Eve said she wasn’t going to go nowhere. Where did she go? She blew our minds, and then poof.
Hey, LA people? You should be aware of the WRIGHT STUFF by now, right?
ALL ABOARD THE S.S. NEW LINE, THE SAFEST SHIP IN THE WORLD
This weekend is barren, so let me do a two-parter on the history of New Line. Because the mighty pricey The Golden Compass may spell their doom.
Robert Shaye, so the story goes, used to peddle Refer Madness for college circuit midnight shows. It was small time, for sure, but when a hungry young Baltimore filmmaker met Shaye, Shaye saw some potential, and when Waters crafted his 1972 Magnum Opus Pink Flamingos, a studio was born. Yes, it was Pink Flamingos - and its midnight showings – that turned New Line into a minor player. They funded Waters’s films for the majority of his career (only Cry Baby at Universal and Cecil B. Demented at Artisan – now Lionsgate – were done outside his home turf).
The next stepping stone was horror films. They were partly responsible for releasing The Texas Chainsaw Massacre in 1973 – though the film was owned by the mob, so Shaye may have seen some money from it or not – who’s to say. There were earlier stabs, like Jack Sholder’s 1982 film Alone in the Dark, but it was Wes Craven and Freddy Kruger that helped elevate the studio to the next level . The 1984 film A Nightmare on Elm Street proved to be a cash cow, and led to a string of cash-in sequels (four in five years), which led to becoming a real mini-major. With House Party and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle in 1990 the company was gaining real traction, turning into a studio worth noticing -even if Shaye’s directorial debut Book of Love did no business.
Around this time, with Shaye’s slight arthouse credits (John Waters counts, damn it) the company also capitalized on the Sundance phenomen with Fine Line, which released Robert Altman’s The Player, and had a series of minor arthouse hits, including My Own Private Idaho, Short Cuts and Bitter Moon, David Cronenberg’s Crash and Deconstructing Harry.
But in 1994, when the studio had both The Mask and Dumb and Dumber (both crossing the century mark), they were purchased by Warner Brothers. This was a moment of truth for the studio. Some feared that they would be absorbed quickly into the host body and used as a boutique name for films that Warners didn’t want to be front and center on (this was before Warner Independent). But 1995 brought Friday, Mortal Kombat and Se7en, which offered huge returns on investments, and the studio was left alone. But every year there was that worry, that concern that they would be absorbed. In 1996 Island of Dr. Moreau was able to turn itself into an event film, so the studio dodged a bullet, but The Long Kiss Goodnight was a minor flop. 1997 brought Austin Powers, which wasn’t a huge success theatrically, but turned into a home video phenomenon, so two years later the sequel outgrossed the first film in its opening weekend. The same year also brought sine indie cred and Oscar noms with Boogie Nights and Wag the Dog, while 98 offered The Wedding Singer, and the fairly successful Lost in Space (which was junk, but did business anyway) along with Blade and Rush Hour. 99 was an off year, with Magnolia a flop, but the studio already had Lord of the Rings cooking at that point. It was a scary notion, that. An untested director who hadn’t had much of a hit (even if he was respected, though mostly by geeks) handling a project that would cost the studio at least $300 Million (and the grand total is likely closer to a billion all-in for all three with advertising and such), but it was the sort of bold and desperate move Robert Shaye and his company was known for. At that point, it was the gamble. And though Final Destination proved remunerative, the rest of 2000 was mostly misses (including the first Adam Sandler starrer failure, Little Nicky). The company needed that hail Mary after such films as The Cell and Thirteen Days.
To be continued…
IT WAS ALL A PREDICTION, I USED TO READ PREMIERE MAGAZINE, SALT N PEPPA, HEAVY D UP IN A LIMOSINE. HANGING PREDICTIONS ON MY WALL…
With only one picture going wide this week (Awake), there should be little change, and not much to see here. Enchanted will likely hold better than you’d think, with maybe Awake cracking the top five.
Really, there’s only one thing to do this weekend, and that’s go to The New Beverly in Los Angeles and see THE WRIGHT STUFF, where Phantom of the Paradise and Bugsy Malone wil be playing along with a secret third feature to which I have been told to bite my tongue about, though I hear it might involve camels or damn dirty apes or Lindsay Lohan (which is slightly different than apes), but definitely something involving Paul Williams. It should be awesome.
1. Enchanted – 21.5 Million
2. This Christmas – 11.1 Million
3. Beowulf – 8.2 Million
4. Hitman – 7.3 Million
5. Awake – 6.3 Million
And then Sunday, we’ll seal the deal.