Off Limits

No Balls

Is billionaire Phil Anschutz crying poverty?

That's the subtext of an e-mail sent to youth soccer organizations about The Game of Their Lives, an Anschutz Film Group movie that tells the true (or close enough) story of an American team that upset an English squad in the 1950 World Cup. The note, signed by one Ben Correale and sent before Game opened April 22 in a very limited release, declares that "in most markets, including the Denver area, we do not have the resources of traditional advertising. Without television trailers, newspaper ads or billboards, the film will have to rely exclusively on word of mouth and a grassroots effort." Two weeks from its opening, Correale's missive continues, Game "will close in most markets and the powers that be will assess whether or not to release the movie nationally." To help kick the flick to the next level, Correale invites members of "local soccer associations" to support the movie.

The e-mail omits any reference to local businessman Anschutz's vast fortune, not to mention his ownership of five major-league soccer teams in this country and Millennium Dome, a stadium/soccer venue in London. He also possesses newspapers in San Francisco and Washington, D.C. -- can't he afford his own ad rates? -- and is the largest owner of movie theaters in the country. (If he wanted Game to play forever at his Colorado Center complex, where the film had its Denver debut, he could easily do so without being pressured by an uprising of soccer moms.) But the e-mail does include a phone number and e-mail address for Correale, who writes, "I look forward to hearing from you, and working with you to bring this wonderful story to your members."

Actor Wes Bentley got Game.
Actor Wes Bentley got Game.
God gives a sign in Focus on the Family country.
Susan Goldstein
God gives a sign in Focus on the Family country.

If so, he has a funny way of showing it. Off Limits received no response to multiple e-mails, and calls to Correale's number triggered the voice mail of a Game booster named Jason, who didn't return numerous messages. But then, the movie hasn't generated much in the way of returns, either. Made for an estimated $20 million, The Game of Their Lives has collected just $300,000 from a total of 64 theaters over the past ten days, according to industry estimates, with the second weekend's gross falling more than 50 percent.

With receipts like those, Anschutz might have to cry poverty for real -- in three or four thousand years.

The mogul did get a little more love from the Atlantic Monthly, which, in a May article titled "The Apocalypse, Rated PG," asked, "Can a socially conservative Christian Republican succeed in Hollywood?" Anschutz himself isn't telling -- but then, he never gives interviews. The closest that author Ross Douthat came was an interview with Anschutz spokesman Jim Monaghan, "an avuncular man in his fifties," who met him at a Denver bar and "held forth genially on the subject of his mysterious employer. But even Monaghan, with his potbelly, checkered shirt and graying whiskers, seemed more like an anti-PR man."

Who didn't return Off Limits's phone calls, either.

Swat team: Speaking of socially conservative Christian Republicans, Focus on the Family ran two ads on Monday night's episode of ABC's Supernanny, both hyping, Focus's "child-rearing website" that offers advice from James Dobson, the Family founder whose doctorate is actually in child psychology, not divinity. And speaking of "rearing," here's what the good doctor has to say about spanking in the chapter called "When You Feel Like Calling in the SWAT Team":

"The young mother of a defiant 3-year-old girl...told me that one day they happened to see a copy of my book The New Dare to Discipline on sale in a local bookstore. They bought the book and learned therein that it is appropriate to spank a child under certain well-defined circumstances. My recommendations made sense to these harassed parents, who promptly spanked their sassy daughter the next time she gave them reason to do so." The next morning, the parents found Dobson's book floating in the toilet, where their daughter had flushed it.

The dueling protests this past weekend at Focus headquarters in Colorado Springs didn't have much luck flushing out Dobson, who was reportedly out of town. In his absence, our Off Limits operative offers this alternative to Dobsonian discipline: Simply watch Supernanny with your kids, and discuss with them the bad behavior that Supernanny Jo Frost has been brought in to tame. Without spanking.

Zoneheads: We're not in the habit of feeling sorry for developers, but there were moments last Thursday when we would have preferred stepping on kitties to looking at Len Goldberg, owner of Mile High Construction and Development.

Goldberg's company recently purchased two properties just south of Colfax Avenue along Madison Street and was doing asbestos-abatement work there when residents spotted the activity. Denver City Council representative Jeanne Robb quickly called a neighborhood meeting and asked Goldberg to come outline his project.

There isn't a scarier group to appear before than Colfax Avenue neighbors; they could give a smackdown to even those toughies in West Wash Park. These residents know their zoning code better than most people know their children, and they know what they want for Colfax -- particularly in the areas labeled Colfax A and Colfax B in the city's Blueprint Colfax plan. They want beauty. They want genius. Instead, they got Goldberg, with an architecturally bland proposal that calls for 32 condos and some retail along Colfax -- and tearing down two turn-of-the-last-century structures.

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