MGM/UA sets out full release slate for ’94

Bad pun intended, MGM/UA is handing out T-shirts at ShoWest here emblazoned with the proclamation “This Time We’re Not Lion.” Yow!

“We’re back,” proclaimed Larry Gleason, the company’s president, worldwide theatrical distribution.

“We have eight films (to be released) between now and the end of the year and are looking toward 20 releases in 1994. There’s been a long gap for this company. It’s been a long time since it’s had a proper release schedule and we mean to demonstrate that we have a solid, commercial lineup.”

In recent years, MGM/UA has barely managed to release even a dozen pictures annually, and only a handful of them were wide releases. In 1992, its most potent titles –“Benny & Joon” and “Untamed Heart”– had grosses of about $ 20 million.

But this year, for the summer alone it will launch four titles, including the comedy “Getting Even With Dad,” starring Macaulay Culkin and Ted Danson, and the bigscreen actioner “Blown Away,” with Jeff Bridges and Tommy Lee Jones.

“The mandate is to maximize the potency of what we have,” said Gerry Rich, exec VP, worldwide marketing. “With current titles it allows us to hold up releases until material and support are in place.”

Also on the summer lineup are Dana Carvey in the action-comedy “Clean Slate” and “It Runs in the Family,” a dramatic comedy that’s a follow-up to the company’s sleeper success “A Christmas Story,” from 1983.

For fall it has sci-fi with “Stargate” and the black comic “Canadian Bacon.” The latter stars the late John Candy, Rip Torn, Alan Alda and a slew of cameos.

Gleason expects at least two Carolco and four Polygram productions among its 1994 releases.

“It’s a young and eclectic company,” Gleason said. “The MGM name still carries tremendous emotional weight, and with Mike Marcus at MGM and John Calley at UA”– referring to the divisions’ respective presidents –“we have yin and yang personalities — one will literally love something the other hates.”

Rich observed that the message of the operation’s rebirth under chairman-CEO Frank Mancuso has penetrated into the talent community. Its ability to entice top-level management, he feels, is an indication of confidence and a belief that the lion can roar again.

The overriding philosophy is to be at the front of the pack — to set materials and date pictures ahead of the competition, rather than respond to the marketplace.

To that end they have been aggressive in getting their trailers into theaters months ahead of release and keeping exhibs appraised of upcoming product.

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