Movie 'Madison' Countdown

April release of movie sends
local officials into party plan mode



(February 2005)

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Don Ward

Perhaps it is ironic that movie writer-director Bill Bindley came up with the name Madison Miracle Productions when making the movie “Madison” back in 1999. For many hydroplane racing fans who have waited six long years to see the movie appear on the silver screen, it may indeed seem like a miracle when it finally happens.
But miracles do happen, and Bindley’s quest to see his independent film hit the big time is drawing near. MGM has purchased the rights to release the movie and plans a limited showing in six to 10 cities on April 22. And this time, it looks like it will really happen.
Although MGM has yet to post the movie in the “upcoming movies” listing on its Internet website, the movie has been mentioned in an online cinema trade website to which many movie theater operators subscribe. Ohio Theatre owners Tony and Laura Ratliff said that for the first time they have seen the movie listed in the online trade publication, “Independent Marketing Edge.” MGM has said expanding its release schedule nationally would depend on the success of the initial showings, so many of those associated with the movie or the sport want to see the film generate as much publicity “buzz” as possible.

Ohio Theatre Star

Photo by Don Ward

Is another sidewalk star in the making
in front of Madson’s Ohio Theater?

It did not help that Mel Gibson’s movie, “The Passion of the Christ,” starring actor Jim Caviezel, was passed over by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences for a major award, but the film did garner nominations for cinematography, makeup and musical score. Since making “Madison,” Caviezel has become a big Hollywood star in his own right. That can only help sell this independent film, co-written by two brothers from Indianapolis.
Caviezel, Jake Lloyd, Mary McCormack, Bruce Dern and Paul Dooley star in the “Madison” story that loosely follows the real life 1971 Gold Cup victory by Miss Madison driver Jim McCormick. It was shot on location in Madison in the summer and fall 1999, including race scenes filmed during that year’s Madison Regatta festival. Additional filming took place in Indiana and on the West Coast.
Since the film’s premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2001, two distributors had contracted to release the film only to be acquired in larger sales, scuttling distribution plans.
A spring release could also help the movie’s popularity by coming out prior to the 2005 Unlimited hydroplane racing season, which begins in June.
Tony Steinhardt, an officer with Madison Regatta Inc., traveled to Atlanta in late January to attend two private showings of the movie’s final cut to members of the American Power Boat Association. He said the organization hopes the movie will help revive interest in the sport at a time when it is emerging from perhaps its most embattled season in a long time. The circuit has new owners and is struggling to field enough race boats to stage a competitive schedule.
“We’ve waited a long time to see this movie come out, and when it does, it’s going to do wonders for the sport,” said Steinhardt, who served as a technical adviser on the film and was part of the real life racing crew in 1971.
Back in Madison, meanwhile, city officials are scrambling to find enough money and in-kind donations to help put on a big party worthy of Hollywood’s jet set. They are considering a VIP reception and private showing on April 15, with a public showing on a large outdoor screen on April 16. That’s one week before the film is scheduled to be released in theaters nationally. Another preview party is being planned in Seattle.
“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and if we do it right, Madison could see a boon in tourism and exposure for a long time to come,” said Linda Lytle, executive director of the Madison Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. She added that if the city can pull it off, there’s a chance it would attract national media, such as “Entertainment Tonight.”
“That would be huge for Madison and for the movie,” Lytle said.
Betsey Vonderheide, special projects administrator for Madison Mayor Al Huntington, has a list of “to do” items for pulling off the celebration. It includes a $20,000 price tag to set up a large outdoor movie screen at the foot of Broadway and Vaughn Drive, where the public could come to watch the movie in a party atmosphere. It also includes another $10,000 to $20,000 to hold a one night VIP reception on Main Street in front of the Ohio Theatre, where the movie would be shown on both screens simultaneously in two showtimes of 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.
The two viewing rooms, one upstairs and one downstairs, at the Ohio Theatre can hold about 500 people combined, so invitations to the reception would be limited to only 1,000 people, Lytle said.
This “red carpet” event may include appearances by some of the primary actors, such as Jim Caviezel, Mary McCormack and Bruce Dern, if local officials can figure out a way to pay their way to Madison. The movie’s production team, including Bindley, back in Los Angeles says it would cost around $18,000 to fly the three actors to Madison in First Class.
Vonderheide is pulling all stops and running through her Rolodex of Madison executives in search of another way to get these actors in town, perhaps via private jet.
“We’ve got to find a way to do this up big because you don’t get this kind of opportunity very often,” Vonderheide said.
Indeed, it’s been 46 years since the last major movie came out featuring Madison as the setting. Filmed in fall 1958, “Some Came Running” in 1959 starred Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Shirley MacLaine and earned five Academy Award nominations. Five years ago, a bronze and granite Hollywood-type star was created in their honor on the sidewalk in front of the Ohio Theatre. Could another star be on the way?
So far, the plans for launching the movie “Madison” are simply a wish list of possible activities that are being pursued, and to pull it off will take a sizable budget, said Lytle, who is working from a “to do” list of her own. But if local efforts succeed in producing the kind of Hollywood-size coming out party and puts “Madison,” the movie, and Madison, the city, on the map, then it will truly be what Bindley called “a Miracle Production.”

• Don Ward is the editor, publisher and owner of RoundAbout. Call him at (812) 273-2259 or email him at: Don@RoundAboutMadison.com.


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