"E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial," the all-time box-office champ, is coming to home video with a commercial tie-in. And, like Michael Jackson, he's hooked to Pepsi.
No, you won't have to watch E.T. swigging Pepsi on your own tape. But if you buy certain Pepsi-Cola Co. products, you'll be able to get a $5 rebate. The MCA Home Video cassette will debut on home video Oct. 27 at $24.95--a record low price for a major movie and $2 less than "Top Gun."
Announcement of "E.T.'s" coming to home video was made with a flourish on a Universal sound stage decorated like a forest.
MCA Home Entertainment Group president Gene Giaquinto said "E.T." won't be on the home-video shelf forever because Universal Pictures, which also is under the MCA umbrella, apparently still hopes to re-release the film theatrically. It's already brought in more than $700 million at the box office.
"E.T.," which came out in June, 1982, stars Henry Thomas as a youngster who befriends the lovable alien. The movie will be dubbed into foreign languages for simultaneous worldwide video release. It will also be released in Spanish in the United States for the Latino market. And a closed-captioned version also will be available.
In late summer, Pepsi will launch a $25-million advertising campaign including TV commercials featuring E.T. himself.
Though there won't be an ad on the "E.T." cassette, the commercial tie-in is part of a mushrooming trend that started last year with the Diet Pepsi commercial on Paramount's "Top Gun." So far this year there have been ads on "Platoon," "Dirty Dancing, "The Princess Bride" and "Innerspace."
According to Billboard magazine, "Moonstruck," "The Last Emperor" and "Hope and Glory" are expected to include commercials when they're released this year. Anticipating this trend, MCA's Giaquinto warned last year: "At some point commercials on home video may be the rule rather than the exception."
So far, there's little indication of customer dissatisfaction with the ads. Paramount shipped more than 3 million copies of "Top Gun" to retailers and distributors, making it the best-selling tape in home-video history.
Quoting a study done on the "Top Gun" commercial, Paramount video division president Bob Klingensmith said in an earlier interview: "Over 35 million homes viewed it in a three- to four-month period. According to the study, very few people zapped (fast-forwarded) the commercial. And their retention level of the content was very high. In general, people didn't complain about the commercial. Naturally there were some complaints, but when you have something seen by so many people, some are bound to object."
So far, commercials have not been placed in the middle of a film, but there is some concern that that might not be too far off.
"If this commercial thing gets out of hand, it will bastardize our business," Klingensmith said. "Then home video will be like commercial TV. Let's hope good sense prevails."