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King Kong Embraces Times Square with Electronic Signage Debut

The latest remake of the King Kong epic, directed by Peter Jackson, sought out its east coast premiere in the place where the big ape met his demise, in New York City. Nothing is too good for the premiere of his latest film and only in New York City could a film of such epic proportion have an opening of similar grandeur.

By Louis M Brill

"Ladies and Gentlemen...he was a king and a god in the world that he knew, but now he comes to civilization. Merely a captive, a show to satisfy your curiosity. Ladies and Gentlemen, look at Kong, the eighth wonder of the world"

Carl Denham
(film producer who captured King Kong)

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  • To present such a gargantuan promotional statement marking the moment, an enormous electronic signage undertaking was put together on a majority of LED video screens that all emanated from Times Square. Translating this big vision of marketing splendor into such a visual presence was explained by Elena Becker, Senior Director of Media Solutions for NYC Marketing, (a NYC government agency), who sponsored the movie premiere opening. "The King Kong movie (equally so, the original, the 1970s remake and its latest incarnation) all featured New York City so prominently that we approached Universal Studios (the film distributor) about celebrating the release of director Peter Jackson's King Kong epic right in Times Square." This was a marketing event made in heaven, taking a mythical icon such as King Kong and bringing it to the Crossroads of the World and using what makes Times Square what it is - its electronic signage to promote the film and create a world class Hollywood style movie premiere, right in the middle of Manhattan.

    The implementation of this event incorporated a visual grandeur of stunning proportions including an almost life size scale three-dimensional model of King Kong (who was quite well behaved as he hung around the Square). This was followed by a print campaign promoting the movie and a collection of 25 or so movie auditoriums that showed the film on opening night which were combined with the classic Hollywood red carpet treatment that was laid out directly on 42nd street leading to the movie theaters. His honor, New York City Mayor Bloomberg was on hand to officiate the opening, along with director Peter Jackson and his leading actors from the movie.

    King Kong Debuts in Time Square
    King Kong made a guest appearance at Times Square on the opening day of his latest cinema remake by film director Peter Jackson.
    photo credit: Lisa Fiel

    The King Kong promo as it appeared on the Two Times Square HSBC spectacular.
    photo credit: NYC Marketing

    King Kong may have been the star that night, but it was the electronic signs of Times Square that put his name up in lights. It was a grand spectacle of movie promotion that utilized twenty spectacular LED signs from Time Square to provide world class sign coverage of the event. The signs were acquired by NYC Marketing, of which most of them were donated for the thrill of being part of such a rare Hollywood/Manhattan marketing event. The participating group of LED signs was truly impressive including ABC Studios, Bank of America, Budweiser, Discover Card, GMC, Hard Rock Cafe, HSBC, Kodak, LG, MTV, NASDAQ, Panasonic (NBC), Reuters, Samsung, Sprint, TDK, Toys R Us, Wrigley, JP Morgan Chase and the Port Authority smart signs.

    View a trailer of the LED Boards in action at the debut, Click here

    Although Times Square signage has previously collaborated in multi-sign promotions of special public events (most recent was the Olympic Selection Committee presentation), nothing of this scale of consolidated sign usage had ever been attempted before. To coordinate such a process, Show & Tell Productions (NY, NY), a company specializing in offering integrated digital sign solutions was chosen to project manage and choreograph the total video presentation of the King Kong movie world premiere.

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    Not only were there a series of complicated steps-to-completion to bring the sign presentation together, but as Phil Lenger, President of Show & Tell noted, "We only had three weeks from the start of the project to pushing the final button to bring the LED sign extravaganza to life. Once we had signed on the twenty-LED signs, we began by writing a creative production spec to describe the various sign formats and what we needed from the Universal Studios creative production team to give us the proper video content that would work on each of these screens."

    The King Kong movie title appears as a banner ad across the JP Morgan LED sign.
    photo credit: Show & Tell Productions

    "One of the challenges in producing content for the 20 LED signs in Times Square is that all the screens have unique physical shapes, each with its own media format, resolution scheme, frame rate and aspect ratio. J.P.Morgan was a huge, horizontal sign that wraps around a building, Reuters is an 11-story tall vertical sign, HSBC on Two Times Square is a rectangular sign, 48 feet wide by 65 feet tall, and so on. Once Universal's creative team understood the nuances of working with each of these Times Square signs, they in effect, created 20 separate King Kong content segments, each one designed specifically for the LED screen it would appear on."

    "The challenge of the movie premiere was that it was designed as a twenty-screen synchronized sign presentation. One issue we knew we had to overcome was that because all the signs were all built by different manufacturers, they had different scheduling and playback systems. This meant there were different time lags on each sign from the time you pressed its play button to the time it took for the content to roll across the screens. We resolved this with several rehearsals that allowed us to solve those time start differences letting us achieve the sign synchronization we needed."

    King Kong is sizing up his opposition as he seemingly stares into Times Square.
    photo credit: NYC Marketing

    "In the end, despite all the sophisticated technology from the Internet to some signs being guided by the Atomic Clock, the connecting glue that moved the event forwards was the telephone. As the event went live, it was "called" by the Show & Tell director who gave 'sign start cues' to each of the 20 signs, to trigger each of the parts of their presentation."

    "At the start of the event, it was very dramatic to have all the LED signs showing King Kong promotions simultaneously. That in and of itself had people in awe. But what really stopped people in their tracks was how we announced this event to the public. At Show & Tell's suggestion, King Kong's big Time Square moment began in a dramatic way as suddenly all of the twenty designated LED screens went dark for about 15 - 20 seconds. Once we had the public's attention, we then "popped" the King Kong content on all at once. The sign presentation landscape was divided as some screens displayed a movie trailer with short sequences from the film, others had marquee headlines announcing the movie's title. In all, the total event lasted a little less than five minutes. The first presentation was a VIP premiere, later on, the entire presentation was repeated again for the general public who became some of the first audiences in the country to see the movie."

    ABC Studios sign promoted scenes from the King Kong movie, with the bottom row announcing the film title.
    photo credit: NYC Marketing

    Times Square LED signage for these kinds of special event presentation bodes well for the future use of this approach for other special marketing opportunities. From a technical perspective of using LED signs the King Kong movie premiere worked as intended, and offers the potential for other marketing projects to be equally represented. NYC Marketing Senior Director Becker noted that its all a matter of the "right project" coming along with enough marketing impact and appeal, and getting the LED sign owners to become involved again. Sooner or later, some other world class event will show up and find a perfect fit on the LED signs, right in the heart of Times Square.

    Readers who wish to follow the entire story of Times Square can follow with these other pieces related to its history:

    One Times Square: A Global Icon Marks Time - 2003-2010, Part III
    In this third and final part of One Times Square, we examine even more of the fascinating, ever-evolving changes to this iconic landmark and how technology plays a very interesting and important role.

    One Times Square: A Global Icon Marks Time - 2003-2010, Part II
    Slowly, but surely between 2003 to 2010, one spectacular display after another on One Times Square has been upgraded with a more modern version of itself or outright replaced with a new client and a new spectacular.

    One Times Square Revisions: Signage in the crossroads of the world through the years
    If any building was to be dedicated as homage to sign displays, honors could easily point to One Times Square. It stands tall not only in height, but also throughout its 100 plus year history with its influence on iconic advertising, on sign displays, with its vinyl and electronic billboards and its timeless metaphors, all wedded to the building from top (the annual New Year's Eve ball drop) to the bottom (the news zipper wrapped around the building's base).

    Toy's R Us Interior EDS Signage
    The Center of the Toy Universe can be found in Times Square and it's operated by Toys 'R Us. With 110,000 square feet of various toy shopping zones, all aligned within three floors of merchandising space, the toy universe is a vast space.

    LED Electronic Message Reader Boards: Watching the world go by in streaming headlines
    The electronic message reader board is the town crier of the modern age. It is a simplistic, horizontal column of light bulbs or LEDs whose intermediate flashes of world watching headlines, slide effortlessly across reader board signs attached to banks and financial institutions and to the front walls of major corporate headquarters.

    King Kong Embraces Times Square with Electronic Signage Debut
    The latest remake of the King Kong epic, directed by Peter Jackson, sought out its east coast premiere in the place where the big ape met his demise, in New York City. Nothing is too good for the premiere of his latest film and only in New York City could a film of such epic proportion have an opening of similar grandeur.

    Hershey’s ­ How Sweet It Is: The Eye-Candy of Times Square
    In the middle of all its surrounding Times Square spectaculars, billboards and sign edifices, stands the flagship Hershey Times Square, a retail gift store which is a chocolate confectionary paradise that is the center of the chocolate universe.

    Minskof Theater
    The Minskoff Theatre (1,597 seats), one of the many major live performing venues along Broadway has recently undergone a signage transformation of its old blade / marquee and window display into a very modern and elegant sign package that was fit for a king: The Lion King that was.

    ABC Times Square
    It may be home to ABC's Good Morning America, but to Times Square passersby it is the building with the curvy front wall that is a gigantic television screen displaying current news and ABC TV previews all day long.

    Signs of Love: A spectacular marriage proposal on the white lights of Broadway
    This is a story of unrequited love converged with New York City's first electronic billboard, where a marriage proposal was displayed in all its glory directly above the Crossroads of the World.

    Louis M. Brill is a journalist and consultant for high-tech entertainment and media communications. He can be reached at (415) 664-0694 or

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