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Least Popular Box-Office Attractions
by Christopher Stone

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PAT was a  box-office case study in how to be very, very unpopular.

PAT was a box-office case study in how to be very, very unpopular.
The Box-Office: Often, it's hot! Like now, for example. Other times, Hollywood fails to capture the hearts, minds and box-office dollars of Match-Flickers. This column looks back at a few of the box-office's least popular offerings. These are the attractions that failed to attract; the flicks that flickered out the movies that didn't move us.

We won't be re-visiting BATTLEFIELD EARTH, ISHTAR, HEAVEN'S GATE or SPEED RACER. They were included in last year's Box-Office Bombs pillar. Instead, we're looking at other box-office turkeys that were (gobble, gobble) case studies in HOW TO BE VERY, VERY UNPOPULAR.

When the subject turns to unpopular flicks, you can't do much better or is it much worse? than the 1994 late summer Touchstone Pictures release IT'S PAT. Based on Julia Sweeney's androgynous trademark character on SNL, Pat was pistol hot on that late-night network laffer, but the flick met with an icy cold reception from Match-Flickers of both genders and all sexual orientations. IT'S PAT cost Touchstone, a Walt Disney company, $10 million to make. Its
Coppola's HEART was an offer Match-Flickers could refuse.

Coppola's HEART was an offer Match-Flickers could refuse.
worldwide gross was a humiliating $61,000. Some have suggested that Disney would have done better to just burn the $10 million. PAT fared slightly, but not much, better on home video.

In the theater, and in motion pictures, this is the first standing rule
: Never, and I mean never ever, produce a show with your own money. Filmmaking legend Frances Ford Coppola, known as much for his ego and temperament as for his talent, ignored the first standing rule.

Frances financed ONE FROM THE HEART (1982) with his own money. After all, how could the wunderkind behind AMERICAN GRAFITTI, THE GODFATHER and APOCALYPSE NOW fail? Like carrier pigeons on a mission, or swallows on their way to a mission, Match-Flickers flocked away from, and not to, theaters showing Coppola's self financed opus. ONE FROM THE HEART lost $25 million of its $26 million investment, sending Frances to the poor house and effectively ending his career as an A-List director.

In 2001, Match-Flickers failed to "go ape" over MONKEYBONE, a lame fantasy about a youthful cartoonist who gets trapped with his
And we didn't

And we didn't
own animated creation. This 2001 simian odyssey cost $75 million, but grossed a gross $6 million at the box-office. The studio obviously overestimated Brendan Fraser's appeal. They thought he could put butts in multiplex seats on opening weekend. Instead, he became the butt of jokes about multiplex misadventures.

SNL strikes again! Earlier in this column we covered IT'S PAT, a SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE-spawned flick that was eminently unpopular as a box-office attraction. A long- time-ago SNL alum, Eddie Murphy, was the star of another of the box-office's all-time least popular motion pictures. Murphy's THE ADVENTURES OF PLUTO NASH, in which he starred as a futuristic lunar nightclub owner, investigating the arson that destroyed his business, cost $100 million to produce. Some sources say it grossed a hugely embarrassing $7 million. If you forget about that pesky factor called inflation, then no major motion picture in history has ever lost more money than THE ADVENTURES OF PLUTO NASH. Other box-office sources say the flick grossed only $4 million. In either case,
PLUTO NASH didn't launch for Match-Flickers.

PLUTO NASH didn't launch for Match-Flickers.
Match-Flickers gave PLUTO NASH the finger and not a supportive hand.

I can't help but wonder: What will be the least popular box-office attraction of 2010? Dare I say last weekend's box-office debacle MACGRUBER?

Summer Box-Office Watch: As predicted in our last column, IRON MAN 2 won the May 14-16 Box-Office Weekend, with Russell Crowe's ROBIN HOOD capturing second place.

Again, as predicted, SHREK FOREVER AFTER won the May 21-23 Box-Office Weekend $71.3 million. Even with higher 3D prices on more than 2700 screens and a larger than ever screen opening total (9500), SHREK'S fourth go-round didn't rack up as impressive a total as its record-shaterring predecessors. Although the not-so-jolly green ogre didn't measure up to his second and third chapters openings, a win is a win is a win. The weekend's other nationwide opening, MACGRUBER, laid a major box-office egg, taking in a pitiful $4.1 million on some 2500 screens. I M 2's steely legs were enough to capture second place with $26.6 million, and ROBIN HOOD stole the bronze or third position, with $18.7 million.

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Mike Thomas
May 29, 2010 3:00 AM
[X] delete
Since most of your column was about SNL skits that should not have been made, it should send a message to producers - not all 5-minute skits can make money as a multimillion dollar, two-hour clunker.

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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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