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Cut Movie Scenes Make E-Mail Campaign

Lions Gate Films has turned its troubles with satire/horror movie “American Psycho” into a successful Internet marketing campaign.

Since early February – without the help of movie trailers – AmericanPsycho.com has recorded more than 200,000 unique visitors who average 10 minutes at the site.

“People on the Net have shown that they want to see this film in theaters,” said Tara Kole, manager of new media and acquisitions for Lions Gate. “As we get closer to the April 14 release date, we expect our 9,000 unique visitors a day to double.”

Bad luck has dogged “America Psycho” from the outset. Leonardo DiCaprio abandoned the project as his follow-up to “Titanic.” Then it was slapped with an NC-17 rating – considered the kiss of death for movies because many theaters won’t carry them. Re-editing finally achieved the coveted “R”.

Lions Gate then decided to use the Internet to allow its target market of 18- to 35-year-old males to see scenes cut from the final release.

In February, Lions Gate began collecting e-mail addresses on AmericanPsycho.com promising visitors daily messages from the film’s sociopathic lead character, Patrick Daily e-mails produced by Email Shows Inc. have gone out since March 15. There are 20,000 registrants, with 1,000 signing up each day.

Dubbed “Amr.Psycho 2000”, the daily e-mail messages act as a sequel to the novel and film. They are written and supervised by the author, Brett Easton Ellis, and the co-producer of the film, Clifford Streit. The e-mails also feature video vignettes created by marketing partner Pseudo.com, including scenes deleted from the film due to graphic language and situations.

Kole added that the e-mail addresses collected would only be used again to alert fans when the DVD containing all the cut footage will be available.

Lions Gate is no stranger to using the Internet to overcome controversy. When the World Wrestling Federation recently pulled trailers for the company’s wrestling documentary, “Beyond the Mat”, claiming that the film was a “competitive commodity,” Lions Gate ran the spots on Film.com. The trailers became the second highest download on the site. The documentary opened March 17 and, according to the company, earned more than $1 million in its first week.

Last year’s release of “Dogma,” which was sold to Lions Gate by Miramax after Disney refused to allow the company to distribute it, also reaped rewards from the Net. After Lions Gate purchased the rights to the film and joined director Kevin Smith in marketing it, the film’s site recorded 10,000 unique visitors a day. “Dogma” cost less than $5 million to produce and eventually went on to earn nearly $35 million domestically.

Besides running the e-mail campaign for American Psycho, Lions Gate tapped three other companies to reach its target audience. Film.com, which hosted the trailer premiere in February, has reported 400,000 downloads. Pseudo.com, which boasts primarily male visitors ages 16 to 34, is promoting the e-mail campaign and a link to the film’s homepage. Lions Gate also reached out to viral marketers Electric Artists to chat about the film on entertainment and youth sites, and Kole phoned entertainment destinations and fan sites to provide them with links and content.

The “American Psycho” online campaign will culminate with a Webcast the day before opening night that will be broadcast on Psuedo.com featuring the director, author and stars of the film reading from the novel. A live Webcast on premiere night is also planned.

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