Thanks to The Arizona Republic for this article.
Studios sniff a trend, hope dogs will pack theaters this spring
LOS ANGELES – Perhaps they grew tired of penguins getting all their press. Or ninja turtles stealing their thunder.
Whatever the reason, dogs are back and storming theaters in the coming months.
Beginning Friday with Firehouse Dog, about a firefighting Irish terrier, canines will be sniffing out cineplexes in force:
Year of the Dog. Molly Shannon plays a secretary whose life is dramatically altered when her dog dies. The film is due April 13.
Underdog. TV’s beloved crime-fighting beagle comes to the big screen with Jason Lee providing the voice. Aug. 3.
A Dog Year. Jeff Bridges is suffering a midlife crisis when he adopts a dog crazier than he is. Based on the Jon Katz book, it’s due next year.
When it comes to animal movies, dogs have historically been Hollywood’s best friend. Since 1974, there have been 44 live-action, big-studio dog films, Box Office Mojo say.
The next closest animal is the horse, which has anchored 20 feature films. There are plenty of animated cats and rodents, but not many featuring actual creatures.
“I wish we had a dog movie coming out,” says Dan Fellman, distribution chief of Warner Bros. “I’ve never had one that didn’t make money.”
Still, the genre isn’t bullet-proof. Last year’s Lassie did only $650,000.
And dog films inevitably draw the ire of rescue groups, who say that big-screen canine portrayals generally lead to a surge in animal adoptions – and subsequent dumpings.
“We love movies that celebrate dogs,” said Stephanie Shain, spokeswoman for the national Humane Society. “But why not have a 30-second disclaimer before the movie begins that not all dogs are for everyone, and that they need lots of training and care?”
Don’t expect that caveat from studios, which hate to encumber films with reality.
But Firehouse director Todd Holland says he took pains to convince a Los Angeles terrier-rescue group, from which he adopted two of the four dogs for the film, that the movie’s message would be supportive to its cause.