A film tribute to the U.S. sailors and Marines stationed in the Middle East is being used by the Regal Entertainment Group to evaluate a satellite-delivery system that will enable the theater chain to directly feed ads and other content to its 4,500 screens nationwide.
"We did this as a public service,'' said Cliff Marks, president of marketing and sales for Regal's New York-based marketing arm. "We are also using this film to test our Digital Content Network.''
The Network, he said, uses satellite technology to eliminate the necessity of shipping individual prints to theaters. Although it will not carry feature films, it is seen as a way for advertisers to target specific regions and audience demographics.
"We feel it will change the dynamic of the movie experience and create a much different environment for national advertisers,'' he said, adding that the network will be fully operational by spring 2003.
To test the system, the Knoxville, Tenn.-based chain selected Enduring Freedom—The Opening Chapter. The five-minute film was created by the U.S. Navy and Marines, with the assistance of several Los Angeles-based advertising production houses, including Mint Editorial. One shop, American Rogue, was created specifically to work on the project with the hope that it will be expanded to include additional "chapters."
The film begins with a glimpse of a plane crashing into the World Trade Center, then shifts to the U.S. military response.
"The hard objective is to inform and educate the U.S. public about the sacrifices being made [by the 80,000 men and women deployed overseas since the attack],'' said Lt. Col. James Kuhn, who co-wrote and produced the film. He noted that the film, which cost about $1.5 million to make, is also meant to be a recruiting tool.
Filmed in high-definition television, the film was shown in 85 Regal theaters in New York, Los Angeles, Knox ville, Tenn., and Denver.
Although the Navy's advertising is handled by Campbell-Ewald, Warren, Mich., and work for the Marines comes from J. Walter Thompson's Atlanta office, the project was cre ated outside the normal ad channels because it is a joint effort between the two branches of the military.
"They usually distance themselves from each other,'' said Klaus Obermeyer, of American Rogue, who directed and co-wrote the film. "But this was really a labor of love for everyone involved."