Today we have another welcome lesson in film marketing hucksterism from correspondent Gary Teetzel. This one concentrates on the big-time promotions for one of William Castle’s biggest hits, 1960’s 13 Ghosts, the movie with the gimmick ‘ghost viewers.’ To start out, I recommended reading an article in Motion Picture Exhibitor, about a Detroit movie theater manager’s plans to hype Castle’s kiddie-safe shocker: “How Would I Sell… 13 Ghosts?”
The author mentions a stunt involving stamping the back of a kid’s hand, and giving the kid a free admission if the stamp was still visible when they came to theater. But this would be done about a week before the movie opened. Great — kids will spend a week NOT WASHING THEIR HANDS in order to get into the film for free!
A photo from the “Ghost Convention”:
I hope these come out straight and readable — got a magnifying glass handy? There follows a lengthy collection of clippings charting the ups and downs of 13 Ghost exhibition promotions and gimmicks. I guess some theater managers just stayed sober and ripped tickets, while others had ambitions of becoming P.T. Barnum. They took their business very seriously: “Don’t forget to omit the 1300 series.”
I like the way this theater manager fibs about ‘ectoplasmic color,’ when the movie is B&W!
One disappointed theater manager ran the film for Halloween ’61, when promoting 13 Ghosts was probably not a first priority back at Columbia. Did he really think the studio would keep supplies of Ghost Viewers on tap very long?
And Gary includes one more article, a Motion Picture Exhibitor profile of William Castle, from May of 1961. Thank you, Gary!
Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson