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David Poland

By David Poland

How NOT To Make Any Money On A Hollywood Blockbuster

Slate has apparently assigned Edward Jay Epstein the Hot Button beat. And this piece on German tax breaks is interesting. It’s not really accurate, but it is interesting.
The impression of the piece is that other countries essentially pay for the entire production of films budgets over $80 million out of vanity. The reality, which he forces you to unearth in his “lead with what sounds cool” writing is that $65 million on Tomb Raider was, according to him, pre-sold to the six largest action markets outside of the U.S. and Australia. According to his numbers, $10 million came from the German tax deal and another $12 million for shooting in the U.K. That left Paramount’s bill at $7 million, which they covered by pre-selling to Showtime… a cable network owned by Viacom and in the case of a huge success, a win that could make production partners angry to the point of litigation (see: Lord of the Rings).
What Epstein fails to mention in all this is that this strategy put, in some part, the last regime at Paramount on the street. More than half of Lara Croft: Tomb Raider

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8 Responses to “How NOT To Make Any Money On A Hollywood Blockbuster”

  1. hatchling says:

    Reading about the financing complications makes my head hurt. All I know is, last night Tomb Raider was on cable. I hadn’t seen it, so watched it for a bit. I absolutely hated it, turned it off and felt much relieved.
    I bet the studios wish they could hand off a dog like that so easily.
    Instead of forcing myself to endure the pneumantic lips of Jolie [which seem to be a screen character all to themselves], I put my DVD of Sideways into the player and listened to the accompanying commentary by the stars. It was a hoot. Terrific, entertaining film. I hope everyone involved with Sideways made a lot of money and will decide to put more money into films of it’s quality and originality. It’s so simple when you look at financing in those terms.

  2. teambanzai says:

    I know this is probably a simplistic and stupid point, but it seems to me that if they actually put some effort into the script and made a good action movie that people want to see over and over then they wouldn’t have to play these games. Both TombRaider movies were crap, and Paramount must have smelled it since they didn’t bother putting much of their own money into it. It just seems to me that this type of financial mess is a bigger gamble then risking their own money on a solid script.

  3. Christopher Brooks says:

    Excellent, excellent piece. Epstein’s piece explains how the detestable “Lara Croft” could produced by a big studio, and the post explains why it wasn’t nearly as successful as Epstein’s dated numbers might make it appear. (This is a big problem with books purporting to give an insider perspective on Hollywood: By the time they appear, they’re usually passe.) But one note of caution should be injected: yes, “The Day After Tomorrow” can be compared with “Lara Croft” in that they were both big, bad movies that played well overseas. But “The Day After Tomorrow,” although lousy, was a different kettle of fish: not based on a pre-existing property, and not built on star casting. The special effects were terrific, yes, but maybe too this was a story people actually wanted to see. Imagine how big it could have been if it had actually been a good movie.

  4. JJ says:

    “But for one thing, he should have used a case that wasn

  5. David Poland says:

    I celebrate smart blog readers.

  6. Mark says:

    I still believe there is a really good movie in the Lara Croft story somewhere. Maybe when they actually write a coherent script and take a chance on a good director.

  7. Dan R% says:

    I hated the first Lara Croft movie. I wanted my money back, my time back and my dignity back.
    The second I watched because…I have no idea actually. I must have seen it for free. I didn’t mind it though. Which I guess is because the first had set my expectations so low. I’ll never watch either again though. That’s for sure.
    I’d be curious to know where this really good movie would come from though. I haven’t played much of the game but it does seem pretty simplistic.

  8. KamikazeCamel says:

    …”and my dignity back”
    My god, hyperbole runs rampant in the replies of this blog, doesn’t it.

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
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“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon