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Thursday, September 01, 2005

Picture Yourself in a Mercury

Landmark Theaters has struck a deal with Mercury "to sponsor a series of projects and events related to independent film over a two-year period," writes Elaine Dutka in Wednesday's LA Times. "Starting in October, the theaters will present preshow `making of' featurettes, and interviews with directors, and the carmaker might even arrange to admit patrons for free."

Dutka continues:

    "Whether it's a much-needed infusion of cash into the art-house world or an intrusion into the moviegoing experience remains to be seen. The issue is, unquestionably, a hot one. Advertisers are placing their bets on theaters and movie product placement, now that TV commercials can be zapped by TiVo or muted via remote control. And some patrons are already up in arms over the proliferation of ads."

Some people have assumed this deal simply means suffering through more pre-show ads, which'd be a shame. But if Mercury and Landmark do what they say, producing content that's related to particular movies, I think it could actually improve the experience.

I saw the incredible "Grizzly Man" this week at the Landmark Embarcadero in San Francisco. It was preceded by several trailers for movies I don't plan to see, and an unfunny short film sponsored by Stella Artois, the beer maker. Would it have been better to have a five-minute short of Herzog discussing his approach to "Grizzly Man," perhaps with some clips from his earlier work? You bet.

Landmark co-owner Mark Cuban seems to understand the delicate balance here. In the Times piece, he says, "If we do anything to affront our customers, we'll all lose more than we gain."

And Lincoln-Mercury marketing exec Linda Perry-Lube says, "We're doing a slow dance, making sure that what we do is relevant and engaging rather than off-putting."

We'll have to see what actually shows up on the screen.