The Hot Blog Archive for April, 2010

Surprise! Last Airbender Might Be Fun!

I know… I know!!! Kids already dig it.
But it looks, from this trailer, that it might actually be a quite watchable kids movie… more Potter than GI Trannys. Great.
Still, do we really need it in 3D. (Rhetorical question, really.)


BYO Box Office


Watching The Commoditizing Lie On C-SPAN

I barely know where to start with the absurdity of the Canter Exchange’s notion of trying to commoditized Domestic Box Office Futures. Every time I see or read something new, it gets worse.
Let me start with this… these guys are liars.
Their big spin is that this whole effort is about creating new ways for the film industry, large and small, to hedge funding. But the lie? Even on the Canter site, the issue of funding is based on the eventual maturity of their real business…. getting small fish suckers to gamble on domestic box office.
Seriously… DOMESTIC box office only… which at most represents 30% of revenues.
Moreover, Canter is essentially piggybacking on the studios’ big investments while providing absolutely no benefit to the studios That’s why MPAA opposes this so definitively. There is a lot of talk about how this system would allow studios and funders to hedge their investments. But there is no system to achieve that currently being offered.
Worse, even in the fantasy worlds set up by Canter’s cabal of uninsightful academics who are the ones claiming this is legit, the public is the victim of any future hedging. One fool offers that it will benefit studios to hedge by using the funds from the DBOF investors instead of taking on partners who take, for instance, foreign theatrical as compensation for the investment. Lucky Joe Six Pack!!!!
And what would this fantasy return on the hedging dollars be… since it’s not any form of non-domestic theatrical revenue? Let’s chew on the notion that this exchange would cover half the budget of a $100m movie. $50 million. At 100% return to the exchange, the movie would have to gross about $93m domestic to return the $50m.
But what about marketing? If the studio is paying it themselves, the benefit of not selling off foreign is gone. In fact, the studio is now in for, say, $150m to the exchange’s $50m and has, essentially, given up the domestic theatrical market.
Of course, this won’t happen. Studios would pass the costs on to the exchange investors. So at 100% return minus p&a, break-even for the exchange is about $190 million at the box office.
Of course, this won’t happen either. Even if studios give the exchange 75% of domestic rentals minus p&a for the $50 million, their break-even is about $232 million.
THAT is why investment runs dry. This is not a good business in which to invest, unless you get lucky or you get tax benefits.
Want to claim this is good for lower budget films? Great. Everything except marketing reduces to scale. Marketing costs become a higher percentage of the spend.
But again…. This investment/hedging nonsense is a smoke screen. The business for Canter is to charge a few percent every time a sucker/investor buys shares.
They will sell “the glamor of the movie business” as a way to play the lottery while you get to say you funded Avatar, meanwhile forgetting to mention that their ultimate best case scenario is you doubling your money, not multiplying it by ten. That would truly by a one in a million event.
And again, the thing that most separates movies from corn is that revenues do not stem from the existence of the commodity, but by many other variables that aren’t encountered until late In the existence of the commodity. Yes, a trucking strike could affect the delivery of the corn. But even that is relatively easy to anticipate compared to the vagaries of the film business.
The whole thing is currently based specifically on domestic box office returns from wide release films. So to begin with, that market is dominated by majors and is likely to become more their domain, not less. Second, this takes distribution choices out of the hands of professionals and requires wide releases to make contractual marks… even if it is a losing idea… and even though there seems to be no consideration of the costs of maintaining a failing release.
I feel like Alice, as every way I turn, another bizarre reflection if this crazy idea turns up. It feels like an analysis that never ends because there are so many flaws built into the idea itself.
One last thing… if it’s just screwing over people dumb enough to buy into this and there may be a profitable angle (like shorting domestic theatrical and pushing to other kinds of domestic delivery), why should MPAA balk. It’s not because they fear The Future. Bob Pisano was dumped by SAG, in part, because he sold the union out to Netflix and their future. It’s because they will be the first ones sued… over and over again. When people lose their money, yeah, they will sue Canter. But you can be sure that the studios will be named and pursued… even if they disassociate themselves from this gambling venture 100%. And again, this is with no upside for the studios.
There is a lot of money in legal con artistry. Canter will keep fighting. And I will – sigh – keep researching. I wish this was my last word on this. But the threat is real. And this is an uniquely destructive possibility.


No Mo MoJoe

It’s funny/sad… I just did an interview on Tuesday about the state of the movie sites and I literally said, “This guy, Joe Adalian, who I have never met… don’t know if he’s a kid or a senior… but he is the one guy I have seen out there in the last few years who is built to blog. He is relentless, prolific, and he usually gets it right. He is the only reason to read The Wrap and he could keep the site alive on his steam alone, at least through the Emmy season, or until he gets smart and gets out of there.”
I had no idea he was in the process of doing just that as I was saying those words. (And though “a good gig,” I don’t actually see him being as important to or as fully functional for Vulture as he’d be on a smaller site or on his own.)
Someone dropped me a line because Crazy Fucking Nikki was gloating about the loss for The Wrap.
Thing is, the only real difference between her financial situation and The Wrap’s is that she has a crazy billionaire in her pocket and Sharon Waxman has to do her best fake Arianna to get more good money to throw after bad.
Both models are financial disaster areas. And it has little to do with quality. There just isn’t a business model that currently exists and throws off the kind of cash that these two spend. And of course, like the good little brainwashed people they are, they want to be the new daddy, aka trade, never seeming to realize that they are essentially battling to be the hot new dial-up provider in a wi-fi world.
I guess the good news is that Nikki’s site has become a bigger bore than either trade. (New Pitchline – “And after every 5 boring entries, the 6th entry will feature Nikki telling someone that they are a fucking idiot! Sign up NOW!!!!”). Bill Condon’s pilot is getting less like Nancy Grace being mocked on L&O and more like Kinsey every day.
And so it goes. Yeah… this could end The Wrap. Every valuable hire has walked out the door. But they are no more vulnerable than the many Billionaire Movie News Club entities out there. Times is hard.


No More Tweets For You!!!

What do you do when your new marketing president, known above all for her social networking prowess, comes aboard?
You shut down her Twitter account, of course.


BYOB Thursday 42210 (draft day)

It’s always interesting how a mid-week festival start turns weekdays into a faux weekend.
And though I have not felt it was much worth comment, the idea of commoditizing movie grosses is the greatest scam in history. Will it affect the movie business? Not likely. But it is a con with only one sure winner… as always… The House. It’s called gambling. Only a con man or an idiot would suggest otherwise.


It's Roger Ebert Day!

The 11th Ebertfest starts tonight with a 70mm screening of Pink Floyd’s The Wall. (EDIT: Turns out that the 70mm print was pink. So they got a 35mm that wasn’t pink. This is similar to what happened a few years back when there was a print problem with Three Women. And so it goes…)
But before that, the governor of Illinois (not Rod of the hair) showed up to read a proclamation decreeing this day Ebertfest Day in the State of Illinois.
And even before that, the dean of communications at the university announed an anonymous $1.5m donation to Roger and Chaz’s fund to support students of the department.
What’s more, Chaz wore heels.
“This is Roger’s happening and it’s freaking him out.”
Not a bad day’s fest.


M.T. Carney & Disney

All I know about MT Carney is what I read in the funny papers.
She is all about the next marketing model. Will that work for Disney or the companies whose future which she is now being entrusted? There is truly no way to know.
What we know is that she, like Rich Ross, will be trying to do things differently. This has to be better than the Mutual Assured Destruction that studio movie marketing had become, right? But does that make Ms. Carney the woman who can make Harold & Kumar into a box office hit… or does it make her into the person who can open Prince of Persia without spending $60 million… or does it make her the most brilliant or dangerous hire at a major since… well… ever?
The key, I believe, will be what Rich Ross asks her to sell. Can he cut the ad budgets back on Pixar and make the movies even more profitable? Possibly. When faced with a DreamWorks miss, will she cut bait… can she? Is there actually a more effective way to sell Marvel movies? And does Miley Cyrus actually have another gear?
If her new idea is to spend less, she will upset a lot of people. But I don’t see a Puttnam rebellion coming. Because every corporation wants the studio to spend less on marketing. This is one of Rich Ross and Bob Iger’s more interesting calls. Her successes and failures have a real chance of being very very very influential.
The only fear I have…. movies are not cars… they are not drug stores… and there are some traditions that actually have value. Leaders who don’t really understand that can create havoc without intending to do so. And it’s hard to unspill milk.
And dare I say… the movie star looks are going to keep the media distracted for at least her first year or two… not that there’s anything right with that.
Welcome to Crazy Town, M.T.


DP/30: State Of The Union – Bob Dowling

Bob Dowling as been in the movie business, from the journalism side, for a long time. He, much like Jack Valenti (or like Alec Baldwin’s Jack Donaghy on 30 Rock), could always be relied on for a dapper suit, perfect hair, a sparkling smile, and a razor sharp sense of the business.
I don’t think he was always right. But when we sat down to chat, getting into a discussion of his past and what may or may not been the best choices was not on my mind. I was interested in talking to a guy who actually sat in that chair at a now-endangered trade, who pushed The Reporter’s parent company into brand over news biz more than a decade before it became fashionable, and who can afford to see with perspective, as he is no longer beholden to any one company or situation.
We talked because his 3D Games Summit is starting today. But I was really pleased with the breadth and width of the conversation.
One warning… the interview is not set up like it usually is. It’s on a server that seems a little slower… and there is no mp3 version yet. Next week, it will move to the normal place and I will get the mp3 up. In the meanwhile, I hope those of you who watch get some insight from it.

XXX Xoco

I like to eat great food.
Had a really good lunch at The Purple Pig today.
But Rick Bayless’ Xoco, which is basically a Mexican sandwich, soup, and chocolate joint… home run.
Along with Armandino Battali’s Salumi, in Seattle, and Dorothy’s burger in Bermuda, Xoco now ranks as one of my very favorite non-deli sandwich joints on the planet.
People complain about the wait, but they have a very clever system of not letting you order until you have a table to sit at that, for me, is better than those places where you have to choose between ordering or fighting for a table in a limited space. We waited maybe 10 minutes longer that the line would have taken otherwise (20 min total) for a party of 5 + baby) at 7:30p. No reservations. Fine with me. Staff was terrific.
Great food. Great spice. About $12 an entry on average.
If I were living in Chicago, the next month would mean at least a dozen visits. It’s just that good.


3D Gaming Summit

I have been struggling to get a DP/30: State of The Union interview with Bob Dowling posted from the road. Slow processing and slow wi-fi can be challenging. But I thought it fair to point out that the 3D Gaming Summit hits Los Angeles tomorrow… which was why Bob sat for the interview.
Anid he was great. It was fascinating hearing his take on where the media and the industry have been and where it is going. (It doesn’t hurt that he and I agree on an awful lot.)
Anyway… The interview will be up soon… and the Summit will be keynoted by Jon Landau, who would like you to plant a tree… but that’s another plug altogether.

BYOB 41910

Been off the grid… bad wi-fi and family.
Dede Allen is a legend and deserves some real discussion.
Anything else?


Weekend Estimates (via pad)

The only significant variation from Friday is placement. The numerical positioning is nothing but a marketing tool. This is my way of saying that whether Kick-Ass was #1 or #100, the gross is what matters…. and the only disappointment is balanced against the hype.
That and at Lionsgate, where Carl Icahn just avoided another $1 a share to close the deal. This was the company not having the sucess that would prove how smart they are with a pick-up. I wonder whether their bankers will be happy to wait until Killers to see if Icahn has to raise his price or the stock starts sliding beyond recovery.
Like Lionsgate, Sony is touting how cheap Death At A Funeral was compared to the opening. Fair enough. Interesting, however, that the film has underperformed expectations twice in 3 years now. Has to be some kind of record.

Read the full article »


Friday Estimates

You’ll have to find the chart on the MCN front page, as I am sending this from the phone, but Kick-Ass is looking a lot like Snakes On A Plane, the last fun movie insanely overhyped as an inevitable phenom by geeks and a media looking to ride that wave. That film was at $6.4m by the end of it’s opening Friday,almost 4 years ago.
I expect Kick Ass to hold a lot better than Snakes,but that’s not the point. Fools who bought into the hype, without considering the real challenges to this film finding a bigger audience, are always susceptible to non-starters, from The Twitter Effect to ComicCom as anything but a niche play that needs to be as cost efficient as any other marketing choice.
Same, by the way, with Death At A Funeral… a movie that’s been marketing as a “black movie” and now looks to do “black movie” grosses. Nothing wrong with that… at a price.
But oh, how the flights of fancy crash.
And yes, this is hindsight. Hindsight I had before today, but it’s safe to decry overhype now… less so yesterday. Because on the end, you never know. Shit happens, for better and for worse. So those who see past the hype fear calling bs becuase… it could happen. And as a result, all we get is the hype.
Kick-Ass will probably do $60m domestic… lionsgate will make a tiny profit, and the sequels will be much less likely. Lionsgate is still Icahn’s toy today, as it was yesterday. No big win here and lots to be nervous about with the pricey Kilers to come. And Mr Vaughn will make more and better films without 4 lettering pre-teens.
And Death At A Funeral will make a tiny amount of money – no foreign and light DVD – and the talented folks involved with it will also march on.
And so it goes…


Box Office Hell Kicks Ass

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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