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PepsiCo Signs $2-Billion Deal With Lucasfilm

TIMES STAFF WRITER

No, Yoda will not be shown taking swigs from a can of Pepsi in “The Empire Strikes Back.”

But the Hype--er, Force--will definitely be with PepsiCo Inc., which Wednesday said it has signed on for a $2-billion promotional tie-in with special editions of the “Star Wars” movies.

The multiyear alliance is billed as the biggest in entertainment history and dwarfs even the several hundred million dollars that Coca-Cola Co. will reportedly spend trumpeting its connection with the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.

“I don’t recall anything that even comes close,” said Don Jagoda, who heads a promotional marketing agency in Melville, N.Y. “I think it’s predestined to be a tremendous success.”

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Complete with digitally enhanced soundtracks and new footage, the “Star Wars” films will return to movie screens beginning next February to mark the 20th anniversary of George Lucas’ wildly successful trilogy about a ragtag rebel force battling Darth Vader’s wicked empire.

Lucasfilm Ltd., based in San Rafael, Calif., and PepsiCo, with headquarters in Purchase, N.Y., said they will take advantage of Pepsi’s global reach--with soft drinks, snacks and restaurants--and the universally popular “Star Wars” property to tout the films to a new generation that has been able to watch them only on the small screen.

“Taking a unified campaign around the world . . . has never been tried,” said Gordon Radley, Lucasfilm president. “It’s a clean slate.”

The agreement will kick off next February with the encore run of “Star Wars,” which will be followed closely by re-releases of “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi.” The alliance will also run through the anticipated 1999 release of the first of Lucas’ new “Star Wars” “prequel” films, set to begin shooting next year.

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PepsiCo Chief Executive Roger A. Enrico said the $2 billion would cover licensing arrangements, royalties and exclusive rights to represent the films in its beverages, snacks and restaurants. It will also pay for promotions on and in packages of Pepsi beverages and Frito-Lay snack products, restaurant decor in the KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell chains and merchandise giveaways. The company typically spends $1.25 billion a year on advertising.

Ira Mayer, publisher of Entertainment Marketing Letter, a New York-based newsletter about promotional tie-ins, expressed some skepticism about the $2-billion figure but said: “It’s huge, clearly. It makes a lot of sense. ‘Star Wars’ is one of the few properties that does have worldwide appeal and transcends cultural barriers.”


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