Hollywood could use a hug from mom after this weekend" was E! Online reporter Bridget Byrne's reaction to the disappointing Mother's Day weekend grosses from the one-two punch-less wonders of Mission: Impossible III and Poseidon. It was the wittiest expression of the sky-is-falling syndrome that afflicts Hollywood these days after any spate of disappointing box-office returns. Despite 3 1/2 months of sustained rebound from 2005's downward financial spiral, the soft impact of a couple of would-be blockbusters was enough to turn Tinseltown tea-leaf readers into so many Chicken Littles. It could be last year all over again, they warned, and X-Men likely wouldn't change anything.
Well, as a journalist, if you live by studio buzz, you die by studio buzz. Outside L.A., nobody expected Poseidon to be a sturdy tent-pole picture: the trailers stank, and there'd already been one rotten remake of The Poseidon Adventure on TV. And moviegoers everywhere could sense that M:i:III - a follow-up to a six-year-old espionage series with little continuity beyond its star, Tom Cruise, and star directors (Brian De Palma, John Woo) - might get into trouble with a dated super-agent hero and a TV whiz at the helm (J.J. Abrams), even without the Cruise media meltdown.
On the other hand, anyone with a circle of real-life friends and colleagues could anticipate the depth of appeal for X-Men from the number of parents who said they'd offered to take their kids to opening day. X-Men's following is based on an engaging, durable concept - misfit superheroes who really only have each other - not on a star whose allure waxes and wanes. No wonder it set the box-office record for a Memorial Day weekend and charted the fourth highest-grossing weekend ever.
Note to Hollywood reporters: Table your discussion of Hollywood's doom - or even its rebirth - for the duration of the summer. Or at least get out of town once in a while.