Paramount waves the flag for ‘G.I. Joe’ marketing campaign

Aug. 03, 2009 | 9:41 p.m.

Major studios usually turn to New York and Los Angeles for high-glitz American premieres and press events, especially for their huge summer popcorn films. But for its new “G.I. Joe” project, Paramount Pictures retreated from the coasts and set its sights on an audience with a  fashion sense defined by blue collars, NASCAR ballcaps and camouflage pants. Claudia Eller and Ben Fritz have the story on the cover of the Los Angeles Times Business section today.

GI Joe armed and ready

Nearly 1,000 service members and their families at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland got to see something Friday night that very few people in Hollywood have seen — “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra,” the last big-budget action movie of the summer.

Paramount Pictures gave the movie its homeland premiere at the base for Air Force One, flying out its stars Channing Tatum, Sienna Miller and Marlon Wayans for a helicopter tour, meetings with the base commander and airmen, and a red carpet replete with paparazzi and billowing American flags.

Launching the film to a military audience is just one part of a highly atypical marketing and publicity campaign for “G.I. Joe,” which opens nationwide and in most foreign markets this Friday. Paramount is sidestepping the traditional Hollywood showcase and courting of the national print media in favor of taking the picture directly to America’s heartland.”G.I. Joe” is embedded in the Kid Rock and Lynyrd Skynyrd concert tour, advertised at the Country Music Television Awards and excerpted on giant video screens at Minnesota’s Mall of America. It is bombarding Kansas City, Charlotte, Columbus and Grand Rapids on new digital billboards.

Sienna Milelr floats

The subtext is none too subtle: Critics are likely to roast the film, and fanboys of the original toy line and comic book may be indifferent, but if you’re a flag-waving, NASCAR-loving American, it’s practically your patriotic duty to see this movie.

Paramount’s decision to focus so heavily on just one segment of the audience illustrates — in a market increasingly fragmented by demographics and swayed by word of mouth via Twitter, text messages and Facebook updates — the lengths to which studios will go to maximize early exposure among audiences most likely to embrace a film and minimize it for everyone else.

“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.”

Yet overseas, where big action films often earn 60% or more of their ticket sales, rah-rah American sentiment doesn’t play well. So those references have vanished from the advertising …

THERE’S MORE, READ THE REST

– Claudia Eller and Ben Fritz

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CREDITS: Top, Actors Rachel Nichols and Marlon Wayans ride on a Humvee during the homeland movie premiere Friday for “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra” at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, home of Air Force One. Bottom: “G.I. Joe” star Sienna Miller arrives on a Royal Marine inflatable boat July 22 to promote the movie in London. Both photos from Getty Images. “Team America” photo — Paramount Pictures.

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