Hollywood's No. 1 studio suffers another setback with ''Stardust''

By Nicole Sperling
Updated August 17, 2007 at 04:00 AM EDT

It’s always a bummer when a movie tanks. But for Paramount, the fizzle of its $70 million-plus fantasy epic Stardust — which opened to only $9.2 million last weekend — is particularly painful. It comes on the heels of Hot Rod‘s meager bow a week earlier and in the midst of a rough year for the studio, plagued by reports of internal tension with DreamWorks, which it bought in December 2005. Paramount actually leads all studios in market share — in 2007, it’s notched $1.1 billion at the box office — but it doesn’t help that some of its biggest hits (Shrek the Third, Norbit, Disturbia) were developed and produced by DreamWorks. Making matters worse: industry gossip that DreamWorks principals are feeling sellers’ remorse despite continued efforts by Paramount chairman and CEO Brad Grey to appease them. (Grey declined to comment, except to say he’s ”thrilled” with DreamWorks’ success.)

”We’re definitely having a tough run,” says Paramount marketing and distribution chief Rob Moore. ”But the prospects are good. It’s going to get much better, quickly.” If the studio’s remaining 2007 release, the Nov. 16 motion-capture fantasy epic Beowulf — starring Anthony Hopkins and Angelina Jolie — doesn’t devour the box office, at least 2008 looks promising. Between Indiana Jones 4, a monster movie and a Star Trek update from J.J. Abrams, Iron Man, and Martin Scorsese’s Rolling Stones documentary, the company could lock in a year of success. And it won’t have to share the glory with anyone.

Gross Anatomy
How Paramount’s recent big releases fared on opening weekend

Hot Rod $5.3*

Next $7.1

Shooter $14.5

Zodiac $13.4

Freedom Writers $9.4

* Opening weekend grosses (in millions)