12A - The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, September 8, 1999
Gross-out, horror outperform
The Washington Post billion, a few hundred million dollars movie in history, after "Titanic"
ahead of last year's $2.6 billion. More He adds: "But I believe movies are
There aren't many principles than that: The number of tickets sold is contagious. When you see movies you
Hollywood holds sacred, but there are a up 8.5 percent. like, you go back to the movies."
few. "That means that attendance is up; it's And so it was. The summer of '98 was
Among them: Summer is a time to fill not just that ticket prices are higher or the summer of $100 million budgets.
with mega-budget movies. Movies need whatever. It means you're up across the This summer - oh, glory be - was the
to do huge business on their opening board," said Paul Dergarabedian, whose summer of $100 million revenues.
weekends or they sink like stones. And company, Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc., The big winners came shooting out of
blockbusters are preceded by that elusive maintains box office statistics. the can week after week: "Notting Hill,"
sense of anticipation universally referred "Even those of us who thought it "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged
to as "buzz." . would be a big summer never thought it Me," "The General's Daughter,"
This summer, those principles were could be this big," said Tom Sherak, who "Tarzan," "Big Daddy" and on and on.
roundly trounced. chairs the motion picture group for 20th Then in the second half of the summer,
Why? Maybe it wasjust the excruciat- Century Fox. His studio had a little "Inspector Gadget," surprise hit "The
ing heat that drove people into cool, dark movie this summer called "Star Wars: Blair Witch Project" and "The Sixth
theaters. Episode I: The Phantom Menace." It has Sense" This summer, 1I films have
Here in Hollywood, frankly, my dear, 'taken in $420 million in the United cracked the $100 million box office bar-
nobody gives a damn because the sum- States and about $300 million abroad. rier in the United States alone. And
mer box office will add up to about $3 That makes it the second most successful "American Pie" will soon cross that
Observers noted that many of the suc-
cessful summer films were driven by
character and story, not special effects..
What a concept. "It wasn't really the
summer of the event-type of movie,"
I Dergarabedian said. "It was more
0 ' '6t ttie't 'Austin Powers,''The Haunting'-none
of those are Stallone or Schwarzenegger
"American Pie," a coming-of-age
! .: comedy about four high school seniors
" pthat has grossed $97 million, cost only
' .. $11 million to make. Adam Sandler's
"Big Daddy," about a schlemiel grown-
up adopting a tot, cost $34 million and
e State Street Much? £edema has taken in $160 million so far.
The conventional blockbuster movie
Sar Ua niversity Events [eICeman& wisdom got turned on its head. After last
year's slate, which was crowded with
Steie Seriously Folks J ne expensive films like "Godzilla," "Lost in
&in Candy bowl Nepke
summer's feel-good movies
20TH CENTURY FOX
Anakin Skywalker says bye-bye to mommy In "Star Wars: Episode One."
Space," "Armageddon" and "Lethal
Weapon 4," this summer was filled with
movies that cost far less. Studios scaled
back radically and made a strategic deci-
sion to stay out of the way of "The
Phantom Menace," the summer's only
It was a strategy that worked. After
turning out in droves, despite tepid
reviews, to see Anakin Skywalker and
Jar Jar Binks, audiences came back to
see Julia Roberts twice - in "Notting
Hill" and "Runaway Bride" - or to see
raunchy comedies like "Austin Powers"
or to be scared witless by horror films
from "The Haunting" to "The Sixth
"The movies that worked were good,
fun, communal experiences," says
Brian Mulligan, co-president of
Universal Studios, who made the risky
choice to put "The Mummy" and
"Notting Hill" on either side of
The only other mega-budget film of
the summer, "Wild Wild West," was
dogged by reports that scenes had to be
reshot and by poor word-of-mouth after
audiences saw it. The movie's budget
reportedly ballooned as high as $180
million; so far it has taken in only $112
One movie that had no buzz going for
it - "The Sixth Sense" - has turned
into one of the summer's biggest hits,
taking in more than $20 million over
each of the past four weekends, a total of
$139 million so far.
The Disney horror film, starring
Bruce Willis and a creepily convincing
little kid, was slated to open in the fall,
but got moved up to late August and then
mid-August, before the studio could
really establish a marketing campaign.
But that didn't matter.
Disney distribution president Chuck
Viane said "Sixth" took off the old-fash-
ioned way: Word got around that it was a
great movie. "This is the true definition
of a sleeper," he said. "It's a movie the
public made into a hit. The public sam-
pled the movie, and came out and told
their friends, 'You have to see this
filmAnd people are going back on their
own; they want to see what they missed"
And then there was "The Blair Wi
Project," which broke absolutely all
rules. It sneaked up on theaters over
Internet chat sites and took establish-
ment Hollywood by surprise. The film
started out with virtually no marketing
budget but became the most profitable
film of all time, costing $350,000 to
make (after technical improvements by
the studio; the initial cost was $35,000)
and taking in $128 million so far.
"You do not have to have a film that
cost $100 million and pay actors 0
million in order to create a viable prod-
uct in the marketplace," said Amir
Malin, president of Artisan
Entertainment, the art-house studio that
distributed the film. "Something that's
unique and original, whatever genre it
appears in, will succeed in the market-
"Blair Witch" also broke with the
accepted practice of opening a movie on
thousands of screens and watching
quickly lose ground. Instead, the film
started at127 art-house theaters before its
massive success shot it onto 1,100
screens across the country.
Strangely enough, there were rela-
tively few films for younger children
during a season when kids are most able
to go to the movies. "Tarzan" was a big
hit, but otherwise there was little com-
petition for the children's movie-going
dollar. "Inspector Gadget" was
heavily hyped, and "Iron Giant," wid
praised by critics but barely promoted
by Warner Bros., hardly registered with
audiences. The gentle "A Dog of
Flanders" flopped last weekend, open-
ing with only $900,000. Similarly,
"Dudley Do-Right" tanked, taking in
The lesson may be that family movies
are on the outs, as even little kids look to
get in on the culture's hippest tre
which this summer was nasty humor
"South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut"
and raunchy, adolescent comedy like
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