22 Jan 2015
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Can De Niro, Dicaprio & Pitt create a branded entertainment hit?

Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro, Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt have teamed up for a new film. However, despite the impressive line-up the film will not be the next Hollywood blockbuster, in fact it may never be seen in the US. 

The film, The Audition, is a branded entertainment project to promote a new “cinematically-themed gaming, entertainment and leisure destination resort in Macau: Studio City”.  

Studio City is a Hollywood-inspired gaming and entertainment complex which will “transport the visitor into a stunning cinematic world with awe-inspiring entertainment offerings, delivered by the world's leading entertainment partners, positioning this new destination resort as Asia's entertainment capital.” 

A statement from the company behind Studio City, Melco Crown Entertainment said the new complex will be “supported and endorsed by icons of Hollywood's entertainment industry”. 

It is fitting then that Melco teamed with James Packer’s RatPac Entertainment and some of Hollywood’s best talents to promote the launch of the new US$3.2 billion complex.  

The short film is estimated to cost $70 million and will spearhead the marketing activity for Macau's newest gaming complex, which opens this year. It is being billed as the most expensive ad of all time. 

The one-minute commercial / trailer, stars acclaimed filmmaker Martin Scorsese, who also directed the film. Scorsese appears alongside Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro, who were reportedly paid more than $15 million each. 

The Audition focuses on the two actors sizing each other up and then squaring off for the same role in a fake movie. The film will also star Brad Pitt. 

The film was shot at the City of Dreams casino in the Philippines and is expected to premiere when the Studio City complex opens later this year. 

Brett Ratner, RatPac Entertainment Producer, said: “This short film is a historic event because it is the first film ever to star such legendary actors as Robert De Niro, Leonardo Dicaprio and Brad Pitt in one film together.”

“Our hope is that the trailer for "The Audition" gives audiences an early look into what will surely be an important cinematic experience directed by one of the most culturally influential directors in the history of Hollywood films. I look forward to the Global Premiere of the film at the launch of Studio City in mid-2015."

  • REVIEW 

The Audition is the most ambitious branded entertainment project ever. Combining Hollywood’s most respected and revered talents for the first time on screen, it is guaranteed to attract attention. 

It's no surprise when you consider how high the stakes are for gambling and casinos - especially in Macau. 

Macau’s gambling industry alone is reportedly worth $45 billion, that is seven times the size of Las Vegas. However Macau’s reputation and awareness globally does not even come close. While Vegas is known and loved globally as a gaming and entertainment destination, dripping with celebrity and prestige, Macau is viewed more as a Asian gambling hot spot. 

Clearly this is a huge driver behind this strategy to position Studio City as a major gaming and entertainment destination and to link it to the biggest names of Hollywood and the entertainment industry.  

Studio City will include major entertainment complex, nightclub, broadcast studios, retail complex, amusement rides and Golden Eye, a giant ferris wheel. The idea is to position it as a major luxury destination and those behind it are keen to attract a lot of attention to ensure it attracts visitors from around the globe. 

This resort is being billed as the “next generation” of entertainment and gaming complexes. 

Lawrence Ho, Co-Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Melco Crown Entertainment, said: "It will take the entertainment-inspired leisure destination concept to new levels, in a cinematic setting developed in partnership with the world's leading entertainment brands, supported and endorsed by many of the legends of Hollywood - including this very special short-film collaboration with Brett Ratner, Martin Scorsese, and superstars Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro and Brad Pitt."

The strategy is clearly about driving awareness and aspiration and the film is a sure fire way to ensure attention, publicity and widespread awareness of the launch of Studio City. 

Each of the film’s stars has enough individual star power to guarantee coverage – putting the four together has created a major media event. 

Bringing together big hitting heavyweights to duke it out for audiences is a well worn strategy - think Las Vegas fight night, however creating a blockbuster film as an ad is a new one. 

This trailer and the global coverage it has generated will help ensure a huge global audience is aware of the new destination. It’s also an incredibly savvy move to get around some of the strict rules around gambling advertising. 

Gambling advertising laws are strict in many countries and this approach enables the film gets passed these regulations by becoming a media story about a film rather than an ad. 

This is a major play and it is being supported by a major branded entertainment project. The big question is will the film be any good? 

The actual storyline does not suggest it will be the most compelling viewing,  DiCaprio and De Niro are vying for the same role in a Scorsese film. We can assume that Brad Pitt will also be up for the role? Or perhaps that will be the twist in the film. 

The trailer doesn’t set the film up to be a breathtaking cinematic feature or compelling story. Mostly it relies on the gravitas of its legendary and heavyweight stars. 

Which is a shame. Given the huge sums of money involved and the quality of acting and directing talent involved, it would be an awful waste if the film did not surprise, delight and entertain. 

I would hope that the film manages to provide some genuine entertainment as a film and serves as more than a very expensive commercial. 

Obviously the proof will be in the pudding and we will have to wait and see. 

  • VERDICT 

The Audition is an ambitious, landmark project worthy of praise. Its success as a branded entertainment project will be judged by the quality of the film as an entertainment vehicle.  Watch this space. 


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