The first summer film to be released with high hopes did well last weekend: Tri-Star's "Short Circuit" weathered its negative reviews to make more than $5 million and, even more encouragingly, averaged $5,000-plus per screen. The competition gets tougher now, however, with the release of Alan Alda's "Sweet Liberty," opening in Washington tomorrow, and "Top Gun," the Tom Cruise fighter-pilot film that opens in Washington Monday and one that lots of folks figure will make tons of money -- at least for a while.
"Top Gun" had its first round of preview screenings last week, and it left some folks wondering when this summer will produce a "Back to the Future"-style film -- that is, a big summer movie that critics will actually like. So far, the 1986 films about which there were high critical hopes have been notably disappointing: Most people weren't enthusiastic about "Jo Jo Dancer" or "Short Circuit," and now the word is no more positive about "Top Gun's" airborne music video formula or about Roman Polanski's pet project, "Pirates."
Of course, one could always take the word of one "Lips Malone," a self-described "psychic movie critic" who wrote the Los Angeles Times that this summer's real winners will be "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" and "Ruthless People." 'Witchfire' Draws Protest
The original ad campaign showed a bosomy woman holding a smoking shotgun and a teddy bear. It described the film as a "loony adventure" and promised, "Not since 'Cuckoo's Nest' has insanity been so much fun." But insanity's no laughing matter, said several mental health organizations in Texas -- so when "Witchfire" opens around the country shortly, it'll have the tamer ad line, "Her madness will tempt you with rage and desire."
Still, that's not enough of a concession for the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, which wants to squelch completely the action-comedy about three mental institution escapees who try to bring their favorite psychiatrist back to life after he dies in an auto wreck. The National Alliance plans a nationwide protest against the movie -- which stars Shelley Winters -- on the grounds that it and its ad campaign stigmatize and insult people with mental health problems. Cannon: The Talk of Cannes
Maybe it's the similarity in their names, but the story at Cannes so far is Cannon Films, by all reports showing more flash, making more major announcements and prompting more rumors than any other company at the film festival. Last week, Cannon announced plans to make a $15-million film version of the life of socialite/club owner Regine, in which Joan Collins is expected to star; studio executives also seesawed on the idea of letting director Michael Cimino go ahead with the film version of Mario Puzo's novel "The Sicilian," the rights to which Cannon now controls after buying Thorn EMI Screen Entertainment. After initially expressing doubts -- "for the film's budget of 18 million American dollars, I could buy Sicily," Chairman Menahem Golan reportedly said -- Cannon executives now say they might make the movie after all.
And Cannon keeps the gossip channels buzzing, most recently with the story that it will buy the MGM studio lot from Ted Turner. Monday, The Hollywood Reporter ran a full column detailing the repercussions of such a purchase; on the same day, Daily Variety ran an item quoting Cannon President Yoram Globus as saying he's absolutely not interested in buying any part of MGM.