Action flick wars -- Will ''Jurassic Park'' or ''Last Action Hero'' score bigger at the summer box office?

By Pat H. Broeske
Updated March 19, 1993 at 05:00 AM EST

Leave it to overachiever Arnold Schwarzenegger to boldly go where no star has gone before. The announcement that Columbia Pictures will pay $500,000 to put his name and the logo of his next movie, Last Action Hero, on an unmanned NASA rocket headed into orbit does more than make history. It substantially ups the stakes in the summer movie showdown between Columbia’s Hero and Universal Pictures’ Steven Spielberg opus, Jurassic Park.

Due to open in June within a week of each other, both Hero and Jurassic are vying for the same PG-13 audience — and the kind of repeat business that translates into multimillions at the box office. Jurassic’s massive $65 million promotional and marketing tie-in (see Entertainment Weekly, #161) was making dinos a force to be reckoned with — until Arnie conquered the final frontier.

To defray the cost of the rocket, NASA went looking for a single sponsor (the mission is a joint project with firms from private industry). More than two dozen companies responded, including Universal, which wanted the spot for Jurassic. ”We beat them to space,” says Mark Gill, senior vice president of publicity and promotions at Columbia, noting that this is the very first such advertisement.

Says Mike Lawson, president of Space Marketing Inc., which arranged the rocket deal, the space program needs new attention-getting ploys, ”and who better than Arnold to get the kids interested?” Indeed, a NASA spokesman admits they’re looking forward to blast-off headlines like ”Hasta la vista, baby,” and the line ”I’ll be back” could also come into play when the module falls back to Earth.

All this comes on top of Hero’s news-making shoot in New York City. A 75-foot-high, $125,000 balloon of Schwarzenegger tied up traffic for days and drew national coverage when it had to be disarmed — the hot-air-filled figure’s dynamite sticks were replaced with a police badge after the World Trade Center bombing. But the publicity machine for the $60 million-plus Hero doesn’t stop there:

*Schwarzenegger will help push the launch button on the Comet rocket, to blast off from NASA’s facility at Wallops Island, Va., in May.

*He’ll be joined by two winners of an AT&T 900-line contest, who will have paid a mere $3.50 for the privilege of sending a greeting from Earth to whomever might be out there.

*There will be promotional tie-ins with Burger King and Reebok, and licensing deals with toy companies, including Mattel.

*Talks are also under way with MTV regarding a massive promo blitz.

While the marketing and promotional campaign for both movies rages on, the real battle lies with the filmmakers, who are furiously trying to get their movies done in time. Spielberg is busy editing Jurassic from Poland, even as he shoots his next movie, Schindler’s List. And Last Action Hero, being directed by John McTiernan (Die Hard), is still filming on the streets of New York.

Meanwhile, execs at the respective studios are standing their ground. With a nod to the towering dinos, a Universal insider brags of Jurassic, ”We clearly have the biggest stars.” Counters a Columbia source, ”Arnold will wind up dining on dinosaur meat.” Let the games begin.