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November 6, 2001

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DreamWorks' Castle Crumbles

Arthur J Pais

A still from The Last Castle When the big budgeted The Last Castle opened 10 days ago, Hollywood pundits expected it to be a hit.

The patriotic mood across the country, the experts believed, would translate into box-office gold, even though lead player Robert Redford was no longer a box-office king.

But The Last Castle which was made for about $ 70 million, earned a meagre $ 7 million in its opening week. This weekend, the reviews caused a fall of about 50 percent in collections. The film is expected to shut down with $ 20 million with bleak prospects of solid business abroad. This could mean a $ 50 million loss for Steven Spielberg's DreamWorks studio.

The Last Castle revolves around a three-star General Irwin (Robert Redford) who is stripped of his rank and put into a maximum security military prison. The correction facility is run with an iron fist by its warden, Colonel Winter (James Gandolfini).

Though Winter grudgingly respects the once-legendary general initially, he soon gets to hate Irwin as the latter confronts the warden's unethical and often humiliating methods. Irwin makes his mission to forge unity between other prisoners and goad them into rebelling against the evil warden.

The film-going public which generally does not follow the reviews, agreed with the critics for a change and refused to salute The Last Castle.

The Last Castle refused to pick up business even as several films opened to strong business this week and the $ 63 million three-day gross for Monsters, Inc proved that people would leave behind their worries and fears to embrace a solidly-made fast-faced movie. Even the established hits continue to do excellent business. The gritty but pulsating police drama, Training Day which has arrested about $ 79 million, is expected to end its run with a solid $ 85 million.

The expectations for Behind Enemy Lines are so strong that Fox decided to open the film on November 30 instead of January 18 as decided earlier.

By November 30 the much anticipated Harry Potter film would be in its third week, and Monsters, Inc which would have made at least $ 150 million, would be in its fifth week.

A still from The Last Castle The influential trade publication, Variety said Fox has received some of the highest scores for Behind Enemy Lines from test audiences in the studio's history.

The $ 80 million film tells the story of a naval aviator who is shot down over enemy territory. The injured flyboy's commanding officer (Gene Hackman) decides on a renegade rescue mission to save the soldier.

In addition to the tests, the "trailer has been playing to cheers and applause across the nation," Bruce Snyder, Fox's domestic distribution president, told Variety.

"We realised that Behind Enemy Lines would be the perfect kick-off for the Christmas movie season," he said.

Hollywood experts who are embarrassed that their $ 14-16 million prediction for The Last Castle was a casualty at the box-office, however, feel more strongly for Behind Enemy Lines. The new movie could have a $ 30 million opening is the general consensus.

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