The Hot Blog Archive for August, 2011

All Suped Up Redux

Okay. I guess.

But does he have a FedEx package in his abdomen area? A Stouffer’s dinner?

What’s the Super-cup made of? If it breaks, do we see truth, justice, or the American way?

Did Morgan Freeman make him the suit?

Truth is, when the movie’s all done, this suit will be low on the list of things that matter. But I wonder, did I feel this way about the first view of the Burton Batsuit? I don’t think so, but I might be giving myself the benefit of the doubt.

The again, if we can see the vein popping in his arm, how far away can nipples in cold rain be?


Icahn’s Gate

He tried to take over the bloated Lionsgate many different ways. But company leadership and their board have had too good a time building the company to let Icahn come in and do what they haven’t be able to do… make it work for Wall Street.

And so they fought. They fought him off in every way possible. And when smart people get focused and the #1 focus of the organization is not being taken over by Carl Icahn, positive results can be achieved. And so they have.

Ironically, he was paid less that he was offering to pay for shares of the company. (I thought he’d hold out to get what he had offered others… but I guess he was done wasting his time trying to fight the immovable object.)

Now what?

Lionsgate is a moderately successful studio and distributor of feature films with aging franchise titles, a nice sized TV division and a massive, massive library. Like MGM, they value the company much higher internally than the market does. And so, the opportunity to cash out on a high has never taken place.

A movie or two may be a huge or bomb… it doesn’t really matter. The company is much bigger than any movie (unless they get a Twilight or an Avatar).

So after two years of defensive maneuvering and years before that of doggy paddling, what is the future of this company?

I don’t know. And I don’t think anyone else really knows.

It’s still a tweener. Anyone who would ever buy it for an acceptable price to the management would have to sell pieces of it off to make it work for them. And clearly, management doesn’t like that idea. So it needs to get bigger or smaller.

“Bigger” was a bit of a disaster last year. But they can keep trying. If I were them, I would get very serious about streaming their library and making that work beyond the EPIX relationship. Even though they have more library product (and their complete TV library, which Par splits with CBS), they are living in Paramount’s shadow there. There is finally a real advantage – since the dawn of DVD – to having a very ling tail. Use it. The more expensive movie business… not so much.

“Smaller” means selling off some of the acquired holdings. Could try spinning off TV. Could turn the library into a separate business. Could make the production side even smaller.

I guess time will tell…


The Globes & Dick

The fight between the HFPA and Dick Clark Productions is a comedy of sorts.

The whorehouse that is HFPA has no credibility aside from having a network TV show. The only reason they have a network TV show is that Dick Clark got them one.

On the other hand, it seems that HFPA is completely right in complaining that Dick Clark Productions did an end run around their renegotiation by doing a deal with NBC without telling the organization. The NBC deal keeps the show at DCP. But the idea of doing a deal without testing the waters is just stupid.

So it’s unethical vs ungrateful… no one should win. But I expect the contract DCP negotiated to be voided, HFPA allowed to shop the show, and to hire Bob Banner or someone like that to produce the paint-by-numbers show moving forward. Yes, pre-stroke Dick Clark set up the paint-by-numbers grid brilliantly. Smart, hardworking people need to execute it each year. But face it… there are a dozen people/companies who could pull it off in their sleep at this point.

Nothing makes me queasier than saying that the HFPA is right about anything.

Fortunately, The Hollywood Reporter offers some fun – if conflicting within the story… edit!!! – numbers about the whole thing. (If CBS’ Les Moonves would really pay $24 million or more for the Globes, he should be fired.)

Taking the most conservative numbers in the piece, the under-90 member whoreganization generates a $7.5 million fee for the show and gives away under $2 million of it. (And I would bet dollars to doughnuts that as much as the giveaways are about building image, they are even more about taxes.)

So the net is, at least, $5.5 million. That’s over $60,000 per member left over. Quite a pie. And aside from an office space, there is virtually no expense accrued to the whoreganization, as the studios – and NBC/DCP in terms of the show – pick up virtually every thinkable expense they can.

I estimate that the value of membership in the HFPA is between $150k and $200k per member each year. Is any of that reported on the tax returns of members, given that in virtually all cases, that number is a multiple of professionally earned income?

Like I said… no one wins…

It’s still more legit than Carlos “I Got An Award In My Truck” de Abreu. But that’s another story altogether.


Will Bumble Bring A New Buzz To Fox Publicity?

I like Bumble Ward. I have since I met her… I don’t know… 15 years ago. I still do business with some of her former associates… and I remember the rest of them fondly. I still quote Bebe Lerner’s “movie friends” from that radical Tad Friend piece that marked the movement towards Bumble “retiring” at or near the top of her game.

I also like the family at Fox’s publicity department. I think Bumble will be the sixth person to hold that corner office in the 15 years or so that I’ve worked in conjunction with the studio. Others have come and gone, but a lot of the staff has been there for a long time already.

But as the years have passed, I don’t think the department has ever really been reimagined. Those seismic style shifts are rare.

Disney has changed and continues to change, after execs from outside of the Hollywood bubble came in to run things about 18 months ago. Mike Vollman fought to change the landscape of Paramount’s film publicity department while he was there, coming in on the heels of a lot of people getting fired after the DW pseudo-merger.

The most radical marketing department -publicity included – in the last decade was DreamWorks, pre-merger. Terry Press created a machine that was an intense, tough, funny, daring, sometimes enraged family. Part of what worked so well was that the studio was small, everyone was in the boat together, for better and sometimes, for worse. So much of the marketing and publicity job has become, at the majors, about managing the talent, that innovation has become harder to embrace.

But while the personalities have changed and new technology has changed the media field a bit, the last decade-plus at Warners, Universal, Sony, and Fox… pretty consistent in tone. Very smart people working their asses off. Occasional moments of radical inspiration. But still, it’s a big machine… throwing out the bath water without the baby isn’t easy.

I don’t want to see anyone at Fox fired or replaced. But I am deeply interested in whether Bumble will push her new team in some new directions, in terms of how the thinking about movie publicity works.

It’s a different world out there now. The value of publicity waned for a while there… just too many marketing dollars defining the marketplace. But with the industry trying to pull back on those marketing dollars, simple awareness becoming less challenging, but actual calls to ticket-buying action on titles that are not pre-sold seeming harder and harder, it feels like it might be time for publicity to reemerge as a dominant force.

But not so much by doing what’s always been done.

I can only assume that Oren wanted Bumble because she will think out of the box… and because he believes she can manage the pressures of this job. Maybe a former personal publicist knows how to manage the personals in a new way.

Should be interesting. We should get a sense of where things are – or aren’t – going by sometime in November.


BYOB 82911


DP/30: Creature Creator Neville Page

Best known for Avatar, Cloverfield, Super 8, Tron Legacy, and currently working on Prometheus.

DP/30: Somewhere, writer/director Sofia Coppola

I can’t refuse to re-run a DP/30 on the day of Francis Coppola’s daughter’s wedding…

And here is dad (he’s on the left)… a better version of the interview will be up in the next 24 hours.


Weekend Estimates by Irene Klady

Stats. They lie and they truth.

The last couple of years, the top two new films in this slot have generated just over $40m between them. This year, about half of that.

Irene? The distributors? The movies?

Probably all of the above.

In 2009, the 2 big openers were sequels. Last year, Screen Gems did Screen Gems and Lionsgate did an exorcism. This year, a distribution deal being released by Sony… meaning less of a marketing investment… and a FilmDistrict pick-up being sold as a Guillermo del Toro movie that Guillermo didn’t direct.

Of course, one can argue that Dark is superior to any of the previous successes (even if our-polling wasn’t great) and that Resident Evil with Mila J was somehow equivalent to Zoe S in Colombiana. But from a marketing standpoint, both are tougher.

Anyway… these numbers don’t smell dramatically different than I might have expected without the hurricane. A few percent here and there. The tiny releases and the genre stuff that relies heavily on NY are probably the most damaged. But would Columbiana have been at $20m if Irene stayed home? Probably not.


Summer Movie Poll Semi-Final: The Indies


Why September 9 Sucks…

There are some weak release dates in the world. Things change. More of August has been colonized. Mid-January. This year, late April was turned upside down by Fast Five.

Gutsy people doing great work can break through almost any clutter or date. Others, not so much.

The first two weekends of September are not completely dead. But there does seem to be a glass ceiling on movies opened then… $75 million domestic. Two films have gotten then from that release perch. Barbershop and The Exorcism of Emily Rose.

Two more films have managed to hit $60m… Burn After Reading and Resident Evil: Afterlife.

And six others have done between $50m and $57m domestic. Once Upon a Time in Mexico, 3:10 to Yuma , Tyler Perry’s I Can Do Bad All By Myself , Sneakers, Resident Evil: Apocalypse , and Stigmata .

In two weeks, there are two movies that I think are enormously commercial and perhaps even awards candidates. I believe that Warrior is a modern-day Rocky, complete with all the complex character relationships that Stallone tried to explore – to yawns – in Rocky II. As with Rocky, some critics scoff. But the movie is made for audiences, not critics. And guess what? The Academy is made up of audiences, not critics. Meanwhile, Contagion, which is still under embargo, is a very commercial piece.

There have never been two $50m domestic grossers released in the same year in the first two weekends of September.

So what’s the hope here? Burn After Reading, I guess. Of course, it wasn’t a drama. It was a comedy. And it was riding the coattails of an Oscar win for the Coens… and a quirky Brad Pitt performance… and Clooney… and Malkovich.

That’s probably what Focus was thinking about when they slotted The American here last year and were thrilled with a $35m domestic gross… though the movie joins a long list of films released in this time period that didn’t become part of the award season in spite of a great deal of passion from some quarters. The Constant Gardener, which opened August 30, breaking new ground at the time, got to $34 million and eventually got four Oscar nominations, winning with Rachel Weisz. (The other nominations were screenplay, score, and editing.) But no picture, director, or lead actor.

For me, Warrior is an underdog movie that needs to ride award consideration to bigger box office as it’s discovered by a wide audience, not unlike Slumdog Millionaire, but has little room to maneuver from this berth.

And Contagion should blow Outbreak‘s numbers away. But “should” and “will” are different issues. I like Outbreak, but this is a better movie. But more to the box office point, it’s been 16 years. To give you some perspective. in Outbreak‘s year of release, 1995, there was no $200m domestic movie at all and just ten $100m domestic grossers. This year we have five $200m+ movies and twenty over $100m domestic already.

Strong box office could lead Contagion to some awards nominations (especially score and editing). But Outbreak‘s $67.7m would be the #3 gross in history for a release during the first two weekends in September… and just $8.2m from a new record.

Every single $100m grossing September release opened on or after September 18. Moreover, the films that have hit bigger numbers later in September seem to have more in common with these two films than the biggest grossers from the first half of the month. Neither film is primarily for “urban” audiences or are extreme genre. But just a couple of weeks later and you see successes like Fatal Attraction, Double Jeopardy, Eagle Eye, and Se7en, seemingly closer to the Contagion movie genre vibe than those in the earlier slot. And Remember The Titans and The Town reflect Warrior.

I hope to be wrong. Sometimes, things break out. But I don’t consider either of these movies to be easy sells to a broad audience. They’re just exceptionally good genre films with arthouse skills on display. They deserve better berths.

There is so much crap out there. I don’t hate the studios for that. This is a business. And making good films is not easy, even with the very best intentions. So when two movies come along that I know will please a lot of audiences of a lot of ages if only they have a chance to see them… and I see them in a slot that makes it that much harder… it’s frustrating.

I have no idea what these two films’ Rotten Tomatoes scores will be… and I don’t really care. There is plenty to turn critics into skeptics and who knows these days what will set them off. Like True Grit last year… like The Help this summer… some movies are not about deconstruction (though I personally think both will hold up well to it), they are about The Movies and what people just plain like.

I am very hopeful about Toronto this year, even on the more commercial level. And this has been a week of really good movies. But the idea of any quality film not getting the best shot possible… sigh…

Please prove me wrong.


Friday Estimates by Hurricane Len

The problem with going to the movies during a hurricane is that the electricity tends to be spotty.

How much damage is Irene causing the box office? Hard to be sure. 15% – 25% would be my estimate. The good news is that it’s late August and no one really cares.

The Battle For Women is solidly The Help‘s. The film passed Eat Pray Love earlier this week and should pass Julie & Julia by the end of this weekend. The Top August drama (unless you include Shyamalan, whose movies aren’t really straight dramas) is Unforgiven with just over $101 million. true, that was 20 years ago. But The Help should pass that number easily. The question at this point is, how high can it go?

The Battle For Boys has been won by Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark. even though it estimates $100k behind Columbiana. Why? Marketing budget. FilmDistrict does it more cheaply than Sony. Also, the movie is cheaper. That said, how much more could Dark have done with a big studio marketing budget… or without another movie targeting almost exactly the same audience (boys and girl ride-alongs).

Our Idiot Brother should land right around the opening numbers for The Goods and for Little Miss Sunshine (both opened on a lot less screens)… which one will it more emulate. (Final totals: $15m/$60m)

In the face of this weather, Vera Farmiga’s directing debut, Higher Ground, opened nicely. And Roadside did a nice job on Circumstance. The question will be whether they can re-launch next weekend when things are normal in the east and build up instead of starting the natural slides. It’s a good weekend to be in the VOD business in NYC.



It’s been one of those week… enormous highs… some really aggravating lows…

Anyway, the one sure bet this weekend… if you like to be scared… is Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark. It does what it does rather beautifully.

Vera Farmiga’s Higher Ground is a movie, in many ways, about ambivalence… so the movie is a little ambivalent. But compelling and thoughtful and will leave you with something to talk about afterwards, whether you are a lover of the film or not.

Our Idiot Brother is light and easy. Good performances. If you want a smile, but don’t expect a laugh riot, not a bad way to spend a couple of hours getting out of the heat or the wet or the both.

Chasing Madoff should piss you off and will piss you off.


DP/30: The Debt, director John Madden Debt – Take 2

We have a fairly extensive conversation about The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel as well.

And here’s the first chat…

1 Comment »

BYOB 82411


The Backstory Of “The Artist”


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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