‘Dark Knight’ Promo Bombs

A Dark Knight promotion, featuring a chocolate cake wired to look like an explosive device, prompted a local San Antonio, Texas, news station to call in the bomb squad earlier this week.

Echoing the Aqua Teen Hunger Force bomb scare in Boston in Feb. 2007, the low-budget guerilla campaign delivered some unintended results for the Santikos Theater chain.

“Causing that kind of disturbance with the bomb squad and police officers was never our intention,” said Meghan Vincent, a rep for the eight-theater chain in Texas. “This was not exactly the kind of press we were going for.”

KENS 5 TV called the San Antonio police after a menacing cake wired with a cell phone was delivered to its offices.

The cake was the culmination of a three-week-long buzz-building campaign aimed at the local media. It began on June 26, when a classified ad (presumably placed by Batman’s arch-enemy the Joker) was placed in local papers recruiting clowns. It directed interested parties to whysoserious@santikos.com. The roughly two-dozen people who sent e-mails to the address were encouraged to attend to The Dark Knight premier last night (July 17). A press release alerted the local media of the campaign.

It was followed by a faux news report, created in conjunction with a local Fox affiliate, about graffiti artists tagging the local theater with the Batman symbol. It was aired on local networks and a clip was sent to San Antonio newsrooms with a release that posed the question: “What will the clowns do next?”

The NBA San Antonio Spurs’ mascot was then kidnapped while trying to remove the graffiti, according to another faux news spot, which was supported by another press release.

The finale was the cake which was delivered with a ransom note that said: “If you want to see the coyote again be at the Palladium [theater] at 8 pm,” and press badges for the premiere.

San Antonio Fire Department Lt. Joe Rios told a competing station, KSAT12, that “the intent was not to cause or harm. [The promotion] just went bad on them.”

“I apologized profusely [to KENS 5TV],” said Vincent. “I said, ‘I’ve been sending you guys something every week for a month . . . They’ve gotten some backlash from the other station for not catching the joke.”

Vincent said Warner Bros. had nothing to do with the effort. Rather, she and her team were just copying similar efforts the studio had used in the fall to promote the film.

The Dark Knight, which has received plenty of ancillary press due to co-star Heath Ledger’s drug overdose and death, is widely expected to be one of the summer’s biggest blockbusters.