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  • Directed By: Caroline Thompson
  • Written By: William Joyce, Caroline Thompson
  • Release Date: June 6, 1997
  • Domestic Distributor: Sony
  • Cast: Rene Russo, Robbie Coltrane, Alan Cumming

Box Office Info:
Budget: $25 million Financed by: Sony
Domestic Box Office: $10,113,400 Overseas Box Office: $0

buddy 1997 rene russo
Back in December 1995, the Jim Henson Company landed a huge development deal with Sony, where the Henson Co. would develop up to 15 movies over 5 years and the slate of pictures would cost north of $200 million — financed and distributed by Sony.  Only 3 movies materialized from the deal and all were box office flops: Buddy, Muppets From Space (1999) and The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland (1999).  After the failure of their projects, the Jim Henson Co. agreed to be sold off to the German media company EM for $680 million.  EM had major fiscal problems and in May 2003, the Henson family bought back their company for a fraction of what EM paid at $89 million.

Buddy was the first movie vehicle for Rene Russo, who had landed her breakout supporting role in Lethal Weapon 3 (1992) and then co-starred in a series of hits — In the Line of Fire (1993), Outbreak (1995), Get Shorty (1995), Tin Cup (1996) and Ransom (1996).  After Buddy flopped, she never toplined another studio project.

Sony dated Buddy for June 6, 1997 and the marketplace was bereft of kids fare and it was expected to have legs since it had no competition.  However, buzz was low on the picture and polling was showing that kids viewed the movie as cheap looking and low rent since none of the animals were enhanced by computer graphics.  The baby gorilla Buddy was animatronic and when he aged in the movie, it was very obviously a man in a gorilla suit.  Along with offering kids none of the technical wizardry from animal pics like Babe (1995), youngsters had completely rejected two recent monkey movies in 1996: Dunston Checks In and Ed.

Buddy bowed against Con Air and landed mostly negative reviews.  Jim Henson Company’s inaugural film was dead on arrival with $3,504,671 — placing #4 for the weekend led by Con Air.  Buddy disappeared quickly with just $10,113,400.  Sony would see returned about $5.5M after theaters take their percentage of the gross — far below P&A expenses.

Buddy was sent straight to video outside of the states.

In December 1997, Sony brokered a huge broadcast rights deal with the ABC network for 13 movies for just over $50 million.  The deal primarily revolved around the hits Air Force One, My Best Friend’s Wedding & The Fifth Element — and Buddy was packaged with 9 other less desirable movies:  Sunset Park, Mary Reilly, Matilda, Cops and Robbersons, Poetic Justice, Jury Duty, The Second Jungle Book: Mowgli and Baloo, Immortal Beloved and Excess Baggage.

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