Town & Country | Coen Brothers | Hogan Sheffer

  Beatty Movie and McCool's Now Officially Dead

They each opened on April 19, and now they are history.

The movies I'm talking about? Town & Country, which featured Warren Beatty, Diane Keaton and Goldie Hawn, and One Night at McCool's, starring Michael Douglas, Matt Dillon and Liv Tyler. As of this weekend, both movies are officially dead at the box office with grosses of less than $7 million.

Of course, Town & Country is the most egregious of the two. Making it cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $80 million and dragged on for three years. Directed by Peter Chelsom, written in various versions by Buck Henry and others, Town & Country now succeeds Kevin Costner's The Postman — which at least managed to gross $17 million on costs of around $100 million — as the biggest single flop in movie history.

For Beatty, this is no memento for his resume. Fifteen years ago he was in another huge failure, Ishtar, giving him now two spots on a list no one wants to be on.

As for McCool's, the failure is more stinging for the studio than for the filmmakers. USA Films did so well with Traffic that it trumpeted its association with Douglas. Unfortunately, Traffic is the only high spot in USA's recent schedule. Since combining Gramercy, Polygram and October Films, USA has had interesting releases like the Gilbert and Sullivan biography Topsy-Turvy, Albert Brooks' The Muse and, of course, Traffic. But only Traffic succeeded. The others collapsed early. Next up is the Coen Brothers' The Man Who Wasn't There, which received a tepid response at the Cannes Film Festival — traditionally the Coens' best audience.

Try though they have, USA recently lost its president, Russell Schwartz. This fall they'll make one more stab at success with Neil LaBute's version of the novel Possession starring Gwyneth Paltrow. This reunites Paltrow with Donna Gigliotti, the same producer who made Shakespeare in Love, so the potential is there. On the other hand, LaBute is a whack job whose previous efforts — In the Company of Men, Your Friends & Neighbors, Nurse Betty — have left a bitter aftertaste with audiences. (USA also released Nurse Betty.) Hopefully Gigliotti has reigned him in this time.

Of course, T&C and McCool's are not alone in their disaster status, just more high profile. You can add to this season's pile of total box office losers: Josie and the Pussycats, Freddy Got Fingered, Someone Like You, Joe Dirt, Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles, The Forsaken, and the rather good — but unceremoniously dumped — The Tailor of Panama. They will all be playing on either the Starz channel or on budget cross-country flights as soon as possible. Tom Green and David Spade, well, why add more insults?

As for the mediocre $50 million group, I guess at some point audiences had to go somewhere, if not home to sleep. So The Mexican, Exit Wounds, Driven, Enemy at the Gates, Save the Last Dance, Heartbreakers, and Blow — all movies that no one wanted to see, shouldn't have been made, and will now sit in DVD sale bins — conned just enough ticket holders so as not to be totally and completely humiliated. Their producers will still be allowed to eat at Morton's and shop at Neiman Marcus — at least for one more film apiece. 

The real winners of the pre-Memorial Day race: Spy Kids, and Bridget Jones's Diary were the solid gold hits. Chocolat crossed the $70 million mark with one last burst over Mother's Day weekend. The Mummy Returns and Along Came a Spider — both of which are completely forgettable — outdid their projections. The Mummy, especially, proved to be an excellent theme park as a movie.

And somewhere out there, Memento is still playing to smart audiences, treading water and waiting until the fall awards season. At least Newmarket Distributing has started using a slightly better ad depicting a tattooed Guy Pearce. If only they had a real marketing department.

Coens Come Down From the Mountain

Speaking of the Coens: It's the movie we thought we'd never see, but Down From the Mountain will finally be released to a movie theatre in two weeks.

This is the concert filmed last year by D.A. Pennebaker in Nashville featuring the bluegrass musicians from O Brother, Where Art Thou? The Coen brothers' film has taken in $45 million at the box office and the soundtrack was at the top of the country charts for weeks. Nevertheless Artisan, which has the rights to Mountain, didn't think there was an audience for the concert film. Pennebaker is betting they're wrong. He's joined together with the Coens to get local distribution in New York and Nashville. Mountain will play here at The Screening Room on Canal Street beginning June 15. 

By the way, if you're a fan of this sort of music, an O Brother, Where Art Thou? concert is taking place at Carnegie Hall on June 13. Most of the musicians from the film will be on hand, with the exception of John Hartford. Check the Carnegie Hall Web site for details.

Soap Award to Actor's Brother

I'm a little late to report this, but the Daytime Emmy award for writing a soap opera went to Hogan Sheffer, from the 45-year-old As the World Turns. Hogan Sheffer came from DreamWorks; he's the brother of actor Craig Sheffer, who's starring right now in Rob Morrow's movie Maze and you may know him from A River Runs Through It. Hogan Sheffer joined the very good executive producer Christopher Goutman one year ago and literally restored order to World Turns from the chaos that had consumed it. In particular, Sheffer smartly wrote a story for the gorgeous and talented Colleen Zenk-Pinter. The result has been high ratings and great reviews. Congratulations to all of them. If only World Turns' companion show, The Guiding Light, could pull itself together the same way.

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