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Director Calls 'Island' Opening Haul 'a Debacle'

California

July 26, 2005|Chris Lee | Special to The Times

Anticipating that the heat would be on in Hollywood this weekend, "The Island" director Michael Bay slipped away -- to sweltering Arizona.

"I didn't hear the numbers all weekend," he said. "I relaxed, called my agent Sunday and said, 'Give me the bad news.' "

When he heard the film finished in fourth place with $12.4 million, it was clear: "It's a debacle, it's my worst opening weekend ever," Bay said.

This summer's box-office doldrums has claimed numerous victims: "Rebound," "Lords of Dogtown," and the bigger budget films "Cinderella Man" and "Kingdom of Heaven." Now moviegoers have crowned the biggest opening belly-flop so far: Bay's "Island."

Paul Degarabedian, president of Exhibitor Relations Co., said the film's opening comes as a major disappointment for distributor DreamWorks SKG.

"There's a lot riding on a tent pole movie like that," he said.

Bay bemoaned that the movie had low awareness. Even before it opened, he had sharp words for the marketing campaign, complaining in a Times interview that the effort wasn't generating interest and that a poster made costar Scarlett Johansson look like "a porn star."

DreamWorks marketing executive Mike Vollman said the studio mounted its biggest-ever print, online and broadcast marketing campaign for "The Island," an effort that included five trailers, a screening campaign, three websites and numerous Internet ads.

Bay cited other possible factors for the movie, which stars Ewan McGregor and Johannson as clones.

"It could be the subject matter, the lack of stars," he said. "I'm not blaming the whole thing on the marketers."

The opening for the $124-million film means "The Island" grossed just 10% of its production budget -- placing it ahead of "Cinderella Man" and "Kingdom of Heaven" as the most expensive dud of the summer so far.

Bay's previous five films opened at No. 1, grossing $1.7 billion combined worldwide, according to Boxofficemojo.com.

"Everyone from [Steven] Spielberg to [Robert] Zemeckis to [Stanley] Kubrick -- they've all had big flops," he said. "I was five for five. You know it's going to happen."

"It hurts," Bay added. "It's always the director's fault."

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