Sunday, June 21, 2015

Why does Disney hate Bette Midler?

Splash was probably Disney's first adult film, certainly the first one to be a hit.  In 1984, Disney's Touchstone Pictures took off with this Daryl Hannah hit but it was another performer who would go on to become Touchstone's biggest star:  Bette Midler.


In 1985, she signed a non-exclusive contract with Touchstone and kicked the deal off with 1986's Down and Out in Beverly Hills.  This hit was followed by the hits Ruthless People, Outrageous Fortune, Big Business and Beaches.

Beaches actually was a blockbuster and an evergreen -- in the home video business an evergreen is a film that constantly provides fees from rentals and purchases.

But those films, spread out loosely over five years, were all box office hits in real time.

Bette would make other live action films for Disney including her final one, 1993's cult classic Hocus Pocus.  Jeffrey Katzenberg was the executive she worked with and he left Disney in 1994 (to form DreamWorks SKG with David Geffen and Steven Spielberg).

If Katzenberg were still at Disney, would we have a boxed set?

Go into any Target or WalMart and you'll find a DVD collection of four or five films by Jim Carey, Denzel Washington, Mel Gibson, Sandra Bullock or others.

But you won't find a five film collection by Bette.

You won't find any Disney collection featuring Bette.

Their work with Bette, their huge success with Bette, allowed Touchstone to sign similar deals with Whoopi Goldberg (resulting in the huge hit Sister Act) and Goldie Hawn (who they desperately wanted while Katzenberg was at Disney but who they didn't know what to do with once they signed her).

As Disney focuses on one comic book hero film after another these days, it's very easy to forget that it was comedy that made Touchstone and that stars like Bette, Danny DeVito, Richard Dreyfuss, Whoopi, Robin Williams, Barbara Hershey and others that thrilled audiences.  Just like it's easy to forget that their last huge comedy hit was 2009's The Proposal starring Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds which, made on a $40 million budget, brought in $317.4 million in ticket sales.

As they slash and burn their way through one comic book after another, Disney would do well to remember they used to be able to make a Tin Man or a Beaches and maybe they should give that another try?

At present, the refusal to turn a profit off of Bette's hits by releasing some form of collection looks like more than a bad business decision, it reads like a company in denial about how it sold tickets in the first place.

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