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Fall movies undergo changes

Warner Brothers has put an indefinite hold on "Collateral Damage."  

By Paul Vercammen
Showbiz Today Reports

LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- Hollywood's movie studios have pulled several films in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks, triggering a chain reaction of movie release date changes in the fall and winter schedule.

"I think it will be a while before audiences are really excited about seeing movies related to, let's say, terrorism, or battling terrorism," says Paul Dergarabedian, president of the box office research group Exhibitor Relations.

Walt Disney Studios shelved Tim Allen's "Big Trouble" due to a scene depicting a bomb in a brief case carried onto a plane. No new release date has been announced.

Disney also postponed the December release of "Bad Company," an action comedy involving a CIA agent, starring Anthony Hopkins and Chris Rock.

Warner Brothers has put an indefinite hold on "Collateral Damage," with Arnold Schwarzenegger as a firefighter who witnesses a terrorist attack on a skyscraper -- then pushed back the release of Denzel Washington's "Training Day" two weeks, to October 5, placing it in the spot vacated by "Collateral Damage."

Dozens of movies have made similar opening-weekend switches, some simply delaying a week or two to literally buy more time -- commercial air time on television and radio to promote movies.

Countless advertising seconds disappeared immediately after the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, as network and cable television networks yanked commercials and covered the breaking news.

"It's very hard to open a movie," Martin Grove, the box office analyst for the trade publication The Hollywood Reporter, points out.

"As a result you may see studios open fewer movies in the coming weeks, just because it's very difficult to market them."

Staying put

Tim Allen's "Big Trouble" has been shelved by Walt Disney Studios due to a scene depicting a bomb  

It may also be very difficult to make them outside Southern California.

Hollywood's struggle to keep productions from running away with millions of dollars to other states and countries has taken a dramatic turn because members of the showbiz community are now reluctant to travel.

"I do think you are going to find a lot of actors who say find me a movie that's set in America," says producer David Friendly.

"Because they are, above all else, human beings. They want to be near their families. No one wants to be in a foreign land if another attack does occur.

"If an A-list movie star says he doesn't want to make a movie outside the country, then that movie is probably not going to get made outside the country."

Coping with troubled times

Friendly, who produced "Big Mama's House," "Doctor Dolittle," and "Courage Under Fire," also believes Americans will be clamoring for more comedy and feel-good films.

"What I don't think you are going to see is a mirror image of what happened in New York (two) weeks ago," Friendly added. "That was a situation where the reality was much more disturbing, shocking and frightening than anything Hollywood could conjure up and that's rare."

"I think in troubled times, we're going to see the same genre that worked during the depression -- comedy," argues Grove. "People need to escape, they need to laugh, they need to forget the grim realities of the world. Comedies are going to become king at the box office."

But comedic elements don't make films immune from alterations following the attacks in New York and Washington.

Paramount Classics shoved back its release "Sidewalks of New York" two months later because the film is set in Manhattan.

Shots of the World Trade Towers have been edited out of "Zoolander," which debuts Friday.

The ending of the sequel to "Men in Black" featured the twin towers and is being re-written.

The attacks on America are also forcing adjustments in the marketing of movies. A commercial for "Spiderman" showing the World Trade Center has been pulled. There is no such scene in the film, incidentally.

DreamWorks removed posters for the upcoming Robert Redford movie "The Last Castle" that showed an American flag flying upside down.

It's an interesting twist. Hollywood, so often accused of immorality and bad taste by critics and politicians, is trying to show it can edit out the inappropriate -- and insert sensitivity in trying times.


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