In Other News...Hurricane Katrina

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Given the devastation caused by Katrina, the state of some movies seems trivial; still, the deadly storm left a lasting effect on the already-suffering film industry. After decimating homes and lives in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana, Katrina also left in her wake a number of Hollywood projects in production. While considerably tamer when it passed through Florida (where filming halted temporarily on the Michael Mann actioner Miami Vice), the storm picked up considerable strength by the time it reached Louisiana, a state that has increasingly attracted film productions in the past year. As the storm approached New Orleans last weekend, crews for the Michael Keaton-Brendan Fraser rom-com The Last Time evacuated the city; members of the Warner Bros. production, The Reaping, starring Hilary Swank, fled to Austin in neighboring Texas. Likewise, the cast and crew of the CBS made-for-television film Vampire Bats attempted to flee New Orleans by car when mass evacuations jammed the airlines. Vampire Bats star Lucy Lawless, riding with one of the film's producers, was stuck in traffic that turned an 80 mile drive to Baton Rouge into a nine-hour trip.

As the nation's consciousness turns to the thousands left dead, injured, and homeless in Katrina's aftermath, and rightly so, the film industry is likely to feel a further drop in box office numbers. Prior to the disaster, sales were already down at least 7 percent; when Katrina approached earlier this week, all major exhibitors closed theaters in the path of the storm. With lengthy and massive clean-up efforts to come in most afflicted cities, many of which are still without electricity, it may be months until the film industry regains its footing.