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 of 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 event 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,” Peter Dang of Sony Pictures said in a statement. “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.”

“Godzilla” 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 (all millions considered) 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, “Matrix“-influenced film based on a black-suited new Spidey (a la Marvel’s offshoot “Spider-Man 2099” comic).

Hannibal Lecter 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 maneater, apparently culled from “The Silence of the Lambs” footage.

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.

DOWNLOAD THIS: The race to buy and sell Internet movie distribution rights has invaded outer space. Galaxy Pictures Inc. announced that 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 Web site (