By David Poland firstname.lastname@example.org
CHANGING LANDSCAPE – 10/27/09
PRECIOUS BACKLASH – I am already feeling the urge to lash back at the talk of backlash.
It is the profound arrogance of the entertainment media to delude ourselves that we, not the real movie goers or even the privileged awards voters, decide what should be praised and how intensely. It is the same pathetic mindset that happens when Variety pans a movie like The Road or AntiChrist and other media monkeys line up to suggest that this is a meaningful moment in the history of the film and future audience reaction.
There can be no backlash against Precious because, so far, the entire definition of how the movie plays has been based on a breathless media and Oprah… not necessarily in that order.
Some fools are even wondering aloud whether Lee Daniels is costing himself a Best Director win by being honest in public… when he is a long ways away from getting a nomination, much less a win. (This is true of all the filmmakers in play, not just him.)
STOP!!!! Get some perspective. And stop damaging a movie like Precious by treating it, months before the response to the movie from real people and real voters will be heard, like the Holy Grail.
You know why Up In The Air has gone quiet lately? Because the folks at Paramount marketing get the joke. It’s hard to live up to the endless, screaming hype. Plus it turns a pulpy picture like Precious and really, a smoother-edged pulpy picture like Up In The Air into something an audience has to do… to cross off its list of responsibilities… and disallows the honest discovery of the film.
For me, this goes back to Brokeback Mountain, which actually may have won had so many not assumed that it was a mortal lock to win and that any other result was backlash. This just wasn’t the case. The love for the film, once people saw it, was not universal. Not close. But worse, the positioning of inevitability emboldened Oscar voters who didn’t love the film to feel even more strongly about not loving it. They wanted to kill the hype… the finger-waving “I’m not going” of it all, not the movie.
You can’t tell people, “And you… and you… and you… you’re gonna love me.” You have to let them love you. And that is exactly, by the way, what Dreamgirls says at the end of that song, when the show immediately goes on without Effie.
Let me also point out… the overwrought screeching around this film is not coming from Lionsgate. It’s the media… really a few loud voices. This is not to discount the many people who have seen and love the film or the audience awards. But this is not a film that can march up to the Kodak and demand its Oscar. This is a year of many colors and we are a long way from a frontrunner.
Calm down and let’s get on without talk of frontrunners or backlashes until they are more than a figment of our prideful imaginations.
SOUPY & STERN – I had a thought sitting at the back of my head and finally got to look into whether I was having an aneurysm… I wasn’t. Soupy Sales was Howard Stern’s radio lead-in at WNBC when Stern rose to national fame/infamy and eventually got fired in a flash in September 1985.
When Stern got dumped – I happened to be working in the building at the time – the first rumor was that Sales was behind having him fired. But it wasn’t true. Stern had very crudely attacked the lead anchor of the lead money-making news show on WNBC-TV, which was also in the same building. She was the straw that broke management’s back on Stern.
But remembering back to those days, it amused me to remember that Soupy was still working in the big leagues then and leading into the dark side of modern radio.
SNL KAGAN’S LATEST SILLY STUDY RESULT – I don’t have the study in front of me, so I can’t deconstruct the details, but good gosh a’mighty, this “expensive movies are more profitable than small movies” headline is a load of excrement of monumental proportion.
First, the geniuses didn’t factor in marketing costs – which have been the fastest growing cost for theatrical distribution for the last decade, until the last year or so – or foreign box office – which is greater in most studio release cases than domestic – or DVD revenues.
Really? A grown up analyst is analyzing profits and losses based on 35% or less of the revenue stream and distribution costs that are often greater than the cost of production and on the over-$100m titles represent no less than $100m worldwide?
All a smart person has to do is to read the lead of Variety’s story on the study – “Films boasting production pricetags of more than $100 million actually generate higher returns than mid-range pics, averaging $247 million in net profits per release.”
Seriously. That has to be a typo, right?
Of the Top 30 grossers of 2009 so far, the total domestic gross is $3.127 billion… or an average domestic gross of $184 million. Generously estimating that this represents only 40% of the theatrical gross (foreign, 60%), means an average $460 million gross worldwide. That’s a rental return to the distributor of $253 million. Let’s be even more generous and estimate an additional $150 million NET in post-theatrical revenue.
So we’re at $400 million. Minimum production and distribution cost… $200 million. Realistic but still generous average cost… $275 million. About half of these high-cost titles carry heavy percentage players… but to be generous again, let’s cut it down to 5% of net going out the door to participants. That’s another $20 million.
So… even under this generous and mostly unrealistic scenerio, you’re looking at a $100 million+ cost movie being $105 million into profit.
But what’s the real truth. Three movies will make significantly more profit than $105 million. And five of the movies will lose money. That leaves nine films somewhere in the middle.
And this doesn’t include Land of The Lost or Where The Wild Things Are in this year’s numbers, as neither has gone Top 30 yet. (WTWTA should get there.)
Yes, making The Dark Knight or Transformers 2 or Harry Potter is a better business than making The Proposal or Paul Blart: Mall Cop. But franchise chasing can shut down studios…or at least, get a lot of people fired. In the last decade, no $40 million movie got any major (or even any Dependent) in trouble.
But if you want to know the real truth, simply look at how the business itself has changed. Studios have gotten as far away as possible from funding all but a handful of franchise movies on their own. If there is all this profit in making expensive movies, how come no one other than rich ambitious outsiders are wanting to put the money on the line?
RICKY GERVAIS HOSTS GOLDEN GLOBES – Great for the Hollywood Foreign Press Association… and a completely wrong-headed idea for The Oscars. Equally stoopid, the notion that Neil Patrick Harris should complete the triple crown by adding Oscar hosting duties to the Tonys (great performance) and the Emmys (not so great). The Emmys were easily the worst televised awards show of the year this year. Very little worked… and it was trying so hard that it bordered on Stephen Fetchit.
I love Gervais. But he has a very specific kind of humor. And it is so distinctly not an Oscar kind of humor.
Truth is, Billy Crystal is a middlebrow funnyman. He’s never going to demand much more from the audience than they are going to be happy to give up from their couches. And that is why he is so well remembered as an Oscar host.
The same is true of Jay Leno. He gave up being edgy, which he once was (a bit), to become Middle America’s funny man. And he did it brilliantly. Would I trade an hour of Leno for 15 minutes of Lewis Black? No. 20 minutes of Letterman? No. But I am not the guy’s core audience. Oscar’s TV audiences ARE his core audience. (Note; I do find Leno funny… but it is just a soft kind of funny… every once in a while, he let’s something tough slip in and I remember just how funny he really can be.)