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Universal teases The Flintstones a year in advance…

By Scott Mendelson It was no secret that Universal was planning a big-screen adaptation of The Flintstones for the summer of 1994. I remember actually being on the Universal lot while visiting a cousin in the winter of 1993 so I could shoot portions of a Bar Mitzvah movie (long story… another time) and being told by the Universal guy that if we got caught to say “We’re here working on stuff for The Flintstones… nobody knows what the plot is yet anyway.” But a six months later, as my dad and I watched the lights go down for our advance-night 10:00pm screening of Jurassic Park (arguably the best single movie going experience of my life… ask me about it next summer), we were stunned that Universal had already cooked up a teaser for the seemingly un-shot and certainly unfinished Flintstones feature. As you can see, it was basically just a bouncing ball version of the theme song, climaxing with an in-costume John Goodman screaming ‘Yabba-dabba-doo!’ at the top of his lungs. Let me tell you, the entire audience roared with applause and I admit I was caught up in the infectious excitement for a project I couldn’t really care less about. That was the start of something new.

I saw that preview on June 10th, 1993, just under a full year before the May 27th, 1994 Memorial Day weekend release date. I’m sure there were cases in the 1970s and early 1980s of big movies being teased well in advance because they weren’t being released wide to every theater at the same time. But in the wide-release, ‘coming soon to theaters everywhere’ era, this was a first. It was a calculated marketing campaign that started a year before the film was to be released. The Flintstones were the first to try such a long-dart shot, but they were not the last. Sony debuted the first Godzilla teaser with Men In Black over the 4th of July weekend in 1997, just under a year before the film’s Memorial Day 1998 debut (ironically, they would not debut a real trailer until April 3rd, 1998, attached to prints of Mercury Rising, just 6 weeks before the film’s release). Disney debuted a powerful and moving teaser for Pearl Harbor a year before its Memorial Day 2001 release, attached to prints of I believe The Patriot over the July 4th, 2000 weekend. Sony pulled the same trick with Spider-Man, releasing the now-infamous Twin Towers teaser in the middle of the summer of 2001 ahead of its May, 2002 release. And Spider-Man had a teaser attached for Universal’s Hulk, which was debuting 13 months later. And by the time Warner Bros. released the first tease of The Dark Knight in July of 2007 (merely haunting dialogue from Michael Caine, Christian Bale, and Heath Ledger set to the visual of an exploding bat symbol), it was all-but expected for the much-anticipated film to release a major piece of marketing a year in advance.

By the time The Dark Knight Rises came around, Warner Bros basically shot itself in the foot this summer by releasing a teaser in mid-July arguably before they were ready. But, for better or for worse, Universal started a trend of sorts with its uber-early debut of The Flintstones. Now, nineteen years later, it’s all but expected for major tentpoles to offer some kind of teaser or trailer a year in advance. I can’t say that’s a good thing; longer campaigns means more money spent on marketing as opposed to production or allocating funds to smaller films. But it is a ‘thing’… for now.

To read more go to Mendelson’s Memo

Photos by PRPhotos

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