AOL, Universal Team For Marketing Via Gaming

AOL/Universal are marketing Mummy with online gamesAOL and NBC Universal Pictures have teamed to market "The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor" through a series of eight online games dubbed "The Dragon Emperor's Challenge," it was announced Tuesday. The games, such as "Yeti Throwdown" and "Silk Road Race," aim to build anticipation and buzz for the latest chapter in the "Mummy" series directed by Robert Cohen. 

Moviefone.com, AOL's movie news and ticket online destination, will host the games and run the marketing promotion and sweepstakes. The site will release one new game on Tuesdays and Thursdays for the next four weeks. Several versions of the ads will appear in theaters, as well as on the NBC networks: NBC, USA, Bravo and SciFi, among others.

Game registration and page views for return visits per individual user are benchmarks that will determine success on moviefone.com, according to Kristin Rolla, the site's director of business and content. "We've created a pretty strong template to promote other movies with games, if we had the right partner," she said.

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This is not the first time Moviefone.com has helped a studio market a movie with online games. Dreamworks Animation ran new games daily for eight weeks based on "Flushed Away" and "Shrek the Third."

Along with the video games found exclusively at moviefone.com, a sweepstakes will let gamers win daily giveaways and grand prizes valued at more than $20,000. The prizes range from a trip for two to China, to a family vacation to Universal Studios Hollywood or Universal Orlando, or a deluxe home theater system.

Online video games may create buzz with casual gamers, but this year's Olympic Games in Beijing will attract attention to the movie, too.

Universal spokesman Doug Neil said it's no coincidence the movie will hit theaters about a week before the Olympic Games get under way. In fact, it was a conscious decision by NBC--the network broadcasting the Olympic Games--to have the movie hit theaters at a time when consumers are talking about China and the Olympics. A movie trailer posted on Google's YouTube that mashes scenes from prior Olympics and the movie shows just how deliberate.

In "The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor," scheduled to hit theaters Aug. 1, Brendan Fraser stars as explorer Rick O'Connell to combat the resurrected Han Emperor (Jet Li) in an epic that races from the catacombs of ancient China to the neon-lit streets of post-war Shanghai and high into the spectacular Himalayas.

Marty Shindler, CEO at entertainment consulting firm The Shindler Perspective, Los Angeles, said studios will always try to avoid certain dates or use them to their advantage. "This year Disney released 'Hannah Montana' in 3D during Super Bowl weekend," he said. "That's great alternative programming taking advantage of a major world event."

AOL and Universal will also give away Papa John's pizza gift certificates, "The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor" game for Nintendo Wii and "The Mummy" and "The Mummy Returns" Deluxe Edition DVDs. Consumers can access the games, film information and special behind-the-scenes content via Moviefone's exclusive Mummy hub: moviefone.com/themummy.

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