What a difference a year makes. Last year at this time, Columbia Pictures was riding high with Spider-Man. But things have changed. Now the studio is waiting to see if Julia Roberts' Mona Lisa Smile will save them this fall.
Columbia, aka Sony, is having a rough summer. First, its executives pinned their hopes to Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, and they did so with proper expectations. The first Charlie's Angels film was a big, big hit. They had every reason to expect the sequel would fare well.
Alas, they were very wrong. As of today, Full Throttle has taken in $90 million domestically. My sources tell me that including the marketing, the full ticket on this was one was $183 million.
That's right! The actresses cost a fortune this time around, for one thing. Estimates give Drew Barrymore $20 mil, Cameron Diaz $12 mil and Lucy Liu $4 mil.
Then of course there's the pricey supporting cast of Bernie Mac, Luke Wilson and Matt LeBlanc. Director McG gets a chunk, as does producer Leonard Goldberg.
The music budget — the movie plays like a jukebox of hits — was fairly sizeable too. And of course, let's not forget all that flying around and kicking costs money to make in post-production.
If all that weren't enough, Robert Wagner is suing all the parties involved as part of his old Spelling-Goldberg contract from the Hart to Hart days.
Full Throttle may wind up a good $80 million in the red, unless foreign audiences embrace it or video sales suddenly take off. And let's face it: A sub-titled Full Throttle will make even less sense than it does in English.
Columbia is run by smart, creative people who want hits as badly as everyone else. They couldn't have predicted that the Full Throttle team would alienate the public.
Now, Columbia has to deal with Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck. Their collaboration, Gigli, opens next Friday, but the press is depicting it as the next Glitter, Showgirls and Ishtar wrapped in one.
Last week's embarrassingly pandering Access Hollywood ... er, Dateline interview with the stars was a hit for NBC. It helped the network win the week.
But of course, the interview was free to the public. Gigli will cost the price of a movie ticket. And once the reviews hit next week — with the inevitable 'Giggling Over Gigli' headlines — this goose should be cooked.
Will Ben and Jen suffer that much from the bad reviews? Maybe not. The potential big-time loser in Gigli is Al Pacino, who agreed to a small cameo role as a favor to director Martin Brest.
Brest directed Pacino in his Oscar-winning role in Scent of a Woman, one of Pacino's worst movies. (Think of all the classic roles and films he should have won for!)
Even though Pacino is a minor part of the Gigli proceedings, Columbia is featuring him prominently in the commercials. They're featuring his face and voice, that is. Pacino's name, so far, is not heard in the ads. And that may be just as well.
Columbia's other summer adventures are also a mixed bag. Hollywood Homicide, starring the lively pairing of Harrison Ford and Josh Hartnett, was an out-and-out bomb. Bad Boys II, however, even with some of the worst reviews in memory, is holding its own. After five days, the Will Smith-Martin Lawrence caper flick has made $57 million. Only $100 million more to go.
Let the memoirs begin! Sam Waksal, founder of ImClone, is said to be scribbling away even now so his side of the juicy scandal can be heard. I say, it's about time.
Waksal began his seven-year sentence yesterday for insider trading and bank forgery. ImClone was the stock that got Martha Stewart in trouble. Waksal, it is alleged, tipped her off, as well as some of his family members, to sell the stock before the company received negative news about FDA approval of its drug, Erbitux.
You can't tip everyone off if your stock is going to sink. The SEC doesn't like it. What they like even less is if you lie to them. Waksal lied to them and covered up his mistakes. So even though his realized profit is far less than what the folks at Enron, WorldCom or Tyco, he's in prison today.
A lot has been made in the New York press about Waksal's fall from his Soho loft to prison dorm. I don't think I've ever seen a white-collar criminal with so few victims so excoriated.
Our "pal" Dana Giacchetto, for example, who played three-card Monte with $20 million and cost a lot of innocent people a lot of money, is already out of jail after two and a half years. He's back living it up in Soho plotting his next move.
Giacchetto literally reached into other people's investment accounts and stole money from them. Waksal merely protected two or three family members and friends.
Unlike Giacchetto and Ken Lay, et al, Waksal is repentant. He knows what he did was wrong. He knows, according to sources, that he disobeyed the best advice you can pay for as he covered up his crimes. He panicked and acted without thinking.
The irony is that unlike those others, Waksal will have produced something of importance to the world. Erbitux, which the FDA shot down 18 months ago, now looks like it may be a winner in front line treatment of certain cancers. By next year, the drug may be helping a lot of people in their battles with the insidious disease.
That was Waksal's intent all along. The hope is that once the public sees how much good Waksal did, there will be some leniency applied to his harsh sentence.
And here's a little scoop, according to my sources. Because Waksal's crime, unlike those of the others, is victimless, he does not fall under the "Son of Sam" law, which was insituted after serial killer David Berkowitz started making money from his book about his crimes.
I am told Waksal is writing books. One of them will be about medicine. The other will explain how he got into this terrible, unfair mess.