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Behind the illogic of Hollywood's movie marketing

Rebecca Ascher-Walsh wonders why such turkeys as ”Astronaut’s Wife” are being released years after being made

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Behind the illogic of Hollywood’s movie marketing

I don’t get it. Throughout the corridors of Hollywood studios, people are being paid really big bucks to figure out not only what we want to see, but when we want to see it. To wit: If ”Star Wars” is being released in May, wisdom dictates that you take your competing movie and run, releasing it either a month before or a couple months later. Unless you have ”Notting Hill,” a whole different kettle of fish, I certainly agree it makes sense to get the hell out of the way.

But here’s where I lose the logic: A couple of executives are sitting around a table, and one says to the other, ”You know what? This movie stinks. Let’s put it on the shelf, pay interest on the print, and release it in a couple years.”

When… what? When viewers have all gotten stupider? When we suddenly start hankering for garbage? To wit: This month has been a dumping ground extraordinaire for movies so old their reels are cracked: ”The Astronaut’s Wife,” starring Johnny Depp, finished production in April 1998. ”The 13th Warrior,” which apparently is not as bad as Disney feared, was done November 1997, and ”Arlington Road”’s wrap party would have been held in April 1998. As for ”Illuminata,” I first saw that in Cannes in May 1998, and ”Outside Providence” — well, that one was completed in December 1997.

Since apparently our tastes haven’t undergone revolutionary changes in the last couple of years, none of these movies is doing well. Not a surprise. (What is a surprise to me is why, when studios are so willing to put movies on hold, the usually crafty Artisan has gone and released its stellar ”Stir of Echoes” so closely on the heels of the record-breaking, way-too-similar ”Sixth Sense”). So please, Hollywood, won?t you learn your lesson? If you?re going to make us wait, at least give us something to look forward to. Otherwise, just get the bad news over with.