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'Funny Money' Scares Up Marketing Dollars

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LOS ANGELES When his independent family comedy failed to attract a major distributor (and the marketing budget that usually follows), executive producer Jeff Franklin needed some serious cash to promote Funny Money.

"Turner Broadcasting is our partner," said Franklin, CEO of FWE Picture Company. "They have broadcast rights, but they're not in the theatrical business."

Franklin, accustomed to $50 million marketing budgets from his days helming Columbia's Stuart Little movies, said the backup plan was to spend $1 million of the company's money to market the film and hope that the gross receipts from a limited release could cover the initial outlay.

That was before a Franklin-related company, Valcom, had fortuitously contacted Consolidated Resorts about a ticket giveaway promotion and made the Las Vegas-based time-share company a partner in the movie's marketing.

Consolidated spends $35 million annually on direct response ads to market its properties in Hawaii, Florida and Las Vegas. Funny Money will mark its first foray into feature films, said Lance O'Brien, the company's vp, media.

Buying two-minute radio blocks and enlisting the cooperation of on-air personalities, Penelope Ann Miller (one of the film's stars) will "call in" (via prerecorded banter) to plug the movie and a contest for a two-night getaway at Consolidated's Tahitian Village resort in Las Vegas. Winners will attend the Funny Money premiere and meet the stars. (Chevy Chase and Armand Assante are also in the movie.)

"I don't think anyone has marketed a movie this way," said Franklin.

Mike Kaplan, Consolidated chairman, added, "One of the great things about mixing the movie promotion with the DR commercials is that our resorts match the middle-America, late-20s to early-60s demo that coincides with the film. It's a good co-promotion."