Drew Barrymore's revisionist history

Spielberg's retrofitting of "E.T." opens the door to an untapped revenue stream that promises a product placement bonanza!

Published January 18, 2002 8:00PM (EST)

MEMO TO: Staff, R&D
FROM: Marty Abrams, Marketing
RE: Revisionism -- the good kind!

Hello!! Once again, digital technology makes the headlines: At a cost of about $100,000, and at the request of his godchild -- firestarter-turned-pacifist Drew Barrymore -- Steven Spielberg is retrofitting "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial":

"The brilliant director plans to re-release 'E.T.' in late March," Neal Travis reported in the New York Post last week, "but the guns that appear in the final scene as [FBI] agents surround the spaceship will be replaced with walkie-talkies."

Barrymore's plan is more than just a thoughtful attempt at curbing worldwide violence; it's an untapped revenue stream! The potential markets extend well beyond actresses, into the dollar-rich world of niche demographics. Get these groups' special message into a popular film and they'll finance 50 "E.T.s"! Think of it as retroactive product placement. I've highlighted a few obvious marriages:

  • Recyclers and "Platoon": Hopefully Barrymore hasn't seen this film! Almost all of the actors carry guns, and in many cases point them at one another. Lord knows how much those eco groups would pay us to replace the guns with soda bottles and beer cans. The final scene can be tweaked a bit, so that the soldiers make a dramatic deposit in strategically placed recycling bins. "Charlie" can pitch in, too!

  • The National Rifle Association and "The Wizard of Oz": Dorothy and friends remain profitable despite plodding -- and underrealized -- stretches between "We're Off to See the Wizard" and "If I Only Had a Brain." Why not insert a compelling riflery scene? Off the top of my head, I'm thinking the Cowardly Lion might look good with a handsome Remington 700 bolt action.

  • Al Gore and "The Manchurian Candidate": This film's a good "candidate" for enhanced earnings. Enter the former V.P. (minus beard) looking heroic. It can be a short scene, but the big lug needs some positive exposure and would probably pay for it at this point. Just because Gore's no political thriller doesn't mean he can't appear in one!

  • Referees and "Titanic": Millions of Americans saw this instant classic in the theaters, and still more continue to rent it in video stores. Significantly, the film fails to represent the referee lifestyle in any of its scenes. The referee community is powerful and organized, and reportedly anxious to expand. Cinematically, those striped shirts and whistles would really stand out in the midst of those older, drabber costumes. (You might say this idea is a "good call"!)

    In addition, it makes sense to investigate the world of sequel films, going forward. I've run some preliminary numbers, and production studios could save a bundle with expanded digitalization strategies. Rather than hire all new actors for "Harry Potter II" -- not to mention stocking their trailers with fresh fruit and expensive lotions -- why not digitally alter the old actors in the original film? Most body types are similar enough, so it would just be a matter of pasting in new faces and dialogue.

    Inevitably, whiney critics will raise so-called ethical issues, but this is a no-brainer. Revisionism has been given a bad name over the years, and it's time we take it back. This can be a turning point for our operation, and I believe we owe major kudos to Drew Barrymore. Amid the insipid romantic comedies and interchangeable buddy adventures, a rich young woman has the vision and Edisonian temerity to say the past is not what it was. Liberated from the obsolescence of linear temporality, we can now review history not shamefully, but with a film editor's keen eye for the fixable. The sky's the limit!

    Lastly, we'll invariably encounter the familiar "logistical" concerns (our company has only two employees, historically we have only operated a hot dog stand, we don't entirely understand what "digital" means, we're tired of sleeping behind the ketchup bins, etc.). But I'm excited to inform you that these aren't obstacles, but rather challenges. What if Spielberg had listened to the naysayers who said he couldn't make a movie about a cute alien who learned to speak English? I'll tell you where he'd be: Stealing wieners from our truck like a common hobo ... and guess who'd edit those dogs right out of his grubby hands!

    Company note: Please do not put the sauerkraut spoon in the relish tray, going forward. Thanx!

  • By Chris Colin

    Chris Colin is the author most recently of "Blindsight," published by the Atavist.

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    Steven Spielberg