The Hot Blog Archive for April, 2009

BYOB – Travellin' North

Driving up to San Francisco today for the SF International, America’s eldest film fest with some of America’s smartest and ambitious fest programming.
You have the con’…

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DP/30 – Il Divo writer/director Paolo Sorrentino

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Paolo Sorrentino biopic about Italian Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti is not like any bio-pic you’ve ever seen… part Scorsese, part Oliver Stone, and all Sorrentino. I had a chance to sit down with the writer/director (and his off-screen interpreter) in Los Angeles recently.
The video interview is after the jump… and the DP/30 home page is here and the podcast link can be found here.

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Review: Wolverine

X-Men Origins: Wolverine is no The Dark Knight. Nor is it Batman Begins or Spider-Man or the first, groundbreaking X-Men or Burton

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Another Silly Stat From The Ticket Salesmen

Fandango – “WOLVERINE opens tomorrow night at midnight, and it appears that Hugh Jackman

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The Biggest Little Story In A While…

April 10Clearly the fringe operators are falling by the wayside, but the stalwarts like Village Roadshow, Spyglass, Legendary and Relativity are still very much in the game. Asked about one report that all was lost, the head of a production-financing entity said simply, “It’s true, but it’s not true. We’re raising money from a new banking source. We’re still players.”
Village Roadshow this year helped finance Clint Eastwood’s $40 million movie “Gran Torino,” which will do $260 million worldwide.
That’s the sort of result that keeps the money flowing. Or that finds new money.

April 16Village Roadshow Pictures, Warner Bros.’ longtime feature co-financing partner, was unable to deliver its share of funding on four titles last year, leaving the studio to cover the entire cost, Time Warner disclosed Wednesday.
Village Roadshow also may not be able to finance the 2009 films to which it has committed. The four pics from last year were “Get Smart,” “Gran Torino,” “Nights in Rodanthe” and “Yes Man.”

Hey… you… look at the agents putting all their suits in one closet… don’t pay any attention to THE MONEY THAT KEEPS THE BUSINESS GOING FALLING AWAY…
Hollywood’s studios have built a funding bubble around DVD bubble… not unlike Wall Street following the internet bubble with the real estate bubble. And the situation is just as bad… except that the infrastructure of a film studio is actually so much smaller than, say, the auto industry, that it can cruise along without acknowledging the RED ALERT for a couple of years.
If you want to know why the summer looks so much different than the last few summers, it is that responsible studio top execs put on the brakes over a year ago.
And what remains the biggest bullshit story in this industry right now? That the box office doing okay answers the questions that this industry has to face and face sharply.
What’s the second dumbest story? That the AMPTP behavior towards the unions/guilds was acceptable in the face of an economic downturn… when, in fact, the costs of non-star union talent is one of the smallest, already cut back budget lines on any movie or TV show…. and the stars are not an issue with these contracts since they essentially create their own rules via negotiation.
Anyway… Village Roadshow quietly not paying their bills is not a small story. (Financial Times did more than quote the earnings release and spoke to an unnamed source at Village Roadshow, who says that the company will eventually pony up what they owe.) And one of the least reported stories in town right now is the cash crunch being experienced at a few of the studios in particular. WB is fortunate that Harry Potter is here again. But those Friday night numbers are going to be sweatier this summer than any time in memory.

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Questions – Countdown To Summer

Wolverine launches tonight… what will May look like?

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Summer Movie Promo du Jour

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Not bad. Amusing for slightly longer than it takes to download the app, a period which counts as a long attention span these days. Find it here.

DP/30 – Anvil: The Story of Anvil

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Producer Rebecca Yeldham and Director Sacha Gervasi talk about their documentary sensation.
The video interview is after the jump… and the DP/30 collection is available as a podcast here

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BYOB 42809

Sorry if I gave anyone whiplash with the problems loading the last entry… and sorry to the 99% of you who have no idea what I am talking about.
Does anyone care as little as I do about the agency merger?
Michael Speier writes in The Wrap, “The new company’s creation is, without a doubt, an industry-shifting jolt to the entertainment business at large. WME is now a company that will automatically rival CAA as the top agency in town both in terms of mojo and clients.”
But there is no real notion of why anyone who is not directly connected to this inside baseball story should be paying much attention. Will a greater consolidation of talent create better movies or just more shitty packages?
Agencies have too much power and are paid way too much money in packaging deals already… so is there some way that his deal changes that… aside from making it incrementally worse? I mean, agencies don’t MAKE anything… they are middle men.
And frankly, the one notable thing is the use of the word “Entertainment” in the new title, which scarily suggests that there may be an intention to assert more of a hand in developing movies and television… people whose jobs – with all due respect – are not to make anything of quality, but to sell something.
The real power remains with the studios and distribution channels, though the people in charge of these things often forget that they are The Money and that the agencies are not, giving too much to the agents and threatening the financial potential of projects.
What am I missing?

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Hard Summer Questions, Part 2

How do you solve a problem like The Wolfie?
We have now moved into the last few days before the X-Men Origins: Wolverine is released. Tracking is solid. The Mexican opening has been delayed, but the rest of North America seems to be good to go. The film has been seen by a lot of press now, particularly the junketeers. The illegal leak of the film is sure to be mentioned in a majority of features and reviews in the days to come. Whatever the box office number, it will be spun by different people in different ways.
Last Friday, I wrote about the anonymous story on AICN and others picking up on that story. My core notion was that the story

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Hard Summer Questions, Part 1

There are issues that face journalists and editors every day. Some are expected. Some are surprises.
Every summer, for instance, the issue of the cost of mega-movies comes up. Invariably, studios spin those numbers down. As a journalist, you hear all kinds of things and then have to parse it all, get enough sources to feel sure

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Uh, no…

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It’s fanmade trailer posted to YouTube on October 19, 2007… which you wouldn’t know if you just looked at the embed on The Wrap website. Internet 101, guys.
Oy.
Of course, compared to Bill Wyman catching one of Nikki Finke’s infamously self-serving overwrites… I guess dumb is better than malicious.

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A Pig of A Poll





Results after the jump…

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Who Should Buy Whom? – Episode One

On the sad, but inevitable occasion of the official end of Conde Nast

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Weekend Estimates by Klady – April 26

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The opening of Obsessed brings up another interesting anomaly of the niche era of studio distribution. Of the 7 films with a higher opening gross and the one just below it – within a million dollars on opening – 4 have hit $100 million… but only one of those (Blart!) didn’t open much bigger than the other 6 titles we’re talking about. (Fast, Monsters, and Watchmen all opened over $55m… the next biggest opening is $41m for Medea Redux.)
So – sorry this is getting too numbery – the sample we’re looking at comes down to 5 films. Blart is the outlier with better than 4.5x opening. Medea in Jail is the second best multiple… at about 2.25x opening. The other two are the Friday The 13th re-do and Hannah Montana 1-D. Friday is already out of theaters and did just over 2x its strong opening. Hannah has another $10m – $15m left in the tank… which looks to make it around 2.5x opening.
Go back just 4 years to 2005 and you see the openers in that $28m – $40m range:
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As you can see… nothing happening now is all that different than what was happening then… except that the Young Teen and Pre-Teen Girl money has shifted from horror to Hannah, The Jonases, and HSM.
And so the question of the weekend is, what niches are Obsessed working with? Is it an “Urban” hit or a Teen Girl thriller? Both niches are likely to lead to a low multiple. Did they find anyone outside of these “love it and leave it” niches? I don’t know. But the question of what next weekend’s drop and ultimately, it’s domestic total – will be is not so much about “is it good?” but about who the audience for the film is. My guess is a $65m domestic total… which is a great day for Screen Gems, though you must know they are trying to figure out how to make Obsessed 2 work following this natural one-off.
Fighting, The Soloist, and Earth are all in a similar opening boat, though there is a very good chance that the best opener of the trio, Fighting, will be the lowest domestic grosser. Why? Again, niche. Fighting will have some holdover, but 2.5x opening is the best it can expect. The Soloist defines An Adult Picture… so if they can keep screens in Boca, the over 60s will find the film and it could go as much as 3.5x opening, though it will take time. And Earth is a kids play from Disney and we’ll see how they support it. There’s nothing much new for the younger kids until Night At The Museum 2. Are parents going to indulge their 8-year-olds’ demands to see Wolverine… or will they be at Earth, looking at real wolverines?

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The Hot Blog

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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