Published January 03, 2008
The continuing saga of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes’ movie careers gets another chapter next week when "Mad Money" premieres in Hollywood. Has the marriage made them bigger stars or just more targeted tabloid fodder?
First, Cruise’s "Lions for Lambs" came out and stiffed. Over this past weekend, that film averaged a paltry $3,000 a day at the box office. It’s still playing in about 30 theaters around the country as it concludes eight woebegone weeks in release.
But what of Holmes? Before she met Cruise, she had a promising film career. She followed her "Dawson’s Creek" TV hit with impressive performances in the indie flick "Pieces of April" and the box office smash "Batman Begins."
Just as she and Cruise crossed paths, though, Holmes appeared in Jason Reitman’s excellent "Thank You for Smoking." Controversy erupted, however, when her sex scene was severely edited, prompting cries that her new boyfriend had ordered changes to the film. Cruise denied making any changes.
Now, Holmes comes to us in her first post-Suri movie, "Mad Money." Directed by "Thelma and Louise" writer Callie Khouri, "Mad Money" is a female heist film with Diane Keaton and Queen Latifah as Holmes’ cohorts.
Interestingly, "Mad Money" isn’t being released by a major studio. It’s a partnership between the fledgling Overture Pictures (run by the estimable Chris McGurk) and Starz Cable.
So far, the buzz on "Mad Money" is mixed. But with Keaton and Latifah, Holmes has a lot of support. Of course, the title isn’t helping. Pseudo-biz whiz Jim Cramer hosts a cable show called "Mad Money," and "Sopranos" writer Matthew Weiner has a hit show called "Made Men." Then, again, there’s "Mad TV," which, I hope, will not be doing a parody of "Mad Money" in the near future.
Are the 2008 Golden Globes cursed? As of now, a Jan. 13 live telecast of the show will be picketed by striking members of the Writers Guild of America.
For a few minutes late Wednesday afternoon, though, things seemed different. But not everything is what it seems.
First, Jorge Camara, president of the group that gives out the Globes, issued an astonishing press release that suggested the group had reached an agreement with the Writers Guild of America concerning picketers.
Camara said: "I am happy to announce that on Saturday morning, December 29, 2007, our attorneys began discussions with the Writers Guild of America to enter into an interim agreement similar to that entered into by the WGA and Worldwide Pants, which permits writers guild members to go back to work writing for 'The Late Show with David Letterman.' We feel that the 'Late Show with David Letterman' agreement is very reasonable, and hope and expect the WGA will agree to the same terms and ultimately permit the 'Golden Globe Awards' to be broadcast as scheduled, without picket lines, on Sunday, January 13."
Alas, that was not the case.
The Guild fired back immediately: "Dick Clark Productions is a struck company. As previously announced, the Writers Guild will be picketing the Golden Globe Awards. The WGA has great respect and admiration for the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, but we are engaged in a crucial struggle that will protect our income and intellectual property rights for generations to come. We will continue to do everything in our power to bring industry negotiations to a fair conclusion. In the meantime, we are grateful for the ongoing support of the Hollywood talent community."
Camara’s statement, sources say, was an out-and-out fabrication. According to my sources at the Guild, there were no negotiations. The Guild is going to picket the Globes. They never met with anyone to discuss anything
The shamelessness of the HFPA to grovel (to use Nikki Finke’s word) is not unprecedented. This is the same group that accepts gifts from potential nominees and graft from the studios without thinking twice. Its members travel the world on tax-free money from NBC yet expected the Guild to support the Globes broadcast on that same network.
In the end, the HFPA/Globes press release was designed as a leverage tool, and it didn’t work. Simply, as I wrote in this space on Wednesday, if the Globes show doesn’t take place, the HFPA will be out its annual $6 million fee from the network. They were at a point where they’d do anything to get the money. "That’s what it’s all about," says my Guild source.
Camara’s statement, by the way, preyed on sympathies that by stopping the show and canceling the fee, some poor groups who usually receive money from the HFPA Charitable Trust would be hurt. This also was incorrect.
Camara said: "An interim agreement with the WGA will also help numerous schools and entertainment industry non-profit organizations receive annual donations from the HFPA. Over the last several years the HFPA has contributed approximately $8 million to organizations including The Film Foundation, Sundance Institute, Film Independent, American Cinematheque and schools including USC, UCLA, and Cal Arts. All of these programs will be severely impacted without the funds made available as a direct result of the Golden Globe Awards broadcast."
This is an empty threat, of course. As I pointed out on Wednesday, the HFPA claims assets of $15 million. Its annual $1.2 million worth of donations won’t be hurt by missing a year. It will be more interesting to see if it gives the same amount of money this year or claim that the strike hurt them.
And what will be sacrificed first? The contributions to film societies, or the HFPA’s $600,000 of personal trips to the Cannes, Venice and Telluride film festivals? Wait and see.
Warner M. Group (the M used to stand for Music, now it’s Millstone) finished Wednesday at a new stock low: $5.81. A year ago, before it was totally pillaged and raped by its owners, WMG was at $23.92. If it were a weight loss program, WMG would be a hot deal. (Suggested name: Weight Management Group.)
However, Warner M. Group remains a record company with artists attached to it for life, especially at Atlantic Records. These artists depend on royalties from sales. But on Friday, WMG decimated that possibility by putting its entire catalog online for 89 cents a track with no copy protection. They say hello, we say goodbye.
If you’re a younger person, you may wonder why all the fuss. Who cares? But the real Warner Music Group, before Edgar Bronfman got his paws on it, was legendary. Much of what and whom we listen to now came from what was known as the indomitable WEA (Warner-Elektra-Atlantic), everyone from Fleetwood Mac and Led Zeppelin to REM and Neil Young, with Frank Sinatra, Aretha Franklin, Eric Clapton and Bonnie Raitt mixed in.
Recently, one Wall Street analyst downgraded WMG based on declining CD sales and lack of interest in the medium. The analysts don’t seem to get it, so I will spell it out again: WMG’s lack of CD sales is not because of downloading or sudden public apathy about pop music. It’s because in order to gut out remaining revenue, WMG ceased being a music company and simply committed suicide. It’s that simple.