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David Poland

By David Poland

5 Predictions For 2012

Yes, I know that we’re already a 7 weeks in… all the more pressure on these predictions, which have only 11 months to blossom…

Summer 2012 Will Be Covered As A Slump When May Titles Perform Well, But Not Sensationally – Ah… the spring and early summer start to come into focus. March looks to have at least two, if not three $100 million domestic hits… compared to just Rango last year, which was labelled “disappointing” versus the March DWA numbers of the past. On the other hand, April, which last year boasted three $100m grossers – including the $200m Fast Five – has its best hopes in a re-release of Titanic and a reunion sequel to American Pie. Meh.

So strong March… soft April, in comparison to last year.

And then, The Avengers. Will it be at Iron Man levels ($300m+) or will it be at the summer movie levels for Marvel of the last few years ($145m – $185m)? Somewhere in between? This will be the sixth straight summer to be led off by a Marvel superhero. And it will set the tone. Last summer’s $65m launch for Thor was the smallest. Spider-Man 3 and Iron Man 2 were the two over $100m ($151/$128m, respectively). Anything under a $100m launch will probably be seen as coming up short. A bit silly, but such is the nature of all this stuff.

Dark Shadows is Depp, but kitschy, Burton-y Depp. Realistically, a $25m opening is about where that can be expected to land if it lands nicely. Sacha Baron Cohen will hope to open as high as $20m with his latest character.

The big non-Marvel horses are Battleship and Men in Black 3. Who the hell knows? There were no $100m openings last May and $100m 3-days over Memorial Day weekend are a challenge, even though there are now 3 titles that have done the trick. There hasn’t been more than one $100m launch in May since 2007, the summer of the Three Threequels (Spidey/Shrek/Sparrow).

The big upside on both Battleship and MiB3 is likely to be overseas, not here. So I expect there to be a lot of itchy box office writing in May, coming off of a soft April and only Avengers likely to pull its perceived weight initially.

But then June starts loading up. This summer could match last summer’s six $100m domestic grossers, with Kristen Stewart’s Snow White, a Madagascar sequel, Prometheus (which I expect to be Top 5 worldwide next summer and could be the biggest R-rated film ever). a Sandler, a Pixar, and GI: Joe Rock-dux…. plus some high potential smaller titles in Rock of Ages and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

But July is where things get really nuts and the reporting will be all lovey dovey… Spiderman and Batman alone are pretty sure to bring in over $750m domestic. Then add on Ice Age 4… a franchise that’s never done less than $175m domestic and which did almost $900m worldwide last time. Only 8 movies are scheduled to open in July this summer… very unusual. But everyone else is just getting out of the way… with 3 movies looking for $3 billion or more worldwide in a matter of weeks. But there is still a Stiller/Vaughn movie being thrown in there that will be hoping to do 9 figures.

August is a bit of a crap shoot. Bourne looks like a hit, but it’s rebooting. Total Recall should be viable… but why open it opposite Bourne if you think it is? Rivals/Dog Fight, a political comedy pitting Will Ferrell vs Zach Zach Galifianakis could be an underdog hit. Can the geezers do it again with The Expendables 2? Will Joseph Gordon-Levitt stalked by Michael Shannon draw a late summer audience looking for grit? Will WB get a Chronicle out of The Apparition?

The tone about the entire summer, which could well be a record-setter, as this year’s was, may well be set by some of these smaller titles and their perceived success or failure. Or it could just a be a referendum on the numbers for Men in Black 3D. What we can be sure of is that it will be reactionary and once positions are taken, attitudes will have to be pried from cold, dead word processors.

Studio Ups & Downs – After a sensational 2011, Paramount will take heat for a reduced schedule and a lack of high-profile product coming through the pipeline. The success or failure of World War Z will become an enormous pressure on the psychology of the studio.

Universal will see more executive turnover after Battleship underperforms domestically, even though it will make up for it overseas. Soon thereafter, Snow White, Bourne, and the Oscar success of This Is Forty (or whatever it ends up being called) will seem ironic.

Fox will take its usual heat until an exceptionally strong summer, but the boo birds will return in the fall, as the studio hits singles and doubles.

Disney will be ducking for cover all year long after John Carter, having a decent success with The Avengers, but not much else that gets anyone excited – Pixar’s Brave being a wildcard – until Spielberg’s Lincoln in Nov/Dec.

Sony will have its biggest summer ever and its first billion dollar title, with Bond and Bigelow in the holiday season. Solid year.

Warner Bros = Batman & Hobbit in 2012. But there are some very interesting smaller titles, starting with Project X, Dark Shadows, Rivals, Gangster Squad, and what many hope will be major Oscar bait for Ben Affleck, Argo. It could be a sensational year for the studio.

Netflix Will Keep Losing Subscribers In The US – Netflix continues to signal that they are angling at becoming a competitor of HBO. What this means, when uncoded, is more original/exclusive content, less content overall.

I see this, as I have seen it, as a necessity of the future of this company and not a simple strategic choice. Netflix simply cannot afford to be what Netflix was as a DVD rental business as an ongoing streaming business. There is nothing wrong with this. But it is a wildly different model than the Netflix that built a new paradigm.

Logically, as Netflix becomes a more narrow business, some of its audience will move on, as they have for 2 straight quarters. As best as my research tells me, HBO has never cracked 16 million paying domestic subscribers. They have not only a wide array of channels, but a strong reputation for its original programming and a very solid movie package from WB and elsewhere. The monthly cost of the service is similar to the cost of Netflx and includes HBO Go for most cable/satellite users.

Obviously, no one has to choose between Netflix – which has a much deeper library at this point – and HBO. You can have both. But as more competitors enter the market in Everything Everywhere mode, the number of $8 monthly subscriptions will pile up and people will start feeling compelled to make decisions.

In 2012, I expect inertia to keep the leakage slow, though steady. But as we get to 2013, Netflix will be forced to define itself in clear ways that it isn’t ready to do now. And that will surely be a tipping point… not for the company to go out of business or become a minor business or any of the extreme things that defenders like to throw out there to unbalance the conversation. But for Netflix to become, as it is aiming to, more like HBO, competing more like HBO competes with Showtime and Starz… and with a subscription base back under 15 million.

Majors Will Start To Move Into The Day-N-Date VOD Business – One major is getting ready to launch an international VOD arm of one of their divisions. This will continue and expand.

Studios and more significantly, studio Dependents have stayed out of day-n-date VOD models so far. There are too many layers of well-established, highly profitable distribution that have to worry about cannibalism and perceived cannibalism to go there. But as the Magnolias and IFCs make the case for a VOD-driven business model and margins tighten and DVD is phased out, the potential for VOD-first as a business opportunity for movies that are not going to get a studio release looks more and more attractive (not unlike the indie business was before they decided the upside wasn’t up enough.

Someone Will Start Paying Cable & Broadcast Nets For Full Mobile Streaming & Perhaps In Package Agreements With AT&T Or Other Wireless Provider – This one came to me in a flash the other day and really inspired this entire piece.

Most of the major cable and satellite outlets now have streaming opportunities within the same wi-fi reach as your converter box. HBO, ESPN, CNN, and a few others are offering completely mobile platforms for live streaming with membership through you cable/satellite provider.

But what is really cool? Being about to watch what you want, when you want off of your cable/satellite. Slingbox for all!

What is the biggest problem? 5g a month max for most data service without being throttled.

If people are paying $8 for Netflix and $8 for Hulu, and $100 for DirectTV, how much more a month would they play to watch anything anywhere? $25 a month? And if $20 of that went to AT&T because they’d be using more bandwidth and $5 is split between the content providers and DirecTV while any station watched gets the benefit of viewership?

And obviously, all the better – for the viewing experience – if used on wi-fi… self-interest.

If cable companies are worrying about cord cutting, this can be the beginning of a more inclusive package. Don’t fight streaming… become streaming. What does it cost to keep a household connected to the wired infrastructure? How much is it worth to keep customers?

Personally, I don’t want to be on streaming only. When the wi-fi slows down, I don’t want to be waiting on the cache to fill. I want my reliable, consistent, high-quality satellite stream. But I also want to be able to flip on anything I already pay to receive at home in any hotel, stadium, restaurant, or outing I like. And I’d pay for the right… at least until the cord cutting price wars of 2015.

It only makes sense, as the technology now allows, that someone moves forward in this direction.

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92 Responses to “5 Predictions For 2012”

  1. sanj says:

    big discussion here – lots on the business side of things

    If Netflix could offer ALL of their movies on streaming in exchange for a minute long ad before each movie, would you subscribe?

  2. thrownaway says:

    DP – re the “cord cutting price wars of 2015” alluded to at the end…can you explain a little more? Are you suggesting that mobile networks (i.e. whatever wireless medium becomes standard: 4G/LTE, WRAN WiFi 802.22, etc.) will (begin to) render satellite and cable service providers obsolete in a significant way by 2015?

    I would think that cord cutting scares the $hit out a lot of people and not just the studios.

  3. I don’t generally keep track of how many movies come out in a given summer, but at last count, there are just 40 films coming out in wide release from May to August, with 15 of those all dropping in August (May has 7, June has 10, July has 8, August has 15). Is it just me, or is that an oddly small number? Is everyone that scared of The Avengers, The Amazing Spider-Man, and The Dark Knight Rises? If that’s as small a total number as it feels, I imagine we’ll see a lot of ‘slump’ articles purely because there are less movies in the marketplace, thus smaller total weekend box office from weekend to weekend…

  4. David Poland says:

    Sanj – It’s an absurd conversation. It speaks to the general confusion about what is happening at Netflix and why.

    Even a smart and well-intentioned person wrote…
    “Judging by all of this, Netflix can charge about 3/4 of what Fox is charging for American Idol. So, every year this means that Netflix will gain an extra ($624,000 * 365) = $227,760,000.”

    Of course, absurd math. But even this person acknowledges that this wouldn’t cover the cost of everything streaming.

    PS Thrownaway… will answer later… no time right now…

  5. bulldog68 says:

    The slump talk will also exist if April through September 2012 is any lower than the comparative period in 2011 because these lazy writers will fail to report that 2011 Q2 and Q3 were the biggest ever in box office history.

  6. sanj says:

    DP – there’s 1000 messages on that thread on what people are willing to pay for on different types of content .

    i was at a local news site and there is a 30 second video ad that had a 1 minute news piece . regardless of
    how many minutes of news video there is – now they stick
    at 30 second ad . so even if its a 10 minute news piece there’s still 1 30 second ad . not sure how much value it has money wise ..

    DP – how much money can this years oscar nominated films
    make if they just had them on netflix streaming faster ?
    the Artist isn’t out on dvd for another few months.

  7. hcat says:

    Curious on you think the bottom number is for Battleship to be perceived a success. 200? 250? I see it as the likely runnerup in May and things could break its way and it somehow outgrosses Smith and Marvel. If it tops May would it be seen as a success no matter what the final domestic gross?

    Am glad to see Prometheus coming in at an R rating. Kept meaning to ask about that. After the successes of last years comedies the studios might be willing to not be so skittish with the action films. Maybe Fox will keep the trend up for the next Die Hard installment? nudge nudge.

  8. JS Partisan says:

    Do not undersell The Avengers. Seriously, it’s going to be a long and kick ass comic book movie. It’s going to be the LOTR of Comic Book films, and that guarantees plenty of action for everyone. It should open to 100 easy and probably win the next weekend as well.

    That aside, Scott, you could probably get close to 2.5 billion dollars out of just those three movies alone. After seeing the Spidey trailer in 3D, changed my mind, that fucking thing looks awesome. It’s in 3D like the Avengers, and should pull a lot internationally. While TDK-R is going to break records left and right. Avoiding those three movies, is a rather wise decision by the others studios.

    Also, they have to figure out a way to start earning more in August. If they can earn a shit load in WINTER now. They have to figure out how to make late Summer more profitable, which could explain those 15 movies in August.

  9. actionman says:

    ummmmm….since when was prometheus given an offical r-rating?

  10. Krillian says:

    Scott, 40 is about how many wide releases the last couples summers have had. But then you have a limited release or two that tends to expand wide (like Midnight in Paris).

    (I am not Steven Kaye!)

  11. bulldog68 says:

    “It’s going to be the LOTR of Comic Book films, ” Glad to see you have realistic expectations JS. So this summer, are we in for a full throttle bashing when persons express their opinion that Avengers did not live up to your already sight unseen critical review?

  12. Joe Leydon says:

    Dark Shadows is Depp, but kitschy, Burton-y Depp. Realistically, a $25m opening is about where that can be expected to land if it lands nicely.”

    I respectfully disagree, David. I don’t think you’re taking into account the interest of fans who fondly recall the daytime soap opera. Jeez, my wife — who, by the way, liked The Vow — is talking about this one a hell of a lot more than The Avengers.

  13. bulldog68 says:

    Joe I have read your reviews and enjoyed your many articles over the years. I have no doubt that you’re a man of many talents. But unless you have a 21 year old young hottie as a wife, which I’m not doubting you can handle, I’m not sure that Avengers would typically fall into many adult female’s gotta see this column. Most would just prefer to cozy up with some Depp.

  14. Edward Havens says:

    For the record, my wife will turn 30 this year and The Avengers is her #1 must-see movie of the year. Buffy creator + Thor hottie + Cap’n hottie + Robert Downey Jr = oh hell yeah!

    As for the point that “Majors Will Start To Move Into The Day-N-Date VOD Business”… sorry, Dave, that just ain’t gonna happen. Domestic theatrical, whether the studios like it or not, is the engine that drives the entire life of studio movies, and they know it. They don’t like it, but they know it. They know they cannot have an Avatar-sized hit, a Bridesmaid-size hit or even a Paranormal Activity-sized hit, without the exposure created around a theatrical release.

    Let’s go back to Margin Call, the favorite go-to movie for VOD supporters. Even with the best damn cast, and best known cast, any $3.5m movie is ever going to have, could only cull about $5m from VOD, at a $6.99 price point, or roughly the same amount as it made in theatres, which never played in more than 199 theatres and had an advertising budget that would only keep an A-list director in coke and whores for about four and a half days. That’s only about a million purchases in three months. Fantastic for VOD. Pathetic for theatrical.

    Do you honestly think Disney would consider cannibalizing a guaranteed $175m domestic/$450m worldwide gross for a Thor 2-type movie, or a guaranteed $300m domestic/$1B worldwide gross on a Pirates 5-type movie, in a distribution arena unproven for blockbuster-type movies? If you’re Robert Iger, you’re not going to leave that kind of money on the table when you’re still going to have to spend $125+m on production of Thor 2, or $200+m on Pirates 5, and still spend another $50-75m worldwide to sell it, no matter how the product gets to market.

    VOD works for the types of low-budget movies IFC, Roadside and Magnolia releases that didn’t cost a lot to produce and acquire, that do not need a huge audience to make profitable, and weren’t going to get a lot of people to go through the trouble of getting out of the house and all that other stuff that going out to a movie theatre entails. Studios need those huge grosses that only come from theatrical releases, those numbers that in and of themselves become free publicity for the movies when a thousand newspapers, magazines and websites write about how impressive and unexpected those numbers were.

  15. Joe Leydon says:

    Bulldog: My wife would thank you. I think. But here’s the thing — a lot of gals her age went to see The Vow this week and last. And according to her, she and several of her co-workers are really, really looking forward to Dark Shadows.

  16. JS Partisan says:

    BD, in terms of length, but you go ahead and overreact. Seriously, if you can’t take someone disagreeing with your opinions, then maybe you should pick up knitting?

    You also seem to forget that unlike you, I don’t make up my mind until after I see something. You and your little ideas about me are just that… little ideas. I don’t assume about you. Don’t assume about me.

  17. dinovelvet says:

    Can anyone confirm that Dark Shadows is actually a real movie and does in fact exist? Under 3 months till release date and not a poster or trailer in sight, no official website, whereas every other big movie that month, Avengers, Dictator, Battleship etc. started their ads last year. We just got a poster released for Burton’s *next* movie, Frankenweenie. What’s up with that?
    I can’t be the only one sensing a “pushed back to October” vibe here…

  18. cadavra says:

    Less than three months out, and still no one-sheet, trailer or website for DARK SHADOWS. Said it before, say it again: it could be TWILIGHT for old people, but they gotta know it’s coming out.

  19. sanj says:

    how about DP getting a world exclusive dp/30 of this dark shadows movie ? Johnny Depp is too famous for a dp/30 so
    Chloë Grace Moretz will have to do.

    here’s a picture

  20. leahnz says:

    i don’t know, maybe it’s just me and my penchant for the living, but i’m finding it hard to fathom that any women would want to cozy up with depp in freaky dark shadows mode, about as appealing as his zany willie wonka and mad hatter modes…(meaning not even). where for art thou johnny. bring back joe pistone – or any character that doesn’t involve white face grease at this point

  21. JS Partisan says:

    Oh come now, Leah! You’re not adventurous enough to enjoy Freaky Deaky Depp :P?

  22. LYT says:

    Yeah, pretty sure Ridley Scott has consistently said PROMETHEUS would be a “scary” PG-13

  23. leahnz says:

    hey now i’m adventurous enough that the weird spastic in me can abide corpse johnny, but the woman in me recoils

  24. GexL says:

    Comic books, old TV shows, children’s board games. Cinema is dead.

  25. anghus says:

    Dark Shadows seems like the biggest question mark. Probably because it opens in a couple of months and we haven’t seen anything.

  26. bulldog68 says:

    JS, you honestly believe that Avengers will clock in at three hours in length? Which is what all the LotR were? I think not.

    And I think we have enough history of you prehyping a movie prior to its release saying it’s going to be the most awesome experience ever, and lo and behold, after the movie comes out, you are never ever disappointed. It has always lived up to your hype. The movies you don’t like don’t deserve their box office, like Avatar, and the movies you do like will kill everything you don’t like, like your prediction that Iron Man 2 will slaughter Avatar. Just sayin’.

    The Avengers is still a crap shoot for $300m. It could very well get there, and it may not. It could do a decent $275, which will seem like a disappointment because the bar is set so high. The one thing that the marketing has not really shown yet is the awesome bad guy that warrants getting all these heroes together. What’s the sell as to why one hero is not enough? Beyond it being just a very cool idea and of course based on source material that put these heroes together, for the people who don’t read the comics, and don’t know Hawkeye and Black Widow, what are you giving me that I haven’t already seen in the other Marvel movies and Xmen, the latter having a very awesome bad guy, and an even better relationship story between the warring factions.

    That’s the problem the studio has beyond opening weekend. i agree with you, I think it will open big, but will the story and spectacle give it legs? or will Battleship end up being transformers without the shitty jokes, and end up being the surprise $300m grosser of the summer?

  27. yancyskancy says:

    Well, let’s cut Johnny a LITTLE slack in the freaky-deaky department: 2009: PUBLIC ENEMIES; 2010: THE TOURIST; 2011: THE RUM DIARY. Not necessarily ‘normal’ characters, but not heavily made-up weirdos either.

  28. JoJo says:

    LYT: “Yeah, pretty sure Ridley Scott has consistently said PROMETHEUS would be a “scary” PG-13”

    Exactly. It’s not going to be R–and even if it was, to think that it would be the highest-grossing R-rated movie of all time seems bizarre.

  29. Bennett says:

    Yeah I agree on the feeling that Dark Shadows will be pushed back to October vibe. No trailer, No Poster, No Website. Despite Depp and some name recognition, they do need to sell the thing. What are they waiting for?

    I am a little surprised that Sony is doing all this extra press for Spider-Man(a very sold title) while they have an extreme amount of money on MIB3 without another trailer. Any chance that gets pushed back too?

    Based on that last trailer, I think that Battleship will be a surprising success.

  30. jesse says:

    I was also wondering that about Dark Shadows — I can’t remember the last time there was a summer movie with nothing but a few publicity stills three months out (and getting close to two months out!). Fox has pulled this a few times, but never with anything that’s supposed to be this pedigreed.

    That said: if they were going to push, why wouldn’t they have pushed it yet? They’re still releasing stills and placing stuff in magazines like it’s coming out shortly. A move to October with Frankenweenie might make sense (maybe they were waiting to see if having two Spielberg movies out in Dec/Jan was an advantage, disadvantage, or neither?)… but if they were going to do that, they could’ve done it last month… hell, even if they were going to push it, they still could’ve cut a coming-next-fall trailer for Sherlock Holmes 2 which seemed like the IDEAL place to put a Dark Shadows ad.

    So I don’t know. It could be pushed, but it’s SO late that I wonder if this is part of the strategy.

    Sounds like it’s pretty weird, and maybe genuinely weird even for Burton, rather than mallrat-weird, so maybe they’re trying to figure out how to sell it? Realistically, you don’t actually need to build awareness for this type of movie way ahead of time; it’s probably going after more of the lady audience than the male teen geek audience who cares about awesome Super Bowl spots.

    I hope it comes out just because that and Avengers are way more exciting to me than the back half of May.

  31. Geoff says:

    Battleship is a genuine wild card, but I’ll give credit to Universal for marketing the hell out of it at this point….doesn’t mean anything, because they did the same thing last year for Cowboys & Aliens, that didn’t even top $100 million domestic. I can see it probably doing Tron: Legacy/Thor-type numbers which would certainly be a victory.

    Not sure what to make of the prospects for Prometheus – are a lot of folks really excited about it besides folks like us online?? I think the difference maker could be whether Fox goes all out and just name-checks the hell out of “Alien” in the marketing leading up to release – honestly, I’m still kind of surprised that they didn’t just title it “Alien: Prometheus” from the get-go. Yeah, I get the whole Ridley Scott spiel about it just having “Alien DNA,” but let’s face it: what’s going to really sell that movie to the masses is the Alien connection and it’s not like that trailer didn’t make it pretty overt.

    The Avengers is a tough marketing thing to pull off – you have push a bunch of different characters, but you also have to show spectacle. Paramount/Disney is giving it a good shot, but the film has to look EPIC and that just hasn’t been the case so far. I can see a $150 million opening and probably doing a bit over $300 million domestic – it’s got a genuine shot at $1 billion worldwide and that’s probably due as much to Thor as Iron Man.

  32. I dunno, we (and I include myself) have been underestimating Tim Burton’s opening weekend might for the last 10+ years. Planet of the Apes looked like a question mark to me, mainly because I wouldn’t have cared about it if not for Burton, so I assumed general audiences wouldn’t care. Cue $69m opening weekend. In 2005, we heard any number of pundits worried that parents would be scared off from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (along with somewhat silly Michael Jackson comparisons) and it still opened with a massive $56 million. Two years ago, the buzz for Alice in Wonderland was terrible, with many calling it Tim Burton’s Hook. They were right, in more ways than one, but it still opened to $116 million and (somewhat surprisingly) had halfway decent legs.

    Point being, when Burton makes a truly mainstream live-action fantasy picture (I would argue that Big Fish and Sweeney Todd were artier, more personal works…), he racks up some of the biggest opening weekends around. It doesn’t mean Dark Shadows will open with $100 million, but I’d be genuinely surprised by anything under $40 million unless the marketing whiffs and/or the picture just looks terrible.

  33. Paul D/Stella says:

    Prometheus’s release date certainly helps, going up against Madagascar 3 and the second weekend of Snow White and the Huntsman. But even with a PG-13 it’s going to be a tough sell. The horror crowd is going nuts, but that’s expected and there are only so many of them. Maybe Predators is an appropriate comparison. Lots of excitement from horror/sci-fi geeks and solid opening weekend before somewhat rapid exit from theaters.

    I’m thinking Battleship does big numbers. They are selling the spectacle pretty effectively and if Transformers can make all that money, why not Battleship? It’s an easier sell to audiences than Cowboys & Aliens.

  34. Krazy Eyes says:

    “Yeah, I get the whole Ridley Scott spiel about it just having “Alien DNA””

    Since the first trailer hasn’t that all been revealed to be a bunch of bullshit. There’s enough detail in that trailer to make it look like a direct prequel to Alien, even if the titular creatures never make an appearance (not a chance that will happen).

    Plus, there was that “fake” story synopsis leaked a while back and after seeing the trailer it’s more than possible that the “fake” wasn’t fake at all since so many scenes appear to match up.

  35. Bennett says:

    I think that it is smart marketing not calling it a another alien movie. After those dreadful A vs P movies, I think that there may be a negative connotation around that franchise. As hollywood produces all these remakes and sequels, producing an original sci-fi epic ala avatar may be advantageous.

  36. Geoff says:

    Krazy Eyes, that was my point – it’s extremely obvious from a visual standpoint that this is an Alien prequel, so why not just retitle it or just explicity state it in the marketing? I don’t get why Fox would hedge about that….

  37. Geoff says:

    Benett, I get what you’re saying and I agree. However, there are a lot more Chronicles of Riddick out there than Avatar – remember, Universal REALLY tried to undersell Vin Diesel in the marketing for that and that there was any connection to Pitch Black….didn’t really work out for them, did it?

    And let’s not forget that there was no blockbuster in recent years that featured more name-checking in its marketing than Avatar. Remeber that last trailer? “From the Director of Aliens…..Terminator 2…..True Lies……Titanic…” Fox didn’t mess around with pushing the linkage to other James Cameron movies and I have a feeling that they will likely do the same with Prometheus, “From the Director of Blade Runner…..Gladiator……Black Hawk Down…..Alien.”

  38. Paul D/Stella says:

    And at this point I think the AVP movies are either forgotten or ignored by most.

  39. christian says:

    Hey, how about that PROMETHEUS? A movie that we don’t know every single thing about right before it opens! Just like ALIEN! Sign me up….

  40. jesse says:

    Scott, you’re absolutely right — Burton is probably one of just a handful of bankable directors. Spielberg is one (movies like Munich or War Horse may “disappoint” financially, but try marketing them without Spielberg’s name); Scorsese seems to have become another at least in terms of name recognition (interestingly, the commercial-seeming Hugo is his lowest-grossing fiction movie since Bringing Out the Dead). Cameron still seems to have a ton of cache although he doesn’t make enough movies to really test it (everything he does is a years-in-the-making event regardless)… and I do think Christopher Nolan has more recognition than most.

    Burton, though, may be the most consistent. I mean, the guy’s made fourteen movies, and all of two of them weren’t hits? (And one of those was a black-and-white period piece that never got on more than 700 screens.)

    I do get the sense WB is wary about Dark Shadows being too weird for the kids and families that saw the last few non-Sweeney Todd Burton/Depp collabos, but they have to figure that they basically just need a trailer saying “Depp and Burton and vampires” with some cool visuals, and you’ve got a $40 million first weekend.

    As a sidebar, I don’t really get the widespread critic-n-internet hatred of Alice in Wonderland. It’s minor, to be sure, and probably not a challenge for Burton, but it’s more or less faithful to the spirit (if not the letter) of the books, only it makes Alice a little less insufferable. At worst, it’s harmless. I found it pretty fun, and while I hesitate to use box office to back up an argument, actually-reviled movies don’t do $330 million domestic.

    That said, if Dark Shadows is more pure Burton than Disney Burton, I’ll be pretty excited.

  41. jesse says:

    It’s also kinda cool if they’re legitimately keeping a lid on Dark Shadows (you know, doing what Prometheus is kinda-sorta supposed to be doing) rather than saturating us with footage and posters and clips and trailers… I just hope it results in the movie actually, you know, coming out.

  42. JS Partisan says:

    Let’s do what Sean Salisbury did before DEADSPIN RUINED HIS LIFE!

    “JS, you honestly believe that Avengers will clock in at three hours in length? Which is what all the LotR were? I think not.”

    Yeah the reports are already out there. The Avengers is a very long movie, so what you think absolutely DOESN’T MATTER.

    “And I think we have enough history of you prehyping a movie prior to its release saying it’s going to be the most awesome experience ever, and lo and behold, after the movie comes out, you are never ever disappointed.”

    You and your faulty logic. I am excited for a film that I end up liking, and me not being disappointed proves something? IT PROVES ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! I never have expectations or assumptions about things. I didn’t spend the 16 years between SW films creating my own stories in my head and thus getting frustrated by TPM. That’s not how I work, so you and your EVIDENCE proves absolutely nothing.

    “It has always lived up to your hype. The movies you don’t like don’t deserve their box office, like Avatar, and the movies you do like will kill everything you don’t like, like your prediction that Iron Man 2 will slaughter Avatar. Just sayin’.”

    Oh I fucking hate Avatar but if you paid attention recently, which you folks seeming do not do on this blog, you’d notice that I haven’t been throwing Avatar under the bus when it comes to the Oscars. I also, unlike you, throw emotions into this, and that leads to the stuff above. If you folks don’t get that, then that’s on you. The only movie that has a chance to dethrone Avatar is either another god damn Avatar movie or TDK-R, but TDK-R getting over a billion is a victory for that movie.

    “The Avengers is still a crap shoot for $300m. It could very well get there, and it may not. It could do a decent $275, which will seem like a disappointment because the bar is set so high. The one thing that the marketing has not really shown yet is the awesome bad guy that warrants getting all these heroes together.”

    Wow, you really don’t know who the AWESOME BAD GUY is? Good lord, it’s right there in the trailer, IT’S LOKI! He’s the bad guy, he brings in the REDACTED aka SKRULLS, and that’s your movie.

    “What’s the sell as to why one hero is not enough? Beyond it being just a very cool idea and of course based on source material that put these heroes together, for the people who don’t read the comics, and don’t know Hawkeye and Black Widow, what are you giving me that I haven’t already seen in the other Marvel movies and Xmen, the latter having a very awesome bad guy, and an even better relationship story between the warring factions.”

    Again, this is where you and anyone who agrees with you FAILS in this blog. No one is asking for all of that explanation. Everyone knows why a Superhero team gets together already and that’s something bigger than themselves. This is why the general public are far ahead of the curb when it comes to this movie, and this is why they loved that Superbowl spot. Seriously you are asking questions that have already have answers and acting as if you need more of an explanation, is just fucking silly.

    “That’s the problem the studio has beyond opening weekend. i agree with you, I think it will open big, but will the story and spectacle give it legs? or will Battleship end up being transformers without the shitty jokes, and end up being the surprise $300m grosser of the summer?”

    What you folks are also missing about Battleship, is how much of a PIECE OF SHIT TRANNYS 3 IS! Are people really going to go back to the theatre for a movie that has TRANNYS 3 stink on it? That’s the question.

  43. Paul D/Stella says:

    Is Trannys 3 that much worse than Trannys 2? Haven’t seen either one. I thought the consensus was that part 2 is garbage. Bay and the cast basically admitted as much. But people still flocked to part 3.

  44. bulldog68 says:

    That Trannies 3 stink as you call it has made more domestically than any Marvel movie domestic and foreign. That Trannies 3 stink made more than Thor and Captain America combined last year. That Trannies 3 stink has consistently been rated more favourably by the public than Trannies 2. And that Trannies 3 stink will be perfume to the Avengers if they make those numbers.

    Think about it for second JS. Everyone does not live in the world that you live in. The comic book movies of 2011 got beat by a group of ordinary guys who have no discernable superpowers save driving cars very fast, and starring an actor who most people were beginning to write off. Same goes for an aging TV franchise in Mission Impossible and another star that seemed to be on the downside of the bos office. And by the way, neither of these two movies had the 3D bump.

    So while you may think that the rest of the collective universe is holding their breath for the ultimate LotR version of the comic book world, I fear you may be sadly mistaken.

    I will never fault you for being excited about it. Fuck, I am too. I just temper my expectations. Something you seem incapable of doing.

  45. hcat says:

    I might be in the minority but the third Tranny is the only one I fully enjoyed.

    The marketing for Battleship has stepped up its game and it should open well and has a big four day weekend the next which should keep it from dropping too much. Its just not looking as much as an outright disaster as when the first trailer was released.

    But this Taylor Kitsch kid, I know the people who watched Friday Night Lights might adore this guy, but with Carter, Battleship, and Savages the studios are betting over half a billion dollars that the world falls instantly in love with him.

  46. bulldog68 says:

    Correction: “That Trannies 3 stink as you call it has made more domestically than any Marvel movie domestic and foreign.” With the exception of the Spiderman 1 & 2.

  47. anghus says:

    Avengers biggest hurdle will be getting the ladies to buy tickets.

    Its a lock with kids and geeks. The crossover appeal feels limited.

  48. David Poland says:

    Well…if Alien were released today, it might be PG-13. So I guess it’s possible.

  49. jesse says:

    Dave, any thoughts on the Dark Shadows business? Is the lack of trailer at this point strategy, or something else?

  50. bulldog68 says:

    I don’t think the movie is being sold based upon Kitsch’s ability to sell tickets though. Same way Transformers would have been a hit with or without Shia. He had what I thought was a decent turn in a mediocre Wolverine movie. The thing I’m thinking is that John Carter fails, he won’t be blamed, but if it hits, then Battleship will benefit because he’ll the new shiny thing audiences will want to play with.

  51. Jeffrey Boam's Doctor says:

    Avengers is going to be three-hours long? That’s like watching an entire season of Comic Book Men and will probably be about as much fun.

    I pine for a Logans Run world where if you are found to be reading comic books over 30yrs of age you are instantly killed. These Superhero movies of the 2000s will thankfully just be a skidmark in cinema history. They will be joked about like the Edgar Rice Burroughs films of the 70.

  52. bulldog68 says:

    Is this Depp’s new thing now, reviving dead TV shows. He’s doing The Night Stalker, directed by Edgar Wright. Should be very interesting.

  53. Captain Celluloid says:

    First, nice article. You continue to be the only outlet for non-hysterical
    thoughtful pieces about NETFLIX and streaming / VOD et al.


    Again, you’re one of the few who write of the chrushingly obvious
    effect of streaming on availability and user cost of bandwidth.

    I fear this does not bode well for image [ and sound ] quality in general, as the quality with streaming is simply not “there” yet and, in particular, when people discover they can “turn down the image quality” to save bandwidth.

    Worse case scenario could be the very real possibility of content providers
    “turning down the image quality” to save bandwidth costs if they think they can get away with it.

    Sadly, film studios can appear to not be in the “image quality” business because they seem to be more interested in the making money business . . . . which is at once quite
    sad and I think dangerously short sighted.

    I wish more people thought about that . . . .
    again, I applaud your awareness of this and willingness to write about it.

    So for now, as much as I too enjoy the seductive sometime convenience of streaming I will predominately stick to watching movies [ at home ]
    on Blu Ray.


  54. storymark says:

    I get 720p streams 90% of the time, myself.

  55. storymark says:

    “Is this Depp’s new thing now, reviving dead TV shows.”

    Im thinking he’s just inherited his buddy Tim’s allergy to anything resembling an original concept (Burton has made, what, 3 non-adaptations/reboots/remakes in his entire career).

  56. LYT says:

    jesse – “it’s more or less faithful to the spirit (if not the letter) of the books”

    HOTLY disagree. The books were never about some grand good versus evil battle. They were about eccentric characters co-existing and making things very difficult for Alice by their weirdness – a mirror of how children see any adults other than their parents.

    hcat – “I might be in the minority but the third Tranny is the only one I fully enjoyed.”

    No, you’re the majority. Minority is me and Todd Gilchrist liking part 2 the best. even the filmmakers aren’t with us on that.

  57. LYT says:

    Burton’s non-adaptations:

    Edward Scissorhands.

    That’s about it. Pee-wee’s Big Adventure is arguably an adaptation since the character was pre-existing, and Ed Wood was adapting a real life, regardless of whether or not he used a particular book as a guide.

    Nightmare, of course, he didn’t direct. Corpse Bride was a folk tale, but almost original enough to be considered non-adaptation.

    Anything else?

  58. sanj says:

    old interview

    DP/30: director Tim Burton

    40 minutes .

  59. christian says:

    COMIC BOOK MEN was painful. Phony reality show bullshit – like the employees wouldn’t want Jason Mewes hanging out there battling action figures. The EMPIRE light saber appraisal was cool though.

  60. JS Partisan says:

    Boam, oh shut up already with your bullshit. You once again are a woman, whose nick goofs on a man who died, and you post your stupid shit as if wanting people to die is ever funny.

    That waste aside, BD, I don’t have expectations. I have nothing to temper. This comes from being a Cubs fan because we always have next year, so there’s no reason to expect anything RADICAL or EXTREME to happen. You assuming that I have expectations, has nothing to do on me. When I love something, I love something, and that’s it. End of fucking line.

    Also, Thor and Caps are first movies that were actually appreciated and rated highly unlike Trannys 3, which is a fucking abomination. Seriously, type in NOAH ANTWILER and TRANNYS 3, and enjoy. You folks not getting that the general public is past you and your wants when it comes to Avengers, is very weird. People are looking forward to it more than you people in here will ever know.

    ETA: Here’s something that will never be brought up in here, how Comic Book Men is another example how men slight women, when it comes to reading comics. Seriously, the misogyny of that fucking show is rather astounding and as astounding as Bryan Johnson going on his podcast ripping into a woman who suffers from MD.

  61. Paul D/Stella says:

    Judging by its box office, it sure looks like the public appreciated Transformers 3.

  62. Bennett says:

    I couldn’t get through ten minutes of Comic Book Men and hell I am a fan of Kevin Smith……Yuck

  63. leahnz says:

    “He’s doing The Night Stalker, directed by Edgar Wright.”

    AS IN DARREN MCGAVIN AS CARL KOLCHACK????!!!! is that right?

    holy shit that was my all-time favourite tv show as a kid, best tv show in the history of the world, ’74-75…i don’t know whether to laugh or cry

  64. yancyskancy says:

    leah: They did another NIGHT STALKER series here just a few years ago, I believe with Stuart Townsend and Gabrielle Union. It didn’t last long. But I’m on board for an Edgar Wright version, at least in theory.

  65. leahnz says:

    oh really, with stuart townsend (and gabrielle union)?? how bizarre, not exactly the darren mcgavin route — but then again who could compare to mcgavin as kolchack (i LOVE him) so perhaps a wise move to go younger…i guess i’ll give wright the benefit of the doubt and try not to be too precious about it.

  66. torpid bunny says:

    The last four minutes of trannies 2 was better than all of trannies 3.

  67. cadavra says:

    Reboots nowadays usually go for the young hotties, regardless of the age/appearance of the original character. The WB’s failed pilot of DARK SHADOWS a few years ago cast Kelly Hu as Dr. Hoffman (originally a middle-aged spinster). And even Doctor Who has gone from a cranky 70-ish to an eye-candy 30-ish.

    As for AVENGERS, am I the only one getting a sense of what I call Wandered Onto The Wrong Set Syndrome, meaning one actor–in this case Downey–seems to be in a completely different movie than everyone else? (The Hall of Fame example being Alan Rickman in the Costner ROBIN HOOD.)

  68. leahnz says:

    you know what they should do for the trannies 4 REBOOT (fucking hell) that would make me want to actually watch it after the rancid abortion and bizarro fuckarow that were 2 and 3? Have it star actual trannies.

    (rickman is priceless in ‘robin hood’. then again, rickman is priceless in everything)

  69. jesse says:

    LYT, there was plenty of that in Burton’s Alice… especially considering that the movie is set after the events of the book (which I guess does make it a bit like Hook, although I like it more than Hook, and also Hook is kinda OK!). Though there is a big battle and some broad-canvas fantasy stuff, frankly that material isn’t all that central to much of the movie, and a lot of it is kind of wandering and odd, like the book.

  70. JS Partisan says:

    Leah, exactly! Also, I don’t know, SET IN GENERATION ONE! 80s music and Transformers: A WINNING COMBINATION SINCE 1984!

    Cad: no, you’re the only one. Seriously, this blog is so out of step with the general public with the Avengers, but it’s been that way since Nick Fury brought up the Avengers Initiative at the end of Iron Man.

    Seriously, go back 4 years, and read those post. Not only did most of you believe it would never happen. You also had the same complaints then as you do now.

  71. JoJo says:

    Geoff: Paramount has absolutely nothing to do with the marketing of Avengers. It’s strictly Disney and Marvel.

  72. cadavra says:

    JSP, I have absolutely nothing against AVENGERS and in fact plan to see it. But you gotta admit it’s quite a bit off-kilter to see everyone else playing it deadly serious while Downey makes borderline-insulting wisecracks about them.

  73. JS Partisan says:

    Cad, I must admit then, that decades of Tony interacting with everyone else in the comics. Makes RDJ’s Tony interacting with everyone, feel exactly the same way to me. There’s my love of the Avengers striking again XD!

  74. Martin S says:

    There’s no “report” over Avenger’s running time. It’s an off-hand comment made by the VFX head after seeing a rough-cut.

    Read the whole thing and you’ll see he was coming at it from a position of low expectations in regards to superhero flicks. So, long means “over 2 hours” when compared to previous Marvel outings which always aim for that 110 min mark.

    I like this. Raising and lowering expectations in one move.

  75. Paul D/Stella says:

    Is anyone here arguing that The Avengers is not going to be successful?

    What does “looks like TV” mean exactly?

  76. jesse says:

    Yeah, I’m trying not to get bogged down in it, but it seems like JS is kinda mad that not everyone is predicting that The Avengers will be a massive success on par with Lord of the Rings both critically and financially (which I guess would mean around $325 million?). The more reasonable expectation is that it does in the $250 million range, like a high-end X-Men movie. Which ain’t hay. It could go higher, past 300, given that Iron Man did, and this is like Iron Man Deluxe. It’s probably not going to make Dark Knight money. And I’ll probably like it more than LOTR because I don’t really care for that series, but likely it’ll get Thor/Captain America/Iron Man range reviews. Though I can’t imagine it not being better than Thor at minimum, given Whedon’s writing skills.

    That said, regarding that JoBlo piece, I don’t really get the “looks like TV” thing. The “TV vibe” of his work has always bugged this writer? Well, he’s directed one feature and ran a bunch of TV shows… was that “TV vibe” coming from the fact that his TV shows were broadcast on TV? The look of Buffy isn’t as cinematic as, say, X-Files, but it doesn’t look like Law & Order, either. And I thought Serenity was appropriately cinematic.

    I’m sensitive to movies looking like low-grade TV shows as much as anyone, but I feel like that criticism has become convenient shorthand and catch-all for anything that doesn’t look INCREDIBLY expensive, or that isn’t 2.35. A lot of TV drama is pretty cinematic, just without some of the more sustained technical sequences you might get from a movie… so the line has blurred a bit. And as much as I’d love to see some crazy style stuff in The Avengers, obviously Whedon is more concerned about nailing the characters than putting together extended tracking shots (which Serenity totally has in its first scene!).

  77. christian says:

    JS is right about one thing – there were a few of you here (names redacted) who claimed with Moses like wisdom that there would never be an Avengers film at all because it would cost a BILLION DOLLARS or something.

  78. David Poland says:

    The subtext of “looks like TV” is that it looks like you don’t need to leave your home to watch it on a big screen. It looks like it will fit your 48″ HD TV just as comfortably as a 48″ movie screen.

  79. David Poland says:

    Christian – the funny thing about Avengers is that it has got to be more expensive than any one Marvel film… and the ones they have produced have not been cheap. The only real cash cow has been Iron Man/2.

    So… with a somewhat inflated budget, this film needs to do Iron Man numbers – and they have to be hoping for more – to make money. In a way, IO/JSP’s screaming about Dark Knight hits it on the head. They need a leap in gross like Begins to TDK in order for this to be a great success.

    On the other hand, they did better financially with Thor and Cap than I think anyone really expected.

  80. christian says:

    On the other hand, they did better financially with Thor and Cap than I think anyone really expected.

    I think it’s obvious that some folks don’t get how powerful the Marvel characters are. Go back and read all the “Nobody cares about THOR!” memes.

  81. JS Partisan says:

    Jesse, I’d put money down there’s a long tracking shot in The Avengers. Also, seriously LOTR IN TERMS OF LENGTH! What part of that is hard for you to understand? Goodness.

    That aside, Christian, you know one of them posted right above you, and he went on and on and on about how it would never ever happen.

    ETA: David, how am I screaming about TDK again? What? That aside, everyone should search this blog in terms of every Marvel film, and how at every pass people on this blog have doubted their films succeeding.

    Again, the General Public are far ahead of the people in this blog, when it comes to their anticipation for this Avengers film.

  82. storymark says:

    And JS knows, he has the general public on speed-dial.

  83. jesse says:

    JS, there’s no way this Avengers movie runs longer than 150 minutes (which is how long it would have to be to get in spitting distance of Lord of the Rings, running time wise). And that’s on the way outside.

    I’d be happy if it did because I love Whedon and the actors and the characters are cool. But the idea of them going over 2:15 or so seems pretty unlikely. Long compared to Iron Man, sure. Compared to LOTR or even Dark Knight, probably not.

  84. storymark says:

    Yeah, I agree that 2:15 seems like the high end.

  85. JS Partisan says:

    SM, as if you are in touch with anything outside of what’s in front of your face but you can be snarky online, OH MY GOD, aren’t you so fucking clever. CLAP CLAP CLAP! Get on the boat.

    2h15m is too short. This film has to be epic. Anything under 2h30m is too short.

  86. The Big Perm says:

    The government should take over The Avengers via eminent domain because the money it makes will pay off the national debt.

  87. storymark says:

    JS – You are so fucking boring. CLAP CLAP (but only two, of the unenthused Men At Work golf-clap style)..

  88. JS Partisan says:

    BP: that’s a good one.

    SM: Oh watch out now! I’ve been referred to as boring by a snarky online poster! Watch out!

  89. “I’d put money down there’s a long tracking shot in The Avengers.”

    You’d think, but I kept waiting last summer for the Green Lantern trailer that had what I was sure would be the big money shot – dozens/hundreds of Green Lantern corps members in space doing battle with Parralax. Needless to say, there was no such shot in the film, even though it would have seemed like a no-brainer from both a narrative and marketing perspective to actually have a moment where the Corps unite as a group to smack down the world-killing menace.

  90. Arthur Fonzarelli says:

    I don’t think Netflix will ever be the powerhouse that they once were; they’ve lost too much support during their debacle a few months back. Now I don’t think that this means in anyway that they are going to decline greatly, but I do think that it caused people to realize that there are other options out there. That’s what happened to me to be honest; the Blockbuster @Home service is what I turned to when I heard about it from some coworkers at DISH. I now have tons of streaming and discs in the mail. My favorite thing about this service is easily the ability to get video games and BluRays at no extra charge, still can’t do that with Netflix.

  91. SamLowry says:

    Heck, if Sir Larry could make an appearance in Sky Captain and Jeff Bridges could look 30 years younger in Tron 2, I’m sure $10 or 20 mil could bring Ledger back from the dead.

    EDIT: Whoops, just got to the end of the article and someone said precisely that, although they lowballed at $5 to $10 mil (I’m sure the $160 mil budget of Inception wasn’t spent entirely on Leo’s trailer). Until I noticed that it was from The Onion, I had been taking the piece rather seriously, as in “Why not?”

The Hot Blog

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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