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Summer’s hottest date movie

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MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: These days, it seems everybody knows what film is No. 1 at the box office. They also know how much money it pulled in. But some films are never even close to No. 1, yet they somehow manage to do well financially, surprising both the film critics and the fans. Mike Speier is Managing Editor for Daily Variety. I asked him about the surprise hit of the summer that never made it to No. 1, “The Devil Wears Prada.”

MIKE SPEIER: It never made it to No. 1 but it’s holding in there every week and that’s really what matters. This is a movie that opened, what, four weeks ago and already it’s now above Superman every week. Which means that, while Superman had a great opening and everyone talked about it and then kind of went away, Devil Wears Prada’s the one that’s slow and steady wins the race. And that’s kind of what matters for these indie films.

THOMAS: When you look closely at Prada, there are a lot of other audiences besides fashion-oriented women that this movie appeals to. I mean, I love this movie. Is this broader appeal part of the reason it has legs?

SPEIER: That’s certainly one reason. Broad appeal and how it became a broad appeal is pretty amazing, because it is a movie about fashion. You’d think it would be just for women, it was based on a book that was pretty much just for women, and all of a sudden it becomes the hottest date movie of the summer. And a lot of that of course has a lot to do with the performances, because Meryl Streep is someone who elevates this movie from just kind of a sitcom-y feel to something that makes it important and something vital and a compelling watch and that is kind of the old-fashioned Hollywood, which is how one person can elevate a movie by a performance.

THOMAS: “Snakes on a Plane” is coming out soon. That film seems to have been marketed very well. It probably won’t top the box office, but does it have to in order to make it financially successful?

SPEIER: It does not have to top the box office week after week in order to do that. It still might top the box office, because you never know. . . I don’t know what it’s up against, but the big movies are gone. I mean the big movies — Pirates, Superman, X-Men — those movies are gone from our system. So now comes the end of summer and something like this certainly has a shot.

THOMAS: Yeah I’m imagining “Rats on a Raft” or “Bugs on a Boat” or something in the sequels of this . . .

SPEIER: Absolutely. You can just imagine that this is the pitch that they went in with the studio, they just walked in and go, ‘I got it, “Snakes on a Plane.”‘

THOMAS: OK here’s another example, “Clerks II” is out; it’s directed by and stars Kevin Smith. I don’t think anybody expects that film to make a lot of money but I get the feeling that that’s not even the expectation the studio has.

SPEIER: “Clerks II” is in a unique situation because everyone loved the first “Clerks.” I mean this is what made independent film. A lot of people say “Clerks” is the reason the indie film explosion happened 10 years ago. And that Kevin Smith has become kind of a name within certain circles. So I don’t think they walked in saying, ‘Yeah let’s just do it ’cause it’s fun.’ I think they expected to make money. And based on the opening weekend I think they’re going to make a little bit of money. And then comes the DVD sales, and that’s where they’re really going to get stuff.

THOMAS: Mike Speier is Managing Editor for Daily Variety. And in Los Angeles, I’m Mark Austin Thomas. Thanks for joining us. Enjoy your weekend.

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