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'Commando's' Dawn Raid

October 19, 1985|DENNIS McDOUGAL | Times Staff Writer

All over the Westside of Los Angeles on Friday, sleepy-eyed newspaper readers found Arnold Schwarzenegger snarling a happy "Commando" message to them over their morning coffee.

"Let's Party" was the ad line printed across the top of a wall-sized movie poster included in 163,000 copies of the Westside edition of The Times. Just below the ad line--in living, life-size color--was a battered, venomous-looking Schwarzenegger, gnashing his molars and looking for any living thing that he might be able to crush with his bare pincers.

All in all, it's the kind of wake-me-up that 20th Century Fox hopes will send audiences scurrying to their local drive-ins this weekend, much the same way the studio's "Cocoon" campaign last summer made that picture one of the surprise 1985 box-office hits. The studio's ad campaign for that movie also included a movie poster (though a much smaller one) as an enclosure in The Times during the third week of the film's release.

This will be the third week that "Commando" has been in release too, hoping to maintain its lead over 36 other films currently showing in the Los Angeles area. Nationally, it was also on top with box-office receipts of $6.5 million as of last week, according to Daily Variety. The show-business trade paper estimated that the film would bring in at least $238,000 at 20 Los Angeles-area theaters this week.

The film posters, which usually cost the studio about 30 cents apiece to print, follow a marketing pattern that generally opens with an initial week of heavy television advertising and a second week of large newspaper ads that introduce an ad line--in this case, the suggestion that the audience might want to "party" with a murderous thug.

Movie marketing, which is notorious for being "follow the leader," in the words of one longtime advertising executive, could be moving into a trend if the Fox ploy proves as successful with "Commando" as it did with "Cocoon." Newspaper readers may soon find posters falling out of their morning papers each Friday.

KABC-AM (790)'s Ken and Bob show devoted some of their talk Friday morning to the "Commando" poster, and Fox itself was hit by an unusual number of inquiries from newsmen.

"So it worked, didn't it?" said one studio source.

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