The Philadelphia Inquirer from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on June 22, 1998 · Page 25
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The Philadelphia Inquirer from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania · Page 25

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Monday, June 22, 1998
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Page 25
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3Utc IPfiilaMpfiia Inquirer Music Frenzied audience rapped along with DMX at Dell East Friday. C7. . 1 4 Zfaz Scaggs, Stevie Nicks) J at the E-Centre. C9. Daytime TV Grids C9 . . Night-Owl TV Grid , C9 .' 7 Prime-Time TV Grid C8 Lifestyle &7& Entertainment Radio , C9J Soap Synopsis Cd ' C5 Monday, June 22, 1998 Philadelphia Online: http:www philtynews.comi w 4 s Dili'-- i mm ff c a V For four years readers have been poking into "the Garden of Good and Evil." John Berendt's steamy "cult book" has been a best-seller for 205 weeks, has been made into a movie, and has fertilized the Savannah tourism industry. 1 marathon 71 Hype overkill? It all depends on movie's quality By Steven Rea INQUIRER MOVIE CRITIC Remember Godzilla! A mere few weeks ago, the $125 million extravaganza about the giant radioactive lizard that thwomps its way across the Big Apple was everywhere. There were the record-breaking 7,363 Godzifa-dedicated screens. There was the $50 million "Size Does Matter" marketing campaign. There were billboards, mass-transit ads ("Godzilla's foot is longer than this bus"), the Taco Bell chihuahua quaking in fear on all those TV spots, and 250 toy gamegizmoapparel licensees poised to cash in. And there were newspapers this one included plus magazines, Web 7 1 V f 1 5 M.tCii Classv filrrK s'tes' in0,a'nment news re- irlddsj Minis, norters and real news re- By Leonard W. Boasberg INQUIRER STAFF WRITER t keeps going and going. No, it's not the Energizer Bunny. It's a book. It's a phenome- . non. It's the mother of all hard Hollywood r porters jumping on the Godzilla bandwagon, profiling its stars (Matthew Broder-ick, Hank Azaria and someone named Maria Pitillo) and recording every word its writer-director-producer team, Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin, had to say. And then people went to see the movie. knows, can be marketed with grace. Others require a blitz of gimmicks. t j ' A fc"r kkti !W 9 6 A Fueled by the megahype a marketing campaign to beat all other marketing campaigns Godzilla enjoyed the third-biggest Memorial Day weekend in box-office history, $55.5 million. But the next weekend, the Sony Pictures release suffered a precipitous 59 percent drop in sales. As of this writing, Godzilla has eked out $128 million, barely more than its production costs. By industry estimates, the film needs to make $240 million domestically to be deemed a success, and that isn't going to happen. Toy sales? Forget about it. Teletubbies are outselling Godzilla by 3 to 1. Of course, once you factor in overseas business, TV (NBC will pay around $25 million for broadcast rights), and home-video sales, the movie's a moneymaker. But that doesn't change the fact that after the first wave of ticket buyers stormed the multiplexes, the word was out: No story, no characters, and the behemoth green reptile looks like, well, a behemoth green reptile. Yawn. Call it Dogzilla. ;"To many, Godzilla has become the ultimate example of a marketing campaign in search of a movie," opined Peter Bart, editor of Variety, in an open letter to Emmerich and Devlin. "The movie was seemingly made, not to entertain audiences, but to help sell tacos and T-shirts While we all know that summer movies are exercises in hype, the Godzilla campaign seemed so over-the-top as to become self-parody. For the first time, marketing men throughout the industry were asking, 'How much is too much?' At what point does the hype reach such a hieh decibel level that it turns cover nonfiction best-sellers. It's Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, John Berendt's steamy tale of sex and murder nonfiction that reads like a novel, a travel book, a personal memoir and a juicy murder mystery. Random House published it in the spring of 1994 with a first printing of a mere 25,000 copies. But within a few months, Midnighi in the Garden of Good and Evil had become what one writer called a "cult book," the kind people tell their friends about, and they tell their friends, and so on. It has now chalked up the amazing running total of 95 printings, with more than 2.5 million copies sold. It's been translated into 20 languages, including Chinese, Japanese, Estonian and Turkish. A Literary Guild selection, it has been on the New York Times hardcover nonfiction best-seller list for an astonishing 205 weeks, way past the previous record of 180 weeks set by A Light in the Attic, Shel Silver-stein's 1981 collection of humor poems and drawings. By 1997, three years after it came out, it was the third-best-selling nonfiction book of chain-book dealer Barnes & Noble, behind the No. 1 Angela's Ashes, Frank McCourt's reminiscences of his poverty-stricken Irish childhood, and Simple Abundance, the how-to-simplify-your-life book by Sarah Ban Breathnach. Midnight lasted 168 weeks on Publishers Weekly's hard-cover bestseller (fiction and nonfiction) list, nosing out The Bridges of Madison County by seven weeks. The one book to exceed Midnight's score on both lists is John Gray's Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus 229 weeks on Publishers Weekly's, 219 weeks on the New York Times' but Mars-Venus comes under the heading of "advice, how to and miscellaneous." The only advice you get out of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil is that Savannah, Ga., where the story is set, ought to be a fascinating See "GARDEN" on C6 the public against the very movie it's X r supposed to promote?" 1 n ! -.TV I- ' i Then again, some marketing men and marketing women, too were gazing awestruck at the nifty trick Sony had pulled off. It turns out that once the company's top guns were finally able to see what Emmerich and Devlin, the makers of the vastly more fun Independence Day, had wrought, they decided to See HYPE on C12 Associated Press CHARLES SLAtE Mercer House, in Savannah, Ga., became famous as a site of import in the Southern mystery. It was owned by the antiques dealer tried four times in the slaying central to the story. "Rent,"wtrA (from left) Christian 1 : ISa On Theater By Douglas J. Keating 'Rent' a smash even in summer Anderson, C.C. Brown and Manley Pope, 7 will be at the Merriam for 11 weeks, starting July 8. Rent would be it for several reasons. The local appearance of the much-publicized musical, which has been playing to sold-out houses on Broadway since it opened in April 1996, has been eagerly anticipated. People must have been waiting for the tour to arrive: $500,615 crossed the box office the first day tickets went on sale, a single-day record for a Merriam Theater show. With its rock-tinged score, its youthful cast of talented newcom- See DOUGLAS J. KEATING on C12 the footlights. Opening at the Mer-riam Theater on July 8 and running through the very heart of the theatrical doldrums to Sept. 27, the show has already sold nearly S3 million worth of tickets. "We're not at all worried about the 11 weeks of the engagement. We're very excited," said Kevin McCollum, a producer of the musical. A case can be made that if any show were to overcome Philadel-H phia's summer non-theater habit, Traditional wisdom dictates you don't do theater in Philadelphia in the summer. People go to the Shore, they go to the Poconos, this thinking holds, but not enough are interested in attending July and August theater in Center City to make a production financially worthwhile. This summer the touring company of Rent steps up to challenge this shibboleth, and judging from the musical's advanced sale, it has a good chance of knocking it across

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