Millions watch King Kong trailer

By Cathy Aronson

Over 109 million people were predicted to watch the first few minutes of film released today from Peter Jackson's re-make of King Kong.

The trailer starts in 1930s New York, filmed in the Wellington suburb of Seaview. Jack Black's character Carl Denham looks for his leading lady "a woman who will journey into the heart of the unknown towards a fateful meeting that changes everything" who turns out to be Ann Darrow, played by Australian actress Naomi Watts.

Then with orc like sounds and tribal drums the trailer shows a map and a journey on the Venture ship to Skull Island - "the unchartered island, a place that was thought to exist only in myth… until now".

As they begin to film her pretend scream a horrific gorilla growl comes out of a deep sea cave leading to a montage of action to the sound of tribal drums - including dinosaurs chasing people and Naomi wearing a cave-woman outfit in a sacrificial shot before the oversized hand of King Kong grabs her away.

The first look at King Kong is close-up of his eyes then a shot of him swiping away a car, then crushing another car in New York and rescuing Ann from a dinosaur. It ends with Kong's king of the jungle growl at the dinosaur.

Photos of silverback gorillas had been superimposed on Kong's image, and tweaks were made, Peter Jackson told the USA Today newspaper.

"He's not the Hulk of gorillas. That's the charm of Kong," he said. "He is past his prime and isn't the super-virile ape of 30 years ago."

The big ape movie won't be released until mid-December, but for Hollywood it's never too soon to start hyping a movie, and NBC Universal apparently intends to make a colossal impression.

Nine NBC networks simultaneously aired a 2-1/2 minute trailer for Universal Pictures' US$150 million ($215 million) film, and network officials estimated the audience was likely to exceed 109 million people.

If that isn't enough of a "roadblock" as NBC Universal has dubbed its unprecedented premiere of a movie advertisement, the trailer also will be shown on personal data devices, cellphones, and at Universal Studios' theme parks in Florida and California.

Some fans said they had opted to watch it on the "Jumbotron" a big screen in New York's Times Square, not far from where the fictional giant gorilla climbed the Empire State Building.

But other viewers who did not mind an automobile advertisement linked to the movie commercial, said they were logging on to an internet website affiliated with the movie's promotional partner, Volkswagen (www.volkswagen.com).

Cinemas worldwide will begin running the King Kong trailer on Wednesday for the December 14 premiere starring Naomi Watts, Jack Black and Adrien Brody.

The Courier-Journal newspaper in Louisville, Kentucky, reported that with some parts of the American film industry's 2005 box-office receipts in a continuous weekly slump compared to last year, NBC Universal was very keen to boost audience interest in the remake of the 1933 RKO movie about a giant gorilla who falls in love with a blond starlet.

When the original movie opened on March 2, 1933, its weekend box-office take of US$90,000 set a record.

The original King Kong, with its stop-animation, still delights viewers with its beauty-and-the-beast storyline, but industry insiders said the new movie's visual effects featured the latest cinema technology and the creative skills of Jackson's Lord of the Rings team.

The team includes cinematographer Andrew Lesnie, who won an Oscar for The Fellowship of the Ring, and editor Jamie Selkirk, who won an Academy Award for The Return of the King.

Visual effects, including Manhattan in the 1930s and Skull Island, where the huge ape is found, have been created by Wellington's Weta Digital, creator of the digital stunts for Rings, and Weta Workshop, a props-design firm that made the armour and weaponry for those movies.

Jackson, who won three Academy Awards for The Lord of the Rings -- which has generated US$4 billion in earnings, according to Forbes magazine -- is being paid US$20 million for directing King Kong. He is part-owner of the Weta operations and is reported to have earned US$125 million from the eight years he put into directing and producing the Rings trilogy.

- NZPA

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