowledges a publicity exec at a rival studio, ”but you ) also have to remember: This movie is all about hype. The big question is, will it live up to the hype?”