'Cloverfield' Release Will Be Test of Online Hype Cloverfield, the highly anticipated new film produced by the creator of such TV shows as Alias and Lost, is out in theaters next week. For months, Internet speculation about the movie has been rampant.
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'Cloverfield' Release Will Be Test of Online Hype

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'Cloverfield' Release Will Be Test of Online Hype

'Cloverfield' Release Will Be Test of Online Hype

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.

In one week, all questions will be answered, at least regarding the new movie from J.J. Abrams, the guy behind the TV shows, "Lost" and "Alias." His new film will be in theaters in just seven days.

And as NPR's Neda Ulaby reports, his fans on the Internet are more than ready.

NEDA ULABY: Even the movie's name was the subject of rampant Internet speculation. It was called "The Untitled J.J. Abrams Project." Fans thought "Cloverfield" was a fake name designed to throw them off. "Cloverfield" is an oddly pastoral title for a movie in which a giant monster rips the head off the Statue of Liberty.

(Soundbite of movie, "Cloverfield")

Unidentified Woman: (As character) What is it? Is it coming this way?

Unidentified Man #1: (As character) I saw it. It's alive. It's huge.

Mr. JEFF BOCK (Box Office Analyst, Exhibitor Relations): They've been marketing the film brilliantly.

ULABY: Box office analyst, Jeff Bock, says "Cloverfield's" first theatrical trailer last summer showed little more than a few dramatic minutes captured on a handheld camera.

Mr. BOCK: I mean, it was a really gutsy move to not even use a tag for the title. So the only thing you saw was this cinema verite video footage, and at the end, numbers 1-18-08.

ULADY: Those numbers, the release date, the only clue for curious fans like Dennis Acevedo.

Mr. DENNIS ACEVEDO: We took screenshots of every frame of the trailer and looked for clues inside the trailer.

ULADY: The trailer started innocently with a party. By the end, all the guests are wandering the streets of New York in terror. Hundreds of YouTube videos obsessively analyze every minute.

Mr. TOM SIMMONS (Student): I'm watching the trailer again. There's one scene -very clearly hung on the wall is a board with the letters AKM listed on it, which is obviously the abbreviation of Alpha Kappa Mu.

ULADY: Obviously. This video is by Tom Simmons, a 19-year-old forestry student who lives with his parents in England. He devoted himself to the arcania of the characters' MySpace pages and Web sites planted by the studios online. He figured fellow fans might benefit from his research.

Mr. SIMMONS: Putting on a YouTube video seemed like the obvious thing to do, and it got enough views.

ULADY: Over 10,000 of them. Some analysts compare the "Cloverfield" phenomenon to a recent box office disappointment, New Line's "Snakes on a Plane."

Mr. BOCK: What New Line got wrong was that people, yes, were chatting about this film in online communities, but really, they were making fun of the film.

ULADY: Exhibitor Relations Jeff Bock says an online campaign for the star to utter one expletive-laden line about snakes and planes did not mean people actually wanted to pay 10 bucks to see a mediocre action film.

"Cloverfield" lured fans down a narrative rabbit hole by creating a whole universe online. Dennis Acevedo's guide to it is called CloverfieldClues.com. It helped lead fans to studio-produced news reports about a monster attacking New York.

Mr. ACEVEDO: There was a Japanese and Spanish and German and Italian and English, and even a Russian video.

(Soundbite of news report video on the Internet)

Unidentified Man #2: (Foreign language spoken)

Mr. ACEVEDO: You have all these theories about what's going to happen in the movie, and then you start to see all these different videos come out, and that just really builds up the excitement for the movie.

ULADY: I asked Tom Simmons, the British forestry student, if he minded being co-opted into a marketing strategy.

Mr. SIMMONS: I never really thought about it like that. I mean, obviously, they are creating an incredible amount of interest about the film without spending much money at all. But they deserve it, really. I mean, I don't mind it as long as the film's good.

ULADY: The movie doesn't come out in England until February, so he's going to scrupulously avoid the fan sites until then. When he sees the movie, Simmons says he wants it to be fresh, no surprises.

Neda Ulady, NPR News.

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