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February 1

February 1, 1989 – Hollywood Pictures Begins Operations

On February 1, 1989, the Walt Disney Company film division Hollywood Pictures officially began operations. Similar to the Touchstone Pictures label, it was designed to release Disney’s “darker” fare, such as its first release in 1990, Arachnophobia. The studio was originally run by Ricardo Mestres, moving from Touchstone Pictures to run the fledgling studio; he was succeeded by Michael Lynton in 1994. Although the studio had some successes, especially with the works of M. Night Shyamalan, the studio was eventually closed in 2007, as Disney wanted to focus on the internal brand names of the company.

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April 19

April 19, 1996 – The Live-Action Feature Film Celtic Pride is Released to Theaters

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“No. The most important thing is that they win. I mean, we’re not talking about kickball here, where there’s absolutely nothing at stake. We’re talking about the National Basketball Association. They have to win.”

On April 19, 1996, the live-action feature film Celtic Pride was released to theaters. The film was a joint production between Hollywood Pictures and Caravan Pictures, and distributed by Buena Vista Pictures. The cast members of the teams were sent to a training camp at Brandeis University before the film started production. The film did not do well on its release, making not even $10 million at the box office. It was written by Judd Apatow and Colin Quinn, and directed by Tom DeCerchio. It starred Damon Wayans as Lewis Scott, Daniel Stern as Mike O’Hara, and Dan Aykroyd as Jimmy Flaherty.

The film begins with gym teacher Mike O’Hara berating his class about basketball moves, but the kids only want to play with the trampoline. O’Hara is worried about his precious Boston Celtics, to the point where he yells at a kid and makes him cry. His wife Carol stops by, and announces her intention to leave him as she hates his obsession with the Celtics. Meanwhile, O’Hara’s best friend Jimmy Flaherty is out on a plumbing job, but is slacking off to watch the Bruins hockey game. O’Hara and Flaherty get together for dinner, where O’Hara relays the news of his divorce. Flaherty is happy about the news, as the last time O’Hara and his wife broke up, the Celtics won the championship. The two then head to the Celtic’s game, where Flaherty flirts with Susie, the hotdog vendor. The Celtics are playing against the Utah Jazz, which is led by Lewis Scott, an arrogant, self-absorbed player that has made headlines for skipping out on practice. Flaherty and O’Hara have several superstitions, and prepare all of them for the game in the hopes that the Celtics will win.

Flaherty and O'Hara arrive at the game, all decked out in their Celtics gear

Flaherty and O’Hara arrive at the game, all decked out in their Celtics gear

The game begins, and the Celtics are able to hold their own against the Jazz, especially since Scott’s selfish playing is hurting his own team. Although the Celtics look like they will be able to win, bad luck comes in the form of an old friend and possible jinx. The tide quickly turns, and Scott is able to single-handedly win the game for Utah by one point. Despondent, the pair remain in their seats long after the game is over. Flaherty gets a call from a bartender friend that Scott is at a nearby bar, and the pair decides to go teach him a lesson. They come up with a plan to get Scott wasted to the point where he is completely unable to play the next championship game. The pair pretend to hate their precious Celtics, which embarrasses them in front of Larry Bird. The two then set their plan into action, getting Scott increasingly intoxicated. In the end, the three are closing down the bar, creating drinks. They finally head out into the night, with Flaherty and O’Hara struggling to keep Scott upright.

The next morning, Flaherty and O’Hara wake up, shocked to find Scott in O’Hara’s house. They then decide to take some incriminating photos with him wearing Celtics gear before attempting to dump him outside. Scott wakes up before they have a chance to dump him in an alley, and the plans change to become more like a kidnapping. Scott calls out O’Hara as for what he really is: a washed up former high school star. Angry, O’Hara heads out to get some breakfast, though Scott uses the opportunity to try and turn Flaherty against O’Hara, before then berating him for his hobby of collecting sports memorabilia. When O’Hara returns, Flaherty and O’Hara get into a fight, exactly according to Scott’s plan. After talking to their cop friend, O’Hara decides that they need to keep Scott in Flaherty’s home until after the Celtics game against the Jazz, to help the Celtics win. Meanwhile, O’Hara’s soon-to-be-ex and son stop by to drop off some of his belongings, as they think he will live with Flaherty from then on. O’Hara tries to get them out of the apartment, but they manage to find Flaherty and Scott, with Scott tied up and Flaherty holding a gun.

O'Hara's family leaves, disturbed by the kidnapping of Lewis Scott

O’Hara’s family leaves, disturbed by the kidnapping of Lewis Scott

After O’Hara’s family leaves, the two continue keeping Scott hostage, though it’s a tense situation for all. Scott finally manages to escape the pair, and the two chase him across the streets of Boston. Scott can’t seem to catch a break, as everyone hates him for causing the Celtics to lose. They finally manage to recapture him, and start driving around town, planning to keep him in a truck until after the game. Scott tries to convince them to let him go, since he doesn’t want them to go to jail. He then challenges O’Hara to a game of one-on-one, and wins his freedom. He heads to the game, but gives them a proposition: if they root for him at the game, he won’t turn them into the police. O’Hara heads home and explains the situation to his wife and son, and decides to spend some quality time with them before he believes he will go to jail. Flaherty spends his time with his grandmother, and then the pair head to the game, wearing purple and cheering for the Jazz. They convince their friends that they are only pretending to Flaherty is picked to make a free-throw shot at half-time. He makes the shot, and wins $100,000. Flaherty decides to take the fall for the crime, but O’Hara refuses to let that happen.

O’Hara, in an attempt to fire up Scott and not go to jail, cheers for Scott, and Scott begins to play as a team member. The Jazz fire back, and are able to close the gap between the Celtics, leaving one point remaining while the Jazz has the ball for one last shot. The clock runs down, and Scott is able to score the final point for the Jazz, saving Flaherty and O’Hara from prison. In the end, Scott manages to tell the cops that Flaherty and O’Hara are his friends, saving them from being arrested. Seven months later, the pair haven’t learned their lesson, as they head to Deion Sanders’ room, kidnapping him.

March 6

March 6, 1992 – The Live Action Feature Film Blame it on the Bellboy is Released to Theaters

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“They don’t ask questions in my job.” “Well, I think it’s time you started!”

On March 6, 1992, the live-action feature film Blame it on the Bellboy was released to theaters. The film was released through Hollywood Pictures, and distributed by Buena Vista Pictures. It was critically panned on release, and was a box office flop. It was written and directed by Mark Herman, and starred Dudley Moore as Melvyn Orton, Bryan Brown as Mike Lorton, Richard Griffiths as Maurice Horton, Patsy Kensit as Caroline Wright, Penelope Wilton as Patricia Fulford, and Bronson Pinchot as the Bellboy.

Set in Venice, the film begins in a back alley under the canals, where a man is strung up and is getting beaten for information by mobsters. The mobsters then leave the man behind when they realize he doesn’t know anything other than the person who will be coming to kill the mob boss will be coming from London. Soon after, a British Airways flight soon takes off, heading to Venice with three different men on board: with one man being a very nervous flier looking to buy property named Melvyn Orton, one large man looking for a date named Maurice Horton, and a hit man looking for his next job named Mike Lorton. All three are staying at the Hotel Gabrielli, home to a very incompetent bellboy. The three men share similar last names, and as the bellboy’s grasp of English is shaky, he ends up sending the messages each needs to receive to the wrong person: Lorton receives a love letter, Orton receives the hit man’s instructions, and Horton receives the invite to meet the development property manager.

The three men set out on their missions for the day, unaware of the mix up

The three men set out on their missions for the day, unaware of the mix up

The next day, the three men head to what they believe to be their respective meetings. Horton meets Caroline Wright, who manages a property that she’s trying to sell by Wednesday. He can’t believe his good fortune, as he believes her to be the date he was set up with through an online dating service. Orton is believed to be the hit man, and is held at gunpoint by the members of the mob boss. Lorton, who believes Horton’s original date is actually his mark, attempts to shoot her, but finds he is unable to. Orton is threatened by the mob boss, who demands to know who sent him. Horton finds himself increasingly uncomfortable, Caroline is hitting on him. Lorton continues to follow his “mark,” but she believes him to be her date, and introduces himself as Patricia Fulford. Lorton and Patricia head for a stroll, and he once again attempts to take her out. The mobsters have Orton call his boss to prove that he’s who he says he is, and start to give him advice on how to stand up for himself. As he is close to getting dangerously hurt, Orton blurts out that there’s a man at the hotel with a similar last name – Horton – who must be the assassin they’re looking for.

The police fish a man out of the water, who is revealed to be the man the mobsters had killed earlier. Horton and Christine pass by in a gondola, and after he tries to make a move, she gets angry and asks to be let off on the sidewalk. Orton is taken by the mobsters to his hotel, but he manages to accidentally knock a mobster into the canal and make a break for it. Christine finally realizes what Horton’s intentions actually are, and she almost walks away, until a speedboat – the one thing she’s always wanted – passes by. Realizing her commission would pay for the boat of her dreams, she hesitates. Patricia walks with Lorton, although not willingly, as he holds her hostage. She explains the dating situation and, although he understands, will not let her go until he is able to actually make his hit. Caroline is taken back to Horton’s room, although both are unaware that Horton’s wife is there to make a surprise visit. After meeting Lorton and Orton, she is finally taken to see her husband. Horton’s wife is sure is that he’s having an affair, and Caroline, who feels cheated by the situation, decides to play the situation to her advantage, and forces him to buy the villa.

Patricia asks Lorton several questions about his line of work, including why he would want to kill her

Patricia asks Lorton several questions about his line of work, including why he would want to kill her

Patricia questions Lorton about his job and why he would want to kill her, while the mobsters, who now think Horton is their hitman, make Orton an offer he can’t refuse: if he wants to live, he will have to kill Horton. Lorton and Patricia think that Horton was the one that got Lorton’s instructions, while Orton is told to kill Horton with a bomb. Patricia helps Lorton break into Horton’s room to get the instructions, and find the invitation from Caroline; Lorton once again assumes that the target was a woman. Patricia and Lorton share a moment on the balcony of his hotel room, and he admits all of his feelings of loneliness, and his true dream of owning a flower shop. Patricia convinces him to get his money from the hit back from Horton so he can pursue his dream. The next morning, Horton waits for the money he owes Caroline, Lorton and Patricia watch Horton to get the money, and Orton waits with the mob to blow up Horton. When Horton has the briefcase, he decides to put the money in the hotel safe. Orton is given an identical briefcase to give the bellboy, as the mob switches the tags and steals the money after creating a distraction. Patricia and Lorton seem to be growing closer, as she tries to cure his loneliness with understanding. Horton gets a call from Caroline to take the money to the villa, and takes the briefcase he placed in the hotel safe.

The mob forces Orton to blow up Horton, but every time he presses the button, nothing happens, so they send Horton in a small rowboat to blow him up. Horton and Lorton scuffle over the money, and as Orton presses the button again, the briefcase continues to not detonate. However, the mobsters realize that the tags were switched twice, and the briefcase finally detonates – the briefcase on the mobster’s boat. Patricia takes Lorton’s gun to threaten Horton, but Lorton finally realizes there’s been a misunderstanding, and quickly takes the gun and Patricia away back to the hotel, where Lorton packs quickly, thinking he needs to run away as fast as he can. Lorton receives a note saying that he’s not only accomplished the mission, but killed three at the same time, and is given a generous bonus. Orton heads back to the hotel, and finds that Mr. Marshall called. He manages to make the situation better, as he convinces Marshall to buy the now-vacant property once owned by the mob boss, allowing him to keep his job. However, Orton takes the money from Marshall and decides to move to the Bahamas instead. Lorton and Patricia head back together, and he proposes to her on the way home. She accepts. Horton finally realizes he’s bought a dump of a property. And Caroline’s dream of owning a speedboat is not as wonderful as she hoped.

December 29

December 29, 1995 – The Hollywood Pictures Film Mr. Holland’s Opus Has A Limited Release

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“Mrs. Jacobs, you tell them that I am teaching music, and that I will use anything from Beethoven to Billie Holiday to rock and roll if I think it’ll help me teach a student to love music.”

On December 29, 1995, the Hollywood Pictures film Mr. Holland’s Opus was released in Los Angeles, to be considered for Academy Award consideration. The film tells the story of Glen Holland over his thirty years of teaching music. The film was shot on location in Portland, Oregon, specifically at Grant High School; the drama teacher at the school brought in many current and former students to be extras in the film. Richard Dreyfuss, playing the lead role of Glen Holland, was nominated for a Best Actor Academy Award. The film was written by Patrick Sheane Duncan and directed by Stephen Herek, with music by Michael Kamen. The film stars Richard Dreyfuss as Glen Holland, Glenne Headly as Iris, Jay Thomas as Bill Meister, Olympia Dukakis as Principal Helen Jacobs, and William H. Macy as Gene Wolters.

In 1965, young Glen Holland is seen at the piano composing, hearing the grand sounds of an orchestra in his head and filling the room; he then pretends he is conducing the piece. The next morning, his wife Iris wakes him up for his new job as the music teacher at the newly named John F. Kennedy High School. He has a rather tense meeting with the assistant principle Gene Wolters, then runs into the principal Helen Jacobs as he wanders around the school, lost. After hearing her instructions, he feels a bit overwhelmed, even more so when his first class doesn’t go well, and the orchestra members don’t know how to play. Fortunately, he makes friends with Bill Meister, the P.E. teacher. Holland admits to Meister that he took the teaching job so he could have free time to compose, with Meister telling him that “he can’t remember the last time that was free.”

Although stunned when Iris announces her pregnancy, Holland is able to reassure her that he is excited to become a father

Although stunned when Iris announces her pregnancy, Holland is able to reassure her that he is excited to become a father

Holland continues teaching the orchestra, noticing one clarinet player, Gertrude Lang, having problems playing correctly. He asks her to stay behind, and tells her that they’ll find some extra time to help her improve. Holland still spends his nights composing, but his teaching still puts his kids to sleep. After one particularly disastrous test and a run-in with the principal, he realizes he needs a new approach ­to teaching. After a private session with Gertrude, he hears her crying, and she admits to him that she’s terrible, and just wants to be good at something. She leaves her clarinet behind and flees the room. As he starts venting his frustrations to Iris, she admits to him that she’s pregnant, and is upset that all he can say is, “Wow.” He assures her that he is excited to have a baby, and is inspired to reach to the students through rock ‘n’ roll music. As things begin to look up for Holland, Gertrude returns, telling him that she’s giving up the clarinet. He convinces her to try again, only to have fun with it this time. He finally reaches her, and she plays the clarinet solo at graduation.

To help supplement his income, Holland teaches driver’s education during the summer. One day, Holland speeds to the hospital with his students in the car, getting there just in time to meet his newborn son, whom he and Iris name Coltrain, or Cole for short. Unfortunately, Holland is soon in trouble for teaching rock ‘n’ roll in his class. Vice Principal Wolters is angry that Holland isn’t forced to stop the rock ‘n’ roll curriculum but is pleased that Holland has then been assigned to teach the marching band. Holland’s friend Meister helps Holland with running the marching band, if Holland helps student athlete Louis Russ get a passing grade in orchestra. Russ is assigned to the drums, but needs some extra help in learning how to keep a beat. The marching band marches in a local parade, playing “Louie Louie.” This parade also brings some bad news to Holland: as he doesn’t react to a fire truck siren, they learn that their son Cole is deaf.

Meister helps save the show by using the football team as background dancers, with comical results

Meister helps save the show by using the football team as background dancers, with comical results

The decades roll by, with Holland keeping a distance between himself and his family, deeply hurt that he is unable to teach the joy of music to his own son. Iris is frustrated and angry that she can’t communicate with her own son, and even more upset that Holland doesn’t seem to want to be close with Cole. Graduation arrives at the high school, with Principal Jacobs letting Holland know that she’s retiring, and confides that she’s always considered him her favorite teacher at the school. The decades continue to roll by, until it’s 1980. Wolters, now the principal of the school, is on a mission to cut anything that is artistically inclined. It’s only thanks to Meister that the school musical is saved, with the football team being brought in to dance in the show. He drifts even further away from his family, being tempted to run away to New York City with student Rowena Morgan, not necessarily because he is attracted to her, but more to the idea of writing great music in New York. Ultimately, he decides not to go, but helps Rowena find a place to stay in the city.

Holland is affected by John Lennon’s death, and has another fight with Cole, as he believes Cole wouldn’t know who Lennon is, and Cole believes his father thinks he’s stupid. Realizing that his son is capable of understanding music, Holland tries to find new ways for the deaf students at Cole’s school to “hear” the music, particularly music without words. At a concert for the deaf students, Holland performs a song by John Lennon, dedicating it to his son. In 1995, Holland is still teaching at the high school, and is asked to Wolter’s office. Wolter has finally gotten his way of cutting the arts programs, with Holland being let go. Although he fights this, Holland still loses. He realizes that, at the age of 60, he doesn’t have any other options, and it is too late for him to finish his composition and get it published. As he sits in the empty music room, believing that no one will miss him once he is gone, he hears a car horn outside his window. Holland looks to see Iris and Cole, who help him pack up. They surprise him, however, by taking him to the auditorium, where many of Holland’s former students have gathered to say goodbye to their beloved teacher. The students then perform, with Holland conducting, the symphony he has spent the past 30 years writing.

December 1

December 1, 1988 – Disney Announces the Creation of Hollywood Pictures

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Image credit: wikipedia

“Along with the Disney and Touchstone labels, there was Hollywood Pictures, launched in 1988 to distribute more mature, adult-oriented fare.” – Alisa Perren, Indie, Inc.: Miramax and the Transformation of Hollywood in the 1990s.

On December 1, 1988, the Walt Disney Company announced a new production label and subsidiary of the Walt Disney Studios: Hollywood Pictures. Like the already successful Touchstone, Miramax, and Dimension production companies owned by Disney at the time, Hollywood Pictures was meant to cater to a more mature audience. The division was established on February 1, 1989, and released its first film, Arachnophobia, on July 18, 1990. The most successful film from this studio was The Sixth Sense, released August 6, 1999; other successful films include The Joy Luck Club, The Santa Clause, While You Were Sleeping, and Mr. Holland’s Opus. The studio became defunct in 2001, but was resurrected as an independent studio in 2006; this was short-lived, however, and the studio was shut down in 2007.