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By Chris Thilk | May 4, 2005

You know, half of the fun of writing this column is had when there are worthy movies out there that I genuinely want to help spread the word about. Off The Map and Sideways are two that I really wanted to tell people about. So much of their marketing success comes from word-of-mouth and I was glad to be one of those mouths.

The other half is, quite frankly, had when I get to just let loose and be the snark-ridden sarcastic and generally unpleasant person that I genuinely am. This is going to be one of those.

“House of Wax” is the latest in a trend – that’s been going on forever it seems – that basically follows the following formula.

1. Take existing classic horror property.
2. Plug in hot young stars with perfect skin who are just waiting for Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie to hit 50 and vacate the covers of People, Us, Us People, People Weekly, Us Monthly, Star People and the 7,582 other celebrity gossip magazines.
3. Actively ignore any and all original ideas.

Oh, and this one co-stars Paris Hilton. Excuse me while I stick my head in a bucket of water and plug my teeth into an electric socket.

The Poster

A figure drips with hot wax. There are so many jokes that can be made about fluids dripping off of a face – most of them involve Paris Hilton – I almost entered a fugue state just from sheer mental overload.

On the plus side, the color scheme from the poster is slick, very shiny and will be carried over to the website. That’s a good thing.

The Trailer

The editors of the trailer were obviously running on pure adrenaline and caffeine while working on this one. It seemed the longest shot lasted two or three seconds at most and most couldn’t possibly have consisted of more than five frames of film. There’s just enough of Paris Hilton to give comedy writers a fresh batch of material and I have to thank them for that.

The Website

As with most Warner Bros. sites of late the site is split between the HTML and Flash formats. Content bleeds between the two so I’ll just attack this as best I can.

A trailer, two TV spots and a Spanish-language version of the trailer are available in the “Video” section. Neither of the TV spots improves upon the trailer, which set a pretty low bar itself. “Photos” contains 24 stills from the movie, none of which feature Paris Hilton naked or being killed so don’t bother.

The rest of the site is pretty standard with “Synopsis”, “Story”, “Downloads” and more but there are two things I want to discuss.

First, “Mobile” is a step in the right direction by Warner Bros. Essentially you provide your cell phone number and you can gain access to wallpaper for your phone as well as alerts regarding the movie and information on showtimes. It’s nice to see a studio finally realizing this whole cell phone thing is more than just a trend and maybe – just maybe – a few people who would be interested in this movie (read: pre-teens/teens with disposable income) have them. It’s about time.

The other is another good step toward embracing new technologies, unfortunately that step was right into a cow-pie the size of, conservatively, New Hampshire. That step was a podcast by the aforementioned Paris Hilton. Paris is recording podcasts that ostensibly follow her on the promotional tour for “House of Wax”. At the time of this writing I’ve listened to the first two and can tell you without a moment’s hesitation that these have little to nothing to do with the movie. Instead, they are a big wet sloppy kiss given by Warner’s to Paris. She talks about David Letterman, she talks about how hard being on the road is and such but only rarely does she talk about the movie she’s promoting.


So I have problems with the content of the podcast but congratulate Warner Bros. on embracing the technology. Especially in their favor is the fact that they made the podcasts available via an RSS feed, so I could plug the feed into my RSS reader and get it delivered each day. Granted, I’m significantly less intelligent for the 13 minutes I spent listening to the two but that’s the price I pay for researching them for the column.

The trailers showed what they needed to show and work alright considering their target audience. I was surprised to see, though, that they didn’t play up Hilton’s role a tad more. The curiosity to see her bomb on-screen is going to drive people to this movie that otherwise might not have gone to the theater.

It’s a solid campaign that contains two tremendous stretches. It’s now up to the studios to jump on these and take them to the next level.

As moviemaking costs increase, the pressure to successfully market those movies becomes greater. In an attempt to show how marketers are trying to put the most hinders in the theater seats, Chris Thilk breaks down why some movie campaigns work and some don’t. The posters for “The Rocketeer” and “Unforgiven” remain two of his all-time favorites. For Chris’ ongoing movie journal and other various musings, visit his Movie Marketing Madness blog.

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