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TK's MORNING BUZZ: Universal's Mighty Marketing Machine Turned an Uphill Battle Promoting 'The Grinch's' Video Debut Into a Holiday Record Rout

27 Nov, 2001 By: Thomas K. Arnold

I don't have a good track record predicting the success or failure of moviesor home video releases. I'll admit that now. For instance, I bet Stephane Prange, our executive editor, that Monsters, Inc. would beat Harry Potter andthe Sorcerer's Stone at the box office, and that Monsters Inc. would gross more than $200 million while Harry wouldn't.

I haven't lost yet, but there are, well, indications that perhaps I do owe Ms. Prange a bagel, or whatever it was we bet (editor's note: it was lunch at one of Orange County's better restaurants).

In any case, I was convinced the folks at Universal Studios Home Video werefacing an uphill battle, promoting the video debut of Dr. Seuss' How theGrinch Stole Christmas, and I told them so. It was a year-old movie -- albeit the largest grossing movie in 2000 -- with mixed reviews, and in light of all the other, more recent high-profile titles coming to video, I feared Grinchmight get lost in the shuffle.

OK, I was wrong. Dead-wrong. Universal just announced The Grinch sold 8.5million copies its first week in stores, generating $145 million in consumer spending. In the first-week sales sweepstakes, that makes it the biggest holiday video release of all time, and the second-biggest live-action video release to Titanic.

I don't know how these numbers stack up against, say, Shrek, since the only figures we got on that title were for sales in the first three days (7 million units, $110 million in consumer spending).

But let's just say The Ginch has been wildly success, and my reputation as a horrible odds-maker stands.

Of course, in my defense, I wasn't counting on Universal's incrediblemarketing machine. The studio saturated prime-time television with enticingGrinch spots, held a gala charity event in Hollywood to celebrate its release and engineered a series of exclusive cross-promotions with big video sellers like Kmart and Target that gave the title lots and lots of extra visibility.

One must also factor in the times, and the public's affinity of all thingsfantastical and entertaining. Shrek, Monsters, Harry Potter, The Phantom Menace and now The Grinch -- perfect escapist fare, at a time when reality programming on television is sliding in the ratings.

We may not see a "Survivor 4" (based on the latest installment's ratings), butyou can bet the farm we'll see a Shrek II and maybe even a second Grinch. It may sound impossible to pull off, but given these numbers, there's bound to be a way.

Comments? Contact TK directly at:TKArnold@aol.com

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