When Paramount test-screened World Trade Center, the studio's altruistically conceived, non-exploitative attempt to keep fresh a five-year-old story hopelessly receding into a confusing blur of cable news footage with bad production values, they came to a startling realization: Teenagers might want to see this thing. Today's LAT details the steps Paramount's marketing department took in the aftermath of this epiphany, delivered to their promotional forebrain like a lightning bolt shot out of a plasma screen during an episode of Pimp My Ride:
"I remember back in 2001 when it happened on the news," said one 14-year-old girl. "I kept thinking, 'This isn't real; it's just one of those disaster movies.' This movie made me feel Sept. 11 was real for the first time." [...]
But for all the challenges Paramount Worldwide Marketing President Gerry Rich has faced on this project — chief among them, he says, is avoiding looking like "Hollywood trying to cash in" on a tragedy — he also caught an unexpected break. So favorable has been teenagers response to the film, Rich says, that Paramount completely reworked its $35-million marketing campaign to also court the most faithful and frequent moviegoing demographic: young people.
"Every generation has a defining moment," says the voice-over of a 30-second TV spot aimed at the under-25 crowd that began airing this week. The melodic "Fix You" by rock group Coldplay plays as the screen goes black and three words appear in stark white letters: "This Was Ours."
Indeed, we can think of no better way to avoid the appearance of untoward cashing in than by reworking an entire marketing campaign to target a demographic you've suddenly discovered has been tragically underdexploited by advertising for "serious" films, and for whom the appearance of Nic Cage trapped under rubble finally brings home the reality of a recent tragedy. We can only hope the tantalizing smell of teenager's discretionary income doesn't lead Paramount any further down the slippery slope of marketing exploitation, from the realm of Coldplay-scored TV trailers to WTC-themed ringtones of star Maggie Gyllenhaal weeping.