When Lucky You, a drama about a professional poker player (Eric Bana) who falls for a Vegas singer (Drew Barrymore), got the green light from Warner Bros. on the eve of 2003’s poker craze, it seemed like a sure bet. ”That was the year professional poker changed dramatically,” says director Curtis Hanson (In Her Shoes). ”The popularity of the game just exploded.” On top of that, Lucky You had an Oscar-winning director and screenwriter (Eric Roth) — and a little game called Texas Hold ‘Em was becoming the biggest thing on TV. But now that the studio has pushed the release date for Hanson’s film to March 2007 (some two years after it wrapped), the movie’s setting seems like a significant gamble.
Why? Well, you don’t have to be Amarillo Slim to know that the poker phenomenon has cooled considerably. With the exception of ESPN’s broadcast of the World Series of Poker, ratings for televised games are in a free fall. World Poker Tour has experienced a nearly 25 percent decline in viewers in the past three years on the Travel Channel, and Bravo’s Celebrity Poker Showdown has hung on to less than half the audience it started with.
For its part, the studio cites the overcrowded release schedule as the reason for the shift. But given the film’s premise, not to mention its sense of timing — Hanson set the whole shebang at the 2003 World Series of Poker — Lucky You looks like it’ll have to pull an inside straight to come out a winner in ‘07.
(Additional reporting by Christine Spines)