The website has quickly become one of Hollywood's major marketing tools.  Whether it's a 'small' movie like the Blair Witch Project (which helped open the studios' eyes to the value of the Web) or a major production like Lord of the Rings (see 'LOTR Drives Web Traffic'), websites can help build excitement for the kind of film that Web users feel a natural affinity for -- and Tomb Raider, based on the computer game featuring the supremely-endowed heroine Lara Croft certainly fills that bill (and more).  So it's no surprise that Paramount, which is mounting a major advertising and promotional push for the movie (see 'Tomb Raider Campaign Set'), pulled out all the stops in creating a new website for the summer blockbuster which opens this June 15th.  The new site includes IPIX technology which allows visitors to explore 360-degree panoramas of fifty of the film's sets and locations as well as a feature that hearkens back to the original Tomb Raider computer game--ten mind-bending puzzles to solve in order to gain access to all parts of the website.


In addition to the backgrounds and game elements, the site contains a wealth of behind-the-scenes material including interviews with director Simon West and production designer Kirk Petruccelli, as well as documentary clips of the crew's globe-spanning locations.  In addition, the site includes two downloadable trailers for the film, a live webcast from the film set that was originally broadcast last November, new production stills, an archive of production sketches, exclusive screensavers and wallpapers, and the movie's official Webring.


The Webring provides links to more than 58 Tomb Raider fan sites, and it is currently the only movie Webring running on an official studio website.  Visitors to the Paramount site can download an exclusive online style guide containing fonts, graphics, and images so they can create their own official-looking Tomb Raider sites.  Unlike some other studios that have tried to shut down 'unofficial' websites, Paramount does seem to 'get it.'  The studio is helping fans rather than trying to squelch their efforts.  It sounds like a 'no-brainer,' but it's actually just another example of how Hollywood is learning to use the web.


Tomb Raider is Paramount's number one summer film for this year (see 'Best in Shows').  Merchandising opportunities include comics from Top Cow/Image, trading cards from Inkworks (see 'Inkworks Summer Movie Trifecta'), posters (see 'Tomb Raider Poster a Knockout'), and toys from Playmates (see 'Playmates Toy Preview').