PRESSBOOK PROMOTIONAL FUN, Part 1

A Space OdysseyAmong the many movie collectibles on the marketplace, pressbooks were studio publicity tools that were geared toward the theatre exhibitors. Though rarely seen by the public except by film collectors these specialized publications were chock full of alternate poster art for their specific film as well as behind the scenes stories on the production and the cast and crew. Best of all were the promotional tips for theatre managers on how to pack their theatres with excited fans. Some of these tips could probably get you arrested and sometimes you have to wonder if the pressbook writers were drunk or just testing the gullibility of the exhibitors. The Arena

 

 

Take for instance, these suggestions for the 1973 New World release THE ARENA, aka “Naked Warriors,” starring Pam Grier and Margaret Markov in a exploitation take on the sword and scandal genre.

The Arena pressbook 

Giving spears and swords to “tall, well-endowed young ladies” dressed as Amazons in the theatre lobby was probably not a good idea for 1973 since a lot of angry feminists would probably volunteer and make mincemeat of the macho pig theatre owner and any leering male customers. Of course today it would cause a stampede if you stated you were going to film the event. Contestants would think it was a new reality TV show.

City on Fire poster

Here’s some pressbook suggestions for the Canadian-made CITY OF FIRE (1979), a B-movie disaster film starring Henry Fonda and Shelley Winters during that late seventies period when they would star in anything – TENACLES, THE SWARM, THE VISITOR, METEOR, etc.

City of Fire pressbook 

As you can see the CITY OF FIRE pressbook is a mixture of the tasteless and the charitable. You could do a “Fire Sale” tie-in or arrange a benefit for the local firemen’s department or even better publish a fake newspaper with catchy headlines like “DISASTER STRIKES WITH CITY ON FIRE” and distribute it all over town. Never mind about the fact that some people in your community may have suffered some major losses due to a fire. It’s all in fun.

 

One of the most fascinating aspects of these pressbooks is when a major motion picture like Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968) has product merchandising tie-ins featured in the pressbook.

2001 comic book for Howard Johnson restaurants 

I, for one, would have loved to have seen Kubrick’s face when a Howard Johnson restaurant 2001 promotion tie-in was first presented to him…or maybe they never ran it past him. These pressbook promotions sometimes come across like sideshow carny pitches, hustling the rubes who ran theatres in the sticks.

Vampire Circus Horror movies always offered numerous possibilities for promotions, especially vampire films. Here’s one for VAMPIRE CIRCUS (1972). Vampire Circus pressbook

You have to wonder about a restaurant tie-in…after a blood drenched thriller would you really want a “Vampire stake” (rare)?

 

6 Responses PRESSBOOK PROMOTIONAL FUN, Part 1
Posted By RHS : November 4, 2007 11:44 am

That pressbook for CITY ON FIRE is awesome!  And what's Simone Signoret doing pushing that gurney?

Posted By RHS : November 4, 2007 11:44 am

That pressbook for CITY ON FIRE is awesome!  And what's Simone Signoret doing pushing that gurney?

Posted By Medusa : November 5, 2007 11:27 am

I have always loved pressbooks and wondered where, if anywhere, did theater owners ever really embrace those suggested publicity stunts?    Wouldn't we have loved to go into a Howard Johnson's and find a huge chocolate slab/2001 obelisk standing up in our vanilla ice cream sundae?  With small plastic monkey figurine standing close by, I hope!  Or maybe there wasn't an actual film/food tie-in, but it would have been amazing!  The use of the term "ballyhoo" in the Vampire Circus pressbook certainly sums it up!  These were definitely a leftover from carny pitches.  Oh, for a time when the world was so innocent and willing to suspend disbelief…or when everything–everywhere–didn't feel like a crass come-on, thrown out by corporate minions.Those were the days!Wonderful post, Jeff!

Posted By Medusa : November 5, 2007 11:27 am

I have always loved pressbooks and wondered where, if anywhere, did theater owners ever really embrace those suggested publicity stunts?    Wouldn't we have loved to go into a Howard Johnson's and find a huge chocolate slab/2001 obelisk standing up in our vanilla ice cream sundae?  With small plastic monkey figurine standing close by, I hope!  Or maybe there wasn't an actual film/food tie-in, but it would have been amazing!  The use of the term "ballyhoo" in the Vampire Circus pressbook certainly sums it up!  These were definitely a leftover from carny pitches.  Oh, for a time when the world was so innocent and willing to suspend disbelief…or when everything–everywhere–didn't feel like a crass come-on, thrown out by corporate minions.Those were the days!Wonderful post, Jeff!

Posted By todd : November 8, 2007 1:54 pm

Hey Jeff,I really didn't know of a better way of contacting to you so I'm gonna just try it here … sorry… remember me ? I screened Deep End and The Raiders Of The Lost Ark : The Adaptation a while back here in Athens.Well , I wanted to talk to you about some movies we are screening here … Next week we are showing an Albert Ayler documentary and then after that we're screening a lost Bill Murray/ Zach Galligan/Dan Aykroyd film from 1983 called Nothing Lasts Forever sometime next spring ( with possible guests attending ) . I know NLF is owned by Turner … you guys got any promo stuff from it?Anyway, if you'd like to talk about it I'd appreciate it. I'm looking for a way to let people in ATL or near Athens about the films we show… usually out-of print and rare stuff. Sometimes it is even FREE or for charity.Thanks,todd.crookedrain@gmail.com

Posted By todd : November 8, 2007 1:54 pm

Hey Jeff,I really didn't know of a better way of contacting to you so I'm gonna just try it here … sorry… remember me ? I screened Deep End and The Raiders Of The Lost Ark : The Adaptation a while back here in Athens.Well , I wanted to talk to you about some movies we are screening here … Next week we are showing an Albert Ayler documentary and then after that we're screening a lost Bill Murray/ Zach Galligan/Dan Aykroyd film from 1983 called Nothing Lasts Forever sometime next spring ( with possible guests attending ) . I know NLF is owned by Turner … you guys got any promo stuff from it?Anyway, if you'd like to talk about it I'd appreciate it. I'm looking for a way to let people in ATL or near Athens about the films we show… usually out-of print and rare stuff. Sometimes it is even FREE or for charity.Thanks,todd.crookedrain@gmail.com

Leave a Reply

Current ye@r *

Streamline is the official blog of FilmStruck, a new subscription service that offers film aficionados a comprehensive library of films including an eclectic mix of contemporary and classic art house, indie, foreign and cult films.