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Does character count for anything at the box office?

November 18, 2002|Robert W. Welkos

Producer Marc Abraham believes there couldn't be a more appropriate time for the release of his new prep school drama, "The Emperor's Club."

In the film, which Universal Pictures will release Friday), Kevin Kline portrays a highly principled classics professor who discovers that his rebellious new student -- the son of a U.S. senator -- has cheated on a major exam.

A quarter century later, there are ramifications.

Abraham, who co-produced the Michael Hoffman-directed film with Andrew Karsch, said that with corporate scandals involving Enron, Tyco, WorldCom and Adelphia roiling Wall Street, the message of this film will strike a chord with audiences. That message: Character counts, and the seeds of deceit can be sown years before executives ascend the corporate ladder.

What the film doesn't do, he points out, is wrap up the plot in a tidy package by the ending credits. "What it says is, 'Justice doesn't always prevail,' " he said.

The challenge for the studio is getting people into the seats. While the film, rated PG-13, is expected to register with moviegoers ages 27 and up, a major hurdle is attracting younger audiences, who are much more inclined to see rapper Eminem's new film, "8 Mile," or the action-packed James Bond movie, "Die Another Day," which opens on the same day as "Emperor's Club."

But Abraham isn't expecting "The Emperor's Club" to rack up blockbuster numbers. Nor does it need to. "When you make a movie for $12 million," he said, "you don't have to have a giant opening."

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