“Let me try and be as direct as I possibly can with you on this. There was no relationship to repair. I didn’t intend for Harvey to buy and release The Immigrant – I thought it was a terrible idea. And I didn’t think he would want the film, and I didn’t think he would like the film. He bought the film without me knowing! He bought it from the equity people who raised the money for me in the States. And I told them it was a terrible idea, but I had no say over the matter. So they sold it to him without my say-so, and with me thinking it was a terrible idea. I was completely correct, but I couldn’t do anything about it. It was not my preference, it was not my choice, I did not want that to happen, I have no relationship with Harvey. So, it’s not like I repaired some relationship, then he screwed me again, and I’m an idiot for trusting him twice! Like I say, you try to distance yourself as much as possible from the immediate response to a movie. With The Immigrant I had final cut. So he knew he couldn’t make me change it. But he applied all the pressure he could, including shelving the film.”
~ James Gray
The Hot Blog Archive for September, 2013
Not a lot to add after yesterday’s Friday column.
Instructions Not Included, which shows no signs of crossing over to English-speakers – has now become the 4th highest grossing foreign-language film in domestic history and the #1 grossing Spanish-language film domestically. Along with Kevin Hart’s success with his concert film and no fewer than 7 horror/thriller films over $50m domestic so far this year, this is all a big reminder to indies, established and emerging, that there is a lot of money in 1/2 and 1/4-quadrent distribution where there is a lot less risk than in chasing 4-quadrent success.
The expansion of Enough Said was pretty good, although not definitive. It’s the second best weekend of Nicole Holofcener’s career, achieved on 1/3 the screens of the big $3.2m weekend that Friends With Money had. Sony Classics got to $13.5 million with that film. I honestly have no strong opinion about whether Searchlight can get there or close to that with this somewhat sped-up strategy. I do have to say, I have heard little other than positive buzz about the film as audiences find it.
It seems there is a 3D IMAX double feature playing on 305 screens, with The Wizard of Oz playing dayparts and Metallica: Through The Never playing at night. These are both part of a long simmering plan by IMAX to expand their offerings beyond nature and a limited number of mainstream movies that choose the format. Anyway… the combined per-screen for these two films gets close to $7k. These last couple weeks also marks the debut of the historic Grauman’s Chinese as an IMAX screen. What will be fascinating about this screen is that it seats 932 people, more than double the capacity you normally find at an IMAX (like Universal Citiwalk). The small seat count has led to a lot of sell-outs of big movies on opening weekends in IMAX… which is less of an issue with 932 seats to sell. Will audiences find it and understand that it is more accessible. We’ll see, starting with Gravity next weekend.
Make no mistake… this is a beautiful transformation and the best IMAX experience I have ever had (and I have had them in a lot of cities). There is no place else I would prefer to see Gravity next weekend. In fact, seeing it anywhere else would feel like being shortchanged.
Blue Jasmine passed $30m this last week and is the #5 grossing Woody Allen film in domestic history (where it will likely say, rank-wise).
The Wolverine is well behind the inferior X-Men Origins: Wolverine domestically, but they are almost identical worldwide. The attempt by Fox to push the X-Men franchise into Avengers status next summer is turning into one of the great stories to come for next summer. Outside of Jim Cameron movies, Fox has never risked as much as the will on X-Men: Days of Future Past and the franchise, so far, has hit a glass ceiling at just under $500 million a picture. If it doesn’t break that ceiling next summer, the film will probably lose money. If it doesn’t pass $400 million, it will lose money. And so it goes…
Cloudy 2, which is great giddy fun, is looking to be on the Epic track. Low 30s opening, low 100s domestic total. Will there be growth in international, which pretty much mirrored domestic on the first film? Who knows?
Rush went wide to results as mediocre as last week’s exclusive runs suggested. Universal had reason to be afraid. Problem is… it’s a great little movie and it deserves better. The last time Ron Howard went through “one of these” was for The Missing, which got unfairly beat up by critics for being to Ford-like (or Ford-lite,a s they might have suggested) and he kinda went back to more traditional Ron Howard fare. I hope that won’t be the case here. The good news is that he is already shooting a period (1820s) whale hunt movie with a great cast and a lot of challenges. I would love for this movie to do more than $30 million and be in the awards race… but that’s looking less and less likely.
Don Jon is a movie about a guy who has a porn problem and the question of whether true intimacy can overcome it. Baggage Claim is a movie about a girl with a ticking clock problem and the question of whether she can find true intimacy with a bunch of fantasy men or if the answer is a bit more humble (albeit quite hunky by real people standards). $3.3 million worth of ticket buyers wanted to join in seeking those answers, for each film, on Friday.
These two films represent two classic niches in the domestic film business these days. Joseph Gordon Levitt (and the Hip Factory) is very cool, very talented, and is being treated like the flavor of the month… even though I expect him to navigate these waters and last a long time. He is currently the “Breaking Bad” of movie actors… highly talented, with all the buzz and nowhere near the numbers of major openers.
Baggage Claim is a likeable enough urban comedy… meaning, it’s FUBU… released by Searchlight. The movie would be equally likable for white people. (Some people just won’t like any silly romantic comedy.) But let’s not be coy. As fantastic and crossover as Paula Patton and Jill Scott and Derek Luke and Taye Diggs and the rest of the cast are, it’s hard to draw a white audience to a movie with a nearly-exclusively Black cast (even with Adam Brody). Not a lot of historic comparisons to make. This kind of film is not being made much anymore. The Kevin Hart concert film opened a little better. The Tyler Perry movie Temptation opened to almost triple this number.
You know what the Baggage Claim number looks a lot like? Brown Sugar and Just Wright, two other black rom-coms the studio released. It’s kind of fascinating to look at the “romantic comedy” category that Box Office Mojo lays out as regards Searchlight. There are only 15 listed since 1996… less than one a year. The #1 (in domestic gross) is (500) Days of Summer… which never had a screen count of over 1048, a little less than half of the count to which Baggage Claim opened. #2 is Brown Sugar. #3 is Just Wright. Not a single Caucasian rom-com ever got to more than 1200 screens. All three of the “urban” rom-coms started with more than that.
Overall, no Fox Searchlight rom-com has ever grossed over $33 million domestic. So that is why Searchlight is not known as “the rom-com studio.” (Even if you include Marigold Hotel as a rom-com, the glass ceiling is $46m domestic, though that film did double that internationally.) But their success with Black rom-coms is pretty consistent (sample of 3). And that is why movies like Baggage Claim still find a home at Searchlight… and an audience to go with it. They are a nice piece of business.
There is an interesting little cluster of Warner Bros titles between $135 million and $145 million domestic right now. The Conjuring, the still in-release We’re The Millers, and Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby. These are the #2 – #5 films for WB domestically this year. (Internationally, Hangover 3 is #2 with Gatsby right behind it and the others well off the pace at this point.) This actually makes WB the owner of the most (4) movies in the Top 13 Domestic 2013 to date. (If that’s too clever/specific for your tastes, they also have a leading 5 of the Top 20.) WB has only 1 in the Top 10 Domestic… so that offers a different perspective. But still, interesting. Millers has been very leggy, with more than 5x opening weekend.
it’s a bit of a flat weekend for indie newcomers. There are a couple exclusive runs looking at around $10k per for the weekend. The biggest indie is the Metallica film, released by The Berneys at Picturehouse, which is on 309 IMAX screens and will do over $2m, but per-screen is likely around $7k for the 3-day, which is not overwhelming. (Movie is really good, by the way… assuming you enjoy metal.)
I was asked two questions by a journalist for a story and I am holding this entry until he publishes, so as not to step on his feet… but I thought my answer to him was a pretty good read on how I assess the field of awards analysis right now.
1. Is there a “right” time to begin Oscar prognosticating? Is it ever too early?
2. “It’s only September!” is a phrase I’ve seen many times in recent weeks. But don’t we always start our punditry in September, or even earlier? Did something change this year?
There is never a wrong time to project anything, so long as the prognosticator offers context. The trouble starts when people start throwing out definitive statements when many of the films that may be in contention have not been seen or when every event in the calendar brings forth a fresh round of “this is the big moment.” You can look at the year’s calendar in March and see what films seem to be likely awards contenders… but only about half the list will be publicly available at that time. Cannes may or may not add or subtract from the list. TIFF tends to have at least 10 contenders every season, so that can change the battlefield quite dramatically. NYFF to a lesser degree.
But it’s not really until that first week of December, when the very last movie is shown, that a definitive argument can be made. And at that point, most of the awards groups will announce winners or nominations within 2 weeks.
So there is never really the “right” time for being too sure. But if you show some modesty, anytime is fine.
Yes, the punditry does rev up round TIFF every year… tends to go silent for a couple months after. This year, the noise still coming out is thicker and louder than ever as more and more outlets – especially Old Media outlets – try to claim a big position in the game.
“It’s only September” is naive on some level. The companies pushing out awards movies have been strategizing and making decisions about these films for months by September. The season really starts in April/May. On the other hand, making definitive statements about who or what is going to win this or that in September is a bit idiotic. It is true that some movies, like The King’s Speech, seem, in September, to be set to ride the wining wave for the next 4 or 5 months. But one doesn’t really know until all the horses are in the gates. Another shoe can always drop… and no one knows how or when that might happen. Often, it is the shoe that never drops that surprises. But no one really knows. Publicists claim to know… but they are working and their job is to obfuscate.
The only thing that really changed this year is that more journalists are trying to plant a flag. In order to be unique, you need to find your own space. In order to find your own space in an already overcrowded arena like awards punditry, you almost always need to overreach. And they have. And more will. And even for the veterans covering this, a higher level of insistence is likely, just to be heard over the din.
I honestly don’t see how anyone can truthfully say that this is not a good movie.
It is expertly made by Paul Greengrass & Co, expertly acted by Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdi, and the rest of the cast, and it is expertly written by Billy Ray.
But my contention is that this is a good movie… sometimes a very good movie… and only for five minutes or so, at the end, is it a great movie.
Considering the narrative limitations of the story, Captain Phillips is surprisingly audience-friendly. You pretty much know the major beats of the plot looking at the commercials and/or trailers. But this is not a movie about narrative. It is about people under pressure, both the people on “our” side and the people on the “other” side. The film forces audience members to consider all kinds of choices, most of which we will never face in the specific, but which all reflect the kinds of things we make decisions about every day in our boring old lives. What is heroism? What is an honorable choice? Where is the line between desperation and desperation so extreme that is excuses bad behavior?
The core confrontation of the film is between “first world” values about what is important and where the boundaries should be and where the same choices are in “third world” countries. It gets more complex when choices aren’t really choices. For instance, what do you do when you are willing to give up your cargo, but you have real concerns about the safety of the people working on the boat? What choices do you make when you think the outside forces are only worried about stuff when in fact, there are more political issues at play that you haven’t ever really considered?
I guess people read reviews to gauge their own interest in the film being written about. That’s a tough call in the case of Captain Phillips. Some people will find it an absolute bore. (That is not to say that they will not respect the filmmaking, performances, etc.) Some people will hang on every mini-cliffhanger and love the film deeply.
For me, the lack of a hard-pumping narrative engine was fine. It allows the film a chance to breathe. And when the alarm bells ring, the fact that I wasn’t on the edge of my seat felt like a choice by the filmmaker. I was gripped… but I wasn’t exhausted. And as some of the same kinds of things repeat in the late second act and early third, I kind of enjoyed a moment of boredom here and there… since that is the reality of life, even in life and death situations. There are quiet moments. That’s what is so good about the film. But some audiences will not be good with that.
Tom Hanks is really quite excellent, from start to finish. And when he delivers the big punch, towards the end of the film, it struck me as the best dramatic work of his career. Same issue as with the rest of Captain Phillips… it makes sense that he is less emotional (as the film is) earlier in the movie, but that doesn’t necessarily make it audience friendly.
So I can recommend the film to anyone… with a few reservations. I would explain, as I have here, what kind of things might throw you off. And if none of that bothers you, go see a good/very good/even great for a bit movie. And if it sounds like being tortured slowly, I don’t think I could tell you that the experience is going to be any better than that for you.
If you like my taste, go see it.
And I will be fascinated – more fascinated than usual – about how people respond to this film. I don’t really know where it will land with people. More than a little bit of United 93, for better and worse. And so it goes…
(FULL DISCLOSURE: I know Marc socially… a little. I like Marc and his wife quite a lot.)
Yes, the blame at all studios starts with the marketing department, no matter how good or bad the films being marketed. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t take a look.
Marketing executives, like movie stars, live and die on opening weekend. There is not word of mouth… just marketing and media… and media is (usually) somewhat meaningless.
Columbia Pictures has released 21 movies in the last two years under Marc Weinstock. Cloudy 2 and Captain Phillips are locked into their release slots and those campaigns will be credited – or discredited – to Weinstock.
In these last two years, only three films have opened to $50 million or better. Only the often-under-fire Fox has released as few in that period.
Overall, if the standard for a decent opening is $20 million, Columbia has split with 12 over $20m and 8 under (all wide releases).
But if you push it up to $30 million as your standard, it’s not a pretty picture. Only 6 films of 21 managed that. And they were Bond, Spider-Man, Men in Black, a Sandler sequel, and two unexpected hits, Hotel Transylvania and 21 Jump Street. All but those last two were expected… franchises.
The biggest opening of 2013 has been Grown-Ups 2 with $42.5 million… a $1m improvement on Grown-Ups, which in an increasingly front-loaded marketplace, led to $30m less at the domestic box office.
White House Down opened to $24.9 million… the worst Roland Emmerich wide opening since The Patriot, 13 years ago.
Amazing Spider-Man was dogged by the media for its soft domestic opening despite ending up with $750m worldwide.
Here Comes The Boom was, by far, the worst opening for Kevin James in his movie career.
The Meryl Streep romantic comedy for adults streak of four $20 million openings went back to 2006… until last summer’s Hope Springs. And that late summer grown-woman slot was held by Sony in 2011 by Sony with Eat Pray Love, which opened to $23 million.
Smurfs 2 opened to half the first film’s launch.
These are the things that eat away at a department. Give Marc the two horrible aging Sandler movies (That’s My Boy and Jack & Jill). give him dumps like Premium Rush and The Pirates! Band of Misfits. Even give him Ghost Rider 2, which opened to half the number of the first film, but was so genred up that it was a rough mainstream sell.
There are also 6 Tri-Star movies, which are under that job. Elysium opened $7m behind the surprise District 9, which had no movie stars. One Direction opened okay… not great. Looper is the one real success story in the last couple of years.
But you have to find a way to open a Will Smith movie – After Earth – with a big budget in the high 30s… and if you don’t, it better feel like the marketing tried too hard, not too little.
You have to protect the studio better on Total Recall.
On need to get a number that surprises in a positive way, not a relief way, on Amazing Spidey.
But most of all, with a lot of mediocre numbers, you need to have a couple of big positive surprises. And really, the closest to that was Bond. And I don’t know that anyone really believes that Bond marketing is a lot more than getting out of the way of the franchise (not unlike Batman, with due respect to Team Kroll). Like I wrote… Looper was a nice, solid surprise… near perfect execution. 21 Jump Street… nice win… well done. But then you have films like Hotel Transylvania, which had a strong opening for Sony Animation – a nice positive step up – but was 6th best in animation last year…. not a knock out.
Marc is strong and young and very smart and could well end up out of marketing to become a very successful producer or something else in or out of the business. He will do well wherever he lands. But while Sony may not have had the weakest marketing of the last couple of years… it was certainly in the bottom half. And it would have been easier to have Harry Potter and Avengers. But is this a shocking act of corporate blaming the easiest department to blame? Not so much. The door was opened. And the shoved him right out of it.
Will Sony marketing be the better for his exit? No one can know that until someone new comes in and is either a savant or a fuck up… or more likely, something boring in between. The more things change…
And given that the new corporate style seems to be pulling the rug out from under people, who knows what might happen at Sony next?
I’m happy for Team Prisoners, which may not end up having done exactly as high a number as estimates suggest, but still, quite nice and solid throughout the weekend. Solid opening. And now, legs will be the story. It’s a strong movie that works on various levels (though it’s prone to overreach by some critics) and could end up doing a multiple of over 3, maybe even close to 4. The biggest problem for WB right now is that they go up against their own Gravity in 2 weekends followed by Captain Phillips, not to mention Runner Runner, which is a legit entry (with a terrible title) on a date that could turn out to be a really bad choice if all the excitement around Gravity pays off on opening weekend.
There isn’t much worth saying about Screen Gems’ dump Battle of the Year, so let’s talk about Instructions Not Included, which is 14% up this week, now the #5 foreign language grosser of all time in the US and sure to pass the great Pan’s Labyrinth for #4 in the next week. Pretty remarkable. And none of the media heat that Pan’s, Hero, Life Is Beautiful, and Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon got.
There are two big per-screen films at the arthouse; Enough Said and Rush, the first at $59k per and the second at $39k. It’s a great number for the Fox Searchlight film, a dramedy from a director who has never grossed $15m domestic. For Universal, which has a drama with a lot of action from a director who has had some box office smashes, the existence of a 5-screen opening weekend suggests concern. This is the 4th time Universal has done one of these word-of-mouth openings for a Ron Howard film. The history is 2 “flops,” 1 Oscar-winning smash. Of course, this is only the second such open outside of the December awards corridor. And let me note again… terrific, smart, beautiful movie.
Prisoners is one of the more interesting releases of the month. It’s being sold pretty simply as a thriller. Two names, both of whom give their very best to the film, lead the way, but don’t guarantee box office success. And a movie that, once seen, is more than meets the eye (or is that “beats the eye”?). Personally I am rooting for it, though I fear for most movies that demand more of the audience than the audience was expecting. Once in a while, audiences are surprised and delighted by it. But WB has had some success with this, releasing The Town and Contagion in September.
We’ll see what the fate of Prisoners is. And that will start with how it plays today (Saturday).
Also opening is Battle of the Year, for which I don’t recall seeing a single ad. I’m sure some have been out there… but not in my conscious life. Pretty underwhelming number, especially for Screen Gems. This is looking like the third or fourth-lowest grossing wide release in the history of the division.
Personally, I don’t get Rush going out on 5 screens. It’s a big ol’ movie and it kicks ass. But women are an issue. And a per-screen of under $40k per on 5 for a movie getting a big studio push is not a home run. So maybe they just have trouble in River City on this one. Snow White was catnip for women and Thor’s hottie-ness. F1 isn’t… unless the women are very hot, very rich, and a little slutty (per the story). And for guys, is anything less than Thor kicking ass going to bring them in? I am rooting for this movie big time as well. It’s is certainly in the Top 3 of studio movies released this year to date. But September may have been a giant release date mistake. At least in summer the Nascar crowd is milling about. Finding the audience this one deserves is rough.
Also in limited is Enough Said, which, being a Nicole Holofcener movie, is a much better candidate to build word-of-mouth on the coasts. And amazingly, it is doing better per-screen than Rush on just one less screen. Holofcener is a brand at the art house and the NYT rave helps and the casting of both Julia Dreyfus and James Gandolfini in his final role. But Holofcener first. A much happier story than Rush right now.
“Happy 70th birthday, Jerry Bruckheimer. Now fuck off.”
(That would be Disney talking, not me.)
Jerry Bruckheimer’s 70th birthday is tomorrow (Saturday, September 21). He has been on his own at Disney for over 15 years. (His partner, Don Simpson, died January 1996, with a number of projects already in the pipeline.)
There was a lot of heat around Simpson/Bruckheimer and then Bruckheimer on his own in the late 1990s. But the planets shifted immeasurably for Bruckheimer in 2000… or a couple years earlier, if you will, when Disney decided not to extend their successful movie relationship with Bruckheimer when Jerry got serious about being a TV producer. The company, then led by Michael Eisner (remarkably out of the CEO job only 8 years now), decided to let Bruckheimer take his TV efforts elsewhere. This turned out to be one of the worst decisions in the history of Disney or, really, in the history of Hollywood. “CSI” (and “CSI”-named spinoffs) = 650 highly-rated episodes and still going… not only a huge revenue producer, but a lost opportunity for the then-struggling ABC TV network. Also, another 350 episodes of Emmy-dominator “The Amazing Race,” not to mention another 350+ episodes spread over a number of hit shows. Want to linger in Netflix’s success? Jerry Bruckheimer’s television company has delivered, on average, over 100 hours of successful television every year for the last 13 years and change. Netflix’s entire line-up of new shows is around 40 hours a year.
Oh yeah… let’s get back to the business Bruckheimer was doing with Disney… movie business. Pirates. 2003. Then 3 more. $3.7 billion in theatrical. God knows what in ancillaries. National Treasure (conceived by Oren Aviv) was good for another $800 million in theatrical.
Yes, there have been flops. A few very expensive ones. But he has made only 4 movies out of 23 since 2000 that have grossed under $100m worldwide.
And as usual, in studio politics, it isn’t the flops that kill… it’s the philosophy.
When Iger took over from Eisner in 2005, his first take on the movie business was to get behind Dick Cook and to make The Disney Brand the #1 priority. That lasted until September 2009, when Iger pulled the trigger on Iger’s Disney 2.0, which would be a distribution and marketing company led by TV guy Rich Ross. That first year of clearing out the pipeline had some lows and some big highs, including the Cook-generated Alice in Wonderland, the second $1b+ grosser in the history of the company and the car wrecks Prince of Persia (which did over $300m worldwide) and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, which was taken on by Ross’ outsider marketing chief MT Carney as the first movie for whose marketing she would be completely responsible. It bombed. And both of those bombs were produced by Bruckheimer.
The philosophy of Iger’s Disney 2.0 was to bring in companies that were self-funded. Disney would only make/fund a few small Disney Channel-level movies and established Disney franchise films – including both Disney and Pixar animation – in-house… except for Bruckheimer. The new philosophy started, as Cook was being shown the door, with the purchase of Marvel. When Marvel was purchased they came to Disney with their own funding. Honestly, I have no idea how that may have been adjusted since. Disney also did a distribution & marketing deal with DreamWorks, their production funding coming from Reliance. But DreamWorks wouldn’t deliver their first film to Disney until 2011.
Insiders around Bruckheimer said at the time that Disney was pressuring Bruckheimer to self-fund as well. 2011’s terrible Pirates sequel was notably only the second of the franchise to generate more than a billion dollars at the box office. So Bruckheimer, even with the bombs, had an ace in his sleeve. So they tip-toed around him. No IPO for him. (A bad economy didn’t help the prospects for him to make that choice.)
The problem was, Disney didn’t have a very strong marketing department at that time and that was supposed to be its strength. So the studio was forced by powerful content providers like Bruckheimer and DreamWorks to hire, basically, separate teams to oversee their movies. This was expensive and not a workable ongoing strategy.
Rich Ross (and Iger 2.0) was fired in April 2012, shortly after the biggest loser in Disney history and just before the biggest winner in Disney history. In many ways, the oncoming success of Avengers signed Ross’ (business) death warrant. Ross was having a lot of problems connecting to non-Disney Hollywood anyway. But a big part of that was the philosophy of putting the studio out of the non-Disney moviemaking business. He was never really a buyer.
Look at 2012. $1.5b for Disney-owned Marvel’s Avengers. Brave and Wreck-It-Ralph combined… $1 billion worldwide. 10 other releases… about $1b worldwide combined. And that includes John Carter‘s $243m, which was in many way a Pixar-connected project.
So the template of Iger’s Disney 3.0 was coming together. Rich Ross out. Charming industry insider Alan Horn in (less than a month after Avengers launched).
Three months later, the defining choice of Iger’s Disney 3.0. Disney would now pay for all of their movies… and they would all be franchise movies. Disney added the seeming ultimate franchise play by buying Lucasfilm with Kathy Kennedy running that Star Wars show.
And by the way… they still have Disney Earth and the Muppets in-house.
So look at the schedule for the next year… three more DreamWorks movies in the next 6 months and a fourth – in theory – next summer.
Two films in the same month next summer from The Potential Next Bruckheimer-ish Joe Roth… one of which is a Disney franchise character (Maleficent).
And that’s it for movies not being made in-house (not counting Maleficent). Five total. (And the one for Roth is, in the great Bruckheimer tradition, a little something on the side after agreeing to produce two huge and expensive films for the studio.) And only a marketing and distribution spend on the four DreamWorks movies.
Three Marvel movies, three animated movies, two Disney franchises in Maleficent and Saving Mr. Banks. A Disney Earth film. And a new Muppets movie.
The highest budget on the non-in-house titles is probably about $50 million… except for Need For Speed, the budget on which I have no idea.
How many movies being released in the next year with budgets over $150m, being made and paid for in-house? I count four or five.
But this was a piece about Bruckheimer’s deal not being renewed, right?
Well… like I said before… not IPOing or outside funding. Not paying for movies out of his pocket. And nothing much there to buy with a 70-year-old master of the universe.
All of a sudden, Disney is fat with franchises, between Marvel and Star Wars and Pixar and even Disney animation… the studio is looking, after planning on getting out of the business of funding all but a couple bigger movies a year, at the likelihood of at least a few coming years with three or more $200 million+ movies every year as Marvel, Pixar, and LucasFilm all make very expensive films, pretty much every time out. Any year with one Marvel, one Lucasfilm, and one Pixar means a commitment of over $1 billion to release three films.
With the price tag on Pirates films now in the $300 million range, plus backend, a billion dollar gross is still profitable… but not nearly as profitable as a movie without Johnny Depp and Jerry Bruckheimer getting paid, grossing a billion.
No one has announced that Pirates 5 is dead. But until Disney gets back to licking one 70-year-old’s behind, you can bet it’s dead. Big money… but neither JB or JD NEEDS the money. And people & corporations don’t work together a lot right after a break-up.
Meanwhile, Bob Iger just extended his tenure into 2016… which is plenty of time in which to conceive of Iger’s Disney 4.0. You’ll know it’s coming if you hear about Iger snuggling up to Bruckheimer again. How might it happen? Bad number for Guardians of the Galaxy would do it. A $500m worldwide gross for the first new Star Wars movie. Pixar’s first theatrical bomb.
Meanwhile happy birthday to Jerry Bruckheimer. I bet he’s out there on his hockey rink skating around like a 50-year-old. Good on him.
As of this writing, there are 10 films over the $400 million mark for 2013.
Last year, at this same time, there were 11… though 1, it should be noted, was over $400m on foreign dollars alone with only $10m of its $416m total coming from the US (The Intouchables) and almost all of that $406m happened in 2012.
So, in some ways, pretty even.
There were 2 billion dollar movies last summer. Only 1 this year. There was a small increase in average ticket prices. Etc. But, on the whole, pretty fair fight.
The big difference was that studios lost their focus on budget and went absolutely nuts this summer. That’s not an answer to the question of whether people still want to go to the movies or what they want to see. Last summer had a worse case of sequelitis amongst its biggest grossers than this summer… so is Hollywood taking a turn for the better? (Rhetorical.)
Three “originals,” six sequels, and one weird Oz spin-off make up ten $400m+ grossers worldwide so far in 2013. Last year, it was seven sequels, three “originals” and Intouchables.
World War Z, Pacific Rim, and The Croods (in order of expense) were the trio of originals that made it to $400m, The Croods being by far the most profitable of the three.
And which of the over-400-club film found the highest percentage of its gross internationally? Pacific Rim. Number two was Fast & Furious 6, which is one of those things that makes the movie business a constant amazement. Until Fast Five, which doubled the previous highest international gross in F&F history, this was a mediocre franchise internationally. And all of a sudden, with a tweak to the cast, international drives the franchise.
And that is why Pacific Rim really may be the first of a series of films. It’s why World War Z, which will be right on the edge of red ink, will be sequelized (with the assumption that the third act will not be re-shot the second time out). It’s why there could be a “Men in Black 4″ someday and why sequels to Marc Webb’s version of Amazing Spider-Man are a no-brainer.
Of course, Pacific Rim was also the only film in the Top Ten of 2013 that was derided and mocked as a box office disaster. But all three originals got over 62% of their gross from international. So did Man of Steel. People scoffed about Pac-Rim earning in Japan… but it more than doubled Superman’s show there. China was a huge part of Pac-Rim’s international success. And yes, the rentals are a bit lower there than in other foreign countries. But only Iron Man 3 did better there amongst English-language films… and only by $10m.
Heck, I don’t know if Pac-Rim is even going to escape the red ink. There may be some money lost. But 40 million-plus people paid money to see the film. And in the modern movie business, that smells of a big opportunity. Personally, I think GDT needs to put a few brand names in the Jaegers next time out. If he wants to draw US eyeballs, threaten the US a bit. But that opportunity to make the Fast, Furious leap is there.