Flashback: Assessing Premiere Magazine’s 1993 Summer Movie Predictions (Part One)

“Nobody knows anything.”
It’s the enduring mantra of Hollywood.  Just when you think you have a surefire hit on your hands, it crashes and burns, leaving you with a deflated ego and less money in your bank account.  And then, there are the sleepers, the seemingly troubled productions that somehow, someway defy industry expectations to become unlikely blockbusters and potential Oscar winners.
Making predictions about anything is risky business.  No matter how informed you are, no matter how lucky you are, it’s impossible to call everything perfectly.  This is most especially true about the summer movie season.  Last year in this space, I went through the now-defunct Premiere Magazine’s picks for the Top 20 warm weather commercial successes of 1992.  (They’re strictly an online-only venture now.)  After reading their summer preview section in their June 1992 issue, I thought it would be fun to look over their list of predictions and see how well they did, 15 years after the fact.
So, how did they do?  Terribly.  (Click on the Newspapers, Books & Magazines section and scroll down to see the four-part series.)  Overall, they batted 2 for 20.  (Batman Returns and Lethal Weapon 3 were the only titles whose placements they got absolutely right.)  To be fair, they had good instincts about how a number of films would perform.  They just didn’t get the order right.
Now that I’ve finished reading the June 1993 and June 1994 editions, it’s time to see if Premiere redeemed itself.  Let’s start with the first five titles on their ’93 list:
Premiere’s Pick:  Hocus Pocus
Sarah Jessica Parker, Sister Act’s Kathy Najimy and Bette Midler are long dead witches brought back to life in this dreadful Disney comedy.  Sexy Vinessa Shaw, Thora Birch and Omri Katz are the young heroes out to kill ’em again.  Reviews were lousy (Roger Ebert complained on TV that some of the witches’ dialogue was hard to hear) and as anticipated by Premiere, it was a commercial disappointment (with a modest overall gross of 40 million).  Unfortunately, despite being right about its general fate, it got the placement wrong.
Where The Movie Actually Finished:  Fifteenth
The Real #20:  Robin Hood: Men In Tights
After his underappreciated romantic comedy, Life Stinks, came and went in the summer of 1991, expectations were low for Mel Brooks’ 1993 follow-up.  Two years after Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves, had the time to make fun of this Kevin Costner blockbuster, as well as its more respected predecessors, long passed?  Not at all, it turned out.  It wasn’t a huge success (36 million) but this intermittently funny parody still managed to find a small audience, thanks to its game cast led by Cary Elwes who plays Robin.  Men In Tights is probably the only film in history to cast then-unknown comic Dave Chappelle (in his first movie role) and soul legend Issac Hayes as Ahchoo and Asneeze, respectively.  Premiere mentioned it in its “Underdogs and Overachievers” section.  (“They’ll need a litle luck to reap box office gold – but these releases have a chance”)
Premiere’s Pick:  True Romance
A comic book store employee (Christian Slater) and a blonde prostitute (Patricia Arquette) find unexpected love in a movie theatre but soon find themselves on the run from law enforcement and some pretty nefarious characters because of a suitcase full of cocaine they end up possessing in this Quentin Tarantino-scripted gem.  Originally half of a much longer screenplay that included the story for Natural Born Killers, True Romance was split from the original work and sold to Warner Bros. so he could finance the making of Reservoir Dogs.  Directed by Tony Scott, it features a superb cast which includes Brad Pitt, Gary Oldman (with dreads!), Dennis Hopper, Michael Madsen, Christopher Walken and Val Kilmer as the Ghost of Elvis, Slater’s go-to guy for advice.
Unfortunately, the film didn’t receive a summer release.  It was bumped to the second week of September (what was its original release date, I wonder?) where, much like Dogs, it didn’t attract a sizable audience.  (Its total box office take:  12 million.)  Since its video release in 1994, however, it’s become a cult favourite.  I enjoyed the film when I saw it in a theatre, although that ending (not in the original script) was completely bogus.  (Explain to me again how it’s possible to survive a bullet in the eye?)  Despite being eclipsed by Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown, True Romance proved that even a Tarantino script, directed by someone other than Tarantino, can still work wonders. 
“Is the public at large ready for Tarantino’s blood-soaked, violence-can-be-funny-too style?” asked Premiere.  The answer was…not yet.  Not until Pulp could this type of movie bring in the herd.
The Real #19:  Sliver
Premiere’s Pick:  Poetic Justice
It was a stunning debut.  Smart, insightful, shocking, moving and tragic.  And it led to two much deserved Academy Award nominations for writing and directing.  John Singleton’s Boyz N The Hood was one of 1991’s best achievements.  Released in July, it stunned critics and audiences.  The film school graduate was on his way.
But two years later, he offered a tepid follow-up.  Janet Jackson plays a poet named Justice (get it?) who finds herself drawn to a postman (rapper Tupac Shakur).  Along with Regina King and her boyfriend (Joe Torry), they go on a road trip.  Siskel & Ebert were believers but not me and certainly not audiences who stayed away from the middle picture of Singleton’s South Central trilogy.
“Less bountiful than Boyz, but a money-maker all the same,” predicted Premiere.  Right on the first count, wrong on the second.  Yes, the movie didn’t come close to the first film’s 58 million take.  But its accumulated total of 27 million was far from stellar.  Singleton would redeem himself artistically with the far superior Higher Learning in 1995.  Rosewood, his fourth film which came and went in early 1997, is his best since Boyz.
Where The Movie Actually Finished:  Out Of The Top 20
The Real #18:  Son-In-Law
A year after appearing in the modest hit, Encino Man, dunderheaded MTV VJ turned dunderheaded comic actor Pauly Shore returned in this not-so-bad-but-still-not-good July offering.  Sometimes funny but utterly predictable, the fish-out-of-water comedy (which also stars the beautiful Carla Cugino) charmed audiences to the tune of 36 million which was slightly less than Encino Man’s 41 million total.  It was briefly mentioned in the “Underdogs and Overachievers” article.
Premiere’s Pick:  Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs
Disney’s first animated feature received yet another theatrical run in the summer of 1993.  First unveiled in 1937, the film was not yet on home video by the time of its eighth and final re-release that year.  Over its long life, the film has accumulated nearly 200 million in domestic ticket sales.  In other words, it’s been seen and adored by a whole slew of multi-generational eyeballs.  Premiere looked liked geniuses when they proclaimed that it would easily earn 40 million.  It earned roughly 42 million.  Pretty damn close.  Unfortunately, like Hocus Pocus, they put it on the wrong spot on their list.
Where The Movie Actually Finished:  Fourteenth
The Real #17:  Hot Shots! Part Deux
Premiere’s Pick:  The Fugitive
Hard to believe this Best Picture nominee was not picked to be a bigger hit by the magazine.  One of the best TV-to-big-screen transformations ever made, Harrison Ford took over the role of the wrongly convicted doctor who manages to escape confinement in order to track down the man who really killed his beautiful wife (the ageless and briefly seen Sela Ward): an one-armed man with an ugly mug.  Tommy Lee Jones won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for playing the law enforcement agent who gradually believes in his innocence but nonetheless leads the effort to re-capture him.  Filled with memorable dialogue, top-notch performances, superb action and Joey Pants (as one of Jones’ colleagues), it was not only one of the best films released that summer, it was one of the best films of that year, period.
And yet, Premiere thought that moviegoers under the age of 40 would resist because they supposedly weren’t familiar with the original TV show.  They also asserted that the “MTV generation thinks ‘one-armed man’ is the drummer in Def Leppard.”  In the end, Warner Bros. and director Andrew Davis (who also made Steven Seagal’s best movie, Under Siege) had the last laugh and then some.  Premiere’s skepticism notwithstanding, The Fugitive brought in an astounding 184 million.
Where The Movie Actually Finished:  Second
The Real #16:  What’s Love Got To Do With It
Without a doubt, the most compelling movie I saw in the summer of 1993.  (Only Schindler’s List was better that year overall.)  Terrific music, gripping performances by Angela Bassett and Laurence Fishburne as Tina and Ike Turner, respectively, and a story that is both harrowing and remarkably hopeful at the same time.  To say the picture is an inspiration would be an understatement.  Revelatory and greatly entertaining, you learn firsthand how much of a nightmare the influential Ike could really be.  The contrast between their public musicmaking and their private tug-of-war is striking.  Now deceased after failing to steer clear of drugs, Ike’s legacy, ironically and unmistakably, pales in comparison to the talented woman he mercilessly failed to break down and tame.
Although it wasn’t stated in the June 1993 issue of Premiere, it’s likely the reason the magazine didn’t put this great film on its Top 20 was because of its dark, realistic tone.  But audiences weren’t afraid of the heavier moments.  The film brought in a respectable 39 million and earned its two leads much deserved Oscar nominations.  The film got a brief notice in the “Underdogs and Overachievers” article.
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, August 4, 2008
10:10 p.m.
Published in: on August 4, 2008 at 10:10 pm  Leave a Comment  

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