BMW Readies Big Screen Debut

BMW of North America and Microsoft are gearing up for
the debut of the digital film series they’ve sponsored, which is designed as
an opportunity to highlight both BMW’s automobiles and the Microsoft
technology used to project the movies.

The companies announced Wednesday that the BMW Films Digital Cinema Series
will premiere at the Apollo Theater in Harlem on Nov. 7, with a screening of
Artisan Entertainment’s “Standing in the Shadows of Motown.” The movie
subsequently will be rolled out to 25 theaters nationwide equipped to show
digital films.

The movie itself, though, is not the main event, at least not for the two
sponsors., as the title sponsor for the feature-length film,
gets the opportunity to showcase — on the big screen — the newest
installments of its short film series, “The Hire.”

The original idea for associating BMW with filmmaking was dreamed up in 2001
by BMW’s ad agency
, Fallon. The automaker underwrote five films in “The
Hire” series, pulling in big-name directors like Guy Ritchie and Ang Lee to
direct short, five-to seven-minute films that star Clive Owen as a
driver-for-hire who negotiates his BMW through a series of challenging
sequences. Those films were distributed only via the Web, after being
promoted through television spots.

Attendees at the Motown premiere will view the next in “The Hire” series,
“Beat the Devil.” The Tony Scott-directed short stars the singer James Brown
playing himself and Gary Oldman playing the devil, along with a cameo by
rock star Marilyn Manson. James Brown is chauffeured around in a BMW during
the film.

The feature-length film following, “Shadows,” is the first of eight feature
films in the BMW-sponsored series. It chronicles The Funk Brothers, a famed
Motown studio band that backed up stars such as Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross and
Stevie Wonder. There’s no word on whether BMW has engineered any product
placement in “Shadows,” but its setting in Detroit during the 1960’s would
suggest that the movie remains BMW-free.

Showings of shorts will precede every Artisan feature-length
movies in the digital cinema series. plans to release two more
shorts in “The Hire” series this fall, “Hostage” directed by John Woo and
“Ticker” directed by Joe Carnahan. “The Hire” has gained critical acclaim,
as well as 14 million viewings from the site, in the widely
watched promotion designed to appeal to tech-savvy consumers.

While BMW’s message will come before the main movie, the medium is the
message with Microsoft. Hoping to promote its Windows Media 9 Series, the
software giant is using the occasion to showcase its technology, which it
has positioned
against rival RealNetworks’ digital media offerings

“Shadows” will be shown digitally in New York and Los Angeles, as
well as in its original 35mm format.

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