SCI FI GEEK: Selling ‘Spider-Man’

Not one frame of film has been shot, the script isn’t finished yet and, heck, the studio hasn’t even officially announced the director’s name (it’s Sam Raimi). But this week, Sony started working on the most important part of its forthcoming “Spider-Man” movie: The toys. The formation of Spider-Man Merchandising L.P. was announced at an invitation-only meeting at UCLA, attended by hundreds companies interested in licensing Spider-Man tie-in stuff when the film comes out in Fall 2001. “Spider-Man” will be one of the biggest even movies ever, and this is expected to be one of the biggest merchanidsing campaigns ever, too.

“By joining forces with Marvel, we can maximize on major licensing opportunities to support the movie, while leveraging the enormous worldwide popularity that has already been built,” says Peter Dang, Executive Vice President of Worldwide Consumer Products for Sony Pictures. “The formation of this new company is necessary to maximize the potential of the built-in awareness of Spider-Man.”

Translation: “We’re going to make so much money off this movie, it’ll make your Spider-sense tingle.”

But before the suits at Sony start counting their bankroll, they should remember one word: “Godzilla.”

It was just three years ago that Sony was saying precisely the same things about their then-forthcoming big-event lizard movie. They invited hundreds of merchandisers to jump on the bandwagon for what seemed like a sure thing.

But then, a funny thing happened. The movie bombed, and a lot of plastic lizards wound up in the bargain bin. One reason: The kids didn’t like the new Godzilla; he didn’t look anything like the old one.

Which is why we begin to doubt there’s hope for the human race when we hear rumors that Sony won’t be making a traditional, red-and-blue-suit “Spider-Man” movie, but an updated, “The Matrix“-influenced film, based on a black-suited, new Spidey (a la Marvel’s offshoot “Spider-Man 2099” comic).

TICK … TICK … TICK! Those of us who dug “The Tick” cartoon on Fox a couple of years ago are hoping that series creator Ben Edlund succeeds in getting his long-awaited live-action “Tick” TV pilot on the air, and recent news sounds promising.

Last week, Edlund posted an update on a “Tick” fan newsgroup, saying, “The new ‘Tick’ kicks ass!” The pilot, directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, features Patrick Warburton of the “Seinfeld” cast as the dim-witted, insectoid hero and David Burke as Arthur, his moth-man sidekick.

Edlund also warned fanboy purists that the real-life “Tick” costume will differ from the cartoon character’s. “While previously the Tick has had pupil-less white eyes set in a blue face mask, this new version exposes the Tick’s eyes and brow. I imagine some of you will be deeply disappointed by this departure from Tick scripture.” Heck, we just want to see the show.

LIVER AND ENTRAILS, NO BEANS: As rumored this week, a teaser trailer for “Hannibal” will be shown in theaters where “Gladiator” is playing, beginning this weekend. The trailer shows a glimpse of Anthony Hopkins as the titular man-eater, apparently culled from “The Silence of the Lambs” footage.

According to Cinescape Online, however, the teaser doesn’t include a reference to the famed line wherein Hopkins remembers dining on a human liver with “fava beans and a nice chianti.” “Hannibal” begins filming next month in Italy, under the direction of Ridley Scott.

DOWNLOAD THIS: The race to buy and sell Internet movie distribution rights has invaded outer space. Galaxy Pictures Inc. announced it has bought the rights to 50 vintage and not-so-vintage science fiction movies, from “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” and “Things to Come” to “Death Race 2000” and “Brother From Another Planet.” The movies, along with Galaxy’s original productions, will be available from the company’s Website (