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UNIVERSAL’S ‘MASK’ GETS SEGER, NOT SPRINGSTEEN

Times Staff Writer

Exit Bruce Springsteen, enter Bob Seger.

Universal Picture’s “Mask,” which opoens March 8, is now due to debut with 10 minutes of Springsteen favorites replaced by 10 minutes of Seger’s. Universal was unable to reach terms with CBS Records and Springsteen for the licensing of four songs offered by the songwriter to director Peter Bogdanovich.

The sound-track switch was apparently made without Bogdanovich’s knowledge while he was out of town over the Christmas holidays. Bogdanovich has since waged an obsessive battle to reverse the decision. Last week he handed in two final cuts of the film--one Springsteen, one Seger. Sidney Sheinberg, chief executive of Universal parent MCA Inc., confirmed this week that the studio plans to release the Seger version.

Bogdanovich was in New York Monday, still pursuing possible solutions to the impasse with CBS and Springsteen representatives. “I’m sure that neither Sid Sheinberg nor Frank Price (MCA Motion Picture Group chairman) nor (“Mask” producer) Martin Starger would do anything to purposely harm the movie,” Bogdanovich said. “But we, the actors and I, feel that the film was and would be greatly enhanced by the Springsteen music.”

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Neither Starger nor Price returned phone calls on the matter. Sheinberg dismissed the episode as a “tempest in a teapot,” saying that directors “frequently fall in love with pieces of background music and convince themselves that they have an irreplaceable quality.”

The music in question is played on the bedroom stereo of the movie’s young hero and continues over other scenes. The drama, based on a true story, follows a lady biker (Cher) and her congenitally disfigured teen-age son (Eric Stoltz). Stoltz’s character listened to a variety of music in the original script, but as the project evolved Bogdanovich chose to emphasize an affinity for Springsteen.

Springsteen gave Bogdanovich permission to use up to five songs and expressed pleasure when he saw a screening of the results. But by that time Universal and CBS Records were at odds over compensation.

CBS Records President Walter Yetnikoff originally demanded about $200,000 to license the music for theatrical distribution. The stumbling block was CBS’ additional demand for a hunk of the videocassette profits; studios have been adamant about not sharing such profits with record labels. Universal considered skirting the issue by replacing Springsteen on the videocassette version, but even then the license fee was too high, according to Sheinberg.

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“We like to have our films released on videocassette in the same fashion as theaters,” he said. “Unfortunately, the views held by Mr. Yetnikoff and CBS historically make that impossible. When faced with the issue of replacing (Springsteen on videocassette), we found that the amount of money to initially acquire rights from Springsteen . . . just didn’t make sense.”

Seger will not receive videocassette royalties, according to manager Punch Andrews. Andrews said that the concession was made reluctantly because he and Seger simply felt so strongly about the movie. They were neither aware of nor informed of the Springsteen situation when approached by Universal, he said.

PRODUCER’S STORY: Norman Jewison, in the wake of meetings Monday with Columbia Pictures foreign distribution executives, has declared his opposition to the release of “A Soldier’s Story” in South Africa.

“As an opponent to the South African government of apartheid, I cannot in good conscience condone the showing of ‘A Soldier’s Story’ in segregated theaters,” the film maker said in a statement released Tuesday. “For that reason, I am asking Columbia not to release the film in South Africa until it can be seen by fully integrated audiences.”

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Jewison directed and produced the racially themed movie but has no contractual control over Columbia’s plans. He said that if the studio proceeds with plans to open the film in South Africa on Feb. 8, he will donate proceeds earned by him and his company from that booking to the United Negro College Fund.

Columbia International President Patrick Williamson was not available for comment.

‘TREK’ TRACK: Leonard Nimoy, who died at the end of the second “Star Trek” film and was reincarnated at the end of the third, will be back with William Shatner and the rest of the Enterprise crew for “Star Trek IV.”

The return of Nimoy, Shatner et al. should end a rumor sweeping “Trek” fan circles that “Star Trek IV” would kill off the series’ major characters in favor of younger actors being introduced for a new “Trek” TV series.

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Nimoy will direct again, according to Paramount Pictures, which has generated more than $250 million in box-office receipts with its “Star Trek” series. Nimoy and producer Harve Bennett are developing a story line for the fourth installment; production could begin as early as next fall.

BOX OFFICE: “Beverly Hills Cop” receipts jumped 27% from the previous Super Bowl-deflated weekend, adding $8.2 million on 1,822 screens to top $133 million to date.

The big surprise was the Timothy Hutton-Sean Penn thriller, “The Falcon and the Snowman.” Despite mixed reviews and stars with up-and-down records as box-office draws, the picture debuted with $2.3 million at just 265 theaters (an auspicious per-screen average of $8,901). “A Passage to India” grossed an impressive $2 million on 291 screens while “Micki & Maude” held its post-holiday momentum with $1.8 million at 829 theaters.


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