Newsbites: B.O. woes, closure, lab rats, etc.

Newsbites: B.O. woes, closure, lab rats, etc. June 12, 2005

Time for another batch of news stories.

1. Reuters reports that Cinderella Man saw its box-office take drop 48% this weekend, compared to its opening take one week ago. This usually signifies that a film is flopping. Seabiscuit, by comparison, dropped only 16% in its second weekend two years ago. So, it looks like Ron Howard’s boxing drama won’t be this summer’s word-of-mouth Depression-era hit.

I think the domestic box-office failures of this film and Kingdom of Heaven just go to show that, whatever some pundits might say, there are limits to the Hollywood machine’s ability to manipulate the tastes of its audiences. These two films get more studio hype than most other movies this year, and my colleagues in the newspaper business did their part by commissioning extensive essays on the history behind these stories, and so on, but when all was said and done, it seems audiences just didn’t care.

Mind you, some films that don’t do so well in North America do turn out to have some success overseas. Six movies have grossed $200 million or more worldwide so far this year, but only half of them — Revenge of the Sith, Hitch and Robots — made at least $100 million in North America. The other three include the Japanese cartoon Howl’s Moving Castle, which only just opened in North America the other day; Constantine, which made twice as much overseas as it did on this continent; and Kingdom of Heaven, which has made more than triple its North American take overseas. I wouldn’t expect Cinderella Man to join these ranks, though, since its story was very particularly American and it probably doesn’t have all that much international appeal.

2. I was telling someone just yesterday that the third Star Wars prequel and the “outing” of Deep Throat had been anticlimactic, and I much preferred the mysteries around these 1970s stories before the secrets were spilled in such a boring fashion this past month. Now the Hollywood Reporter has an article pointing to both of these things as a sign of how “closure” is “overrated”.

3. The Hollywood Reporter says Shrek producer John H. Williams is now working on Phreex, “an animated feature revolving around a group of rejected lab animals” who “discover a sanctuary run by a Bill Gates-type figure that offers itself as a home to animals of all shapes and sizes.” Sounds like this could be a good candidate for my ongoing study of cartoons about animals.

4. The Hollywood Reporter reviews The Bridge of San Luis Rey — at least the third film version of the Thornton Wilder novel about a Franciscan monk who investigates the nature of fate or providence when five individuals die on a collapsing bridge — and doesn’t care for it much. The film stars Gabriel Byrne, Robert De Niro, Harvey Keitel, Kathy Bates, F. Murray Abraham, Geraldine Chaplin, John Lynch, Mark & Michael Polish and others.

5. Variety reports that Hugh Jackman has started a production company called Seed Productions, which will produce a Wolverine spin-off movie after X-Men 3 wraps.

6. “When Jackie Gleason was growing up in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn in the 1930s, many of his neighbors resembled his family, Irish and working-class. Today, the residents remain mostly working-class, but almost all are black.”

So begins an Associated Press article on “cross-casting”, i.e. the trend to cast actors in roles that have been traditionally associated with other races or ethnicities, as evidenced this week in the big-screen remake of The Honeymooners.

It’s an interesting subject, but the one thing that jumped out at me was the detail that, “when Ving Rhames took the title role in the new ‘Kojak’ on USA Network, critics brought him to tears during a promotional event in Los Angeles when they pummeled him with questions about how he could be believable in a role originally played by a Greek-American.” Brought him to tears? Really? Wow, that’s awful. I would have hated to be sitting at that roundtable.

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