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Gridlock Ahead for Car Movie Fans

Gridlock Ahead for Car Movie Fans

When I was in Orlando a month ago, I was surprised by something I’d never witnessed before: NASCAR mania in the most everyday sense. My hotel room card key featured a NASCAR logo (I was in the “Official Hotel of NASCAR”). The soda vending machine also had a big NASCAR logo on it (it was the “Official Soft Drink of NASCAR”). Needless to say, it made me appreciate what I had kind of heard for years: the world of auto racing is HUGE. And, if you’re a Hollywood studio looking for an untapped market, this could provide a very valuable resource. Meanwhile, as I’ve been reading up on this summer’s big releases, I realize that Hollywood will be fighting for this auto enthusiast crowd with some very specific marketing attempts. Will car fanatics become the latest under-served market (see Christians, etc.) getting the hard sell from Hollywood?

(‘Cars,’ photo courtesy of Disney/Pixar)

What really brought this home for me was the news about the world premiere of Disney/Pixar’s new animated film Cars, at the Lowe’s Motor Speedway in North Carolina. From Cinematical: “Attending the event will be the movie’s voice stars Owen Wilson, Paul Newman, Larry the Cable Guy, and Richard Petty, along with director and Pixar god, John Lasseter. All of which begs the question: is Disney making a massive mistake by focusing their advertising so tightly on the motor sports crowd? Massive thought it undoubtedly is, I can’t imagine that audience alone will be enough to bring in the profits we’ve come to expect from Pixar productions.” In my opinion, Disney isn’t just focusing its advertising on this crowd… they don’t need to worry about the built-in crowds that know Pixar as a brand name. Plus, I doubt this is the only major marketing push we’ll see for the film leading up to its June release.

(‘Talladega Nights,’ photo courtesy of Sony Pictures)

Before reading this news about Cars, I read the piece in Entertainment Weekly‘s “Summer Movie Preview” about Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. The highly-anticipated Will Ferrell comedy comes to us from Sony, and promises to do for professional auto racers what Ferrell’s Anchorman did for TV journalists. Filmed at the same Lowe’s Motor Speedway, the film also promises to kick it into high gear when marketing the August release to the racing audience. From Entertainment Weekly: “Sony has already started its marketing engines. ‘I thought I’d never say this: I’m gonna be grand marshal at two races,’ Ferrell announces.”

(‘Tokyo Drift,’ photo courtesy of Universal Pictures)

One week after Cars hits theaters, Universal will unveil its third installment of the popular franchise: The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift. Directed by Justin (Better Luck Tomorrow) Lin, this sequel has just about nothing to do with the first two films. The auto action moves to Japan, and the cast has entirely changed. Now, odds are Universal will not need or want to push this film to the NASCAR set, seeing as how the whole point of a Fast and The Furious film, is street racing. In other words, there’s nothing pro about this stuff. Nevertheless, the film will obviously appeal to many of the same car fans who will have just thrown down cash to see Cars only days prior. The age range may be a little different, but overlap is inevitable.

This all seems even more timely considering the crazy gas prices we’re facing today. And, actually, that may help these films. Maybe the thought of cars running fast and furious on the big screen will seem like a fantasy more than ever. But, will car enthusiasts keep running laps for all these films? Or, will auto audiences just spend the summer getting overheated?

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