LOS ANGELES – Times sure have changed in the 19 years since Harrison Ford last donned the signature fedora of thrill-seeking archaeologist Indiana Jones. The viral spread of the trailer for "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" is proof of that.
The trailer for the May 22 release has drawn highly enthusiastic responses in theaters. But it may have had its biggest impact online, on a younger audience that may not think of Ford, 65, as equal to today's spry action heroes.
After premiering Feb. 14 on "Good Morning America," Lucasfilm and Viacom Inc.'s Paramount Pictures sent the trailer to the Web, plus movie theaters and TV stations around the world. Paramount estimates the trailer was seen more than 200 million times worldwide in the first week alone.
Harry Knowles, who runs the movie fan site AintItCool.com (his official title is Head Geek), says he first saw a bootleg version of the trailer online, then the official version online, and then saw it twice in theaters.
There were cheers in the theater when the familiar theme song kicked in, Knowles said, and comments on his Web site have been positive. "People generally really, really loved the trailer," he said. "Some people think it's a little more cartoonish-looking compared to the prior (films), with him whipping the lights and swinging on them and stuff. But at the same time, it seems that everyone is extremely excited that there's a new 'Indiana Jones' film. The excitement for it is palpable. It's much more aggressively anticipated than anything else that's coming out right now."
"The trailer caught on like wildfire, around the world, in all mediums," said Gerry Rich, Paramount's president of worldwide marketing, who's targeting moviegoers "from 8 to 80. The response has been sensational and it shows what technology can do when you have material that is so appealing to audiences."
Older audiences certainly remember Indy, but that's not the prime ticket-buying demographic. Thus the aggressive online campaign, which included what Paramount says is a record 4.1 million views on the Yahoo movie site in the first week and 2.6 million on the official IndianaJones.com site, the most ever for the studio.
"It looks to be THE highly anticipated movie of the summer," said Mark Mazrimas, marketing manager for independent theater chain Classic Cinemas. However, "this hasn't been on the screen for so long, (the challenge) is capturing the youth."
The brainchild of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, the franchise kicked off with "Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark" in 1981, followed by "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" three summers later. "The Last Crusade" was released in 1989, boosting the worldwide box office total to $1.2 billion.
Now, with the buzz sparked, Rich — who declined to make opening weekend predictions — just wants to keep fans' attention: "The (only) negative comment from people was that they have to wait until May to see the movie."