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Is It A Fave, Or A True B.O. Classic?
by Christopher Stone

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GREASE is the reel deal: A MatchFlick Classic

GREASE is the reel deal: A MatchFlick Classic
For too long now, the word classic has been over-used and used wrongly to describe everything from mundane music to the latest disposable box office offering.

The term "instant classic" is an un-favorite of mine, for several reasons. For one thing, it's an oxymoron. By definition, a classic is something that has endured; to be a classic, a movie, or anything else under consideration, must have an established track record of value. Consequently, there is no such thing as an "instant classic." Instant favorite, yes. Instant classic, no way, Mr. Movie Phone. You may have been thrilled by last summer's SPIDERMAN 3, HAIRSPRAY, or PIRATES: AT WORLD'S END. Any, or all, of the aforementioned may be among your all-time favorite flicks. But they are not box office classics yet. In other words, STAR WARS is a box office classic. It has stood the test of time and endured. TRANSFORMERS, on the other hand, may, or may not, be a candidate for box office classic status. GREASE is a classic. HAIRSPRAY may become one.

HAIRSPRAY could be a candidate for classic status

HAIRSPRAY could be a candidate for classic status
or not you are a fan of CASABLANCA, GONE WITH THE WIND, THE WIZARD OF OZ, or REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE, each of the aforementioned is a bonafide, and major, motion picture classic. They've all endured. Their value has been celebrated and established by generations of adoring fans. The same can be said for CITIZEN KANE, IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE, and SOME LIKE IT HOT.

ANIMAL HOUSE, EASY RIDER, and even FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH, are among the many, many motion picture making lists as minor American classics.

Some Match-Flickers rank NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE, and CONAN THE BARBARIAN, among the worst motion pictures ever made. To many others, this trio is among America's cult classics: motion pictures of dubious quality that have been embraced and adored by a minority of movie goers for several generations. Cult classics include the category of camp classics: flicks that are so bad, or so unintentionally funny, that they endure and entertain generations. Think: REEFER MADNESS, WHATEVER HAPPENED TO
MOMMIE DEAREST is a Camp Classic

MOMMIE DEAREST is a Camp Classic
BABY JANE, and MARS NEEDS WOMEN, among many, many others.

How does a Match-Flicker distinguish a reel box-office classic from a personal favorite? Ask yourself, 'Does the movie reflect the highest qualities of the film-making arts and sciences, and has it stood the test of time for a generation or more?' Be it sex, violence, or language, a true box-office classic almost always leaves something to the audience's imagination. Also, ask yourself, 'Does the movie in question hit the same emotional note for its duration, or does it reach the audience on many different levels, depending upon the age and experience of each audience member?' Emotionally speaking, most box-office classics are more like Bach than like bubble-gum music. Box office classics tend to be subtle, suggestive, and substantive, rather than blatant, detailed, and light-weight.

Admittedly, not every Match-Flicker loves box office classics. If you think Mickey Rooney is the quirky oldster on 60 MINUTES, then you're not a classic movie Match-Flicker. If the
PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE is a Cult Classic

PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE is a Cult Classic
name James Dean makes you think of breakfast meat, and not libidinous, rebellious youth, then you're not a classic movie Match-Flicker. And, if Bridget is the only Fonda of whom you're aware, you're definitely not a classic movie Match-Flicker.

Some Match-Flickers think of James Cameron's TITANIC as little more than a lavishly-produced soap opera. However, because the flick has held the all-time box office champ record for more than a decade - because of its Oscar booty (14 nominations, with 11 wins) - and because it is still referenced regularly by the media, admire it or not, TITANIC is a major box office classic.

In conclusion, Match-Flickers, the next time a distributor proclaims its latest release "an instant classic!," know that you're being hustled, not enlightened. Before you breathlessly tell your best girl or boy that the new INDIANA JONES is a classic, perhaps you should substitute the phrase "personal favorite."

Let's all make the box-office a better place by using the word "classic," sparingly and appropriately.

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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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