Columbia Pictures has taken the wraps off its big-budget “Last Action Hero,” screening the Arnold Schwarzenegger starrer to exhibitors all over the country Thursday.
The majority of theater operators who have seen the movie said solid action sequences and the blockbuster cast portend a big opening weekend.
“It’s a good action movie,” said Ben Barbosa, VP of West Coast film operations for General Cinema, one of the top 10 circuits in the U.S. “People wanting to go see Arnold Schwarzenegger will not be disappointed.”
However, many exhibitors questioned whether the pic would appeal beyond its core audience of young males, according to an informal survey of attendees.
The exhibitor feedback sets the stage for a major marketing blitz by Col, which will attempt to sell the movie to a broad audience in the 15 days prior to its debut in theaters.
“Action” will open with an estimated 2,200 to 2,500 playdates on June 18 — a week after Universal Pictures opens Steven Spielberg’s “Jurassic Park” and a week before TriStar Pictures’ “Sleepless in Seattle” and Warner Bros.’ “Dennis the Menace.”
The most conservative exhibitor estimates pegged the movie in the $ 75 million range, while others have earmarked the movie for the $ 125 million to $ 175 million territory.
“The reports from all over the country are terrific,” said Columbia distribution prexy Jeff Blake. “We showed the movie to a very anxious and interested audience that probably feels very good driving home from the screenings.”
Sony Pictures Entertainment has long held that such pictures as “Hook,””Bram Stoker’s Dracula,””A Few Good Men” and “Last Action Hero” are more accurately judged by their worldwide performance than solely domestic receipts. In the cases of “Hook” and “Dracula,” well over 60% of all box office came from the international marketplace.
On Thursday, “Last Action Hero” was shown to exhibitors in a rough form. The final 40 minutes of the 1-hour, 55-minute picture still is in need of additional special effects, music and sound work. (Movies are often unfinished when screened to exhibitors, so the extra work that “Last Action Hero” needs was not cause for concern.)
“They’ve got it down to right around two hours,” said Mike Doban, veepee/film buyer for United Artists Theatre Circuit, the nation’s No. 1 loop. “There are a ton of stunts and special effects. They pulled it off.”
Several theater operators said their overall reaction was mild, including talk that “Hero” will be hard-pressed to meet its lofty expectations: From the start, the movie has been sold as “the big ticket of 1993.”
However, exhibs have often been flat wrong about the box office potential or “playability” of a movie. In 1982, for example, the consensus among movie theater operators was that the Burt Reynolds/Dolly Parton starrer “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” would outgross “E.T.”
Early screenings for U’s 1986 “Howard the Duck” suggested an upbeat commercial life, while “The Godfather” was met coolly.
More recently, the Paramount Pictures hits “The Addams Family” and “Wayne’s World” were met with chilly receptions.
A harbinger of a solid opening has been Columbia’s ability to get its trailer into movie theaters. Of an estimated 7,500 trailers sent out by Colpix, a whopping 96% have been put on rotation in movie theaters — far above the standard of between 70% and 80%.
The Los Angeles-area screening, held at the 959-seat Cinerama Dome in Hollywood, unspooled to roughly 100 film buyers and other exhibition executives.
Columbia chairman Mark Canton, executive veepee Sid Ganis and close to a dozen other studio executives arrived roughly five minutes prior to the screening’s start.