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The Fine Art of Taking Advantage

Compiled by Times Staff Writers and Contributors

What’s the point of owning networks if you can’t use them to plug your movies and theme parks? Disney has certainly made that as plain as the ears on its head at ABC, which tonight airs “Walt Disney World’s 25th Anniversary Party” and follows next week with a special tying into “Hercules,” the studio’s latest animated feature, which opens June 27. (It is, in fact, one of three “Hercules” specials scheduled next week, joining a pair that will run on the Disney Channel.) This unabashed cross-promotion represents a classic example of “synergy,” one of the entertainment industry’s most popular terms, where one studio asset is used to tout another. Disney is hardly alone in that regard, with Fox having used its network in the past to promote “Independence Day” and the “Star Wars” reissue. Beyond publicizing the films, such specials offer a benefit to the networks by providing them with original programming instead of the usual diet of summer repeats. For students of synergy, meanwhile, “Hercules” may be just an appetizer: The entree--ABC’s weekly revival of “The Wonderful World of Disney,” which kicks off with the, natch, Disney movie “Toy Story"--will be served up in September.

Still Odd After All These Years

Now here’s something odd: Three decades after teaming up in “The Odd Couple,” Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau are only now getting around to making the sequel. The Academy Award-winning actors, who have appeared together in nine previous films, including this summer’s upcoming comedy “Out to Sea,” begin principal photography today at a Long Beach baseball field on Paramount Pictures’ “The Odd Couple II: Travelin’ Light.” This time around, the mismatched Felix Unger (Lemmon) and Oscar Madison (Matthau) are reunited by the impending marriage of Felix’s daughter to Oscar’s son. Newly divorced when they first occupied a New York apartment, the intervening years have seen Oscar never remarry while Felix has exchanged vows a couple of times. Arriving in Los Angeles, the fussy Felix and sloppy Oscar find themselves uncomfortably confined to a rental car as they head to the fictional town of San Malina. The movie will be shot on location in Palmdale, Guadaloupe and Bakersfield. Directed by Howard Deutch (“Grumpier Old Men”), the sequel will debut in 1998. It was written by Neil Simon, whose Broadway play starring Matthau and Art Carney won Simon a Tony Award in 1965. The three-decade span between “Odd Couple” films is one of the longest ever for sequels. Paul Newman went 25 years between “The Hustler” and “The Color of Money,” Anthony Perkins went 23 years between “Psycho” and “Psycho II,” and there was a 22-year gap between “Beach Blanket Bingo” and “Back to the Beach” starring Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello. Robert Cort, co-producer on “Odd Couple II,” said Simon had actually started writing the sequel nine years ago but he and Paramount were unable to make a deal. “Neil had already written 38 pages, so he just put it away,” Cort said. About six months ago, Paramount studio chief Sherry Lansing asked Simon if there was anything he wanted to do. When he said he had always wanted to do another “Odd Couple,” she asked to see what he had written. Voila, the sequel was in the works.

Trick Question: Why No Ozzy Osbourne?

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The latest installment in the “Batman” movie series will bring another soundtrack loaded with music from many of pop’s biggest-selling artists. The question is whether the new album will have the cash register magic of 1989’s “Batman” (which featured music by Prince, including the chart-topping “Batdance” single) and 1995’s “Batman Forever” (a multi-artist collection highlighted by Seal’s Grammy-winning “Kiss From a Rose”). The new “Music From and Inspired By the ‘Batman & Robin’ Motion Picture,” which will be released Tuesday by Warner Bros. Records, includes songs by the Smashing Pumpkins, R. Kelly, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Jewel, R.E.M., Meshell Ndegeocello, the Goo Goo Dolls and Underworld, among others. Three of the four singles scheduled for release around the film’s June 20 release--the Pumpkins’ “The End Is the Beginning Is the End,” R. Kelly’s “Gotham City” and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony’s “Look Into My Eyes"--are already receiving heavy radio airplay and, in the case of the first two, video exposure. To beat “Batman Forever,” the new album will have to sell more than 2 million copies. “This could be the biggest of all the ‘Batman’ soundtracks because we’ve got a great lineup,” says Gary Lamel, president of music for Warner Bros. Pictures. “It’s not just a collection; almost all these songs were written for the movie. A tremendous amount of thought went into it.”


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