A look at the crazy ideas film distributors had for promoting Godzilla films in the U.S.
David Milner
(Originally published in The Kaiju Review Issue # 4 Winter 1993)

Over the years, film distributors gradually have adopted a set of standard procedures that they use to publicize their films. These include running trailers in theaters, airing commercials on television and radio, placing advertisements in newspapers and inviting critics to preview screenings.  Many distributors have come up with much more elaborate methods of increasing box office receipts, but few have been more creative than those trying to promote Japanese monster movies in the United States.

American International, for example, suggested that in order to help promote “Godzilla vs. The Thing,” theater managers should, “spot all places where buildings have been wrecked or razed in your area, or where pre construction digging is going on, and post signs on surrounding fences reading, Godzilla fought The Thing here.” It also suggested that theater managers should have “wrecked or totally demolished cars placed around the city and in front of the theater with cards attached reading, “A victim of Destroy All Monsters.”

Cinema Shares, the American distributor of “Godzilla vs. Megalon,” made available “upon special request to Cinema Shares representatives, giant full color cut-outs of the four monsters in the film.”  These were made to fit on Volkswagen Beetles, and arrangements could be made for cars to be provided by local Volkswagen dealers. “This can be a huge promotional plus for your theater, but it requires a lot of advance planning and work. You can have your local officials declare ‘Monster Day’ or ‘Godzilla Day’ and have a parade, or use the convoy to visit shopping centers, or at sports events, etc.”

 Often distributors trying to promote Japanese monster movies would attempt to plant articles about them in newspapers and magazines.  For example, as part of its publicity campaign for “Ghidrah, ‘The Three-Headed Monster,” Continental offered a piece entitled, “New Monster Proves Heads Better Than One,” in which Shinichi Sekizawa, the screenwriter, was referred to as being “an expert on the extra-curricular activities of delinquent monsters.”  Continental created a Ghidrah mask to help promote “Ghidrah, The Three-Headed Monster”, and it suggested that local radio and television announcers should “request that listeners send in a wrapper or box top” from whatever products the announcers were trying to sell in exchange for a “free full-color mask of “Ghidrah, The Three-Headed Monster!”  It also urged theater managers to contact “local supermarkets running large ads for a big sale coming up.  This is an excellent way to reach the reader’s eye with an illustration of the mask and copy that says …The Two Biggest Events in Town, …Blank Market’s Giant Sale and “Ghidrah, The ‘Three-Headed Monster!”

Many distributors encouraged theater managers to tie-in with local merchants. American International, for example, urged them to coax exterminators into using the line, “We Destroy All Monsters Too… but not the variety seen in American International’s .Destroy All Monsters,” in their advertising.  It also recommended that theater managers recruit bar owners to help promote “Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster.”  “Have local bar owners create a new mixed drink labeled the Godzilla cocktail…it clears that five o’clock smog from your brain.”  Photographs with brief captions printed underneath them were also used to help promote the films.  The caption to one of the photographs distributed to help publicize “Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster,” for example, read simply, “menaced by muck – young Hiroyuki Kawase and Toshie Kimura flee before the menace of Hedorah, a gigantic living blob of corrosive sludge which rose from the polluted waters of a city to threaten the world in “Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster.”  In order to help publicize “Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster,” American International pointed out to theater managers that “a very pertinent and eye-catching three-dimensional display can be created in your lobby by setting up cutouts of the monster figures from posters over a mound of rubbish with tin cans and bottles so that the smog monster rises from the head.”  Other distributors also recommended setting up special displays in theaters. Columbia, for example, suggested that radioactive material should be displayed in the lobbies of theaters showing “Mothra.”

All of these methods of publicizing Japanese monster movies had their merits, but they weren’t always successful. So some distributors suggested that advertisements should simply be placed in the classifieds. “Classify your monsters in the classified section! Wanted – Men, Women or Young Adults to Help ‘Destroy All Monsters’!”