Props for Sale - Business 2.0
Feature films are rarely launched without a companion website. The latest offer not only a sneak peek at the trailer and other tidbits, but a chance to buy a real piece of the action through online auctions. Think eBay, Hollywood-style. Like Brad Pitt's outfit in a fight scene? Now you can bid for it, sweat stains and all.
Even though such auctions generate a mere pittance in the world of moviemaking, they do generate something more valuable: cheap viral marketing to an engaged fan base. New Line Cinema wouldn't think of an opening without one. Its success began with Austin Powers sequel in 1999 - which coincidentally also generated the single biggest movie auction purchase, $121,000 for the Union Jack-painted "Shaguar" driven by Heather Graham in the movie. Many predict that the big auction this year will take place in December for the big screen version of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings.
"When we started this with Austin Powers, we really didn't know we were going to do this, and things were not organized and saved," says Nevin Shalit, vice president of New Media projects at New Line. "But for Lord of the Rings, we let them know from the get-go." You can bet that virtual every bit of costume, production sketch, and piece of memorabilia that can be scoured from the 18-month shoot in New Zealand is being collected.
Fox, Warner Brothers, and Disney have all taken the plunge. "These auctions are a great way to generate digital excitement, get some added publicity, and also a little revenue," Shalit says. "Obviously, it's nothing compared to the overall gross of a film. But previously, these items would have been storied indefinitely in a warehouse, perhaps reused or given to theater groups. This is a nice way to monetize some really great valuables."