Here's something to remember next year: If it's late January 1987 and there's a big hit movie you've been anxious to see but the lines have been too long, try going to see it on Super Bowl Sunday. While the Bears dismantled the Patriots over the weekend, moviegoers simply stayed home, which means that every film in the marketplace dropped sharply over its previous week. On Sunday, the average movie did only one-third as much business as it had done the previous Sunday. And no, movie attendance didn't pick up during the fourth quarter, even when everybody knew who'd win.
Now that football's out of the way, the studios are gearing up for a crucial weekend, when four potentially major movies all open and we get our first real glimpse of the 1986 crop. Two of this Friday's four openings have generated lots of good word-of-mouth: Paul Mazursky's "Down and Out in Beverly Hills" is, depending on whom you're listening to, either the best work that Mazursky and stars Bette Midler, Richard Dreyfuss and Nick Nolte have ever done, or a funny movie that pokes fun at Beverly Hills but lacks the satiric bite of its model, Renoir's 1932 black comedy "Boudu Saved From Drowning"; Sidney Lumet's "Power," which stars Richard Gere as a Washington media handler, is being sold as a film about power (an appealing topic to the upscale set) rather than politics (a commercial question mark), and has impressed some early observers. The buzz, though, hasn't been nearly as favorable for the Robin Williams/Kurt Russell comedy "The Best of Times" or for the Rob Lowe-on-ice skates saga "Youngblood."
Producers Edward S. Feldman and Charles R. Meeker tried to get a buzz going about their "Hamburger -- the Motion Picture," which also opens tomorrow. To help their cause, they transformed an L.A. theater into a fast-food restaurant for a screening early this week, passing out free burgers and fries before showing their comedy, which is about a school to train fast-food managers but makes its intentions clear by opening with two consecutive sex scenes. The burgers weren't very good, but the producers got their audience buzzing, all right: A common remark after the screening was, "Well, it's a good thing they fed us before showing the movie. Nobody has any appetite now . . . "
An ad promoting an Oscar nomination for actress Margaret Avery has added a curious footnote to the complaints that "The Color Purple" treats black men unfairly and deals in racial stereotypes. It's a full-page Hollywood Reporter ad aimed at Academy Award voters; like much of the Alice Walker book from which "The Color Purple" was adapted, the ad was written as a letter to God.
"Dear God," begins the ad, "My name is Margaret Avery. I knows dat I been blessed by Alice Walker, Steven Spielberg, and Quincy Jones who gave me the part of 'Shug' Avery in 'The Color Purple.' Now I is up for one of the nomination fo' Best Supporting Actress alongst with some fine, talented ladies that I is proud to be in the company of. Well God, I guess the time had come fo' the Academy voters to decide whether I is one of the Best Supporting Actresses this year or not . . . " In Walker's book, the letters to God are from heroine Celie and are initially ungrammatical and colloquial; they never, however, use words like "fo' " and "dat." The ad is even odder when you consider the charges of racism that the film has already drawn -- and when you realize that the 'Shug' Avery character is supposed to be educated and worldly wise.
"The Color Purple" star Whoopi Goldberg has set her sights on playing the lead in a remake of "A Face in the Crowd," the 1957 Elia Kazan film in which Andy Griffith starred as a hillbilly who becomes a TV star. Goldberg -- who has described the original as an "all-time great movie that wasn't given its due" -- didn't wait for a casting call, approaching the film's producers about starring in a remake that, at this point, is still in the early planning stages . . . In a final bit of "Color Purple" news, that film was last weekend's second-biggest moneymaker, losing out by half a million dollars to the opening weekend for "My Chauffeur." In third place was "Iron Eagle," the kind of movie that critics who try to be kind always refer to as a "crowd pleaser." It's such a crowd pleaser, in fact, that star Louis Gossett Jr. says it will probably spawn a sequel.