A Real Movie-Plot Threat

"Arson Squad Blows Up News Rack, Tom Cruise Movie to Blame"

A newspaper promotion for Tom Cruise's "Mission: Impossible III" movie was off to an explosive start when a California arson squad blew up a news rack, thinking it contained a bomb.

The confusion: the Los Angeles Times rack was fitted with a digital musical device designed to play the Mission: Impossible theme song when the door was opened. But in some cases, the red plastic boxes with protruding wires were jarred loose and dropped onto the stack of newspapers inside, alarming customers.

You just can't make this stuff up.

Posted on May 2, 2006 at 1:41 PM • 23 Comments


Mike SherwoodMay 2, 2006 2:26 PM

This situation just confuses me. The arson squad can't ignore a potential explosive device just because it looks too campy to be real. The person seeing the device wouldn't have any reason to believe it was some advertising stunt before hearing the Mission Impossible theme song being played. The advertising guy who thought of this wouldn't expect the device to fall down and have people call the police.

This story is great advertising for the movie. I'm sure they're counting the cost of the newspaper stand as an advertising expense at this point. Whether or not they thought this could happen, the advertising people should get nailed for the cost of the arson squad going out. Whether they were reckless or clueless, public resources were used as part of their publicity stunt.

The DeciderMay 2, 2006 2:50 PM

> This situation just confuses me.

It's true - nobody did anything wrong.

> Whether or not they thought this
> could happen, the advertising people
> should get nailed for the cost

I'm not sure they did anything to be punished for - but better the movie studio than the taxpayer. Maybe the Times shares some of the responsibility.

mpdMay 2, 2006 3:10 PM

Why can't they finish the job and blow up all copies of Tom Cruise's movies?

ParanoiaWillDestroyYaMay 2, 2006 3:33 PM

Mike summarized this pretty well.

Although, it seems to me that people are just getting too paranoid lately.

Was this really that big a threat that it called for an arson squad to be deployed? I know, I know, if it were a real bomb and someone got their hand blown off it would be a different story, but come on...

KevinMay 2, 2006 3:42 PM

I don't think the tax payers are on the hook for blowing up the stand. It's pretty rare that the police have to pay for damages, even if they are in the wrong.

Who determines if the "device" is a bomb, an MP3 player in a weird place, or a bomb that looks like an MP3 player. If you can't get at the device to x-ray it you don't have many options to get rid of it. They probably shot it with a remote robot shotgun thingy (it's technical), which may be effectively the same as blowing up the paper rack, but doesn't near as cool...

another_bruceMay 2, 2006 3:43 PM

it's been years since i've gotten a newspaper out of a rack, but i don't want movie theme music blaring at me when i do so. it's just advertising, and it's more offensive than poster ads on the newsrack because you can't avoid it unless you have earplugs. it's an affront to both the newspaper buyer and any others unfortunate to be standing around. some fricking moron at an ad agency thought this would be a clever idea, just install something that could be mistaken for a bomb in newsracks! these people should all be castrated or spayed before they can further reproduce. specifically, i am sick to death of hearing about "mission impossible", its nutball freak star and his woman, the bastard child they created as a promotion, xenu the evil galactic dictator, et cetera. this whole thing is like a mocking parody of our trashy, degenerate culture. i'm definitely going to skip this movie!

'Little' Tommy the CruiserMay 2, 2006 6:07 PM

(jumps on couch)

woohoo - I'm excited Oprah ! The news-stand was the biggest bang I've had since Katie got pregnant !

SpookMay 2, 2006 7:21 PM

So, movies DO cause violence!

Okay, not really... But this is quite amusing, to say the least.

Bill Higgins-- Beam JockeyMay 2, 2006 7:29 PM

The mysterious box with the wires hanging out of it isn't the only alarming feature here.

Consider getting your newspaper. You put in coins. You open the front of the box. Lalo Schifrin's classic theme music begins to play.

What is the visual image that always accompanies the *Mission Impossible* theme?

Right. Someone lighting a fuse with a match. The fuse burning its way across the TV screen...

This song is about setting off a bomb, is it not?

So if you hear a newspaper box unexpectedly playing Schifrin's tune, the most prudent thing to do may be to run away very fast, or get behind something heavy and thick. Immediately.

AnonymousMay 2, 2006 11:01 PM

A number of years ago, I worked in Cambridge, MA as an EMT. A care package was sent via UPS to Harvard, and when the deliveryman noticed the box was ticking, he put it down on the loading dock and called the Harvard U. cops, who in turn called Cambridge, and then Boston's bomb squad. (Alice's Restaurant comes to mind.)
Along came the fire department, and the road was cordoned off, buildings were evacuated, and the bomb disposal guy got gussied up in the suit, took x-rays and then rendered the alarm clock, walkman and headphones "safe", albeit "unusable."
But the Unabomber was still on the loose, so what were they going to do? (Remember that Ted Kaszynski graduated from Harvard.)

Nick LancasterMay 3, 2006 2:58 AM

Just wait for the boxes to show up on eBay. And the paper will have to eat the cost of vandalism.

Brilliant promotion, guys.

mcrMay 3, 2006 3:49 AM

They did not blow up all the other racks, where the units didn't fall down, did they ?
What do we learn from this ?
If you put a bomb somewhere, place it out of view and make sure it doesn't fall off.
If someone asks, pretend it's a "marketing device".

TankMay 3, 2006 5:17 AM

"I'm not sure ....."
Posted by: The Decider at May 2, 2006 02:50 PM

Clearly an imposter.

JMDMay 3, 2006 9:04 AM

"The devices are to remain in the boxes until May 7, two days after the film is scheduled to open. "
- That's just missing "... at which time they are programmed to self-destruct"

DGMay 3, 2006 9:30 AM

@ 'Little' Tommy the Cruiser

"(jumps on couch) woohoo - I'm excited Oprah ! The news-stand was the biggest bang I've had since Katie got pregnant !"

Funniest thing I have read in a while, you just made my Wednesday.

Laughing my cubical walls off....


JungsonnMay 3, 2006 10:03 AM

@ Jim

"Not every itch, just the ones in public places. They should get rid of the newspaper boxes for a number of reasons."

So should the dumpsters/trashcans then.
If i should made something electronic in my spare time, and i go to the dumbster to ditch a bunch of wires and old circuitboards after cleaning, and they stick out? well, here no problem. No reason to call the bombsquad, ....come on its a dumbster. Same with the newspaperbox, ok it's wide open in public space, but there are better place to put them. I think it's overreacting.

BrandonMay 3, 2006 11:56 AM

Amusing. Hell, a good ⅓ of the time i ever try to use a paperbox it's empty/abanded.

Jim HyslopMay 4, 2006 10:28 PM

This kind of thing isn't new. The milk companies around here regularly run a contest (the contest is probably wide-spread, I don't know - I don't get out enough :=), where some milk cartons have an electronic device inside that goes "Mooo!". If you get one of those, you win a prize. About 15 years ago or so, someone in one of the downtown Toronto food courts called the bomb squad, because there were wires sticking out of the milk carton. The promotion was well-known, having already run for several years, and the carton was well-marked as being part of the promotion. But the bomb squad still had to dispose of the carton.

normalMay 5, 2006 12:35 PM

Betcha Tom Cruise called up the bomb squad himself. Whatever it takes to make certain he still makes 60 million minimum on this movie

Leave a comment

Allowed HTML: <a href="URL"> • <em> <cite> <i> • <strong> <b> • <sub> <sup> • <ul> <ol> <li> • <blockquote> <pre>

Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.