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Hollywood's spending spree

Hollywood’s spending spree — ”Batman Returns,” ”Dracula,” and ”Hook” are some films breaking the production bank

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Hollywood’s free-spending days may be drawing to a close, but superexpensive movies are far from extinct. Among the more recent budget-busters:

Warner Bros.’ Batman Returns, budgeted at around $50 million, is now expected to hit $60 million, says a studio source. Another source attributes the higher cost to Jack Nicholson’s first Batman deal, which provided that he be paid ”more than $10 million from the sequel” because of a profit-sharing pact, though Warner denies it. Another source says Warner has paid several million to buy out Nicholson’s contract for Batman merchandising.

Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula, an erotic spin on Bram Stoker’s classic vampire tale, was set to begin filming in late August. Pushed back to mid-October, Dracula will cost between $35 million and $40 million. It might have required even more, partly due to production designer Dante Ferretti’s grandly gothic sets, but Columbia Pictures demanded cutbacks, forcing Ferretti to resign. Dracula features Gary Oldman, Anthony Hopkins, and Winona Ryder, from a script by Jim Hart.

Hook, Steven Spielberg’s lavish revamp of the Peter Pan saga, stars Dustin Hoffman, Robin Williams, and Julia Roberts. The studio sets are magnificent, say insiders, and the Hook philosophy, according to screenwriter Hart (yes, the Dracula scribe), is ”if we build them, they will come.” But the total price tag — said to be in the $75 million range — will obviously cut into Tri-Star’s net.