Last night I finally read Patrick Goldstein‘s 8.12 story about Warner honcho Alan Horn‘s lack of interest in releasing anything but tentpolers, and particularly his willingness to sell off three mid-range Warner Bros. films — Gavin O’Connor‘s Pride and Glory, Danny Boyle‘s Slumdog Millionaire and Guy Ritchie‘s RocknRolla. As Goldstein put it, Horn is “open to offers” as far as Pride and Glory is concerned.
I haven’t seen the Boyle or the Ritchie, but I saw and raved about O’Connor’s film after catching it last April, and now, several months months after New Line’s Bob Shaye pulled the plug on its March 2008 release and bumped it into 2009, and a few subsequent months after Warner Bros., the inheritor of New Line’s slate after New Line became a WB subsidiary last February, said it would open Pride and Glory on 10.24.08, another big cheese is talking about pushing it aside. Again.
As Ned Beatty‘s character says in the third act of Deliverance, “My God…there’s no end to it.”
I’m not predicting that Pride and Glory is going to set the box-office on fire when and if it opens on 10.24. I do know that as high-velocity moralistic family crime dramas go, it’s way above average and in no way a burn.
As I wrote last April, Pride and Glory is “wild and manic and surging with energy and sometimes mad as a loon (but rightly so, given the dirty-borough-cops storyline), and it really left me open-mouthed at times. If you’re a distributor, you don’t yank movies like this. You need to show some moxie and push them as best you can because quality wills out, damn it, and demands a day in the sun.”
I realize that Pride and Glory is still slated to open on 10.24 and good for that, but Horn said what he said and that’s what I’m responding to.
In the same way that historian Ronnie Dugger once said that he just knew back in the ’60s there was something fundamentally wrong about the Vietnam war — about “a huge industrial power going in and crushing a small agrarian nation” — I’m dealing with a similar voice saying that it’s just fundamentally wrong on a deep-down level for a company like Warner Bros. — ostensibly in the business of providing gripping entertainment for the paying public — to talk about blowing off a film as good as Pride and Glory because, in the view of management, it won’t make box-office history.
Horn is right — it won’t. But it’s a good film that deserves to be put out there. Not because it’s a cash cow but because you don’t throw away movies of quality any more than a farmer fails to water his crops or feed his livestock. Not releasing Pride and Glory would make things a little easier for those working for Warner Bros. distribution, yes, but there are actions one can take in life that are spiritually honorable and spiritually dishonorable, and this is one of the latter.
Do this, Mr. Horn, and the ghosts of Hollywood past — ethereal remnants of those people who built this town into a formidable cultural force by putting out movies that fit into the idea that theatres are chuches — will forever wince at the mention of your name. Plus the Movie Gods will darken your karma for many moons to come.
I realize, of course, that Warner Bros. has been trying to extricate itself from the “movie business” for a long while and is trying to get itself more and more in the event movie or tentpole business yaddah yaddah, but even with this barren agenda a top WB honcho talking about a willingness to sell off O’Connor’s film — particularly after all the prolonged grief and political maneuvering he was forced to go through with New Line earlier this year — is some kind of dereliction of duty. Movies have souls and so do audiences, and theatres are churches.