Orson Welles' Original War of the Worlds Broadcast Returns
by Ethan Anderton
October 29, 2009
With our society's extensive use of the internet, viral marketing has become an invaluable tool for movie marketing. In recent years I think it's safe to say The Dark Knight is the reigning champion for best viral marketing campaign which inspired activity from people all over the world. However, the greatest publicity stunt ever achieved goes all the way back to 1938, when Orson Welles' radio broadcast of H.G. Wells novel War of the Worlds created unparalleled panic and fear of a real alien invasion. Now, exactly 71 years later, the broadcast will return as a live stream brought to you by the upcoming film Me and Orson Wells.
The original broadcast aired as an episode of the American radio drama anthology series Mercury Theatre on the Air as part of their Halloween show. The first two thirds of the 60-minute broadcast were presented as a series of simulated news bulletins, which suggested to many listeners that an actual Martian invasion was in progress. Adding to the illusion of an invasion was that the program was a "sustaining show" which means it ran without commercial breaks, and thus created a certain amount of urgency and realism. Though many people were scared, there is still dissension amongst historians as to exactly how much panic and chaos resulted from the broadcast.
You can hear the original broadcast in its entirety right here or at waroftheworldstribute.com exactly 71 years later, to the minute, on Friday, October 30th at 8pm EST. So get some popcorn, gather up your family and friends, and see if Orson Welles' famed broadcast still holds the weight and spook that came with it back in 1938. And despite using the broadcast for its own publicity, I really have to give credit to the Me and Orson Wells marketing team for incorporating such a timely, and clever use of Orson Welles historical influence on entertainment to do so. If you haven't seen the trailer for that film yet, then check it out here.