Flashback: Assessing Premiere Magazine’s 1992 Summer Movie Predictions (Part One)

Envisioning the future correctly is next to impossible (unless you’re Al Gore).  That’s why psychics exist “for entertainment purposes only”.  Otherwise, they’d be cleaning up at the track while keeping their perfect gift to themselves.  (Greedy gamblers on a hot streak aren’t the sharing type.)  To make a prediction about anything and commit it to print is a fool’s game.  No matter how great you think your prognosticating abilities are, you’re bound to make a bone-headed pick on more than one occasion.  (I offer this as a personal example.)  But that doesn’t stop anybody from making silly guesses now, does it?
Back when it was a real publication (and not an online-only venture), Premiere Magazine made interesting predictions of its own.  For instance, every year, they would list what they believe would be the Top 20 grossing films of the summer.  It was a fun way to get people talking and arguing about the next batch of warm weather blockbusters.  (Other titles that didn’t make the list would be saved for a supplemental article in the same issue.  Curiously, not every summer release warranted a mention from the magazine so the overall coverage was strangely incomplete.)
Very slowly, over the last several years, I’ve been going through my old entertainment magazines, which includes a small number of Premieres.  (I bought numerous issues between 1992 and 1996.)  Recently, I just finished reading the June 1992 issue.  (Tom Cruise, Ron Howard and the then-exquisite redhead Nicole Kidman, who were promoting the underrated Far And Away at the time, were on the cover.)  The issue featured the magazine’s picks for the summer season that year.  How well did they do?  Let’s examine the evidence 15 years after the fact:
Premiere’s Pick:  Sister Act
On paper, this sounded like a bang-on prediction.  Despite winning an Oscar for playing a real psychic in Ghost and receiving good reviews for her performance in The Long Walk Home, Whoopi Goldberg had yet to prove herself as a leading lady.  The only reason she kept getting movie roles, particularly leads through much of the 1980s, was because of home video.  Her theatrical failures became VHS gold.
How everything changed because of this 1992 sleeper.  For two consecutive weeks before its nationwide release, it was sneak previewed in select theatres.  The audiences who attended those screenings loved what they saw and got the word out.  By the end of its long, fruitful theatrical run, it made 140 million dollars domestically.  Who knew that gospel singing nuns and the Nevada mafia had such strong crossover appeal?  Premiere didn’t.
Where The Movie Actually Finished:  Third
The Real #20:  Raising Cain
His first movie after The Bonfire Of The Vanities, Brian DePalma returned with a horror movie that starred John Lithgow.  Released in August 1992, the film ended up making 21 million.  Premiere gave it a short notice in their summer movie preview.
Premiere’s Pick:  Buffy The Vampire Slayer
Long before it was a highly regarded TV series, it was a terrible movie.  Kristy Swanson was the original hero in a film that featured pre-stardom performances by David Arquette, Ben Affleck and a big-haired Hilary Swank.  (It was also Paul Reubens first project after being caught masturbating in a public porno theatre.)
The magazine predicted that it “[c]ould upset Encino Man, but don’t stake the rent.”  In the end, creator Joss Whedon’s first foray into movies was a dismal flop.  The film made less than 20 million and it was far from critically acclaimed.  Five years later, he tried again by turning the original idea into a series.  The result was much more satisfying.
Where The Movie Actually Finished:  Out Of The Top 20
The Real #19:  3 Ninjas
An implausible story of three pint-size ass-kickers was another unexpected late-summer hit.  It made 29 million and started a franchise.  One of the sequels inspired the creation of a video game for the Sega Genesis system.  Premiere never mentioned it in its summer preview.
Premiere’s Pick:  Encino Man
Pauly Shore’s breakthrough hit did a bit better than expected in a highly competitive month.  (Lethal Weapon 3, Sister Act, Far And Away, and Alien 3 were all released in May 1992.)  The story of a couple of high school losers (Shore and future Hobbit Sean Astin) who discover a frozen caveman (Brendan Fraser) which somehow makes them worthy of attention grossed 41 million.  All three stars would find steady employment thereafter, although Shore’s film career would pretty much die after 1996’s Bio-Dome.
Where The Movie Actually Finished:  Fifteenth
The Real #18:  Honeymoon In Vegas
Premiere’s Pick:  Singles
Cameron Crowe’s underappreciated cinematic valentine to the Seattle music scene would ultimately not get a summer release as originally scheduled.  It was pushed back to September where it sadly failed to find an audience.  The film made less than 20 million during its brief theatrical foray.  The soundtrack, however, was a multi-platinum smash which featured a who’s who of Washington State rock, both past (Hendrix) and present (Pearl Jam) along with an epic track by an unknown Chicago group called The Smashing Pumpkins.
The Real #17: Universal Soldier
Premiere’s Pick: Universal Soldier
The magazine came close with this one.  Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren (where are you now?) are soldiers who die in one war and are then brought back to life by state-of-the-art technology to fight another one but their rivalry remains.  Lundgren’s the heel, The Muscles From Brussels is the hero.  Ally Walker plays a reporter.
Despite being mediocre, it found a modest audience to the tune of 36 million.  2 straight-to-video sequels followed and then in 1999, Universal Soldier: The Return, Van Damme’s only sequel, had a very short theatrical visit.  It remains the last time he’s appeared on the silver screen in North America.  Despite the fact that he’s never stopped making movies, his titles go straight-to-video here while playing exclusively in foreign theatres.
The Real #16:  Mo’ Money
Premiere mentioned it briefly in their summer preview but obviously didn’t think it stood much of a chance when it opened in July.  Its total box office take:  40 million.
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, September 9, 2007
2:56 p.m.
Published in: on September 9, 2007 at 2:57 pm  Comments (1)  

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  1. I was thinking earlier today that the Summer of 1992 and how bereft it was of big, popcorn, or genre type movies. I mean there was “Batman Returns” and “Alien 3” but even then my favorite movie that Summer was “Patriot Games”

    Sure this is subjective to a degree, but I think 1992 may have been the last what I;d call “boring” Summer for movies…since then there has always been at least 2 or 3 big, exciting movies in a Summer.

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