Sunday, December 21, 2014

Newsploitation: BREAKIN' in 2 the Box Office

It seemed like only a matter of time that we would hit a Cannon film in box office anniversary series.  What better one to start with than BREAKIN’ 2: ELECTRIC BOOGALOO (1984), which opened thirty years ago on December 21, 1984.  Break dancing was a craze sweeping the United States back in the early ‘80s and it was only a matter of time before Hollywood was poppin’ and lockin’ on the fad.  The first U.S. film to feature the dancing was Charles Ahearn’s WILD STYLE (1983), a New York City lensed low budget film about a graffiti artist.  The first “big” film was Cannon’s BREAKIN’ (1984).

The common story behind the film’s genesis is that Cannon co-owner Menahem Golan was told about the dance style and he knew he had to make a film about the country’s latest dance fad.  Especially since it was being co-opted by white kids!  I’m of a different school of thought and think Golan read that producer Aaron Russo (TRADING PLACES) announced in Variety in October 1983 that he was making a film called BREAK DANCING.  My theory is further bolstered by Cannon initially advertising their film as BREAKDANCIN’ and then BREAKDANCE before settling on their final title.  Filmed in Phoenix in February and March of 1984, the film had an amazingly fast postproduction period, hitting theaters on May 4, 1984 via MGM.  It debuted in the top spot and beat out newcomers like SIXTEEN CANDLES, HARDBODIES, and THE BOUNTY.  All in all, the film earned $38 million in the U.S. that summer and ended up being MGM’s second highest grosser that year and the 18th highest grossing U.S. movie overall.

Naturally, with their first big hit, the Go Go boys threw a sequel into production right away.  Hell, they were so sure of success that the sequel was announced in the end credits of the first film.  The sequel began filming in L.A. in July 1984 with all of the principal players returning.  Cannon actually afforded director Sam Firstenberg a bit more of an extended postproduction time, but had set a firm release date for the Christmas season.  No longer partnered with MGM, they got the film to come out via TriStar on December 21, 1984 on just over 700 screens (early reports in Variety promised a rollout on over 1,000 screens). Despite getting their sequel into theaters just seven months after the original, the company found themselves doing the headspin as the trend had already died out.  The film opened in tenth pace, behind newcomers such as PROTOCOL, JOHNNY DANGEROUSLY, and a re-release of PINOCCHIO (making one wonder if this pushed Golan and Globus to announce PINOCCHIO: THE ROBOT the following year).  The film still made $15 million total in America, but it was a sharp drop from the year’s earlier success.  To make matters worse, on December 10, 1984 – eleven days before the sequel’s release – Variety reported that original BREAKIN’ producers David Zito and Allen DeBevoise were suing Cannon for “allegedly not paying them their full share of the profits.”  No further information can be found on this lawsuit, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and say they didn’t get paid.

Never ones to be deterred, the Cannon Group announced RAPPIN’ for the following year and tried to repeat their success, right down to the rushed schedule (Variety, March 6, 1985: “Featuring prominent practitioners of the rapping musical phenomenon, pic is planned to follow pattern of last year's BREAKIN’, and be released in 1,200 theaters May 4 after a whirlwind production schedule.”)  It came out in 1,500 theaters on May 10, 1985 and promptly bombed.  As it stands, ELECTRIC BOOGLAOO became a cult film and the film’s subtitle subsequently became a pop culture catchphrase with folks worldwide ascribing its absurdness to any sequel.  Tell me you’ve never heard someone describe a second entry in a series with that title and I’ll call you a liar.  Like a guy doing the backspin, this ironic usage came full circle with director Mark Hartley using it for the title of his documentary on Cannon, the highly entertaining ELECTRIC BOOGALOO: THE WILD, UNTOLD STORY OF CANNON FILMS (2014).

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