LOS ANGELES - When it comes to Super Bowl ad strategy, Hollywood studios go strictly with their first-team players and leave the reserves on the bench.
The half-dozen movies that are paying a reported $4 million for a 30-second spot this year are the blockbuster tent-pole franchises, which means the likes of Iron Man, the Lone Ranger and Captain Kirk will vie Sunday night for the attention of an international viewing audience estimated at more than 100 million.
Independent movies and smaller studio releases without mass appeal didn't even bother to step into the ring.
"These are the movies that the six major studios have identified as the top priorities for the spring and summer, because otherwise it's just too cost-prohibitive," says Dave Karger, a chief correspondent for movie ticket website Fandango.com. "You're not going to see Harvey Weinstein advertising on the Super Bowl, I'll put it that way."
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For Joe Roth, producer of Oz: The Great and Powerful, the decision to add a Super Bowl commercial to a movie's bottom line is not taken lightly. But the allure of the mass audience is worth the investment for the prequel to The Wizard of Oz that's due out March 8.
"The Library of Congress says the original Wizard of Oz is the most-watched film of all time. So why not pick this title, which is obviously quite broad, and put it in front of the largest television audience available to you?" says Roth. "If it's a movie that plays to 12-year-old girls, we wouldn't do it. This is an 8-to-80 picture. It is not going to leave anyone out. And the Super Bowl is really the only television event of the year that plays that way."
The Super Bowl ads are also celebrated and watched in a way that most commercials are not during the rest of the year. Oz, like other films advertising on Sunday, is taking advantage of the Super hype to put out teasers of the ad itself - the demand to see the sneak-peek spots is that high.
"The early attenders who come to movies are often the very people who skip over commercials on regular shows," says Roth. "Here's an event, the Super Bowl, where commercials are a Super Bowl onto themselves. They are celebrated."
The spots are guaranteed at least one viewer: "I'll be glued to the TV," says Roth, "and rooting for the 49ers."
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