Preholiday rush causes bottleneck at box office

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A traffic jam of wide-release movies are debuting this month to avoid the rush of holiday season November/December movies.

As a result, 11 movies on at least 1,000 to 1,500 screens will compete for box office dollars-and many will go wanting. "You are going to have a tremendous amount of product," said a movie-marketing executive. "Some of these films are not going to make it."

The mixed batch includes MGM Distribution Co.'s "Bandits," Touchstone Pictures' "Corky Romano," Miramax Films' "Iron Monkey," Universal Focus' "Mullholland Drive," New Line Cinema's "Bones," Fox Filmed Entertainment's "From Hell," Miramax's "On the Line," Columbia Pictures' "Riding in Cars With Boys," DreamWorks Pictures' "The Last Castle," Universal's "K-Pax" and Warner Bros.' "13 Ghosts."

This follows four wide-release movies opening this past weekend: Fox's "Joy Ride," Walt Disney Pictures' "Max Keeble's Big Movie," Miramax's "Serendipity," and Warner's "Training Day." One, "Training Day," has already taken a lot of box office money out of the market, and should continue to do so, according to marketing executives.

Due to the events around Sept. 11, some movies, including "Training Day," were moved to avoid expected low movie attendance. The logjam is also due to a rush of movies put into production last year due to an impending actors' strike.

Some of the notable October movies:

"Riding in Cars with Boys," is marketed around Drew Barrymore. The film follows a woman's experience over 20 years. One marketing analyst said that according to National Research Group, a movie industry research company, the film is expected to yield a big young female audience, which is Ms. Barrymore's core demographic.

"K-Pax" is a feel-good movie featuring Kevin Spacey, who plays a mysterious patient at a mental hospital who claims to be from a distant planet called K-Pax. "It's tricky to advertise this sometimes," said John Jacobs, veteran movie marketing consultant. "The advertising can only present the premise of the movie. When you miss with a movie like this, the press calls it manipulative-too much of a tearjerker. The audience is trained to wait to see what the press says."

"The Last Castle," featuring Robert Redford and James Gandolfini, is about a general who has been court-martialed and sentenced to a maximum security military prison.

Studio marketing on the movie focuses more on the story line than on the big-name actors. "They are not selling anyone's faces," said one marketing executive. "Redford is not an asset, but not a liability. If you say Brad Pitt is in a movie, you don't need to see a picture of him."

Already, the studio releasing "Last Castle," Dreamworks Pictures, has changed some of its advertising following the terrorist attacks. The film's outdoor advertising used one scene from the movie showing an American flag hung upside down. To some, this would have seemed unpatriotic and may have kept audiences away.

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