Vintage Scares #21: Horror Movie Newspaper Ads
It's Saturday morning 1976. You're eating a bowl of Frankenberry in your Spiderman footie pajamas at the breakfast table. Mom's cleaning up the kitchen while dad peruses the morning paper, hitting the sports section first. Then he decides to check what's playing at the local cineplex, so he turns to the movie section, and this is what he sees...
Yes, folks, week after week, day after day, ads like these ran in your local newspaper. I imagine today there'd be a public outcry against it, but back then it didn't seem to raise an eyebrow. Dad just kept sipping his coffee and looking for a good movie to go see.... not even flinching.
Why? I think it was a combination of two reasons: (1) Boomers were used to shock tactics used to promote horror and sci-fi films - they were doing it when they were children. Mom and dad realized it was all in good fun. (2) With real-life gorefests via the nightly news from Vietnam, a little bit of thrills and chills at the moviehouse seemed pretty harmless.
IMHO they're absolutely harmless - what's more they were fun as hell. Sure, the movie probably sucked, but what I really miss is all the crazy promotions theaters used to use to get butts in the seats. Check out the giveaway in the movie promo below... a free mystic potion - I'M THERE!
This next ad wasn't for the initial run of HGL's Blood Feast, but they were still getting mileage out of this low budget film twenty years later.... and free eyeballs to the first 130 people!
If memory serves, They Came from Within was an absolute stinker of a movie. But an eye-catching newspaper ad and an association to The Exorcist was all that was needed to fill the theater.
Another great way to fill theaters was to offer a double bill. Who could resist this "frenzy of blood" pictured below?
You've got to realize too that these movies were in town one week and gone the next. These weren't big budget bonanzas starring Tom Hanks which had to recoup millions upon millions of dollars. An attention grabbing newspaper ad was all that was needed to sell enough tickets to make a profit.
Plus, back then you didn't have to take out a second mortgage to go see a movie - it was extremely cheap. So, if the movie stunk, it was really no big deal.
A lot of these films were European in origin, so there was no production costs whatsoever. Just slap an English title on it, dub it, buy the newspaper ads, and pay a pittance for the rights, and PRESTO you've got yourself an easy profit! For example, The Horror of the Zombies below was actually Armanda De Ossorio's 'Ghost Galleon'
I LOVE the tag on the next advertisement: Makes Night of the Living Dead look like a kids pajama party! What a ballsy claim... and then next one claims to simply be the most horrifying film ever made. Something tells me they may have been exaggerating a little bit.
The horror movie newspaper ad is most definitely a lost art, especially considering the fact that newspapers themselves are about go bye-bye. Even the NY Times has announced that it cannot continue beyond the next few years. Thus, we say goodbye to both the horror movie newspaper ads, as well as the newspapers themselves. Adieu.