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My Introduction
by Christopher Stone

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My Romance

My romance with the movies began early. I was about three when I first attended our Bronx, New York, neighborhood theaters. From the start, motion picture stardust filled my eyes, my head, and my heart. Rarely presenting life and the world as they are, movies often serve up Planet Earth, as it should be. And what should be is commonly more attractive than what exists.

Transplanted at six to California's Central Valley, my romance with movies continued full-blown, uninterrupted. I found relief from the valley's oppressive heat, and from its cultural vacuum, in the comfort of air-conditioned theaters. Comedy, drama, spectacle, sci-fi, horror, westerns, and war movies. I savored each genre with equal gusto.

Along the way, I introduced uninitiated others to the magic that is motion pictures. To this day, many of them express gratitude for the introduction.

But my celluloid crush went way beyond the films of my childhood. On television, and in revival houses, I fell in love with the movies and the stars of my parents' generation. I loved hearing Mom recount my grandfather's affinity for Mae West, and I delighted in learning how grandma had been scandalized by a fleshy display in Polly of the Circus.

Attending our town's only art house, I succumbed willingly to the charms of foreign and independent movies.

Halfway through humdrum college years, I was accepted into a Writers Guild of America scholarship program for screenwriters. It was my ticket out of the San Joaquin Valley, and into Hollywood. I couldn't pack, or re-locate, fast enough. In Hollywood, my life took a quick, sharp turn for the better.

My Parameters

In addition to the show, I've always loved the business of moviemaking. As a child, I devoured the box office grosses in Variety. In magazines and books, I read joyfully about movie budgets, trends, and taboos.

The business of moviemaking, in all of its many and varied aspects, will be the focus of this pillar.

Why is one movie a multiplex mega-hit, while another is box office poison? Are people packing multiplexes because they really want to see Mr. & Mrs. Smith, or are they glued to their stadium seats to scrutinize the interaction between two romantically linked superstars?

Does advertising, publicity, or fickle public taste determine a movie's box office fate? Are overpaid, overindulged stars the reason for a movie's success? Or is it a cast of computer-generated thousands that fill seats? No, if that were true, Alexander would have been a huge hit, rather than an Ishtar for the new millenium. Much more likely, it's an ever-changing combination of elements that coalesce to create box office success.

A one-time movie critic, I'm convinced that critics have scant power to help or hurt a film, no matter how many thumbs are up or down.

One future column will reveal how progress and escalating property values conspired to end the ultimate movie date: a night at the drive-in theater. Another column will explore the movie musical's viability as a successful Hollywood genre.

Ripe for examination here: What are the films, and who are the filmmakers, commanding the industry's attention? Are current superstars worth their super-sized paydays, or are younger moviegoers indifferent to the idols that compelled their older siblings? Are franchise sequels a proper response to box office slumps, or are moviegoers craving original fare?

Do the stars' personal lives affect the box office muscle of their movies? Did Russell Crowe's arresting antics spike, hurt, or not affect the Cinderella Man grosses? How does the fate of an individual film impact the motion picture industry in general, or a filmmaker, in particular?

Together, we'll uncover worthwhile answers to the questions posed, and entertain ourselves in the process.

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The Business of Show
Every other Friday

Does advertising, public taste, or overindulged stars determine a movie's box office fate? Christoper Stone explores what's going on behind the box office.

Other Columns
Other columns by Christopher Stone:

The Cautionary Box-Office

Box-Office Holiday Season Heads Up. Part Two

Box-Office Holiday Season Heads Up, Part 1

Quality Is Independent

Oh, the Horror!

All Columns

Christopher Stone
Christopher Stone is the author of the international best seller Re-Creating Your Self. With Mary Sheldon, he co-authored three highly successful hardcover books of guided meditations.

He is a member of the Writers Guild of America, West.

If you have a comment, question, or suggestion, you can send a message to Christopher Stone by clicking here.

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