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Iovine has made it a priority to expand the marketing platform for artists on his labels by using non-traditional media and creating events around them.

INTERSCOPE, UNIVERSAL PICTURES HAVE THAT IOVINE SHEEN

8 Mile Film, Soundtrack Projects the Latest Feathers in Exec’s Many-Feathered Cap
With the jaw-dropping $51.2 million opening weekend for the Universal Pictures Eminem star vehicle 8 Mile and the second #1 week for the Shady/Interscope soundtrack of the same name in the books, many insiders talking about red-hot Interscope chief Jimmy Iovine, whose role in shaping the movie, the music and the marketing of both has sent his stock soaring with parent Vivendi Universal.

Iovine, who served as co-producer on the movie (along with Brian Grazer and director Curtis Hanson) in addition to heading the label releasing the soundtrack, is credited with tying together new film and music projects from his #1-selling star, who already had sewn up the biggest-selling album of the year (The Eminem Show). And bringing home the second-largest opening for an R-rated movie ever, along with yet another chart-topping album is certain to go a long way with cash-hungry VU.

It’s just the latest example of how Iovine has made it a priority to expand the marketing platform for artists on his labels by using non-traditional media and creating events around them. Last year’s stellar U2 Super Bowl halftime performance was another (and Iovine and Joel Gallen are again onboard this year). Whether sporting events, television specials, tie-ins such as Sting’s campaign for Jaguar, or film vehicles such as 8 Mile, broadening the base is the name of the game.

Broadening the base is certainly what 8 Mile is doing for Eminem’s surging career. According to exit polls, Eminem didn’t merely attract his fans, he connected with a whole new audience. While a majority of the audience (65%) was, not surprisingly, under 25, 53% were female, which runs contrary to his angry-young-man rep. Even the right-wingers, previously a thorn in his side, have either been won over or now view Saddam Hussein as the bigger threat.

Said Paul Rosenberg, Em’s manager and one of the film’s executive producers, of the stunning $51 million opening weekend box office: "We’re out of our minds. I thought it would do well, but to have the second-largest opening for an R-rated movie ever is beyond what anybody expected. It just keeps raising the bar."

The $41 million movie, loosely based on the rapper’s troubled Detroit upbringing, received critical raves as well. Said Newsday: "Eminem possesses a gift for projecting honest inner turmoil, the kind born of poverty, of neglect of economic stasis and of amorphous racial identity." We don’t know what it means, either, but is shore sounds purdy.

8 Mile’s first-week total was the largest ever for a movie opening in fewer than 3,000 theaters (the actual total was 2,470). It’s also the most successful for any rock-star biopic. Prince’s 1984 Purple Rain took in $7.7 million at 917 theatres on its way to a total of $68.4 million, a gross, adjusted for price inflation, equal to about $116 million today, which 8 Mile will easily surpass.

That said, given the facts that (A) Eminem has had million-plus first weeks, (B) The Eminem Show has sold in excess of 7 million, (C) the 8 Mile soundtrack’s "Lose Yourself" is a radio smash and (D) the movie had a huge opening, one would think the stars were in perfect alignment for an exponential expansion of the audience for Eminem’s music.

Indeed, most industry observers are scratching their heads over the fact that the soundtrack sold fewer units this week (its second) than it did before the movie opened. 8 Mile has crossed Eminem over to a new audience of moviegoers, but so far at least, most of those moviegoers don’t appear to be record buyers.

Not that the 1.2 million two-week tally for the soundtrack is anything to sneeze at, but insiders are finding it puzzling that the movie opening, given that Eminem is among the biggest pop stars we have right now, didn’t push the album’s sales up.

Roughly 8 million people went to see 8 Mile over the weekend. That means a little more than one in eight viewers have been moved to buy the music, whether before or after the opening. Some say it’s simply a matter of the size of the movie business, which dwarfs the music business. Others say it’s too early to analyze, since the soundtrack will go on selling once the movie has left the theaters.

The Shady/Interscope/UMG Soundtrax album features three Eminem tracks and Shady artists Obie Trice and 50 Cent, as well as cuts from Nas, Jay-Z, Macy Gray, Xzibit and Gangstarr. Obviously, music plays a central role in the film, but the expected payoff of Em singing "Lose Yourself," promised in the trailer, never actually occurs in the movie.

Given that final shot of Marshall Mathers walking off like he’s John Wayne in The Searchers, are plans already in place for a sequel? Rosenberg denies that scenario, insisting he and Eminem have already accomplished what they set out to do—proving the rapper can act.

"I’d be very, very surprised if we took this story further. Will he do something else after the success of this movie? How could he not?"

One thing is already certain at this point: No one will be calling 8 Mile anything but an unqualified success.

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