Let’s get ready to rrrruuuummmmble! Fall is here, which means that once again Hollywood’s heavyweights will duke it out for dominance. Here’s the lowdown on some of this season’s critical television, movie, and music showdowns.
THE DUEL: Titanic versus the next James Bond feature, Tomorrow Never Dies
The Stakes: The holiday box office bucks. When Paramount pushed Titanic’s release from July 2 to Dec. 19, it set up a contest between the most expensive movie ever made (reportedly more than $200 million) and the 18th installment of the lucrative Bond series (Goldeneye grossed $105 million). MGM remains as cool as its franchise-saving hero: ”When you have a movie like Bond, you’re not sensitive to the competitive environment,” says marketing president Gerry Rich. Paramount has no comment.
The Line: ”I don’t know if teenage girls are going to turn out for Leonardo DiCaprio [in Titanic] the way they did for Romeo & Juliet, which is read in every school,” says media analyst Stuart Rossmiller of Deutsche Morgan Grenfell. ”There’s so much momentum with Bond.”
THE DUEL: NBC’s 3rd Rock From the Sun versus ABC’s The Drew Carey Show
The Stakes: Control of Wednesday nights. Drew’s emergence last season as a ratings powerhouse gave third-place ABC a badly needed win in the middle of the week. Now first-place NBC has moved its alien smash, 3rd Rock, from its comfortable Sunday-night slot and placed it against Drew at 9 p.m. ”Our goal for Wednesday this season is growth,” says NBC Entertainment president Warren Littlefield. Drew, however, may have the home-field advantage. ”3rd Rock has never gone up against a sitcom as strong in 18-to-49 [demographics] as Drew,” says ABC scheduling VP Jeff Bader. ”I don’t know that it’s strong enough.”
The Line: An early indicator of how the battle of the network goofballs may go: In a head-to-head airing of reruns on Sept. 17, Carey pulled in nearly 3 million more viewers. Bad news for the Rock-ers.
THE DUEL: Twentieth Century Fox’s Anastasia versus Disney’s The Little Mermaid
The Stakes: The future of the animated musical feature — not to mention the hearts and minds of children. Three years ago Fox decided to sink a reported $100 million into an animated-feature division — and directly challenge Disney’s hegemony. Others have gone up against the Mouse before and been summarily crushed (anyone remember The Swan Princess?). But Fox brings its vast marketing machinery: The studio will have spent $17 million pushing the film before it even opens. It has also lined up some heavyweight promotional partners, including Burger King and Hershey’s. In response, Disney will rerelease its 1989 smash The Little Mermaid a week before Anastasia’s Nov. 21 opening. And Disney-owned ABC has banned Anastasia ads from its Wonderful World of Disney broadcasts. ”This is animation, and since it’s a Disney show, it would look like [Anastasia] is Disney,” says studio spokeswoman Terry Curtin. ”We’re protecting our brand. It’s not about roadblocking them.”