Universal’s “we’re spending big for big results” embrace of their summer meme or story that they will be beaten to death with in August landed in the LA Times today and inspired me to take quick look at the summer and who is spending what.
Universal is, indeed, the big spender this summer. They have one major sequel, which is also a reboot, with Tony Gilroy taking over the directing reins in addition to previous writing responsibilities on Bourne 4, now rebooting with Jeremy Renner. Then there are the two new wannabe franchises, Battleship (over $210m) and Snow White (at least $175m). Two small films are filler with hope.
Sony is spending, but franchise spending only. The most secure bet is a reboot of Spider-Man, partially motivated to start from scratch to keep the ballooning cost of previous mega-movie-series from making the franchise a spending boondoggle. The scariest bet is Men in Black 3, which has had a lot of negative reporting about the production and whose previous film in the series was so top-heavy in costs (Smith/Spielberg/TLJones/Sonnenfeld) that a gross of $440m still wasn’t significantly profitable. There is also a Sandler film, which is as close to a sure bet as there is… and still under $100m. And Total Recall redone, with the guy who launched Underworld at the helm and Colin Farrell trying to fill Ahnuld’s pecs. Add Sparkle & Premium Rush and the only real danger zone remains MiB3, which is likely to generate strong numbers, even if not strong enough to make the exercise of going back worth it.
Fox’s two big spends are on Prometheus and Ice Age 4. Both look to be potential silent assassins in a very franchise-y summer. Prometheus is Alien-related, stars a bevy of international rising stars, and with Sir Ridley at the helm, could battle Batman for the “coolest film of the summer” title. The last Ice Age did a shocking $887 million worldwide. If this one does a third less, it’s still huge. And a Stiller/Vaughn comedy with its budget in check. Besides that, it’s niche stuff. Another Wimpy Kid. Abe Lincoln hunting vampires. And adult dramdy in Great Hope Springs starring Oscar Winner Meryl Streep.
Warners has the most titles, as usual. But The Dark Knight Rises is by far the biggest, both in potential and expense. The studio has reined in the spending quite a bit and with Batman leading, will find it hard not to have a solid summer… and with some luck, could have a truly great summer. Is Rock of Ages another Mamma Mia!? This one will cost 5 times as much to make, but if the close is similar, a cash cow. Dark Shadows is the other significant spend, with Johnny Depp in gothic camp from Tim Burton. Sure to be in profit, if not a runaway financial success. A Jay Roach comedy (The Campaign) with Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis can’t be too cheap, but has a lot of upside and not too much downside. Then it’s 3 small films, including a Soderbergh comedy, a Chernobyl movie from the Paranormal Activity director, and a horror film late in the season from Joel Silver.
Both Paramount and Disney have just 3 films each this summer. The only film Par is all in on is The Dictator, which is relatively cheap and should be profitable (though it better be funnier than the carpet gag). Madagascar 3 is from DreamWorks Animation, distribution only. And Par is partners on GI Joe 2, which has been retrofitted with The Rock and Bruce Willis, rendering all but unrecognizable from the first film.
Disney has the Avengers, from their Marvel division, which is still operating under its own funding. Brave is Pixar’s new title, which will soon get the “could this be the flop” treatment soon from Wall Street operatives. (I have no opinion at all until I see it.) And the family fantasy, The Odd Life of Timothy Green. Quiet, franchise-driven summer.