Al Pacino's appearance in the excellent HBO original film "You Don't Know Jack" is much more a sign of HBO's willingness to take chances on great projects (and in this case succeeding) than Pacino settling for a television role.
As Barry Levinson pointed out in a conference call last week, movie studios are not taking chances on stories about people -- even with stars like Pacino, who puts in a stunning performance Dr. Jack Kevorkian in this movie (premiering April 24).
"HBO is taking a certain area where theatrical has sort of abandoned it completely," says Levinson. "Theatrical would never make this kind of movie. You just cannot have it anymore."
"Theatrically they don't want to do movies about people."
Indeed Levinson was saying that at the premiere of "You Don't Know Jack" many audience members were blown away by the movie and saying it was a shame it couldn't be seen in a theater.
"Then someone said, it really is good, but if you made it independently you'd be trying to find some way to get it released," Levinson added.
Such is the fate of movies in tough economic times and a shifting landscape. In fact Levinson does not believe many of his great movies would have been made in today's climate.
He mused that his classic "Good Morning, Vietnam" probably "would not make it theatrically." It just wouldn't get greenlit.
"They would probably make 'Bugsy,' " he added, "but it would have to be much more violent than the piece we did."