Sidebar: For U, the Fall Is All
Research audiences had “an amazing, visceral response” to this movie, says Universal Pictures Vice Chairman Mark Shmuger. But the failure of the film to click in summer box office was a blow. “What you do realize is that movies have a psychographic nature,” says co-production chief Scott Stuber. The next best hope: a possible theatrical re-release in more-serious fall and an early-December DVD Oscar push.
With Jamie Foxx, Jake Gyllenhaal and director Sam Mendes, “Jarhead” could be an awards contender, and the irreverent Gulf War story will bring much scrutiny. But marketing presents a dilemma. “What we didn’t want to do is whitewash the material,” Shmuger says. “Our biggest fear was that the most intense stuff, where you feel the drama of what’s on display here, we would not be able to use.” With “Welcome to the suck” as a tagline, they may or may not have found a balance. (Nov. 4)
U’s track record on monster franchises, from “Van Helsing” to “Hulk,” is mixed, but as Peter Jackson’s first post-“LOTR” project, execs are banking on the familiarity with “Kong” and the director’s loyal following. U also stresses the $155-million movie is not just about effects. Says marketing co-president Eddie Egan, “Everyone has a vision of ‘King Kong.’ I could tell you 90% of the story, and it wouldn’t be until the last 10% when you’d say, ‘Oh my God. (That’s) ‘King Kong.’ ” (Dec. 14)
As a legendary film that was turned into one of the most popular Broadway musicals of all time, “The Producers” has some expectations to meet. Director Susan Stroman adds visual zest in that she’s “brought New York to life,”U Pictures chair Stacey Snider says. Critical is whether the onstage chemistry of Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick clicks onscreen. She’s not exactly objective, but Snider says: “I didn’t expect to see them onscreen and go, ‘Oh my God!’ ” (Dec. 21)
Even before a frame of film was shot, Steven Spielberg’s story concerning Israeli agents dispatched to find the terrorists who attacked at the 1972 Munich Olympics was drawing concern over its portrayal of history. Because Spielberg gets final cut, there’s little execs can do to change it — if he gets it done in time. “He’s on a tight schedule, but everyone knows — exhibitors know — that Steven delivers,” says distribution chief Nikki Rocco. As of mid-August, he was ahead of schedule. (Dec. 23)