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To market 'G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra,' Paramount wraps it in the American flag

August 3, 2009 |  8:12 am

YoJoe

When Paramount Pictures was promoting its remake of "Star Trek" in May, one of the studio's biggest publicity coups was a cover story in Newsweek magazine. The article even explicitly drew a parallel between the franchise and the Obama administration, comparing the president to Spock.

With "G.I. Joe: the Rise of Cobra," Paramount's second attempt to revive a moribund brand as a big-screen series, you won't be seeing any Newsweek cover articles. In fact, that's pretty much the studio's worst nightmare.

As an article in today's Times explains, Paramount's approach for "G.I. Joe" is blue-collar, red state, and all-American. Although the movie dispenses with the '80s cartoon, comic book and toy line's "Real American Hero" tagline -- that wouldn't play well in crucial international markets -- it's being promoted heavily to the military and in smaller markets that don't usually see big-budget event films pushed so aggressively.

"Our starting point for this movie is not Hollywood and Manhattan, but rather mid-America," Paramount Vice Chairman Rob Moore said. "There are a group of people we think are going to respond to the movie who are normally not the first priority. But we're making them a priority."

How? For one thing, there's no Hollywood premiere, but there was one Friday at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, complete with stars, a red carpet, and an audience mostly made up of military service personnel and their families. That's going to be a tough crowd to compete with for critics who, Paramount expects, will probably be bashing the picture later this week.

The movie also had no presence at Comic-Con, despite the presence of hard-core fans of the comic book and toys who packed panels devoted to those products.

It has all left many people in Hollywood mystified because the movie is, by and large, not on their personal radar. "In L.A. our focus isn't Hollywood and Century City," noted Moore. "It's Ontario." (And he means the Ontario the dusty Los Angeles suburb, not the Canadian province).

Nobody in Hollywood who follows pre-release audience polling, however, can ignore the results. With very strong interest among males, "G.I. Joe" is tracking to open to at least $50 million, according to two executives at competing studios. Pretty good for a movie that cost $175 million to produce and will likely do strong business overseas as well.

For much more on Paramount's unusual marketing strategy for "G.I. Joe," as well as how the studio is turning that approach on its head in foreign countries, check out the article in today's Times.

-- Ben Fritz

Photo: "G.I. Joe" stars Rachel Nichols, Marlon Wayans, Channing Tatum and Sienna Miller at the film's U.S. debut screening on Andrews Air Force Base on Friday. Credit: Kris Connor / Getty Images.

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