March 16, 2001 at 05:00 AM EST


Current Status
In Season
87 minutes
Wide Release Date
Bridget Fonda, Brendan Fraser, Dave Foley, Whoopi Goldberg, Chris Kattan, Rose McGowan, Megan Mullally
Henry Selick
20th Century Fox Film Corporation, Twitching Image Studio
20th Century Fox Film Corporation
Sam Hamm
Animation, Sci-fi and Fantasy, Comedy

How does a $75 million film starring a bankable actor sidle into theaters unnoticed and immediately drop dead? It’s a question the makers of Monkeybone, starring Brendan Fraser and directed by Henry Selick (The Nightmare Before Christmas), are trying to answer in the wake of their miserable $2.7 million opening two weeks ago.

Two of the filmmakers admit that Monkeybone, a dark comedy about an animator trapped in the world he created, was a tough sell. But they argue that the movie’s distributor, Twentieth Century Fox, gave up on the project after the June departure of chairman Bill Mechanic, who greenlit the film. (Fox declined to comment for this story.)

According to production sources, Fox took Monkeybone from Selick and recut it after a disastrous screening at which the sound system failed. Executive producer Chris Columbus also did an edit in an attempt to make the movie more mainstream before giving it back to Selick.

”They talked about opening the film in October, then Thanksgiving, then Christmas, then Martin Luther King’s birthday, then spring break, then Presidents’ weekend, then the weekend after,” says one of the filmmakers. With only two weeks to launch an advertising campaign and a decision to delay previewing the picture for weekly magazine critics, the filmmakers say Monkeybone was doomed. Says one, ”A week and a half before the movie was supposed to come out, the ads were disappearing”; the Sunday before it opened, Fox took out only one print ad, in the L.A. Times.

Fox brass, which couldn’t have guessed that the film would receive favorable reviews from the L.A. Times, The New York Times, and EW (reviews in other parts of the country were mixed, at best), reportedly told the filmmakers, ”It’s going to look bad on Monday. This will make it look less bad.” Adds a source, ”If you do your best [to market the movie] and it bombs, go ahead, blame the film. But this is crazy. I mean, is this worse than Get Carter or See Spot Run?”

You May Like