LEAD: Spurred by the success of such recent films about the Vietnam War as ''Platoon'' and ''Full Metal Jacket,'' United Artists is re-releasing Francis Coppola's 1979 movie ''Apocalypse Now'' in six cities next week.
Spurred by the success of such recent films about the Vietnam War as ''Platoon'' and ''Full Metal Jacket,'' United Artists is re-releasing Francis Coppola's 1979 movie ''Apocalypse Now'' in six cities next week.
''Apocalypse'' thus becomes the second movie to try to take advantage of the public's revived interest in the Vietnam War. ''Go Tell the Spartans,'' which was a critical success and a box-office failure in 1978, will be re-released in Los Angeles in September.
''Apocalypse Now,'' starring Marlon Brando, Martin Sheen and Robert Duvall, and loosely based on Joseph Conrad's novel ''Heart of Darkness,'' was nominated for eight Academy Awards. It won Oscars for its cinematography and for sound, but lost the major awards of best picture, director and screenplay to ''Kramer vs. Kramer.'' ''Apocalypse'' was one of the first films to have electronic music in its soundtrack. 'More Philosophical'
''It wasn't really a Vietnam movie in the sense 'Platoon' is,'' Mr. Coppola said. ''It was more philosophical and less realistic. I took 'Heart of Darkness' and dressed it in the clothes of Vietnam, but it was mythical operatic style about any aggressive war in any time or period.''
New 70-millimeter prints will be shown starting Aug. 28 in Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, Calif., Seattle, St. Louis and Cincinnati -cities in which the movie did particularly well in 1979.
''If the six cities show us there is money to be made, we'll expand it,'' said Andy Fogelson, president of marketing for United Artists. ''It wouldn't be utterly shocking to me if people came. I think there's a significant public appetite for a visual understanding of the Vietnam War. Where do you go but 'Apocalypse Now' for the ultimate visual experience?''
Like the original 70-millimeter prints, the new prints will have no logo or credits. Ticket buyers will be given a printed program.
Both ''Go Tell the Spartans,'' which was directed by Ted Post and stars Burt Lancaster as a ''military advisor'' in the early years of the war, and ''Apocalypse Now'' have already been released on video cassette. Their reissues flout the Hollywood wisdom that no film that has become available on cassette can be successful in theaters. A Huge Budget for 1979
At $31 million, a huge sum for a 1979 film, ''Apocalypse'' was as controversial for its budget as for its pyrotechnics. The movie earned over $100 million worldwide and shared the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival, but Mr. Coppola had to put up his house, car, and profits from ''The Godfather'' as security for the ever-rising budget. Mr. Coppola and United Artists are still arguing over outstanding bills.
Fred Roos, co-producer of ''Apocalypse,'' said re-releasing the movie had been considered since long before ''Platoon.'' ''All the time we get requests for 'Apocalypse Now' to be shown on college campuses and revival theaters,'' he said. ''The Imax theater in Toronto runs it and it knocks your socks off in that sound system.''
Mr. Roos paused, then added, ''There was such hullabaloo when the movie opened. People were reviewing the budget. Now people will be able to look at the movie for itself.''