Six times a week, on average, Robert Bucksbaum goes to the movies but he doesn't munch popcorn. He takes notes, notes that help him cut through the smoke and mirrors that Hollywood uses to embellish its upcoming feature films.
As president of Los Angeles-based Reel Source Inc., Bucksbaum's job is to give theater owners and stock analysts the real dope about movies. In a world of multi-million-dollar budgets and superstar salaries, such information can be crucial.
And Bucksbaum has been on a roll.
Reel Source predicted that "Lost World: Jurassic Park" would earn $245 million at the box office. As of Sept. 21, it had earned $228.7 million. He predicted that the kooky "Men in Black' would earn $220 million. As of Sept. 21, it pulled in $240.9 million. And he predicted that "George of the Jungle" would bring in $100 million about where it now stands.
His notable miscue from the summer was Jodi Foster's "Contact," which Bucksbaum said would generate $145 million, but is now running at $97 million.
Bucksbaum publishes Reel Source Inc. News, a newsletter sent each week to subscribers with news about upcoming films, box office data and projections on how much box office new films are likely to generate when they are released.
Such forecasting distinguishes his service from competitors like as Entertainment Data Inc. and Exhibitor Relations Co., which have become mainstays in the gathering of weekly box office grosses.
"He goes out on a limb on gross projections, which is something the other services don't do," said Jim Tharp, president of distribution for DreamWorks SKG.
"It's an information source for us. It keeps us up on release dates and changes. I certainly pass it along to our marketing department and I haven't heard any complaints," Tharp said.
Bucksbaum also sells other services to exhibitors, including scouting reports on films in production and a schedule of major and independent releases up to two years in advance. In addition, subscribers can dial into his Web site on the Internet for data on upcoming films, storylines and box office information from 1982 to the present.
"What I like about Robert's service is that he taps into the buzz," said Dave Sikich, who runs ISA Releasing, a Chicago-based distributor of independent films. "It's not just the numbers. He gets into real details about a film."
Such information is gleaned from advance screenings, studio scuttlebutt and even the Internet, where he taps into chats by Web-browsing film buffs.
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