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"The Thin Red Line"

"Hillary and Jackie"

"Mighty Joe Young"

"Patch Adams"

"The Price of Egypt"

"A Simple Plan"

"You've Got Mail"


"Hi-Lo Country"

"A Civil Action"

Holiday movie madness has industry hopping

Web posted on:
Tuesday, December 15, 1998 4:38:54 PM EST

From Correspondent Paul Vercammen

LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- Holiday movies never had it so hard -- tons of competition and more pressure than ever to perform to high expectations.

Some of the movies coming out this merry season: John Travolta hits theaters with "A Civil Action" and "The Thin Red Line"; Bill Paxton enters with "Mighty Joe Young" and "A Simple Plan."

"It's going to be a slaughterhouse out there," Paxton says of the holiday movie madness. "But I feel pretty good. I feel I got two hits on my hands."

Packed theaters

But are there enough theaters to accommodate the holiday releases? Lauren Shuler Donner, producer of "You've Got Mail," estimates the Meg Ryan-Tom Hanks film will open on 2,300 screens this week -- instead of 3,000 in a less crowded marketplace.

"There's too much competition for those theaters," says Donner. "And if you don't perform in the first two weekends ... forget it."

Like summer box office bonanzas, the theory is to open big or get blown off screens.

Make or break

That's why we see major advertising campaigns for "The Prince of Egypt," "Stepmom," "Patch Adams" and other films set to hit theaters soon. Analysts point out studios now spend twice as much money in the initial marketing push than they did six years ago.

"It's really a make-or-break situation," says Jeffrey Logsdon, a media analyst for the Seidler Companies. "You get a good initial flow through your advertising effort and ... you know you capture a significant amount of business early."

Oscar buzz?

Box office pressure eases somewhat on smaller films eyeing award recognition, like Woody Harrelson's "The Hi-Lo Country" or "Affliction" with Nick Nolte and Sissy Spacek. The films will meet the year-end Academy Award deadline.

But consider this: Many of the Best Picture winners of the '90s -- including "Forrest Gump" and "Braveheart" -- were not holiday releases.

Hollywood insider Bruce Berman, chairman of Village Roadshow Pictures, says December's Oscar hopefuls are chasing a myth.

"In light of the fact that 'Saving Private Ryan,' which has quite an Oscar buzz going about it now, was released this summer, as well as 'The Truman Show,' which was released this summer," says Berman.

Still, this December the theaters are jammed with Oscar bait. Only the fittest films will survive the holiday glut.

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