ABC Reaching Out With 'Mi Familia'

Normally, a movie making its network television premiere in July--a down time for broadcasters--would pass with little notice. Yet the fact that "Mi Familia"/"My Family" airs on ABC this Saturday is actually part of a longer story. ABC came under fire in 1995 from the National Hispanic Media Coalition, which complained about the network's lack of diversity both in front of and behind the camera, as well as its failure to make good on an alleged pledge to air a Latino-themed prime-time series. The group staged protests outside ABC stations and in 1997 sought to organize a boycott of the network and its corporate parent, the Walt Disney Co. While ABC defended its practices, later that year the network acquired three feature films with Latino themes: "Mi Familia," the 1995 drama from director Gregory Nava starring Edward James Olmos, Jimmy Smits and Esai Morales; the biographical "Selena," which will premiere in September; and "A Walk in the Clouds," with Keanu Reeves and Aitana Sanchez-Gijon, which has yet to be scheduled. ABC also began airing the American Latino Media Arts Awards. In March 1998, the coalition ended the boycott, saying Disney has made strides in its minority hiring. Still lacking, however, are any notable gains for Latinos in terms of ABC's regular prime-time series.

Rolling Stones Gathered the Green

Look for the Rolling Stones to take a big bow this week when Pollstar, the nation's leading concert trade magazine, publishes its annual midyear look at the North American concert market. The Stones were the hottest attraction, grossing an estimated $64.7 million in 34 shows, according to Pollstar editor in chief Gary Bongiovanni. That figure contributed to a total gross of $389.8 million by the top 25 acts, up dramatically from both last year's $290-million figure and the previous high of $352.8 million in 1994. Other acts expected to be high on Pollstar's midyear ranking: the George Strait Country Music Festival, the Dave Matthews Band and Shania Twain, all taking in around $30 million at the box office. The outlook for the rest of the year? Solid, Bongiovanni says, thanks to such highly anticipated shows as the Bruce Springsteen-E Street Band reunion. One reason for the big grosses: escalating ticket prices. Bongiovanni says the average ticket price for the top tours has jumped nearly 50% since 1996 to $38.56 this year. The average price for the arena shows with Mick Jagger & Co. was $109.62, the first time a pop or rock attraction has averaged more than $100. Are we likely to see the trend continue? "It shows no signs of slowing down," the editor says. "In some ways, the increases show that concert tickets may have been underpriced for years. That's not to say they may not soon be overpriced."

'Run Lola Run' Trying to Build Legs

Winona Ryder has shown up twice to see the film at the Nuart in West Los Angeles. Julia Roberts has also been seen in the audience, as has "Titanic" director James Cameron. The movie that is triggering all the buzz in Hollywood is "Run Lola Run," which in its first 17 days in release in North America pulled in $495,200--averaging more than $10,000 per screen--not bad for a small German film with subtitles. By July 16, it will expand to about 70 screens nationwide. Why the slow roll-out? Tom Bernard and Michael Barker, co-presidents of Sony Pictures Classics, say they don't want a repeat of what happened when the film opened in some European markets. Although it debuted to big numbers last August in Germany, they noted, it stumbled in France earlier this year. "The movie was released in France as a wide release and it died--disappeared," Bernard said. "There seems to be a barrier to a German film that is hip and light," Barker added. "Where the film has worked very strongly around the world is where it has opened slowly." Written and directed by Tom Tykwer, the frenetically paced film follows a woman named Lola (Franka Potente) as she races through the streets of Berlin in search of a missing plastic bag containing 100,000 marks in order to save her hysterical boyfriend (Moritz Bleibtreu) from an unforgiving boss. Bernard believes it is a mistake for small films to expand too quickly. "When you go out on 300 screens in the third week, the next week you are off," he said, adding that theater chains now often drop their lowest-grossing films every Friday. "If it takes three weeks to reach critical mass of audience awareness, you're not going to make it," he said. Barker noted that they chose the Nuart to launch the film in L.A., hoping it would create the feel of an event picture. "Los Angeles is a very difficult market for a specialized film," he said. "We chose one theater to open it and open it huge--like a shot heard around the world. . . . I would not be surprised if this film went well over 200 screens eventually."

--Compiled by Times Staff Writers

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