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‘Dragon’: A Kung Fu Flick That Won’t Kiss Off Women — Universal Pictures Advertising and Marketing Seeks To Broaden Audience Beyond Action Fans By Kathy Tyre

UNIVERSAL CITY, CALIF. – Universal Pictures is pulling

The studio has poured an estimated $15 million into marketing Dragon, a tidy sum for a film that reportedly cost only $15 million to produce. With virtually no star power (unknown Jason Scott Lee – no relation to Bruce – plays the martial arts legend) and a subject matter with limited draw potential, Dragon had seemed a dark horse for the studio. Until Universal was surprised by some unusual screening results.
With its biography/love story sub-plot, Dragon tested as well with women as it did with martial arts and action fans, the niche to which films of this genre are typically aimed.
In addition to young males, older men – Bruce Lee fans of 20 years ago – rated the film highly during test screenings. ‘Then the shock of all shocks was that women loved the movie as much, if not more, than the men,’ said Dragon director Rob Cohen, who was active in marketing the film. That left Universal to ponder how to sell to women without turning off the action audience.
Cohen set to work on ads early, getting a cut of the film to Universal’s marketing team even before he’d seen it. Universal came up with a trailer that shows a series of images including Lee and his wife Linda in an embrace and some situations featuring Linda Lee alone, along with a little martial arts action. There’s no dialogue and the plot is not revealed. In tests, Universal found the trailer not only appealed to men, but provoked women’s interest as well.
Print and outdoor, taken from Dragon’s final scene, features Jason Lee backed by a giant, orange sun in Bruce Lee’s famous ‘Burning Step’ pose. Studio execs felt that shot was the best dramatic representation of the film. But it’s also very macho. To balance the image, print versions will include a background shot of Lee kissing Lauren Holly, who portrays Linda Lee.
Universal will capitalize on positive early word-of-mouth on the film by sneak-previewing Dragon the Saturday prior to its release in 600 markets, backed by TV, radio and newspaper advertising.
Ironically, the recent death of Bruce Lee’s son, actor Brandon Lee, is likely to raise interest in the film. ‘It seems to have taken the picture, which was just one of many coming out this summer, and made it news,’ said Cohen.
Copyright Adweek L.P. (1993)