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Aging Stormtroopers, Bland Blockbusters and Ingénues 

Things to chew on this Memorial Day weekend

Tuesday, May 22 2007
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Box Office StormtroopersIt used to be that a simple yardstick could measure generational change in Hollywood: those who went into the biz because of Easy Rider and those who went into the biz because of Star Wars. (Of course, the film knowledge of today’s youngest a-holes starts with Pulp Fiction.) So there’s something sweet about all you paunchy Lukes, Leias, Darth Vaders, Wookies, Ewoks and Stormtroopers gathering at the Los Angeles Convention Center over Memorial Day weekend for the world’s biggest Star Wars party, something rather silly about grown-ups with gray hair (if they have any left at all) playing Star Wars laser tag, Stormtrooper Olympics and XXtreme Droid Challenge. And something rather rotten about a $125 adult ticket price for all four days of Celebration IV and a Star Wars store open 24 hours a day to sell that crappy merchandise. Contrast this with the first official fan convention held exactly 20 years ago at the seedy LAX-area Stouffer Concourse Hotel, where the big whoop was an exhibition of props, a few onscreen celebrities and behind-the-scenes talent, a costume contest and George Lucas.

Ah, for those more innocent times. How easy to forget that the Star Wars that started it all opened in only 32 movie houses on May 25, 1977 (including Grauman’s Chinese Theater). How fitting that this extravaganza is sandwiched between today’s overhyped blockbusters like Sony’s Spider-Man 3 and Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, both of which amassed more than 4,000 theaters apiece for their opening weekends. The Spidey threequel broke a bevy of records — biggest single worldwide day, biggest international opening and biggest worldwide opening. Many of the opening-frame records were broken by astounding margins, thanks to virtually round-the-clock showings during its Friday-to-Sunday debut. At the end, the gross receipts totaled $151 million domestic, $282 million foreign from 107+ countries, for a total of $383 million global.

Pirates of the Caribbean 3 is expected to shatter records mostly set by P2 since the tracking is predictably gargantuan. When it opens Thursday night of Memorial Day weekend, Johnny Depp and his crew could make as much as $180 million for its four-and-a-half-day holiday — even with an unofficial ass-numbing running time of 2 hours and 47 minutes. And, remember, P3 is opening in about 100+ territories, so expect a huge foreign gross as well. It still remains to be seen if it can beat Spidey 3’s opening numbers.

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This past weekend, Shrek the Third, from DreamWorks Animation and distributed by Paramount, shredded the record for third biggest opening weekend of all time behind only Spider-Man 3 and Pirates of the Caribbean 2. It also set the record for a ’toon weekend opening with a monster $122 million Friday-to-Sunday domestic gross. Like Spider-Man 3, reviews were horrible, along the lines of “Shrek Is Drek.” But it doesn’t matter: There was pent-up demand for a fresh kiddie pic, and at only 93 minutes’ running time, theaters could squeeze in a lot of screenings while parents and offspring could sit through the film without too much squirming.

Her Act Has Worn Thin

Since when does a 70-year-old actress beat a 20-year-old ingénue head to head at the box office this weekend even though they were starring in the same movie? That’s the result from exit polls showing that, among moviegoers who went to see Morgan Creek/Universal’s Georgia Rule (and, believe me, there weren’t many; it was stillborn in theaters), 53 percent went to see Jane Fonda (even though she was channeling her father, Henry), 50 percent went to see the story (which was critically panned), and only 34 percent went to see Lindsay Lohan (whose price quote just sank by half). Maybe the public has reached critical mass where it’s not good enough to simply be famous for being famous.

Is This Manager in Play?

On Wall Street they talk about a company being “in play” when a battle for ownership is about to be waged. That’s the buzz in Hollywood tonight regarding Rick Yorn, the manager/producer who manages major triple-A-list talent like Leonardo DiCaprio, Marty Scorsese, Cameron Diaz and Benicio Del Toro. The reason is that Yorn’s deal with The Firm is up in June, sources tell me. The buzz is that Yorn is “definitely” leaving Jeff Kwatinetz’s company, where he has been a principal since an internal restructuring in 2005 in which Kwatinetz and Yorn renewed and extended their partnerships. In fact, Yorn had to deny a rumor sweeping Hollywood that he was headed to the Endeavor talent agency, where Scorsese is repped. (Leo doesn’t have an agent.) Another tie to the agency is that Rick also throws a private Oscar party with Endeavor’s Patrick Whitesell.

Yorn has been telling everyone, including tenpercenters who have been trying to sweet-talk him onboard, that he doesn’t want to become an agent. But he also doesn’t want to be a cog in the wheel of another management company as he has in the past at Addis/Wechsler, then Michael Ovitz’s Artists Management Group and then The Firm. Kwatinetz is trying to knock down the buzz by telling Hollywood that Yorn is “solid” with his company. But many predict Rick may hook up with the rest of the Yorn dynasty in Hollywood, all prominent in their fields (with brother Pete the musician, other brother Kevin the entertainment attorney, but not ex-sister-in-law Julie, also a manager/producer).

For more Nikki Finke check out Deadline Hollywood Daily at www.deadlinehollywooddaily.com

Email at deadlinehollywood@gmail.com

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