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Killer Box-Office

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Box office can kill, people. If the cash isn't percolating, it can kill quicker than Freddy Krueger, the dream invader with claws who put New Line Cinema on the map with the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise nearly 25 years ago. I bring up New Line because after forty years, one of the most adventurous studios in play-it-safe Hollywood has just been absorbed into the Warner Bros. mothership as a cost-cutting move. When the high-priced floperoo of The Golden Compass proved that the studio couldn't pull off another Lord of the Rings bonanza without Peter Jackson, the writing was on wall. Now lots of good people are out of work, including founders Robert Shaye and Michael Lynne. My fondest memories of New Line stem back to its beginnings, reviving Reefer Madness, dishing out the dirty fun of John Waters, the dishy horror of The Evil Dead, franchise hits from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre to Austin Powers. Sure, New Line grinded out its fair share of crap. most recently Snakes On a Plane, Mr. Woodcock, Rendition, Over Her Dead Body and the aforementioned Golden Compass.

But it was also there for risky films, such as Sid and Nancy, The Player, Seven, Boogie Nights, Magnolia, American History X, Glengarry Glen Ross, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, A History of Violence and Little Children. That kind of ballsiness will be missed and we're not going to get it back easily.

The irony is that New Line Cinema goes out this week with the No. 1 box-office winner: Semi-Pro. But the numbers crunchers tell us even that's not a big deal. The $15.3 million Semi-Pro took in is $10 million below box-office expectations and below the opening grosses of other Will Ferrell comedies such as Talladega Nights, Blades of Glory and — god help us — even Kicking and Screaming and Bewitched. Of course, lousy reviews and a R-rated didn't help either. But the media is having fun kicking a studio while its down.

I'd rather kick that garbage — Vantage Point, Jumper, Fool's Gold — is still collecting big at the box-office. But you've already heard me do that.

Women are credited with the solid grosses for The Other Boleyn Girl, based on the chick-lit bestseller. The audience was 72 percent female with 66 percent under age 35.

Good News: No Country for Old Men benefited from its Oscar win as Best Picture, upped its business 66 percent and has now grossed $70 million and counting. All is not lost.

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ABOUT THIS BLOG

Peter Travers

Rolling Stone senior writer Peter Travers has reviewed movies for the magazine for more than 20 years. Send your comments and questions to him here.

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