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David Poland

By David Poland

20 Weeks… Summer Settles In

There is a very good chance that this summer will be The Best Ever. (Half-Empties will trot out estimated ticket sales. Yawn.) But even if the record is gotten, the question is what was thrown into the marketplace to achieve the number.
We are at this odd place where studios are having fewer outright summer failures than ever … but are also unable to build even the most obvious franchises into bigger franchises. It’s not a syndrome of #3 or #2 or #4 or whatever. That is too simplistic an analysis to be worth making.
Surprisingly, the cost of these films is now so high that the “good ol’ days” of studios taking runners on someone’s ego are close to over. With $400 million-plus investments and each franchise film getting more expensive, the “what if?” of it all is big enough to bring a studio to its knees. When you make a movie and a $500 million worldwide gross means you will lose money, you are gambling with your life … even if you have Spider-security.

The rest….
The updated chart… Transformers moves into #2… The Simpsons rises…

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17 Responses to “20 Weeks… Summer Settles In”

  1. jeffmcm says:

    ‘Best-ever’ maybe in terms of sheer bucks, but is that translating into audience satisfaction? How many of us here are actually as happy with the big hits of the summer as opposed to last year or the year before?
    Also, I notice a big drop in the prediction for Hairspray. What changed?

  2. David Poland says:

    I am concerned about the marketing on Hairspray… the movie is actually better than expected, even more so than on first viewing of the not-quite-finished film.

  3. murdocdv says:

    Maybe it’s just me, but Batman Begins was a significantly better movie than anyone expected. If it looks at all good, it might have a shot at $100M open and greater than $300M domestic.

  4. murdocdv says:

    The sequel, The Dark Knight, I was talking about of course.

  5. Crow T Robot says:

    Watching Potter last night and realized that the problem with it, and most of the summer blockbusters, is in exposition-overload. Studio development execs really need to think about this. There’s so much information coming at you in these movies and almost none of it is dramatic or even cinematic. It’s all pseudo-clever connect-the-dots plotting that doesn’t add up to anything.
    What you get is 10% of fun mixed into 90% talk talk talk. And it’s putting audiences to sleep.
    (What I found most interesting about Potter 5 is how relaxed the actors are getting in their roles. The tendency to American-ize their accents is going away. Quite often you can barely understand what some of the kids are saying. Funny.)

  6. Hopscotch says:

    I’m not Sure Transformers will get all the way to #2. I think it’ll just barely cross $100M, it’ll drop this big week from Potter Mania, Chuck & Larry the week after that. Oh, and the movie sucks too.
    I think $120 is a better guess for The Simpsons Movie, there are many of us out there, that can’t friggin’ wait to see it.
    still haven’t seen the Rat yet, wtf is wrong with me?

  7. Hopscotch says:

    Sorry. $300M, duh.
    And god I hope Superbad is as funny as I heard it is.

  8. MattM says:

    I don’t see any worry for the “Hairspray” marketing. Good buzz now seems pretty much universal, and the marketing I’ve seen is squarely going after the “High School Musical” demographic, which is substantial and likely to turn out in force, and the good reviews will make it likely that parents come along too.
    “Chuck and Larry” won’t pose any competition for that audience, nor will the releases on 7/27. Depending on how “Underdog” is received and whether “Stardust” is kid/family safe, it could monopolize that segment for the summer.

  9. hendhogan says:

    “underdog” looks horrible

  10. doug r says:

    Please explain to me how a picture can cost $150 million dollars to make, since pictures like 1941 and Blues Brothers didn’t cost over about $40 million.
    What other business includes promotional expenses in production budgets? Can’t they be written off as a promotional expense? How many times will a studio pay for the same light? I’m reminded of an interview with James Garner (in Playboy) who had his own production company (Cherokee) and he noticed how when a light would break how the crew would estimate the replacement cost as many times as it would actually cost. It’s AMAZING how a business STRUGGLING TO STAY AFLOAT manages all these years without rolling up the sidewalks.
    That being said, if there is truth to the numbers studios tossing around, there is hope for the future with Digital Video requiring much less infrastructure, places like Canada offering union productions at a budget that can be met by struggling outfits, and an explosion of cable and internet outlets that offer a market for product at the right price.

  11. jsnpritchett says:

    David, Universal isn’t financing the HULK film–Marvel is. Uni is simply distributing it, so I’m not so sure they really care how much it ends up costing.

  12. Hallick says:

    I concur with Crow. What seems to be the problem with the quality of the summer blockbusters (outside of something like Harry Potter, which starts out as a whopping huge text) is the idea that you have to have $300 million worth of plotlines to match your budget; as if a 90 minute film just isn’t grandiose enough to account for all of that cash. So let’s multiply the villains (without actually developing a single one of them well), add too many supporting characters (whose subplots account for the next problem), bloat the running time by 30 to 45 easily cut minutes (if a director or studio had the heart to leave just a little bit of their “masterpiece” on the editor’s floor, hallelujah already), and weigh the whole thing down with a smothering undertone of ridiculous self-importance.

  13. hendhogan says:

    doug, both those movies were made roughly thirty years ago. and neither had a cgi, big, green lead character too.
    but, i too vote for a little less spectacle and a little more character development.

  14. Gotta say well done on correctly predicting the grosses (close enough) for Spider-Man 3, Fantastic 4 – 2, 1408 and a few others.
    I still don’t get how Knocked Up is considered a huge surprise, though.

  15. Oh, and I can’t get over Halloween opening on the 31st of… August. Honestly.

  16. Aladdin Sane says:

    Ah Transformers, takes a beating and keeps on tickin’.

  17. EDouglas says:

    Thanks for the update… will check it out when I’m not running around the city doing interviews. (Hope it’s not ridiculously humid)

Quote Unquotesee all »

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.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“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