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September 07, 2000 - Image 20

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The Michigan Daily, 2000-09-07

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20A - The Michigan Daily - Thursday, September 7, 2000

ARTS

Shoddy pics make box office sick

The WX'ashington Post
LOS ANGELES - Blame it on
"Survivor." Blame it on the political
conventions. Blame it on the Olympics
- oh, they haven't happened yet?
But never, ever blame it on the
movies.
There has to be a reason why the box
office total for summer 2000 is lagging
well behind the 1999 numbers, why
movie attendance is off a massive 10
percent from the year before.'
But it couldn't be because "Nutty
Professor II: The Klumps" wasn't very
funny, or because "Me, Myself &
Irene" kind of sagged, or because
"Gone in 60 Seconds" was, um, boring.
It couldn't be because there were
practically no movies in theaters for
children after mid-July and nothing at
all for women, unless you count the
fashion statement that was "Coyote
Ugly."
It couldn't be because there was vir-
tually no counter-programming for lit-
erate filmgoers - no Jane Austen
sequels, no "Saving Private Ryans" -
well, except for John Waters' "Cecil B.
Demented."
Good movies. Is it so much to ask?
What's a movie fan to do?
"Last year we had the biggest Labor
Day weekend ever, S29 million,

because of the holdover from 'The
Sixth Sense.' This year we're not going
to have anything close to that," said
Paul Dergarabedian, president of
Exhibitor Relations, the company that
tallies box office revenues.
"We're gonna end with a whimper,
whereas last year we went out with a
bang.:"
Overall, in the 15 weeks between
Memorial Day and Labor Day, movie-
goers spent S2.7 billion on movie tick-
ets thiis year, down from S2.9 billion
last year.
It's a small drop, but when you figure
that ticket prices have risen and atten-
dance is way down, says Dergarabedi-
an: "Times are not good."
The summer of 2004 started with
more promise, kicking off with the
DoeamWorks epic adventure film
"Cladiator," which took in S183 mil-
lJon, and then the Tom Cruise action
sick "Mission: Impossible 2," the sum-
mer's highest-grossing picture, which
took in $213 million.
Overall, 11 movies raked in more
than SIOO million each, the general
benchmark these days for a successful
film. But most of those movies _ "The
Perfect Storm," "Dinosaur," "The Patri-
ot" _ cost at least that much to produce.
("Dinosaur" is estimated to have cost
about $200 million and so far has

brought in S134 million in domestic
ticket sales.)
And there were many expensive dis-
appointments, not only the Farrelly
Brothers' Jim Carrey comedy "Me,
Myself & Irene," but the pricey animat-
ed "Titan A.E.," which tanked at S23
million (it cost more than S60 million),
the disastrous "Battlefield Earth" with
John Travolta as a dreadlocked alien,
the hollow premise of "Hollow Man"
and the weak-spined "Adventures of
Rocky and Bullwinkle."
The biggest problem was that even
when films had big opening weekends,
audiences soon lost interest. "Me,
Myself & Irene" took in S24 million its
opening weekend, but by its second
weekend, ticket sales had dropped 45
percent to S13 million.
Similarly, the blockbuster "X-Men"
had a huge opening weekend of S54.5
million, but its audience fell by more
than half on the following weekend,
when it made S23.5 million. And that
was one of the summer's success sto-
ries; "X-Men" has made S151 million
so far.
By contrast, last summer the audi-
ences kept expanding with every pop-
corn hit, from "Star Wars: Episode 1,
The Phantom Menace" to "Austin Pow-
ers: The Spy Who Shagged Me" to
"Tarzan" and "Big Daddy."
Then in August, typically a doldrum
period, came the "Blair Witch" phe-
nomenon and the unexpected block-
buster "The Sixth Sense," together
taking in $310 million.
This year? This year, August brought
the psychological horror film "The

Cell;' which has drawn fire for its over-
the-top violence. After two weeks and
S37 million, its run is almost through.
The relative success of an obscure
cheerleader movie, "Bring It On" (S17
million its first weekend), has led ana-
lysts to wonder if audiences aren't des-
perate for anything resembling
entertainment.
The one real success story this sum-
mer was Miramax's raunchy parody
"Scary Movie," which cost a paltry S19
million to make and has gobbled up
$148 million at the box office. Brace
yourself for a sequel.
Many in Hollywood insist that
this summer's performance is not so
bad, really. "Tell your readers
they're wrong," says Tom Sherak,
chairman of 20th Century Fox's
Domestic Film Group, when
informed that many, many moviego-
ers have complained that "there's
nothing to see."
"A lot of films did a lot of business
this summer," Sherak says. "Gross-
wise, it's the second-biggest summer
in the history of the business."
True enough, but the vibe has
definitely been negative since July.
What with an actors strike and the-
ater chains filing for bankruptcy
protection (could it be because there
are too many movie screens and not
enough good movies?), this summer
has held little for Hollywood to cel-
ebrate.
"It's not all doom and gloom, but
we just have to get people excited
about going to movies again," Der-
garabedian says.

01

To. Eve ry Gmeration
there is cliffSNt t85-

Photo courtesy of Columbia Pictures
This summer's "Hollow Man" left audiences with a feeling of moral and spiritual hollowness.

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