OK, let’s assume you were insightful enough 12 months ago to predict that not-yet-a-star Hugh Grant would top a film that would make upwards of $225 million worldwide, while established star Kevin Costner would star in a high-profile pic that would earn less than a Pauly Shore comedy.
We’ll even assume you had a hunch Paramount would break out of its B.O. slump and release “Forrest Gump,” one of the five highest-grossing films of all time, while Macaulay Culkin would be hit by an apparent career midlife crisis.
If so, you may be the only one.
As is typically the case in the film business, the predictable turned out to be unreliable, the unexpected proved to be the norm. The odd alchemy of ideal material, skillful filmmaking, charismatic performances, clever marketing and just plain luck makes predicting movie hits and misses an exercise for only the most gifted.
As Paramount Pictures chairman/CEO Sherry Lansing said recently, “We really believed in ‘Forrest Gump,’ otherwise we wouldn’t have greenlighted it, and we knew it would be big domestically. But we had no idea that it would gross as much as it did, let alone grossing almost the equivalent overseas.”
Or as Miramax’s Harvey Weinstein said of his company’s underperformer, “The Advocate,” “I have no idea why people didn’t go see it. I guess it’s hard to give people a history lesson on 15th-century law.” So maybe he did have a clue.
Don’t expect anything to change in ’95.
The coming year promises what seems on the surface to be sure bets: “Pocahontas,” a new animated musical from Disney; “Die Hard With a Vengeance,” the further adventures of cop John McClane; and “Jumanji,” starring Robin Williams in the film version of a children’s book. All should do well, but until they’re released, who knows?
Just as likely, some film out of left field will conjure up magic. It could be Universal’s mega-budgeted, troubled “Waterworld,” or perhaps the Samuel Goldwyn Co.’s prestige project “The Perez Family,” or, on the heels of the year-end success of “Dumb and Dumber,” Savoy may finally have a breakout hit with “The Stupids.”
Or maybe not.
Anyway, as a way to keep track of all of this, here is a distributor-by-distributor digest of the year just spent, along with a preview of studio release plans, however tentative, for 1995.
The 1994 reports are arranged in order of year-end market shares, with grosses reflecting the calendar year, Jan. 1-Dec. 31.