L.A. Times sells Disney front page for movie ad

Fri Mar 5, 2010 9:16pm EST
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By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The Los Angeles Times' critic may have panned the film, but that didn't stop Disney from paying top dollar to turn the newspaper's front page into a special advertisement on Friday for the new movie, "Alice in Wonderland."

The ad, believed to be the first of its kind among America's leading big-city dailies, dismayed some readers and was lamented by media scholars as the latest troubling sign of difficult times at the newspaper and for journalism generally.

The ad features a full-color photo of actor Johnny Depp in gaudy makeup, wig and costume as the film's Mad Hatter character, superimposed across an authentic-looking front page mock-up, topped by the Times' traditional masthead.

Depp's image -- emblazoned with the phrase, "Johnny Depp is the Mad Hatter" -- overlaps an old weather photo and two columns of reprinted stories about healthcare and Afghanistan, minus bylines and other names. The word "Advertisement" appears in smaller type just below the masthead.

To get to Friday's real news, readers had to open the so-called cover wrap, which was folded around the Times' entire A section as a two-page, front-to-back promotional spread.

A Times spokesman, John Conroy, declined to discuss the cost of the ad, but said, "The Times' front section is our most valuable real estate, so the ad unit was priced accordingly."

Hollywood blogger Sharon Waxman cited one "media buyer insider" as saying the Walt Disney Co, the studio behind the film, paid $700,000 for the space.

"That's a low price to sell your soul," said Roy Peter Clark, senior scholar at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, who expressed sympathy for the paper and discomfort at the blurring of commercial and editorial interests.   Continued...

<p>U.S. actor Johnny Depp poses for photographers as he arrives for the Royal World Premiere of "Alice In Wonderland" at Leicester Square in London February 25, 2010. REUTERS/Jas Lehal</p>