By David Poland firstname.lastname@example.org
5 Predictions For 2012
Yes, I know that we’re already a 7 weeks in… all the more pressure on these predictions, which have only 11 months to blossom…
Summer 2012 Will Be Covered As A Slump When May Titles Perform Well, But Not Sensationally – Ah… the spring and early summer start to come into focus. March looks to have at least two, if not three $100 million domestic hits… compared to just Rango last year, which was labelled “disappointing” versus the March DWA numbers of the past. On the other hand, April, which last year boasted three $100m grossers – including the $200m Fast Five – has its best hopes in a re-release of Titanic and a reunion sequel to American Pie. Meh.
So strong March… soft April, in comparison to last year.
And then, The Avengers. Will it be at Iron Man levels ($300m+) or will it be at the summer movie levels for Marvel of the last few years ($145m – $185m)? Somewhere in between? This will be the sixth straight summer to be led off by a Marvel superhero. And it will set the tone. Last summer’s $65m launch for Thor was the smallest. Spider-Man 3 and Iron Man 2 were the two over $100m ($151/$128m, respectively). Anything under a $100m launch will probably be seen as coming up short. A bit silly, but such is the nature of all this stuff.
Dark Shadows is Depp, but kitschy, Burton-y Depp. Realistically, a $25m opening is about where that can be expected to land if it lands nicely. Sacha Baron Cohen will hope to open as high as $20m with his latest character.
The big non-Marvel horses are Battleship and Men in Black 3. Who the hell knows? There were no $100m openings last May and $100m 3-days over Memorial Day weekend are a challenge, even though there are now 3 titles that have done the trick. There hasn’t been more than one $100m launch in May since 2007, the summer of the Three Threequels (Spidey/Shrek/Sparrow).
The big upside on both Battleship and MiB3 is likely to be overseas, not here. So I expect there to be a lot of itchy box office writing in May, coming off of a soft April and only Avengers likely to pull its perceived weight initially.
But then June starts loading up. This summer could match last summer’s six $100m domestic grossers, with Kristen Stewart’s Snow White, a Madagascar sequel, Prometheus (which I expect to be Top 5 worldwide next summer and could be the biggest R-rated film ever). a Sandler, a Pixar, and GI: Joe Rock-dux…. plus some high potential smaller titles in Rock of Ages and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.
But July is where things get really nuts and the reporting will be all lovey dovey… Spiderman and Batman alone are pretty sure to bring in over $750m domestic. Then add on Ice Age 4… a franchise that’s never done less than $175m domestic and which did almost $900m worldwide last time. Only 8 movies are scheduled to open in July this summer… very unusual. But everyone else is just getting out of the way… with 3 movies looking for $3 billion or more worldwide in a matter of weeks. But there is still a Stiller/Vaughn movie being thrown in there that will be hoping to do 9 figures.
August is a bit of a crap shoot. Bourne looks like a hit, but it’s rebooting. Total Recall should be viable… but why open it opposite Bourne if you think it is? Rivals/Dog Fight, a political comedy pitting Will Ferrell vs Zach Zach Galifianakis could be an underdog hit. Can the geezers do it again with The Expendables 2? Will Joseph Gordon-Levitt stalked by Michael Shannon draw a late summer audience looking for grit? Will WB get a Chronicle out of The Apparition?
The tone about the entire summer, which could well be a record-setter, as this year’s was, may well be set by some of these smaller titles and their perceived success or failure. Or it could just a be a referendum on the numbers for Men in Black 3D. What we can be sure of is that it will be reactionary and once positions are taken, attitudes will have to be pried from cold, dead word processors.
Studio Ups & Downs – After a sensational 2011, Paramount will take heat for a reduced schedule and a lack of high-profile product coming through the pipeline. The success or failure of World War Z will become an enormous pressure on the psychology of the studio.
Universal will see more executive turnover after Battleship underperforms domestically, even though it will make up for it overseas. Soon thereafter, Snow White, Bourne, and the Oscar success of This Is Forty (or whatever it ends up being called) will seem ironic.
Fox will take its usual heat until an exceptionally strong summer, but the boo birds will return in the fall, as the studio hits singles and doubles.
Disney will be ducking for cover all year long after John Carter, having a decent success with The Avengers, but not much else that gets anyone excited – Pixar’s Brave being a wildcard – until Spielberg’s Lincoln in Nov/Dec.
Sony will have its biggest summer ever and its first billion dollar title, with Bond and Bigelow in the holiday season. Solid year.
Warner Bros = Batman & Hobbit in 2012. But there are some very interesting smaller titles, starting with Project X, Dark Shadows, Rivals, Gangster Squad, and what many hope will be major Oscar bait for Ben Affleck, Argo. It could be a sensational year for the studio.
Netflix Will Keep Losing Subscribers In The US – Netflix continues to signal that they are angling at becoming a competitor of HBO. What this means, when uncoded, is more original/exclusive content, less content overall.
I see this, as I have seen it, as a necessity of the future of this company and not a simple strategic choice. Netflix simply cannot afford to be what Netflix was as a DVD rental business as an ongoing streaming business. There is nothing wrong with this. But it is a wildly different model than the Netflix that built a new paradigm.
Logically, as Netflix becomes a more narrow business, some of its audience will move on, as they have for 2 straight quarters. As best as my research tells me, HBO has never cracked 16 million paying domestic subscribers. They have not only a wide array of channels, but a strong reputation for its original programming and a very solid movie package from WB and elsewhere. The monthly cost of the service is similar to the cost of Netflx and includes HBO Go for most cable/satellite users.
Obviously, no one has to choose between Netflix – which has a much deeper library at this point – and HBO. You can have both. But as more competitors enter the market in Everything Everywhere mode, the number of $8 monthly subscriptions will pile up and people will start feeling compelled to make decisions.
In 2012, I expect inertia to keep the leakage slow, though steady. But as we get to 2013, Netflix will be forced to define itself in clear ways that it isn’t ready to do now. And that will surely be a tipping point… not for the company to go out of business or become a minor business or any of the extreme things that defenders like to throw out there to unbalance the conversation. But for Netflix to become, as it is aiming to, more like HBO, competing more like HBO competes with Showtime and Starz… and with a subscription base back under 15 million.
Majors Will Start To Move Into The Day-N-Date VOD Business – One major is getting ready to launch an international VOD arm of one of their divisions. This will continue and expand.
Studios and more significantly, studio Dependents have stayed out of day-n-date VOD models so far. There are too many layers of well-established, highly profitable distribution that have to worry about cannibalism and perceived cannibalism to go there. But as the Magnolias and IFCs make the case for a VOD-driven business model and margins tighten and DVD is phased out, the potential for VOD-first as a business opportunity for movies that are not going to get a studio release looks more and more attractive (not unlike the indie business was before they decided the upside wasn’t up enough.
Someone Will Start Paying Cable & Broadcast Nets For Full Mobile Streaming & Perhaps In Package Agreements With AT&T Or Other Wireless Provider – This one came to me in a flash the other day and really inspired this entire piece.
Most of the major cable and satellite outlets now have streaming opportunities within the same wi-fi reach as your converter box. HBO, ESPN, CNN, and a few others are offering completely mobile platforms for live streaming with membership through you cable/satellite provider.
But what is really cool? Being about to watch what you want, when you want off of your cable/satellite. Slingbox for all!
What is the biggest problem? 5g a month max for most data service without being throttled.
If people are paying $8 for Netflix and $8 for Hulu, and $100 for DirectTV, how much more a month would they play to watch anything anywhere? $25 a month? And if $20 of that went to AT&T because they’d be using more bandwidth and $5 is split between the content providers and DirecTV while any station watched gets the benefit of viewership?
And obviously, all the better – for the viewing experience – if used on wi-fi… self-interest.
If cable companies are worrying about cord cutting, this can be the beginning of a more inclusive package. Don’t fight streaming… become streaming. What does it cost to keep a household connected to the wired infrastructure? How much is it worth to keep customers?
Personally, I don’t want to be on streaming only. When the wi-fi slows down, I don’t want to be waiting on the cache to fill. I want my reliable, consistent, high-quality satellite stream. But I also want to be able to flip on anything I already pay to receive at home in any hotel, stadium, restaurant, or outing I like. And I’d pay for the right… at least until the cord cutting price wars of 2015.
It only makes sense, as the technology now allows, that someone moves forward in this direction.