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Why ''Any Given Sunday'' scored at the box office

Savvy decisions will make it Oliver Stone’s biggest hit in years

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Cameron Diaz
Courtesy Warner Bros.

After bombing at the box office with ”U-Turn” and ”Nixon,” Oliver Stone has scored with ”Any Given Sunday.” Raking in almost $60 million in just over two weeks, the movie has already outgrossed his two previous films combined and also ”Natural Born Killers.” Considering the movie rated a middling B- with both male and female voters in our Critical Mass Movie Poll — while less successful, star-driven movies such as ”Anna and the King” and ”Man and the Moon” received higher grades — how did Stone lure the masses (and that key female demographic) to his football movie at the height of the most crowded season of the year? Here’s the lowdown on the game plan that helped this underdog reach the end zone.

Girl Power Casting Cameron Diaz as a witchy team owner was a savvy play. ”The notion of having the owner of the team be an attractive young woman with a gutter mouth is very commercial,” says Hollywood Reporter columnist Martin A. Grove. ”It shows an empowered female who is also the bad guy, and it’s an interesting twist. It also gave female viewers something to focus on besides football.”

Don’t Rule Out the Old Guys Two words: Pacino, Stone. Pacino’s name typically defines quality movies, and it gives the film instant credibility. And Stone carries weight with the media, helping land extensive magazine, newspaper, and Web coverage during a crowded holiday movie season.

Kids Rock The movie’s straight-from-MTV style was just too slick not to draw in young fans. And the roaring soundtrack featuring Kid Rock, Hole, and DMX helped make ”Any Given Sunday” cool enough even for Pacino. ”I had the occasion to hear rap firsthand from LL Cool J, and it’s startling because it’s so vivid,” says Pacino.

It Isn’t a Football Movie, Damn It In promoting the film, Warner Brothers played it smart by emphasizing universal themes beyond the football field (”Life is a contact sport”) to draw in the football-phobic. ”It’s about football, but the story resonates to all of our lives,” stresses Stone. ”Everyone has struggles at their jobs. We’re all being pushed out, competed against, and questioned on a daily basis.”

Timing Is Everything The release date, which was moved up from mid-January, was dead-on. ”I think they pushed it up earlier because they wanted to take advantage of holiday business, and because it will play into January,” Grove says. ”Between New Year’s bowl games and the Superbowl, there’s no football. Fans who can’t see the game on TV will still be able to see a really good game on the screen.”

The Drawback The movie’s advanced release date may hurt its chances for Oscar gold. Stone, who had to hustle because of the moved-up schedule, wasn’t able to provide a screening print to critics at the same time other Oscar-buzzed films did. ”I don’t think most critics had a chance to evaluate this movie,” says Grove, who ranked the film among his year’s top ten. Critical snubbing? Sounds like Stone has a brand new conspiracy theory to ponder.