When Spider-Man comes swinging into theaters today, he'll have his work cut out for him.
First order of business: saving Sony Pictures and, by extension, Cameron Diaz.
Diaz recently took a disastrously wrong turn in her career, and it was made for Sony. After coming off big hits like Charlie's Angels and There's Something About Mary, Diaz sold out and made the execrable non-comedy, The Sweetest Thing.
There was nothing Sweet about it. With a budget of $43 million, this piece of garbage had expenses like $1 million for a script, written on spec, by first timer Nancy Pimental. But the worst miscalculation was paying Cameron Diaz a reported $15 million to repeat her Mary character, only without any sense or sensibility.
As of yesterday, The Sweetest Thing had grossed around $22 million. On Tuesday it pulled in a paltry $230,000 on over 2,200 screens. Eighteen days have passed since it was released, and yet the Roger Kumble-directed shlockfest has never found an audience. This despite outrageous language and dirty jokes that exceed the boundaries of bad taste.
Sony is now in a position to write Sweetest Thing off and start pulling it from theaters. Spider-Man is the only thing that can save them from a dismal spring season. The studio is still reeling from Michael Mann's Ali, a bomb that cost as much as $107 million to make (not counting marketing) and took in a scary $55 million in the U.S.
But Columbia/Sony has traditionally been an up-and-down rollercoaster ride of a studio. They can go through long bleak periods but be saved by occasional, accidental hits.
Ridley Scott's Black Hawk Down, for example, saw its release postponed because of September 11. Subsequently it found an audience and should do a little better than break-even with over $105 million in the till. The film's budget was estimated at $95 million.
Still, Columbia can look at decent results from Jodie Foster in The Panic Room ($90 million take on a $48 million budget), and should have good openings with Jennifer Lopez in Enough and Will Smith — returning to commercial form after Ali — with Tommy Lee Jones in Men in Black 2.
And what of Spidey? Even if he's as big this weekend as I think he will be — breaking records and whatnot — there's still the issue of how much he cost to begin with. I'm told the answer is upwards of the previously announced $139 million, maybe more than halfway towards $200 million. Let the web spinning begin!
Russell Simmons is the entrepreneur who turned rap (pre-violent, pre-sexist rap) into millions. His DefJam Records was the Motown of the genre, and Russell has since gone to make great strides in fashion with Phat Farm. He also produced Def Comedy Jam and Def Poetry Jam for television. Now the latter is coming to Broadway.
Sources tell me that Def Poetry Jam will be in a Shubert Theater some time in early October. What an accomplishment! But Simmons is no doubt bolstered by the success of Suzan Lori Parks's Top Dog/Underdog. A new black theater is emerging on Broadway and Simmons is ready to capitalize on that.
"Right now, most of the poetry world is underground," Simmons told me recently. "So we have to make it available to the mainstream."
Indeed, the poetry world could be about to make a comeback. The New Yorker's poetry editor, Alice Quinn, recently took the position as editor in chief of the Poetry Society of America. And you'd never guess who is the president of the PSA's Board of Governors: William Louis-Dreyfus, philanthropist, investor, and real-life father of Seinfeld’s "Elaine," Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Get out!
I wrote in this space on December 19, 2000 that ABC News executives were seriously considering turning Bill Clinton into a TV star. So much for all the hubbub this week about our former president heading to the small screen.
At a dinner party for top ABC brass some 16 months ago, Clinton's name was the most discussed of the evening. A source told me then: "It was said that Barbara Walters would have to retire sometime, and that Clinton would be the perfect replacement to interview heads of state and movie stars."
Would you go to Elvis Costello for information about Mariah Carey? Answer: nope. Yet, he may know something we don't about Carey's recording plans.
On a Mariah fan Web site, Costello is quoted as calling Mariah "my labelmate." Well, Costello is part of the Universal/Island DefJam family. Carey has been trying to make a decision between that group and Clive Davis's J Records.
So has Costello telegraphed a clue? "No!" shouts a Mariah insider. "No decision has been made."
As for Costello, his aim has always been true, but who knows?