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Summer formula flops
- Special effects extravaganzas fail to sizzle, Indian American director scores

Los Angeles, Aug. 8 (Reuters): In any other summer, The Island and Stealth might have struck box office gold because they represent the kind of fare that has come to define the lucrative moviegoing season.

DreamWorks’ The Island is an explosive, Michael Bay-directed sci-fi adventure, and Sony’s Stealth offers sexy young leads in a soaring special effects extravaganza armed with the latest in computer technology.

Nevertheless, both films hit turbulence right out of the gate. The Island opened three weekends ago to a disappointing $12.4 million; this weekend it pulled in just $3.1 million for an estimated gross to date of $30.9 million. Stealth, which opened last weekend to $13.3 million has pulled in an estimated $24.5 million so far.

Hollywood is wondering just what, precisely, is going wrong ' not just with The Island and Stealth but with the whole high-octane action/adventure/sci-fi genre to which they belong.

“The scariest part (of these past few weeks) is that usually you can rely on there being a hit every week of the summer or at least every week in July,” Sony Pictures Entertainment vice chairman Jeff Blake said.

“The biggest concern in the industry is two out of four weeks in our best month, there were no major openings. Clearly Stealth did share a lot of the same problems that The Island did. It just seemed that both were typical summer action fare that did not seem to resonate at all.”

Bay’s The Island, co-produced by DreamWorks and Warner Bros. Pictures, opened to the lowest gross ever for the filmmaker behind Armageddon and Pearl Harbor. And director Rob Cohen, after hitting it big with The Fast and the Furious and XXX, failed to get liftoff with Stealth.

In addition to their high-profile directors, both films featured state-of-the-art visual effects and splashy marketing campaigns. With budgets for both in the $120-million range, little was compromised in an effort to wow audiences.

Both films were based on original screenplays, and, in retrospect, that might have been a handicap because neither was developed from such promotable franchise properties as Warners’ Batman Begins and 20th Century Fox’s Fantastic Four. And neither boasted a mammoth concept coupled with a global celebrity and star, as was the case with Paramount Pictures/DreamWorks’ War of the Worlds, starring Tom Cruise and directed by Steven Spielberg.

Said one studio marketer: “I think today (a movie) needs to feel original and unique, not just original. Audiences are making a distinction between new and unique, rather than new and still-feels-like-a- rehash.”

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