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Movie Theaters To Screen Anti-drug Messages

July 16, 1987|PENNY PAGANO | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — A new series of anti-drug messages, featuring celebrities from Clint Eastwood to Pee-wee Herman, will be appearing in movie theaters near you beginning Friday with the release of "Jaws, the Revenge."

The anti-drug spots, which run from 38 to 90 seconds with the message "The Thrill Can Kill," will be shown before all feature films produced by the nine major studios belonging to the Motion Picture Assn. of America.

The 11 trailers were unveiled at the White House this week by one of the star performers, First Lady Nancy Reagan, who said the idea of running anti-drug messages before feature films was among the topics discussed when she met with leaders of the entertainment industry last October.

"This innovative idea has become a reality," she said at a screening of the messages in the small family theater at the White House.

"These trailers will reach millions of young people and I'm sure they will have an effect," she said.

Jack Valenti, president of the Motion Picture Assn. of America, said Tuesday before leaving for the Moscow Film Festival, that the industry was pleased that "we've been able to fulfill a pledge we made to the First Lady.

"We in the movie industry are determined that this deadly fungus on the face of the nation simply has to be erased," he said. "One small way, but one indispensable way, is to try to over and over again say to young people particularly that this is bad news."

According to Valenti, U.S. motion picture ticket sales last year exceeded 1 billion. In addition, 59% of the nation's moviegoing audience is between 12 and 29, an age group particularly targeted by the anti-drug messages.

Valenti said the movie industry and movie theater owners responded positively to the idea of the spots. Other types of public service announcements could appear before feature films in the future, he added.

Jerry Weintraub, chairman of Weintraub Entertainment Group, who originated the idea for the anti-drug spots and who attended the White House screening, called the project "the most fulfilling personally and professionally of any I've ever been associated with."

Everyone involved in the project donated their time and those required to take a guild minimum fee for their work donated it back to the project, he said.

The MPAA studios--Columbia, Walt Disney, De Laurentiis, MGM-UA, Orion, Paramount, 20th Century Fox, Universal and Warner Bros.--contributed about $160,000 for the project. Weintraub said the spots would have cost more than $1 million to make if people had been paid.

"If this program reaches out from the screen and touches the heart of just one person in the audience, and convinces that individual to steer clear of drugs, then all of our time and effort will have been worthwhile," he said.

The spots were directed by Mark Rydell and filmed at Universal City Studios, with cinematography by Vilmos Zsigmond.

"See this cute little vial here. It's crack . . . rock cocaine . . . the most addictive form. You think it's the glamour drug of the '80s," says Eastwood in one spot.

"It could kill you," he says, adding that "if you've got to die for something, this sure as hell ain't it."

In another spot with Eastwood, Nancy Reagan says, "The drug dealers need to know that we want them out of our schools, neighborhoods and our lives. And the only way to do that is to take the customers away from the product. Say no to drugs and say yes to life."

Eastwood then adds, with his most solemn Dirty Harry look, that if he were offered these drugs, "I'd tell them to take a hike."

In another spot, Bette Midler holds up a small vial of crack and ends her message by saying that "if anyone offers you some, tell 'em where to shove it."

Other celebrities appearing in the spots include Rosanna Arquette, Rae Dawn Chong, Pee-wee Herman, Dudley Moore, Olivia Newton-John, Roy Scheider, Ally Sheedy and James Woods.

Talking later with reporters, Valenti and Weintraub said they believe there could be a market for the spots on television and possibly on videocassettes, perhaps even in Europe dubbed into foreign languages.

Weintraub said efforts are being made to match the celebrities and their messages with their appeal to the different audiences for the new films. He said he even consulted his 6-year-old daughter Jody about who would appeal to kids her age group, and she recommended Pee-wee Herman.

Weintraub also said that more spots are planned for the future. Asked how long they are likely to continue, he said, "As soon as drugs end, we'll end the campaign."

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