SANTA MONICA, Calif., Jan. 28, 2000 - Jacqueline Susann was the queen of flashy trash -- the first literary pop star of the modern p.r. age. And Hollywood is putting her in the spotlight today with the opening of "Isn't She Great," a Susann biopic starring Bette Midler. It's a comic look at the woman behind "Valley of the Dolls" -- the once-shocking novel filled with every tawdry Tinseltown element its author could muster.
"Dolls" was published in February 1966, replete with pill-popping, sex-crazed movie stars in a tragic vein (a central trio transparently based Judy Garland, Marilyn Monroe and Ethel Merman). Susann's husband, former radio producer Irving Mansfield (played by Nathan Lane in the film), put together a whirlwind promotional tour which sent the book to the top of the New York Times bestseller list by May. "Valley of the Dolls" held that No. 1 position for 28 consecutive weeks.
Susann, who died in 1974 of cancer, once said: "All the people in my books, the ones who are glamorous, or beautiful, or rich or talented -- they have to suffer, see, because that way the people who read me can get off the subway and go home feeling better about their own crappy lives, luckier than the people they've been reading about."
In honor of Susann's grasp of the glamorous and the tragic, here's a quick list of fateful film figures, both in and out of the pages of author Jacqueline Susann. The real-life "Valley of the Dolls," per se:
Few celebrity deaths ever generated as much noise as Monroe's apparent suicide at the age of 36. Her body was discovered in the bed of her Brentwood home, where she had succumbed to a massive dose of sleeping pills.
Thanks to the big MGM family, Garland began playing with "dolls" in her teens: she used pills to go to sleep, pills to stay awake, and even more pills to suppress her appetite. Is it any wonder she began seeing psychoanalysts at the age of 21? Or that her death in 1969 at age 45, officially described as accidental overdose of sleeping pills, came in the wake of a number of suicide attempts?
MGM producer Paul Bern took his own life barely two months after marrying the "blonde bombshell" in 1932. His death note read, in part: "Dearest Dear: Unfortunately this is the only way to make good the frightful wrong I have done you and to wipe out my abject humiliation. You understand that last night was only a comedy." Harlow died five years later, of cerebral edema, after becoming seriously ill during the filming of "Saratoga."
Was the casting of Hayward in the film version of "Dolls" hitting a little close to home? In 1955, she received hospital treatment after taking an overdose of sleeping pills. She died in 1975 at age 56 after battling a brain tumor for two years.
Famous for her peek-a-boo bangs, Lake shot to the top of Paramount's female roster in the early 1940s, but faded quickly when she cropped the style in support of the nation's war effort. By 1951, Lake had declared bankruptcy. At the low point of her career, in 1962, the New York Post spotted Lake, with hair pulled back, working as a barmaid at the Martha Washington Hotel in New York.
LILLIAN "PEG" ENTWHISTLE
She's probably the least known of tragic Hollywood figures, but her life played out just like the quintessential Hollywood tragedy. A stage actress who couldn't make a go of it in the movies, Entwhistle climbed to the top of the "H" in the Hollywood sign and leapt to her death.
Psychiatric nurse Maggie O'Connor (Kim Basinger) raises her drug-addicted sister's baby who grows up to be a girl with "special" gifts like the ability to rock a dead bird back to life. When Cody turns 6 her mother returns to claim her. The trouble is mom is now married to Eric Stark (Rufus Sewell) leader of a Satanic cult masquerading as a self-help group. Stark wants Cody to use her powers for the "dark side " and will kill her if she refuses. Aunt Maggie enlists the aid of FBI agent John Travis (Jimmy Smits) to help her track down and save Cody.
Basinger 's passive bearing and scrubbed-down glamour seem out of place in the dingy New York settings. When Stark's snarling teenage-runaway groupies attack her they seem as angry at her smooth blond coif as anything else. Sewell does what he can with lines like "death would be a kinder fate" and "she will be ours" (this last line uttered while practically shaking his fist at the heavens). Vastly underused is Smits whose all-talk-and-no-action FBI agent wouldn't have lasted a day in "NYPD Blue's" precinct.
Although director Chuck Russell captures a rich textured look and lays on the ghoulish special effects (a river of red-eyed rats ominous whispers wraithlike demons) "Bless the Child" doesn't generate any real chill. It's not helped by the script which throws in every clich‚ possible about angels demons hellfire and brimstone. There's no avoiding comparison with "The Sixth Sense " the success of which surely must have put some heat under this project. Unfortunately it's a little too cooked.
The Super Bowl sacked Hollywood over the weekend with a gross of only about $6.2 million being enough to grab first place.
There was a close race for top honors among Destination Films' opening of its thriller "Eye Of the Beholder," Universal's Oscar contender "The Hurricane" and New Line's urban-appeal comedy sequel "Next Friday." As always, Monday's actual numbers could reverse today's estimated results.
Although Destination's "Eye" appeared to have the weekend's best score with about $6.2 million, it was not an impressive one.
"There was no No. 1 film in 1999 lower than $9 million," one studio distribution president said Sunday morning, looking back at the record books. "That was 'The Best Man' (the weekend of) Oct. 22-24, 1999, with $9.03 million. In 1998, the lowest-grossing No. 1 film was 'He Got Game' (the weekend of) May 1-3 with $7.6 million."
As far as the total for key films, he added, "This looks like $60 million at best, all in. That would be the lowest, probably, since last April 23-25 with $57.2 million." (The weekend estimated total wound up getting to about $62.7 million thanks to a number of slightly higher estimates across the board plus a big boost from Buena Vista/Disney's IMAX release of "Fantasia," which added $1.92 million to the total.)
It was the second consecutive weekend with no films cracking double-digits, as Hollywood insiders anticipated. The last time there were back-to-back weekends with single-digit grosses, according to Exhibitor Relations President Paul Dergarabedian, was October 1998. New Line's "Pleasantville" was No. 1 the weekend of Oct. 23-25 with $8.8 million. Sony's "John Carpenter's Vampires" placed first the next weekend (Oct. 30-Nov. 1) with $9.1 million.
Destination Films, which opened its R-rated psychological thriller "Eye of the Beholder," had not reported an estimate for the film by mid-morning today. Reports from the gross-tracking source Entertainment Data Inc. put it in first place with an unexciting estimated $6.21 million at 1,673 theaters ($3,712 per theater).
Directed by Stephan Elliott, it stars Ewan McGregor and Ashley Judd. Its story revolves around an intelligence agent (McGregor) obsessed with his very seductive prey (Judd).
Despite Judd's previous success with Paramount's "Double Jeopardy," which has grossed about $115 million, most distribution sources said they had very reduced expectations for "Eye." Destination reportedly picked up the independently made film for domestic release for about $4 million.
Universal's critically acclaimed R-rated drama "The Hurricane," which had been third the previous week, packed a powerful punch to tie for second place -- holding incredibly well despite Super Bowl competition for male moviegoers -- with a solid estimated $6 million (-8%) at 2,135 theaters (+34 theaters, $2,800 per theater). Its total is approximately $31.2 million.
Directed by Norman Jewison, it stars Denzel Washington as wrongly imprisoned boxing champion Rubin "Hurricane" Carter.
Helping to drive "Hurricane" was its Golden Globe victory for best actor/drama (Washington). The film is regarded as a likely candidate for Oscar nominations in a number of prime categories.
"The story of the weekend is that 'Hurricane' had such a tremendous hold," Universal Distribution President Nikki Rocco said Sunday morning. "I think Super Bowl Sunday could be devastating for pictures like 'Next Friday' and 'Eye Of the Beholder.' We know what word of mouth is on 'Eye of the Beholder.' It got an F on CinemaScore.
"The fact is, 'Hurricane' is a picture that's been embraced by the public. They love the film."
Helping "Hurricane," Rocco said, was that it "received a tremendous amount of positive word of mouth from the Golden Globes. Denzel won, and they talked about how wonderful the film was. Seeing an 8% drop from this weekend to last weekend, that to me is the story of the weekend -- not who was $6.015 million, who's reporting $6 million, who thinks their picture's going to do more than $6 million. It's the story of the hold on 'Hurricane.'"
"Next Friday," last week's top-grossing film, tied for second place in its third week with a still happy estimated $6 million (-25%) at 1,335 theaters ($4,495 per theater). Its total is approximately $39.8 million.
Directed by Steve Carr, it was written by, stars and was produced by Ice Cube. "Friday's" per-theater average was the highest for any film playing in wide release last weekend.
"Friday" got a big boost this weekend, according to New Line Executive Vice President, Distribution, David Tuckerman, from its opening at 44 theaters in Canada. Tuckerman said Sunday morning that the film's Canadian playdates probably accounted for about $500,000 of the estimated $6 million weekend gross.
"We opened Canada Friday, and it looks like it's the biggest urban picture opening ever,"Tuckerman said Sunday morning. "That's the reason why it dropped 25%. We've got, like, $500,000 worth of gross coming out of Canada. It looks like it's going to be about $10,000 a screen (in Canada). Originally, they were going to go out on 10 (screens)."
Tuckerman said the film is being distributed by Alliance in Canada and that New Line was consulting on its release there.
Reflecting on the weekend's estimates, Tuckerman observed, "Everybody, I think, is using 50% of Saturday for Sunday. I think everybody's going to be probably 40% because of the Super Bowl. It's hard to judge. Based on what I'm looking at, we used 50% and I think everybody else used 50%."
Columbia's PG-rated family comedy "Stuart Little" continued in fourth place in its seventh week, holding well with an estimated $4.80 million (-24%) at 3,041 theaters (-110 theaters, $1,600 per theater). Its total is approximately $123.1 million, heading for $140 million or more in domestic theaters.
Directed by Rob Minkoff, it stars Geena Davis, Hugh Laurie and Jonathan Lipnicki.
"Certainly, 'Stuart' will hold up best on Super Bowl weekend," Sony Pictures Releasing President Jeff Blake said Sunday morning. "It's been managing to hold up above the curve every weekend it's been out. We're now in week seven, and we've got in $123 million and, I think, we're on our way to $140 million. Really, it's exceeded everybody's hopes."
Focusing on the Super Bowl's effect on the box office, Blake said, "Super Bowl weekend never has been a good weekend, but people have been very opportunistic the last couple years with 'She's All That,' which was focused for the perfect (teen girl) audience that wouldn't be that interested in the Super Bowl and 'Spice World,' the year before that."
There also was a close race for fifth place. Warner Bros. and Castle Rock Entertainment's R-rated death-row drama "The Green Mile," which placed fifth last week, reported an estimated $4.06 million (-25%) in its eighth week at 2,371 theaters (-112 theaters, $1,712 per theater). Its total is approximately $115.2 million, heading for $130 million in domestic theaters.
Written and directed by Frank Darabont, it stars Tom Hanks and Michael Clarke Duncan.
"It'll go to $130 million," Warner Bros. Distribution President Dan Fellman said Sunday morning. "If we get a push from the Academy, maybe a little bit more."
Miramax's PG-13-rated teen-appeal romantic comedy "Down To You," last week's No. 2 film, reported a less sexy estimated $4 million (-47%) in its second week at 1,977 theaters (+6 theaters, $2,023 per theater). Its total is approximately $13 million.
Written and directed by Kris Isacsson, it stars Freddie Prinze Jr. and Julia Stiles.
DreamWorks' PG-rated sci-fi fantasy comedy "Galaxy Quest" slipped one rung to seventh place in its sixth week with a less attractive estimated $3.50 million (-22%) a 2,209 theaters (-50 theaters, $1,584 per theater). Its total is approximately $58.9 million, heading for about $70 million in domestic theaters. Directed by Dean Parisot, it stars Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver and Alan Rickman.
Columbia's R-rated drama "Girl, Interrupted" skidded one post to eighth in its sixth week with a less compelling estimated $3.30 million (-24%) at 1,935 theaters (theatre count unchanged, $1,705 per theater). Its total is approximately $21.2 million.
Directed by James Mangold, "Girl" stars Winona Ryder and recent Golden Globe winner Angelina Jolie.
Paramount's R-rated drama "The Talented Mr. Ripley" was off one peg to ninth place in its sixth week with a less charming estimated $2.83 million (-24%) at 2,142 theaters (-73 theaters, $1,319 per theater). Its total is approximately $72.3 million, heading for about $80 million in domestic theaters.
Written and directed by Anthony Minghella, it stars Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law and Cate Blanchett.
Rounding out the Top Ten was Buena Vista/Disney and Pixar's G-rated computer-animated blockbuster "Toy Story 2," up one slot in its 11th weekend with a still OK estimated $2.40 million (-19%) at 1,796 theaters (-194 theaters, $1,336 per theater). Its total is approximately $234.4 million.
Directed by John Lasseter, it features the voices of Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Kelsey Grammer, Don Rickles, Jim Varney, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, Annie Potts, Wayne Knight, Laurie Metcalf, Estelle Harris and R. Lee Ermey.
Last weekend also saw the arrival of Universal's R-rated drama "Isn't She Great," placing 17th with a soft estimated $1.34 million at 750 theaters ($1,780 per theater).
Directed by Andrew Bergman, it stars Bette Midler and Nathan Lane in the story of the life of best-selling author Jacqueline Susann ("Valley of the Dolls").
Providence Entertainment's PG-rated family-appeal outdoor adventure "Grizzly Falls" moved into new markets, placing 32nd with a not very scary estimated $0.063 million at 96 theaters ($660 per theater). Its total, including earlier runs, is approximately $0.096 million.
Directed by Stewart Raffill, it stars Bryan Brown, Tom Jackson, Oliver Tobias and Richard Harris.
Warner Bros. R-rated comedy "The Big Tease," set in the world of celebrity hairdressing, opened in 35th place to a calm estimated $0.032 million at 4 theaters in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco ($8,000 per theater).
Directed by Kevin Allen, it stars Craig Ferguson and Frances Fisher.
Fine Line Features' G-rated Oscar contender for Best Foreign Language Film, "The Cup," kicked off at 4 theaters in New York and L.A., placing 34th with an OK estimated $0.032 million ($8,066 per theater).
Directed by Khyentse Norbu, it is the story of attempts to hook up a satellite dish at a Tibetan monastery so its soccer fan monks can watch the 1998 World Cup matches.
Last weekend saw no national sneak previews.
On the expansion front, last weekend saw USA Films R-rated drama "Topsy-Turvy" go wider in its seventh week, placing 24th with a sedate estimated $0.51 million at 71 theaters (+31 theaters, $7,120 per theater). Its total is approximately $1.5 million.
Written and directed by Mike Leigh, it stars Jim Broadbent and Allan Corduner.
USA Films' R-rated comedy "Being John Malkovich" expanded in its 14th weekend, placing 26th with a quiet estimated $0.34 million at 233 theaters (+41 theaters, $1,440 per theater). Its total is approximately $20.6 million.
Directed by Spike Jonze, it stars John Malkovich, playing himself, John Cusack, Cameron Diaz and Catherine Keener.
USA Films' reissue of the PG-rated suspense/cop drama "Rear Window" added a few theaters, placing 33rd with an encouraging estimated $0.033 million at 3 theaters ($11,065 per theater). Its re-issue total is approximately $0.055 million.
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, it stars James Stewart and Grace Kelly. The 1954 film classic was restored by Robert Harris and James Katz.
Key films -- those grossing more than $500,000 for the weekend -- took in approximately $62.68 million, down approximately 9.16% from $69million for the comparable weekend last year.
Last weekend's key film gross for three days was down 17.72% compared to the previous weekend when key films grossed $76.18 million.
Last year, Miramax's opening week of "She's All That" was first with $16.07 million at 2,222 theaters ($7,230 per theatre); and Universal's sixth weekend of "Patch Adams" was second with $6 million at 2,909 theaters ($2,085 per theater). The top two films one year ago grossed $22.1 million. This year, the top two films grossed an estimated $12.2 million.
STUDIO MARKET SHARES
Based on business by key films, last weekend's top six distributors were the following:
Sony Pictures Entertainment (Columbia, TriStar) was first with three films ("Stuart Little," "Girl, Interrupted" and "The End of the Affair") grossing an estimated $9.30 million or 14.8% of the market.
Universal was second with three films ("Isn't She Great," "Snow Falling on Cedars" and "The Hurricane"), grossing an estimated $8.19 million or 13.1% of the market.
Buena Vista (Touchstone and Disney) was third with five films ("Play it to the Bone," "Toy Story 2," "Fantasia 2000," "Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo" and "Bicentennial Man"), grossing an estimated $7.88 million or 12.6% of the market.
New Line was fourth with two films ("Next Friday" and "Magnolia") grossing an estimated $7.50 million or 12% of the market.
Destination Films was fifth with one film ("Eye Of the Beholder"), grossing an estimated $6.21 million or 9.9% of the market.
Miramax (Miramax, Dimension) tied for sixth place with two films ("Down To You" and "The Cider House Rules") grossing an estimated $5.70 million or 9.1% of the market.
Warner Bros. Also had two films ("The Green Mile" and "Any Given Sunday") gross an estimated $5.70 million or 9.1% of the market.
(11) "Fantasia 2000"/BV/Disney: Theaters: 54 (0) (all IMAX in U.S.) Gross: $1.92 million (-6%) Average per theater: $35,570 Total: $21.1 million (worldwide total, including 21 international IMAX theaters, for 31 days)
(12) "Angela's Ashes"/Paramount: Theaters: 611 (+1) Gross: $1.80 million (-44%) Average per theater: $2,946 Total: $6.4 million
(13) "The Cider House Rules"/Miramax: Theaters: 843 (+20) Gross: $1.70 million (-25%) Average per theater: $2,016 Total: $18 million
(14) "Play it to the Bone/BV: Theaters: 1,588 (+32) Gross: $1.67 million (-51%) Average per theater: $1,050 Total: $6.2 million
(15) "Any Given Sunday"/Warner Bros.: Theaters: 2,012 (-189) Gross: $1.58 million (-35%) Average per theater: $783 Total: $72.5 million
(16) "Magnolia"/New Line: Theaters: 1,086 (+9) Gross: $1.50 million (-28%) Average per theater: $1,381 Total: $17.4 million
(17) "Isn't She Great"/Universal (see OTHER OPENINGS above)
(18) "Supernova"/MGM: Theaters: 2,071 (-209) Gross: $1.20 million (-52%)(tie) Average per theater: $575 Total: $12.1 million
(18) The End of the Affair Theaters: 688 (+2) Gross: $1.20 million (-28%) (tie) Average per theater: $1,744 Total: $7 million
(20) "Bicentennial Man"/BV: Theaters: 1,202 (-405) Gross: $1.02 million (-35%) Average per theater: $845 Total: $55.7 million
(21) "Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo"/BV: Theaters: 1,143 (-323) Gross: $0.87 million (-39%) Average per theater: $765 Total: $62.1 million
(22) "Snow Falling On Cedars"/Universal: Theaters: 999 (-100) Gross: $0.85 million (-39%) Average per theater: $855 Total: $11.7 million
(23) "American Beauty"/DreamWorks: Theaters: 344 (+77) Gross: $0.69 million (+60%) Average per theater: $1,997 Total: $74.3 million
(24) "Anna and the King"/Fox: Theaters: 730 (-210) Gross: $0.65 million (-29%) Average per theater: $885 Total: $36.9 million
(25) "The World Is Not Enough"/MGM: Theaters: 857 (-32) Gross: $0.58 million (-19%) Average per theater: $671 Total: $124.4 million
(26) "Topsy-Turvy"/USA Films: (see EXPANSIONS above)
(27) "Man on the Moon"/Universal: Theaters: 624 (+32) Gross: $0.35 million (-19%) Average per theater: $560 Total: $33.8 million
(28) "Being John Malkovich"/USA Films: (see EXPANSIONS above)
(29) "Cradle Will Rock"/BV: Theaters: 498 (-8) Gross: $0.30 million (-49%) Average per theater: $605 Total: $2.3 million
(30) "The Bone Collector"/Universal: Theaters: 332 (-9) Gross: $0.16 million (-27%) Average per theater: $490 Total: $65.4 million
(31) "End of Days"/Universal: Theaters: 338 (+2) Gross: $0.15 million (-27%) Average per theater: $445 Total: $65.8 million
(32) "Titus"/Fox Searchlight: Theaters: 16 (+1) Gross: $0.14 million (-6%) Average per theater: $7,778 Total: $0.7 million
(33) "My Dog Skip"/Warner Bros. Theaters: 30 (+2) Gross: $0.11 million (+5%) Average per theater: $3,540 Total: $0.3 million
(34) "Grizzly Falls"/Providence: (see OTHER OPENINGS above)
(35) "Rear Window"/USA: (see EXPANSIONS above)
(36) "The Cup"/Fine Line: (tie) (see OTHER OPENINGS above)
(36) "The Big Tease"/Warner Bros. (tie) (see OTHER OPENINGS above)