Film industry delays releases, adjusts content after attacks

Amy Hackbarth

Spartacus and Mariah Carey replaced angry reptiles and exploding planes this week as the film industry adjusted its content for appropriateness following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

From Har Mar to Hollywood, the film industry scrambled to slate inoffensive programming as well as aid in the relief effort.

The Heights Theater in Columbia Heights traded the 1998 film “Godzilla” for the 1960 drama “Spartacus” because “Godzilla” was set in New York.

“Big Trouble,” which includes a scene with a bomb on board an airplane, was pulled from its Sept. 21 release date. Mariah Carey’s film debut in “Glitter” led the box office instead.

This isn’t the first time the film industry has altered its content because of social events, said Eric Mueller, director of production at the Minnesota Film Board.

“After the incident in Columbine, people were pulling projects that involved guns in high school,” he said.

The teen drama “O,” a modernized version of William Shakespeare’s “Othello,” came out this fall, two years after its original release date. The film includes a high school shooting scene.

Mueller said the film industry often adjusts its content to resemble real-life events.

The 1997 film “Wag the Dog,” for instance, drew public interest because of its similarities to the scandal involving former President Bill Clinton and intern Monica Lewinsky.

The attacks affected the production of some film projects as well.

“Joe Somebody,” a comedy starring Tim Allen, encountered problems when trying to film in Minneapolis last week, Mueller said.

Several shots featured a helicopter, but a Federal Aviation Administration ban on helicopter flight prevented filming. Mueller said the shots would be filmed once the ban was lifted.

Besides changing release dates, film content and production schedules, the arts community is trying to use film as a method of healing after the attacks.

“We know that the arts have a unique ability to heal the wounds in society,” said Robert Booker, executive director of the Minnesota State Arts Board, in a written statement.

“Truly, the arts are valued as a way to help us deal with turmoil in our lives,” he said.

Approximately 400 theaters nationwide donated Tuesday’s proceeds to relief funds in New York City and Washington, D.C.

Movie theater attendance is typically low on Tuesdays, said Hugh Wronski, city manager of the Landmark Theaters.

“They probably didn’t want to take money away from theaters on a Friday night when they’re releasing films,” Wronski said.

Even so, Wronski said Landmark’s Minneapolis theaters, Lagoon Cinema and Uptown Theatre can each raise more than a thousand dollars on a weeknight.

In recognition of the attacks, the University Film Society will show the 1996 film “Summer in La Goulette,” a comedy portraying the relationships among Islamic, Jewish and Christian families.

“Summer in La Goulette” will run Sept. 29 through Oct. 4.

Al Milgrom, director of the University Film Society, said he hopes the film will strengthen ethnic ties.

“We’re hoping this film will instill a feeling of togetherness,” Milgrom said. “We’re trying to see if movies can bring any sort of recovery to the public.”