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IT WAS 30 YEARS AGO TODAY …

 

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Dec. 29, 2017

EDITOR’S NOTE: Salt Lake audiences won’t get to see “The Post,” “I, Tonya,” “Phantom Thread,” “Hostiles,” “Crooked House,” “Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool” and other 2017 films until 2018. Why? Because they are prestige pictures that the studios aren’t ready to release to the masses — but to be eligible for Academy Awards those films must play for a week in a Los Angeles theater. And they also open early in New York, Chicago and other major markets to get some (hopefully, positive) advance publicity before they head to the hinterlands. But this is nothing new. Here’s a 30-year-old column that demonstrates that this has been going on forever. Under the headline, ‘Amazing number of “big” films didn’t show up in S.L. in 1987,’ it was published in the Deseret News on Dec. 27, 1987.

What kind of a movie year was 1987? Besides all the movies that played, the year was notable for the movies that did not play — particularly highly publicized Christmas films.

There was an amazing number of “big” movies that never showed up — two of which were scheduled for specific local theaters. “Cry Freedom” said “The Last Emperor” were both screened for local critics, both booked for firm dates, then they mysteriously disappeared from playing schedules.

“Cry Freedom,” Richard Attenborough’s epic look at apartheid in South Africa, and in particular the relationship between black activist Steve Biko and white newspaperman Donald Woods, apparently didn’t do the business expected on the coasts, and Universal Pictures chose to pull the film from general release until Oscar nominations are announced in mid-February.

“The Last Emperor” was the victim of the Cineplex Odeon-Columbia Pictures feud discussed in this space last week.

But most frustrating to movie fans is reading glowing national reviews of such films as “Ironweed,” with Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep; “Good Morning, Vietnam,” Robin Williams; “Housekeeping,” Christine Lahti; “Cross My Heart,” Martin Short; “Moonstruck,” Cher; and Woody Allen’s “September,” and wondering why they aren’t here.

 

Well, “platforming,” as it is called in the movie industry, is quite common at the end of each year, as movies open in New York and Los Angeles, both to garner good word-of-mouth and review quotes, and to qualify for Oscar nominations. At the same time they avoid the mass onslaught of so-called “Christmas Movies.” (Last year “Platoon” opened in the larger metropolitan areas in late ’86, but didn’t come here until mid-January.)

This year, of course, with such turkeys as “Leonard Part 6,” “Overboard” and “Pinocchio and the Emperor of the Night” playing around town, it would be nice to have a few more choices.

As is usual, the year brought a number of deaths that were felt strongly throughout the film community and among fans worldwide — but deaths this year included an unusual number of beloved names: John Huston, Fred Astaire, Danny Kaye, Jackie Gleason, Geraldine Page, Robert Preston, Elizabeth Hartman, Rita Hayworth, Lee Marvin, Bob Fosse, Ray Bolger, Mary Astor, Madeleine Carroll, Randolph Scott, Richard Egan, Pola Negri, James Coco, Richard Marquand, Mervyn LeRoy.

In the movies themselves, one of the most astonishing against-type pieces of casting was Glenn Close as the psychotic woman who harasses Michael Douglas in “Fatal Attraction.” She was initially extremely sexy, then quite scary. She’s sure to get an Oscar nomination, and will be a hard one to beat.

 

Such unlikely major movie stars as Steve Martin, with “Roxanne” and “Planes, Trains and Automobiles,” and Arnold Schwarzenegger, with “Predator” and “The Running Man,” proved to have box-office staying power — and the latter was named by theater owners nationally as their top box office draw!

Meanwhile, such established superstars as Dustin Hoffman and Warren Beatty (“Ishtar”), and Barbra Streisand (“Nuts”), failed to make any kind of box office dent.

Sylvester Stallone finally went into production with “Rambo II,” now promised for next summer. And he proved his ego was even bigger than his biceps by hiring and firing so many people that the budget of the inflated project became as bloated as his fee.

Stallone’s only 1987 film was “Over the Top,” an arm-wrestling movie that bombed but still gave him a $12 million paycheck.

So what kind of a year was it after all?

Normal.