It hasn't been a terribly busy holiday season for the film industry. Time was when the studios would release up to 15 titles on or around Christmas Day, but this year, there was only one that appeared during that period. That was "Godfather Part III." It opened Christmas Day.
Since then, we've had nothing at all, not even those small, independent throwaway titles that usually find their way into the movie houses when nothing else is available and when the existing films have played themselves out.
However, things will change on Jan. 11. That's when "Awakenings," "Sheltering Sky" and "Lionheart" open. The first stars Robert De Niro as a an encephalitis victim who returns to consciousness after 30 years. Robin Williams plays the doctor who finds the drug that brings him back. Penny Marshall ("Big") directed.
"Sheltering Sky" stars John Malkovich and Debra Winger as American expatriates who wander North Africa, wondering what has happened to their marriage. The film takes place after World War II. Bernardo Bertolucci ("The Last Emperor") directed.
"Lionheart" stars Jean-Claude Van Damme, the karate champ who may have assumed the mantle once held by Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris. In the new film, Van Damme plays a member of the French Foreign Legion who goes A.W.O.L. to help his brother in Los Angeles.
On Jan. 18, the bigger titles are "Hamlet" and "Green Card." Mel Gibson ("Mad Max") plays the melancholy Dane in the new film version of the Shakespearean tragedy. Franco Zeffirelli ("Romeo and Juliet") directed.
In the second film, a comedy, Gerard Depardieu, without whom there would be no French film industry, plays a Frenchman who marries an American woman in order to remain in the United States. Andie MacDowell is the girl.
If you're looking for a catalog of movie titles that are being shown on television or are available in cassette form, "Movies on TV and Videocassette: 1991-1992," conceived and edited by Steven H. Scheuer, is now available in the book stores. The book includes more than 19,000 titles. Also available is the annual "Video Movie Guide," edited by Mick Martin and Marsha Porter. Theirs includes more than 10,000 titles.
Good news for Liza Minnelli fans. Minnelli, who makes infrequent appearances on the movie screen, is currently in Toronto where she is filming "Stepping Out," a comedy-drama under the direction of Lewis Gilbert ("Shirley Valentine").
Ellen Greene, Bill Irwin, Julie Walters ("Educating Rita") and Shelley Winters are also in the film, in which Minnelli plays teacher to a group of housewives who meet once a week to take tap lessons.
The film is based on a play that was done in London then was transported to Broadway where it failed, despite the fact that Tommy Tune did the staging. "Stepping Out" will be released this year.
George Kennedy, O.J. Simpson, Leslie Nielsen and Priscilla Presley are currently filming "The Naked Gun II-1/2: The Smell of Fear." David Zucker is directing.
Construction has begun on the Olney Theater's new 1,800-square-foot lobby, one that will be completely heated, lighted and air-conditioned for use throughout the year. The lobby, paid for, in part, by the family of Brooke and Hazel Johns, will be named in honor of Brooke Johns, the late vaudevillian who lived in Montgomery County. New, expanded restrooms will be approachable from the new lobby.
Stephen Wade, who has been doing his one-man show for 10 years at the Old Vat Room of Washington's Arena Stage, will do his last show there Jan. 27. Wade began doing his "Banjo Dancing" in the Old Vat a decade ago. A few years ago, he revised the show and called it "On the Way Home." He will do a national tour after he leaves Arena Stage.
"A Tuna Christmas," sequel to "Greater Tuna," is filling a return engagement at the Terrace Theater of the Kennedy Center. It will remain there through Jan. 20. Joe Sears and Jaston Williams are the creators and stars of the revue that chronicles life in the town of Tuna, Texas. Sears and Williams play a variety of characters.