SBJ/September 12-18, 2011/People and Pop Culture

MLB helps ‘Moneyball’ get the baseball right

As MLB’s regular season winds down, the league is teaming with Sony Pictures to launch and market the film “Moneyball,” which opens Sept. 23.

Based on the 2003 best-seller by Michael Lewis, “Moneyball” chronicles the travails of Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane, who uses sabermetrics to build a winning team on a shoestring budget.

Lewis also wrote “The Blind Side,” which was turned into a hit movie in 2009 and grossed more than $300 million worldwide.

The studio is hoping the combination of Brad Pitt’s star power and meticulous attention to authenticity and detail in the baseball scenes will help deliver a hit to mainstream movie audiences. To ensure accuracy, the studio used a combination of re-enactments and archival footage of MLB action, often editing them together. The result, says one MLBer working with the studio, is a new standard for realism within the baseball film genre.

Brad Pitt stars as Oakland A’s GM Billy Beane in the movie, set to open Sept. 23.
“Because of that insistence on authenticity by the studio and on our part, we really think everyone will agree that this raises the bar to a new level of credibility and accuracy,” said Nick Trotta, senior library and licensing manager at MLB Productions, who worked with the studio over the past two years.

Marketing of the film is a joint effort. Sony Pictures has purchased ad inventory on MLB television rights holders, including behind-the-plate electronic signage. MLB websites carried a sweepstakes offering a trip and tickets to the movie’s Sept. 19 Oakland premiere, which will be followed by a benefit dinner. The A’s specifically are offering “Moneyball” tickets as a gift-with-purchase to anyone who bought a field-level ticket to the team’s game this Sunday, at which the first 10,000 fans will get a Pepsi Max “Moneyball” T-shirt. A handful of other MLB clubs will promote the film within their ballparks, with ads and “lucky row” promotions. In addition, MLB’s “This Week In Baseball” is doing a segment on the film.

WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING

Early buzz  about the film, with its high-profile cast of Pitt as Beane, Philip Seymour Hoffman as manager Art Howe and Jonah Hill as one of Beane’s statisticians, is solid. At a screening for the A’s, the reviews were mostly positive, according to the San Jose Mercury News. “They gussied it up some,” A’s equipment manager Steve Vucinich said. “But that’s Hollywood, and that’s OK. For the most part, it was pretty true.”  The Hollywood Reporter wrote, “Someone who doesn’t even like the sport may care about Billy Beane and the 2002 Oakland Athletics.”
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