SBD/September 23, 2011/Media

Sony Hoping Power Of Brad Pitt's Brand Will Drive "Moneyball" At Box Office

Writer notes Pitt remains one of the few actors who is a brand unto himself
As the film adaptation of Michael Lewis' bestselling book “Moneyball” hits theaters this weekend, Sony Pictures is “hoping to buck the Hollywood wisdom that star-driven sports dramas have limited appeal in this country and do virtually no business overseas,” according to Fritz & Sperling of the L.A. TIMES. Sony “isn't selling a baseball movie,” it is “selling Brad Pitt,” who stars as A’s GM Billy Beane. It is an “unusual move in an age when movie stars no longer guarantee huge box-office returns and are often upstaged by such brand names” as "Transformers" and "Harry Potter." But Pitt “remains one of the few actors who is a brand unto himself.” Fritz & Sperling note it is “no wonder that the superstar's face and name are as prominent as the film's title on the posters and billboards.” The trailers and most of the commercials promoting the movie “focus almost entirely on the emotional journey” of Pitt's character and the “romance of baseball.” Plot points “about Beane's use of statistical analysis to field a team by focusing on players' ability to get on base are intentionally minimized in the marketing campaign.” A Sony spokesperson declined to discuss "Moneyball" marketing efforts. But the movie's promotional materials “make clear that the studio believes audiences will connect with Pitt's Beane, a single father and charming underdog who triumphs over adversity.” Still, in promoting the picture Sony is “making sure to cover all its bases.” It is running ads on ESPN “during sports games that lean more heavily on the film's baseball elements, and is sponsoring fantasy baseball websites.” In addition, before "Moneyball's" premiere Monday night in Oakland, the cast did interviews at the A's O.co Coliseum. To help “draw in women, the studio is also running TV spots on the Lifetime Network” and during Fox' "Glee." Sources who have seen pre-audience surveys estimate that "Moneyball" is “expected to open with a box-office take between $15 million and slightly more than $20 million.” That means the film “will have to generate strong word of mouth to keep it in theaters for many weeks to come to be a sizable hit” (L.A. TIMES, 9/23).

BOX OFFICE HIT: In L.A., Amy Kaufman wrote the film will “fight for the No. 1 spot against last weekend's surprise winner,” the 3-D version of “The Lion King,” and a new family film, “Dolphin Tale.” "Moneyball," which some pundits “have already singled out as an awards contender, has so far earned exceptionally positive reviews from critics” (LATIMES.com, 9/22). DAILY VARIETY’s Andrew Stewart wrote the film “could attract enough adult moviegoers to win the weekend,” and it “should appeal to primarily over-25 male” audiences. Sony is “de-emphasizing the opening weekend's impact to the overall prospects” for "Moneyball." As with "The Social Network," the studio “anticipates that ‘Moneyball,’ budgeted at a reported $50 million, will develop similar legs, based on strong reviews coming out of the Toronto Film Festival” (VARIETY.com, 9/22). The HOLLYWOOD REPORTER’s Pamela McClintock noted tracking shows the movie is “in the lead heading into the weekend, with a projected opening gross in the high teens to low $20 million range.” The film “benefits from strong interest among males and older females” (HOLLYWOODREPORTER.com, 9/22).

THE POWER OF PITT: In Sacramento, Ailene Voisin wrote people will buy tickets “because Pitt has the starring role, not because they're captivated by a small-market franchise and a clever GM who almost developed a formula for toppling the rich and powerful New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, etc” (SACBEE.com, 9/20). “Moneyball” Director Bennett Miller said of Pitt appearing on the cover of SI this week, “I'm not that much of a marketer, but it would seem that it's a great thing. … When I heard that (Pitt would be on the cover), I think that actually excited me more than any other news like that. I thought that was really cool” (ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 9/22).
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