Actually, ”Rocky IV” and ”Santa Claus: The Movie” opened last Wednesday. ”Rocky” is expected to be a knockout at the box office this weekend. ”Santa Claus” made $600,000 its opening day.
By now, theater owners have seen almost all of the holiday movies and they still expect a successful Christmas. Whether the pictures are good or not, exhibitors think they will be attractive to moviegoers who stayed away from theaters last summer and fall
Ed Mintz, the president of Cinemascore, which does research for exhibitors on what movies people want to see, said, ”There’s no movie people are running away from this year. There are no movies they see as dogs.”
According to Mr. Mintz’s surveys, ” ‘Spies Like Us’ is the first choice of males under 25, and ‘The Jewel of the Nile’ is the first choice of everyone else.” ”The Jewel of the Nile” is the sequel to the extremely successful ”Romancing the Stone,” while ”Spies Like Us,” which stars Chevy Chase and Dan Aykroyd as two less-than-professional spies, appeals to the same audience as ”Ghostbusters” did.
Mr. Mintz’s most unexpected finding is that the ”Rocky” saga is sagging. ”We asked people, ‘Who do you like best – Rocky, Rambo or Sylvester Stallone?’,” said Mr. Mintz. ”Rambo was No. 1, with Stallone a strong No. 2 and Rocky a drifting-away third.”
”Rocky IV,” in which Rocky takes on the Soviet Union, will undoubtedly play strongly through Christmas. But MGM/UA executives privately agree that it will not have the stamina of last Christmas’s blockbuster, ”Beverly Hills Cop.” And there probably will not be a ”Rocky V.”
The major fear of studios and exhibitors alike is that there will be one movie that – like ”Beverly Hills Cop” – swallows up most of the audience. That would be particularly bad news for five extremely expensive movies: ”Santa Claus” ($50 million, say the producers, but no more than $30 million, according to the studio, Tri-Star), ”Enemy Mine” ($29 million), ”Out of Africa” ($28 million), ”Rocky IV” ($28 million) and ”A Chorus Line” ($25 million).
”Out of Africa,” which stars Meryl Streep and Robert Redford in a biography of the Danish writer Isak Dinesen, is this season’s biggest gamble -a long, serious, expensive film about two adults. According to Mr. Mintz, ”Out of Africa” is second on the shopping lists of women over 25. And, while in the under-25 age-bracket it is the men who choose the movies, in the over-25 group it is generally the women, who pick movies for their husbands and boyfriends. An Out-of-Control Train Courtesy of Kurosawa This year’s Christmas movie with the most peculiar parentage is Cannon Films’ ”Runaway Train.” The movie, about an escaped convict and a locomotive that are both out of control, is based on a script written more than 20 years ago by the Japanese director Akira Kurosawa.
”The design is still Kurosawa’s,” says Andrei Konchalovsky, the film’s director. ”The concentration of energy and passion, the existential point of view, and the image of the train as something – perhaps civilization – out of control.”
”Runaway Train,” which Mr. Kurosawa wrote to be an American movie, stars Jon Voight as the convict who knows no limitations and Eric Roberts and Rebecca DeMornay as the other two people on the train. The final script is credited to Djordje Milicevic, Paul Zindel and Edward Bunker.
”I was extremely cautious in protecting Kurosawa’s main design,” says Mr. Konchalovsky of his Zen action-adventure movie. ”Although everyone in his script had American names, the behavior was slightly Oriental.”
Despite the final polishing of the script by Mr. Bunker, who spent 17 years in prison before seeing his prison novel ”Straight Time” made into a movie by Dustin Hoffman, ”Runaway Train” is still somewhat Oriental in its point of view. ”Manny, the character played by Jon Voight, feels, ‘Win or lose, what’s the difference?’ ” says Mr. Konchalovsky. ”That’s not very familiar to the Western mind. We tend to love winners, and we don’t like losers.”
Mr. Konchalovsky is currently a winner. A Russian director with a Soviet passport who lives in France and has American working papers, he has been trying to break into Hollywood since 1979, the year his four-hour ”Siberiade” won the Grand Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival.
”For three years I was pitching stories and getting polite smiles,” says the 48-year-old director, who is out of breath after a six-mile run down Sunset Boulevard. ”Everyone has to get his own ticket onto this merry-go-round. I was standing behind the fence without a ticket surrounded by several hundred people much younger than me, bright, professional, English-speaking young wolves willing to do any movie in order to get hold of destiny.