Rudy Panucci On Pop Culture

Animal House, Bad Reporting and Fresh AIR

large_9xwMZgLNZDnRUUhiK8i3U19EJZEThe PopCulteer
August 12
, 2016

It takes a lot to get me into a movie theater these days. My eyes are slightly wonky from the myasthenia gravis and I’ve sort of aged out of the demographic for most big, dumb Hollywood blockbusters. However, Sunday night I will be headed to the Regal Nitro Stadium Theater to see National Lampoon’s Animal House on the big screen, something I haven’t done since my sixteenth birthday.

Animal House was the very first National Lampoon movie, written by Chris Miller, Douglas Kenney, and Harold Ramis and based largely on Chris Miller’s semi-autobiographical “Tales of the Adelphian Lodge” frat boy stories that had been published in the National Lampoon years earlier.

National Lampoon was one of the major formative forces in my life. I cut my eyeteeth on MAD Magazine, embraced Monty Python before I was ten, but by the time I was twelve, I was sneaking and reading my older brother’s copies of National Lampoon, poisoning my young mind with their unique mix of highbrow and lowbrow humor, underground comic strips, and vicious, biting political satire. for better or worse, it’s one of the things that shaped me.

And National Lampoon was also a major influence on American comedy, one that is still being felt more than forty-five years after its first issue was published. Saturday Night Live had its roots in the National Lampoon through such writers as Michael O’Donoghue and Anne Beatts, and performers from National Lampoon stage productions and radio shows, Chevy Chase, John Belushi, Gilda Radner, Bill Murray, Brian Doyle-Murray and others.

6a00d8341c630a53ef01676376d3a0970b-600wiEven after founding editors Doug Kenney and Henry Beard exercised a multi-million dollar buyout deal and left the magazine in 1975, new writers quickly stepped in such as PJ O’Roarke and John Hughes.

So I was already a big fan. Henry Beard went into semi-retirement before the age of thirty, emerging only to write the occasional book project for rather inexplicable reasons, such as Miss Piggy’s “autobiography.” Kenney, however, returned to the National Lampoon fold to work on special projects, one of which was the Lampoon’s first foray into film, which became Animal House.

So when the movie was released on August 13, 1978, I made sure to be front row and center and I was not disappointed. It was everything a National Lampoon movie should be–irreverent, smart, gross, dumb, defiant, revolutionary, and with just enough bare breasts. It remains one of my favorite movies of all time. I could consider it an influence, but that would be rather tricky to justify since I never joined a fraternity or drank or frightened a horse to death that had to be sawed apart to remove from a room.


National Lampoon’s Animal House will screen at Regal Nitro Stadium Cinemas Sunday at 2 PM and 7 PM and again Wednesday at 7 PM, courtesy of TCM’s Classic Movie Series. You can buy tickets HERE

A Disappointment Courtesy of CBR

ghostbusters88_ver6_xlgA few weeks ago, I recommended the website Comic Book Resources as a great source of information about San Diego Comic Con. I stand by that recommendation, for that purpose, but of late, CBR’s reporting has taken an unusual and somewhat disappointing turn that needs to be pointed out.

A couple of weeks before I recommended CBR, I wrote in the PopCulteer about how I had no interest in seeing the new Ghostbusters movie. I mentioned in that piece that some online reviewers and reporters seemed more interested in making a political statement than they were in honestly reporting on or reviewing the movie. I did not intend to revisit the topic of Ghostbusters, but this isn’t really about the movie, it’s about CBR.

Sadly, when it comes to Ghostbusters, Comic Book Resources has gone off the deep end. They’ve become one of the worst offenders in the “attack anyone or anything that doesn’t praise Ghostbusters” game. In a recent article, Brett White tries to argue that the honest and objective reporting that a Ghostbusters sequel is in jeopardy because the movie is on course to lose $70 million dollars for Sony is somehow biased against his (or her) sacred cow. (Please excuse me for assuming that White is a male. I apologize if I’m wrong in that assumption, but if I don’t pick a pronoun, this article is going to look rather goofy real quick) He supports this premise with a lengthy and astonishingly ignorant display of “fanboy math” wherein he makes crazy leaps and assumptions and ignores facts and data and almost anything connected to the real world.

The lack of anything approching knowledge of how the movie industry operates is blatant and embarrassing. White’s argument is that Ghostbusters, which cost $150 million to make, and at least a quarter billion dollars after promotional costs are factored in, has somehow already turned a profit, even though the worldwide gross of the movie is just over $180 million.

White justifies this hilariously inept conclusion by ignoring two things. First, the $100 million promotional budget is never mentioned. And that’s a conservative estimate. White simply uses the production budget as the break-even point. Then, White confuses the box office gross with the box office net. Movie studios do not get to keep one hundred percent of the ticket price. The split between the studios and the movie theaters is usually slanted in the studio’s favor in the first two weeks, but that’s only if certain performance goals are met. In the case of Ghostbusters,that total worldwide gross is probably close to a 50/50 split after you take the foreign distributor’s cut into account.

I could write a couple of thousand words ripping apart every faulty premise or misuse of data in White’s article, but it wouldn’t be worth my time or yours. Comic Book Resources has done serious damage to their reputation by becoming delusionally evangelical about Ghostbusters. A couple of weeks ago, they even ran a story claiming that the Ghostbusters toys are selling spectacularly well, even though every objective toy industry observer knows that they are one of the biggest toy flops of the year.

Clearance_GhostbustersTheir source for that story was a press statement from Mattel that claimed that their Ghostbuster toys were selling just great. The problem is, that story was damage control put out by Mattel to keep Sony from suing them over the embarassment of allowing retailers to put the toys on clearance before the movie opened in theaters. It even had a disclaimer attached to protect them from any accusations of trying to manipulate the stock market by releasing false sales data–the famed “forward-looking statements” clause.

So it’s a little sad to report that one of my usually objective sources for comic book-related news is completely in the tank and reporting misinformation about Ghostbusters, which by all accounts is not a successful movie. What provoked this latest bout of almost-Republican math was the widespread story this week that the sequel probably will not be made because Sony lost so much money marketing the film. So while I still recommend Comic Book Resources for the occasional bit of comic book news, I have to add the caveat that they are not one hundred percent reliable, and cannot be trusted when writing about a movie that they’ve adopted as some kind of political cause. No amount of bad reporting is going to turn this movie into a financial success. Confirmation Bias and Cognitive Dissonance have no place in pop culture journalism.

85e82cc09e9b613dbbe7d5e740b970a2e284dbd61b3bc4935032cb33d139591c_1At this late date, trying to report that Ghostbusters was anything more than a sizable financial disappointment for Sony is just absurd. Sony made a movie for all the wrong reasons, and it did not come out the way it was intended. They paid big money for a director who really wasn’t eager to make the film, and they took a creative direction that was a major turn-off for the die-hard fans of the property–the very people Sony should have catered to in order to maintain their core audience.

I’m reminded of a story about a local production of “Jesus Christ Superstar” from many, many years ago, where the director reportedly proclaimed “We’re going to play down the religious aspects of it.” In this case, Sony took a property that was beloved by a millions of fans, and when it became clear that the movie was seriously deficient and would not perform up to their expectations, they attacked and insulted the very people that they were counting on to drive movie-goers into the theaters.

Ghostbusters did not come out the way Sony wanted it to. Even their most vocal defenders should admit that at this point, and stop trying to spin box office results that they clearly don’t even begin to comprehend.

At the very least, CBR should consider removing White from the Ghostbusters beat. Someone is way too emotionally invested in the success or failure of this motion picture.

Today on The AIR

AIR color 0036We gots lots of cool stuff on The AIR today. Check it out at the website or on this swell little piece of artificial intelligence embedded right here in this blog…

At 9 AM and 9 PM on Laugh Appalachia, Lee and Tiff explain why they weren’t on last week’s show.

At 9:30 AM and 12:30 PM, you can tune in for STUFF TO DO, hosted by yours truly and Mel Larch.

Our Wednesday talk shows repeat from 10 AM to 1 PM, so you can tune in and hear Lynn Browder’s Autism Discussion, On The Road With Mel, and The Best of The Real With Mark Wolfe. 1 PM sees a replay of this week’s Prognosis, hosted by Herman Linte.

At 3 PM, it’s time for Sydney’s Big Electric Cat. Sydney Fileen presents two hours of great New Wave music and here’s the playlist:

The Knack  “My Sharona”
The Yachts  “Suffice To Say”
OMD  “Metroland”
Annabel Lamb “Wofl”
Be Bop Deluxe  “Love In Flames”
Lene Lovich  “Be Stiff”
The Teardrop Explodes  “Treason”
Gang of Four  “I Love A Man In Uniform”
Jenson Interceptor  “Telephone Love Affair”
Madness  “It Must Be Love”
Josef K  “Sixteen Years”
Lost Loved Ones  “Freakshow”
Shriekback  “Malaria”
Pretenders  “Up The Neck”
Heaven 17  “We Live So Fast”
Kate Bush  “Army Dreamers”
Minor Detail  “Ask The Kids”
Mike Batt  “Portishead Radio”
Klaus Nomi  “The Twist”
Spizzenergi  “Mega City 3”
XTC  “Sgt. Rock Is Going To Help Me”
Thompson Twins  “We Are Detective”
Laurie Anderson  “O Superman”
The Jam  “In The City”
The Buzzcocks  ‘Orgasm Addict”
The Ramones  “Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment”
The Dickies  “Gigantor”
Men Without Hats  “Antarctica”
Thomas Dolby  “Europa and The Pirate Twins”
The Elektrics “We Are Americans”
Strange Boutique  “Quicksand Minds”

At 7PM  we replay both parts of Harrah’s Hard & Heavy‘s “What Made Lee” special.

9:30 PM sees a brand new Word Association with Lee and Rudy, where they discuss fascinatingly bad movies and Rudy renders Lee speechless by giving him an in-depth explanation of Andy Warhol’s Bad.

At 10 PM we are treated to a replay of this week’s Radio Free Charleston International, which in my haste to tell you about last Tuesday, I forgot to include the playlist. So here it is:

Rockestra  “So Glad To See You Here”
The Lennon/Claypool Delirium  “Boomerang Baby”
James McCartney  “Wisteria”
thenewno2  “Wide Awake”
Julian Lennon  “How Many Times”
Midge Ure  “Day After Day”
Toyah Wilcox  “Out Of The Blue”
Skillet  “Burn It Down”
Big Audio Dynamite  “Psycho Wing”
Shakespear’s Sister  “Hello (Turn Your Radio On)”
Peter Garrett  “I’d Do It Again”
Oingo Boingo  “Helpless”
Lene Lovich  “Savages”
George Harrison  “Shanghai Surprise”
Oktopus  “World’s Apart”
Frank Zappa  “You Are What You Is”
Eskobar  “Rocketship”
MaidaVale  “The Greatest Story Ever Told”
They Might Be Giants  “Miniature Sidewalk Whirlwind”
Owl City  “The Bird and The Worm”
Dalek I Love You “Horrorscope”
The Descendants  “Spineless and Scarlet Red”
Zodiac  “Down”
The Misfits  “Nightmare on Elm Street”
Ultravox  “Perfecting the Art of Common Ground”
Surprise bonus track  The Donnas  “Safety Dance”

That’s it for this week’s PopCulteer. Your loyal correspondent has prepared the next several days worth of PopCult posts ahead of time so that he can take the weekend off to enjoy his birthday. Just pull them out of the fridge and follow the directions to warm them up in the microwave and you’ll be fine.

1 Comment

  1. Thomas Wheeler

    It’s a shame that CBR had to jump on the quickly-derailed Ghostbusters train as strongly as they did. That movie was a debacle from the start, and as for the toys, I have NEVER seen the ones for the new movie at the Walmart nearest me (not even in the Barbie section as you suggested I check), but the Classic ones continue to sell briskly — several shipments worth. Meanwhile, at Target, you can actually see full-price Ghostbusters from the new movie — with package tears where they had to remove the clearance tags.

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