If you're as tuned into the Internet as Kevin Flynn might be, you probably heard of the super secret Tron: Legacy viral hunt and IMAX trailer reveal. Those in L.A. were treated to a Q&A with Legacy director Joseph Kosinski and the director of the original Tron, Steve Lisberger. Other cities just got a free t-shirt with their trailer, I believe. Word of mouth was positive, but I'm uncertain what a huge event it was overall. It was awfully quiet.

I confess, I didn't look into it much because these massive marketing events are already beginning to leave a curmudgeonly taste in my mouth. I dug all The Dark Knight viral stuff, mainly because people got really funky bits of swag out of their hunts. (You still see I Believe In Harvey Dent! campaign t-shirts around certain corners of geekdom.) It was also new, fresh, and competitive and it fit with the film in that the Joker was behind the mayhem. Then came Avatar Day which was the first time a studio booked theater time just for a preview, a move which Tron: Legacy copied. Hopefully, it played to bigger audiences than Avatar Day did to justify the IMAX renting cost.

But isn't it all a bit silly? Now, I realize no one is forcing fans to go to these events and if they want to spend their time and money doing it, good for them. But when studios are complaining about not making money on movies, why spend so much money on an event only the hardcore (i.e. those who already know about Tron: Legacy) will attend? It's not grabbing "newbies" to the movie by any means, unless knowledgeable fans are taking friends along.

It seems to me if a studio is going to do it, they really need to go all out in a ComicCon fashion. The majority of The Dark Knight virals were an inside game, but there were a few (such as Harvey Dent's "campaign") that included passersby. That was the fun of it. Why not do something similar for Tron: Legacy in malls or movie theaters? Something that really sells it to people just walking by and puts it on their radar. The funky thing about ComicCon is that people going downtown to the Gaslamp District score just as much chance of a free t-shirt, poster, or preview as the attendees do. It'd be cool to go to the mall and have something similar happen, and be ushered into a booth where you get to see a trailer.

Or here's a really crazy and mean-spirited thought -- do away with this stuff altogether. I'm pretty sure Avatar Day did next to nothing to help Avatar win its massive box office success, and I'm willing to bet Tron: Legacy won't pop onto the mainstream radar until the trailers and TV spots hit. When did marketing for a movie become an event? Isn't the movie the event? Why waste time and money and encourage pollution so a handful of people can race out and see a trailer a few days (or weeks) early? It's a trailer. How far is this trend going to go? A viral hunt to find out the casting? The title? What happened to the product speaking for itself?