NEW YORK – Photos of Tom Cruise's first date with Penelope Cruz were published around the world, but peeks at his upcoming movie Minority Report have been rare and movie producers hope the exclusivity is making fans salivate for opening day.
Twentieth Century Fox released never-before-seen photos throughout the week, on their Web site, and on other sites that offered mind-bending clues as to where the next picture would be posted, building excitement for the film's June 21 release.
This online scavenger hunt is just the latest example of subtle marketing on the Web that movies like A.I.: Artificial Intelligence, Planet of the Apes and X-Men have utilized to pump up excitement before they hit the big screen.
"Advertising and the Internet are a really uncomfortable match in many cases," said Robert Thompson, pop culture professor at Syracuse University. "However, in the case of marketing movies, the Internet and movie marketing is a match made in heaven."
Pre-release photos, plot details and especially intricate games online give hardcore fans a chance to get the inside scoop on a film — and for potential fans to get hooked.
The wildly successful film, The Blair Witch Project, was one of the first movies to use the Web to orchestrate a successful viral marketing campaign by dropping "secret" hints about the film.
And people love to have insider information, said Thompson.
"If you can go to work or the playground and you've got secret information that no one else has, you can be a big shot," he said. "And for the studios it's great — like getting foot soldiers to take the info they've found and show it off."
The Web game designed to boost audience interest in A.I.: Artificial Intelligence, one of last summer's most-hyped movies, created immense interest.
The game, a "viral marketing" or grassroots promotional campaign, was part of a broader movie-marketing scheme that Warner Bros. spent an estimated $1 million on. And the multi-faceted game attracted a subculture to a film they otherwise might have rejected as too mainstream.
Twentieth Century Fox hopes fans are just as hyped for Minority Report.
"There is a frenzy among certain niche audiences. There's a big action movie and sci-fi contingency and the Internet allows you to be very specific in targeting [it]," Jeffrey Godsick, executive vice president of publicity for Twentieth Century Fox, said.
"Excitement for a movie is created by strategy and the movie itself," he said. "In the case of Minority Report you've got Tom Cruise, the biggest movie star in the world, [Steven] Spielberg, and it's the first time they're ever working together. [There are] a lot of components you can see that would be driving people to want to see more."
Although A.I. — also directed by Spielberg — had an incredibly infectious pre-release buzz, the box-office results didn't live up to the hype. Audiences and critics simply didn't take to the film despite all the online chatter.
"In the end the movie has to deliver," said Thompson. "If people see the movie and the general consensus is that it's a dog, all the secret hidden photos in the world won't help it."
News Corp. is the parent company of Twentieth Century Fox and of FOXNews.com.