EXHIBITIONS: Road movies - With a Titanic Movie Tour set to open at Wembley and a Star Trek road show due soon, Hollywood is embracing live events. Brian Oliver reports

Millions of UK consumers have seen the movie, and then gone on to buy the video, book, CD and T-shirt too. Now, they’re being offered a chance to experience the drama for themselves when Titanic: The Official Movie Tour steams into the Wembley Conference and Exhibition Centre in December.

Millions of UK consumers have seen the movie, and then gone on to

buy the video, book, CD and T-shirt too. Now, they’re being offered a

chance to experience the drama for themselves when Titanic: The Official

Movie Tour steams into the Wembley Conference and Exhibition Centre in

December.



At the same time, ’trekkies’ will have an opportunity to beam themselves

aboard a replica of the Starship Enterprise when the Star Trek World

Tour hits warp speed. There have also been smaller scale exhibitions

based on the James Bond and Batman films.



Disney has been offering movie-based live attractions at its theme parks

for many years. But the Titanic and Star Trek interactive exhibitions

are seen as a new step in the global promotion and merchandising of

major films and TV shows. As well as providing a high-profile marketing

platform, they create a brand extension in the form of a different type

of product - a live experience - which can milk yet more profit from the

film.



Following its world premiere at Wembley, Titanic: The Official Movie

Tour will dock at 15 major cities around the world over the next five

years. Charging pounds 12 a ticket and hoping to draw big crowds at each

stop, it promises to be a valuable money-spinner.



Paramount Pictures’ Star Trek World Tour has a similar programme,

although it will take off from Dusseldorf and will not land in the UK

until stardate 2000.



Produced by Hollywood-based Special Entertainment Events Inc - under

licence from Twentieth Century Fox - the 2800sq m Titanic exhibition

aims to take visitors on a behind-the-scenes adventure which includes

actual sets and props, purpose-built interactive displays and

demonstrations of special effects used in the film. There is also a

large collection of Titanic costumes as worn by the film’s stars

including Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet.



Film-based adventures



Visitors will also have the chance to participate in re-creations of

memorable scenes from the blockbuster film - such as the final moments

of the fateful voyage - as well as take photographs of themselves flying

on the bow of the ship. They will be able to dine in the opulent

surroundings of a replica of the Titanic’s first-class dining saloon and

can buy Titanic merchandise from an Edwardian-themed retail area.



’It’s an adventure that works on different levels for different people,’

says Carl Lumbard, retail development manager for Twentieth Century Fox

Licensing & Merchandising Europe. ’Even if some people are not huge fans

of the movie, they might be interested in the film’s historical

links.’



Tour of booty



Lumbard claims that the Titanic tour takes film licensing into a new

market. Like most Hollywood studios, Twentieth Century Fox has

previously licensed merchandise rights for products such as gifts and

clothing. ’This is the first time a licensing deal has been done to

re-create a major movie as a touring interactive exhibition,’ he

says.



Meanwhile, the Star Trek World Tour is based on the Star Trek Experience

attraction which opened at the Hilton Hotel in Las Vegas last

January.



Visitors are beamed aboard the Starship Enterprise and find themselves

on a replica of the spaceship’s famous bridge. They then take part in a

scripted live action story with actors dressed in Star Trek

uniforms.



This includes flying through space in a shuttle and participating in

space battles, before flying into a ’wormhole’ in space and returning to

Earth.



’It’s not just a ride, it’s reality - a themed experience,’ says Simon

Hewitt, managing director of Viacom Consumer Products, which is

responsible for licensing Paramount’s films and TV shows.



Hewitt claims Paramount is leading the way in developing this kind of

non-traditional licensing of film properties.



The studio has already licensed themed restaurants based on Forrest Gump

and the TV show Cheers. ’Unlike Disney and Warner Brothers, we don’t own

the rights to lots of cartoon characters which are much easier to

merchandise than movie stars. So we have to be more inventive.’



Lois Jacobs, managing director of live communications agency Caribiner,

views the Titanic event as a ’fun idea’. She sees this kind of

’walk-through’ interactive experience being used for more corporate

meetings in place of conventional auditorium-based events. ’It is

involving and is increasingly made possible by the easy and relatively

cost-effective access to technology,’ she says.



However, Richard Zucker, managing partner of In Real Life, a live

experience company, warns that the producers of a movie-themed

interactive exhibition could end up diminishing the film’s unique cachet

if they don’t get it right. ’You can’t necessarily re-create the full

magic of a movie or a TV programme when trying to bring it to life,’ he

says. ’With Titanic, for example, people may have high expectations in

terms of the experience - and then be disappointed.’



He adds: ’The creativity is in not trying to replicate literally what is

seen on the screen. You need to provide an additional insight.’



Timing the tour right



Some film companies are not particularly enthusiastic about using a

touring event as a marketing medium or a brand extension. Warner

Brothers has organised a Batman exhibition, but such activities are not

high on its marketing department’s priority list.



’These kind of events appeal to people who are crazy about the film or

TV show anyway,’ says Ian George, director of marketing at Warner Bros

Distributors. ’I have some doubts about whether they can help to broaden

a film’s appeal to a more marginal audience.’



United International Pictures (UIP) - which distributes Paramount,

Universal, MGM-UA and Dreamworks - has already set up a small-scale

touring exhibition featuring props and memorabilia from the James Bond

films. It was launched prior to the release of the latest Bond movie,

Tomorrow Never Dies.



Ken Green, UIP’s director of marketing, observes: ’Provided the timing

is right, it is another area of exposure which is good for us and the

video company, book publisher and licensing division.’



However, he feels this technique is more suitable for films which are

part of a series - such as Star Trek and James Bond - rather than

one-off movies that don’t have the phenomenal appeal of a Titanic. He

says: ’I can’t see anyone wanting to stage an interactive exhibition of

The Full Monty.’



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