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David Poland

By David Poland

Quick Glance At Summer: $ View

Universal’s “we’re spending big for big results” embrace of their summer meme or story that they will be beaten to death with in August landed in the LA Times today and inspired me to take quick look at the summer and who is spending what.

Universal is, indeed, the big spender this summer. They have one major sequel, which is also a reboot, with Tony Gilroy taking over the directing reins in addition to previous writing responsibilities on Bourne 4, now rebooting with Jeremy Renner. Then there are the two new wannabe franchises, Battleship (over $210m) and Snow White (at least $175m). Two small films are filler with hope.

Sony is spending, but franchise spending only. The most secure bet is a reboot of Spider-Man, partially motivated to start from scratch to keep the ballooning cost of previous mega-movie-series from making the franchise a spending boondoggle. The scariest bet is Men in Black 3, which has had a lot of negative reporting about the production and whose previous film in the series was so top-heavy in costs (Smith/Spielberg/TLJones/Sonnenfeld) that a gross of $440m still wasn’t significantly profitable. There is also a Sandler film, which is as close to a sure bet as there is… and still under $100m. And Total Recall redone, with the guy who launched Underworld at the helm and Colin Farrell trying to fill Ahnuld’s pecs. Add Sparkle & Premium Rush and the only real danger zone remains MiB3, which is likely to generate strong numbers, even if not strong enough to make the exercise of going back worth it.

Fox’s two big spends are on Prometheus and Ice Age 4. Both look to be potential silent assassins in a very franchise-y summer. Prometheus is Alien-related, stars a bevy of international rising stars, and with Sir Ridley at the helm, could battle Batman for the “coolest film of the summer” title. The last Ice Age did a shocking $887 million worldwide. If this one does a third less, it’s still huge. And a Stiller/Vaughn comedy with its budget in check. Besides that, it’s niche stuff. Another Wimpy Kid. Abe Lincoln hunting vampires. And adult dramdy in Great Hope Springs starring Oscar Winner Meryl Streep.

Warners has the most titles, as usual. But The Dark Knight Rises is by far the biggest, both in potential and expense. The studio has reined in the spending quite a bit and with Batman leading, will find it hard not to have a solid summer… and with some luck, could have a truly great summer. Is Rock of Ages another Mamma Mia!? This one will cost 5 times as much to make, but if the close is similar, a cash cow. Dark Shadows is the other significant spend, with Johnny Depp in gothic camp from Tim Burton. Sure to be in profit, if not a runaway financial success. A Jay Roach comedy (The Campaign) with Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis can’t be too cheap, but has a lot of upside and not too much downside. Then it’s 3 small films, including a Soderbergh comedy, a Chernobyl movie from the Paranormal Activity director, and a horror film late in the season from Joel Silver.

Both Paramount and Disney have just 3 films each this summer. The only film Par is all in on is The Dictator, which is relatively cheap and should be profitable (though it better be funnier than the carpet gag). Madagascar 3 is from DreamWorks Animation, distribution only. And Par is partners on GI Joe 2, which has been retrofitted with The Rock and Bruce Willis, rendering all but unrecognizable from the first film.

Disney has the Avengers, from their Marvel division, which is still operating under its own funding. Brave is Pixar’s new title, which will soon get the “could this be the flop” treatment soon from Wall Street operatives. (I have no opinion at all until I see it.) And the family fantasy, The Odd Life of Timothy Green. Quiet, franchise-driven summer.

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27 Responses to “Quick Glance At Summer: $ View”

  1. Joshua says:

    “The most secure bet is a reboot of Spider-Man, partially motivated to start from scratch to keep the previous mega-movies from being spending boondoggles.”

    I don’t understand. How can rebooting Spider-Man affect the costs of “previous” films?

  2. David Poland says:

    Fair enough. Very poorly written.

    The fix: “partially motivated to start from scratch to keep the ballooning cost of previous mega-movie-series from making the franchise a spending boondoggle.”

  3. kbx says:

    nvm, DP answered above

  4. Rob says:

    Rock of Ages will cost 5 times as much as Mamma Mia?!

  5. anghus says:

    The Brave is interesting to me because its the first Pixar movie I’ve ever heard females react positively to. Both tweens teens and adult. To me that bodes well. Although I can see the pushback from boys who may not be thrilled with a female protagonist.

    Also, does anyone else get that How to Train Your Dragon vibe? Maybe its the scottish accents.

  6. Paul D/Stella says:

    My wife and son are psyched for Brave. Granted he’s only 4 so older boys might not be as enthused. Also he’s been asking me to take him to ParaNorman since that first teaser debuted.

  7. chris says:

    What? You’ve heard no “females” react favorably to “Nemo?” The “Toy Story” movies? “Wall-E?”

  8. David Poland says:

    Perhaps more, Rob. Momma Mia! was very, very cheaply done.

  9. Bennett says:

    Any idea why they have not released a Dark Shadows trailer yet?

  10. Come what may, I’m guessing WB will release a Dark Shadows trailer attached to Wrath of the Titans at the end of next month. It’s not the first quickie ad campaign for WB, but neither one that I recall ended well. Jonah Hex put out two trailers, one two months before release and the other one month before release. Mars Attacks! didn’t get its first trailer until the second weekend in November (attached to Space Jam) four weeks before opening weekend. They had that one trailer, a few TV spots, and a national sneak preview over Thanksgiving weekend (a double-sneak with, yes, Space Jam) and opened the film to $9 million on December 13th.

    I love the *idea* of truncated marketing campaigns, as I’d argue that most general audiences don’t care until a week or two before opening anyway and the 6-12 month build-up (which I’d imagine adds quite a bit to the marketing budget) is mostly for the hardcore fans/movie nerds anyway. I’d argue that Fox’s quick/targeted/cheap marketing for Predators was a successful example, as they didn’t put out much more than a trailer or two before around two weeks before its debut. It still scored $24 million, which was terrific as the film cost just $40 million.

  11. Tuck Pendelton says:

    Mendeleson, I agree for the most part but releasing trailer and having magazine articles out EARLY just plants seeds of thoughts before the wave of marketing.

    Universal will get the brunt of “Spent too much” syndrome. Having worked there personally, I can vouch that I assume most of the rumors of the Battleship cost are likely true.

    I bet The Avengers will be seen as a wash. As much as I’d like to be excited about this film. I’m not. RDJ fatigue has hit us and watching him zing other super heroes for two hours already has me asleep.

    The Dark Knight Rises and Brave are my predicted big winners.

  12. Sam says:

    Don’t pundits predict EVERY Pixar movie will flop? Or was that the point?

  13. jesse says:

    Yeah, anghus, I’d have to ask who you’re hanging out with that you’ve never heard females react positively to a Pixar movie… less because they’re girl-bait in particular and more because literally EVERYONE I KNOW in the 25-35 age bracket gets excited for Pixar movies.

    So there are internet rumors that WB has been testing two different Dark Shadows trailers: a short teaser and a longer trailer. I hope this is in the run up to getting them in theaters ahead of the 5/11 launch, not figuring out which one to debut the new October release date or something. Although you’d think it would’ve been pushed back by now, right, if that was a serious option?

    And to be fair, there are a ton of tone-or-subject-compatible movies in March that could take that trailer: John Carter, Hunger Games, Mirror Mirror, Wrath of the Titans (not all the same audience, but a decent cross-section of who might be into this movie, albeit on the younger side). They just need to throw it in front of one or more to make up for the fact that Sherlock Holmes 2 seemed like the perfect opportunity.

    Scott, I think you’re probably right that you don’t actually NEED to get the ball rolling on a lot of these movies a year out. The genre-obsessed people who care about those trailers are also already kind of aware of the movie. Sure, a KILLER trailer can help get people excited ahead of time, but if you don’t have one, or if your movie is probably pretty strange la Dark Shadows, maybe not jumping in the fray with every other summer blockbuster can be a boon.

  14. cadavra says:

    Three more reasons why ROCK OF AGES costs more than MAMMA MIA: 1) Tom Cruise don’t come cheap. 2) They had to license the songs from a whole lotta sources, not just one. 3) Hundreds of extras, who must be paid and fed, and by their very nature make any sequence that much longer and more difficult to shoot (MAMMA MIA had just one scene that required a crowd, and it was only a couple dozen).

  15. EthanG says:

    Paramount also has the TITANIC 3D re-release, which I’m betting will get to $100 million, and has a slim chance to re-claim “top domestic film all-time” status from AVATAR.

    ROCK OF AGES will cost more than MAMMA MIA, yes, but 5 times more??? That would make its price tag bigger than THE AVENGERS, and would challenge SPIDEY 3 as the most expensive movie ever made, as Mamma purportedly cost 50 mil.

  16. Trevor says:

    Mendelson’s post brought up a question I’ve always had. What’s the point of spending money releasing trailers and teaser posters and so on months in advance for movies like DARK KNIGHT RISES? It just seems like the studio is throwing their money away; that audience is going to be there if you just start hawking it a few weeks in advance.

  17. hcat says:

    Not sure if I agree with you Trevor, the amazing marketing for Dark Knight helped turn the opening weekend into an EVENT, turning the audience from wanting to see it to absolutly having to see it now. And the more people you get there opening weekend the more likely you can get them back in later weekends (depending on quality of course).

    This leads to a question I keep meaning to ask, how important does everyone think repeat viewing is to the summer blockbusters. Are second time viewers the difference between say Thor and Captain America or Thor and Green Lantern?

    And I think Anghus has a point, most of the women I know like what Pixar films they’ve seen, but none of them were say Sex and The City excited about seeing them, and all of them are looking forward to checking out Brave in the theater. My wife, who only sees about 2 movies in the theater a year and maybe another 10 on video keeps asking me about the release date on Brave so she can take our daughter.

  18. I’d argue that, aside from whatever publicity was gained by Health Ledger’s death (and I’d argue quite a lot, since it allowed the tabloids and other non-movie sites to endlessly discuss the movie in their own tabloid-y context to an audience that otherwise might not care about the movie), the key to making The Dark Knight into an event is that the two trailers looked absolutely spectacular, promising a ‘real movie’ that just happened to be a comic book action drama. The viral games did little except intrigue and excite the already-committed fanbase. Heck, most of the posters were kinda terrible (Yes, let’s have the center of focus be a giant wheel!). In the end, it was the sheer quality of the trailers, coupled with the promise stemming from the quality of Batman Begins, that was the key to making it into more than just ‘the next big comic book movie’.

  19. hcat says:

    I thought the release of the character posters and then the release of the joker vandalized ‘why so serious’ character posters were a great idea. Every time you went to the theater there was some fresh little Batman thing to look at. I thought it helped keep the anticipation up.

  20. js partisan says:

    Excuse me, but what’s that sound? Oh that’s the sound of minds being blown by the new Avengers trailer! The Avengers a wash? Come now, that’s just a silly thought.

  21. hcat says:

    Better, but still not mind-blowing, the extra Hulk stuff being the high points. Still looks confined to the same four city blocks though. I wonder if they are going to keep coming out with more trailers as the release approaches adding the 25% new footage each time.

  22. js partisan says:

    Yeah… no. Better than the TDK-R trailer.

  23. David Poland says:

    Who reported that Mamma Mia! cost $50m, Ethan?

  24. kbx says:

    not saying its accurate or anything but boxofficemojo lists Mamma Mia at $52million cost

    doesn’t boxofficemojo get the budget #s from studios?

  25. Mariamu says:

    I saw the Avengers trailer tonight at a sneak peek for “John Carter”. Still doesn’t rock my world. I’m very tired of RDJ.

  26. hcat says:

    And how was Carter?

  27. Mariamu says:

    It was okay. Taylor Kitsch would not be my first choice to play John Carter. He did what he could with the character as it was written for the screen. It just had little to do with the ‘John Carter’ I knew and loved from reading the books as an adolescent. The 3-D was not really needed. I might see this in 2-D to really check for differences.
    I think I will wait until more reviews come in before I comment in detail. I will say that I liked looking at Dejah Thoris much better than John Carter. And I disliked Lynn Collins in Wolverine.

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