Governor to draw big bucks from film

Role: California's governor-elect is expected to continue collecting substantial sums from his movies.

October 10, 2003|By James Bates and Claudia Eller | James Bates and Claudia Eller,LOS ANGELES TIMES

HOLLYWOOD - Like the cyborg he plays in the "Terminator" films, California Gov.-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger's Hollywood career can't be killed, even by a move to Sacramento.

With DVD sales exploding, cable networks proliferating and new technologies developing to distribute and watch films, Schwarzenegger movies will continue to deliver a payday that will make his government paycheck look like pocket change.

"The movies are substantial businesses that will continue to make money not only for him but for his children and his heirs," said director Ivan Reitman, who gave Schwarzenegger leading roles in three big-screen comedies -Twins, Kindergarten Cop and Junior.

Paul Dergarabedian, president of the box-office tracking firm Exhibitor Relations Co., said, "Arnold Inc. continues in all its various forms."

Next week, Fox Home Entertainment is releasing a boxed DVD set of four Schwarzenegger films - Predator, Total Recall, The Running Man and Commando.

Schwarzenegger's last film, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines has just hit theaters in Italy, Switzerland and Egypt and is expected to be a major DVD release in the United States by Warner Bros. next month. So is Pumping Iron, the 1970s bodybuilding documentary that made Schwarzenegger famous and to which the actor has owned the rights since 1991.

Observers see the possibility of a small bump in sales of Schwarzenegger films from his election, but few believe it would be significant because so many people already are familiar with his work.

"I think everyone knows who he is," said Jim Salzer, president and chief executive of Salzer's Records & Video in Ventura, Calif.

Although the 56-year-old action star's box-office appeal has waned in recent years, Schwarzenegger has remained popular both in foreign countries and in home video. Judith McCourt, research director for Video Store Magazine in Santa Ana, Calif., said Schwarzenegger's major titles on DVD have sold about 1 million copies since June 22.

Artisan Home Entertainment expects to sell more than 1 million copies of a new "extreme" DVD of Schwarzenegger's 1991 film Terminator 2: Judgment Day released this year to coincide with the theatrical release of Terminator 3.

"The Schwarzenegger titles are perennial successes," said Jeff Fink, the company's home entertainment marketing chief.

Terminator 3 was expected to be one of the bigger Christmas-season DVDs even before Schwarzenegger announced his candidacy in early August.

The film to date has grossed $150 million domestically and about $275 million more in foreign markets. Films that have performed similarly have sold about 8 million DVDs domestically.

Schwarzenegger's situation is far different from that of the last actor to occupy the California governor's office. At the time Ronald Reagan ran for governor in 1966, his film career was in decline and he appeared mostly in TV programs such as Death Valley Days.

Nonetheless, Reagan was a prolific actor, with more than 50 movies to his credit. Schwarzenegger has appeared in about 30.

During Reagan's time as California governor and later as president, his films generated little money but did inspire midnight movie showings on college campuses, quirky film festivals and scattered TV airings.

For Schwarzenegger, moving into the governor's office puts his film career on ice, outside of a cameo in the forthcoming Around the World in 80 Days.

"From the day he decided he was running in this race, he was in it to win it and there was no backup plan, no second options," said Jill Eisenstadt, his Hollywood publicist. "But, if or when he's ready to return to the entertainment business, Hollywood will be there."

Returning to Hollywood after a stint as governor could prove challenging for Schwarzenegger.

For one thing, he might have a tough time convincing fans that he still can carry weight as Hollywood's leading box-office draw. Despite a return to his signature cyborg role in this year's Terminator 3, Schwarzenegger has struggled with such costly misfires as Collateral Damage, End of Days and The 6th Day.

Many say he would have to prove that he could move beyond his traditional roles.

Off screen, Schwarzenegger's image also may need some rehabilitating whether he returns to Hollywood or not.

Schwarzenegger has issued a blanket apology to women he may have offended but has declined to address the allegations specifically.

People who know Schwarzenegger believe there's no reason he can't revive his acting career after finishing in Sacramento if he so chooses.

Producer John Davis, a friend of Schwarzenegger who made such films as Predator with him, points to the case of former Sen. Fred Thompson, the Tennessee Republican who resumed acting after leaving Washington. Thompson now stars as District Attorney Arthur Branch in the popular TV show Law & Order.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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