Over the past year, 1984 Publishing and author/ex-Fangoria editor Michael Gingold have released a series of beautiful coffee table books illustrating a very under-celebrated section of film fandom, the newspaper movie ads that run in the weekend or lifestyle sections of papers across the country. For decades, if you were a movie or genre fan it was common to showcase your collections of VHS or Beta tapes, DVDs and Blu-Rays, movie posters, lobby cards, promotional buttons, press kits, vintage magazines (like Prevue, Starlog or Fangoria), or if you have a lot of money or space to commit, there are even film reels & cels, costumes, props, or those giant cardboard standees you see in theaters. For all of this collecting, and all of the stuff you tend to see folks sharing on social media, you very rarely see collections of newspaper advertising or clippings. I know there are folks out there that do collect these, but I think these collections tend to either be very niche (centering on a specific film or film franchise), or not very large. I think this stems back to the disposable nature of newsprint. Papers are literally the kindling we use to stoke the flames of barbecue grills and fireplaces, they’re the supremely cheap insulation in old buildings, or the inexpensive drop clothes we use when painting our houses. These days, unless you’re a hoarder or work in a well-stoked library in the eighties, the general lifespan a newspaper has for most people is the time it takes to retrieve it off the lawn, pull out the coupons and then throwing it in the trash. Granted, maybe a newspaper would stick around for a day or two in the last century, but unless we were going to war, landing on the moon, or dealing with a momentous event as a country, papers just were not generally collected. Trust me, I’ve looked. As a huge fan of the movie The Monster Squad, I’ve been scouring the internet for any trace of actual newspaper clippings regarding the film, and I almost always come up empty. Hardly anyone lists them on eBay, I never see them in antique shops, and I have never spotted any at conventions. The reasons for this are sort of plain, there’s just not enough room in the world to effectively collect this kind of stuff. They’re bulky, tend to have daily editions, and they just aren’t designed to age well (they become very brittle and yellow over a short span of time. Again, I’m not saying there aren’t collections, just that they’re rare, rare enough that there isn’t a secondary market for trading or selling them.
So when I found out back in September of 2018 that 1984 Publishing was going to be partnering with Michael Gingold to release a nice hardbound sampling of his horror newspaper movie ad collection, I was floored. The book, titled Ad Nauseam: Newsprint Nightmares from the 1980s, collects ads for almost every horror film released (or re-released) during the decade. Admittedly, at this point I am a huge fan of 1984s library of books stemming back to founder Matthew Chojnacki’s original releases Put the Needle on the Record and Alternative Movie Posters I & II, but following through to such great releases as the Art of Gary Pullin book Ghoulish, Blood on Black Wax (showcasing horror scores and soundtracks on vinyl), and the incredibly niche yet awesome Sandwich Anarchy that collects 10 years of food gig posters for the Cleveland restaurant Melt. The love and attention to detail in these volumes is amazing, not to mention the overall quality of the design, binding and paper stock. 1984 is putting out very rad books.
After picking it up, I loved the first Ad Nauseam book so much that I immediately placed another order on Amazon for a second copy so that I could send one to my Cult Film Club c-host Paxton (a fellow newsprint movie ad fan) so that we could gush over the book on our podcast. We released that discussion back in February if you’re curious to hear us talk about movie ads and just falling on love with every page in that book. But I also feel very lucky to be on Matthew’s radar when it comes to reviewing some of the 1984 books, because there are times when I have access to these a month or so early. He recently sent me a copy of the follow up to Ad Nauseam, Ad Astra: 20 Years of Newspaper Ads for Sci-Fi & Fantasy Films, which was released in tandem with Ad Nauseam II: Newsprint Nightmares from the 1990s & 2000s.
Ad Astra not only delves into a new genre of newspaper ads focusing on sci-fi/fantasy, but it also overlaps with a very important time for me as a film fan. As much as I revere and wax nostalgic about the 80s, there was a lot during that decade that I just wasn’t paying much attention to. Movie releases by and large, went completely over my head for most of the decade as I was either too young to be aware, or was completely under the whims of my parents in terms of when I’d be able to go see flicks in the theater. HBO and Saturday afternoon matinees on UHF cable stations were more my jam as a kid, but when I turned 15 and I had friends with licenses and access to their parent’s cars, I was finally in control of my own cinematic destiny and was hitting the theater practically ever weekend. So as I was flipping through the book and made my way to the 1990s section of ads I was hit by a very unexpected wave of nostalgia for my teen years, something I have yet to really feel as an adult. So this book literally had a one-two punch to my gut in terms of an incredibly nostalgic experience.
These books are laid out year by year and feature inserts of background information and trivia on about a third of the films covered in the book. The layout and design is very satisfying which a lot of attention paid to giving the larger ads room to breathe on the pages. The other thing this book does very well is to include multiple ads or variations for some of the larger tent-pole films covered in the book. One of the interesting aspects of newspaper movie ads is that for some films the ads would change over time focusing on different imagery or riffing on any holidays that might overlap with the release of the films. So you’d see an ad for Gremlins that centered on the movie poster imagery at first, but then a month or two later there would be an ad featuring back-to-school or the summer Olympics iconography thrown in. This was a slightly rarer occurrence in the first Ad Nauseam book as horror films didn’t get many ads to begin with in most papers, so it was rarer that they’d feature updated imagery. But Ad Astra deals with a lot more blockbuster films like Ghostbusters or the Indiana Jones series, so it was cool to see some variation in these campaigns.
When my bud Pax and I were talking about the first book on our podcast we were very hopeful that Gingold had a much larger collection of ads that he hadn’t showcased yet. Ad Astra is an amazing boon in that he did and now we have 20 years worth of sci-fi and fantasy ads to ad to the decade of horror ads in the previous volume. Ad Nauseam II pick up where the first book left off and collects all of his horror ads from the 90s and 2000s, so with this third volume the swatch of newspaper ads included is pretty incredible and covers on of the most fertile times in both cinema and in cinema advertising…
Sadly, I think this third volume marks the end of Gingold’s collection, and according to the books he never had the presence of mind to clip all of the ads in papers, just the horror, sci-fi and action that caught his eye. So I don’t think there will be volumes detailing the comedy, drama and action films of the 80s through the 2000s. He says, passing off the baton to other fans and collectors, that it’s up to us to fill in the gaps of these other genres, and I hope that there is someone out there with stacks of musty old newspaper ads hoping to do just that. These three books are a literal treasure trove of cinema history, a history that is largely unexplored in retrospective criticism, and I am so glad to have these on my bookshelf.