The new horror film "Halloween: H20" isn't out yet, but already people are running scared.
Not in theater aisles, mind you. It's the people at competing movie studios who are panicking as they rearrange their late summer release schedules around the sixth sequel to John Carpenter's 1978 classic. ("Halloween: H20" refers to the film's 20th anniversary.)The "buzz" is especially good on the movie, which brings back actress Jamie Lee Curtis (reprising her role as Laurie Strode) to oppose masked killer Michael Myers (aka The Shape). And officials at Dimension Films think they might have a "Scream"-like phenomenon on their hands.
Judging from their reaction to the film's new Aug. 5 release date (moved up from the fall), other studio heads feel the same way.
MGM has pushed up the release of its Gen-X thriller "Disturbing Behavior" to July 24, two weeks earlier than originally planned. Universal has pulled the science-fiction thriller "Virus" (originally scheduled for Aug. 14) from its 1998 movie calendar altogether.
And both Warner Bros., which has "The Negotiator" tentatively scheduled for July 31, and Paramount, which has "Snake Eyes" penciled in for Aug. 7, are now eyeing new release dates.
This kind of competition paranoia isn't anything new. But whether it's justified is another matter.
Remember, the studios reacted this way to the releases of "Godzilla" and "Armageddon" earlier this summer. And we all know how that turned out.
- BUG WARS: Actually, it's shaping up to be an ugly latter half of the year with respect to theatrical release dates.
Besides the "Halloween" scare, there's a nasty rivalry brewing between Disney and Dreamworks, which have similarly themed animated films coming out in late 1998.
Dreamworks recently announced that it is moving up the release of "Antz," a computer-animated comedy about an army of insects living in New York's Central Park, from next March to Oct. 2 - at least if Pacific Data Images can finish the animation in time.
Officials at Dreamworks are planning to leapfrog over Disney, which has a Pixar comedy about more peaceful insects, "A Bug's Life," scheduled for a Nov. 20 date. And it's been rumored that the studio is pushing Pixar to get the animation for "A Bug's Life" done early so it can move the film up.
Both studios are obviously jockeying for position in the fall and early winter, where there are no other animated or kids' features programmed so far.
And the war between the two studios may get even more bitter this winter, when Dreamworks releases "Prince of Egypt," an animated retelling of "The Ten Commandments."
Dreamworks founder Jeffrey Katzenberg has made it a priority to challenge Disney in the lucrative animated film market. Katzenberg was a studio chief with Disney when the studio made "Aladdin" and "The Lion King," so this could be considered a personal challenge.
- TRY TO IMAGINE HIS REACTION TO STICKY FLOORS: A 43-year-old man in Bellevue, Neb., was arrested recently after he ripped off his pants and threw a temper tantrum in the middle of a crowded movie theater.
According to local police officials, the man had just settled down into a theater seat when he discovered that he had sat on a wad of gum. The irate 380-pounder then removed his trousers and started calling for the manager.
When that didn't work, he walked into the lobby and yelled at clerks or anyone else within earshot, still holding his gum-damaged pants. He then proceeded to punch out a glass poster display case.
Officers arrived quickly and took the man into custody. He has been charged with disturbing the peace and criminal mischief.
The identity of the movie that was playing in the theater at the time of the incident hasn't been disclosed.
- IRONIC QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "I hope they run out of disasters. I'm not a big fan of disaster movies - I like good stories. `Twister' to me is a perfect example of a disaster film that's not a great story. But Hollywood has a tendency to copy success, and when ("Twister") succeeded and then `Independence Day' was such a huge hit, they're going to try to duplicate it." - Scott Ross, president of Digital Domain, the California company that produces computer-imagery special effects for many of today's block-busters.