IT LOOKS like the Producers Club of Maryland has hit a home run. This group of local film aficionados was organized to help bring production companies to Maryland for film shoots.
As part of that effort, the group sponsored a fund-raising event at the Baltimore Museum of Art last month. The featured attraction: a preview showing of the grand prize winner from the Sundance Film Festival, "The Brothers McMullen."
After the film was shown, writer-director-actor Edward Burns and co-star Maxine Bahns answered questions about this low, low-budget movie.
It was strictly a seat-of-the-pants production, with Momma Burns doing the cooking, colleagues providing film equipment and low- or no-cost manpower, the Burns family's Long Island house serving as the setting for many of the scenes and actors working on speculation.
Thanks to some luck, considerable skill on Mr. Burns' part and Baltimore native Tom Rothman, the film made it to Sundance, won the top award and found a distributor in 20th Century Fox' new smaller-films division that Mr. Rothman heads. Mr. Burns made enough to recoup the $25,000 investment and pay the actors and crew. His big prize: A deal to make a bigger low-budget film for $3 million.
Critics have been lavish in praising the movie about three Irish brothers who are clueless when it comes to the opposite sex. It's a Long Island/Irish version of a Woody Allen comedy.
Last weekend, the film had its first wide distribution at 272 locations nationwide. It was a hit.
"The Brothers McMullen" finished No. 15 among movies, raking in $1.3 million. In just three weeks, this $25,000 film has sold $2.4 million worth of tickets.
But the more astounding number is the box office receipts per location: $4,950. This ranked No. 1 among all movies last weekend.
Had the film been shown in as many locations as "Mortal Kombat," the top-grossing movie of the week, "The Brothers McMullen" would have done $13 million worth of business.
Those who attended the Producers' Club showing may have been watching a "sleeper" hit, and the first success of a future Hollywood star.
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WANT TO know how bad things are for the arts these days?
Jane Alexander, the actress who heads the National Endowment for the Arts, tells of an encounter at her local grocery store.
As she made her way down the aisles, she noticed a fellow staring at her. After a few moments, he approached her and asked,
"Has anyone ever told you that you look like Jane Alexander?"
"Yes," she said. "People have told me that from time to time."
"Don't you just hate that?" came the response.