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Video, DVD sales redeem movie

December 01, 2003|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

"Savage" movie reviews scared theatergoers away from the Civil War movie "Gods and Generals," but sales of the 31/2-hour movie on video and DVD have exceeded studio expectations, Director Ron Maxwell said this month.

"The politically correct critics could keep the fans out of the movies, but they can't keep them out of Wal-Mart," Maxwell said.

He said more than 1 million copies of the movie, some of which was filmed in the area, have been sold internationally on video and DVD. He did not provide exact figures.

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"They have been selling very well," said Joe Mix, manager of Borders Books Music & Cafe in Hagerstown. The company will not give out exact sales numbers, he said.

Sales have picked up in recent weeks as people buy the movie as gifts for friends and relatives who were extras in the movie, he said.

Maxwell said there are two reasons why he thinks the movie is faring better for home viewing than it did in theaters.

People who buy movies are less influenced by the opinions and reviews of movie critics than those who go to the theater, he said.

And, he said, it is easier for families today to watch a movie at home than to go to theaters, especially when the film is a long one.

Maxwell said he knew before the movie was released that some people never would go to a theater to watch a movie that was longer than two hours.

A longer version of the movie will be released on DVD this summer. The 51/2-hour version of the movie will include an hour on the Battle of Antietam, which should satisfy local residents who were disappointed that Antietam was cut from the released version, he said.

The video and DVD includes the box-office version of the movie plus an introduction by Ted Turner, footage on the making of the movie, two music videos and historical commentary.

A soundtrack and video game also are selling well, Maxwell said.

Maxwell said he knew the movie wasn't perfect, but was surprised by the "backlash" against it.

"I do not for a minute think the film is beyond criticism. Some of the criticism is valid. That is not the issue," he said. "The criticism was vicious."

"I have read most of the reviews. Most of them were informed by a gross ignorance of the Civil War," he said.

Ted Turner Pictures spent nearly $90 million on the production and promotion of "Gods and Generals," but the movie grossed just $12.9 million domestically, according to Box Office Mojo's Web site. Nationally, most movie critics panned it.

A related project will go forward despite the poor box office showing, he said.

Turner optioned the film rights to the novel "Last Full Measure" in November 2001 and the screenplay is being written, Maxwell said.

The novel is the sequel to Michael Shaara's "The Killer Angels," which was the basis for the 1993 film "Gettysburg," which Maxwell also directed.

"Gods and Generals" is a prequel to "Gettysburg."

"The only way the 'Last Full Measure' will not be made is if Ted Turner or Ron Maxwell dies. He is committed to it and I am committed to it," Maxwell said.

The movie's title may differ from that of the novel because another movie called "The Last Full Measure" is being made, he said.

According to Movies.com, the film is about a Washington, D.C., insider who goes out on a limb to ensure that an airman receives the Medal of Honor.

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