While filming "One From the Heart" and trying out a technique designed to inaugurate a new era of easy, preplanned filmmaking, Francis Coppola watched his Zoetrope Studios go nearly bankrupt. And to add to all his previous troubles, he's now embroiled in a nasty mess with Paramount Pictures over the showing of "One From the Heart," which was finally completed with lots of 11th-hour financial assistance. Coppola's recent advertisement announcing two special Radio City Music Hall "final previews" of the Frederic Forrest-Nastassia Kinski film about Las Vegas astonished Paramount; Coppola had not consulted them, so they knew nothing about the showings until they read the ad. Late last week, the studio -- which had understandably figured that their scheduled Feb. 10 opening date would mark the first public showings -- showed some muscle of its own in dealing a blow to Coppola's big event: They notified distributors and exhibitors who were bidding for the film that its scheduled February opening will not take place. Paramount was immediately ready with a blanket "no comment" concerning the film. And apparently, they weren't even much more forthcoming with the exhibitors themselves. "Just like that, they contacted our film department and notified them that the picture is out of release," says Robert Selig, president of the West Coast-based Pacific Theaters. "There was no explanation and no announcement about when it would become available, and we haven't received any new information since then."
Early this week, Coppola took out an ad in a Hollywood trade inviting exhibitors to the New York previews; the ads were signed with Zoetrope's name, while Paramount's logo appeared nowhere on the page. "From the looks of things," said one industry insider, "they're telling Francis, 'If you want to do it yourself, fine -- but let's see if you can do the whole thing yourself.' But what has he got to lose? If everybody likes it, he's made up for all the bad publicity. If everybody hates it, it doesn't matter, Zoetrope's in so much trouble already, he doesn't have much to lose."
So far, the few people who have seen "One From the Heart" have emphatically not liked it. The word of mouth after a very rough cut was shown to exhibitors was unanimously negative, and a sneak preview in Seattle generated comments along the lines of "pretty baroque" and "pretty bad." This tempest, incidentally, has been stirred up by what is supposed to be a light little change of pace for the maker of "Apocalypse Now" and "The Godfather."