The Latest Movie-Movie
YOU'D better shape up because need a man," purrs Olivia Newton John. "My heart is set on you. You're the that I want. Feel me."
"Ooo! Ooo! Ooo!" whoops John Travolta. "It's electrifying"
It's even more electrifying for impresssario Robert Stigwood who seems to have perfected the magic formula for turning movies into smash-hits before audiences even see them.
First he did it with "Saturday Night Fever," generating a "must see" demand by pre-releasing the Bee Gees theme song as a cheap single record. The movie, second only to "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" in the 1978 grosses, then pushed sales of the expensive LP sounddtrack album over the 200 million copies mark.
Teeny bopper hearts are now throbbing to the high decibel beat of "Grease" with Travolta and Newton-John singles like "You're The One That I Want," although the rock moyie only opened in the U.S. in July (it grossed over one million dollars in two cinemas in its first ten weeks) and won't be premiered in Britain and Ireland until this month. .
With "Sergent Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," little more than an illustrated record album with the Bee Gees performming 30 Beatles hits, also being marketed with the same cunning gusto, Stigwood will probably boost his gross fro the last twelve months to well over one billion dollars.
Along the way he will also have given Hollywood a brand new superstar. John Travolta's pervasive sexuality had already been evident in a supporting role in "Carrie." But the pulsating rhythm of "Saturday Night Fever" brought out a sheer animal magnetism that has already made his walk an instant screen legend. "He's the street Tyrone Power,'" says "Grease" producer Allan Carr. Lily Tomlin, co-star in his next rnovie, "Moment to Mornent," is more direct. "He's so sexy you fall in love with him a little," she sighs.
No doubt the Travolta magic will endure: but the Stigwood multi-media marketing trick should be viewed in the context of an incredible Hollywood boom. All the big studios 'are reporting record profits. Columbia's are up 72 percent for the first quarter of 1978, and MCA revenues rose from 19& million dollars te 236 million in the same period.
Part of the trick has been to put maximum effort into a few big movies with easily marketed escapist themes capable of generating massive sales in by-products such as toys, games, T-shirts, posters, ana records. There's a whole new jargon to go with the super-selling, A, blockbuster is now a "major-major," a movie is a "movieemovie," and the ability to generate byyproduct sales is called "synergy."
The Irish cinema trade is getting a generous share of the gravy. Even a small movie like "Annie Hall" took over £100,000 here. "The Revenge of the Pink Panther" is averaging £17,000 a week at the Savoy.
But there is danger in the euphoria. The big studios, concentrating on "MajorrMajors," have cut back overall production by '40 percent, starting only twelve pictures in the first quarter of 1978 compared with 22 in 1976: Between them they managed to produce a mere 75 movies in 1977. Few are bothering about the small features which traditionally' bring on new talent. .
If the bubble bursts - and the flop of one major-major like "Superman," 'for which Brando received a million dollars a minute, could start the panic-will Hollywood have anything left to fall back on?