Author Archive

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

Wednesday, June 20th, 2018

I am not a California fruit loop. No one read my aura and told me what to do. But it is funny how life tells you things, if you are willing to listen.

I bought my Mustang just before we launched Movie City News. After an accident in late 2017, I kept it and cared for it and wanted it to last forever… but I finally had to say “goodbye” to that little beauty. It was time.

The company I started online with in May 1997, TNT (and roughcut.com), has been sold. The company I worked for over a couple years just before that, EW, was sold off years ago.

DP/30 hit 100,000 subscribers recently.

Donald Trump’s ascendance has reconfigured my daily life experience of the entire world and my own life.

In 1997, the sequel to Jurassic Park landed. This year, the sequel to Jurassic World lands.

The Star Wars re-releases happened just before The Hot Button launched… and we are still talking about frickin’ Star Wars.

No studio head from when I started remains in place at the same studio. Only Stacey Snider actually reflects the top slot from back when. (Donna Langley was, I believe, a couple steps below at the time… behind Scott “Netflix” Stuber and Mary Parent on the food chain at the time.) Rothman took over for Mechanic, then they added Jim G. Alan Horn was at Castle Rock and is on his second studio life since then. Toby Emmerich was “the music guy” around New Line, but would work his way up.

I can’t even list the marketing and publicist regimes I have watched come and go and come again over these years. It’s a family tree that would cause a heart attack in the most hearty genealogist. (Michael Moses taking the big seat at Universal this week… another landmark with decades of history for me.)

There are many more signals coming my way. Like the proverbial broken arm, I see them every day now that I am of a mind to see them.

I never wanted to be a journalist, telling the stories of those who do things. Certainly not a critic, a job I have learned to respect deeply for a very small number of people who take it seriously (not just take themselves seriously).

I became a film critic because Roger Ebert wouldn’t book me on his show while Gene was out unless I called myself a critic. I always considered my ability to break down a film a skill that was useful for other purposes… as part of something else. But when I put on the robe, I quickly found that an illogical amount of power could be had in a role that I have never seen as being as influential as some others do.

I was always judgemental of writers who broke “the rules” of being a journalist or a critic, though it hadn’t really occurred to me that it was being done as an act of impotence, not of power. I could feel and identify that power quite early. Others could not. And when they did, they usually changed their tunes, but remained in denial of the damage they had done when they thought they were unimportant.

Power is one of the great insanities of Hollywood. Scoreboard is scoreboard… and everything else is just madness. The most powerful are the most insecure and the ability of a mouse to bring down an elephant is shocking. And I am not talking about heroes like Rose McGowan and Asia Argento and Jessica Chastain and the many others fighting the good fight against sexism or the many fighting against ingrained corporate racism. I’m talking about ego and agony.

I have long believed that Hollywood is a canary in the coal mine of various industries and even the political world. I know it sounds insane, but Nikki Finke and her influence for a short period was similar to Trump taking out the Republican candidates in the primaries. Fortunately, she was empowered by one guy with a fat checkbook and she finally couldn’t help but to burn that bridge as she has burned every bridge in her life for decades. But the only power she ever really had was to threaten to expose people in a way they did not want and to color their lives with abusive language. And Trump has abusive tweets and nicknames.

I have long said that she never got anyone a job, helped a movie (aside from The Women, which then went on to flop badly), or got anyone fired. One very smart, savvy person at one studio made an impassioned argument about how Nikki cost one exec his job… but that was because he was still drinking the Kool-Aid of the person who had used Nikki as his spear to take this other person out.

America will soon (even if it’s 6 years somehow) be in a post-Trump America. And the post-Nikki Hollywood entertainment media landscape does not fill me with hope for out nation’s happy future. No one has ever been able to match Nikki… because no one is as shameless as Nikki. But man, do they try!

More than the amount of junk food that dominates entertainment journalism in 2018 (and there has been plenty over my 20+ years in this game, some created by me), it is the degree of fear and kicked-in control mechanisms that have really made my work untenable.

When I started online (EW carried its own kind of power), my relationship with the studios was a partnership. We weren’t equal. And I never gave up my right to be brutally tough. But I was not out to kill anyone. I was out to seek truth, as best I could. And in response, I was offered a lot of truth. There were moments of extreme bullshit. But usually, I could see why the exec offering that was doing it out of fear and self-defense and even if they were in my way, I was personally sympathetic.

My life was always 20% or so off the record. And that number grew, eventually passing the 50% mark. It wasn’t about protecting friends that I had made (real ones or movie ones), but about playing fair. Like anything else in life, we all know where the line is almost all of the time. Sometimes, it gets blurry. But dinner chat informed my insight and never landed in print. After a while, I came to fully understand that even in private conversations, it was often necessary to maintain the privacy of others, even on what might seem to be trivial matters. As I noted early, the skin gets rather thin in this industry. And people do love to gossip.

I can trace the end of a few relationships to moments in which I wrote the truth, but was treated as though I broke a confidence.

Then, as now, it was easier to dethrone someone than to get them into that seat.

But I can also measure up the women and the men who understood what I was up to… who prized truth… and who were willing to take the slings and arrows of my sometimes outrageous written fortunes, knowing that I was just as likely to embrace them in a warm hug the next day.

When did it start to turn into something else?

2006.

That was the summer when box office went from being a sleepy village of people with a real interest and the intent to be truthful to being a commodity, as commodified by Finke and Drudge.

But then… 2009. Penske buys Finke. The mirror of this was Sheldon Adelson Gets Behind Trump.

Like the last presidential election, the serious implications of this event were enhanced great by timing. Newspapers were shitting themselves. And they were right to do so. And online media wasn’t much more comfortable. Nikki Finke, whatever you thought of her work, was getting paid. And depending on who you asked, she was getting paid a lot or a small personal fortune. And, whatever her work, she was instantly iconic because of that money. Some of the best minds covering media got sucked into believing the lies she built around herself.

When I started online, people were afraid of Ain’t It Cool News. For a moment, people were afraid of the madness of Jeffrey Wells. But Finke was different because everyone suddenly wanted to be like her. They wanted her profile. They wanted her money. They really didn’t pay attention to her abuses or her slowly selling out to every single studio in town. This is not even a judgement of Nikki. This is the nature of doing business the way she did business. And Penske supercharged it.

In the 9 years hence, Penske has spread his pixie cash over a big chunk of entertainment media, especially on the industry side. Variety, IndieWire, Wenner Media, Fairchild. Journalism was teetering on the edge of the cliff for a long time. I don’t think he meant to push it over the edge. But over the edge it went.

And with it, trust between the two sides of the journalistic effort.

The problem is not that studios can’t trust most outlets to do what they want. The problem is that studios can now happily live without anyone who does not do what they want. And they do.

Moreover, the money in journalism isn’t in journalism. It is in proximity to talent (on both sides of the camera) and the ability to manage and exploit it.

Like universities changing their focus to encourage students who can get student loans to cover their entire tuition (see the excellent doc, White Tower), media has adjusted its ambitions to encourage relationships with advertisers who, more as sponsors than as ad buyers, can pay the bills.

And journalism has disappeared, replaced in most cases with people of limited insight (some very experienced… and still blind) opining about everything. Even the most simple of math exercises, box office, is dominated by opinion and expectations over any serious analysis of the numbers.

To be fair, I was the first asshole in the internet era asshole pit. When I launched The Hot Button in 1997 and more in depth in 1998, there was nothing online like it. Blogs did not exist. I knew a fair amount about a lot of things and I knew how to research what I didn’t know.

But I could also be a prick. I was susceptible to little man’s disease, worrying more about upping my profile than the consequences at times. I wrote some stupid stuff. I wrote some really smart stuff. Still, as noted before, I built strong relationships that lasted a long time, many still going strong.

I never wanted to compete with AICN. I never wanted to compete with Wells. I didn’t want to compete with Nikki back in her day. I don’t want to compete with what the trades have become. I have sought out relationships that would allow me to do the work I want to do within other organizations, but time after time, they have been felled by a bad fit or someone whose feelings I hurt long ago or the basic fact that almost no one really knows what they want in this topsy-turvy media world. (I will give Jay Penske big ups on that count… he knows what he wants and is undeterred by realities good or bad.)

What do I want?

I want to keep loving movies. I want to support movies I love. I want to support great filmmakers. And I want to use the experience and knowledge and simple brain power every day that I can in my life.

I want to work hand-in-fist with the executives who I have known and respected for years and for those I do not yet know, finally free to help me get down to the absolute truths of situations glorious and grotesque in order to help them be even better at what they do.

The world is not just made up of movies and filmmakers that I love. I am excited by the idea of solving the puzzle of movies and people that are part of the commerce of movies too. I want to help companies whose work I don’t like figure out how to get people like me to love their work. I want to get down into the blueprints and process documents and find an answer that someone else might not. I want to argue both sides.

Of course, there is a list of things I will not do. I am not interested in being a part of anything that I consider to be intentionally damaging. I would not participate, for example, in hiding sexism or racism or indifference to those things. But I would be happy to help build roads to correcting those issues that are not as scary as that transition can sometimes be for the old fashioned. I will always be a voice for transparency. But that doesn’t mean I don’t believe that everyone deserves a legitimate degree of privacy.

I have come to know, in my heart, that in order to improve things in this moment in time, I need to go into every situation without being a threat (accurately or not) to expose the truths to which I am allowed special access. I need to be able to make the argument to do the right thing – when that is the issue – without the freedom to win points with an audience when my best efforts are rebuffed. That is the nature of this beast.

To do this, I need to end my public-facing life and take it all private. I need to work for the other team, if they will have me.

It’s a new life.

I’m 53 years old. And it’s time for the next act.

I will keep doing DP/30 for as long as I can, as I don’t see it as a conflict with anyone. If a client wants one, they can probably get one. I love doing them. And I think they bring value to the audience.

I don’t know what the immediate future will bring for Movie City News. Laura Rooney and I gave birth to this thing almost 16 years ago. Ray Pride has been my editorial partner for years. It is still a viable business and website, but the right circumstance to move it forward has not shown itself.

But I need to start signing NDAs and doing the work I hope will take me to a very late retirement. I am raring to go.

This means that I cannot ask you, as readers, to trust that you are getting my full-throated opinion and that I am not showing bias for a client or friend. And I have always been 100% clear that I could never sleep at night mixing and matching my reality for people who trust me to be honest. But it is hard, so hard, to say “goodbye.”

It’s been an honor. I thank you for your attention and from many of you, your participation.

I don’t think this will be the last Hot Blog entry… but I needed to say it out loud.

And away we go….

Weekend Estimates by Mr. Credible

Sunday, June 17th, 2018

Weekend Estimates 2018-06-17 at 10.02.09 AM

Fourth time there have been 3 $150 million openings in a year. (150 is the new 100.)

About to be a record-breaking 4 $150m openings in a year… and all before July 1.

I don’t actually expect a 5th, given the poor opening of Solo and the lack of a Star Wars film over Christmas. However, we will tie the record for $100 million openings before July 1 with 5 next weekend. And I see 4 potential additions to that during the rest of the summer and 4 more in the fall/winter. Obviously, not even half of those 8 will make the mark. But the annual record is 8 and that is well within reach.

Theatrical is dying. Kids don’t go to the movies. Etc, etc, etc… blah, blah, blah…

I can’t say this enough times – and you won’t hear me say it many more times in public – the future is coming… subscription access to virtually everything is coming… and theatrical window will, above all, be the way success is defined in the future of movies. Streaming services, of which you will subscribe to a group, not unlike the cable bundle, will tout their successes and numbers only to keep subscribers from churning. Someone will try to charge a premium for early access in 2021 and the experiment will fail. There will be no YouTube Red in the future, but people will pay for subscriptions to get YouTube access overall… and life will go on. If you want it, you will pay for it in some manner.

And the only way to pay for Avengers movies and Pixar movies, etc, as we know them now, will be theatrical. Eyeballs will be cheap. Dollars will be – as they really are now, though people are all in a tizzy – the way things are measured. And the difference between a movie that premieres on Disney Family Streaming and a Pixar movie will be the billion dollars that the Pixar movie adds to Disney’s coffers. And don’t think that money is minor. Figure 100 million households in America paying $10 a month for Disney Family… that’s $12 billion a year. One movie improving revenues by 8.5% is major. And if you think Comcast is leaving behind the $370 million for Fifty Shades Freed‘s spin-off stepchild, you are wrong.

We are all too distracted by the shiniest, most expensive objects. The giant movies are great and highly profitable in all windows. But the middle business is business too. And when the film/tv business gets capped – nearly permanently – by what is currently being touted as the disruption of streaming, it will matter even more. For a lot of companies, a $24 billion cap on annual revenues across 200 million paying households worldwide is a step up. But when there is nowhere to go from there, they will all chafe.

The Incredibles 2 not only broke the record for an animation opening… it smashed it by $45 million.

Decent hold for Ocean’s 8, following a decent opening. A successful movie, even though it is not very good. As I have said a thousand times, succeeding with mediocrity is the real test of growing opportunity in Hollywood for women and POC. (By the way, I expect “POC” will be seen as a glib diminutive sometime in the next couple years.)

Tag is not It. But it felt somehow appropriate that a mediocre movie that is so Toby Emmerich, sold with such mediocrity, opened on WarnerMedia’s opening weekend to such a mediocre number. I know that the people employed by Warner Bros are capable of better on every level. But if you look hard at the last couple of years, there have been some very beautiful weeds, but the garden is pretty lame. How much will change how quickly at the studio that seems on a collision course with a Best Picture win and a surprise smash with Crazy Rich Asians to compliment a run of mediocrity or outright flops. (I so want to believe in The Meg.)

And Gotti goes into the potty. Though, I have to say, $1.7 million for what looks like an endless disaster is a tribute to Travolta working the movie. And some loonies will attribute it to MoviePass’ involvement… which will be deeply misguided.

(More to come…)

Friday Estimates

Saturday, June 16th, 2018

Screen Shot 2018-06-16 at 4.01.12 PM

Hot Button Rules of Thumb (first published in 2006)

Monday, June 11th, 2018

Top 10 Hot Button Rules of Thumb

I just ran into this list, posted somewhere 8 years ago.

There is really only one specific change. In item #2, the DVD market has changed and international has become a much more significant force. I would still say that $150m domestic is still not a blockbuster, but often the start of a road to more than $300 million in returns to the distributor and/or funders. These days, a blockbuster starts anywhere between $200m – $250 domestic, depending on expected international results. There were 11 films over $200m domestic in 2012 and 13 in 2013. And in most cases, production costs of the films in that range have gone up substantially as well.

TOP TEN HOT BUTTON RULES OF THUMB

1. Great Media Outlets’ Standards Are Less Stringent When The Subject Is Entertainment And That Sucks.

2. $150 Million Is No Longer A Blockbuster In Theatrical… But Right Now Represents The Start Of A Road To More Than $200 Million In Returns to The Studio In Most Cases Thanks To The New DVD Market And Expanded International Theatrical Market.

3. Successful Movie Advertising Sells One Idea At A Time… And There Actually Has To Be An Idea Worth Selling.

4. The Story Of The Moment Is Almost Never The Real Story.

5. There Are Very Few Journalists In Entertainment Journalism.

6. Talent Is Your Friend Until It’s Time For Talent Not To Be Your Friend.

7. Reviewing Scripts Or Test Screenings Is Selfish And Immoral… You Do Not Know What Effect Sticking Your Nose Into Process Will Have And More Often Than Not It Is Negative.

8. Opening Weekend Is Never About The Quality Of The Movie.

9. There Are Things I Know And Things I Don’t Know And Sometimes They Change.

10. Love What You Do And Do What You Love Or Get The Fuck Out.

Top 10 News Stories – Hot Button, Dec 2017

Monday, June 11th, 2018

Top Ten Movie News Stories of 1997

There was lots of movie news this year, but not much that will be remembered. Here are the 10, in inverse order, that I think will be.
10. Death — Death is always a major story. There were some big ones this year (in alphabetical order): Chris Farley, Samuel Fuller, Burgess Meredith, Robert Mitchum, Dawn Steel, Jimmy Stewart and Fred Zinnemann. And my father, Sidney. You’ll always be with us, whatever the format.

9. DreamWorks starts releasing movies — Spielberg, Katzenberg and Geffen cut the red tape and the result was The Peacemaker, Amistad and Mouse Hunt. Tough out there, huh boys?

8. Star Wars — The 20th anniversary release proved that the franchise is still the biggest with over $250 million for the trio in North America alone. Now Fox has the inside track on the prequel, due Memorial Day weekend, 1999. And though it’s a sure bet to gross well over $500 million, that’s nothing compared to the billions in merchandising. Start lining up now.

7. Disney vs. Fox’s Anastasia — Fox was the home of paranoia as Disney released the same seven-year-old re-release that they do in early November and the same new film that they do every Thanksgiving. With Anastasia doing just $50 million domestic, who won the war? Sony’s I Know What You Did Last Summer, which dominated the pre-Thanksgiving fall by giving audiences what they wanted instead of trying to fight an entrenched franchise.

6. The Return of Julia – Bankable women movie stars are almost as rare as producers who can balance their own checkbooks. The return of the redheaded, smiling, big-opening Julia Roberts in My Best Friend’s Wedding is a triumph for the entire industry. You can never have enough major movie stars. Just don’t greenlight Mary Reilly 2 by mistake.

5. Black filmmakers — As the studios were getting out of the business of making relationship films with major white stars, young black filmmakers were filling the void. Ted Witcher‘s love jones, Kasi Lemmons’ Eve’s Bayou and George Tillman Jr.‘s Soul Food all made their mark at the box office with strong stories and compelling characters. Meanwhile, Set It Off director Gary Gray got a greenlight for The Negotiator, the first film ever directed by a black director with a budget over $40 million. It’s about time.

4. Titanic — The saga of the budget. The PCP-laced seafood chowder. The delay from the July release date. The bad press. The reports of a $300 million budget. Entertainment Weekly’s generous rewriting of history, reducing the film to an almost palatable $200 million. The mob at the Japanese opening. The success. What a story! And the eight or so Academy Award nods ain’t gonna hurt either.

3. Studios rebound critically/Indies subside — Last year, the Academy Awards were so independent that even the media couldn’t tell the nominated stars from their publicists. This year, the studios are back. Miramax will be pushing Good Will Hunting, but aside from that, expect a studio landslide of nominations. What happened? Better movies overall. And the more good movies, the more likely that the ones form the major studios will be recognized.

2. Warner Bros. in flux — After being the most stable studio in town for years, the WB has suddenly become The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight. Batman and Robin, Fathers Day, Mad City and Steel all made my Ten Worst list (coming this weekend). And L.A. Confidential, the favorite for the Best Picture Oscar, underperformed badly. So who got fired? Marketing President Chris Pula, perhaps the savvyest guy around. Another dead messenger. Another screwed up studio.

1. Sony Succeeds — This was the biggest surprise of them all. Hit after hit after hit came from the failed tenure of former film chief Mark Canton. A record breaking $1.25 billion year with more than 20 percent of the domestic going into Sony pockets. And Godzilla is still awaiting its Memorial Day 1998 monster release. Last month, new movie chief John Calley announced a load of projects poised to get rolling, amongst the very first of his tenure. We’ll know if they worked sometime in 1999. Meanwhile, where’s Mark Canton? Heading back to the Warner Bros. fold. It’s a small world after all.

My First Online Column. June 6, 1997

Monday, June 11th, 2018

take one


 

Whole Picture

Chapter One: The Truth
“YOU WANT THE TRUTH?! YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!!!” — Jack Nicholson, A Few Good Men

Jack Nicholas So, you want to know how show business really works? OK. Let’s start at the beginning. Attributing the quotation above to Jack Nicholson is a little like crediting your 6-year-old nephew with coming up with “Allllll- righty then!!!”

Jack Nicholson is an actor. A great actor. And the magic that he does, in cahoots with a whole lot of help, is to make you feel that he was really upset and reacted to Tom Cruise. But he didn’t. Not really.

Demi Moore See, Aaron Sorkin wrote a play that ran on Broadway and probably a dozen guys said those words eight times a week in various productions, but Rob Reiner went to the theater one night and liked what he saw, so he and his partners at Castle Rock, who had a lot of cash lying around from Japanese businessmen (see: Sony), who knew virtually nothing about how to make movies (see: Peter Guber/Jon Peters), bought the feature rights to the film and Reiner, who decided to direct Sorkin’s screenplay based on his play, talked Cruise into being in the movie, which led, in part, to Demi Moore and Nicholson joining the cast and then, one day, 80-odd people got together in a giant empty sound-proofed box (a soundstage) in Los Angeles that had a set in it designed to look like a real military court in Washington, D.C., and after they did a master shot (generally, all the actors doing the entire scene from start to end), Tom did his close-ups and then Jack did his close-ups and on some take, Nicholson said those words and the performance was great and the sound was good and there was no dirt in the gate (like hair in the projector at the movies) and Reiner said, “Print,” and the lab didn’t screw it up and the editors (Academy Award nominees Robert Leighton and Steve Nevius chose the close-up and spliced it together and every one of about a dozen people agreed that it worked and the composer (Marc Shaiman) created the mood music and the film was test-screened and audiences went wild when Nicholson went off and they used it to sell the hell out of the movie, which led you into a movie theater where you bought popcorn and Coca-Cola products and generated enough profit to convince Ted Turner to buy Castle Rock.

Run-on sentence, you say? Artistic license, I say.

And besides, you’re missing the point. THAT was the shortened version of how Jack ended up arching his brows and making your heart beat faster. I didn’t mention the screenplay development, the casting of secondary roles, the pre-production, the lighting, the electrics, the costumes, Demi Moore‘s bust in that uniform, the publicists, the caterers, the foley artists, the trailer producers and hundreds of other steps that help make magic.

John Cusack Magic. That word. Sleight of hand. Illusion. It’s the little things that you barely notice. Hair that doesn’t move in a stiff wind. Characters who never pass wind. Wind that blows at the moment the lovers part. It’s perfect skin and Joe Pesci‘s hairline. It’s perfect teeth and airbrushing so heavy that actors are unrecognizable (Minnie Driver and John Cusack are great-looking people, but who are those people in the Grosse Pointe Blank ads?). It’s photographing an actress only from the left side because she’s more Wicked Witch than Dorothy from the right. It’s Dennis Quaid‘s voice in Dragonheart … OK, that wasn’t so magical. But you get the point.

It’s also Tom Cruise.

Tom Cruise Absolute magic, that guy. Most of you will go to the movies to see him no matter what the movie is. That’s why he’s worth $20 million a picture to nervous studio chieftains. Because almost every time out, 3 or 4 million of you will pay for tickets the first weekend his movie opens. That’s movie magic. But what the hell do you really know about Tom Cruise? Almost nothing. He has charisma. He makes good choices about who he works with. Just look at his last dozen directors — Cameron Crowe (Jerry Maguire), Brian DePalma (Mission: Impossible), Neil Jordan (Interview With A Vampire, The Crying Game), Sydney Pollack (The Firm, Tootsie), Ron Howard (Far and Away, Apollo 13), Rob Reiner (A Few Good Men, When Harry Met Sally), Tony Scott (Days of Thunder, Crimson Tide), Oliver Stone (Born on the Fourth of July), Barry Levinson (Rain Man, Diner), Martin Scorsese (The Color of Money, GoodFellas) and, most recently, the Howard Hughes of directors, Stanley Kubrick (Eyes Wide Shut, 2001:A Space Odyssey). Only three of the dozen haven’t been Academy Award or Golden Globe nominees, and those three directed Cruise in mega- hits Mission: Impossible, Top Gun and Cocktail. Magic.

Tom Cruise Cruise also has the most powerful publicist in Hollywood by his side, Pat Kingsley of PMK. Bad buzz about homosexuality, Scientology, marital problems and “the squeaky voice machine” (A Scientology invention to make Tom’s voice more mellifluous, reportedly added to the equipment list of Far And Away) have all melted into the background as true-life tales of Tom saving lives, Tom defending Nicole and Tom winning a Golden Globe have taken center stage, no matter what the vultures of the press (me included) might prefer (it makes our job so much easier). Magic. Almost enough to make Tom … well … tall.

The truth is made of A-cup breasts and 3 feet of duct tape. It’s 49 years old and dates 23-year-olds. It can’t eat dairy and it’s two months late on its BMW lease payments. The truth was a high-priced call girl before she started playing virgins in the movies and became your bedroom fantasy for seven bucks a crack instead of $300. Like the old joke: A man asks a woman to sleep with him for $1 million and she says “yes.” Then he says, “Well how about for $5?” Offended, she says, “What do you think I am?” He responds, “I know what you are. We’re just negotiating the price.”

So now the real question: Can you handle the truth? If you can, I’ll write it for you, as best as I can, every week, right here. You want to know how the studio system really works? I’ll tell you. How is advertising designed to trick you into going to bad movies? I’ll tell you. How does Oprah‘s weight get the cover of the tabloids and a gay TV actress get the cover of Time? If you believe the tabloids got scooped, go to another site now. If you know better and want to know more, stick around. Hang with me and I’ll give you The Whole Picture. Bookmark it, baby! Questions? E-mail me, and I’ll do my best. But first, some answers: 1. Yes, they’re implants. 2. No, you can’t get paid for that, unless you can figure out how to light it. 3. Maybe, but I’ll need blood work results first.

 

Weekend Estimates by Sex Flip Klady

Sunday, June 10th, 2018

Weekend Estimates 2018-06-10 at 10.48.02 AM copy

Hard to really analyze the Ocean’s Eight opening. It feels… about right.

It’s not explosive. It’s not a step backwards for a franchise idea. It will be profitable, but insignificant financially. The “empowered” movie of the summer still looks to be Crazy Rich Asians, which WB tagged to Ocean’s “prints.”

If Sandra Bullock is as smart as she has been, she will take this franchise by the horns and find a young, clever screenwriter or screenwriters to write a movie worth making with this remarkable group of actresses. Or get some old hands in there who know their way around this kind of material. Talk Edgar Wright, who loves women and loves a good puzzle, into doing it. Or get Amy Seimetz to direct a script from Glazer and Jacobson and Ed Solomon. Bullock made a not-so-great film with David Gordon Green… but go get David and the people he works with to make something more indie. Or Richard Linklater. Write something that Chivo would consider directing (but pass on, because he is Chivo) and then get a great DoP who isn’t Chivo (maybe Peter Andrews?). Maybe get serious about the difference between a 50-year-old woman and a 25-year-old woman… which would give the movie something more interesting than just another heist. Just whatever you do, don’t make another mediocrity… because Ocean’s 8 is one and it is mostly on the script, which has nothing to say except “take this ride you are so familiar with you could call every beat out and get 85% of it right.” Y’all gathered one of the groups of actresses ever assembled for a movie and didn’t give them anything much to do when all the audience wants to do is to love them. Frustrating.

Solo dropped, in its third weekend, pretty much like Deadpool 2. Nothing extraordinary there. But the soft start makes that normal trajectory an ongoing disappointment. That should put Solo around $190m at this time next weekend and past $200m domestic. But not by a lot.

Meanwhile, Deadpool 2 is on track to pass $300m domestic and around $700m worldwide. The film’s budget roughly doubled the original’s… but they could have spent more and didn’t… which is a huge win.

Hereditary is easily A24’s biggest opening ever (by 48% over The Witch) and once again shows the upside of publicity-centric, targeted, relatively inexpensive marketing. The story for this film will get more interesting, as it is more accessible to wider swaths of the potential audience than was The Witch, which did about 3x opening. Lady Bird is A24’s #1 domestic hit, with $49 million. Can Hereditary threaten that? It would be unusual for a horror film and the summer is getting to its strongest run of films now, but… who knows?

Hotel Artemis wanted to rely on the John Wick audience to make the connection… which doesn’t actually exist. Drew Pearce, who wrote-produced-directed, is hot in Hollywood. But less so today than last Sunday. He assembled a remarkable cast… but whether it is the fault of the movie (haven’t seen it) or just the marketing, no one seems to have known or cared.

Adults are clearly hungry for something worth seeing, with strong numbers for RBG, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, Hearts Beat Loud and the re-release of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Meanwhile, quickly fading MoviePass had its second weekend and first expansion for American Animals, which will have to stretch to get close to $1.5 million domestic, in spite of MoviePass pumping it hard to its membership of (allegedly) 3 million. To be fair, it’s in the same space as The Orchard releases The Dinner and The Overnight. Does this suggest that MoviePass has a future in distributing movies? No. The Orchard curates an interesting set of films and relies heavily on VOD and streaming sales to profit. MoviePass is a company built on the idea of theatrical. And the stock, which peaked at $38.86 in October is now selling for 35 cents a share. So….

Weekend Estimates 060318

Sunday, June 3rd, 2018

Weekend Est 2018-06-03 at 3.47.45 PM

Keeping it to myself…

Friday Estimates by Still Solo Despite The Media Han On Its Head Shoving Down

Saturday, June 2nd, 2018

friday estimates 051218

Deadpool 2‘s second Friday off 77% from its f1rst Friday
Avengers: Infinity War off 70%.
Guardians 2 off 70%.
Spider-Man: Homecoming off 73%.
Pirates last Memorial Day off 73%.
X-Men: Apocalypse the Memorial Day opener in 2016, off 75%.

Solo off 77%… THE SKY IS FALLING!!!!

Tthis is an annual occurrence. Every summer, in the last couple decades, there has been a summer movie or two that has gotten overpraised and anointed falsely and a movie or two that has gotten slaughtered by the media for no apparent objective reason. It’s never the movies that are truly the most loved or the most disliked. It’s usually the step down in both categories.

I would love to tell you that there is now a formula for killing a franchise. But no. Look to the more traditional answers on Solo and you will find the much more likely culprit(s).

The Marvel, Zach Snyder DC films, and X-Men films are instructive… because you can’t build a consistent trend line on them. There are some simple consistencies, but they all get crushed by reality in various ways. For instance, the standalone Wolverine movies undergrossed the X-Men films… until Logan outgrossed X-Men: Apocalypse. Or Wonder Woman nearly doubled the domestic gross of Justice League. Or Black Panther, the fourth Marvel movie in less than a year, almost doubled the domestic gross of any of the other three and then Avengers: Infinity War did similar business just 2 months later.

Just because you don’t understand what happened doesn’t make it magic.

I am not suggesting that there are easy answers. Except for this one: look at the movie and how it was sold. And look at the movie and what story LucasFilm decided to make and whether it had any real connective tissue to the trilogies from which it was spun.

Deadpool 2 is not going to do Deadpool business. However, it will be an R-rated comic book movie that does $600 million worldwide. Fox marketed the crap out of it and it probably niche’d itself a little more and suffered the tyranny of the not new. Deal.

Adrift will be well into the top half of STX openings. Could it have been more? Probably. But Woodley seemed someone M.I.A. in the process of pushing the film and the quirks of the movie kept STX from going, as it probably should have anyway, the full “this is woman, hear her roar” on the marketing. Here’s a hint… men were never going to go.

The disaster of the summer to date, for me, is the sub-$3 million opening of Action Point. How do you kill a Johnny Knoxville movie about, essentially, Camp Jackass? Paramount found a way. I will pay to see this movie, because even though I find the “smash Johnny in the balls” thing obnoxiously childish, the movies have always made me laugh. They are low-rent crap and they know it and they don’t care because they are honest and having fun being idiot boys. And it may be the worst of all the Jackass-y movies… doesn’t mean that you need to signal it to the audience with bull fight marketing. There are 23 Rotten Tomato reviews of the major studio release on 1,682 screens… 57 for American Animals… 31 for Breath, which as best I can tell is only playing at the Angelika in NY. Someone chose not to do their job here.

Speaking of American Animals, nice number per screen. Should be a $25k per screen for the weekend on four, around $110k for the weekend (aka 10,000 people seeing the film). For MoviePass, which was hoping to spark off of this film which they bought partial rights to, the gross is unhelpful and even if every one of the ticket buyers was inspired to see the film and pay by MoviePass, that’s less than half a percent of MoviePass subscribers seeing the film and the loss on every ticket almost equal to the film rental being paid back to to the company as an owner. They were always going to lose money on this title, but the low tipping point where this adventure might have gotten interesting for the investors/stock market was somewhere around a $2.5 million gross (10% of subs)… but really $5 million for it to be at all impressive, representing 20% of subs (assuming 100% of viewers are MoviePass subs) being driven to a movie because of being a MoviePass subscriber.

4-Day Estimates

Monday, May 28th, 2018

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Weekend Estimates by Underwhelmed But Unhysterical

Sunday, May 27th, 2018

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The vortex of Solo box office disappointment is hard to escape. Many of the theories being floated are surely true… but not in all-caps. As with so much these days, every fact is an excuse to spin one’s broader, and often irrelevant belief into a bigger picture.

My sense is that theatrical is not only healthy, but an increasingly critical piece of the financial puzzle for studios as we move into a post-theatrical world of endless content available on demand at all times for relatively small amounts of money via subscription (which will just be an expansive version of cable when we look back at it in 2030.)

Others—most media—are committed to the theatrical sky falling because of the tyranny of The New. So take it all in with thought and perspective.

I was right there at the beginning, going at the inevitability of Disney screwing up the Star Wars brand with too many films and not enough invention. So I should be celebrating the non-$100m opening. I am still vocal about the mistake they made firing Lord & Miller. I should be jumping on Solo’s grave. But I am not doing either. Because doing so is stupid and thoughtless.

Deadpool 2 is over $200m domestic in 10 days and about 15% behind the original phenom. Boo-hoo. They will only make a fortune instead of a fortune and a bit. Losers!

Maybe the media was too busy celebrating Netflix being overvalued to the point of insanity, carrying hhree years worth of gross earnings in debt, but still positioned by Wall Street to be the AOL of the era.

And again… I love Netflix. They are very, very smart. The value is glorious. They have been a force that benefits consumers from the start, whatever the actual disposition of Netflix. But the stock valuation is insane. And that is dangerous because at some point, it will cost a lot of jobs, likely starting with Fox.

Happy Memorial Day!

Friday Estimates by So Low Klady

Saturday, May 26th, 2018

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So yeah… not the expected number for Solo.

What does it mean?  It means you can’t let the brand sell itself.

The reaction from veteran marketers is fearful, but you that doesn’t really account for the fact that brands are being sold in much greater quantity, at a much greater pace, than ever before.

And people have short memories.

Remember when DreamWorks Animation went to three films a year? It lasted one year. Ancient history? 2014.

And you have to wonder, why would Disney break their own rhythm by putting a Star Wars film in summer and none at Christmas until 2019?

With this question, the question about Solo… why did Kathy Kennedy take the idea of breaking from the trilogies as well as scuttle it by firing the filmmakers who were hired to break from tradition? Will she ever admit that this was a mistake? Because what she got was neither fish nor fowl… and it shows in every bit of marketing.

The greatest irony is that Disney is the home of Marvel, where this code has been cracked to greater success than anywhere else. The lesson in how well Thor built to Infinity War and how Ant-Man and Doctor Strange were pure standalones that brought their own value before the characters were integrated into the bigger structure is very significant.

When I see a Larry Kasdan interview taking about Solo being off the traditional Star Wars timeline, first I say, “bullshit.” Then I ask, “If it’s off the timeline, how come it’s so boring?”

Rogue One should have been be,used as a one-off, but instead, LucasFilm took a terrible lesson from it.

(Spoilers for Solo coming!!!)

You don’t have to kill off everyone who doesn’t land in the trilogy timeline!!! The gag works once. Then move along!

Spoilers Over

If they wanted to do Young Han Solo, we should have seen the relationship whe these two were kids. If you wanted to make what the audience wanted, where were Jabba and Boba Fett?

Solo is no disaster, artistically or commercially. But it is an example of fear-based filmmaking at the highest level. And those wrong choices have met strong (come on, people… don’t lose your mind over expectations), but underwhelming box office.

And Deadpool 2, which was 100% committed to its foundation, should have moved up a week when Avengers did. Solo is making this weekend sad.

Weekend Estimates by Deadklad 2

Sunday, May 20th, 2018

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Deadpool 2 is the biggest not-first-weekend-of-May May opening. Ever.

The previous top in this category was Shrek 3, which was part of the Triple Trilogy summer of 2007, which also owns the Memorial Day record with Pirates 3 at $115 million, which gives Solo a target for next weekend.

That summer, 11 years ago, inspired a lot of the Chicken Little-ing we’re getting about theatrical these days. It turned out that 2007 was the first $4 billion summer, which has led to $4 billion every summer since (except last summer). Similarly, 2007 came the year after 2006 failed to match the then all-time high summer of 2004… thus, the falling sky.

And even if Solo is soft next weekend, it will surely best $100m, making this only the second summer in history to have three $100m+ openings by the end of May. (Yes, I am counting Avengers.)

But keep obsessing on Netflix’s claim of 80 “movies” this year. That must be the important story in film this year. Now quick… name a Netflix movie that came out this year.

Did it take you 5 seconds? 10 seconds? Have you come up with a title?

I love Netflix. I am happy they are spending. I am glad to watch their films. But they are not important to the current or future theatrical business at this time. They have raised some of the prices for films at festivals, which makes festival buying less attractive for indies, but that’s a blip. Five years ago, there were other market forces. Remember, Hamlet 2 happened without streaming.

Anyway… Deadpool 2 is fine. Paramount has to be underwhelmed by Book Club’s launch. I think it and Life of the Party suffered from being back-to-back and seeming so niched as being about older women getting their grooves back. Both needed another marketing gear. And nice per-screen on 4 for First Reformed.

Friday Estimates by The Royal Wedded Klady

Saturday, May 19th, 2018

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BYOB: Solo Spoiler

Thursday, May 17th, 2018

byob solo spoilers 651

BYOB: Solo Non-Spoiler

Thursday, May 17th, 2018

byob solo 651

Weekend Estimates by 3-Weekend Klady

Sunday, May 13th, 2018

Weekend Estimates 2018-05-13 at 11.48.57 AM

I still don’t have much to say about the weekend.

Avengers: Infinity War is a big, fat hit… as it must be.

Opening the second weekend of May is, as it has long been, fraught. Last year, it was $19.5m and $15.4m million for Snatched and King Arthur, respectively… almost exactly what the 2 new wide openers launched to this weekend.

There have been bigger openings in this slot. Neighbors opened to $49 million. The Great Gatsby opened to $50 million. Dark Shadows to $30 million. Bridesmaids to $26m. Robin Hood to $36m. And the first Star Trek reboot opened to $75 million a decade ago.

Who knew, when Tammy got slapped for opening to $21.6 million in the summer of 2014, that it would be on the high end of WB comedy opens from then on. Only Get Hard and Central Intelligence, out of 19 comedy releases by WB since Tammy, opened better. Those films were 3 and 2 years ago. And specifically, Life of the Party is the best WB comedy opening since Central Intelligence since June 2016.

None of this makes this opening look heroic. But context matters. And somehow, one gets the feeling that this same film opened by Universal would have launched in the high 20s. WB still opens certain films well. But comedy is hit or miss.

Warners has opened 23 movies to $30 million or more in the last 4 years (out of 92 total releases). The 3 Conjuring Universe movies were the cheapest. As mentioned before, 2 comedies. 5 were DC movies. 8 were reboots or existing franchise sequels (It, Godzilla, Kong, Hobbit, Fantastic Beasts, Mad Max, Tarzan, Blade Runner) 2 were The Rock (San Andreas/Rampage). Plus The Veteran 3: Sully, Ready Player One, and Dunkirk.

This is out of 92 WB releases in these last 4 years. For perspective, Universal has has 25 $30m launches out of 69 total releases in the same 4 years. Fox hit $30m opens on 22 of 63 releases. Sony has gone 11 of 81 in the last 4 years, which is the real reason Amy Pascal lost her job, no matter how many stolen e-mails Ben Fritz wants to analyze. (If you think I am blaming Ms. Pascal for what Tom Rothman has done, she was 6 of 34 in this category when you go back another 2 years, to 2012. So, Summer 2014 – 2018, 14%. 2012 – 2014, 18%. And now that you are playing with that stat, the Summer 2014 – Summer 2018 stat for WB is 25% and U is 36%. Of course, Disney is at a stoopid 64%. And Paramount comes in at a round 20%.)

The opening, in context, for Life of the Party is okay. McCarthy/Falcone is, when budget is in check, still a good bet. If I were them, I would set a deal at one studio where they feel great about a specific marketer who gets them and give up a few bucks to make a permanent home work. Their next film together is scheduled for WB in late 2019. The entire studio may be flipped by then.

Breaking In is from Universal’s new second favorite producer, Will Packer, who delivered this on a #1 Son (Blumhouse) budget. As such, good opening. Packer flipped between thrillers and comedies for Sony/Screen Gems for years. This was a start on the Universal future. Not the brightest launch… but okay. The studio has two films a year with him for the next while.

Holds, overall, were good. RBG expanded from 34 theaters to 180 and did $6,060 per screen and $1.1 million for the weekend. The per-screen king of indie was Magnolia’s brilliant doc, Sara Driver’s Boom for Real, charting the rise of Basquiat with great footage from the era and real insight not only in the artist, but the New York art scene of the 80s. It’s only on 1 screen and that would be in downtown New York City. So this makes sense. But the movie is a treat for anyone interested in the last great art scene.

Close by is Roadside’s Beast, a modern, non-singing version of the classic Beauty tale. Right on its per-screen heels is a period location-heavy version of The Seqgull, starring Saoirse Ronan and Annette Bening, which by some count would be a better opening, given that it is on 50% more screens (even if that’s just two in this case).

Friday Estimates by Klady of the Party

Saturday, May 12th, 2018

Friday Estimates 2018-05-12 at 10.27.37 AM

Not a lot to say… and my wife has us going on a long drive to see family in a few minutes…

Anyone sad that Avengers: Infinity War got to $500m domestic faster than Black Panther is, well, an idiot.

The Black Panther number is more impressive and will remain so no matter what any Avengers movies do. I don’t think it proved anything about people seeing movies starring and directed by people of color; I never believed this was an issue anyway. But the whole media narrative about young people (who tend to consider color an issue a lot less than we old folks) not going to see movies and white people not seeing people of color in movies and international being more racist than America at the box office—and still is, though year by year will become less so—turns a true phenom of a movie into a simplified talking point.

Meanwhile, we are waiting for a “woman with a gun and a R rating” movie to become a big hit. (I wouldn’t be surprised if Jennifer Garner’s film blows up). None of this means that I don’t think people of color and women get the shitty end of the Hollywood lollipop, yesterday, today and tomorrows to come. When big object lessons come, the way to progress is to use them to make small objects move in an aggressive way, because all hype shall pass. That, and enjoy the wins fully and don’t get tied to the parts on which you don’t have a factual handle.

Moonlight‘s $37 million international is as big a milestone as Black Panther… probably bigger. The people who move the bar are the people who just do their work. And if Barry Jenkins and Jordan Peele and Ryan Coogler take a commercial step backwards on their next films, celebrate that too… because that is what white men have done forever. And then wait for the film after that. Or the one after that. And embrace and support the success of that work because it will come because of their skills and hard work, not because of or in spite of the color of their skin. And also support choices like Coogler handing Creed 2 to another generation of filmmakers of color. Success begets success. Celebrate opportunity, not just the best results.

In counterprogramming, Melissa McCarthy should not be in the second weekend of May. Bad date. Life of the Party isn’t Bridesmaids and WB doesn’t open comedies the way Universal does. WB opens many successfully… just differently. And a big-head-poster kind of movie needs more space that this. Still, Melissa is a 3.5x – 4x opening kind of star, so WB may survive the misstep.

Breaking In is the kind of movie that makes many people wonder where the ads were. I’m sure Universal worked the traditional windows. But the studio has also not opened a black-facing “Screen Gems” movie in a long time. And this one is under-opening that market by a bit. Unlike Melissa McCarthy comedies, the vast majority of films like this, thrillers that market to the audience of color above all else, don’t tend to have long legs. Universal has had enormous success with the Blumhouse movies, which often lean into race… but ultimately, they are more horror than thriller (even the thrillers, like The Purge series). And one wonders if there was more left to be mined, in this case, in the Gabrielle Union lean towards women than the market of color. It also sucked for this film that Melissa McCarthy was also on the date because women who might well have tried this film out this weekend are off laughing with McCarthy.

Movie marketing is a broad science… and a narrow art form. Still fascinating after all these years. And never forget – all together, folks – opening weekend has nothing to do with the movie. It’s all about the marketing and publicity in 95% of cases. It’s not about what you sell, it’s about how you sell it. It will be about the movie itself soon enough.

Weekend Estimates by OverKlady

Sunday, May 6th, 2018

Weekend Estimates 2018-05-06 at 11.04.36 AM

What can one say?

Avengers: Infinity War isn’t the biggest anything.

The media has become sick with its endless need for everything to be a horse race. Ten days into its run, Infinity War is the fifteenth highest grossing film ever, both domestically and worldwide. It’s a massive success, supported by many other massive successes. We are now in the stage of the film’s theatrical life that will be driven by consumer word-of-mouth and as the best of the three or four Avengers films (I count Civil War), it should be strong for at least the next month.

Another sickness is “reporting” on box office from the perspective of an inflexible agenda.

Have you read any stories about how IP has taken over Hollywood? (Rhetorical question… these stories are unavoidable and relentless.)

And have you read any stories this year about the uptick in successful originals? No?!?! Really?!?! Surprise.

Analysis of this gets sticky. But if one is to be fair, the changes are obvious. (I hate year-vs-year comparisons seeking to make broad comments about how the industry is changing. Four years is about the minimum for me. But I am speaking to how media is covering all this and it is, at its conceptual core, stupid.)

These stats are all based on the year to May 5 and with domestic grosses over $40 million.

2017 Sequels – 9
2018 Sequels – 5

2017 Non-Sequel IP Films (inc Blumhouse & Tyler Perry) – 5
2018 Non-Sequel IP Films – 6

2017 Originals (inc Blumhouse/TP) – 5
2018 Originals – 9

2017 Productions Over $100m – 10
2018 Productions Over $100m – 6 (with Tomb Raider claiming under… make it 7 if you don’t buy that)

2017 Gross As Of May 5 (roughly) – $2.45b
2018 Gross As Of May 5 – $2.54b

That’s about a 4% bump from this time last year. The overall year, according to Mojo, is 5.5%. So there must be some uptick below my $40m domestic Mendoza line as well.

So where are the news stories about how this year is kicking ass and doing it with fewer sequels and less IP? Brooks? Pam? Brent? Anthony? Ben?

There is a real chance that 2018 will be the first $12 billion year at the domestic box office.

How will the media explain that theatrical is dead at the end of this year?

Yes, the tide towards a majority of big films being all-IP, all-the-time is coming. It’s summer. This summer offers 12 sequels and 4 reboots/spin-offs/whatever, plus Teen Titans Go. But there are more than 22 (I don’t believe everything saying it will open wide will open) originals opening wide this summer.

The biggest titles are going to be the sequels. No question. But the majority – even in the summer – will be originals. And of those, only Skyscraper is a big-budget, franchise-launching effort.

Next weekend, two major studios release two non-IP movies wide, Breaking in and Life of the Party. Avengers will win for the third weekend in a row. But both newcomers should open in the 20s, based on the history of the talent. I understand that this isn’t what film writers are looking for… they want shiny objects that draw lazy “wow” hits. But these writers are creating a falsehood when they minimize mid-range movie success in favor of endless coverage of the mega-movies (rarely mentioning their mega-price tags) while claiming that there is no mid-range business anymore. Just because they refuse to cover the profitable middle does not mean that it doesn’t exist and that it is not a key part of the annual profitability of every studio except Disney.

And I will tell you what… when the Disney backlash comes – and it will – that will be bullshit too.

Theatrical is a mature business. It isn’t an ocean. It is a lake. Lakes have waves, too. But they tend to be a lot less volatile. And I know, volatile is where the fun is.

We are in stupid times.

Netflix’s market cap is $140 billion. Paramount (aka Viacom B) is $12.5 billion.

Objectively, in the long view, Paramount’s assets today are worth more than Netflix’s actual assets. But the stock market values Netflix at more than ten times what it values Paramount.

Why? Because Netflix has a stable revenue stream and the market fantasizes growth in the future. Paramount has been treading water as a studio for a decade-plus and has been unsuccessful in creating a path to its own future.

If you value a major studio’s library (inc Paramount TV. Nickelodeon, etc.) at $400 million a year for a streaming company to lease, Paramount’s current stock value is just over 30 years of leasing.

Why aren’t Netflix or Sony fighting to purchase bargain-basement Paramount before it reunites with CBS, where it will become viable competition? Because they are missing the value.

Netflix is not actually in the film business and reiterated this through its CEO this week, who signaled that they were getting out of the Cannes business forever. They don’t need Paramount. They don’t need the headache of owning and operating an actual movie studio. At least, they don’t need it right now. They are focused on creating their own content. And what no one wants to say out loud is that the further down that path they go, the more they are susceptible to the slings and arrows of every other content-driven business in the market… and the more easily the current library-heavy companies will be able to compete.

Sony? They want to sell their entertainment side and might be shy about potential regulatory limitations created by the gonzo Trump administration that would embarrass them and limit their ability to compete freely in the U.S. market.

By the way, the Fox film and TV market cap is half of Netflix’s. Insane. But Disney is not getting ripped off, buying most of Fox. This deal works for both sides (aside from the laid-off workers).

CBS/Paramount’s market cap will be in the low 30s when they are finally put back together. But I would expect Les Moonves to double that in less than five years by mining the value that exist, ignoring the ones that have lost their weight, and going hard after Netflix and DisneyOTT (and Hulu and Amazon) immediately. Moonves has already learned lessons from the mediocrity that CBS’s OTT is. He knows that you can’t sell people what they already have for free and ask for them to pay for it.

Theatrical is a healthy business that should be supported and upgraded wherever and whenever possible.

OTT is a business in its infancy and will be the norm for home entertainment for decades to come.

There is nothing incompatible about these ideas.

Everyone is obsessed by Disney, which has an amazing situation that no one can recreate.

But Universal is the studio that should be examined.

Universal has released 71 films in the last four years and all four of those years have been among the five most profitable years in the studio’s history.

Here is how the domestic grosses break down by category…

IP/Non-Animated Sequels (15) – $2.42 billion
Animation (4) – $1.2 billion
Horror (18) – $1.14 billion
Comedy (18) – $1.2 billion
Drama (16) – $680 million

So, the obvious questions:

1. Why doesn’t Universal make more animation when they can’t seem to miss?

Answer: Because the limited output has something to do with the success. Only 19 animated films have ever topped $260 million domestic. Universal’s last four Illumination films are four of them and Despicable 2 is their fifth. Pixar has seven. Disney has four. And DreamWorks has three. Universal acquired DreamWorks Animation (now, just “DreamWorks”) and so they have eight titles and Disney has 11.

History has shown that Pixar at one film a year is optimal. Same for every other animation studio. Expansion undeniably thins the quality of the output and in animation, which is the leggiest of the genres and thus, most reliant on word-of-mouth and repeat business, quality (as defined by the audience, not critics) matters a lot.

2. Why not make more IP-driven product and sequels, though the track record is not nearly as strong as animation?

Answer: Because it is also a unique challenge.

2 Fast & Furiouses
5 Curtain Droppers: 2 Pitch Perfects, 3 Fifty Shades
2 Sequels That Probably Dead-Ended: Ted, Snow White
2 Sequels On Life Support: Jason Bourne, Pacific Rim
1 Smash Hit Relaunch: Jurassic World
1 Disastrous Relaunch: The Mummy
1 Output Deal: The Great Wall
1 International-Only Hit: Warcraft

So where to go from here with these films?

Fast & Furious and Jurassic are on the high shelf with animation.

The Universal Monster re-launch ends… again… the second failure to launch in the last 15 years. When will they try again?

There will be some kind of 50 Shades spin-off. Jason Bourne might be over… maybe they will try again. Pac Rim is an issue of Legendary, where they have a lot of issues.

Not a lot there. If you look at the current upcoming schedule for the studio, it’s a F&F film for three years straight (2019-21), four animated sequels in 2020, an attempt to launch a Pokemon franchise next year, and lots and lots of comedy and horror (at least five a year from Blumhouse and on the comedy side, Will Packer, in 2019 and 2020). There are FOUR untitled Universal event films in 2020.

3. Will they ever make a drama again?

Answer: I’m sure.

Yes, dramas make less money for the studio than more “marketable” movies and the biggest worldwide grossing drama in these last three years (Straight Outta Compton) “only” grossed $202 million. But that film was also a lot more profitable for Universal than Jason Bourne, which grossed twice as much.

If you want to make $70 million dramas, you are kinda screwed… even at Netflix. There is no one in that business right now.

Then again… no idea what the budget on First Man is. But I bet it is too high to make Universal execs comfortable. They may end up with a win anyway, but the 23 years since Apollo 13 did $355 million worldwide is a long time. And Universal is also betting on Bob Zemeckis for a drama based on 2010 documentary Marwencol, which is a great thing to do, but no lock at the box office. Those are on the slate for this year. What they mean for years moving forward…?

Everything is off the central examination of the weekend’s box office. But there wasn’t much worth saying about it. Overboard did better than should have been expected… still, meh. Focus couldn’t figure out how to sell Tully, even though they really liked the film. Just not a very interesting weekend.

Happy Seis de Mayo!!!

Friday Estimates by Thanos Jr Klady

Saturday, May 5th, 2018

Friday Estimatres 2018-05-05 at 8.58.08 AM