Ringling Bros.’ demise and movies they don’t make anymore

Poster for The Greatest Show on Earth

Poster for The Greatest Show on Earth

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus will shut down in May, The Associated Press reported. Its demise recalls the kind of movie you don’t see in the 21st century: The Greatest Show on Earth (1952).

Greatest Show won the Best Picture Oscar, beating out High Noon, Ivanhoe, Moulin Rouge and The Quiet Man. It’s hard to imagine Cecil B. DeMille’s mix of spectacle, soap opera, comedy and other elements even being made today, much less nominated.

Gruff circus boss Charlton Heston tries to keep the circus rolling while circus acts Betty Hutton and Gloria Grahame are in love with him and new star attraction Cornel Wilde causes a lot of trouble. And there’s James Stewart’s mysterious clown who never takes his makeup off. DeMille himself is a presence, narrating the film.

The movie was also an early example of product placement. It was produced in cooperation with Ringling Bros, with circus executive John Ringling North playing himself. It also has cameos from the likes of Bob Hope and Bing Crosby watching a circus performance and Edmond O’Brien as a midway barker at the end.

In real life, the circus already was facing changing times when Greatest Show was released. One of the plot points is how some circus management want to end circus big tops and keep to major cities. The circus ceased staging performances in tents in 1956.

The demise of the circus was also due to changing times, according to the AP story.

The iconic American spectacle was felled by a variety of factors, company executives say. Declining attendance combined with high operating costs, along with changing public tastes and prolonged battles with animal rights groups all contributed to its demise.

Nothing lasts forever. Ringling Bros had a good run at 146 years.

For those who haven’t seen the 1952 movie, this extended trailer gives you a sense of what the film was like.

Sony says it won’t sell movie business

sonylogo

Sony Corp.’s chief executive officer said Friday that the Japanese electronics company is not selling its movie and entertainment business, according to a report in The New York Times.

The Times’ story is mostly about how Michael Lynton is stepping down as head of Sony Pictures Entertainment.

Lynton is departing effective Feb. 2. Kazuo Hirai, the Sony Corp. CEO, will take a more active role at the entertainment unit, according to The Times, including keeping an office at Sony Pictures offices in Culver City, California.

Here’s an excerpt from The Times’ story:

Mr. Hirai also emphasized that the studio was not for sale — a persistent topic of Hollywood speculation — calling movies, television and music “essential parts of Sony.”

Here’s why James Bond fans should care: Sony has released the last four James Bond films. Its most recent two-picture deal expired with SPECTRE. The company has said it wants to continue its 007 relationship with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Bond’s home studio.

For now, MGM has no distribution deal for Bond 25. Under terms of its most recent Bond deal, Sony’s profits were low compared with MGM and Danjaq LLC, parent company of Eon Productions.

The departing Lynton was embarrassed by the 2014 Sony hacks. But he survived, unlike studio executive Amy Pascal. Pascal, in turn, had a close relationship with Barbara Broccoli, the Eon boss. Pascal ended up with a producer’s deal at Sony.

Pascal was a producer of last year’s Ghostbusters movies, which Sony hoped would become a franchise. That’s now considered unlikely after generating worldwide box office of about $229 million.

William Peter Blatty dies at 89

Poster for 1967's Gunn

Poster for 1967’s Gunn

William Peter Blatty, best known as author and screenwriter of The Exorcist, has died at 89, according to an obituary by The Hollywood Reporter.

Blatty’s death was disclosed by Exorcist director William Friedkin on Twitter.

Blatty won an Oscar for best adapted screenplay for The Exorcist. Prior to the 1971 novel and 1973 movie, Blatty was a collaborator with director Blake Edwards.

The two scripted 1964’s A Shot in the Dark, arguably the funniest of Peter Sellers’ Inspector Clouseau films, and 1967’s Gunn, a movie adaptation of the Peter Gunn series created by Edwards.

For the latter, Edwards and Blatty took the premise of the first Peter Gunn episode (a gangster who’s a friend of Gunn’s is murdered) and expanded it. One of the movie’s inside jokes was having composer Henry Manchini playing a piano at a bordello. The movie retained Craig Stevens as Peter Gunn while recasting supporting roles.

Here’s Friedkin’s post on Twitter:

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Author Stephen King also wrote a tribute:

 

Carrie Fisher, icon for Baby Boomers, dies at 60

Carrie Fisher

Carrie Fisher

Carrie Fisher, an icon for Baby Boomers as Princess Leia in the Star Wars films, has died at 60, according to an obituary in The New York Times.

Fisher suffered a “cardiac episode” during a London-to-Los Angeles flight on Dec. 23, the Los Angeles Times reported that day.

Fisher played Princess Leia for the first three Star Wars movies (but chapters IV, V and VI of the saga), released in 1977, 1980 and 1983. She again played the role of Leia, now a rebel general, in 2015’s Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens. She had completed work on the untitled eighth episode, due out in December 2017, The New York Times said, citing Walt Disney Co.’s Lucasfilm unit.

In between, she emerged as writer as well as an actress. Her life was a public one. Fisher publicly discussed her bipolar disorder and addiction to cocaine. She was married briefly to singer Paul Simon.

Some of her writings, such as the novel Postcards From the Edge, were autobiographical. Fisher wrote the screenplay for the 1990 movie based on the Postcards novel.

Some of her non-Star Wars parts included a woman involved with an affair with a married man in 1989’s When Harry Met Sally.

“You’re right, you’re right. I know you’re right,” Marie, Fisher’s character, would respond when her friends said she end the relationship. The line became a catch phrase.

Fisher, born Oct. 21, 1956, was exposed to entertainment publicity from an early age. She was the daughter of actress Debbie Reynolds and singer Eddie Fisher. Both of Fisher’s parents were big stars at the time. Eddie Fisher later left Reynolds for actress Elizabeth Taylor.

She became an actress herself with 1975’s Shampoo, followed by the original Star Wars (now Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope).

Tributes to Fisher were posted on media after her passing.

Batman v Superman: When being No. 1 isn’t enough

Batman v Superman poster

Batman v Superman poster

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice shows that these days being No. 1 isn’t enough — it’s by how big a margin and how you compare against expectations.

The Warner Bros. superhero movie was No. 1 at the U.S.-Canadian box office for the second weekend in a row. But its box office performance for the April 1-3 weekend plunged 68 percent to $52.4 million, VARIETY REPORTED.

Typically, movies fall off about 50 percent or so from their first weekend to the second. It should also be noted that Batman v Superman’s $166 million first weekend was fattened up with $27.7 million in Thursday night showings.

Still, a decline of almost 70 percent isn’t good news anytime it occurs. Pamela McClintock, senior film writer for The Hollywood Reporter, added more perspective in a tweet on Saturday:

So, yes, in its second weekend, Batman v Superman ($250 million production budget) didn’t do as well as the R-rated, much more modestly budgeted Deadpool ($58 million) did during the Feb. 19-21 weekend.

Variety’s Brent Lang explained why this is bad news for Warner Bros.

“The major problem facing the studio is it doesn’t just need “Batman v Superman” to be a hit, it needs it to be so fervently embraced that fans will show up to see sequels and spin-offs for years to come,” Lang wrote. “The film is intended to kick off an interconnected cinematic universe of DC Comics characters that Warner Bros. hopes will rival what Marvel has achieved with the Avengers films.”

BvS brushes off bad reviews, has $166M opening

Batman v Superman poster

Batman v Superman poster

UPDATE III (March 28): Actual U.S.-Canada weekend figures came in on Monday, March 28 for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. The haul was a few million less but still large, at $166 million, according to Exhibitor Relations.

That means the movie was the seventh-best opening weekend of all time and No. 2 Warner Bros. opening, with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows Part II retaining the crown at $169.2 million.

ORIGINAL POST (March 27): For Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, all the bad reviews were like bullets bouncing off Superman’s chest. The superhero movie had an estimated opening weekend in the U.S. and Canada of $170.1 million.

It was the sixth-best opening weekend of all time, unadjusted for inflation, entertainment research and data company Exhibitor Relations said in a post on Twitter.  It was also the biggest Warner Bros. opening ever, Exhibitor Relations said.

The development was a welcome piece of good news for Warner Bros. The studio had a terrible 2015 at the box office, so having any hit would be a relief. However, Batman v Superman also represents the studio’s attempt to catch up to rival Marvel Studios and its extended fictional universe of superhero films.

Batman v Superman specifically sets up a Justice League movie scheduled to go into production next month for a November 2017 release.

The Justice League of America is DC Comics equivalent to Marvel’s Avengers super hero group. (The JLA was first and was a revamp of an even earlier group, the Justice Society of America.) Marvel has produced its own movies since 2008, including Avengers films in 2012 and 2015.

Batman v Superman, besides its title characters, includes Wonder Woman as well as cameo appearances by other characters who’ll be part of the Justice League.

The movie had some setbacks. It originally was set to come out in July 2015. Warners pushed it back to May 2016 but retreated after Marvel announced it was going to have the third Captain America movie in the same date.

That film ended up being Captain America: Civil War, which is almost like another Avengers film and will bring Spider-Man into Marvel’s film universe for the first time.

Then, came the reviews. Batman v Superman received so many pans, it has a 29 percent rating (as of this morning) on the Rotten Tomatoes website.

Variety has estimated Batman v Superman will need worldwide ticket sales of $800 million to break even. Given all the hype, it probably needs a $1 billion box office to be seen as a success. People likely be watching carefully how much next weekend’s box office falls off for BvS.

Regardless, after all the setbacks, Warner Bros. executives presumably are breathing easier about the expensive movie.

UPDATE: Batman v Superman’s estimated worldwide box office currently is $424.1 million, according to Box Office Mojo.

UPDATE II (7:50 p.m., New York time): Warner Bros. executives took a victory lap later Sunday, including a quote about there’s “a disconnect between critics and audiences,” according to ComicBookMovie.com.

BvS: Dark and somber, but what’d you expect?

Henry Cavill after reading the latest Batman v Superman reviews

Henry Cavill after reading the latest Batman v Superman reviews

One vague spoiler awaits. There will be a warning.

Well, nobody should have been surprised.

Throughout the production of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the makers talked about how their story was real. Very real. And very serious. If you ever wanted to know what the real world would be like with superheroes, this movie would let you know.

Director Zack Snyder, a disciple of Christopher Nolan and his somber style of film making, even did some trashing talking of Marvel Studios’ Ant-Man, an escapist superhero film that was a decent hit in the summer of 2015.

After two changes in its release date, Batman v Superman is out. This time, movie critics were doing the trash talking, causing Snyder’s film to have a “fresh” rating of only 30 percent on the Rotten Tomatoes website. You have to have a lot of pans to get a score that low.

A recurring criticism is the movie is dour and dark. The San Francisco Examiner’s reviewer says “everything is shrouded in a kind of black sludge.”

Again, this shouldn’t be a surprise. Snyder directed 2013’s Man of Steel (with Nolan co-producing and co-plotting) where the costume of Superman (Henry Cavill) has such dark shades of blue, red and yellow it looks as if the uniform actually is dirty.

Vague spoiler follows.

To give Man of Steel more intellectual heft, there is some religious imagery. (Filmmakers often look to the Bible and Shakespeare to add gravitas to their efforts.)

Snyder continues that in Batman v Superman to the point it seems like opening on Easter weekend was planned all along, even though it wasn’t.

The thing is, the movie isn’t as bad as some of the reviews suggest. Not the biggest endorsement, admittedly but it’s the best we can do.

Ben Affleck is good as Batman, even if this version shows signs of finally going off his rocker for good. Ditto for Jeremy Irons as Alfred. The blog’s favorite moment is when Alfred reminds his employer that it was Bruce Wayne, acting almost like a spy, who got a key piece of information rather than Batman punching out a lot of guys.

Cavill is fine in what’s an almost thankless role because this seems more like a Batman film with Superman as a supporting player rather than co-leading character.

The filmmakers did experiment with Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg), making him much younger than previous incarnations. Think an evil Mark Zuckerberg (played by Eisenberg in The Social Network). The results are uneven but it was an attempt on a different take. I thought the Gal Godot version of Wonder Woman was a plus, but again it’s definitely a supporting character. Overall, at 151 minutes, it’s too long but better superhero movies have the same fault.

Warner Bros. has a lot riding on the movie as it tries to get competitive with Marvel in superhero films. Despite the reviews, Batman v Superman generated $27.7 million in Thursday night showings in the U.S. and Canada, according to the Deadline: Hollywood website.

Batman v Superman needs a $1 billion global box office to be seen as a success, so Warner executives had to be pleased with the results despite the baby seal treatment by the critics.

UPDATE: It turns out Snyder did, well, pee on one key part of the Superman mythos. The Spy Commander missed it, but New York magazine’s Vulture website caught it. If you want to see what, or who, it was click on the link.