LAYOFFS BE DAMNED! Oscar Campaign Spending From Reverse Into Overdrive

UPDATE: Jeez, but it’s bewildering why Paramount took out 7 pages of full-page ads in The New York Times today for Revolutionary Road. Talk about overkill. Or why Paramount commissioned a full frills “making of” The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button coffee table book published by Rizzoli and selling for $45 which the studio bigwigs are sending out as Xmas gifts to Hollywood. “It’s so unbelievably pretentious and self-promoting and self-aggrandizing that I just can’t not comment on it,” one recipient phoned me. But the studio isn’t alone. Oscar campaign spending, which went into reverse when Harvey Weinstein left Miramax, is now back in overdrive.

Even as cutbacks are being announced at the majors and minors, Disney inserted a book on Wall-E — that’s right, a book — into the Los Angeles Times as a promotion I’m told is worth $675,000 — all to reach a few thousand Academy voters since the pic was already out on video. “So a $675,000 insert is falling out of newspapers sent to 1 in 10 homes in foreclosure. No way that’s going to help the business of Wall-E with consumers. That is just about flattering the ego of John Lassiter, especially when Wall-E is already going to win Best Animated Feature,” an insider complained to me. On the day Viacom announced its bloodletting, Paramount had a color gatefold ad in Variety for The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button. Cost: $250,000, or about 5 assistants’ salaries.

I’m hearing that Focus Features, which also announced layoffs, has spent a small fortune pushing Milk. And Universal which is in the midst of a combination of cutbacks and layoffs, had full pages costing hundreds of thousands of dollars in The New York Times and Los Angeles Times for Imagine’s Frost/Nixon when it was only open in 3 theaters (one of them Toronto). “Ron Howard’s deal at Universal calls for pages and pages of trade advertising. I get it,” one source griped to me. “But if it didn’t, then it would be up to the movies themselves to cary their own weight.” And don’t get me started on the suitability of the Black Tie premiere for Benjamin Button. “It’s like something out of My Man Godfrey or one of those depression era comedies,” one Hollywood marketing maven marveled to me. “It could not be more wrong.”

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