- The Washington Times - Monday, April 9, 2007

A ‘Grindhouse’ divided

Studio heads will attempt to salvage the wreckage of “Grindhouse” following last weekend’s box office flop of the highly anticipated film by redistributing the Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez project as two separate movies, Reuters news agency reports.

The three-and-a-quarter hour film — a package of two movies honoring the low-budget horror movies of the 1970s — opened at No. 4 with three-day ticket sales of just $11.6 million, distributor Dimension Films said. Box office forecasters had expected it to hit the $20 million level.

“Are we disappointed about the gross?” studio co-chairman Harvey Weinstein told Reuters. “I’d be lying to you if I said I wasn’t. I am disappointed.”

The $53 million project consists of Mr. Rodriguez’s zombie thriller “Planet Terror” and Mr. Tarantino’s slasher picture “Death Proof,” complemented by ersatz trailers and scratchy prints that give a period feel to the undertaking. Critics raved, but moviegoers were apparently underwhelmed.

“What Robert and Quentin did was a very noble attempt to re-educate American cinema-goers as to what’s good and what was great about seeing those old double bills,” Mr. Weinstein said. “They tried, and the story’s not written in one week when you do something this bold.”

The movies will be released individually overseas, beginning May 31, and Mr. Weinstein said “it’s certainly something we could consider” for North American moviegoers, although there are no current plans for such a reissue.

New project for Leo

Oscar-nominee Leonardo DiCaprio (“Blood Diamond”) is in talks to star in a new drama about a CIA agent hunting for a top al Qaeda leader, Agence France-Presse reports.

British filmmaker Ridley Scott (“Gladiator,” “Blade Runner”) will direct the film, a movie adaptation of David Ignatius’ novel “Body of Lies,” and Oscar-winning screenwriter William Monahan (“The Departed”) will pen the script, Variety reports.

Hayek, MGM ink pact

Salma Hayek and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. yesterday announced plans to form a film company specializing in Latino movies appealing to wider, mainstream audiences.

According to Reuters, the company, Ventanazul, will be housed at MGM and be a partnership between the Hollywood film and television studio and Miss Hayek, an Oscar nominee for her movie “Frida” — the 2002 film about Mexican artist Frida Kahlo — and producer of the ABC hit “Ugly Betty.” Financial terms were not disclosed.

Miss Hayek will serve as president and chief executive officer of Ventanazul, and her producing partner, Jose Tamez, will be president of production.

Ventanazul plans to make or acquire independent movies, and hopes to distribute two to four films a year that draw on Latin themes, feature Latino or Latina actors and cross over to mainstream audiences for broad box office appeal.

“We want these movies to appeal to everyone, but we also hope to make Latino audiences proud,” Miss Hayek said.

Compiled by Robyn-Denise Yourse from Web and wire reports

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