The New York Times
October 25, 2001

Hollywood Pic Parties Pooped
Staff Reporter

(NEW YORK (Variety) - Marketing anxieties are putting a  damper on the holiday season's traditionally splashy picture premieres.

In fact, many studio executives wonder whether the age of the lavish "Pearl Harbor''-style event ended Sept. 11.

Warner Bros.' "Ocean's Eleven'' was originally set to premiere with Rat Pack fanfare at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas. But the studio has scrapped those plans, moving the launch to L.A. Details of the screening and party have yet to be finalized.

Warners has also downsized the premiere for "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.'' The picture was slated to unspool Nov. 4 in London's Leicester Square with a gala celebration to follow. The event, still set for London, has been trimmed to a screening plus a dinner for the cast.

New Line's "Lord of the Rings,'' meanwhile, is still scheduled for a glitzy world premiere in London Dec. 10 at the Odeon Theater in Leicester Square. The screening will be followed by a party at the Docklands near the Tower of London. Smaller-scale premieres in New York and Los Angeles are to follow on Dec. 13 and Dec. 16, respectively. The Gotham premiere may be a World Trade Center benefit.

And while scaling back may save the studios a buck or two, the downsizing might make it more difficult for high-stakes year-end releases to get an early Oscar foothold.

The backtracking this holiday season is a far cry from the all-out promo pushes of recent times. Last November, Universal created a winter wonderland for the "Grinch'' premiere, replete with green-carpet snowball fights and
weathermen. A few months later, Disney's "Pearl Harbor'' launch in Hawaii set a new standard for hype and hoopla as the studio requisitioned an aircraft carrier to stage the premiere.

Now, studios are trying to be sensitive to worrying world events -- and they certainly stand to save money at the same time.

As Universal executive VP Terry Curtin put it, "That money would often be better spent in media, where you can target the right audience with the right message.''

Fox's "From Hell'' and Universal's Friday release "K-Pax'' are two recent examples of a growing trend: both featured red-carpet arrivals and screenings but just intimate dinners.