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Disney geeks out, plots 'theater domination' for 'Prince of Persia'

May 4, 2010 |  8:00 am

Producer Jerry Bruckheimer had never been to a fan boy convention before. But, suddenly last month he found himself the center of attention at Wonder-Con in San Franciso's Moscone Center, where nearly 5,000 comic book aficionados waited in long lines to get sneak peeks of footage from his upcoming summer films "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time" and "Sorcerer's Apprentice."

Bruckheimer appeared almost awed by the reception as many attendees snapped photos of him from their cell phones as if they were at a rock concert. Of course, the stars of his films, "Prince of Persia's" Jake Gyllenhaal and Nicolas Cage from "Sorcerer's Apprentice" got their photo ops. But, for Bruckheimer, the event was illustrative of a new marketing push at Disney.

The producer said he was thrilled when Disney proposed that he attend this year's Wonder-Con , a gathering of 35,000 predominantly male comic book fans.

"Disney came to me and said, "Let's go to Wonder-Con' ... I was jumping up and down," said Bruckheimer. who recognizes the importance of enticing this group, who are the target audience for the movies. That's why Bruckheimer also will attend the biggest of the costumed-hero geek fests, San Diego's Comic-Con, in July.

Disney studio chairman Rich Ross has assured Bruckheimer that the studio would "kill for the movie," referring to the marketing blitz the studio has planned for the $200 million big-screen adaptation of the video game series that teams Gyllenhaal with up and comer Gemma Arteton.

No one will miss that "Prince of Persia" opens in theaters on May 28.

"We're not doing a Merchant Ivory movie," Ross said, referring to the long-time independent film making duo Ismail Merchant and James Ivory known for low-budget art-house films. "We're doing a Jerry Bruckheimer movie."

Bruckheimer, who like all powerful producers works closely with the studio on movie campaigns, suggested that in creating the promotional materials for "Prince of Persia," Disney executives should take a page from Warner Bros.' playbook on "Sherlock Holmes." Last December, the rival studio mounted a huge in-theater promotion for the Robert Downey Jr. remake that impressed Bruckheimer.

Disney plans a similar blitz -- which Ross refers to as "theater domination," with bold, out-sized images from the movie plastered all over cinema walls, ceilings, staircases, elevator doors and even the automated ticket machines in shopping mall parking garages in the country's 30 top markets.

As the summer gets underway, the Disney buzz machine will shift its attention to "Sorcerer's Apprentice," which opens on July 16.

Meanwhile, Bruckheimer is prepping the next installment of the Pirates franchise, "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides," which begins production June 14 in Hawaii. The sequel, which continues the saga of Capt. Jack Sparrow, will be delivered under tighter budget constraints.

The producer also is developing a third "National Treasure" movie and a big-screen treatment of the radio and TV western series "The Lone Ranger," with Johnny Depp as Tonto.

--Dawn C. Chmielewski and Claudia Eller

PHOTO: Thomas DuPont, left, and Jake Gyllenhaal  do battle in a scene from  "PRINCE OF PERSIA: THE SANDS OF TIME". Credit: Photographer Andrew Cooper.