FAST AND FURIOUS SALES

Speedy Launch For Island Def Jam’s New ST Division
"Gone In 60 Seconds"? Gone in 60 seconds. "Driven"? Driven from theaters.

Car-racing movies haven’t exactly been boffo at the box office recently, so the success of Universal’s "The Fast and the Furious," which debuted last week with more than $40 million in grosses, came as a surprise.

Who knew Vin Diesel could open a movie? He’s one of the movie’s rising young stars, along with Michelle Rodriguez ("Girlfight"), soap opera alumni Paul Walker and Jordana Brewster and rapper Ja Rule, who’s featured on the Murder Inc./ Def Jam/IDJ soundtrack produced by hip-hop hitmaker Irv Gotti.

The soundtrack album, the first from IDJ’s new ST division, is building up quite a head of steam itself, as it zooms into the Top 10 this week. In addition to Murder Inc.’s Rule, the rap-dominated soundtrack boasts Scarface, Faith Evans, R. Kelly, DMX, Method Man, Nate Dogg, Redman and Limp Bizkit.

Said Island Def Jam President Lyor Cohen after tallying up the first two weeks of popcorn sales: "We open films. It’s nice when film companies trust us, because we’re an extremely potent and effective marketing tool. Now, do you know where I can get some cherry bombs for the Fourth?"

Many are crediting the role of the energetic music in the film’s hyperkinetic race scenes with boosting the album’s sales...and vice versa.

Murder, Inc.’s Gotti claims the disc’s June 5 release date, more than two weeks before the film’s June 22 opening, helped prime his label’s Urban base for the movie.

"Ja Rule’s presence in the movie and the soundtrack helped bring in an urban audience," he says. "I don’t think anybody could’ve expected that kind of opening."

The lead-off single, which included a video with scenes from the movie, was "The Good Life," a remix performed by Faith Evans, Ja Rule, Vita and newcomer Caddilac Tah. The track went to radio in May, receiving Urban and Mixshow play, while the clip was aired on BET and MTV’s "DFX."

The next single/ video, Caddilac Tah’s "Pov City Anthem," will be worked at mix shows and clubs in a street-oriented approach. The Queens-based rapper is a developing artist on Murder, Inc., which is using this soundtrack appearance as a career springboard.

Universal’s film division and its affiliated record label joined forces for a Memorial Day weekend media junket with Ja Rule, Diesel and Rodriguez in Miami Beach, FL, where MTV filmed an episode of "Cribs" at the rapper’s rented mansion.

TV commercials, which ran during the NBA playoffs and on MTV, started airing three weeks prior to the film’s premiere.

Advertising for the movie and soundtrack was featured on 150,000 popcorn bags distributed in theaters nationwide.

A promotion centering around Sony PlayStation2’s "Zero Racer" offered a free single for every pre-order of the video game.

The film studio provided T-shirts, key-chains and lighters for nationwide giveaways by the record label’s 30-person-strong regional street teams, while local radio stations gave away tickets to preview screenings.

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