Hollywood competes for Olympics' audience

With the Atlanta Olympics taking up residence in U.S. living rooms for 17 days in midsummer, will Americans still venture out to their local multiplexes?

Film distributors are wrestling with that question as they set release schedules for what already promises to be the most crowded movie summer ever. For some, the solution is to counterprogram, or release films that target those less likely to be hooked on the Summer Games; others plan to avoid the July 19-Aug. 4 period altogether.


Hollywood's summer, which began May 10 and continues through Labor Day weekend, is scheduled to see the release of 53 major-studio films.

Of that total, about a dozen are scheduled to open just before or during the Olympics, but industry insiders speculate that at least some of those will move to less competitive slots later in the year.


Studio research shows that the Games' core audience is older males, so films targeting women and younger audiences are the ones most likely to surface opposite the Olympics.

"Some studio heads will look at that week and say, 'Hey, it's a great time to open a family picture,' " said a national film exhibitor.

"Teen-agers are still going to go out and go to the movies," said Nikki Rocco, president of distribution for Universal.

During that time, Universal Pictures plans to release "The Frighteners," a PG-13, special-effects-laden film starring Michael J. Fox as a supernatural ghost-buster; New Line Cinema is scheduled to release "The Adventures of Pinocchio," a live-action film about the wooden puppet who comes to life starring teen heartthrob Jonathan Taylor Thomas; Buena Vista Pictures (Disney) will release "Kazaam," starring pro basketball star (and U.S. Olympic team member) Shaquille O'Neal, and "First Kid," which chronicles the misadventures of the president's adolescent son, starring Sinbad; MGM/UA plans to release "Larger Than Life," a "feel-good" comedy starring Bill Murray; and Paramount Pictures is scheduled to release "The First Wives Club," a comedy starring Bette Midler, Diane Keaton and Goldie Hawn.

"You'll see more women's pictures, family pictures, you won't see a lot of male-oriented pictures opening during that time," said Larry Gleason, MGM/UA president of distribution.

Some distributors think they'll lose audience to the Games because many events will air live. And if Americans do well, that audience will be even greater.

Pub Date: 5/27/96