With hopes of a potential summer blockbuster movie in Small Soldiers, DreamWorks Pictures has chosen the Web as a primary arena to build up momentum prior to the box office release and-more significantly-to sustain interest in the movie merchandise through Christmas. In a twist, co-producers DreamWorks and Universal Pictures have designated Curiocity's FreeZone, a kids site that boasts nearly 200,000 registered members and 3.2 million page views per month, the exclusive promotional site for the movie instead of building a separate Web destination.
"Kids go to FreeZone every day on their own," said Michael Vollman, head of field promotions at DreamWorks, which doesn't have a corporate site. "If I had to create Small-Soldiers.com, I'd have to start from scratch."
Studios have treated the Web as a secondary media outlet to build up the pre-release hype through the construction of a movie site. DreamWorks instead has promoted its films on established sites with guaranteed traffic, a strategy that began with a deal last summer to promote Peacemakers on Pepsi World.
The total Web promotion war chest could reach $500,000, said Justin Osmer, marketing manager at the Seattle-based publisher, Thomson Target Media. Efforts will include links to promotional partners Nascar, Burger King, Microsoft, Coca-Cola and Travelodge.
While many details have yet to be finalized, DreamWorks intends to gradually build up online hype around the movie with Small Soldiers contests, sweepstakes and chat events with the stars of the film. This spring, the computer-animated heroes, brawny soldiers dubbed the Commando Elite, and their nemeses will infiltrate FreeZone.
The promotional partners will likely sponsor certain movie-themed areas on FreeZone and receive reciprocal links. The studio is also considering selling movie merchandise online from its more than 60 licensees. Small Soldiers merchandise, from apparel to blankets, stationary and toys will be promoted throughout the Christmas season on FreeZone, said Osman.