HIGH POINTS: With “Groundhog Day,””In the Line of Fire,””Poetic Justice, “”Striking Distance” and “Malice,” Colpix’s marketing team scored five No. 1 movies during the year. Columbia also turned a rare trick among the majors when it opened with solid platform numbers for “The Age of Innocence” and numero uno for “Striking Distance” the same weekend.
LOW POINTS: Discovery that Heidi Fleiss’ ex-paramourIvan Nagy had a deal at Colpix and Michael Nathanson’s public statements disassociating himself from the alleged madam left Columbia embroiled in controversy and innuendo for a good part of the summer and early fall. An anti-Columbia deep throat source orchestrated one of the most devastating information campaigns in Hollywood history before catching laryngitis in November.
Budgeted at $ 16 million, “Lost in Yonkers” hemorrhaged big bucks worldwide, but its not going to hurt producer Ray Stark too much. Stark is said to be the one person on the lot that SPE chairman Peter Guber fears most. Or as one Colpix exec said of Stark: “Don’t worry about him. When God has a bad day, he’s still God.”
And the biggest bet of the summer, “Last Action Hero,” failed to become the franchise picture Colpix chairman Mark Canton had envisioned.
“My disappointments were with ‘Last Action Hero,’ which we’ve beaten to death in spite of the fact it is No. 12 in worldwide revenues, and ‘Geronimo,’ which we think is a fine movie but for a multitude of reasons just didn’t take off,” Canton said.
OVER AND OUT: “Last Action Hero” producer Steve Roth and producer/director Nagy aren’t likely to have offices at the studio in the next millennium. For more cinematic reasons, Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald Parkes headed for top slots at Amblin Entertainment, while Trilogy Entertainment left for MGM.
WHAT ABOUT HEIDI?: When the alleged studio madam told Daily Variety that she would tell all for $ 1 million, speculation ran rampant that studio heads would roll and celebrity marriages would be ruined. But up until this week, when Fleiss disclosed some names, she was simply the most interesting non-story of 1993 (some at Columbia jokingly call it “a teaser trailer”).
OUTLOOK FOR ’94: The year starts with the sequel “My Girl 2,” director Jim Brooks’ “I’ll Do Anything” and the Michelle Pfeiffer/Jack Nicholson starrer “Wolf.” The word on the lot is that the Brooks picture shapes up as a respectable February release, while production sources have started to talk up the prospects of “Wolf.”
This summer, the studio is spreading the wealth over a large number of smaller bets as opposed to putting all its eggs in one basket. The Memorial Day release “City Slickers 2” is the lone big bruiser, while Rob Reiner’s “North, “”Little Big League,””Blankman” and another sequel to “Karate Kid” round out the slate.
The second-half slate features bad boy French director Luc Besson’s “Leon,” John Singleton’s “Higher Learning” and “Gridiron Gang.” The hottest topic within production ranks thesedays is whether to shoot “Gridiron Gang” in the high-definition television format as a means to test the theory that HDTV could become a cost-effective way to produce feature films.
FOREIGN INTRIGUE: “We had a substantially better year overseas,” said Canton, citing “a number of movies that performed really well” in foreign markets. Included are “Last Action Hero,” which averted an action/adventure disaster with more than $ 100 million internationally. Columbia also got big returns from “In the Line of Fire” after it gobbled up all rights to the Castle Rock picture when the budget exceeded the limitations of Castle Rock’s international distribution pact with New Line.
On a smaller scale, Colpix had an international rights deal with Capella for the cancer pic “My Life,” which put the studio at the break-even point when the movie grossed $ 20 million domestically. “Lost in Yonkers” was one of its few foreign losers.
RISING STARS: Muppet progeny and former WB executive Lisa Henson took the reins of Columbia’s creative operations Aug. 9 as president of production. Comedy kingpin Harold Ramis’ stock went through the roof with “Groundhog Day.” John Malkovich’s role as the killer in “In the Line of Fire” helped identify the respected actor as a star worth a modest risk for studios. Some neat pony tricks in “Geronimo: An American Legend,” and the cover of Entertainment Weekly, positioned Jason Patric as a future star.
BONUS BABIES: At the end of the fiscal year last February, Columbia executives were livid when bonuses came up shorter than expected. Here’s an insider’s prediction for 1994: “If executives thought their bonuses were bad last year, they ought to get ready for more of the same.”
COPPOLA COMEBACK?: Francis Ford Coppola’s “Dracula” stands out as one of the biggest worldwide business propositions in Sony Pictures Entertainment history, so it’s little wonder that the Colpix gang is working furiously to get the Napa Valley winemaker back in the director’s chair. “There’s nothing I would want more than to have Francis Ford Coppola’s next movie,” Canton said.