February 27, 2012



The Academy limits the number of movie ads that can be aired on the Oscar telecast (until recent years, they didn’t allow any), so as not to make the night look like the awards are shilling for the studios.  (God forbid!)  It’s not clear whether that’s the reason only 2 movie promos made it into the telecast itself or if no one else wanted to pay the hefty tab for an Oscar spot, but several other studios did crowd into the pre-show.  A quick rundown:
MIRROR MIRROR (Universal) – 30 sec – The studio took out 2 different 30 second spots in the pre-show, both of which played up the movie’s comedy, but this time concentrating on the dwarfs (who can apparently adjust their size) instead of Julia Roberts, as the first ads did.  The movie opens March 30, so the more intensive part of its campaign should soon be underway.  

THE HUNGER GAMES (Lionsgate) – 30 sec – Pretty much the same spot the studio has been airing since the Super Bowl, with a few shots swapped out.  The campaign, so far, continues to emphasize the set-up of the Games rather than the more action-oriented Games sequences themselves that presumably take up the bulk of the movie.  Lionsgate is hoping this is going to be their Twilight, and with a March 23 opening around the corner, ads should be multiplying like crazy very soon.
THE LORAX (Universal) – 15 sec – A somewhat different spot from the ones we’ve seen.  It doesn’t play up the quest part of the story (find the real trees!) or Danny DeVito and his “That’s a woman?!?” line.  Instead, the promo plays off the question of whether Loraxes (Loraxi?) are real.  The movie opens Friday, so all its spots are now in heavy rotation.
JOHN CARTER (Disney) – 30 sec – Now Disney is attempting to make John Carter look like a critical hit, with quotes from reviewers no one has ever heard of (the cynical among us may doubt that the real reviews will be quite as thrilled).  The movie opens March 9 and as is widely known by now, the advance tracking is apparently dismal, so the spot is all action, trying to play up the spectacle bought by the reported $250-300M budget.
BRAVE (Disney) – 30 sec – A very classy spot (carefully timed to run just after Best Animated Film was presented) with just one line of voice-over and gorgeous visuals.  It seems designed by Pixar to wipe the taste of Cars 2 out of our mouths long before Brave arrives in June.
TITANIC (Paramount) – 30 sec – You play Celine Dion, show Kate and Leo, have a few shots of the boat going down, and announce that it’s now in 3D–that’s pretty much the campaign, and what more do they need?  The spot ended with a quick URL for a website where people can buy tickets for a “sneak preview” the night before the official April 4 opening.
Of course, the most notorious movie “ad” of the night was Sacha Baron Cohen’s shameless huckstering of THE DICTATOR, which bought the movie millions in free pre-release publicity about his expected awards antics.  The Academy, while letting him do this thing, kept him the hell off their air, including the official pre-show.  Nevertheless, he was able to get plenty of media attention by dumping an urn of “Kim Jong-Il’s ashes” on Ryan Seacrest, live on E!   Mission accomplished.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."