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Faked media event boosts Hungarian comedy

2007-11-26

As Hungary's premiere comedian, Robert Koltai, storms the local box office with his latest film Train Keeps a Rollin', an accompanying publicity event is having unforeseen ramifications.

Produced by Koltai's son, Gabor P. Koltai of EuroCo Productions (http://www.euroco.hu/), the 220-million-forint (Є860.000) comedy took in more than 160 million forints at the box office with 170,000 admissions since it opened Oct. 18, beating several big pictures from Hollywood for five consecutive weeks.

But the accompanying publicity has generated a firestorm. The state-owned Hungarian News Agency filed an objection with the Hungarian Advertising Assocation over a fake announcement in which two supposed historians announced the discovery of the bones of the relative of an ancient Hungarian tribal leader to generate publicity for the film, in which the bones are part of the plot. But the Association turned aside the complaint, declaraing that spreading fake news in the media neither violates the advertising law nor the Association's ethical code.

Undeterred, MTI filed another complaint with the National Costumer Protection Authority. If the organisation were to deliver a verdict against Prospero Communication (http://www.multisoundd.hu/), which is in charge of the film's promotion, it may be obliged to pay a penalty.

The bogus media event was prepared with consulting lawyers, producer Koltai said in a statement. He also said it was aimed at the Hungarian media itself, to reveal its faults.

The popularity of Robert Koltai', 64, stems mainly from his starring TV role in the adaptation of Sandor Rideg's folk tale, Indul a bakterhaz (1979), which turned him into Hungary's leading comedian. Heirs of the late author are considering whether to file suit against the producers of Trains Keeps a Rollin' on grounds of plagiarism.

Koltai's son, the film's producer, countered with the argument that the re-issued book displays the actor Koltai on its cover without his approval, a copyright infringement.

Koltai's directorial efforts, all comedies, have paid off handsomely in the past without such publicity antics. We Never Die (1993) reached the 400,000 admissions bar, whereas Samba (1996) sold 81,000 tickets, Out of Order (1997) 663,000, Professor Albeit (1998) 235,000, May Day Mayhem! (2001) 218,000, and Colossal Sensation (2004) 102,000.

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