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Newsbites galore!

Newsbites galore! June 21, 2005

The news stories that have caught my eye have been piling up the last few days, so here’s a batch of ’em.

1. Studio executives wonder why they are facing the worst box-office slump in years. The weekend box-office receipts have been down from the equivalent weekends last year for 17 weeks in a row, which ties the record set in 1985; and 2005 is shaping up to be the worst year for movie attendance, which is measured not in dollars but in filled seats, in nearly a decade. One possible culprit: too many ads before the movie may be driving audiences away.

2. Meanwhile, in a related story:

Three-fourths of Americans say they would just as soon watch a movie at home, an AP-AOL poll found. With people more inclined to think movies are getting worse, it’s no wonder Hollywood is having problems filling theaters. . . .

Almost half in the poll said movies are getting worse, while a third said they are getting better. Those questioned in the poll were most likely to be fond of comedies, followed by dramas and action-adventure movies. . . .

Others view the slump as a sign that theaters are losing ground to home-entertainment options, particularly DVDs available just months after films debut in cinemas.

But the poll found that people who use DVDs, watch pay-per-view movies on cable, download movies from the Internet and play computer games actually go to movies in theaters more than people at the same income levels who don’t use those technologies. That suggests the technology may be complementing rather than competing with theatergoing.

3. Disney needs animators for the five CGI cartoons it currently has in the works. (As you may recall, Disney has shut down its traditional hand-drawn animation division, and its relationship with Pixar has been unravelling for a while, so it is forging ahead into the CGI world on its own.) The five films in the works are:

Chicken Little, which feels like it has been advertised forever;

Toy Story 3, which Disney is producing without Pixar (“The story follows Buzz Lightyear as he is recalled to Taiwan after a series of malfunctions. Learning of a productwide recall, all the toys in Andy’s room, under Woody’s leadership, head to Taiwan to save Buzz from doom”);

A Day With Wilbur Robinson, based on the William Joyce book about a time-travelling orphan;

American Dog, from director Chris Sanders (whose Lilo & Stitch was Disney’s only unqualified success in years);

and Rapunzel Unbraided, which will mark the directorial debut of longtime Disney animator Glen Keane, who happens to be the son of Family Circus cartoonist Bill Keane and a professing Christian (he actually alludes to his faith on the Beauty and the Beast DVD, when he discusses how he animated the Beast’s transformation scene).

4. The New York Times‘ Caryn James ponders what the summer’s two biggest blockbusters, Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith and Batman Begins, have in common: “Both films concern how heroes and villains take shape, and they include astonishingly similar transformation scenes that hinge on a life-changing moral question: to behead or not to behead?”

5. Nightcrawler, the Christian mutant played by Alan Cumming in X2: X-Men United, will not be in X-Men 3.

6. More superheroes! Luke Wilson is in talks to star in Super Ex, about a guy who discovers his girlfriend is a superhero, and who then discovers that breaking up with a neurotic, controlling person who has superpowers may not be the easiest thing to do. Add this to The Incredibles and the upcoming Sky High in the “superheroes with families and dating partners” file.

7. The people who made the CBS mini-series Jesus (1999; my review) are now working on a mini-series about Pope John Paul II. Personally, I still think of him as Albert Finney, cuz that’s who played him in a mini-series that I taped off of TV way back in 1984.

8. British spud farmers want the oh-so-offensive phrase “couch potato” removed from the Oxford English Dictionary. “The potato industry are fed up with the disservice that ‘couch potato’ does to our product when we have an inherently healthy product,” says Kathryn Race of the British Potato Council. Get a life, guys.

9. Philip Seymour Hoffman may play the bad guy in Mission: Impossible 3. This could be pretty cool, and it would reunite him with his Magnolia co-star Tom Cruise.

10. Pawel Pawelikowski discusses why he added the born-again character to the film version of My Summer of Love:

iW: You invented the character of Phil, who wasn’t in the novel. Why did you include him?

PP: I needed another strong character who would put Mona’s character and the girls’ relationship in a different context. And I needed to add something to the theme of enchantment.

iW: Are you trying to conflate Phil’s search for God and religion and Mona and Tamsin’s passion?

PP: There is a parallel, yes, but it’s not intended to be a comment about faith and love. Simply, both brother and sister are enchanted by something — one with a person, the other with the idea of God. And partly, Mona turns to Tamsin because she loves her brother, who’s become unreachable. And then the brother becomes fascinated by Tamsin too. Of course, Tamsin is also drawn to the brother — his masculine energy — and she’s tickled by the idea of finding faith, since she of course believes in nothing. It becomes quite a complicated web of emotions.

11. Two Brazilian doctors think the paintings of Michelangelo contain coded references to human anatomy.

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