The Hot Blog Archive for May, 2009

I Meant To Say…

One of the major, unique assets that Up has a a leggy summer event is that I expect it to be the strongest animated film since Finding Nemo – maybe bigger – with grandparents looking to share a movie with their grandkids… because of the grandparent/child relationship in the film.
If I were Disney, I’d be working on a Labor Day re-release strategy now, along with emphasizing all other holidays when the grandparents get control of the “what are we doing today” button.


The Trailer Some Have Been Waiting On


Interesting that 2/3 of the trailer features the character who leaves for what is, according to the book, most of the film…


Movie Math

In another entry, I was responding to a comment and my response got thick enough that I thought it deserved its own space… so…
Geoff wrote: ‘Dave has been harping on them for how much they spent on this thing, but come one….a few years ago in the summer of the “Threequel” both Pirates and Spidey sequels barely grossed $30 million more than their production budgets domestically. This is really nothing new for mega-franchises and at least Paramount doesn’t have to split the earnings with a Marvel or Bruckheimer.”
My response…
The difference is, Geoff, that domestic box office is not the answer to the threequels or Star Trek.
$799 million, $890 million, and $961 million is the answer to the spending on the threequels.
Iron Man grossed about the same as all of them domestically… and $582m worldwide. That $120 million in theatrical rental only for the lowest grosser of the three.
That’s why the price tag on Star Trek means a lot more than, say, the price tag on Transformers 2. Star Trek looks like it will, in a great success far overshadowing the other Trek films, something just above or below $400 million. Transformers did $708m worldwide. That’s a $165m difference only in theatrical.
I can promise you that if Transformers 2 cost $350 million, I would be raising holy hell about it…. though it would have a better shot at profitability than a $200m+ Star Trek.
It’s just math.
Harry Potter sequels at $200 million-plus are bargains. Year One at $75 million or Public Enemies at $100 million-plus are not.
Why are they sticking with the team on Spider-Man 4 even though the movie will be insanely expensive… surely over $250 million in this down economy? Because the third film, shit that it was, did more money worldwide than the other two films, even though it did less domestically than either of the first two.
The economics are whether a reboot that cost $150 million to produce had as much upside as another film with this team that cost twice as much. Sony gave us an answer to that question. With all revenue streams accounted for, an extra $150 million in cost plus more gross points, this group probably needs to gross at least $250 million in worldwide theatrical to make as much as a successful, cheaper reboot.
Iron Man is the highest grossing comic book character other than Batman and Spider-Man, with $582 worldwide. (X-Men’s best was $459m worldwide.) That’s a $300 million spread to the last Raimi/Maguire Spidey.
Is it possible that a Spider-Man reboot would do as well as the Raimi/Maguire versions? Sure. But that’s a gamble that Sony doesn’t want to take.
And you’re wrong about Paramount not needing to split the profits. They do. They have two funding partners on the film. (WB has one on the Nolan Batmans. And Sony has the best comic book deal in town, since it was early on, with Marvel on Spider-Man.) One of the reasons they keep pushing the theatrical so hard is that they take a distribution fee on every theatrical dollar and the P&A gets paid out first, so they actually benefit, marginally, from a longer road to net profit (which they have to share). At some point, that will stop being the case (when ongoing marketing costs overwhelm potential breakeven.)
Spidey 3 and Pirates 3 are 2 of only 12 movies in history to crack $550m worldwide. (The others are 4 Potters, 3 Rings, Titanic, Jurassic Park, and another Pirates.) That’s $300 million in rentals before domestic theatrical or a dime in ancillaries… and that’s the low mark. For Pirates 3, that was $358 million in foreign rentals… about the monster production budget. They got about $170 million in rentals for domestic. And got hurt a little by the DVD slump, which had already started. So even ALL that money means some tight accounting.
You can be sure on Pirates 4, they’ll be looking to make the production budget $100 million or more smaller. (And Pirates 2, which was a LOT cheaper, was much more of a cash cow.) My guess at Depp’s deal would be $50 million or $60 million cash upfront with additional money to start only after the $1 billion mark. And that’s a good deal for Disney. They lose the two-three-four other stars of the series and try to keep the actual production under $200 million. If they can keep the whole thing under $300 million, it’s as good a bet as you can make in this business. Crazy numbers.
$400 million for Star Trek worldwide and you might have barely cleared the production budget. That’s the point.
And the sequel? By the time they start shooting, Pine and Quinto will realize that they will never get a bigger payday than Trek and there will be the inevitable hold outs. Add another $20 million onto the budget that JJ will already be pressured to cut back on from the first film. If they can get the whole thing down to the budget they keep claiming to the media – $130m to $150m – then the franchise could be a big money maker in future. But pulling back from the high bar has proved to be very difficult. And it already is Star Trek Origins. So… the movie will not be made without those stars, which gives them leverage. The pressure to give JJ what he wants for the film will be enormous. So the reality is that Paramount will have a very hard time bringing in a sequel for less than $200 million and $250 million would not be a surprise. Some people will believe that the film will take a TDK-like leap at the box office… but the odds aren’t great on that. More likely an uptick to $450 million worldwide if all goes well. Tough numbers to work with.
The industry as a whole offers an interesting dichotomy. If you want to be in the $200 million+ production business (add in $125m minimum on worldwide marketing), $500m worldwide is about the bottom to be assured of profit.
In 2007 and 2008, the number of $500m worldwide movies leapt from a record high of 5 in one year to, respectively, 8 and 9 in those years. The big difference is, a little surprisingly, animation. In both of the last two years, there were 3 animated films over the $500m mark worldwide. Never before in movie history had there been more than 1 animated $500m worldwide movie in a single year.
But that


NYT: All The Shit That's Fit To Stir

Make no mistake… NYT is still the most important paper in my world, followed closely by the Wall Street Journal.
That said… the attention desperation level over the keeps rising.
The “look at me!” of the day is a bizarre piece of non-reportage – primarily worthless because it is so lacking in anything factual – is about Disney’s The Princess & The Frog. The ENTIRE source of the headline – “Her Prince Has Come. Critics, Too” – is three points of online reference. A comment by a woman with an AOL blog, the comment of “a former columnist at The Charlotte Observer, (who was quoted by) London


The Next Batman Movie…

Read the full article »

Remembering A Sundance Favorite…

Almost a year and a half later, Downloading Nancy is arriving in theaters… I had a bit of an opinion on the film…
“There is a point at which it is not about what the character feels and it is simply like a nasty trick, trying to make the audience as anguished as what they are watching. It is hateful filmmaking and every director who does it seems to be beloved by his female cast. Why? Because he makes/allows them to put it all out there. But that isn’t art. That is abuse.”


BYOB… Sundays with Anghus…


Armond Again…

What I find most fascinating about Armond White’s unbriddled anger about Pixar’s success is not the criticism… it’s the Spielberg of it all.
How does the world’s most aggressive defender of Spielberg – and more often than not, I agree with Armond’s support of Spielberg and that the media is anti-Spielberg in an unconscionable way – get away with himself in the morning mirror after accusing Pixar by writing, “artistic standards get trumped by a special feature: sentimentality.”
Who is a more sentimental filmmaker than Spielberg, aside from the sad comic tear-milkers like Roberto Benigni?
But even more, it seems that in “reviews” like this one, White is angry at critics and audiences alike for taking the bait from Pixar… and perhaps, not from Spielberg. (Spielberg’s box office success is undeniable… but the lingering doubts about how important a director he is maintain a place in cultural discussion, both amongst professional and amateur chatterers.)
I share a certain kinship with White in that I do think that critics and feature writers do get sucked into trends and the timing of certain movies. I have no doubt that every single summer, there will be a wildly overpraised film and a whipping boy. Critics have their group antennae out and the message gets around. (I don’t think we have found our true whipping boy yet, even though the anger about Wolverine was rather overpronounced, as the Best Reviewed Film Of The Year, Star Trek, was insanely overpraised.)
But i have to disagree with his characterization of the situation with Pixar as I would with any of my films of dubious pro or anti enthusiasm. People feel what they feel. Critics, on the other hand, are professionals who have a responsibility to maintain some level of objectivity. But I see what people feel while watching Up or Wall-E. It is true… both films are about complacency and fighting not only to be alive, but to live life. If White doesn’t think this is an important emotion, so be it. But I kinda wish I had Chuck Jones standing behind us in a movie line to explain to Armond what the Road Runner was all about.
I can explain to you in great detail – something White doesn’t really bother to do in his Up chuck – why Mamma Mia! was a piece of shit as a film… and for me to believe that the only reason that people LOVED it was because they were somehow tricked would prove that I have no sense of anyone beyond myself. I knew what they loved about it before I even saw it. And whatever flaws there are in the film, as a film, those people don’t care. It’s not about that for them. It was about the feeling… that same feeling that White claims Pixar films (with the exception of Brad Bird’s films) lack.
The funny thing is that the people who love films that I feel can be shredded by detailed analysis are (often) infinitely more generous about it than I am when I am in that mode. They can acknowledge the problems… with a smile. They know when the baby is ugly… but it’s their baby and they love it.
Not always. We have had these battles over movies – like Star Trek or Watchmen – in which the level of the pleasure for some seems to create an angry, defensive position about any criticism. I don’t think that when the emotions get that high that it’s really about the movie anymore. It’s about, I think, wanting to hang onto that high… the high that all movie lovers seek. And I am the prick who is trying to burst their balloon. (I’m not trying to do that… but that does seem to be how it feels for others.)
Being on the web is still a daily learning experience for me. And what I continued to be schooled about is embracing what I really do believe, not being as concerned about the response, and also being more generous about how others feel. Some things are more objective. Some things are less so. But in the end, it’s always about the feeling… and as a friend once reminded me as she rebuffed seduction, you can’t fake the funk.


Weekend Estimates by Klady – May 31

Klady has Up a little behind Ice Age: The Meltdown… Disney has it a little above. Either way, it’s the third biggest Pixar opening, after only The Incredibles and Finding Nemo and the biggest animated opener since The Simpsons Movie in 2007.
Interestingly, Night At The Museum 2 is only about $10 million behind the second 3-day weekend of the original. The story of the first film’s ultimately massive number was longevity, not mega-dollars upfront. Thing is, summer may not afford as much room to run as Jan/Feb did back in 2007 for Night 1. The competition this summer is a bit rougher than Charlotte’s Web and Arthur & The Invisibles.
In less happy sequel news, Terminator Salvation and Angels & Demons .
And what does it mean when Summer Hours is outgrossing The Girlfriend Experience? Niche. In that market, older people reign and good reviews about depth seem to overwhelm controversy and sex. (And I realize that I still haven’t written a review of GFE… oy.)
Yeah, it’s only half a million and neither film will likely see a million five, but those are the numbers that will define the future of art/indie. If people go into the business expecting a lot more – though more will occasionally happen – they are going to lose all of their money.


Review – Drag Me To Hell

I don


Friday Estimates by Klady

As noted yesterday, It’s reasonable to guess that an animated opening weekend will turn out to be anywhere between 2.8x the Friday estimate to 3.5x the Friday estimate. In the case of Up, that’s a $15 million potential swing, from a low of $59.9m to a high of 74.9m… or it could be something else. It’s not news until it’s news…
…as Crazy Nikki reminded us by erasing her ill-conceived post that attempted to claim knowledge of the weekend numbers based on east coast matinees… something no one who knows much about box office would ever do. As Wrecktum pointed out, the posted numbers were, indeed, an accurate representation of the matinee numbers at least one studio had for Friday. Those are facts… but are they news… especially when they cannot be interpreted except in the broadest way, in this case off by almost 30%?
But I digress..
Up‘s opening could be right in line with the two big animated movies last summer, Kung Fu Panda and Wall-E… or it could be the 3rd biggest animated opening of all time, behind only the last 2 Shreks. My guess is more the former than the latter. But my point remains… it’s only news when its news. And when civilians are so anxious to narrow down every piece of “analysis” into a defining context, invariably prematurely, it is the media’s responsibility to be responsible about the context in which we present information.
Drag Me To Hell looks to land an opening somewhere between Death Race and The Strangers from last summer’s race. It’s not a bad number… it’s not a great number.
What’s the difference between this opening and what Screen Gems would have done with the film? Women… girls. The much verbally wanked over poster, which does indeed play as much of Ms. Lohman’s sensuality as it does the horrors of the underworld, is a rather talented piece of design. On the other hand, even though Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead series appealed almost exclusively to boys and geek hags, having a woman at the center of this story was a great opportunity to grab the teen girl horror junkies that made so many Screen Gems movies a bigger success (from Underworld to The Exorcism of Emily Rose to Resident Evil to The Messengers). Screen Gems was not alone in working this, as movies like The Ring and The Grudge also took that road.
It’s ironic that this Sam Raimi film ended up at Universal when the last one, Boogeyman, was at his Spider-Man home, Sony. Boogie’s opening will be a little better than this one… a strong piece of marketing. But I think that Universal would have done as well with that film as Screen Gems did. It was a very straight forward boy sell, with its biggest challenge being getting the rating in at PG-13. Drag Me also got the PG-13… though I have no idea how it did it, aside from not stripping Ms. Lohman nude or emphasizing green bodily fluids and not red. But with a woman in the middle of the action, it seems to me that there was a chunk of money left of the table this weekend that could have been mined by emphasizing the woman’s strength and not just the fun house elements. This is a Sony specialty.
In an industry that is all about single-digit margins these days, a movie that does $40 million – $50 million doing $55 million – $65 million makes a big difference. It’s not that Universal did poorly. They didn’t. They delivered the core and pushed a little past it. But it’s always an interesting game to think of what other studio could have done more with another studio’s titles. For instance, what if Sony had The Hangover and WB had The Taking of Pelham 123?
Congrats to Paramount on $200m for Star Trek. $230m domestic seems real – though they are still spending an unusual amount this far out on national television buys – and with much of Asia still untouched, the hope of the slingshot effect of being a big hit here remains in effect. (Foreign is still under $100 million as of this writing.) The film will come out of this weekend about $10 million behind Wolverine, worldwide, but should pass the X-prequel sometime in the next 11 days or so. Star Trek is looking more like breakeven at this point, though DVD estimates for all theatrical films are getting smaller and smaller, which is a danger.
The story of the summer – in spite of the rush to “box office is booming!” stories – is that by this time last year, not the 3 trilogy year, we had two $300m domestic films launched… this year we have none. On the other hand, we will have six $100 million domestic grossers out of this month this year, up from last year’s four. So how do we define success?


Box Office Hell goes Up

Based on east coast matinees, C. Nikki Finke and her keepers have already projected ‘Up’ For $17M Friday, $55M Weekend; ‘Drag Me To Hell’ $7M/$18M.
Perhaps I should not point out that, even if we assumed that the Friday guess should be taken seriously after so small a sample, that the opening non-summer weekend for Monsters vs Aliens was $16.8m and the weekend was $59.3m (3.5x Friday), aka Up is a a guess of a bigger Friday and smaller weekend.
I have no idea what standard whoever gave these guesses to La Finke is using, as it doesn’t correlate to Madagascar (3.4x Friday), Cars (3.1x Friday), Ratatouille (2.8x Friday), Kung Fu Panda (3x Friday) or the aforementioned mva.
3.2x Friday… interesting…
(EDIT, 6:42p – first chart posted did not include Drag Me To Hell… fixed now.)


Review – UP

Up is so simple


BYOB Thursday

Leaving Salmon Central behind… Terminated Salacious ahead…
Questions of the Day: Did something keep Transformers Dos from opening LAFF or is a concept comedy with Jeff Daniels and Ryan Reynolds really that good?
How big will Pixar’s most surrealist film to date fly?
And is the best documentary of the year an off-the-radar old school (no talking heads/no narration) film about training kids for Olympic gold while still in pre-school and elementary school?


BYOB – Tuesday Of The Courts


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