The Hot Blog Archive for January, 2012

Margin Call Math

There’s a THR story that our very own Ray Pride linked to the front page… and the math doesn’t seem to match the enthusiasm.

The movie cost $3.4m to produce.

Lionsgate/Roadside picked it up for $1 million.

Score: Movie, down $2.4 million… Distrib, down $1 million.

The theatrical did $5.3m, which is rentals of $2.9m. Shall we put the marketing cost of the theatrical at $1 million.

Score: Movie, still down $2.4 million… Distrib up $.9m.

VOD, according to THR numbers, did no more than $3.5m. Let’s put the split to distribution at 60% or $2.1m.

Score: Movie, still down $2.4 million… Distrib up $3m.

Let’s not assume to know what the split between the producers and the distributor is at what stage. Let’s just look at the overall situation.

After theatrical and VOD, there is a $600k profit on an investment of $3.4m.

Now, acknowledge all the post-theatrical revenue, which could be substantial. Let’s say that it’s 70% of the VOD and theatrical…. $6.2 million. So we’re up to $6.8 million in profit on a $3.4m investment. Great.

Who is chasing after a business like that? If you can assume that you can turn this trick once out of every three times, you’re in a breakeven business. And no one can assume that in the indie world. That’s how you end up chasing bubbles.

And let’s say that post-theatrical/VOD is 150% of what those first distribution methods made. Now you’re looking at $13m or so in profit on the $3.4m investment, plus the opportunity costs and more than a year of lots of people’s focus and work. Now we’re looking at 1 in 5 to make a breakeven business.

I’m just saying, let’s remember why people are really in this end of the business. They love movies. They can get personally wealthy, though getting corporately wealthy is almost impossible. But for a bunch of risk takers, it really can only come back to a love of what they are doing, what they are involved with.

Most of the high profile movies bought at Sundance last year were loss leaders for their buyers in anticipation of the next work from the filmmaker or actor. They would have all loved to have had hits. But Par didn’t buy Like Crazy expecting to have a Paranormal Activity happen. They surely wanted a higher gross, but mostly, they bought into Drake Doremus’ talent. And he is in post on his next film for them now.

It’s not accurate to say that no one is getting rich up here in the mountains. But a few million in profit isn’t “fuck You” money by any stretch of the imagination. It’s “I can write the next one while eating steak for 3 years if I need to” money. And that’s not nothing. But life is too short for anyone truly creative to be that simply mollified.


Foreign Short List DP/30s

Nine short-list foreign language films were announced by The Academy this morning. Here is a chance to meet some of the filmmakers…

Joseph Cedar, Footnote – LA, January 2012

Asghar Farhadi, A SeparationLA, November 2011

Agnieszka Holland, In DarknessLA, October 2011

Wim Wenders, PinaLA, Dec 2011 / Toronto, Sept 2011

Coming soon – Ole Christian Madsen, SuperClasico – LA, January 2012

Also short-listed:
Belgium’s Bullhead
Canada’s Monsieur Lazhar
Morocco’s Omar Killed Me
Taiwan’s Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale


DP/30: Undefeated, documentarians TJ Martin & Daniel Lindsay

BYOB – On The Road To Sundance


DP/30: The Artist, composer Ludovic Bource

Weekend Estimates (3-Day) by Klady & The Beast 3D

Not much to say. No real surprises. Klady’s estimate has the weekend up about 2% from last year’s MLK. Zzzzz…

The Academy Hopefuls are a little more interesting this weekend.

The top group is Best Picture aspirants and the second list is for films with other categories in mind, from acting to animation to foreign language.

Tinker and Descendants remain pretty solid on a per-screen basis. The Artist expanded by 42 screens this weekend and held solid. It’s hard to know whether this is momentum, but the film should be over $10 million by the time nominations are announced next week. And when did Hugo find its way to $54 million? If for some reason Artist stalls at the box office and is suddenly perceived as a commercial miss, Scorsese and Payne will be happy to become the new frontrunner.

On the second list, once you get past the animation and song-only Muppets, the range is 150k to $15m. My guess is that The Iron Lady has turned out to be a bit stronger commercially than The Weinstein Company expected. Give a lot of credit to Meryl Streep for kissing a lot more babies than usual. Marilyn has also snuck up past the $11m mark before nominations, though unless Michelle Williams wins a Globe tonight, it will be harder to sell her as the Oscar must-see that she is. (Yes Virginia, I am actually suggesting that someone can wring some value out of the F-ing Globes.)

It’s hard to imagine what WB will do with Extremely Loud if it isn’t nominated for Best Picture next week. So far, good numbers in limited. But this is a Tom Hanks/Sandra Bullock film and by that standard, the numbers are very soft.

Shame is on its way down, losing screens weekly, needing a boost from a miracle Fasbender win somewhere. Young Adult will probably find its way past $20m domestic if Theron gets nominated… which should be a mortal lock if there is an acting god. But it will still be seen as a commercial miss, which is a shame. You won’t see a better pair of performances than Fassbender’s and Theron’s… ever.

Meanwhile, Sony Classics is expanding A Dangerous Method without much awards cover and is finding takers. This is one of those films that may have been better off without a focused awards push, especially when the biggest draw is Keira Knightley giving a great, kinky, often sexy, wild performance… though she has not been available to put herself in position to be nominated next week. Carnage has also suffered from Oscar season a bit. I am not a huge fan of the film, but the cast is strong and a non-awards release surely could have cracked $10m, no?


DP/30: composer Alexandre Desplat 2012

The composer of the 2011 scores for The Tree of Life, A Better Life, Carnage, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows, Pt 2, and The Ides of March

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Friday Estimates by Contra Klady

Well. Klady’s numbers are,mostly, lower than the ones being given to Nikki Finke by the studios. Len does his numbers directly through Rentrak, so… make of it what you will. However, as stupid as all slump stories have been this last few months, from Len’s numbers, it doesn’t look like this weekend is going to be any bigger than last year’s MLK weekend… and perhaps a percent or two off. Of course, this means almost nothing and even less when you’re not myopically looking at it all through the prism of Avatar‘s holdover into January 2010.

What is seriously different and much more important than the grosses themselves are the costs involved with this year’s crop of MLK Weekend movies vs last year. Contraband is another moderately priced Mark Wahlberg thriller. The Green Hornet, while well over-performing expectations, was a looooong gestating, re-shot, re-cut cash vortex in comparison. Converting Beauty & The Beast to 3D was probably a $25m project, while last year’s The Dilemma cost at least 3x that. Joyful Noise is the additional, relatively cheap, wildcard.

This year’s December holdovers are running a little behind last year’s, with a lot more awards-driven numbers from True Grit, The King’s Speech, Black Swan, and The Fighter all in the Top Ten and adding about $34m in the 3-day last year. This year, 2 Best Picture hopefuls (Dragon Tattoo and War Horse) and 1 Best Actress nomination lock (Iron Lady) are in the Top 10, looking at about $17m between them in 3 days. Tom Cruise, The Devil, and Robert Downey are helping keep things afloat.

So… a decent weekend. Nothing to write home about, either way. Next weekend, however, should be a marked improvement on 2011’s numbers with the return of Beckinsale in latex. It’s February in which we will start reading (idiotic) pieces about theatricals’s comeback. Even if only the three seeming locks, Phantom Menace 3D, Ghost Rider 2, and Safe House perform to expectations, it will make last February look as bad as it was. And if potential breakouts like Chronicle, The Vow, and This Means War do break out…

Of course, that won’t be a comeback any more than 2011 was a slump. Yes, the business is cyclical. But more significantly in slump talk is the willingness to acknowledge seismic events…. like Avatar. 2011 was the highest grossing domestic summer in history (a fact that rarely gets noted by the gloomologists). Can Summer 2012, with Avengers, Prometheus, Men In Black, Spidey, Dark Knight, Ice Age, Adam Sandler, Bourne Redux, and yes, Battleship, be much bigger? Probably not. You couldn’t really ask for a more loaded schedule. Maybe a 6% bump from last year? Maybe 10%? Will that mean “moviegoing is back?” Will is be a reflection of the election season, escapism, an improving economy, or whatever other bullshit people can up with? (I guess the “bs’ makes that a rhetorical question.)

People will want to go see these movies. Period. If enough people want to go to see them on a big screen, The Bump will replace The Slump as The Story. But it will be just as dumb.

There were three $1 billion movies worldwide this last year for the first time ever. Will there be two this summer? Four?

The story, if anyone would care to think seriously about it for a second, is how amazingly resilient theatrical is in the face of all the distractions that journalists love to claim is killing theatrical. People want to go to the movies. And not just for the mega-experiences. Besides the Justin Bieber stunt, there were $4m and $4.6m grossing docs for adults last year. The Help did $170 million. An American animation that was really made for adults did $125m domestic. Hanna. The Descendants. Moneyball. Contagion.

There is a very strong business still in there. It’s just not the business where every movie makes money thanks to DVD revenue and everyone can afford to stand around smelling their own farts all day. But it’s the movies, stupid. Sometime in the next 5 or 6 years, there may well be a seismic event again. But for now… the movies. Deal.


DP/30 Special: Super 8 in Concert, composer Michael Giacchino

Last weekend, there was a live concert on the rood of the offices of Bad Robot, JJ Abrams’ company. It was a celebration of the work of Michael Giacchino, particularly on Super 8, but on other Bad Robots films and shows as well. (Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, Star Trek, Lost). He explains… and the orchestra performs in this very special episode of DP/30.

The Super 8 Suite by Michael Giacchino (mp3)

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BFCA Doggie Paddles

In a great imitation of the HFPA, the BFCA seem to have voted for who they think will win on Oscar night… or who they heard was going to win a few weeks ago.

And indeed, this might be a perfect projection of The Big Show.

The Artist took Picture and Director, as well as Score and Costume… neither of which were on TV.

Clooney, Davis, Spencer, and Plummer have been frontrunners for months now.

Someone forgot to tell Scorsese that he was being awarded for a career of using great music and not just for the 3 docs. And the montage, chopping up his great work to a bevy of memorable hits was sheer crap…. insulting to the work.

Sean Penn’s bit should have been powerful, but wasn’t. It seemed like a gag to get Clooney on stage, much as the Scorsese tribute just seemed like Leo and Dylan bait. Tuxedos and fart jokes don’t really fit together well… unless there is genius… and in this ceremony, there was no sweet genius.

Judd Apatow was the funniest person on the show. And that was mostly because he was being honest… and cursing a lot. It’s not HBO, Judd.

All in all, utterly forgettable.

DP/30: The Grey, co-writer/director Joe Carnahan, actor Liam Neeson

(Note: Make sure not to miss the last minute of the interview.)


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