Good thing Michael J. Fox isn't a method actor. In a scene filmed for "Back to the Future," Fox eats raisins -- but had he asked the director the ultimate method question ("What's my motivation?"), chances are he wouldn't have gotten a very satisfactory answer. Fox's choice of snack, it seems, had little to do with the complexities of his character or the demands of the scene, and everything to do with the fact that the California Raisin Advisory Board paid $50,000 to have raisins featured in the Steven Spielberg production. And you thought those decisions were made for artistic reasons . . .
Ordinarily, commercial deals like that would go unnoticed, and this one came to light only when the scene in which Fox munches the raisins ended up on the cutting room floor instead of in the film. California's raisin growers were understandably irate to have their big scene edited out of the movie; they threatened to sue, a threat that fizzled when Spielberg's company sent them a refund check for $25,000. They didn't get the full amount back, though: "Back to the Future" still includes a shot in which there's a bus stop bench with a raisin ad on the back, a shot apparently worth $25,000 . . .
While the raisin growers grumble, the makers of Victoria Springs Frutelle are ready to reap the dividends of having their nonalcoholic fruit-juice cooler on screen. Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas swig the beverage in a scene from the upcoming "Romancing the Stone" sequel, "Jewel of the Nile," and placards advertising that have been placed in the 125 restaurants owned by W.R. Grace & Co., the corporation that also makes Victoria Springs Frutelle. Apparently Frutelle is safe from a last-minute edit . . .
Warner Bros., meanwhile, sank a bit of its own money into a one-night tie-in between "Pee-wee's Big Adventure" and MTV. The rock music cable channel broadcast the opening night premiere party live -- partially because Pee-wee Herman is familiar to MTV audiences, and partially because Warner Bros. paid a reported $75,000 in production expenses . . .
"Weird Science" opened in 1,158 movie theaters last weekend, in the process racking up a respectable $4.9 million. That was only good enough to put the film in fourth place in the box office rankings, where it trailed the weekend's other new film, "Fright Night," by more than $1 million ("Fright Night," in fact, got off to a better start than Columbia Picture's more highly touted summer films, "Perfect," "St. Elmo's Fire" and "Silverado"). But "Weird Science" did help Universal Pictures capture another distinction: Add the "Weird Science" total to theaters also playing the studio's "Back to the Future" and "E.T.," and Universal now has its product playing on 5,504 theater screens -- one out of every four in the United States . . .
Still, Universal lags behind MGM/UA and "Rocky IV" in another category. A couple of weeks ago, the Hollywood Reporter found the trailer for the showdown between Rocky and the Russkies was playing in more than 5,000 theaters, a record. Warner Bros. promptly pointed out that they'd sent out 5,293 "Goonies" trailers, whereupon the Reporter checked its figures with MGM, did some arithmetic and found that "Rocky IV" actually has 5,838 trailers in circulation (3,750 originals, 500 newly shipped trailers, and 1,588 attached to prints of "A View to a Kill"). And yes, that's definitely a record.