Reviewing my columns, I notice that it's been a while since I've addressed a current box office trend. And so, dear readers, the time has come to comment about Sharon Stone and one alarming American box office trend that bodes ill for the aging sex star, and for many others.
BASIC INSTINCT Set the Box Office on Fire
Movie lovers told Sharon Stone and BASIC INSTINCT 2 that once was enough when the sequel to her 1992 super hit opened on March 31. On almost 1500 screens, the erotic thriller amassed a dismal $3.2 million, and 10th-place position for its Opening Weekend (April 2). By Week 2, INSTINCT 2 had tumbled down to 16th position with an anemic $1 million. This, despite a massive advertising and publicity blitz that saw Stone touting the sequel relentlessly on television shows, and in print interviews. Press coverage notwithstanding, The Second Coming of INSTINCT was about as popular as a Good Friday Crucifixion.
Not only was Sharon Stone snubbed at multiples, she was given the cold shoulder by subscribers of the Showtime premium cable network. The Sunday of BASIC INSTINCT 2's opening weekend, Stone guest-starred on the Season 2 Premiere of the network's HUFF. The premiere broadcast was down 36% from its lead-in show, the Showtime premiere of CRASH. Big screen or
small, the 48-year-old sex kitten couldn't win for losing this month. As they say, when you're hot, you're hot, and when you're not, best give it a rest.
FATAL ATTRACTION Was Another Box Office Monster
While movie-goers and Showtime subscribers may not have welcomed the Stone with thighs akimbo, some filmmakers believe it is a disturbing trend at the American box office, and not indifference to the actress, that caused BASIC INSTINCT 2 to belly-flop at the box office.
When the original BASIC INSTINCT opened in 1992, it took the Number One box office position with a $15.1 opening weekend. Since then, the whole genre of the erotic thriller has cooled, and BASIC INSTINCT director Paul Verhoeven believes he knows why.
"Anything that is erotic has been banned in the United States," he says. "Look at the people at the top (of the government). We are living under a government that is constantly hammering out Christian values. And Christianity and sex have never been good friends."
Nicholas Meyer, an un-credited writer of FATAL ATTRACTION, another 1990s' erotic hit, sees it this way, "We're in a puritanical mode," he opines. "It's like the McCarthy era, except it's not 'Are you a communist?' but 'Have you ever put sex in a movie?'"
Is it true? Are Verhoeven and Meyer
correct? Along with our budget surplus, and most of our allies, have Americans forfeited the right to be aroused at the movies? Is movie sex the new box office communism?
Zalman King produces & directs erotica
Meyer believes that sex is taboo at the American box office. He notes that the fall in popularity of the erotic thriller parallels the rise of the conservative political movement.
Screenwriters are finding it difficult, or impossible, to generate interest for the genre with their agents and the studios. But not everyone believes that it's the right wing administration that has bushwhacked the erotic thriller.
Producer JC Spink, right now in pre-production for BOOB JOB, blames the rise of the Internet, and not religious wing-nuts, for the near-demise of the erotic thriller at America's multiplexes. As he puts it, "Why pay $10 to see something at the movies that you can see for free, watching someone's webcam broadcast on the Internet?"
Regardless of the reasons, the erotic thriller has become box office poison, a genre that is as cold as ICE AGE is sizzling hot. From Sharon Stone to Zalman King and Mark Damon, filmmakers that once amassed fortunes on successful sexy thrillers are looking elsewhere for the next big thing to insure their survival at the box office.
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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.
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.
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