March 16, 2001
the Web's Net Worth
"For me, in my world, they're unbelievably important," said Gordon Paddison, New Line Cinema's senior vice-president of worldwide interactive marketing and business development.
Lofty-sounding title aside, the former actor and computer programmer is the man responsible for making New Line's upcoming Lord of the Rings trilogy the Net's most visible film event since The Blair Witch Project phenomenon blew the doors open two years ago.
The first in the trilogy of movies, which were filmed back to back in New Zealand by director Peter Jackson, won't hit theatres until this Christmas. Yet the early preview trailer for the trilogy was downloaded 1.7 million times in its first 24 hours online when it debuted on the movie's official Web site last April.
The site, at www.lordoftherings.net, now draws millions of visitors every week. And literally hundreds of fan sites have sprung up as well, roughly 40 of which Paddison and his people have unofficially adopted, supplying them with exclusive photos, interviews and other tidbits.
"From the moment we got involved with this project, I went online and started interacting with the fans," said Paddison, noting that many of the independent fan site Web masters even have his home phone number.
It's a new kind of direct, two-way interaction between the grassroots movie fans and the Hollywood marketing machine that's never been seen before in film history.
And when it works, it's a win-win situation. Film fans get access to the information they crave, and studios get to communicate directly with their most devoted customers at what Paddison calls "a fraction of a fraction" of the cost of traditional TV, radio and print marketing campaigns.
Demographics, not surprisingly, play a key role in the success of most Web marketing efforts. Movies with a sci-fi, fantasy or horror theme generally appeal to the young, male moviegoing audience - the same audience that tends to see a movie on its opening weekend, contributing to the all-important initial three-day tally. And the same audience that spends a lot of its time surfing the Web.