The country where Three Men And A Baby flopped – and its lost sequel

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Whatever happened to Three Men And A Bride? And why Three Men And A Baby failed in at least one country.

Nothing, I’ve learned from my many years writing internet articles, cheers people more than reminding them just how long it’s been since a film was released. Take it as a virtual elixir of, er, youth that Three Men And A Baby then is coming up to 32 years old this year. The film was directed by Leonard Nimoy, a remake of the French movie Trois Hommes Et Un Couffin. It’s notable too, of course, for uniting Tom Selleck, Steve Guttenberg and Ted Danson, pretty much at the peak of their respective box office powers.

Much money was banked from the movie, with it topping the US box office chart in 1987. What’s more, it did princely business around the planet as well, pulling in a total of nearly $300m in cinemas alone, before becoming a huge video hit too. Not bad for a movie that cost around $11m for the negative.

That said, the success story wasn’t quite universal. When the movie opened in France, it was ushered out of cinemas in pretty much two weeks flat. The film sold under 130,000 tickets in that time, playing at just 48 sites. “France is the only place in the world where it hasn’t set the world on fire”, admitted then-Disney Studios chief Jeffrey Katzenberg. The reason? Well, it’s the logical one. The original film, Trois Hommes Et Un Couffin, was a monster French hit, and audiences had little appetite to see what Hollywood had done with it. As Katzenberg would add, “it’d be the equivalent of doing a foreign language remake of E.T.” and releasing it in America.

Somewhat inevitably, Katzenberg instead focused on pursuing a sequel, and Three Men And A Little Lady – pictured below – would follow in 1990. This time, it wasn’t just the French who were withholding their funds. Whilst the film reunited the core cast and was generally quite liked, the box office returns were heavily down, at just over $70m. That’s plenty of profit, given that it was still a modestly costed movie, but the trend was downwards and fast.

One side point here: whilst it was pretty commonplace in America for sizeable films to go straight to retail video release, skipping a rental window, it was much rarer in the UK. Three Men And A Little Lady was – outside of its animated catalogue – the film that saw Disney dipping its toe into this proverbial water, along with the far more successful Pretty Woman. Both titles hit retail stores, at a then-premium £12.99 price point. You could even order a Three Men And A Little Lady T-shirt, if you sent Disney a 38p cheque to cover postage.

There was a fresh flicker of life in the series back at the start of this decade, around the time that Hollywood was going through its belated sequel phase. Disney at one stage admitted that a belated trilogy-closer, Three Men And A Bride, was in development, with the core leads all set to return. Things have been quiet on it for around half a decade though, and there’s a likely mix of reasons for that. Firstly, the public appetite for belated sequels quickly began to wane. And secondly, the Disney movie business model has shifted radically, to zero in on seven or eight heavy bets a year, without room around the edges for something that doesn’t have a big special effects budget. There have been one or two exceptions to that rule – Queen Of Katwe stands out – but otherwise, the rule holds. Consider the movie killed in development hell.

Three Men And A Bride, though, seems to have been finally killed off by the decision by Disney to press ahead with a remake of the first film – itself a remake of course – that it’s intending for its Disney+ service. More information on that here. Look for the new take – directed by Adam Shankman – to be a success when it lands on the Disney+ service.

Perhaps not in France, though…

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