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Local historian says box office flop can still make money

April 17, 2003|by LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

Seven weeks after it opened, "Gods and Generals" has grossed $12.8 million, a fraction of what the movie cost.

The Civil War epic filmed largely in Washington County debuted Feb. 21 in 1,500 theaters nationwide, according to Box Office Mojo, which tracks movie turnout.

As of Tuesday, it was still showing in 19 theaters, none of them in the Tri-State area.

Ted Turner Pictures spent nearly $90 million making and promoting the movie that has grossed $12.8 million so far.

As a comparison, "Anger Management" starring Jack Nicholson and Adam Sandler made $42 million when it opened last weekend, according to Box Office Mojo.

Associate producer and local historian Dennis Frye said moviemakers are counting on sales of the movie soundtrack, book and DVDs to make more money.

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"Box office is one of numerous revenue generators they've had in mind for 'Gods and Generals' from the start. Not everything depends on the box office outcome," Frye said.

A DVD of the three-and-a-half hour movie is scheduled to come out this summer and the longer director's cut of the movie will be released next year, he said.

"Gods and Generals," which follows the life of Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson through the early years of the war, was the prequel to Ronald Maxwell's 1993 "Gettysburg."

Turner has already purchased the rights to make the last movie in the trilogy, "Last Full Measure."

Frye said he is no expert in the movie industry but the low turnout at the box office might have been due to the fact that it did not appeal to the 18-to-22 age group that most Hollywood movies are directed toward.

"Gods and Generals is a Hollywood anomaly in that it has no sex, no gratuitous violence and virtually no cursing," Frye said. "It doesn't cater to an audience conditioned to the four-letter word."

Much of the filming was done in Washington County, although producers also used sites in Virginia and West Virginia.

Washington County was selected for the movie in part because it is in the heart of Civil War country and home to the Battle of Antietam.

Production crews used office space in Williamsport and mapped out an intensive film schedule that ran from late August to mid-December 2001.

Three Civil War battles are included in the film: First Manassas (or First Bull Run, as it is also known), Chancellorsville and Fredericksburg.

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