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Movie Answer Man (04/21/1996)

Q. Will Warner Bros. will try at some point to revitalize the Superman franchise through a Batman film, a la "The Dark Knight Returns?" I think it would be interesting to see. (Francisco L. Mendez, Dallas, Tx.)

A. Warner Bros. says it has no such plans, but in my opinion it's only a matter of time. The tradition of having one superhero visit the world of another is well-established in comic books, where it was originally started as a way of encouraging "sampling" of a new character by the fans of an older one. At the present moment the Superman series has run out of box office steam, while Batman is Warner's most valuable franchise. But eventually Batman, too, will need a retread, and the idea of a combined Batman-Superman adventure will be seductive. One obvious story line could star Christopher Reeve as a Superman whose mental acuity is untouched but whose body has been immobilized by Kryptonite. Harnessing his remaining powers such as X-ray vision to a Virtual Reality computer program, Superman could act as an advisor and ally for Batman. I can even imagine a subplot in which Bruce Wayne uses his scientific knowledge to try to aid the paralyzed Clark Kent--little realizing Clark is actually Superman.

Q. After seeing "Mr. Holland's Opus," my brother insisted that Richard Dreyfuss's image was computer-altered for the scenes of him as a young man. I hadn't read or heard anything like that, but I did think he looked just like he did 15 years ago. Do you know if a computer was used to give Richard his youthful look? If so, is this now a typical practice? (Sherry Mabry, Kansas City, Mo.)

A. Hairpieces and makeup (and good acting) were used, but no computers. Dreyfuss has always had an uncanny ability to change his apparent screen age. In "American Graffiti," he played a high-school student when he was already almost 30.

Q. When movies are dubbed for release in other countries, the spoken words are dubbed but not the noise from the background (cars, footsteps, etc.). How is this done? (Vincent Assmann, Heidelberg Germany)

A. The incidental noises on a sound track are controlled by "Foley artists," so named after a movie sound veteran, who mix the dialogue tracks with sounds and effects that were recorded on location and others that are added in post-production. While filming, sound men try to minimize the non-dialogue sounds in a scene to make mixing easier. Often after a scene has been filmed, the sound man will ask for complete silence while a recording is made of the ambient background sound of a location, which can later be used while matching different takes of the scene.

Q. Has something happened to all the actors in Hollywood? It looks as though there are only two actors working at the moment; Antonio Banderas and Chazz Palminteri. They seem to be in every film released (although it appears that George Clooney will be cast in every movie made later this year). A "hot" performer can be involved in so many projects, regardless of quality, that the audience will get sick of him. As a result the actor's career is over after a couple of years. This makes me wonder who they will give lifetime achievement awards to in 20 years. (Gary Currie, Montreal, Quebec)

A. An actor like Palmenteri, who struggled for success for many years, can be forgiven for making hay while the sun shines. But he has been in a lot of movies recently: "Bullets Over Broadway," "Usual Suspects," "Jade," "Faithful," and the forthcoming "Mulholland Falls." Sometimes it's a result of movies being made over a period of time and then coincidentally being released all at once. The last time Variety did a count, the busiest actors in Hollywood were Gene Hackman and Jim Belushi, but that was a few years ago.

Q. Recently I had my worst moviegoing experience at the Cineplex Odeon in Orland Park. I waited months in eager anticipation of seeing "Sense and Sensibility." The movie was wonderful, but imagine my disappointment and outrage when the projectionist DID NOT RUN THE CREDITS! I was furious. I rushed to the manager to report this crime against movie fans, and she said he had done this before, but not with the approval of the theater. Why does he still have a job? (Cindy Beberman, Orland Park, Ill.)

A. It is sad to encounter someone who has no sympathy for the meaning of his work. Not only are the closing credits themselves of intrinsic interest to many moviegoers, but they also often include full performances of one or two songs from the soundtrack--plus, in some comedies, additional outtakes or in-jokes. Not only should the full closing credits always be projected, but if the theater has curtains, they should not be closed until the final copyright notice appears.

Q. In 1958 there were 4,063 drive-in screens in the U.S., and now there are less than 900. Why do you think drive-ins are an endangered species? Do you think there's the slightest chance they will become popular again? (Alison L Lundgren, Urbana, Ill.)

A. I'm amazed (and pleased) there are still 900. Land values have gone up in desirable locations, where more money can be made with a shopping mall than a drive-in (and malls have theaters, too). With all the emphasis on "per-screen averages," drive-ins can only show a feature once at a convenient time on most nights, especially during their prime summer season, while indoor theaters can schedule two or three showings. I like the idea of drive-ins, as part of the American experience, but haven't attended one in years; I find the picture and sound better in a good conventional theater.

Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert was the film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times from 1967 until his death in 2013. In 1975, he won the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism.

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