If there's one thing filmmakers and studio executives love, it's a film with "legs"--in industry jargon, that means staying power at the box office. But now it looks like 20th Century Fox's soon-to-be-released horror-comedy film, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," has legs of a different sort.
For the past month, Fox has been plastering countless billboards, theater lobbies and sides of buses throughout the country with posters showing a woman's legs and the line: "She knows a sucker when she sees one" promoting the movie, which opens July 31. And just how popular are the legs? Well, recently rival Columbia Pictures started using a similar design for their international posters and trade ads promoting the studio's "A League of Their Own." And some in Fox's marketing department are crying foul.
One Fox marketing staffer insisted that Columbia executives liked the "Buffy" ad so much that they instructed their art department to copy the ad. But Columbia executives strongly deny the accusations.
"Yes, there is a similarity. Believe me, it's a pure coincidence, " says Columbia TriStar's senior vice president Duncan Clark. "I'd like to think that we've got more going for us than to steal another studio's campaign."
According to Andrea Jaffe, Fox's president of domestic marketing, the Buffy "legs" campaign has been in the works since the film was in production last spring. Although she admits that "the ads are very similar," Jaffe wouldn't speculate on whether or not the idea was lifted by the Columbia marketing department. "If they did, it's a major form of a compliment," she says. "It doesn't bother me because our campaign was out there first. It's like a one-joke thing. If any other studio wanted to adapt it, I don't have a problem with it."
"There's a strategic reason why we decided to (use the baseball player's legs)," Columbia TriStar's Clark says. "Internationally, baseball is a difficult subject to position in the marketplace and sell. The legs seemed like an attractive way to go."
Incidentally, the translation on the "A League of Their Own" Spanish poster reads: "Once in a lifetime, the opportunity comes along to do something completely different."
In this case, it looks like the opportunity came along to do something . . . not so different at all.