That Old Feeling

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  • Directed By: Carl Reiner
  • Written By: Leslie Dixon
  • Release Date: April 4, 1997
  • Domestic Distributor: Universal
  • Cast: Bette Midler, Dennis Farina, Paula Marshall

Box Office Info:
Budget: $35 million Financed by: Universal
Domestic Gross: $16,574,176 Overseas Gross: $3,822,000

that old feeling 1997
That Old Feeling was written by Leslie Dixon in 1991 as a vehicle for Bette Midler, but the scribe held onto her spec script until Midler’s contract with Disney’s Touchstone expired.  Midler had landed an exclusive 3-picture deal with the mouse house just a few weeks after she toplined the hit Outrageous Fortune (1987) — written by Leslie Dixon — and she could not star in another studio’s picture until she completed the 3 movies.  With Midler locked into the Disney deal, Dixon expected the studio to only want a sequel to Outrageous Fortune, so she and Midler sat on the script.

Eventually Midler’s contractual requirements at Disney were fulfilled and That Old Feeling quickly landed a greenlight at The Bubble Factory.  Lets take a look back at The Bubble Factory.  The company was founded by Sid Sheinberg, who had run MCA Inc., (parent corp of Universal).  In 1990 MCA was acquired for $6.59 billion by the Japanese conglomerate Matsushita.  Then in 1995, the Canadian liquor company Seagram bought 80% of MCA for $5.7 billion and after 34 years of running MCA, Sheinberg’s reign ended.  He was given a seat on Seagram’s board and the giant entity agreed to fully finance his new production company The Bubble Factory.  Sheinberg was given full autonomy to greenlight 3 to 4 movies per year for 5 years with budgets between $35M and $40M and without approval from Universal.  It was widely known that the reason he was given such a fantastic production deal was his close relationship with Steven Spielberg, who made it very clear that as long as Universal kept Sheinberg in-house, he would continue to make films for the studio.  Universal did not want the arrangement with The Bubble Factory, but they were desperate for Spielberg to direct The Lost World: Jurassic Park and the deal with Sheinberg was launched.

The Bubble Factory was a disaster, that quickly churned out a series of lousy movies that all flopped.  Most of their output was turning old TV programs into features and the first movie out of the gate was the bomb Flipper (1996).  Next up was That Old Feeling and two weeks later was the trainwreck McHale’s Navy.  At this point Spielberg had finished The Lost World, but he went off to focus on his fledgling company DreamWorks and had no other projects lined up to direct at Universal.  Just two months after the McHale’s Navy & That Old Feeling embarrassment, Universal wrote Sheinberg a massive check for an undisclosed amount and ended their relationship with The Bubble Factory.  Universal had two more Bubble Factory releases to waste money and time on — A Simple Wish set for July and For Richer or Poorer dated for December.  Both died at the box office.

And now we are back to the That Old FeelingThe budget for That Old Feeling was $35 million.   Universal saw positive test screening scores and it was dated for April 4, 1997 and bowed against The Saint, Double Team and Inventing the Abbotts.  Reviews were mixed to poor.  In late 1996 Midler had landed the biggest box office hit of her career with The First Wives Club, which hit the century mark in the US, but That Old Feeling tanked with $5,103,075 — placing #4 for the weekend led by the holdover Liar Liar.  The stateside run quickly ended with a dismal $16,574,176.

Universal saw just $3.8M in overseas receipts, which brought the worldwide total to just $20.3M.  The studio would see returned about $11.1M after theaters take their percentage of the gross — far below P&A expenses and the budget would be all red ink.  Bette Midler remained off screen until Isn’t She Great (2000), which ended studio movies built around her.  This was Carl Reiner’s final directing effort.

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