When E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial was loosed upon the world, people were scrambling to score E.T. merchandise and there was plenty of it. I myself had a couple of choice items that were given to me by my Grandmother who was also a big fan of the film. My stuff was probably from Sears or K-mart. There were aisles in both of those stores dedicated to everyone’s favorite visitor from space.
What I was not aware of, is that in at least one place there was an entire store or “center” dedicated solely to E.T. merchandise. The place was the aptly named E.T. Earth Center and it was located next to Universal Studios Tours in California.
According to reports from the time the E.T. Earth Center, which opened in late 1982, was a 13,000 square foot tent structure. In its first two hours of operation 5,000 showed up to find E.T. merchandise and enjoy an E.T. exhibit. Among the items sold were E.T. underwear, sneakers, notepads, pencil, dolls, snack trays, lunch boxes, and suitcases. The list goes on and on.
At the exhibit, visitors could pick up phones to hear E.T. talk, see E.T.’s spaceship, and play the now-infamous E.T. video game.
Just a handful of photos of the E.T. Earth Center exist online and all are heavily copyrighted. So you should search for them and see for yourself, but I will explain what it looked like here. Picture a quickly assembled Disney Store filled with just E.T. stuff. So wire racks stuffed to the gills and unusual E.T. merchandise and art strewn throughout to keep your attention between purchases.
If you were to ask me why they set up this place, the answer seems obvious. They had a narrow window of popularity to sell lots of stuff quickly. I can only speculate on the details, but I can say that the E.T. Earth Center was willing to spend money to make money.
They put together this cute commercial where a little girl is very excited to land her great E.T. stuff only to be rebuffed by a cynical older brother who does not believe her. But seeing is believing when she shows off the goods and now the whole family is ready for the next trip to the E.T. Earth Center.
The little brother in this ad sure does look like Kirk Cameron. What does everyone think, is it him?