The cash tills were alive with “The Sound of Music” all during 1966, as was predicted in last year’s box office champions story. It is the new leader of the all-time list, having added $22,500,000 to the $20,000,000 garnered domestically in 1965 to put it ahead of long-time champ “Gone With The Wind” by a slight margin. How long this will last should be worth watching as 1967 will certainly add considerable sums to both films.
“Sound of Music” still has the vast majority of its regular-run bookings to play, but Metro plans a special reissue of “Gone With The Wind” this year, blown up to 70m, which will insure certain heavy response. On its last time out, in 1961, the saga of Scarlett O’Hara added almost $8,000,000 to its total.
Noticeable by t h e i r absence from the 1966 compilation (see adjoining page) are three major films: Fox’s “The Bible,” Paramount’s “Is Paris Burning?” and, as was also true last year, United Artists’ “The Greatest Story Ever Told.” The omissions are due to the refusal of the distribution companies to reveal the business done (or, possibly, not done) by these films. That any measure of success has been disappointing is hardly news to the film industry. However, other films, released since these three, have been reported on, including UA’s “Hawaii.” It is hoped Fox. Paramount and UA will consent by the time the 1967 list is published, to clarify the situation; perhaps not.
‘Alfie’ & ‘Mr. Chicken’
There were at least two “sleepers” of note during 1966. The big one, of course, was Paramount’s “Alfie,” which came onto the U.S. market an unknown quantity despite its spectacular success in its native Britain. Besides a repeat of that popularity here, possibly helped by the advance work done for star Michael Caine by “Ipcress Files,” the possibility of an Oscar nomination will give the film another tremendous shot in the arm. The second “sleeper,” Universal “Ghost and Mr. Chicken,” proved that unsophisticated product doesn’t need the much-touted New York kickoff to hit the jackpot. The continued strength of carefully- planned reissues of major productions (as Disney has long preached) was also emphasized by Paramount’s 1957 “Ten Commandments,” upping its score by doss ;o $6,000,000, to stay in third place.
Walt Disney’s “Mary Poppins” manages to keep just ahead of Jack Warner’s “My Fair Lady” by a close margin — in the film business today, $1,000,000 is a close margin. What will be the eventual history of these two? As almost all Disney films are withdrawn while still popular, and then carefully r e i s s u e d at specified periods (usually seven years), it figures that “Mary Poppins” will be increasing its total rentals every so many years, as have the other Disney classics (see “Bambi” this year). Warners, h o w e v e r , has maintained a past policy of failing to update figures on older films after a few years which would indicate that “My Fair Lady” will go up to a certain figure and then stick there indefinitely.
‘Thunderball,’ $26,000,000 New top-earner of the James Bond features is “Thunderball,” with an amazing $26,000,000 in its first year of release. If UA keeps it, as it has the other Bond films, on the market semi-permanently, that total will continue to grow, as have “Doctor No,” “From Russia With Love” and “Goldfinger.” This year’s forthcoming battle of the Bonds — UA’s “You Only Live Twice” and Columbia’s “‘Casino Royale” — should provide some box office fireworks (and may well spell the start of a decline in pub- myriad carbons of the series).
Metro is pleased (and a great deal relieved) at the amazing staying power of “Doctor Zhivago,” which has gone past the $15,000,- 000 mark domestically and is now predicted to hit an eventual $30,- 000,000. When the film was first released, however, few predictions were made (even by Metro) that the David Lean treatment of Boris Pasternak’s novel would ring up the business it has, and is continuing to do.
Another demanding film, on which few predictions were made, but which proved both critically and business-wise a major triumph, was Warners’ “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” With a very big $10,300,000 taken in and most of the country’s theatres still to play, 1967 should boost this one up quite a bit, especially should it capture some Academy Award nominations, as seems indicated. Oddly enough, winning an Oscar usually breaks down considerable resistance on the part of that audience that usually deplores “very adult” films. The emphasis on the Elizabeth Taylor image didn’t hurt Metro’s reissues of “Cat On A Hot Tin Roof” and “Butterfield 8,” upping both films considerably.
That’s Show Biz
It was a strange year at the nation’s boxoffices with some, very big. very expensive releases falling to make it; some .mediumweights turning- out to be heavyweights, and, most pleasant of all, some admittedly “little” pictures really catching the public’s fancy. Major hardticket efforts which made little impression on the nation included Fox’s “The Blue Max” (although the ultimate anticipated business is reported “undetermined”) and Warners” “Bat-‘ tie of the Bulge,'”‘ also “undetermined,” but not too hopeful. With only $4,500,000 taken in after a full year’s release, there’s not too much life left in this Cinerama effort. Fox’s’ “Agony And The Ecstasy,” also a long time out, failed to live up to expectations, barely outgrossing the reissue of Disney’s “Bambi.”
Despite a strong cast and heavy sell, UA’s “Cast A Giant Shadow” failed to make the all-time list, nor did the company’s “The Group.” “Khartoum” and “Fortune Cookie”; Metro’s “Lady L” and “The Loved One” (this Tony Richardson effort, a f t e r “Tom Jones,” was a real letdown); Columbia’s “The Chase,” “Heroes cf Telemark” and “Lost Command”; Fox’s “Flight of the Phoenix”; Paramount’s “Assault on a Queen”; or Universal’s “The Appaloosa.”
Even USSR ‘Pleased’ Most of the films which did rack up heavy business, however, considering their predicted outcome, emphasized comedy or suspense or a combination. Norman Jewison’s “The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming” gave UA one of its best bo; office pix and pleased everyone, including the Russians, who even “reviewed” it for VARIETY.
Disney’s second Dick Van Dyke, “Lt. Robin Crusoe, USN,” also proved successful while “That Darn Cat” combined laughs and thrills to give Disney his top film of the year. Dean Martin’s first in the Matt Helm series, “The Silencers,” brought in Columbia a cool $7,000,000 and triggered the continuance of the character. The really bright spots of the year were those several films with fair to medium budgets that did much more than was expected. Fox’s “Our Man Flint” made James Coburn a top boxoffice name and proved that James Bond’s dominance of the spy-spoof market is not absolute.
The Oscar attention given Metro’s “A Patch Of Blue” gave that modest item a really big boost, up into the $6,- 300,000 class, while Disney’s “Ugly Dachshund,” originally planned as a tv series, proved that really wellmade pilots could be converted to theatrical r e l e a s e with good results. AIP’s Cashable ‘Angels* American International hit the top business charts fairly steadily but the company’s runaway success was Roger Corman’s “Wild Angels,” which garnered $5,500,- 000 and set off what appears to be a stream of motorcycling-juvenile delinquent efforts.