Did Sony’s troubled ‘Green Hornet’ finally break out of movie jail?

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For months there has been nothing but bad buzz about Sony’s troubled, Seth Rogen-starring ‘Green Hornet’ film, which has been something of a punching bag for fanboys, especially when its footage didn’t exactly go over like gangbusters this summer at Comic-Con International, Hollywood’s favorite media hype festival. To hear it from the blog snarkers, the Michel Gondry-directed film was a debacle, with worriers worrying that Gondry was the wrong filmmaker for the project, Rogen was miscast in the lead role and the movie played far more campy than cool.

Skepticism only grew louder when Sony gave the movie a Jan. 14, 2011, release date, which hardly felt like an auspicious weekend for a costly comic-book hero film. Things got so bad that one Web report this summer claimed that ‘the feeling at Sony is the movie is a disaster.’


But it’s now looking like the worm has turned. The studio had a test screening Tuesday night in Long Beach that went better than anyone could have hoped for. According to one of my spies who was on hand, after the ratings cards were tabulated, the movie had scored a 93 rating in what is known as the top two boxes (the percentage of people saying the film was either excellent or very good) with 83% of the moviegoers saying they would ‘definitely recommend’ the film to their friends.

Even if the film was shown for the kind of younger audience that would be most likely to want to see it, those are impressive numbers, which is perhaps why the studio executives on hand at the screening were seen breathing huge sighs of relief. In fact, the Sony high command was so buoyant that Amy Pascal was overheard talking about the possibility of a sequel after seeing the test results.

It still remains to be seen whether the studio can win over the film’s original fanboy skeptics. But Sony’s decision to release ‘The Green Hornet’ in January looks a little less like a sign of desperate Hail Mary pass, especially now that several studios have had success with January releases in recent years. If anyone should be happy, it’s Gondry, who is a truly gifted filmmaker that has never managed to connect with a mainstream audience (his most commercial film, ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,’ grossed less than $35 million in the U.S.). It’s too early for Champagne, but finally ‘Green Hornet’ fans have some reason for cautious optimism.