HIGH POINTS: Boffo B.O. from the Bard led the list of unexpected successes at Samuel Goldwyn Co. in 1993. The clear highlight of the year for the indie came from “Much Ado About Nothing,” the lush Kenneth Branagh production that grossed big numbers and, perhaps more important, stayed on screens for months after its release. Additionally, Goldwyn picked a winner in its acquisition of Ang Lee’s “The Wedding Banquet,” another pic that surprised at the box office. “We are very happy with 1993 because most of our pictures performed to our expectations or better,” Goldwyn prexy Meyer Gottlieb said.
LOW POINTS: While Branagh’s “Much Ado” was the highlight, his “Peter’s Friends” was perhaps Goldwyn’s biggest disappointment. The pic has done well internationally, but its $ 3 million-plus domestic gross fell far short of the $ 10 million hoped for by Gottlieb. And “Mac,” the directorial debut of John Turturro, brought in less than $ 500,000.
RISING STARS: Goldwyn grabbed the North American rights to “Eat Drink Man Woman,” the next pic from helmer Lee. Also, Mira Nair, who helmed Goldwyn’s “Mississippi Masala” in 1992, is lensing “The Perez Family” for the indie for a fall bow.
OUTLOOK FOR ’94: Gottlieb is looking to boost output to as many as 15 flix, up from the 11 Goldwyn released in 1993. And the indie plans to increase its production, not relying as heavily on acquisitions as it has in the past.
“We wanted to have more control over our own destiny,” Gottlieb said. The productions will largely be specialized, arthouse films that have some cross-over potential.
FRANCHISES-IN-WAITING: Despite its inclination for arthouse fare, Goldwyn has lined up two movies that seem to have sequel written all over them. The indie recently bought the rights to “Master and Commander,” one of 16 seafaring action-adventure novels by British author Patrick O’Brian. The indie has options on the other 15. Goldwyn also plans to mine the success of its worldwide TV hit, “American Gladiators,” turning the athlete stars into movie heroes. “Cliffhanger” helmer Renny Harlin will produce. Both films are slated for 1995 bows.
MORE FROM MEYER: Goldwyn watched its indie competition — Miramax, New Line and Castle Rock — get gobbled up by bigger companies in 1993.