Lara Croft Tomb Raider & The Cradle Of Life: Because of a dispute over an elaborate in-lobby marketing effort, Paramount Pictures will not book its upcoming movie "Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life" in 47 complexes operated by No. 1 theater chain Regal Entertainment Group.
A sequel to 2001's "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider" -- which had a $47.7 million opening weekend and went on to gross $131.1 million domestically -- "Cradle of Life" stars Angelina Jolie and is scheduled to open nationwide July 25.
The sticking point in negotiations between Paramount and Regal proved to be lobby promotions involving Paramount's marketing partner, the DaimlerChrysler Jeep division, which the theater chain rejected, several sources close to the companies said.
Since it completed a reorganization last year, Regal has maintained a policy of not promoting any third-party brands in its theaters without due compensation. According to one source near the Knoxville, Tenn.-based company, the circuit will show studio promotional material, including trailers and in-lobby marketing items, but will not promote another company's product or brand without securing some type of financial compensation.
Paramount and Jeep are promoting a special edition Wrangler Rubicon in conjunction with the movie's release, and they have created a slew of in-theater marketing material to promote the movie and the car. Some of the material includes an actual Wrangler Rubicon parked in the lobby of participating theaters.
Sources said that because Regal and Paramount couldn't come to a financial agreement, the theater chain declined to display any of the merchandise.
As a result, according to two sources, in 47 locations nationwide where Regal's theaters are in direct competition with another circuit's screens, Paramount will release "Cradle of Life" to the competitor rather than to Regal.
Regal Entertainment Group declined comment.
"We do not discuss our sales agreements with exhibition partners," a Paramount representative said. "We have a great relationship with Regal theaters and look forward to a long future with them."
The disagreement might have involved more than just Regal's standing policy against third-party promotions, however.
Jeep originally went to Loews Cineplex Entertainment, Regal and other circuits directly to do an ad placement deal in the theater's onscreen, preshow programs with Lara Croft-related Jeep spots. However, soon after the deal was placed with the circuits, it was rescinded.
A source near the deal said the ads were removed because Paramount was not happy with the movie footage that was incorporated in the ads. Because Jeep did not want to air a traditional Jeep commercial, the ad deal was pulled.
Jeep could not be reached for comment.
According to observers, because Paramount nixed Regal's opportunity to recognize income from the Jeep spots, Regal may have had an added motivation to veto the in-lobby Paramount/Jeep promotions.
Regal media subsidiary Regal CineMedia recently spent more than $70 million to put a digital advertising network throughout its 524 theater locations nationwide. Because Regal plans to expand its ancillary businesses, including advertising in its theater auditoriums and on plasma screens in its lobbies, it is likely to continue to resist promoting third-party brands that do not bring in any compensation, sources said, and as onscreen advertising and in-lobby promotions become a richer income stream for exhibitors and distributors, the current standoff could portend further battles in the future.