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David Poland

By David Poland

Selling A Paramount Turnaround

The Variety headline reads, “Paramount films fuel Viacom – (sub-head) Revenues up 21% to $3.9 billion last quarter
How does one take the trade seriously when they don’t offer the real facts, but the spin as a headline?
The real deal from the Paramount/Viacom press release….
Was Paramount the cause of the increase in overall revenues (not net, which is down)? Philippe Dauman leads with something else – “The advantages of our growing multiple revenue streams were evident in the quarter, as we delivered double-digit growth in both our affiliate and ancillary revenues, led by the top-selling Rock Band music
video game.”
Then, he gets into the movies.
And what are the actual numbers of the movie side?
In terms of box office, the studio had about $863 million in domestic gross box office dollars compared to $536m in the same quarter last year

6 Responses to “Selling A Paramount Turnaround”

  1. Direwolf says:

    Good stuff, Dave. Way to work in the Disney stuff on such short notice. I’ve seen some reports analyzing ten years of studio entertainment segments among the majors that are public (TWX, NWS, VIA, and DIS). Granted that the studio segments aren’t necessarily directly comparable due to TV, home video genre, and other stuff. However, on thing is clear from those reports, Disney and News Corp consistently produces much higher maligns than Time Warner and Viacom. Even adjusting for the fact that Disney and News have been on content rolls that can always falter, the bottom line is that those two studios operate leaner and meaner and better.

  2. hcat says:

    I don’t follow television numbers much but has Disney Channel completly killed Viacom’s Nikelodien? You would always hear about how kids went insane over Rugrats or Spongebob, and now it appears that Disney has taken over that crowd with Miley and the Jonas Bros.

  3. David Poland says:

    Perhaps, hcat. I think they are somewhat complimentary and run age-variable programming. But the cable divisions are accounted for separately.
    My notation is about TV production, not cable nets or abc.

  4. Jeff says:

    Pretty sure Case 39 has been delayed for over a year. I think it is left over from the Berman era.

  5. Martin S says:

    Great breakdown, Dave. Is the 8% distrib standard for all DW projects?
    Disney Channel is an F’ing monster right now. Iger’s helped turn that into the perfect form of synergy and the output could be monstrous for the next three years. They need to capitilize on dragging one of the Playhouse Disney shows into a theatrical run to really get rolling.
    FOX produces a lot of meh, but the model is hard to argue with. MGM tried it in the 90’s but never had the right talent to produce the in-house properties, Rollerball being the poster child.

  6. Direwolf says:

    hcat, DP has it right.
    It is true that the Disney Channel has cut into Nickelodeon’s growth rate although Nick is still growing nicely compared to most media assets and a lot of other cable nets (in a financial sense).
    However, when comparing the Studio segments of the major conglomerates, the cable nets are separate. In all cases there is separate cable network segment. Even here is it difficult to compare. For example, Disney Channel carries no advertising and lives on promotional dollars and affiliate fees. And ESPN, which dominates Disney’s cable net segment operates on a different financial model than pretty much every other cable net due to the huge sports rights contracts and the way they are passed thoruhg to distributors (cable and satellite) and ultimatley viewers via affiliate fees.

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This is probably going to sound petty, but Martin Scorsese insisting that critics see his film in theaters even though it’s going straight to Netflix and then not screening it in most American cities was a watershed moment for me in this theatrical versus streaming debate.

I completely respect when a filmmaker insists that their movie is meant to be seen in the theater, but the thing is, you got to actually make it possible to see it in the theater. Some movies may be too small for that, and that’s totally OK.

When your movie is largely financed by a streaming service and is going to appear on that streaming service instantly, I don’t really see the point of pretending that it’s a theatrical film. It just seems like we are needlessly indulging some kind of personal fantasy.

I don’t think that making a feature film length production that is going to go straight to a video platform is some sort of “step down.“ I really don’t. Theatrical exhibition as we know it is dying off anyway, for a variety of reasons.

I should clarify myself because this thread is already being misconstrued — I’m talking about how the movie is screened in advance. If it’s going straight to Netflix, why the ritual of demanding people see it in the theater?

There used to be a category that everyone recognized called “TV movie” or “made for television movie” and even though a lot of filmmakers considered that déclassé, it seems to me that probably 90% of feature films fit that description now.

Atlantis has mostly sunk into the ocean, only a few tower spires remain above the waterline, and I’m increasingly at peace with that, because it seems to be what the industry and much of the audience wants. We live in an age of convenience and information control.

Only a very elite group of filmmakers is still allowed to make movies “for theaters“ and actually have them seen and judged that way on a wide scale. Even platform releasing seems to be somewhat endangered. It can’t be fought. It has to be accepted.

9. Addendum: I’ve been informed that it wasn’t Scorsese who requested that the Bob Dylan documentary only be screened for critics in theaters, but a Netflix representative indicated the opposite to me, so I just don’t know what to believe.

It’s actually OK if your film is not eligible for an Oscar — we have a thing called the Emmys. A lot of this anxiety is just a holdover from the days when television was considered culturally inferior to theatrical feature films. Everybody needs to just get over it.

In another 10 to 20 years they’re probably going to merge the Emmys in the Oscars into one program anyway, maybe they’ll call it the Contentys.

“One of the fun things about seeing the new Quentin Tarantino film three months early in Cannes (did I mention this?) is that I know exactly why it’s going to make some people furious, and thus I have time to steel myself for the takes.

Back in July 2017, when it was revealed that Tarantino’s next project was connected to the Manson Family murders, it was condemned in some quarters as an insulting and exploitative stunt. We usually require at least a fig-leaf of compassion for the victims in true-crime adaptations, and even Tarantino partisans like myself – I don’t think he’s made a bad film yet – found ourselves wondering how he might square his more outré stylistic impulses with the depiction of a real mass murder in which five people and one unborn child lost their lives.

After all, it’s one thing to slice off with gusto a fictional policeman’s ear; it’s quite another to linger over the gory details of a massacre that took place within living memory, and which still carries a dread historical significance.

In her essay The White Album, Joan Didion wrote: “Many people I know in Los Angeles believe that the Sixties ended abruptly on August 9, 1969, ended at the exact moment when word of the murders on Cielo Drive traveled like brushfire through the community, and in a sense this is true.”

Early in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, as Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt’s characters drive up the hill towards Leo’s bachelor pad, the camera cranes up gently to reveal a street sign: Cielo Drive. Tarantino understands how charged that name is; he can hear the Molotov cocktails clinking as he shoulders the crate.

As you may have read in the reviews from Cannes, much of the film is taken up with following DiCaprio and Pitt’s characters – a fading TV actor and his long-serving stunt double – as they amusingly go about their lives in Los Angeles, while Margot Robbie’s Sharon Tate is a relatively minor presence. But the spectre of the murders is just over the horizon, and when the night of the 9th finally arrives, you feel the mood in the cinema shift.

No spoilers whatsoever about what transpires on screen. But in the audience, as it became clear how Tarantino was going to handle this extraordinarily loaded moment, the room soured and split, like a pan of cream left too long on the hob. I craned in, amazed, but felt the person beside me recoil in either dismay or disgust.

Two weeks on, I’m convinced that the scene is the boldest and most graphically violent of Tarantino’s career – I had to shield my eyes at one point, found myself involuntarily groaning “oh no” at another – and a dead cert for the most controversial. People will be outraged by it, and with good reason. But in a strange and brilliant way, it takes Didion’s death-of-the-Sixties observation and pushes it through a hellfire-hot catharsis.

Hollywood summoned up this horror, the film seems to be saying, and now it’s Hollywood’s turn to exorcise it. I can’t wait until the release in August, when we can finally talk about why.

~ Robbie Collin