Mixed reviews and results for films of Tartikoff era

It is common Hollywood theory that an incoming studio head has 18 months to put his stamp on the place and secure his job. Brandon Tartikoff, in his 15 months on the job, failed to do that–which made for an uncharacteristically lively time at the formerly more rigid studio.

Among Tartikoff’s first acts of business was to shoehorn the low-budget, short-scheduled “All I Want for Christmas” into his holiday release sked, an act that aroused Hollywood suspicion that the filmed entertainment division chief didn’t understand filmmaking and didn’t respect filmmakers. The holiday tale ended its run with less than $ 20 million in its stockings, a small sum, but not bad considering the pic’s low budget.

Skeptics sneered again when Tartikoff put “Wayne’s World” and “The Addams Family” on his release slate. Critics said then that he had a small-screen mentality, but this time he proved their suspicions incorrect: “Addams,” picked up relatively cheaply from Orion, earned out at $ 125 million, and “World,” built from “Saturday Night Live” skits, grossed more than $ 150 million.

Another TV idea, but one which Tartikoff did not initiate, was “Star Trek VI, ” which grossed $ 75 million. All three will have sequels that Tartikoff will now not oversee.

In between those two acts of business, Tartikoff was also responsible for mending some major creative fences.

When salary and scheduling negotations with “Patriot Games” star Alec Baldwin got sticky, Tartikoff dropped him and negotiated Harrison Ford into the Jack Ryan role. When “Hunt for Red October/Patriot Games” author Tom Clancy became irrritated with his Par treatment, Tartikoff wooed him back. And, protecting another key franchise, it was Tartikoff who brought Eddie Murphy back around to the idea of a third installment of “Beverly Hills Cop.”

Friday morning quarterbacks reacted to Tartikoff’s announcement yesterday with mixed reviews. Most feel that–whether distracted by crises in his personal life or simply rendered ineffective–Tartikoff never got up to speed, particularly in the film division.

Producers on the lot say they never knew what a “yes” from Tartikoff or film production head John Goldwyn meant, and were reluctant to believe a “yes” meant a greenlighted project.

Film-by-film performance, in any case, was very mixed. The early ’92 release of “Juice” did strong business, grossing $ 21 million. “Patriot Games” proved an able sequel, grossing a respectable $ 83 million domestically and a like figure abroad. Lighter fare, like “Ladybugs” and “Brain Donors,” failed to flare, though, earning respective grosses of $ 15 million and just over $ 1 million.

The mountain-climbing movie “K2” slipped off at $ 3 million. Eddie Murphy in “Boomerang” sold $ 68 million in tickets. Less successful were the mixed-media “Cool World,” which earned only $ 14 million; the animated “Bebe’s Kids,” orphaned after $ 8 million; Stanley Jaffe’s pet project, “School Ties,” which came untied after grosses of only $ 16 million; “Pet Sematary 2,” which scared up $ 16 million; the lowish budgeted “Whispers in the Dark,” which grossed only $ 11 million and inspired much criticism from Tartikoff; and the negative pickup Columbus tale “1492,” which began sinking after taking just over $ 6 million.

The relatively inexpensive pickup of “Bob Roberts” wowed critics but not audiences, earning $ 3.5 million in seven weeks in limited release.

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