The original 1996 Interplanetary Jam, starring Michael Jordan in a fun, Looney Tunes-filled space adventure (streaming on HBO Max), is a cult classic. Jordan is abducted by Bugs Bunny and other members of the Looney Tunes to help them win a basketball game against their opponents, the Monsters, in a fictionalized rendition of his time away from the NBA. When it first came out in 1996, the picture mixed animation with realism and was one of the highest-grossing films of the year.
Now, you can see LeBron James in a completely new Space Jam film, Space Jam: New Legacy, which picks up where Space Jam left off and enlists James, as well as a slew of other great sportsmen, to aid the Looney Tunes.
The renowned ’80s hip-hop combo Salt-N-Pepa blasted out their old hit “Push It” against the backdrop of giant posters for the new film “Space Jam: A New Legacy” on the outskirts of downtown Los Angeles. A dozen graphic reminders that the Warner Bros. film’s premiere party was at least partially covered by Xbox also appeared.
The video-game subsidiary of Microsoft Corp. is one of more than 200 partners that the studio has enlisted in a blockbuster marketing push for the picture, which debuts in the United States on Friday. While the new “Space Jam” is likely to be a moderate box office success, it is already a tremendous commercial success off the screen.
In the world of movie marketing, Warner Bros.’ merchandising efforts, which include anything from Amazon.com-branded packaging to Space Jam chew toys for pets from BarkBox, are unprecedented. The overwhelming number of firms vying to work with the LeBron James-led film demonstrates how eager corporations are to collaborate with Hollywood, as well as how much consumer behavior has changed since Michael Jordan starred in the 1996 original “Space Jam.”
“We’re just trying to get the movie in front of people in an engaging way,” said Louise Soper, senior vice president of global brand partnerships at Warner Bros., which is owned by AT&T Inc. “The property itself is just so appealing that this was definitely one of the films that partners were the most interested in.”
When the original “Space Jam” was released in theaters 25 years ago, it wasn’t like this. Sure, Jordan has long-standing relationships with companies like Nike Inc., Coca-Cola Co., and McDonald’s Corp. Furthermore, the entire picture was inspired by a Nike ad featuring Jordan and Looney Tunes star Bugs Bunny shooting basketball that aired during Super Bowl XXVI four years prior.
According to Pam Lifford, head of global brands and experiences at Warner Bros., Walt Disney Co.’s 1994 smash “The Lion King” served as a model for many of the approaches used today in the business. Simba merchandise is still available from Disney, thanks to a 2019 “Lion King” remake.
According to Boxoffice Pro, the picture is predicted to gross $26.4 million in its first weekend in North America. That’s not far off from the original’s $27.5 million haul from a quarter-century ago, when ticket prices were lower. According to the Chicago Tribune, the film grossed more than $230 million at the global box office and $1.2 billion in retail sales.
The new episode debuts in a challenging market for theaters, where even blockbusters like Marvel’s “Black Widow” struggle to find a solid audience. In addition, paid HBO Max users can watch Warner Bros.’ new film for free online.
“I don’t think that any of us could put a number on exactly the importance of these things,” Warman said.