Marketing 'Psycho': Like a Nightmare

If getting banned in Boston ignites public curiosity, Universal Studios must be overjoyed about the prospects of its new Gus Van Sant thriller, "Psycho," which opens Friday in theaters nationwide. Earlier this month, posters promoting the remake of Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 classic were pulled down from subway stations and buses by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority following more than a dozen complaints from riders who were offended by the translucent image of a woman showering, with blood pooled near the bottom. "I guess they thought it was too sexy or erotic," said producer Brian Grazer, co-chairman of Imagine Entertainment. "I love the eroticism of it. I approved the poster." Once news of the poster banning hit the news media, college students throughout Boston went on Universal's Internet site requesting the posters. Universal and Imagine are targeting today's under-25 crowd as the key audience for the new "Psycho," which stars Vince Vaughn and Anne Heche. Universal initially weathered torrents of criticism in the media and among the public for remaking Hitchcock's film, so the studio mounted an aggressive advertising campaign to overcome the initial skepticism. "We put a teaser trailer in theaters real early in summer," Grazer said. "There were several horror films coming out about Halloween. What we wanted to do was get our teaser out long before those movies had played to signal to people, 'Hey, there is one really scary movie coming out, and it's our movie 'Psycho.' " The marketing campaign, explained sources close to the film, was designed as a "recurring nightmare"--jumping out at consumers and then disappearing. "It comes in waves and has tremendous intensity when it hits," said one studio source. Grazer said they specifically targeted viewers of the MTV Video Music Awards in the fall. "We were really on that show," Grazer said. "A lot of our audience is kids who are going to watch the MTV Awards. We wanted to get hooked into that."

A Rebound for Rock 'n' Roll?

It's turntables vs. guitars this week as albums from two rock bands with a history of strong sales arrive in stores along with another onslaught of high-powered rap releases. Rock has been, well, on the rocks this year as far as album sales, with the top of charts belonging mostly to pop divas, hip-hop acts and country singers, but the genre may get a boost Tuesday from Pearl Jam's first live album, "Live on Two Legs," and Metallica's "Garage Inc.," a two-disc collection of some of the band's favorite songs by other acts over the years. The latter includes a version of Bob Seger's "Turn the Page" that is already enjoying strong radio airplay. But more excitement seems to surround a new survey of Tupac Shakur's career and new releases from the RZA (who would love to join fellow Wu Tang Clan member Method Man in the Top 10), Compton rapper DJ Quik's new release and the first solo project from ace producer Timbaland. How will the rockers and rappers stack up? At the Tower outlet on the Sunset Strip, the early sales showed "RZA did real well, and then Pearl Jam," said store buyer Howard Krumholtz. "But Metallica looks like the No. 1 [of the new arrivals]."

KCET Aims Just a Little Higher

Having laid off seven employees several months ago and cut expenses in areas such as advertising and travel, public television station KCET-TV is "right on budget," reports Barbara Goen, vice president of communications. Asked whether further layoffs are contemplated, she says, "We have no way of knowing, but at the moment, no." This update comes as Southern California's flagship public-TV station begins a 16-day on-air pledge drive, hoping to raise $1,030,000. Why the odd number? Last year's goal was $1 million, but the station was able to raise $1,026,364, so KCET is upping the ante a hair. Fueling KCET's hopes this year is a potpourri of specials, primarily involving music. Among this week's specials is "Sinatra: Off the Record," airing Wednesday night and again Saturday night. The black-and-white show, which originally aired on CBS in 1965, has been updated with an introduction by Dan Rather. Other highlights include "Burt Bacharach: One Amazing Night" on Saturday night and repeating Sunday. Also on Sunday: "Cecilia Bartoli: Live in Italy," followed by "Christmas in Vienna." Down the road are "Bobby Darin: Beyond the Song," "John Denver: Let This Be a Voice" and "Great Performances: Pavarotti & Friends," with Celine Dion and Stevie Wonder, among others. KCET is also bringing in celebrity guests to appear during pledge breaks in conjunction with their programs. Among them: singer Monica Mancini, daughter of composer Henry Mancini, who sings her father's songs in "On Record" on Tuesday. Meanwhile, for the first time since 1980, KCET is holding a live gala auction Friday night from 7:30 to 10. Up for high-priced grabs during the "Ultimate Taste & Travel Auction" will be a five-night stay in a Chilean hacienda, a tour of the French Alps and six nights aboard a floating hotel on an as-yet-unnamed French waterway.

Compiled by Times staff writers and contributors.

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