Variety speak: A users' guide

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The Independent Online

Whodunit: a mystery film (or show); "The director's next project will be a whodunit for Warner Bros."

Tubthump: to promote or draw attention to; from the ancient showbusiness custom of actors wandering the streets banging on tubs to drum up business; "Disney is planning a big parade to tubthump the opening of its new release."

Praisery: public relations firm; "The studio is retaining an outside praisery to augment its p.r. chores on the film."

Turnaround: no longer active; a project put into "turnaround" has been abandoned by one studio and may be shopped to another.

Sprocket opera: film festival; "The actor plans to attend the annual Sundance sprocket opera next year."

Whammo: a sensation; "Men in Black has done whammo biz internationally." (See also boffo)

Hoofer: dancer; "Mary Tyler Moore was a hoofer before she got into acting."

Tentpole: movie expected by a studio to be its biggest grossing blockbuster of the season, usually summer. Often the pic is the start of, or an installment in, a franchise; "Armageddon was a successful tentpole in 1998."

One-hander: a play or movie with one character; "One-hander Ferris Bueller's Day Off is one of the defining films for children of the 1980s." (See also two-hander)

Sudser: soap opera; "Sudser star Susan Lucci was nominated for an Emmy again this year."

Shingle: a small business, often set up by an actor or established player at a larger company; "Tom Green has launched production shingle Bob Green Films."

Boff: (also boffo, boffola) – outstanding (usually refers to box office performance); "My Best Friend's Wedding has been boffo at the B.O." (See also whammo)

Nix: reject, say no to; as in the famous Variety headline "Sticks Nix Hick Pix", meaning that audiences in rural areas were not interested in attending films about rural life.

Two-hander: a play or movie with two characters; "Love Letters has been one of the most popular two-handers of the Nineties." (See also one-hander)

Chopsocky: a martial arts film; "Chopsocky star Chuck Norris will make a guest appearance on Seinfeld this season."

Ankle: a classic (and enduring) Variety term meaning to quit or be dismissed from a job, without necessarily specifying which; instead, it suggests walking; "Alan Smithee has ankled his post as production prexy at U."

Sleeper: a film or TV show that lacks pre-release buzz or critical praise, but turns into a success after it is released, usually due to good word-of-mouth; "Sixth Sense was the surprise sleeper of the summer of 1999."

Warbler: singer; "Under its new policy, the nitery has booked a string of warblers."

Gotham: New York City; "Film production in Gotham has been on the rise for the past several years."

Payola: bribery or under-the-table payments; "The proliferation of payola rocked the music industry in the 1950s."

Unspool: to screen a film; "More than 30 films are set to unspool at the upcoming festival."

Moppet: child, especially child actor; "Elizabeth Taylor is one of the few moppets who made the transition to adult star."

Dramedy: a TV show that could be labeled both a comedy and a drama, usually an hour long. Also, a film or theatre show that could be labeled as either – or perhaps fails at both; "Fox Family Channel series State of Grace, a dramedy about two 12-year-old girls growing up in Sixties North Carolina, targets the female tweens demographic with hope of generating a tag-along parental audience."