After Super Bowl quagmire, will Hollywood rethink big-game spending?


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Perhaps the best that can be said of the movie spots during the Super Bowl last night is that no one’s talking about them. Amid a mind-numbing and often-banal parade of the Dorito-loving and the pant-less, the spots for films like ‘The Prince of Persia’ and ‘Alice in Wonderland’ generally escaped scorn, if also good mention of any kind.

The ‘Shutter Island’ ad was probably the most compelling of the bunch, and it had been shown before. ‘The Wolfman,’ which took just 15 seconds to make its Gothic, shape-shifting points instead of the trailer’s minute-and-a-half, was a fine if unremarkable reminder of the Del Toro-fest set to premiere this Friday. ‘Alice in Wonderland’ was intriguing but cryptic and overly ‘Where the Wilds Things Are’; it may simply be too hard to showcase the weird brilliance of Tim Burton in 30 seconds (at least we hope that’s the reason). ‘The Prince of Persia’ ad was entirely forgettable.


It’s a curious crossroads for the film business and its Super Bowl involvement, which was already on the wane this year. Many movies will doubtless see little direct effect from their budget-chomping spots. (It’s telling that, in contrast to a few years ago, most of the movies advertised are opening in the coming weeks, not this spring or summer; it’s certainly not the platform for a big unveiling that it once was). And if ‘Iron Man 2’ and other franchises sitting on the sidelines open to big business despite their big-game absence, it will further raise questions about the wisdom of spending so big for pieces of marketing that, creatively and commercially, do so little.

Film culture did find its way into the spots, some of it in the better ads. ‘National Lampoon’s Vacation’ made a (sort of) subtle appearance in a Homeaway ad reference to the ‘80s comedy classic. Bridgestone nodded to a modern comedy classic with its ‘Hangover’-inspired use of a killer whale. And memories of ‘This Is Spinal Tap’ came flooding back with Christopher Guest’s commercial for the Census Bureau.’ In the future, the best way Super Bowl commercials could be about the movies is not to be about the movies.

--Steven Zeitchik