Fans Unhappy With Films And Stars

Most Americans think movie stars are poor role models and almost half say movies generally aren't as good as they used to be, an AP-AOL poll found.

Australian star Russell Crowe's recent arrest for throwing a phone at a hotel employee is the latest in a long line of unflattering incidents involving major movie stars. Christian Slater faces charges he grabbed a woman's buttocks in a New York City grocery; Winona Ryder was convicted of shoplifting in 2002; and Hugh Grant was caught in a car with a prostitute in the mid-1990s.

Those occurrences, combined with most Americans' preference for watching movies at home, suggest the industry faces challenges if it is to reverse a recent drop in attendance at movie theaters.

Movie stars don't set a good example, said Earl Ledbetter, a movie fan who lives in Ventura, Calif.

"They just don't have the morals," he said. "They marry and divorce, sleep around a lot."

Almost three-fourths, 73 percent, said they would prefer to stay home and watch a movie on their DVD player, VCR or on pay-per-view. That's more than three times the number, 22 percent, who said they prefer to watch films at a theater, according to the telephone poll conducted by Ipsos for The Associated Press and AOL News.

Almost half, 47 percent, said movies are getting worse, while a third said they're getting better.

Hollywood's domestic revenues through last weekend totaled $3.85 billion, down 6.4 percent from 2004. Factoring in higher ticket prices, the number of people who have gone to theaters is down 9 percent from last year, according to industry estimates.

After a strong start this year, movie business entered a prolonged slump, with revenues down the last 16 weekends compared to 2004. The wild card in comparing this year's revenues to 2004's is Mel Gibson's unexpected blockbuster last year "The Passion of the Christ," which drew a huge audience of Christians who were not regular movie-goers.

People were most fond of comedies, followed by dramas and action-adventure movies.

The AP-AOL poll of 1,000 adults was taken June 13-15 and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

By Will Lester