Something old and something new are bringing smiles to the faces of the folks at Walt Disney Productions these days. The something old is "101 Dalmatians," the 1961 animated feature that was rereleased for the Christmas season. For the week beginning Dec. 27, the film made $11,002,118, the most profitable one-week total in the 48-year history of Disney. The previous record holder was "The Black Hole" in 1979, though that film faded quickly and isn't likely to be rereleased four times, the way "Dalmations" has now been. (In addition to its initial release, it was issued in 1969, 1972 and 1979.) The previous Disney record for an animated film was set last year by the "Pinocchio" reissue.
Potentially even better news for the new management regime at Disney -- a team headed by former Paramount executive Michael Eisner -- is the positive word of mouth circulating about "Down and Out in Beverly Hills." The Paul Mazursky-directed film will be out in February under Disney's Touchstone Films banner, but since the Bette Midler-Richard Dreyfuss-Nick Nolte movie has an R rating, don't expect to see the Disney name associated with it too closely. It's reportedly been received quite favorably within the industry and at the first public sneak previews held on New Year's Eve. (It should be added that Disney officials are rather tirelessly spreading the word about its favorable reception.) And while the Eisner regime has been garnering a lot of credit for Disney's renewed good fortune, this is a crucial moment for them: "Down and Out" is the first Disney film that the new management team initiated. Director Sued Over Film Expenses
Studios have been known to cajole, threaten, beg, wheedle and do just about everything else to coax directors into getting their movies in on time and under budget -- often without much success. Now, one production company has decided to sue a director, 2 1/2 years after the fact. Taliafilm has filed a suit in Los Angeles Superior Court against director Irvin Kershner, asking for $65 million in general and punitive damages. They're upset because the director came in $11 million over the $25 million budget of the James Bond film "Never Say Never Again" -- and he did so, they allege, because he rewrote portions of the screenplay and delayed principal photography. Kershner hasn't responded yet. Taking Aim at Actors
Alfred Hitchcock is well known for snapping, "Actors are cattle," and later "apologizing" by saying, "I didn't say actors are cattle. What I said was actors should be treated like cattle." So it may figure that Ben Hecht, who wrote the screenplays for Hitchcock classics like "Spellbound" and "Notorious," also wrote a novel called "I Hate Actors." A movie version of that book -- which takes place in Hollywood in the 1940s -- will be filmed for the big screen later this month, but not in California. It'll be shot on Paris sound stages and directed by Frenchman Gerard Krawczyk, who won widespread acclaim for a short film based on a Woody Allen story but couldn't distribute that film because he made it as a film student at a school that didn't allow commercial distribution of student projects. "I Hate Actors" is a comedy about a frustrated impresario who starts killing his clients. At the Box Office
Rocky Balboa revealed a weakness over the last week, though it didn't keep "Rocky IV" from retaining its spot atop the box-office charts -- or from passing "Rocky" and "Rocky II" in rental totals. But during the days when television was showing a nonstop lineup of football games, Stallone fans apparently got their sporting violence at home, and the movie's totals suffered accordingly . . .
"Out of Africa," meanwhile, saw its own box-office totals relatively unaffected by any pigskin action, and the romantic epic therefore crept closer to the top spot than ever before. It made $6.4 million to "Rocky IV's" $7.2 million, had a far higher per-screen average and shows signs of turning into a legitimate blockbuster if it keeps up the pace. "The Color Purple," its chief competitor in the Big Serious Movie sweepstakes, is also showing box-office muscle . . .
A few other Christmas films are hanging in there: "The Jewel of the Nile" is closing in on the $40 million mark after a month; "Spies Like Us" is closer to $45 million; and "White Nights" has just passed the $30 million figure. But it looks like curtains for "Young Sherlock Holmes," "A Chorus Line," "Clue" and "Enemy Mine," all of which are fading fast.