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Respecting The Fanboy

Thursday, 9 Apr 2009 | 12:32 PM ET
Star Trek
Source: startrekmovie.com
Star Trek

In Hollywood, it's common knowledge that positioning a movie correctly can make the difference between a blockbuster and a mega blockbuster. Wise distribution and careful buzz building can generate the right combination of critical success and fanboy devotion which yields huge pent-up demand.

Last year it was "Dark Knight"from Warner Brothers. This year "Star Trek" from Paramountis on track to achieve that chemistry. Thanks to a carefully-managed early screening, the movie, which opens May 8, could be the biggest movie of the summer.

"Star Trek's" world premiere was a carefully orchestrated surprise that demonstrated a true respect of the power of the fanboy. Earlier this week Trekkies gathered in Austin for a screening of "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan,"hosted by the screenwriters of the new film and the man behind fanboys' online bible AintitCoolNews.com. But after a false start for the old Trek film Leonard Nimoycame onto stage with a print of the new "Star Trek" movie, debuting the film for the fans in Austin before its official Australia premiere. The crowd went absolutely nuts and the online response this week confirms that Paramount has made some very wise choices.

The reviews are rave and the buzz is building for the film. Aintitcoolnews.com praises "God Bless JJ Abrams. Serious."Not only did people like the film, but they loved the fact that the fans, not the critics, are the ones that matter to the studio. This movie was made for them and distributed with them in mind, and so they will return the favor. The fanboys are the ones who can guarantee a huge opening weekend and can generate positive word of mouth. The film has huge potential, thanks to the buzz that's already building momentum, plus the fact that it's exactly the kind of fantasy that should appeal to cash-strapped consumers. The fact that it's a powerful, recognizable brand helps as well.

On the other end of the spectrum, "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" is struggling through a less graceful debut.

The Fox film, set to open May 1, leaked out and was posted illegally online, downloaded nearly 100,000 times. The studio is of course concerned this piracy will eat into their box office take. But even more so, they're worried that the pirated rough cut, which doesn't include key computer generated special effects, would disappoint fans and discourage them from also turning up at the theater. The studio has staged an offensive: the FBI is investigating, and the LAPD has reportedly made some arrests. Even star Hugh Jackman weighed in, saying he's "heartbroken."

So far it looks like Wolverine could rebound from pirates' attack. MovieTickets.com reports that 70 percent of male ticket buyers polled plan to see "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" opening weekend and three of the five age groups polled (basically age 44 and under) list X-Men as the next film they intend to see in theaters.

We'll see how the numbers play out at the box office.

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  • Working from Los Angeles, Boorstin is CNBC's media and entertainment reporter and editor of CNBC.com's Media Money section.