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Audiences, Ads and the Selling of a 'Princess'

August 19, 1995

In reference to the article " 'Little Princess' Has Lackluster Return" (Calendar, Aug. 10), I would like to correct both a quote and an overall impression attributed to me. First of all, I never said that the original advertising of "A Little Princess" was "atrocious"; I said that the original poster of "A Little Princess" was "atrocious." There is a big difference. Both Alfonso Cuaron, the director, and I not only agreed with, but also enthusiastically endorsed, all of the Warner Bros. generated sales material (ie. theatrical trailer, television spots). Our only quarrel was with the poster.

Secondly, the impression that I was at odds with the Warner Bros. marketing staff is blatantly false. The mistakes that were made (and even the decisions that were correct) in the process of selling "A Little Princess" were made by all of us together. At no point was I at odds with any of the Warners marketing staff, many of whom I consider to be true friends and who sincerely share my disappointment in the theatrical release of our movie.

MARK JOHNSON, Producer, Hollywood

****

Articles faulting Warner Bros. for the methods of marketing of "A Little Princess" are widespread, self-assured and wrong. In fact, Warner Bros. should be commended for having the willingness to try a second campaign.

Let's ask ourselves, who would get up in the morning and tell anyone, "I would like to see a movie entitled 'A Little Princess'?" Possibly a few girls aged 3 to 8. That's it. Not the world's largest audience. . .

No boys. No adults. No dating couples.

My wife and I took two of our granddaughters, ages 10 and 12, to see it. They liked it OK and so did we. But their favorite non-animation movie of all time is "Speed." They are too old to slow down for princesses.

Actually Warner Bros. publicity and advertising departments valiantly "sold" this film when there was no possible meaningful market for it. If it was produced in the belief it could turn a profit in the U.S. theatrical market, it should not have been.

JULIAN MYERS, Century City

****

Your analysis of the box-office failure of "A Little Princess" was right on the money. I had hoped that the film's re-release would allow my friends a second chance to see this little gem, yet I was appalled at the dreadful new campaign, and the fact that it opened in all of five theaters in L.A. Giving "Princess" a second chance was admirable, but who decided to open it against another family film ("Babe") with great advance word?

Warner Bros. should have learned from the failure of "Black Beauty" last summer: Family film does not necessarily mean summer film! The fact that kids are out of school doesn't count if there is already a glut of similar films in the marketplace.

I applaud producer Mark Johnson for bringing this classic story to the screen. However, as an unproduced writer of similar fare, the box-office failure of "A Little Princess" is only going to make it tougher for me to convince executives that this genre is still marketable.

Maybe it's time to start writing the next Steven Seagal movie instead.

JAMES COLE, Burbank

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