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The Season's Hottest Movies Find a New Dimension on the Web


This summer the movie Web site can take its place in the pantheon of Hollywood hype, alongside humongous billboards, action figures and fast-food tie-ins.

As marketing budgets balloon, so do the size and number of sites promoting films. And content is being stretched beyond cast biographies and a story synopsis; now you can learn behind-the-scenes trivia and play action games.

A general rule of thumb: the bigger the blockbuster in the eyes of the studio, the more elaborate the site. Movies with a science-fiction element, like "Men in Black" or "Contact," will have to outdo the competition, including various fan pages online. The technology du jour is Shockwave Flash 2, which almost all cutting-edge movie sites are using. Make sure you download the latest Shockwave plug-in so you can enjoy every little animation and Web effect.

Although many big Web productions like "Batman and Robin" and "Titanic" were still vacant at press time, "Lost World" and "The Fifth Element" have set the standard for depth of data and visual aesthetics.

The site for the dino-sequel from Steven Spielberg ( looks and feels like an adventure CD-ROM game. You start out in the office of John Hammond, the fictional character who came up with the Jurassic theme park. You can click on his desk, computer, TV or wall map, but you'll need to figure out the access codes.

The wall map leads to an intricate background on the movie. Although many of the subjects are standard fare--story line, pre-production dates--the presentation makes it engaging for the vast amount of detailed information. The copy reads like a story in a movie magazine, with quotes from Spielberg, legendary effects man Stan Winston and actor Jeff Goldblum. (Speaking of Goldblum, he and co-star Julianne Moore will take part in a "Lost World" chat today from 4 to 7 p.m. at

"The Fifth Element"( takes a different tack, relying heavily on Shockwave animations and glitzy effects pegged to the Bruce Willis movie. When doing something simple like flipping through movie stills, the "next" button elicits a gunfire graphic, with a boom from your computer's speaker.

The games include a "hostage situation" shoot-'em-up and a bloated 3-D flying taxi game that requires a special browser. The behind-the-scenes action goes to Cannes, France, with hundreds of photos from the world premiere and its extravagant party.

Although less flashy, the site for "Con Air" ( provides the perfect atmosphere for a flighty Nicolas Cage flick about convicts who hijack a plane. You can go to the cargo hold or wander through the main cabin or cockpit of an interesting two-dimensional depiction of the plane.

And what of the lighter movies? They inhabit a much different space on the Web. The "Fathers' Day" site (, for instance, lets Robin Williams and Billy Crystal run amok in both interviews and profiles of the characters they play. Coming soon: sites for "Speed 2," "Men in Black," "Contact" and "Air Force One." Read the book, see the movie, visit the Web site. Check, check and check.

Mark Glaser is a San Francisco-based freelance writer and critic. You can reach him at

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