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The following article is about the promotion of A Star is Born (from Feb. 8, 1976):
“A Star Is Born” is riding a three-way cross-plugging promotion involving the film, the paperback and the Columbia Records’ soundtrack album. The payoff thus far has been big with the film having taken in about $17,500,000 at the B.O., the album going platinum with sales of over 1,000,000 and the paperback also going over 1,000,000 copies. The single disk from the film, “Evergreen,” is also hitting.
The promotion was the brain-child of film producer Jon Peters. From the film’s earliest stages, he wanted a coordinated campaign. He wanted a single photograph selling all three products (and got it shot by fashion photog Francesco Scavullo).
But while Peters laid the foundation and provided the spark, the plan was the result of a rather large combined effort. There was Warner Bros., which provided a $4,000,000 budget and a consistently sympathetic attitude toward Peters’ schemes. There was Scotti Bros., a local entertainment development firm, which came up with one of the campaign’s important dimensions. There was Columbia Records—which had the soundtrack album because it is Streisand’s label—agreeing to the whole campaign once it was devised.
What all of them created made its bow the first week in November, and it began with the photograph. Full-page ads appeared in major-city newspapers. Billboards began going up in 20 cities, most on the sides of theatres. There were no words, just large signs painted at a combined cost of $100,000.
Three weeks later, the photo found its way into record stores as Columbia released the album. Originally, the label had planned to release the disk in October, figuring on getting the 500,000 or so fans that consistently buy Streisand’s albums. But the campaign pushed the release date back. Where a more conventional album promotion would have been spread out over several months, the campaign had Columbia concentrate its $400,000 budget over a two-week period with Warners-controlled ads that also plugged the paperback and film.
The next phase belonged to radio promotion. It was designed by Scotti Bros., who entered the picture when Peters approached them because he wanted a campaign for “Evergreen," the single off the soundtrack album.
Peters wanted the single to be a hit before the film opened. The record took a little longer to move up the charts. However, what the Scotti Bros.—along with two associates, George Fritzinger and Macy Lippman—came up with might have been as effective.
They got 165 rock stations to participate in the promotion, with each station choosing among the number of contests. There were T-shirt and album giveaways, but there was also a contest whereby the stations would stage previews of the film. “We dominated top 40 radio around the country,” Peters said, and that “had a lot to do with the first week’s grosses."
On top of this was the Streisand radio documentary arranged through Fitzinger’s ties with RKO. In half the country, it aired on Dec. 19. In the other half on the day after Christmas, and, Tony Scotti said, “It didn’t cost us as penny.”
The paperbacks hit the stands after the contest began. Not only, were they cross-plugged, but when they were sold in stores near theatres, they were promoted in displays which also plugged the film and album. Record stores received the same kind of displays, the result of research which found that in suburban America, bookstores, record stores and theatres were often located next to each other in the same shopping centers.
The film ads began the latter part of December. Before they started appearing, however, the film and album got more exposure. Peters said that the only reason he and Streisand did the Barbara Walters interview was that ABC agreed to put it on Dec. 14, four days before the pic preemed, and play both film clips and “Evergreen” during the show.
Additionally, by the time the pic opened on Christmas Day, album sales had reached 400,000 with the jacket of each disk filled with scenes from the pic. When the film ads did begin, most were cross-plugged. Each was read over the ubiquitous “Evergreen.” And the names finally went up on the billboards.
The promotion is not over. The day “Star” goes broad, a national television network of syndicated stations will show a film about the making of the pic. Peters gave it to the web in exchange for the air time. In two weeks, Peters is going abroad to set up a campaign for the pic’s foreign promotion. His philosophy will be the same—“to control each of the elements so that each one triggers off the sale and motivation of the next.”
[End of article]
Famed photographer Francesco Scavullo — he photographed the covers of Cosmopolitan magazine for 30 years — was responsible for the main advertising images used for A Star is Born.
He described his technique: “I like to think my pictures have a personality, a contemporary look, sex appeal. My aim is to make people look very good—not by tricks, but by lighting and understanding women, knowing what makeup they should have, what hairstylist, and bringing out their best in the studio. I've always been interested in the total look of a woman. If there's something wrong I can usually tell. They usually stick with my advice and are happy for it.”
Scavullo photographed Kristofferson and Streisand in various poses, clothed and unclothed.
In 1977, Scavullo told People magazine: “And right now Barbra Streisand is my love. She could have felt like an ugly duckling, but she's smart and she's positive. She worked with herself—as she is. When she sat for me she wanted to do her own makeup, so we compromised. We did it the first day, she did it the second. She's so smart! She picked up all kinds of tricks to use the second day. ”
More Scavullo photos of Kristofferson and Streisand:
A Star is Born is considered Streisand's big box office hit. Budgeted at under $7 million, the film was hugely successful at theaters, grossing upwards of $88 million dollars worldwide.
Although Star Wars (1977) is the film most associated with Dolby Stereo surround sound in the cinema, A Star is Born was the first film released in the branded Dolby Stereo format.
Ioan Allen (Vice President of Dolby Laboratories) "We had a couple of meetings with [Streisand] in Hollywood. She would only do it, or her people would only do it, if there was a surround channel on it, because they thought the surround and crowd noise were really important.
Below: A set of lobby cards, to be displayed in theaters showing A Star is Born. Lobby Cards measured 11" x 14" and were usually printed in sets of 8 on heavy card stock .
Streisand and Jon Peters traveled to Japan to premiere their movie. This charming story from Teen Bag Magazine details their Japanese press conference:
Streisand was in the land of chrysanthemums and kimonos to talk up a storm about her film, “A Star is Born," but besides beating the drums for the movie, she was coaxed into describing her fears along with her far-out eating habits, the new twist her career will be taking and a little trick she knows to make Jon Peters one of the happiest of men.
Barbra's meeting with the press was set for Tokyo's staid Imperial Hotel, but certain people had predicted that the volatile star might provide a few fireworks, so the atmosphere was electric.
As Barbra got off the elevator hand-in-hand with John, Teen Bag was right there to greet her, but suddenly so were nearly one hundred other members of the press. It was a chore for the beleaguered couple to enter the jammed ball room to get down to business.
Barbra and Jon seemed to be pleased as punch with the wild reception. No complaints yet.
Early on, Barbra won over many Japanese scribes when she announced, “I love haiku!" For those of you who do not know, Haiku is an exotic type of poetry that is rather heavy going even for native Japanese. But Barbra told how she was working on creating some in English. She stated, “Even my 10-year-old son is learning about haiku in school. I want to set it to music. Someday I'll do it."
Barbra got a roar of laughter from her listeners when she greeted one aged Japanese lady reporter (whose greying black tresses had been dyed a vivid strawberry color) with the exclamation, “Hey, we both got red hair!”
The startled news hen almost forgot her question in the uproar, but she rallied bravely and commented on the beauty of Barbra's love scenes with Kris Kristofferson and asked if any real feeling had arisen as they were being filmed.
“Hey, do you want to get me in trouble?" Barbra laughed as she looked to Jon by her side. He was content to make no comment, letting his lady-love be the center of attention. And Barbra seemed to be enjoying herself.
She insisted the romantics were make-believe, but stated, “if a leading man is handsome, it heIps." She went on to explain that while she was in the arms of Kris she was thinking constantly of Jon.
“Kris," she noted, “is a very fine writer and poet, a wonderful actor and an interesting singer."
One observant reporter noted that her usually long nails were much shorter now. Why?
“First of all," Barbra replied with her hands playfully fanning the air, “I studied the guitar to play in the movie (this scene was later cut), so I had to cut my nails."
“l kept this hand short," she noted, “and this hand long. Thisl call my ‘city hand’ and this my ‘country hand.’ It's my gardening hand. I love fIowers."
Then she let us in on the little trick she uses to keep Jon comfortable. Jon, she revealed, just loves those long nails on the other hand. “He likes me to scratch his back," she told her entranced audience, one that is not used to hearing about such intimacies.
Did we notice Jon squirm at the revelation, or was it our imagination? Was he embarrassed, or anticipating another back-scratching session?
The short-nailed hand was the one that helped Barbra win her shiny Oscar for her Academy Award song, she revealed.
It was during her guitar lessons that things got started, she explained. “l was so frustrated because I wanted to play the guitar beautifully and I couldn't. So out of impatience and boredom, I started to fool around with the guitar—and I just found the melody for “Evergreen.”
From such simple beginnings come great song hits, we observed. Teen Bag was able to bring a big expression of happiness to the star's face by calling attention to the great reception “A Star is Born" has been getting around the world. There were those who had hoped and predicted that she and Jon, who worked as producer of the picture, would fall flat on their faces. We asked, “How does it feel now that the movie is so successful?"
The look that crossed her distinctive features was one of a cat lapping up a crock of the richest cream. “It feels just fine," she replied as her grin reached from ear to ear. Then she went on to comment on her critics, but in a lady-like way.
“Believe me, it was very difficult to have that kind of pressure," she said. “lt seems to be an American tradition to build up artists and then destroy them. It's unfortunate. But I think that the only thing that is important is my work-and for the rest, I have to keep my fingers crossed."
Here a waiter served black tea only to have Barbra win more points with the reporters by declaring that “Japanese tea is much heaIthier."
“|'m very much into health foods,” she continued. “That is, I don't like big chunks of meat. And that is why, for me, Japanese foods are fantastic."
“I love tofu (bean curd) and the roots such as gobo and lotus roots. Then ginko nuts and fish paste."
“On the train from Kyoto to Tokyo, I had two boxes of sushi (rice and raw fish). I really liked it. I ate it all up."
Questioning turned to Barbra’s future films. What would she be starring in? Dig her reply!
“Science fiction probably.”
What an exciting twist, we thought. A turn that only a person like Barbra could make. With her red, shaggy-dog locks framing her face and dressed in a space suit, she would make an admirable lady from outer space!!!
Now, attention shifted for a while to Jon Peters who had been patiently holding Barbra’s hand. What was his opinion of Barbra as a woman and as an actress? And what about their marriage plans? Jon's answer was amusing in its brevity. “Fantastic! Fantastic! And no comment."
He was asked how old he was and reported, “l’m 31."
Barbra broke in laughingly with the news that “l’m the older woman. I'm 34."
With the success of “A Star is Born" under his belt, he announced that he was already hard at work on “Eyes,” a scary movie. He also made a promise which will make all Barbra’s fans happy.
“Barbra and I will be doing another film together next year. We plan to make a lot of movles.”
Then it was that Barbra made her confession of fear. When a reporter asked her why she had not accepted one of the many offers that have been made for her to sing in front of live audiences in Japan, she came out with the startling statement,“l am afraid to sing in front of a lot of people!" This, despite her singing on the Broadway stage and in front of a huge throng for the movie.
Coming from Barbra this was quite an admission, but as she said it we could see that she was on the level. She was serious.
All too soon the big press conference was over. And the assembled reporters broke into applause. They had come to see a tiger, but had found a pussy cat, a loveable one at that.
[End of article]
“In Japan,” Streisand reminisced, “at the opening for the film, I looked out at the press conference—two hundred forty-seven men and three women. I spoke about role reversals, about women standing up for themselves, having their own identities, not just becoming somebody's wife, as Esther is not just Mrs. John Norman Howard at the end. Everyone in that room looked at me with blank faces. That was culture shock. But in a way, isn't that what movies are all about? Maybe people don't like changes. They get used to artists appearing in the same kind of roles or doing what they're known for, just as people were used to me then being only a singer and performer. That also says a lot about how women are viewed in our culture, especially actresses who want to direct films are viewed as frivolous, not financially responsible. So in different ways, we're knocking against a lot of glass walls, not just glass ceilings.”
Barbra—ever the protective mother to her film—wrote the following letter to movie theater exhibitors:
A Star is Born first aired on network television November 1980 on the ABC Sunday Night Movie. Streisand fans were suprised that ABC had inserted the recording studio “chow mein” scene (see below), which was not in the theatrical release of the film.
When Warner Brothers released the Star is Born DVD in 2006 many cut scenes were included on it.
The 2013 Blu-ray of A Star is Born from Warner Brothers included the following bonus features:
- Commentary with Barbra Streisand
- Wardrobe Tests with Commentary by Barbra Streisand (480i; 1.85:1, non-enhanced; 3:12)
- Deleted Scenes/Alternate Takes with Optional Commentary by Barbra Streisand (480i; 1.85:1, non-enhanced; 16:44): Twelve scenes
- Trailer Gallery (480i)
- A Star Is Born (1937) (1.33:1; 2:50)
- A Star Is Born (1954) (2.35:1, enhanced; 3:56)
- A Star Is Born (1976) (1.78:1, enhanced; 3:50)
- Digibook: with many rare photos and some text about filming, the soundtrack, and more.