Inside Moves

Coppola cuts, Regal buys, MPAA censors

Coppola cuts ‘Supernova’

Francis Ford Coppola, who is rapidly becoming Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s chief troubleshooter, has become the latest director to turn his attention to saving the studio’s troubled “Supernova.”

According to MGM insiders, Coppola, along with MGM vice-chairman Chris McGurk, is overseeing a re-cutting of “Supernova” at his American Zoetrope facility in Northern California.

The sci-fi thriller, which cost at least $60 million to make, has been languishing on the shelf since wrapping principal photography in July 1998. Pic, which stars James Spader, Vincent D’Onofrio, Lou Diamond Philips, Angela Basset and Robert Forster, has already been through at least two directors, Geoffrey Wright and Walter Hill.

Hill, who departed the project acrimoniously after principal photography, may now put his name back on the film — depending on Coppola’s cut. MGM declined comment.

— Benedict Carver and Bill Higgins

Regal near deal to buy Hoyts chain

Regal Cinema parent Kohlberg Kravis & Roberts is close to a deal to buy Australian exhib Hoyts Cinemas’ 965-screen U.S. circuit. Paul Johnson, who recently replaced David Gonski as chairman of Hoyts Cinemas Americas, made a trip to the U.S. last week, apparently to discuss the acquisition.

A number of companies, including rival exhib General Cinemas have kicked the tires at Hoyts since February when the Australian parent company retained investment bank BT Wolfensohn to find a buyer for its domestic circuit.

The ninth largest cinema chain in the U.S., Hoyts is heavily concentrated in the Northeast. The mostly older circuit boasts several high-grossing megaplexes in Upstate New York and Washington D.C.

It’s not known how much KKR will pay for Hoyts, but an April study by merchant bank N. M. Rothschild & Sons put the value in the $232 million-$248 million range. Kerry Packer’s Consolidated Press Holdings took control of Hoyts in June and is expected to take the company private.

With about 3,600 screens, Regal is already the largest circuit in the U.S.

Still, rumors of the Hoyts acquisition came as a surprise to many industry insiders. Regal recently backed away from several planned complexes and a number its recent builds have proven disappointing. For instance, a 16-plex Regal opened Friday in Garden Grove grossed a disappointing $59,000 total during the second busiest weekend in the history of the cinema.

— Andrew Hindes and Don Groves

Miramax, MPAA in ‘Tingle’ tangle

NEW YORK — The long, hot summer for the MPAA continues. In what is seeming like a daily event, Jack Valenti’s ratings board is again being called arbitrary and illogical. The newest tiff is over a 30-second ad for the Kevin Williamson comedy “Teaching Mrs. Tingle,” being released by Miramax’ genre arm Dimension.

The promo in question features Mrs. Tingle’s dog — played by Jill, the mutt from “As Good as It Gets” — licking a wine bottle while the pic’s stars Barry Watson and Katie Holmes observe that if they were dogs belonging to the despised Mrs. Tingle, they would be drinkers, too.

The Motion Picture Assn. of America’s charge? The quip promotes teen drinking.

“The MPAA has made an utterly illogical leap to conclude that this scene, which audiences clearly love and understand as comic, is anything but a harmless joke,” said a Miramax spokesman. “We understand that the MPAA is under pressure to tighten the restrictions on movie advertising, but this is absurd. It seems as if it has lost the ability to distinguish comedy and material that should be restricted.”

The MPAA has a policy of not commenting on ad disputes.

— Oliver Jones

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