12 Films That Had Surprising Commercial Consequences

We movie-goers are an impressionable lot. We like to associate ourselves with our screen heroes; wear our underwear on the...

Dan Wakefield

Contributor

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We movie-goers are an impressionable lot. We like to associate ourselves with our screen heroes; wear our underwear on the outside and whack each other around the head with plastic lightsabers. But although imitation may well be the most sincere form of flattery, we’re not just talking about tracking down t-shirts and trainers on eBay. We’re thinking on a much bigger scale.

Sometimes the effect is obvious. For example, most Bond films are glorified car commercials. Indeed, such was the demand for a shiny new Lotus Espirit (having featured in The Spy Who Loved Me) that, upon the film’s release, customers had to sign up for a three-year waiting list. Likewise, Marlon Brando’s sultry performance in A Streetcar Named Desire helped to hawk hundreds of thousands of t-shirts. Presumably, customers had to provide their own sweat, muscles and brooding sense of masculinity.

But other trends are less easy to spot. Who knew what kind of impact Dennis Hopper, say, could make by having a psychosexual monster such as Frank Booth declaring his fondness for Pabst Blue Ribbon? Or Tallahassee’s (Woody Harrelson) obsession with Twinkies?

Below are the lesser-known commercial implications of some of our best-loved films. Enjoy!

12. The Use Of Caller ID Trebled After The Release Of Scream

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The best horror films are the ones that pounce out of your everyday routine. Psycho left you too scared to step into the shower. Jaws kept you away from the beach. And Scream, from its opening few seconds, turned a ringing telephone into the most terrifying sound ever.

Casey Becker (Drew Barrymore) is home alone. The phone rings and a male voice asks who he is speaking to. Wrong number. Casey ends the call. But the phone rings again. This time, Casey decides to indulge her mystery caller. They discuss horror films, before her caller reminds Casey that she has yet to tell him his name. She asks why he’d like to know, and he replies ”Because I want to know who I’m looking at”…

And there, wrapped in those nine words, is the reason why the use of caller ID increased more than threefold after the release of the film. Every time she puts down the phone, it rings again. And wasn’t that the doorbell? Had Casey been able to see that her caller was in fact her friend/neighbour/killer, then perhaps things could have turned out very differently. Instead, the poor girl goes from hanging on the telephone to just…hanging.