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The BBC's Stephen Evans in New York
"A film about Pearl Habour that seems relunctant to mention the war"
 real 28k

Thursday, 21 June, 2001, 09:31 GMT 10:31 UK
Disney's Pearl Harbor boss quits
Pearl Harbor
Expectations were high for the success of Pearl Harbor
Walt Disney executive Peter Schneider has announced he is stepping down after 17 months as head of the company's film and TV studios.

His move follows disappointing returns on a series of big budget Disney films, most notably the current blockbuster Pearl Harbor.

But Disney insisted that Schneider - who oversaw production on Pearl Harbor - was leaving to start his own company and go back to his first love, Broadway.

Pearl Harbor, a World War II romance starring Ben Affleck and British actress Kate Beckinsale, had been touted as the next Titanic.


The film stars Kate Beckinsale

But it has failed to impress critics or live up to expectations at the box office, particularly in the US.

It cost £179m in total, taking the spend on worldwide promotion into account, but after a month on release it has not broken even.

It started well, making $75m (£52m) in its first weekend in the US, which was the long Memorial Holiday. But the audience then dropped 50% the following two weekends.

The main criticisms levelled at Pearl Harbor have been its simplified storyline, poor dialogue and glamorising of US participation in the war.

Competition

But, aside from Pearl Harbor, Disney has recently produced a number of prominent features that have failed to live up to expectations.

This comes at a time when the company has been making fewer films and has cut its animation staff by 25%.

Shrek
Shrek has been tough competition

Its animated adventure Atlantis: The Lost Empire also received a lukewarm reception.

It came after a similar lack of enthusiasm for 102 Dalmatians and The Emperor's New Groove.

But, Pearl Harbor was also released at a time of stiff competition, namely from DreamWorks' computer animated fantasy Shrek.

They came out on the same weekend but Shrek is now ahead by almost £30m at the US box office.

Other films giving Pearl Harbor a hard time have been John Travolta's Swordfish and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider with Angelina Jolie.

Japan

Elsewhere, Pearl Harbor has not fared so badly. It is still number one at the UK box office after three weeks, although Shrek and Tomb Raider are yet to open.

But the major key to its global success will be its reception in Japan - the second-largest film market in the world.

John Travolta in Swordfish
John Travolta has been a hit in Swordfish

The film will receive its première on Thursday before opening to the public on 14 July.

Some of the dialogue has been changed and the film is being sold as a romance rather than a war film to try to meet Japanese sensibilities.

A Disney spokeswoman said Schneider would remain "very close" to Disney chairman and chief executive Michael Eisner.

No replacement for Schneider has been named. Disney said three executives would absorb his responsibilities while remaining in their present posts.

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See also:

21 Jun 01 | Asia-Pacific
Pearl Harbor protests fall flat
19 Jun 01 | Film
Pearl Harbor digs deep
25 May 01 | Reviews
Pearl Harbor sinks fast
11 Jun 01 | Film
Pearl Harbor sunk by Swordfish
04 May 01 | Film
Shrek animates Cannes
21 May 01 | Film
Shrek shakes up US box office
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