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Hollywood's crappy Christmas

Hollywood’s crappy Christmas — We offer tips for the movie industry to have a happy New Year

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Have a cup of holiday cheer, Hollywood-style: ”Christmas was a train wreck,” says MCA Motion Picture Group chairman Tom Pollock. ”Too many movies cost too much” — and chased the same audiences. ”In November there were a lot of family films,” says Fox president Bill Mechanic. ”In December, (it was) women’s pictures. There wasn’t good spacing.” That means Hollywood is spending its January rediscovering the fundamentals:

Put your star in the right story: Universal gambled on getting the world’s biggest star pregnant and lost. ”Junior was a turnoff for the male population,” says Paramount distribution chief Wayne Lewellen. ”Their image of Schwarzenegger is macho blood and guts.” On the action front, neither Drop Zone‘s Wesley Snipes nor Street Fighter‘s Jean-Claude Van Damme delivered the thrills audiences want. ”Drop Zone,” says Price Entertainment executive VP Marvin Antonowsky, ”was Terminal Velocity II.” Dumb and Dumber has every studio chief wishing he’d had the sense to give Jim Carrey $7 million to star in a $17 million comedy. ”It was the only broad-based comedy,” says Antonowsky. ”There was nothing to compete with it.”

Don’t clutter the field with too many similar films. Santa delivered a bundle of women’s films, but only Little Women was a hit. Columbia got the print late and lost a chance at some Golden Globe nods, but the movie still won some of the season’s best reviews. ”Little Women owes its existence to the women in power at the studio,” says Mobsters screenwriter Michael Mahern. ”The men didn’t get it.” Among other women’s films, only Jodie Foster’s Nell has found an audience; I.Q., Speechless, and Mixed Nuts got lost in the shuffle.

With family pictures, hip is better than square: Disney grabbed the lion’s share of the family audience with The Santa Clause, the rereleased Lion King, and the live-action Jungle Book, leaving the stodgy remake of Miracle on 34th Street and the animated Disney wannabes Swan Princess and The Pagemaster in the dust. Santa ”was a baby Home Alone,” says Fox senior executive VP Tom Sherak. ”It ate up everything around.”