"Rocky III" will be opening two weeks earlier than originally scheduled, bowing May 28 because of what MGM/UA says was extremely positive reaction from exhibitors. But there's widespread speculation that favorable exhibitor reaction wasn't a major reason why the financially ailing studio decided to give its potential blockbuster a head start over most of this summer's big releases. ("Annie" opens May 21, but the rest of the summer's major films will come out later: "Poltergeist" and "Star Trek II" on June 4, "Grease 2"--which insiders are saying might actually be a surprisingly likable film--on June 11, and "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas" on July 23.) MGM rescheduled "Rocky III's" release date, suggested one Wall Street analyst, because the studio is "in desperate need of money." As for the film itself, "Yeah, it should make millions and millions," said one viewer (not an exhibitor). "It's not very good, but it will do well."
When "Annie" opens, it will do so with the highest priced ticket in town, at least in Los Angeles. Two local theaters are planning to charge $6 admission, $1.50 less than Penthouse magazine's "Caligula" two years ago but more than any other film before or since. New York's 34th Street Theater will reportedly match the $6 ticket price for its "Annie" showings, although they'll be offering reserved seats. With those stiff prices, maybe the theater will be able to make some money with a film for which Columbia Pictures has demanded some of the stiffest terms ever from theaters . . . Zoetrope Studio has finally been put up for sale on the heels of the exceedingly poor showing of "One From the Heart," which was pulled from release after earning less than 4 percent of its $26 million cost. Sources close to Francis Coppola--who's in Oklahoma shooting "The Outsiders"--insist that this is merely a real estate transaction to get rid of the 8.6-acre studio lot in Hollywood, for which Coppola paid $7.2 million two years ago. Bids now start at $20 million; with that money, Coppola may be able to pay off a few creditors and go ahead with his plans to release six Zoetrope films this year. "Hammett," "The Black Stallion Returns," "The Escape Artist," "Too Far to Go," "Parsifal" and--with a new ad campaign, knock on wood--the return of "One From the Heart."