HOLLYWOOD -- Around this time last year, it looked like the film of the Christmas season was going to be "The Godfather Part III." The late fall and Christmas 1990 lineup also included the expected heavyweight box-office contender "Rocky V" and "Awakenings," which featured the intriguing casting of Robin Williams and Robert De Niro.
By year's end, the public had delivered its verdicts. The eagerly anticipated movies did not live up to expectations -- while "Dances With Wolves" became a major international success and "Home Alone" became the third highest-grossing film ever domestically.
All of this is why movie executives, not to mention journalists, are reluctant to make predictions. But an informal survey of film exhibition executives pin down the following as the most eagerly anticipated of the roughly 110 movies due out by the end of the year:
Beginning early in November, director Martin Scorsese's sexual-psychological thriller "Cape Fear," starring De Niro, Jessica Lange and Nick Nolte, is due from Universal Pictures. Then, along about Thanksgiving, Walt Disney Pictures unfurls its all-new animated musical "Beauty & the Beast" and Paramount Pictures unleashes "The Addams Family," based on Charles Addams' spooky characters.
In December, in quick succession, come "Hook," a fantasy from Steven Spielberg starring Dustin Hoffman, Robin Williams and Julia Roberts, and Baltimore director Barry Levinson's "Bugsy," starring Warren Beatty as the Las Vegas underworld entrepreneur Bugsy Siegel, both from TriStar Pictures.
Is it because of his romance with Julia Roberts or his actual on-screen magic? There's lots of buzz about Jason Patric's performance in MGM-Pathe's "Rush," co-starring Jennifer Jason Leigh.
Steve Martin plays the "Father of the Bride" in Disney-Touchstone Pictures' remake of Vincente Minnelli's 1950 version that starred Spencer Tracy and Elizabeth Taylor.
The one movie attracting the most attention at the approach of this final 1991 season is Spielberg's $50 million production of "Hook." Not only is it from one of America's best-known and most successful directors, it also has drawn vast amounts of publicity -- as much for the number of celebrities, including royalty, who visited its elaborate never-never land and pirate ship settings, as for its cast.