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MOVIES : A look inside Hollywood and the movies. : THEIR ENDLESS SUMMER : While Other Movies March Off to Video, ‘Thelma & Louise’ Keeps Rolling Along

You haven’t seen the last of “Thelma & Louise,” the female buddy film that, after opening in May, sparked a flood of controversy over its portrayal of the current state of male-female relationships, snagged the cover of Time magazine--and grossed $42 million to boot.

Because the movie has become what Don Barrett, senior vice president of marketing for MGM-Pathe, calls “a real cult film for women,” the studio has taken the unusual step of adding 99 theaters to the release schedule in the movie’s 16th week of release. And, on Sept. 27, “Thelma & Louise” will open in an additional 300 venues--primarily college towns. By this point, most movies that aren’t blockbusters have dropped and keep dropping screens.

“This movie has skewed older rather than younger, toward the 25- to 40-year-olds--women who were part of the women’s liberation movement or who see themselves as benefiting from same,” Barrett says. “We’re going after the under-25s, those women who never experienced the struggle or fought for the right to be counted.”

Campus newspapers will be provided with a variety of materials highlighting issues raised in the film as well as with ads encouraging students to “catch the phenomenon,” which MGM-Pathe hopes will include two best-actress nominations for the leads (Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon) and one for best picture. The response, Barrett says, will dictate the timing of a home video release.

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Barbara Schneyer, owner of Sherman Oaks’ women’s bookstore Bread & Roses, is one of the picture’s biggest fans. In response to the controversy it generated among her customers, she’s planning a “Thelma & Louise” night Friday. On the agenda: a panel discussion (including a Methodist minister and a handful of college professors) and a raffle auctioning off soundtrack cassettes and “Thelma & Louise” caps courtesy of MGM-Pathe.

“People are divided about the film,” Schneyer says. “Is it pro- or anti-violence? Are the male characters exaggerated or true-to-life? One customer commented to me that we all know these men. Everyone, she said, knows the husband . . . and some of us are married to them.”

If the movie’s gross doesn’t measure up to the buzz, MGM-Pathe isn’t letting on. “No one ever saw this film as a $100-million grosser on the way out,” Barrett says. “We knew that men would be challenged. The movie, after all, isn’t ‘safe.’ It has broken new ground.”


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