Two-Minute Warning (1976)

R | 117 mins | Drama | 12 November 1976

Director:

Larry Peerce

Writer:

Edward Hume

Producer:

Edward S. Feldman

Cinematographer:

Gerald Hirschfeld

Production Designer:

Herman A. Blumenthal

Production Companies:

Filmways, Universal Pictures
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HISTORY

       On 16 Apr 1975, both HR and DV announced the acquisition of film rights to George LaFountaine’s 1975 novel, Two-Minute Warning by Universal Pictures and Filmways. Principal photography was planned for late 1975. The 1 Sep 1975 Publishers Weekly stated that the novel had been licensed by Paramount Pictures, prior to its acquisition by Universal.
       Principal photography began 5 Jan 1976, as reported in that day’s issue of DV. The 21 Jan 1976 stated that it was television star Merv Griffin’s first film appearance since 1969. He was featured in the picture singing the national anthem.
       During the production, the 17 Jan 1976 LAT announced the need for hundreds of background actors “to fill the Coliseum every weekday for the next month,” and directed all candidates to arrive at the stadium at 7:00 weekday mornings for the opportunity to appear in the film. An article in the 26 Jan 1976 DV explained that several hundred non-union background actors were hired “under a Screen Extras Guild (SEG) waiver agreement,” which also required the production to employ at least 125 SEG members. While SEG members were given a base wage of $47.50 per day plus fringe benefits, non-union background actors were paid only $18 per day. Some scenes required as many as 1700 extras, although several authentic crowd scenes had been filmed during a recent game between Stanford University and University of Southern California.
       The 15 Feb 1976 LAHExam reported that a second month of shooting was underway at the Coliseum. In ... More Less

       On 16 Apr 1975, both HR and DV announced the acquisition of film rights to George LaFountaine’s 1975 novel, Two-Minute Warning by Universal Pictures and Filmways. Principal photography was planned for late 1975. The 1 Sep 1975 Publishers Weekly stated that the novel had been licensed by Paramount Pictures, prior to its acquisition by Universal.
       Principal photography began 5 Jan 1976, as reported in that day’s issue of DV. The 21 Jan 1976 stated that it was television star Merv Griffin’s first film appearance since 1969. He was featured in the picture singing the national anthem.
       During the production, the 17 Jan 1976 LAT announced the need for hundreds of background actors “to fill the Coliseum every weekday for the next month,” and directed all candidates to arrive at the stadium at 7:00 weekday mornings for the opportunity to appear in the film. An article in the 26 Jan 1976 DV explained that several hundred non-union background actors were hired “under a Screen Extras Guild (SEG) waiver agreement,” which also required the production to employ at least 125 SEG members. While SEG members were given a base wage of $47.50 per day plus fringe benefits, non-union background actors were paid only $18 per day. Some scenes required as many as 1700 extras, although several authentic crowd scenes had been filmed during a recent game between Stanford University and University of Southern California.
       The 15 Feb 1976 LAHExam reported that a second month of shooting was underway at the Coliseum. In the article, producer Edward S. Feldman explained that the National Football League (NFL) would not allow the use of the name, Los Angeles Rams, in the film, “because they thought the picture had too much reality.” Teams with the fictional names, the Cougars and the Stars, represented Los Angeles, CA, and Baltimore, MD, respectively. Feldman also stated, “We couldn’t use the college names because there’s no two-minute warning in college ball.” According to the producer, Two-Minute Warning was the first film to use the Coliseum as its primary location. The 10 Nov 1976 DV stated that photography took place over a three-month period, using as many as 1800 background actors on a given day, at a total cost of $1.3 million.
       According to a 20 Feb 1976 LAT item, a staged stampede of 500 background players at the Coliseum resulted in several minor injuries. When Director Larry Peerce made a public statement, saying “They don’t behave like human beings,” two letters appeared in the 7 Mar 1976 LAT, one from SEG member Heather Raftery, who described the conditions on the set as “miserable,” and SEG board member Alan Craige, who defended the members of the guild.
       A 30 Jul 1976 premiere of the film was postponed until the fall, according to the 21 Apr 1976 DV, because post-production was not expected to be completed in time. In its place, Universal opened the film Swashbuckler (1976, see entry). The article also cited similarities between Two-Minute Warning and the upcoming Paramount production, Black Sunday (1977, see entry), as both dealt with acts of terrorism at a championship football game, and featured the Goodyear Blimp in their advertising. It was speculated that the summer release was an attempt by Universal to premiere its film several months ahead of Black Sunday. However, the latter film’s planned fall release was delayed until the following spring. The 15 May 1976 LAT reported that a double-page LAT and NYT advertisement, depicting the Goodyear Blimp hovering over a football stadium, angered Paramount executives, who accused Universal of capitalizing on Black Sunday.
       With bookings in more than 650 theaters throughout North America, on 6 Nov 1976, Universal began a television advertising campaign for Two-Minute Warning intended to reach over 205 million homes, according to the 4 Nov 1976 DV and HR. As reported in the 14 Jul 1976 Var, many of these bookings were acquired through “blind bidding,” in which an exhibitor bids for the film sight unseen.
       Although an article in the 18 Jul 1975 HR stated that the picture’s projected budget was $4 million, the 10 Nov 1976 DV estimated the cost to be $6.7 million, with an advertising budget between $3 million and $4 million. Star Charlton Heston’s salary was $250,000, plus 10% of gross rentals. The film was expected to earn approximately $20 million from exhibitors.
       Reviews for Two-Minute Warning were mixed. The 7 Nov 1976 LAT called it “an example of superb film craftsmanship,” while the 3 Nov 1976 HR said, “it misses on all counts.”
       The 3 Dec 1978 NYT reported that Universal spent $500,000 to produce sixty-three minutes of new footage for a television version to be broadcast the following winter on the NBC (National Broadcasting Company) television network, because the network deemed the picture too violent for television audiences. Universal complied by altering the plot and expanding the running time to three hours, hoping to garner a higher licensing fee as compensation to help offset the film’s unsuccessful theatrical returns. According to the 6 Feb 1979 LAT, thirty minutes of footage were removed from the film and replaced by new sequences, written by Francesca Turner and directed by Gene Palmer. The revised plot involved a gang of art thieves, played by Rossano Brazzi, James Olson, and Paul Shenar, among others, who planned to rob a museum while the sniper created a non-lethal diversion at the football game. Other new characters included a scheming art collector and his advisor, played by William Prince and Joanna Pettet. The roles of co-stars Jack Klugman, David Janssen, Walter Pidgeon, Marilyn Hassett, Beau Bridges, and Gena Rowlands were reduced considerably, and only Charlton Heston appeared in any of the new footage. Original director Larry Peerce was not credited in the broadcast version, which first aired 6 Feb 1979.
      End credits conclude with the following statement: "The producers wish to thank the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Commission, the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, Broadcast Electronics, Inc., for their generous cooperation in the filming of this motion picture."
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GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Box Office
5 May 1975.
---
Daily Variety
16 Apr 1975.
---
Daily Variety
31 Oct 1975.
---
Daily Variety
5 Jan 1976.
---
Daily Variety
6 Jan 1976.
---
Daily Variety
13 Jan 1976.
---
Daily Variety
20 Jan 1976.
---
Daily Variety
21 Jan 1976.
---
Daily Variety
26 Jan 1976.
---
Daily Variety
21 Apr 1976.
---
Daily Variety
4 Nov 1976.
---
Daily Variety
10 Nov 1976.
---
Hollywood Reporter
16 Apr 1975.
---
Hollywood Reporter
18 Jul 1975.
---
Hollywood Reporter
3 Nov 1975.
---
Hollywood Reporter
8 Jan 1976.
---
Hollywood Reporter
19 Jan 1976.
---
Hollywood Reporter
13 Feb 1976.
---
Hollywood Reporter
3 Nov 1976
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Nov 1976.
---
Hollywood Reporter
24 Oct 1978.
---
LAHExam
17 Jan 1976.
---
LAHExam
15 Feb 1976
p. 1, 6.
Los Angeles Times
17 Jan 1976
Part II, p. 10.
Los Angeles Times
20 Feb 1976.
p. 1, 9.
Los Angeles Times
7 Mar 1976.
---
Los Angeles Times
15 May 1976.
---
Los Angeles Times
7 Nov 1976
p. 34.
Los Angeles Times
6 Feb 1979.
---
New York Times
13 Nov 1976
p. 12.
New York Times
3 Dec 1978.
---
Publishers Weekly
1 Sep 1975.
---
Variety
14 Jul 1976.
---
Variety
3 Nov 1976
p. 26.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Also starring:
[and]
Co-starring:
Assistant TV directors:
The Ramsay children:
[and]
Baltimore boosters:
Button's children:
[and]
Spectators:
[and]
Policemen:
[and]
Cyclists:
[and]
Women at airport:
[and]
Green's henchmen:
[and]
Couple at S.W.A.T. call:
The S.W.A.T. team:
[and]
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
A Filmways Production
A Larry Peerce-Edward S. Feldman Film
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d asst dir
Asst dir trainee
PRODUCER
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Asst cam
Asst cam
Key grip
2d grip
Dolly grip
Gaffer
Best boy
Still photog
ART DIRECTOR
FILM EDITORS
Asst ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Leadman
Construction coord
Prop master
Asst prop man
Asst prop man
COSTUMES
Ward
Asst men's ward
MUSIC
Mus ed
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec weapons eff
Titles des
Titles & opt eff
Spec visual eff
MAKEUP
Make-up
Make-up
Hair stylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Video tape seqs supv
Scr supv
Prod asst
Tech adv
Los Angeles Police Department, S.W.A.T.
Football coord
Prod asst
Cont artist
Prod secy
Craft service
Transportation capt
First aid
STAND INS
Stunt coord
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Two-Minute Warning by George La Fountaine (New York, 1975).
SONGS
The National Anthem sung by Merv Griffin.
PERFORMER
DETAILS
Release Date:
12 November 1976
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 12 November 1976
Production Date:
began 5 January 1976 in Los Angeles, CA
Copyright Claimant:
Universal City Studios, LLLP
Copyright Date:
12 November 1976
Copyright Number:
LP46802
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Color by Technicolor®
Lenses/Prints
Filmed in Panavision®
Duration(in mins):
117
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
24648
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In Los Angeles, California, a sniper fires a rifle from the window of his hotel room, killing a middle-aged man bicycling with his wife. At Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Paul, a security officer, leads a pair of watchdogs into the scoreboard tower before locking all entryways. Meanwhile, the sniper leaves the hotel and drives toward the stadium, where a championship football game is to be played that afternoon between the Los Angeles and Baltimore, Maryland, teams. Football fans from Baltimore arrive at Los Angeles International Airport, including Steve, a short-tempered car salesman, and Janet, his live-in girl friend. After a gambler named Sandman places a large bet on the Los Angeles team, he is summoned to the hotel suite of Mr. Green, a gangster to whom Sandman owes $28,000. Green demands the money at the conclusion of the game, or Sandman will die. Outside the Coliseum, Mike and Peggy Ramsay have a picnic on the lawn with their two young sons, along with several other families. The sniper enters the scoreboard tower undetected, then distracts the dogs with a piece of meat, and breaks the lock to the upper level, which overlooks the interior of the Coliseum. A telephone conversation between police captain Pete Holly and Coliseum manager Sam McKeever reveals that the governors of Maryland and California, the mayor of Los Angeles, and the president of the U.S. will be in attendance. A television crew prepares to broadcast the game from their control room, with several cameras placed around the stadium, including one in the blimp hovering overhead. The game gets underway and Baltimore quickly accumulates an eleven-point ... +


In Los Angeles, California, a sniper fires a rifle from the window of his hotel room, killing a middle-aged man bicycling with his wife. At Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Paul, a security officer, leads a pair of watchdogs into the scoreboard tower before locking all entryways. Meanwhile, the sniper leaves the hotel and drives toward the stadium, where a championship football game is to be played that afternoon between the Los Angeles and Baltimore, Maryland, teams. Football fans from Baltimore arrive at Los Angeles International Airport, including Steve, a short-tempered car salesman, and Janet, his live-in girl friend. After a gambler named Sandman places a large bet on the Los Angeles team, he is summoned to the hotel suite of Mr. Green, a gangster to whom Sandman owes $28,000. Green demands the money at the conclusion of the game, or Sandman will die. Outside the Coliseum, Mike and Peggy Ramsay have a picnic on the lawn with their two young sons, along with several other families. The sniper enters the scoreboard tower undetected, then distracts the dogs with a piece of meat, and breaks the lock to the upper level, which overlooks the interior of the Coliseum. A telephone conversation between police captain Pete Holly and Coliseum manager Sam McKeever reveals that the governors of Maryland and California, the mayor of Los Angeles, and the president of the U.S. will be in attendance. A television crew prepares to broadcast the game from their control room, with several cameras placed around the stadium, including one in the blimp hovering overhead. The game gets underway and Baltimore quickly accumulates an eleven-point lead over Los Angeles. A Catholic priest takes a seat next to Sandman, who fears for his life and requests a prayer for the Los Angeles team. Elsewhere in the crowd, Mike Ramsay scans the stadium through his binoculars, and is distracted by an indiscernible presence above the scoreboard. Moments later, the blimp camera detects the sniper. Sam informs the Secret Service of the security breach and deters the president’s visit, then calls in Holly. Later, Paul becomes indignant when Sam and Holly question his competence in the performance of his duties, and while they discuss their options in dealing with the crisis, Paul climbs the sixty-foot ladder to the top of the tower. Before the two men are able to stop him, Paul reaches the top and is struck by the sniper’s rifle stock, causing him to fall his death. Holly orders in the police department’s Special Weapons and Tactics (S.W.A.T.) team, as well as three fully staffed ambulances. When the S.W.A.T. team arrives, Holly apprises its leader, Sgt. Chris Button, of the situation, and assures him that both governors and the mayor will be evacuated, reducing the chances of a shooting. Button, however, believes everyone in the stadium to be a “probable target.” The sergeant deploys his men, placing two in each light tower overlooking the scoreboard, two in the control room to monitor the sniper, and others in and around the scoreboard, none of which are noticed by the more than 90,000 people in attendance. Holly hopes to foil the sniper without incident, and will only turn the operation over to Button after the two-minute warning is sounded, which signals the final moments of the game. In the stands, the priest tries to comfort Sandman, who has admitted that his life depends on the game’s outcome. Mike goes to the lobby to tell the police about his discovery of the sniper, and he is taken away for interrogation. Meanwhile, in the control room, the camera signal from the blimp is lost and a police helicopter is called to monitor the sniper. As the Los Angeles team takes the lead, the two-minute warning is signaled with a pistol shot, and Holly orders the S.W.A.T. team into action. Steve and Janet end a bitter argument in the hallway with the decision to get married, but as they return to their seats, the sniper shoots and kills Steve. He then kills two S.W.A.T. team members and several spectators, including Sandman. The S.W.A.T. team fires back, but the sniper is undaunted and shoots into the panicked crowd as it stampedes out of the stadium. Holly and Button climb the ladder to the scoreboard, while gunfire from the police helicopter causes the sniper to retreat into the tower. The police follow him inside, and the sniper continues to fire on them from a narrow shaft above the tower. Holly shoots six bullets into the shaft, and the sniper falls. The captain tries to interrogate the dying man but gets no response. The sniper’s wallet identifies him as Carl Cook, “a transient from out of state.” Elsewhere around the Coliseum, emergency crews treat the injured and identify the dead. Mike is returned to his family as his injured wife is placed in an ambulance. The priest remains in his seat, cradling Sandman’s body. Later, as Cook’s body is lowered from the tower, Button speculates on the killer’s posthumous celebrity, and on how the police will likely be criticized for using excessive force. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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