An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn

  • An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn box office
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  • Directed By: Alan Smithee (Arthur Hiller – uncredited)
  • Written By: Joe Eszterhas
  • Release Date: February 27, 1998
  • Domestic Distributor: Disney (Hollywood Pictures)
  • Cast: Ryan O’Neal, Coolio, Eric Idle

Box Office Info:
Budget: $10 million Financed by: Cinergi Pictures
Domestic Box Office: $45,779 Overseas Box Office: $7,071

We normally do not do write-ups on lower budgeted fare like this, but we’ll make a special exception for An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn, one of the worst movies ever made.  This unwatchable mockumentary about ego driven shenanigans in Hollywood and the director pseudonym ‘Alan Smithee’, was the brainchild of the lunatic screenwriter Joe Eszterhas.  It would be easy to blame drugs and alcohol for the finished product, but those two combinations have given the public countless quality movies — so the blame lies squarely on Mr. Eszterhas, who has since acknowledged that what’s on screen is entirely his words, though he finds the movie funny.  There’s no opinion here, this movie is objectively not funny.

Veteran director Arthur Hiller signed on to direct this sendup of the industry and Cinergi Pictures unwisely agreed to finance.  The budget for An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn was a modest $10 million.   Once Hiller assembled a rough cut of the movie, it went out for test screenings.  After massive walk outs and awful audience scores, Eszterhas went ahead without Hiller’s approval and began to cut away at the running time and add rock music.  Once Eszterhas finished his edit, Cinergi approved that cut and Arthur Hiller demanded his name be removed.

In a case of art imitating life, then life imitating art, this artless movie became an actual Alan Smithee film.  Both Hiller and Eszterhas were accused of making this a meta publicity stunt, but it became very clear, very quickly that An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn was indeed disowned by the original director.

The cash strapped Cinergi found itself wiped out after a series of flops and this trainwreck was their final production, which went over to Disney after the mouse house acquired the Cinergi library.  Eszterhas was proud of the picture and became increasingly frustrated that Disney was not giving the movie a strong marketing push.  As the February 27, 1998 release date approached, there were no signs of any marketing and most critics had already viewed the film, hailing it as one of the worst of all time.  Disney booked An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn into 19 theaters, where it pulled in $28,992 with an anemic $1,526 per screen average.  The fleeting theatrical run brought in a mere $45,779.

The only recorded overseas gross was $7,071 from Italy and it was dumped straight to video in almost every market.   The Alan Smithee pseudonym was retired after this movie was released.


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  1. I bought this on DVD because of the “Alan Smithee” moniker, thinking it might be an insider film and I wasn’t disappointed. I enjoyed it. Not the best movie by a long shot, and not the most obvious humor, but if you got it you got it. And the soundtrack is one of the best I’ve ever heard. If you can find a copy on CD you won’t be disappointed – deep cuts and rarities, all excellent.

  2. Back in the 90s I interviewed Eric Stoltz, who was in Dallas for a film festival (I think he was promoting a film called Waterdance). Stoltz seemed bored or tired, maybe both, so I returned the favor and asked the boring, “What director do you enjoy working with?” and he responded, “Oh, probably Alan Smithee.” I laughed and shot back, “You’re so busted.” The publicist panicked and asked what was wrong. When I explained that the DGA’s use of the name, Stoltz laughed and gave me a high-five. I’d apparently won his respect for knowing about the name. That evening, he spotted me at a post-screening reception and promptly bought me a drink.

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