The Big Picture

Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
on entertainment and media

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L.A. billboard owners squash 'Land of the Lost' anti-smoking ads

October 19, 2009 | 11:47 am

We knew that the Will Ferrell-starring "Land of the Lost" was a humiliating failure that lost so much money this summer that it probably played a big role in getting Universal Pictures chiefs Marc Shmuger and David Linde fired a couple of weeks ago. We also knew -- because some of us are gluttons for punishment -- that the movie featured a host of shots featuring Ferrell smoking a pipe, which earned Universal a chorus of Bronx cheers from anti-smoking advocates. In fact, the American Medical Assn. Alliance (AMAA), which keeps track of family health issues, cited "Land of the Lost" when it named Universal as its biggest offender in the unnecessary depiction of smoking in mass-appeal summer movies.

Land-of-the-lost-poster-2 But what the New York Times' Brooks Barnes reveals online today is that L.A. billboard owners, already enormously unpopular for shamelessly installing an ever-growing assortment of hideous video billboards, refused to accept ads from the AMAA publicly calling out the studio for its on-screen promotion of smoking. The AMAA had previously announced that the studio "found to be the biggest smoking offender would be publicly shamed on nearby billboards." But when the AMAA went to buy billboard space, every local billboard vendor refused to sell.

According to the AMAA, the billboard vendors, who take in a huge amount of revenue from (surprise!) movie industry advertising, weren't going to let their favorite clients be embarrassed in such a public way from an anti-smoking organization. It's yet another black eye for L.A., which has allowed billboard pollution to run rampant without even putting up a fight.

But let me give the last word to AMAA President Nancy Kyler, who says: "It's a sad day when movie studios can promote smoking to youth, but public health advocates cannot find a billboard in the whole city of Los Angeles that will run an ad to alert the public about the problem."