The Hot Blog Archive for November, 2010

Separated At Birth: Paramount Edition?


Great Hollywood Moments: Tom Rothman Meets The Queen

On site observers claim, ““The Queen apparently wiped a tear from under her 3D glasses at the end of the Narnia 3.”

Waiting for the pull quote…


Interesting Short Film Concept


The King’s Speech, director Tom Hooper


Indie-ish Spirit

Let’s be clear from the start… I embrace all the movies that the Independent Spirit Awards have selected for their Best Feature award… and I am a little disgusted that an award for independent spirit has become, almost, a studios-only thing. Two for Focus, two for Searchlight, one for Roadside Attractions, which with its $6m-plus indie success with Winter’s Bone is “the outsider” in this group with the two surviving studio Dependents.

But hey, if you’re making your first feature or made a movie for under $500,000, you get to be part of this “independent” event as well.

Four of Five of the ISA nominees making the Oscar BP list, which is very possible, doesn’t signal the health of the indie business, but the failure of FIND to find a way to get serious about supporting truly independent film. With due respect, it has become a joke.

Can we really take The King’s Speech winning Best Foreign Film at an award’s show seriously?

So, here is your list of Indie Spirit winners, to be given out a couple of nights before the Oscars…

Black Swan
James Franco
Natalie Portman or Nicole Kidman
Dale Dickey for Winter’s Bone
Can’t call Sppt Actor – could be Hawkes, Murray, or Ruffalo
Darren Aronofsky
Debra Granik, Anne Rosellini or Stuart Blumberg, Lisa Cholodenko for Screenplay
Matthew Libatique
Exit Through the Gift Shop

And congratulations to Lena Dunham for winning Best First Screenplay and probably the Best First Feature award… unless the profile of Get Low take over that Best First Feature vote.

Again, I don’t want to be unkind to the many deserving people that have been nominated for an award this morning. Awards are nice. I am thrilled that Black Swan is going to get some statues, with Portman and Libatique the only ones likely to be in serious competition to win on Sunday night. I want all the recognition for Get Low that it can have, even if the the feature nominating committee preferred Greenberg in every way, even making a sixth slot in Best Actress so it could get Greta Gerwig in… and not Julianne Moore… and not any of them dang foreigners that The American Independent Spirit Award ignores no matter what their contribution each year.

Couldn’t FIND create an award for the middle class of indie… maybe films that won’t ever be on 1000 screens or more. Keep the Show Us The Money awards if you need to… Dick Clark Productions – Creator of the Golden Globes myth – would not like it if you pulled them.

You know, the day (or night) at the beach is a lot of fun. It is another large gathering of people who work around each other all year long, year after year, and a pre-Oscar reunion for all of us who trudge through the award season. FIND dredges up the same crew, with some annual variations for new FIND insiders, to do their nominations, year after year, and then leaves it open to a voting group that has no qualifications except for the money to buy a pass to a bunch of “free” screenings, turning it from a vote of the insider elite to a popularity contest. Weak play on both sides of that equation.

It wouldn’t much matter, except that indie really needs the support right now. And unless you are one of the Chosen Ones, you won;’t get that from FIND at the Indie Spirits.

There is nothing quite as sad as a great earned opportunity (what FIND has built in the ISAs) turned into another brick in the wall. But I guess I shouldn’t use that metaphor… The Wall would not qualify for an ISA, except as a Foreign Film.


Watch The Indie Spirit Noms, Streaming Live

Tuesday, November 30th 2010 at 8 a.m. PST

1 Comment »

BYOB. It’s 11/30… Do You Know Where Your Thoughts Are?


Woe For Pixar… Heavy Hangs The Crown

A wacky Patrick Goldstein column. So odd, I almost think that the author twisted himself into a rhetorical pretzel to avoid being accused to writing the column in payment for the Disney ads that surround it. Almost. Probably not.

The reason Pixar is not seriously in the running to win Best PIcture has some history.

1. Beauty & The Beast is the first animated picture nominated for Best Picture in 1991.
2. The Lion King doesn’t get nominated for Best Picture in 1994.
3. The Academy creates a Best Animated Feature Oscar in 2001.
4. The pressure for Best Picture nominations for animation subsides.
5. The Academy switches to 10 nominees for Best Picture in 2009.
6. Up gets nominated for Best Picture and wins Best Animated Feature
7. Toy Story 3 gets nominated for Best Picture and wins Best Animated Feature.
8. For the first time in modern 10 nomination history, no animated film gets nominated for Best Picture and Happy Feet 2 wins Best Animated Feature.

Oh… got ahead of myself.

But this is no different than foreign language or documentary. When you give a genre its own category, the Best Picture race becomes almost impossible. The same principle speaks to the Indie Spirit Awards, which if you are presumed to be the inevitable winner in the ISA’s Picture category, makes your film unlikely to win the Oscar. It has nothing to do with not appreciating the work. It has to do with human nature.

Moreover… the idea that a Rotten Tomatoes perspective on Best Picture is relevant is just stupid. Every year there are movies of the moment. And sometimes they get nominations… sometimes even wins… but often, by the time the year end roles around, they are forgotten by Academy voters.

I loved Toy Story 3. And it won’t be in my personal Top 5 this year. It’s not because it’s animated. It’s no because I don’t appreciate the magic work being done by Pixar. It’s because the film, terrific as it is, just doesn’t bring the weight of some of the other films I have seen. It doesn’t bring the weight, for me, of Up or Ratatouille or The Lion King. That’s the way things roll.

And just to make one point… the sentence, “If there were ever something that Hollywood should be embarrassed about, it’s that Pixar has never won an Oscar for best picture — despite making 11 consecutive commercially successful and critically acclaimed movies,” is journalistically grotesque.

There are so very many things for Hollywood to be embarrassed about… or to even think about for a single minute…but Pixar not winning Best Picture? Seriously? How would that ever make the agenda? Pixar has won only 5 of 9 Best Animated Feature Oscars. So in four of those years, in spite of quality and commercial success, The Academy didn’t even see Pixar’s films as the best of the animated films. Scratch those of the outrage list. Neither of the first two Toy Storys nor A Bug’s Life had a category to compete in, aside from Best Picture.

So… should Up have beat The Hurt Locker? Not on my dance car… and I adore Up.
Was Wall-E better than Slumdog MIllionaire? Some would say, ‘yes.” Not me.
How about The Rat? More deserving than The Coen Bros and No Country For Old Men?
The Incredibles lost to a little movie called Lord of the Rings: Return of the King.
And Finding Nemo over Chicago? Personally, I’d go for that one… but one strong case doesn’t make for the most embarrassing failure in Hollywood this week, much less of all time.

Just saying… Pixar has five Oscars. That’s more than Hillary Swank!!! Put your Kleenex™ away.


Get Low, Screenwriters Chris Provenzano & C. Gaby Mitchell

Tangled, composer/songwriter Alan Menken


The Script Publishing Suit

Not a whole lot to add to the facts. (Here is the court document.)

My sense of why this is happening now is that MPAA realizes that they need to secure all borders in the Copyright Wars. And screenplays, whether the internet community likes it or not, are copyrighted material that someone is paying a lot of money to produce. Those owners have rights. They just haven’t been much asserted.

AICN has realized that copyright is real for a lot of (web) years already and stopped publishing materials pretty early on. (Moriarty would say that they never published anything that would be classified as “illegal,” but it’s a semantic argument and it is true that the site got off that bus pretty early on.)

Once again, Fox is in the crosshairs for geeks because they are exercising legal rights. Some have claimed that I am pro-Fox because I have agreed with them in cases like the Watchmen suit or the idiot who got himself fired for reviewing Fantastic Four 2 from the projection booth. Wrong. It’s simply a matter of the studio being aggressive about this stuff… and being right, as any studio asserting its legal right to protect its product (or ownership status, in the case of Watchmen) is.

I still feel – as I always have – that while having read or seen copyrighted material and talking about it (or writing about it) is not illegal, it is, in many ways, immoral. In retrospect, discussing work product might well be fascinating. I engage talent in that discussion every week in DP/30 interviews. But that is a give and take. The subject of my interviews has the right to speak to whatever he or she chooses and not to address other things. Likewise, I have the right to ask certain questions or to not ask certain questions. Equally as important, however, is that we discuss The Film as it exists. I don’t think many (sane) filmmakers want you or I or anyone going through their outtakes and analyzing what they didn’t put in the movie. Some will offer things on the DVD. But with a few legendary exceptions, the movie is the movie is the movie.

Paraphrasing Aaron Sorkin’s “Mark Zuckerberg,”If the filmmaker wanted to engage your opinion about what he or she should have done, you would have been engaged by the filmmaker to offer an opinion.”

The assertion of copyright will be the media story of the next decade. Google has been a big dumb target, but really, they continue to make themselves a bigger target with projects like Google TV. This speaks to my Netflix coverage as well, as Netflix has been the frontrunner in creating a new window for the studios to exploit and Netflix, trying to still be in business in 2025, has been creating a higher value for streaming than was considered realistic just a couple of years ago. Studios should be wary, as this is the high bar for this window… forever.

Look to Major League Baseball, which offers cheaper, more expansive access to its thousands of games a season than DirecTV or other premium baseball packages. Anyone who has wired or wireless access for their TV via PS3 or other platforms and who still pays more for baseball this year with their cable or satellite provider is a fool. MLB.TV is a better product for less money… if you’re plugged in. When will MLB competing against its own sold rights become a problem with the cable/satellite industry? Could be this year. Maybe next. But it’s coming. And then, there will be a new set of rules, set by MLB, that maximizes its revenues. Eventually, something will become The Standard. The NFL will face the same issues – especially now that MLB has proven it can all be handled effectively “in-house” – when their deal with DirecTV comes up for renewal again.

Getting back to screenplays… even if Fox and every other studio decides not to exploit their screenplays for direct financial gain, they have a right to do what they wish with their rights. Some studios publish their screenplays themselves during awards season, seeking eyeballs and votes. Studios could put together an official studio script vault that people could access and, theoretically, pay a small amount for downloads. And if some filmmakers felt that multiple drafts of the screenplay would be a valuable learning tool or add insight into the process, they could let those be published as well.

But the era in which we, on the web, can assume ownership of things just because we can get our hands on them, is coming to an end. And it seems to me that some boundaries might be a good thing for everyone. Journalism might require some serious reporting again, respect for ownership encourages more spending on ownership, and even breaking the rules becomes more attractive when everyone isn’t competing to be a rule breaker all day every day.

What do you think?


60 Minutes Overtime on Spiderman: Turn Off The Dark


Weekend Estimates by Klady 7

I don’t know that there is anything much more to say about the full 3-day or 5-day than has already been said.

The King’s Speech did great numbers for The Weinsteins on 4 screens… not too much of a surprise and neither will their Oscar nomination be a surprise to anyone. What will be most interesting is whether critics groups support the performances in the film or if they look to others who are less obvious candidates to be celebrated.

127 Hours continues to be less commercial than I expected, even on 293 screens. It’s rolling out faster than Slumdog or Wrestler, but to smaller numbers. Searchlight had a bit of a problem with too much strong product, with Black Swan starting its roll out next weekend. Add King’s Speech to the mix – which serves a narrower audience than the other two films – and you have a lot of jostling for position with three films that should be successful and Oscar nominated. Challenging.

Last year, there was nothing like this group until Dec 18, with The Young Victoria, Nine, and Crazy Heart. The year before, on the first weekend of Dec, it was Frost/Nixon debuting and Slumdog Millionaire and MIlk still under 100 screens. Of the six titles I just mentioned, 3 never got past $20m and only 1 ever got past $40m. The economics of Oscar 2010.


Friday Estimates by Hairy Klady

As of yesterday, Potter 7 was still behind Hp6, day for 9 days… but that will change today, when HP7 will become the biggest Potter ever… for at least a few days. But I am just repeating myself.

Tangled is the best opening for a non-Pixar Disney animated film ever… though the rules of box office have changed rather dramatically since Disney was in the mega-hit animation business. But the last two Thanksgivings, Disney has been under Lasseter and the results were Bolt, even launching the Friday before Thanksgiving, doing just $66.8 by the end of Thanksgiving weekend (a 10-day) and The Princess & The Frog shoved to a wide opening on Dec 11 to give room to A Christmas Carol and opening to a $24.2m 3-day on a non-holiday. The domestic result, $114m and $104m. Tangled should be at around $80m on the 5-day opening… aka A DreamWorks Animation kinda number. DWA has stuck to that first weekend in November strategy, but $46m in a non-holiday 3-day for Megamind and $63m for Madagascar 2 feels analogous to the $60something holiday 3-day for Tangled.

In any case, some will say that MT Carney bought an opening… but that’s kinda missing the point. Credit where credit is due. “Best Disney Animated Opening Ever” may be a somewhat specious claim, but she opened the movie to numbers that should get it somewhere around the $200m mark, which Disney hasn’t seen in Burbank animation since the heyday of Aladdin and The Lion King. Yeah, this $217m ain’t Aladdin‘s $217 million. And for me, the last two films were both better than this one. But ring one up for MT. Next, a much bigger challenge in Tron Legacy, which is fortunate that Narnia seems to be the only real competition for families with kids over 8, as Yogi Bear and Gulliver’s Travel are rumbled to be car wrecks. ( I think Yogi will do well with the little ones, but can’t imagine what teen will be dragged in to see it and wonder how many of us who are nostalgic about Yogi see the spirit of the original in the ads and not just a CG 3D mess.)

I noted that Fox saw Burlesque coming to thin their audience for Love & Other Drugs. Why didn’t they move? Because they saw it coming in tracking, aka too late. I think Love will hold well. And it looks like Burlesque is working better than I expected this weekend and may have campy legs longer than I would have imagined. Those who love it, love it.

Someone sent some trash in The Rock’s direction in the earlier b.o. thread. Well, it’s all about scoreboard for me. I don’t care what we think of him and his films. I don’t think I have seen one in a theater since The Rundown and a couple of the cameos. But he is an opener until he’s not an opener. He’s out-opening Russell Crowe, Harrison Ford, and Sean Penn. Some may say that’s not a big deal. And each actor carries specific baggage. The Rock will be right behind J-Lo’s ass as the #2 opener for CBS Films so far. It’s not a great day for the new studio or for The Rock… but it’s not a career landmark either… not at this point.

The King’s Speech is opening in fine indie fashion, looking like Brokeback Mountain and There Will Be Blood… but with a lot less money being spent by The Weinsteins than was spent by those distributors at this point. (It’s also comparable to Dreamgirls and Memoirs of a Geisha… to be fair. But TKS carries none of the baggage – black or bad – that those two did.) This one could easily be The Weinstein Co’s third biggest domestic hit, behind only Inglorious Basterds and Scary Movie 4.


The Evolution Of Netflix

“TV providers and movie studios… increasingly see Netflix as a competitive threat”
NY Times, 11/24/10

Someone must have said this somewhere and man, the media LOVES it.

Unfortunately, it is, essentially, bullshit.

I read the NYT story, written by two of its best, a few times, trying to figure out where the reporting was that suggests that Netflix is getting away with some heist of the industry or that any studio is actually scared, in any way, of the Netflix model. It’s not there.

And the giant, gaping hole in the story is brushed past repeatedly.

The shift to streaming as the primary Netflix business pushes the Netflix offerings farther away from the theatrical release and has changed the cost to Netflix of streaming – so far, just for 3 studios and Relativity, but in future, everyone they want to be in business with – exponentially. I don’t trust Rich Greenfield’s research very much, but using what he told the NYT, Netflix’s deal with Starz – pre-streaming-awareness – was made for about 10 times less per subscriber per month than the deal Netflix just made with EPIX, taking the 15 cents per subscriber per month Starz has allegedly been getting to around $1.50 per subscriber per month for EPIX. And that’s for product that is clearly not as valuable to building the Netflix subscriber base… and 90 days after release on EPIX at that, making this a fourth window that’s likely to be a full year from release.

And the deal for Relativity Media is good for somewhere between $.50 and $.75 s month per current Netflix subscriber.

Moreover, if $7.99 a month is the new standard for Netflix (which still, btw, includes the cost of shipping as many DVDs as a customer wants each year, one at a time), you are then saying that just Relativity, Paramount, Lionsgate, and whatever MGM product is included, as Spyglass’ plan is to release films through other distributors, eats up at least 25% of the total revenue per customer each and every month. Even the most conservative projection of a new Starz deal would put Netflix in the position of paying more than 50% of their total revenue for rights to stream the most recent film of half the MPAA Majors, 9 months or a year after release.

NYT’s story suggests a dilemma for the studios as regards Netflix. The only dilemma is how long they can take the money without cracking a smirk in meetings.

This lovely image of Netflix as arriving with an open checkbook in Hollywood, the only ones in town spending, is just hokum. DVD sales have been an issue for the studios for years already, long before Reed Hastings changed horses. Pay-TV networks have been getting away from premiering movies as their primary draw to subscribers for even longer. Have you looked at the pay-tv schedules lately? With the exception of the smallest of the nets, it’s less and less selection of films on more and more channels.

And this bizarre notion that Netflix reducing its price for streaming+1 this last week is a danger to the movie industry because “for studios that only a few years ago were selling new DVDs for $30, that represents a huge drop in profits.” Huh? A. The readily available price point on DVD at retail has been half of $30 or less – for the brand new films – for years.

B. This is not as complex as the chicken and the egg. Netflix has had almost no effect whatsoever on the DVD market, much as some studio execs would like to pretend. The studios crushed the DVD bubble themselves. As of this time, streaming on Netflix is NOT a DVD market replacement. The DVD market is sell-thru first, rental second, and like movies, tends to be over in 12 weeks or less. Netflix streaming occurs many months after that… including in the EPIX deal, where there is a 90 day window from a film playing on EPIX before it streams on Netflix.

In the NYT story, they write, “As a general rule, films that can be streamed instantly are not fresh out of theaters or plucked from the current TV season.” Not fresh off of the DVD rack, when it comes to studios. Netflix is clearly a home run for any – including myself – who loves the full width and breadth of cinema and isn’t looking to see anything remotely current. But the pitch is “everything everywhere.” The pitch is “now.”
And that is not Netflix’s model, now or likely ever. Shhh… don’t tell the media.

C. Netflix, unlike the first incarnation, is not now taking advantage of an opportunity that no one else thought of or could put into action. They are paying premium prices to stream titles that they can market… and are still buying DVDs (albeit at a reduced number), many which are embargoed from subscribers for a month from the sale date on the discs. Welcome to the inside game, Reed.

D. Netflix streaming is a new income stream that Netflix has made a serious revenue center for the studios (the ones with which they have made deals n 2010) much faster than any of the studios would have acted on their own. Even the studios not under Netflix now know they can make this transition with the promise of real revenue. It isn’t cannibalistic, except to library value, the bottom on which dropped out two years ago. With few titles excepted, most of the studio product that Netflix streams is in the DVD remainder bins by the time it lands on your streaming cue.

Do you know how many of the last 20 Best Picture winners are streaming on Netflix? 1. Forrest Gump. Obviously, Oscar is not the most important standard in the world. How about the Top 20 All-time Worldwide Grossers? 2. Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring and Alice in Wonderland. Even though Sony and Disney are involved with the Starz deal, none of the Pirates movies or the Spider-Man movies and others are available for streaming at this time.

When the media starts treating Netflix streaming like it is a complete replacement for other distributors and other distribution methods, they are just plain wrong.

And I don’t think that Reed Hastings and Team Netflix are moving forward without getting this. Quite the opposite. I think they are moving in this direction only because they know that inaction at this time will mean no Netflix at all in 2015. While the media is putting on a parade for them, they are scrambling to try to rebrand their business, which is still in The Blockbuster Zone, so that when the dust settles, they will be so well established that they will either be bought by a studio (or two) or be a strong enough brand to be the central point for some specific kind of product, whether it be being a clearinghouse for indie (which could still include studio libraries) or movies of a certain age or something.

If you want to know why Chris McGurk is talking about taking Blockbuster’s assets, you can bet – and I haven’t talked to him directly about it – that he is looking at his own Netflix-style play. No brick and mortar, but a great mailing list, deep customer info, and a great name that can be leveraged once they get over the hump of it representing the past.

Anyway… I don’t want to be Mr Anti-Netflix. I love Netflix. But I can also do math, even while wearing rose colored glasses.

Netflix is not, in spite of all the enthusiasm, doing the same thing with streaming that it did with mail order. And their behavior shows this as clearly as anything. $7.99 is not some kind of conceptual move. They need more subscribers to survive the giant increases in acquisition costs that come with streaming… a lot more subscribers. And they need to walk the fine line between the perception that they offer everything and the reality that they are never likely to stream more than a fairly narrow group of the most popular films.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

After the jump, some more stuff I wrote up about the history of the company.

Read the full article »


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