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David Poland

By David Poland

Hard Summer Questions, Part 1

There are issues that face journalists and editors every day. Some are expected. Some are surprises.
Every summer, for instance, the issue of the cost of mega-movies comes up. Invariably, studios spin those numbers down. As a journalist, you hear all kinds of things and then have to parse it all, get enough sources to feel sure

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44 Responses to “Hard Summer Questions, Part 1”

  1. Blackcloud says:

    Fine essay, Dave.

  2. matro says:

    I like reading this stuff way more than the endless ranting about other websites and their dodgy morals.

  3. hcat says:

    While it is unlikely, I can see Universal going all summer without one reaching 100 million. They seem to have one of the cheaper slates, probably about 350 million before P&A, but they don’t have a predestined hit like all the other studios.

  4. Josh Massey says:

    GI Joe is going to lose a lot or money.

  5. Dr Wally says:

    “While it is unlikely, I can see Universal going all summer without one reaching 100 million. They seem to have one of the cheaper slates, probably about 350 million before P&A, but they don’t have a predestined hit like all the other studios.”
    That’s because they had the smarts to move their one predestined hit (Fast&Furious) out of the Summer derby.
    Great article. The ‘spinning down’ of budgets isn’t done just by studios though, but directors as well. Remember two years ago, when Bay was telling anyone and everyone that Transformers cost ‘half’ of Spidey 3 and Pirates 3, like it was some sort of artistic badge of honor?

  6. Stella's Boy says:

    This is somewhat off the subject, but I’m amazed at how some movie geeks/writers don’t seem to understand box office numbers, even now. For example, looking over’s most recent weekend box office report, the writer states that since Crank and Observe & Report will make slightly more at the BO than they cost to produce, they will be profitable. No mention of P&A costs, etc. It’s that black and white; movie X cost $15 million to make and it grossed $20 million, therefore it made money. Just a random thought I had recently.

  7. Hopscotch says:

    Part of what Michael Bay was bragging about was how much money his production received from Product Placement, which I’ve heard rumors was astronomical. hence, his “budge” was half of Spidey 3.
    When I think of my favorite movies, how much they cost really doesn’t mean I’ll like them more or less. For that matter I didn’t like Evan Almighty because it wasn’t funny and pretty boring, not that it cost what it cost.
    GI JOE – that superbowl TV spot just about killed any momentum for that movie. It feels bad, looks bad…. good god it looks bad.
    Universal also has Funny People this summer. And that’s gotta be expensive too for above-the-line talent.

  8. Chucky in Jersey says:

    Only a New York Yankees fan would love this summer’s slate.

  9. Eric says:

    In addition, JJ Abrams decided to enrich the product quite a bit and that he was getting the full support of the studio.
    Was this after principle photography and, if so, what does this mean to the end product? Reshoots or additional scenes? Can you make effects better or more elaborate after they’ve already been planned and budgeted for? Just curious.

  10. Eric says:

    On another note: does it makes anyone suspicious when there’s an addendum to the title of a non-sequel, a la G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra? Like, why isn’t it just G.I. Joe? It sets off a little alarm in my head that says “They’re trying to start a franchise, avert your eyes!”

  11. Aris P says:

    Eric, Rise of Cobra just sounds better than GI Joe alone. Lipstick on a swine.
    The studio brass knows they will never have to even remotely use one collective neuron pertaining to a sequel or franchise or whatever.

  12. SJRubinstein says:

    Excellent write-up, Dr. Poland.
    Re: Stella’s Boy
    You’re absolutely right and – to take it one step further – those same online box office prognosticators also disregard the percent split to the theater owners. There was a truly fine breakdown of how all these costs work in the opening pages of Edward Jay Epstein’s “The Big Picture: Money and Power in Hollywood” breaking down the costs of the “Gone in Sixty Seconds” remake that explained just how hard it is for a movie to go into profits during a theatrical run.
    Similarly, you often see those who DO make P&A estimations typically estimate down as a $15 to $20 million prints & advertising budget just isn’t going to get you as far as it used to.

  13. Aris P says:

    P&A has to be AT LEAST 33.3% of whatever the budget ends up being, and up to almost 50% on these summer mega movies. Star Trek has to be MINIMUM 200 million. And that’s a conservative guess.

  14. LexG says:

    GI JOE is going to COMMAND ALL. Get ready to BOW to Rachel Nichols, bringing hotness back.
    JOE is the one movie of the summer, other than their own sure-to-be-masterpieces, that GOD1 (BAY) and GOD2 (Tony S.) would bestow their seal of approval upon.

  15. steamfreshmeals says:

    Even Lesher cant fuck this Paramount summer slate up
    Will pay for The Soloist, Dance Flick, Nowhereland, The Goods: The Don Ready Story, and Carriers

  16. Chucky in Jersey says:

    A few threads back there was moaning about summer 2001. Look back to that pre-9/11 summer and you’ll see the original stuff outperformed the remakes and sequels.
    @steam: “The Soloist” is a DreamWorks/Universal title.

  17. tfresca says:

    I may be in the minority here but I liked the GI Joe superbowl ad. Have Snake Eyes fighting Matrix style and I get excited. I’m sure I’m not the only one. And for all the knocks it takes the first two Mummy movies were a lot of fun for me.

  18. Hallick says:

    “Only a New York Yankees fan would love this summer’s slate.”
    (Bronx raspberry)

  19. LYT says:

    Sienna Miller makes my cobra rise.

  20. Hallick says:

    “Sienna Miller makes my cobra rise.”
    Then your motto’s gotta be “Yo J.O.!”

  21. IOIOIOI says:

    You are all terribly wrong about GI JOE. I mean… terribly wrong. The Superbowl spot was pretty damn awesome, but this is the hot blog. So many of you feeling this way is expected, but nothing new.
    GI JOE will be a good-sized monster for Paramount. If you disagree. Go back to Summer of 2007, read the comments about Transformers, and realize this is a Daniel Faraday situation.

  22. Josh Massey says:

    GI Joe will be much closer to Speed Racer than Transformers.

  23. doug r says:

    Small Soldiers made $54 million in 1998. Adjusting for inflation and hot actresses, G. I Joe could make somewhere around $70-80 million.

  24. IOIOIOI says:

    Josh: if you think so, but I would disagree.
    Comparing it to Small Soldiers is also really silly. Apparently you folks are some of the only on the net. Who have no idea who Conrad Hauser is. Good for you. Good for you.

  25. hcat says:

    you’re right IO, I had to google the name, and even though I had quite a few GI Joes as a kid I never knew any of their real names.
    I think Joe has the potential to break away from the pack toward 200 million if it gets the kids in to multiple showings(little boys love Ninjas and guns) but I don’t see any way this is making Transformers money.

  26. The Big Perm says:

    Like the average audience member would know who Conrad Hauser is either, or cares.
    It’s awesome that IO is condesending toward people who don’t know the real name of a character from a child’s toy line. As if that’s something to be ashamed of.

  27. Aladdin Sane says:

    GI Joe is probably my favourite property from my childhood cartoon watching…I still enjoy a well told Joe story (it’s the only new comic I still read now that it’s been re-launched). The GI Joe: Resolute miniseries that was aired over the past week or so is more solid than anything the movie is going to bring us. It’s how Joe should have ended up on the big screen – serious storytelling that would give old fans something to get excited about and new fans something to explore more.
    GI Joe: Rise of Cobra will probably have a good opening weekend, but unless it’s got some hidden charm, it’s tanking soon after.
    As a life long fan, I’m not even sure I’ll see it. Oh hell, I will, but only so I can bitch and moan to any of my non-nerd friends about how terrible it is.

  28. IOIOIOI says:

    Permish: there’s the way hcat took it, then there’s the way you took it. Much like someone else in these sort of situations. You took it the wrong way. No surprise really, but I never condescend to people. It’s too passive aggressive for me.
    So the point remains that many of the blog members are underselling this film’s potential. I simply disagree. This is — more or less — GI Joe. This is something kids have passed on to their kids and to their kids. It will make some solid bank. If it’s a solid film, that’s another story.
    Which seems to be the problem some members in this blog have had. Box office does not always dictate quality. So it could be a horrible freakin film, but this is a Daniel Faraday situation.
    Many folks in here felt the same way about Transformers earning potential. I have a feeling it could work the same way with GI Joe.

  29. David Poland says:

    I feel strongly both ways. I think IO tends to see a lot of things through his own eyes and anyone who disagrees is an idiot to him.
    On the other hand, while his enthusiasm may be excessive, the idea that any of us who don’t know what the film really looks like or how they will start marketing it next month and want to argue that we have The Answer about its success or failure is a reach as well.
    The date on the movie pretty much tells you that it won’t be Transformers… and that Par doesn’t expect it to be Transformers. But $150 million-plus domestic in that slot is certainly viable. And maybe Sommers will bring the kitsch that made The Mummy perform better than expected… to the degree that the utter piece of shit sequel last year did $400m worldwide. Or maybe it really is Dungeons & Dragons.
    But Sommers, since The Mummy launched a decade ago, has had disappointments, but hasn’t directed a film that grossed less than $300m worldwide.
    It certainly won’t be a smash just because it’s G.I. Joe. But if it’s a fun summer movie – he certainly hired a bunch of actors that may not be big stars, but that people like to watch – you never know…

  30. The Big Perm says:

    I think GI Joe could make money too, but I also tend to think that if it does, it has less to do with people caring about GI Joe specificially…if anything the group that would have gone to see the movie specifically because it’s GI Joe were probably turned off by the cartoon soldiers flipping around in slo-mo from the commercials.
    Transformers looked like a huge hit from the first commercial…huge robots and Michael Bay. This is kitchy soldiers most likely doing campy things by the director of Van Helsing. I wouldn’t be surprised if it does okay, but I’d be really surprised if it was HUGE, and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if it was a disappointment.

  31. gradystiles says:

    “I would bet that Paramount has Star Trek estimated to open in the mid-60s about now.”
    Where can I take you up on that bet?

  32. Nicol D says:

    “On another note: does it makes anyone suspicious when there’s an addendum to the title of a non-sequel, a la G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra? Like, why isn’t it just G.I. Joe?”
    Also remember, that this incarnation of GI Joe, based in the 80’s cartoon was actually a reboot in itself of the Joe franchise. The original GI Joe line of toys, comics and records, featured an actual character named GI Joe that was based out of Adventure Team Headquarters. I had much more of a 40’s WW II feel to it. It isn’t remembered much by younger fans of the cartoon but for those of us born in the 70’s it is still pretty iconic.
    They may want to make sure people know which version they are getting. I remember getting a GI Joe comic in the 80’s and wondering where the hell the actual character of GI Joe was.

  33. David Poland says:

    I don’t know, Grady… maybe the same place where you choose to say something instead of asking smug rhetorical questions…

  34. IOIOIOI says:

    David Poland, you really do make a guy scratch his head. You post a statement like this about me; “feel strongly both ways. I think IO tends to see a lot of things through his own eyes and anyone who disagrees is an idiot to him.” While any one doing the same to you over the past weeks, is a grandiose asshole. You see the problem David? Do you see it? I hope you see it. Nevertheless; you discounting a tri-generational toyline’s movie as if it’s nothing, is about as silly as what you did above. It’s GI JOE. It’s a part of the fabric. Never knock the fabric man.

  35. The Big Perm says:

    The toy may be tri-generational, but I can’t see a 50 year old guy watching that trailer and being too interested in see the movie. The American Godzilla was also based on a tri-generational icon and that was seen as a disappointment.

  36. hcat says:

    I agree with Perm but would actually go farther. Remembering Lex’s Up rant from a few weeks ago about 12 year old’s deserving a beatdown from their peers for watching a animated movie, if you were between the ages of 15 and 22 would you go to see a G.I. Joe movie? This would be like highschoolers seeing a live action ballerina barbie movie. Paramount is counting on a lot of kids and geeks to show up for this and they could come out in force and make it successful, but I think the ‘have actually touched a woman’s breast’ demographic will probably skip it.

  37. IOIOIOI says:

    Hcat: what the fuck? Really? A guy goes away for a bit, and this is the type of discourse found on the board? Really? Really? Seriously? Just come on!

  38. hcat says:

    The guy who got banned because he kept going apeshit when people were the least bit critical of the movies he loved is complaining about my level of discourse?
    Is there an arguement you would like to make against my statement. Do you think GI Joe is going to be a date movie? Or is it more likely that the audience will be young boys and single men who spend a large number of hours each week playing video games. I am not saying Paramount can not turn a profit with this audience, i am simply saying despite the August release date the over 18 audience for this movie will still have pasty white skin.

  39. David Poland says:

    We were just fine without you, IO.
    It’s been pretty civil since you stopped commenting.

  40. IOIOIOI says:

    No; it’s been pretty dead. Dead. Dead. Dead. If you like having a dead blog, David. You should go and give Lex a column. Hold on. Wait. You did give Lex a column, and got you some RESPONSES!
    That’s the thing David: you just don’t get. Not as bad as Hcat who missed the reason as to why I did not post for a couple of days: I chose not to do so.
    Poland did not ban me. He could not stop me if he tried. I simply agreed to go along with him. Your response is also bullshit, but this is the hot blog. Where this group of posters are confound — simply confound — by movies that come out from April to August.
    Seriously; people take their dates to see movies that feature people their own age getting murdered for an hour and half, and you are wondering if GI JOE is a date movie? Do you even pay attention to pop-culture, or do you just like spouting off about it online? Seriously, again, get a fucking clue with your lame ass responses about who will see this film.
    You see David. Hcat is why you need me. You need me on that wall, and you want me on that wall. Without me there, you ain’t got shit. So please… your civility line is bullshit, giving Lex is bullshit, and it just feels so empty without me.

  41. Joe Leydon says:

    IO: You actually have a legitimate point. Seriously. I mean, if couples will go see Black Christmas, why wouldn’t they go see G.I. Joe?

  42. leahnz says:

    for a moment i thought you meant the original ‘black x-mas’ (legend), i nearly had a coronary to hear it mentioned in the same breath as ‘g.i.jane’
    (i think boys take girls to ‘horror movies’ because they think their dates will jump into their laps and cling to them in fear like in the movies and on tv, thus almost getting to first base in the theatre without even having to make a move)

  43. jeffmcm says:

    Yeah, that’s silly. Everyone knows that horror movies – maybe not all of them, but a huge number of them – are date movies. And have been since the days of Lugosi and Karloff.

  44. IOIOIOI says:

    No; it’s not silly. Couples go to countless films together. Hcat is being another one of those CLEVER INTERNET PEOPLE, that likes to assume he knows what’s going on. When he’s just another guy making references to pasty face guys, that have never seen a boob. Seriously; it’s fucking bullshit, and ignores the fact there are countless girls/women who know about the Real American hero.
    Again; this is another bullshit response one can only find on this blog. If it were find anywhere. The poster would be run out on a rail, or given a column! HIYOOOOO!!!!
    Civility David? You mean the whole Roger Friedman post you made a week or so back? Is that civility? Doubtful, but it did feel so empty without me.

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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.”
~ 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