The Hot Blog Archive for June, 2016
Tom Rothman was fired at Fox on September 12, 2012. He was co-chief of Fox’s film division with Jim Gianopulos, who was pushed upstairs twelve days ago. Tom was the driving creative force of the duo. Jim G. brought happier relationships, overall, an expertise in international markets, and no small amount of skill as an executive. But it was the norm to hear conversations, albeit rarely, about “Jim’s movie,” when the duo were working together. Mostly, Fox films were seen as Tom’s movies.
When Stacey Snider was hired in November 2014, it was clearly a choice to bring in another creative powerhouse to, again, balance Jim G (as he is known), but without some of the difficulties of Rothman, who did great things for Fox, but burned a lot of bridges. The 20 months of waiting for her ascension have been unpleasant, as the studio, known as a place with major internal political conflicts saw many fiefdoms defended and fortified against a stronger creative hand than Jim G’s. Snider, who is a great politician, now has the job ahead of bringing peace back to Fox. Unlike Rothman after landing at Fox, there is not expected to be series of bodies left on the side of the road. But time will tell. Snider is one to make room for others to have a lot of rope when they have earned it, so I suspect she will heal more than heel.
Fox has released 60 films since Tom Rothman’s exit. 24 of those were $100m (or better) domestic hits. 8 of those were from the Rothman era. Two of the eight were from the DWA relationship, so they are really outside of the control of the studio.
I would set The Other Woman as the first major release of the Gianopulos era and X-Men: Days of Future Past as the first big movie, released May and June 2014.
There are Rothman fingerprints on many of the Gianopulos hits… which is just circumstance, not an accusation. And really, it’s a double-edged sword. Days of Future Past was the most expensive non-Cameron movie ever at Fox (and remember, Fox hedged financially on both Titanic and Avatar). The film was developed and announced under Rothman with Matthew Vaughn as director. Vaughn left around the same time as Rothman. Jim G brought Bryan Singer, who had a massive falling out with Rothman when he left X-Men for Superman years earlier, back to the X-Men franchise and delivered both the biggest-grossing and highest-priced X-Men film.
Rothman’s scent is also on the deal for Kingsman, which Vaughn sold to Fox. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was a sequel to a Rothman re-launch of the franchise. Three of Jim G’s 16 $100m+ domestic grossers were DreamWorks Animation… which came to Fox under Rothman/Gianopulos. Blue Sky, which added Peanuts, a Rothman project. Night At The Museum: Secret of the Tomb was a sequel to a Rothman film.
Don’t get me wrong. Gianopulos had to be the front man for some Rothman bombs, too. A Good Day To Die Hard did okay, but underperformed. The Internship, The Counselor, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.
What turned my attention to Gianopulos and a notion that the reason for his exit/reassignment was no mystery at all was Independence Day: Resurgence.
The problem with ID:4-2, aside from the quality of the film (which never is an excuse for a bad opening, aside from not giving Marketing anything to work with) was startlingly familiar. It had no special draw. And by that I mean, a movie star who gets ticket buyers excited in a specific role or a great visual event or an idea that is intriguing and special… something… anything.
What other big Fox films under Gianopulos have suffered this problem?
X-Men: Apocalypse. Somehow, the brain trust decided that the big step of Days of Future Past secured a new place for this franchise. So the whole film was built around Mystique, a definitively supporting character, who happened to be played by the current Biggest Movie Star In The World, Jennifer Lawrence. Pay her. Don’t pay any of the more expensive talent that had been in so many other X-films. Put all the money on the screen.
But they forgot something. DoFP was the kitchen sink of X-Men events… pretty much every beloved actor in every beloved role was there. And the biggest effects sequences ever.
Even with all that, the film grossed just under $750m worldwide. That’s a $300m jump for the franchise… but still not as big as Deadpool, which is not one of Marvel’s crown jewels.
The uninspired Apocalypse choice brought the franchise right back to where it was before Future Past.
On another front, Eddie The Eagle… Joy... Victor Frankenstein… all relatively cheap, but misses nonetheless. Flipside is Kung Fu Panda 3 and The Revenant, but both are from companies with output deals at Fox and are not, primarily, Fox-owned.
No one can take The Martian away from Gianopulos. Big, terrific hit. Awards strategy was a bit of a disaster and Ridley’s relationship with Fox was long with Rothman… but a big hit… yay.
But then we’re back in last summer.
What happened to Fantastic Four? Lots of things. But a huge one was that Gianopulos greenlit a key movie for Fox with no established movie stars (not even a minor role, like Jessica Alba) and a filmmaker that didn’t want to make a giant action adventure film.
Paper Towns? This was a big movie because of the smash hit event that was The Fault In Our Stars. Shailene Woodley had an image and a following. Neither Nat Wolff or Cara Delevingne had the same. Obviously, the success of the first John Green/Neustadter + Weber project meant that Elizabeth Gabler had the freedom to reach for new/young/hip/rising… but the buck stops with the boss.
How do you get people excited about a Poltergeist without Spielberg being involved? I love Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie DeWitt. But they’ve never opened anything.
I also love Christian Bale, Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman, and Joel Edgerton… but outside of very specific roles… not legit big studio openers… certainly not in beigeface.
The one Fox release that really pushes against this trend – even with Sam Jackson in support – is Kingsmen: The Secret Service, which blew up worldwide (relatively… $414m ww) with Taron Egerton as the lead. And bless this movie. Again… Matthew Vaughn became a Fox guy via Rothman (and didn’t direct a movie there the first time they danced because of Rothman)… but give Gianopulos his due.
That said… I see a consistent issue with Gianopulos’ choices.
With Rothman, the complaint was always that he would ride you like a thorned cowboy from hell on budget and on marketable elements. Many filmmakers felt abused by his fingers felt tightly around every film. There were lots of mediocre numbers, but numbers big enough to find black ink. And of course, he was in charge for the DVD rise and fall… but oh, what a rise it was. Rothman delivered 16 years of black ink to Rupert Murdoch and some big wins (as well as losses) along the way.
Every studio chief has a mountainous career of highs and lows. And Gianopulos was no different in that regard.
But has he ever really had a voice as a studio chief… in terms of the films his company made and released?
I would argue that these big films made without big stars and a lack of a big hook isn’t Gianopulos’ voice, but that he worked – perhaps because it reflects Murdoch’s expectations – the Rothman idea of a studio, but a “kinder, gentler” version. Unfortunately, that became the worst of both worlds, as would seem inevitable.
Why has Stacey Snider, who has a clear voice as a studio chief and is a much more natural fit in that job, been left sitting on the bench (relatively) for 18 months, getting smacked endlessly by the buzzards? Kingsmen in March 2015… Spy in June 2015… The Martian in Oct 2015… The Revenant in December 2015… Deadpool in February 2016… four months later… nothing but nyet.
So why was Jim Gianopulos pushed out before Independence Day: Resurgence opened? Because a blind monkey with its nose stuffed and a ball gag in its mouth could tell this was one rotten banana from a quarter mile away. You don’t want to humiliate a guy who has served the company well and honorably for a long time.
There is no where else to potentially regain strength until Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children at the end of September… and who knows whether that is a big hit waiting to happen? (And no, an Ice Age hit doesn’t count.)
They have a thoroughbred in the stable. They know that Jim G. on his own was not going to be the future. Pull the Band-Aid.
One last note… there was a Hollywood Reporter piece about studios committing suicide every decade that was a silly as it was reckless. This is not the damned swans returning to Capistrano.
Every studio has a very different story of struggle. Universal, which has been the least stable studio in terms of ownership and top film-side leadership since Stacey Snider left is solid right now. So is Disney, obviously. Fox, which pivoted away from Bill Mechanic for unclear reasons when they gave the gold ring to Rothman, sent Rothman packing and someone other than Gianopulos was an inevitability from the day they did it. Amy Pascal had some great years for Columbia, but had been stale, supported by some great talent relationships, for a while. Who is running the studio at Paramount, under Brad Grey? Come on… don’t look it up! (Marc Evans) And Warner Bros? Sigh… Harry Potter and Batman stabilized the place for a long while in the post Semel/Daly era.
But… Snider, Rothman, Alan Horn/Sean Bailey, the great survivor Donna Langley… not exactly unfamiliar leadership at 4 of the 6 majors. May Greg Silverman and Marc Evans be as much a part of the firmament some day.
There are micro trend stories all the time. But the effort to make everything into a macro trend story is a horrible failure of journalism. Just wanted to get that off my chest.
And on we go…
Dory becomes the 6th best 2nd weekend ever, still just a smidgen behind Captain: Civil for the top 10-day gross of 2016. Independence Day will look for aliens… well, international… to save its day. And The Shallows waits to see if word-of-mouth kicks in and makes it a hit or a meh-ss. Swiss Army Man farts $37k per screen out of the indie market on three screens.
Hey… just wrote an elaborate piece and had most of it murdered by the quirks of the publishing platform…
Will rebuilt it and run it tonight. Sorry.
Sensational Finding Dory launch. Animation record. Fourth best opening for Disney in the last 14 months. One of five grossing over $100 million in that same period. And according to this estimate, it is Disney’s best non-Star Wars, non-Marvel opening.
Pixar’s only $100m+ openings? Sequels. Guess Michael Eisner was right. But he wasn’t able to make the relationship work with Lasseter, but Iger was, so Iger gets credit and Eisner gets unfairly dismissed. All a matter of perspective.
Central Intelligence is Kevin Hart’s second $35m (rounded) opening this year. And really, when you take Dwayne Johnson out of the F&F franchise and a lot of other elements he is dropped into (giant effects in San Andreas, theLasseter franchise, being a supporting actor), this is really his best opening. So, really, a bigger event for Dwayne than for Kevin. Of course, Kevin can’t lead a CGI movie that will gross megabucks internationally. But maybe this is a crossover event for both actors, even if the numbers aren’t Ride Along or San Andreas big.
Warcraft‘s $340 million overseas is keeping the media from kicking Universal over crap US numbers. X-Men: Apocalypse gets a similar safety net with $364m to date internationally.
The Lobster is up to $6.7m domestic. This makes it the #3 film to be on fewer than 1000 screens in 2016 tod ate, behind Love & Friendship (Amazon & Roadside) and The Perfect Match (a Lionsgate “urban” comedy that failed to take off). A24 should get more accolades for this success, taking the Cannes film from another distributor only days before a failed attempt at a domestic release, then going with it just a few months later with little support from its cast (Colin Farrell did a bit).
In fact, looking at the under-1000s, the thing I see all over is a lack of support from talent that cost these releases dearly in a low-margin release environment. Susan Sarandon and JK Simmons for The Meddler and Michael Moore for his Where To Invade Next, are really the only fully-committed talent – aside from some photos and a couple late-night talk shows – amongst the top 25 films in this category. To be fair, many of these films are not celebrity talent-driven. But the ones that are… could their (small) numbers be doubled by the talent giving the distributors a couple more days of time to make the case? I think so.
Pixar’s best launch with Finding Dory.
And I have bad news for Disney bashers. I expect that Disney will have a word-of-mouth hit in The BFG, in spite of weak tracking, and a significant surprise hit in Pete’s Dragon, which defines “low key” in terms of big summer profile. BFG is, by a margin, the best of the current Disney run of big-footprint family films. And I suspect that Elliot (the dragon) will also deliver on quality, given the trailer and David Lowery. So even if neither delivers Marvel-like numbers, quality helps extend the remarkable run for Disney.
The question on Dory isn’t whether it will pass Toy Story 3‘s $110m Pixar record, but whether it will pass Disney’s best non-Marvel, non-Star Wars opening ($135.6m), Pirates 2. It could be close.
Central Intelligence didn’t get to Ride Along‘s $14.4m opening day, But it is a tick up from this year’s hit Kevin Hart team-up, Ride Along 2. Kevin Hart is legit, but he does live in 1990s Denzel world. He is guaranteed, but he has a ceiling. This will be his eighth $20m+ opening in four years. That is major. But as with many funny people – and to be honest, black performers – he is not as big overseas and though he and Ice Cube brought in $154m worldwide for Ride Along, Hart can reasonably be projected to be a likely $90m – $110m worldwide grosser every time. That ain’t nothing. But it’s a different equation than, say, Eddie Murphy, who was a consistent $200m+ worldwide player in the 80s and early 90s. Denzel has broken that barrier internationally in recent years. Perhaps Hart will over time.
Not a pretty Friday for holds this week. The exception is Alice Through The Looking Glass, which fell into second-run houses four weekends in, suggesting a film people (especially families) wanted to see, but were not compelled to pay full fare.
I have said this a million times, but third-run theatrical at discounted prices across the board should be part of the MPAA strategy for keeping theatrical healthy. There are a lot of people who would come out to see a film 3 or 4 or 5 weeks into a run for the cost of a VOD buy, but who aren’t going to buy VOD. Going out for movies is an important part of the experience for a lot of people who can’t afford the highest priced tickets, especially in urban centers. With DVD as less of a reason to avoid second run – which the industry really crushed in the 90s – the weeks between first run and post-theatrical can be milked for what I guess could be as much as 4x what it generates now. This used to be a very big business.
Tickled opening strong… in the way a two-screen opening can be strong… $10k per. There are many people excited about this doc. But it’s been three years since Magnolia managed a theatrical with over $1.4 million in theatrical… and even a million has been rare for the VOD-driven distributor.
Sorry. Got nothing. Waiting for actual news from Orlando, as opposed to the relentless, endless speculation that is currently flooding our media.
Bless the lost souls of innocents in Orlando.
My computer has been having a dramatic few days. So doing this on an iPhone. Apologies.
The drop-off on The Conjuring 2 is marginal. The fantasy of a sequel jump is over, but even if the film comes up $20m short of the original, a happy situation for everyone involved.
Likewise, a 16% drop-off on Now You See Me Again isn’t a Great Depression. Nor is it going to get congratulatory cars delivered on Monday. This sequel clearly is designed to push to Episode 3… and that may be I jeopardy now… unless they already shot a bunch of it. There were stories about development, but did they shoot some of 3 on 2? Don’t know. No evidence they did. But I wonder…
More to come…
Modern movie journalists aren’t happy unless they have some great overreaching theory to expound upon, showing they anticipate the future. Few do. Not because they aren’t smart, but because they think in too short a window.
The current rage: “The Mega-Movie Sky Is Falling!!!”
There are absurd analyses that studios will re-think the business model because of flops like Alice 2, Turtles 2, and X-Men 8. But this analysis only holds up for about three weeks. For the first time in movie history, there are four films as of June 1 that have grossed over $850 million worldwide. This doesn’t include the near-$800 million Star Wars 7 brought in during this calendar year.
People forget that there was only one comic book movie last year that did over $550 million-plus in 2015 (Avengers 2) the entire year. This year, we already have three and a fourth that is going to get there (X8).
There is a glut. And it is going to get worse. And the cycle for comic book films will faces a day of reckoning. Yes, yes, yes.
But in reality, X-Men: Days of Future Past (which did $748m worldwide) is the anomaly of the X-Men franchise, not the standard. X-Men Apocalypse is right in line with the franchise, the #5 amongst the eight films after 10 days and destined to be #2 behind only DoFP (less than $57m from that status as of this writing).
Batman v Superman is not a great success for WB or as the fuel for enormous DC franchise success. But it is the #8 grossing comic book movie in history, a group led by 4 Iron Man-led movies, followed by Nolan Batman films 2 & 3, Spidey 3, and BvS. So in terms of reasonable expectations, BvS is a flop only in comparison to two Nolan films. Marvel caught lightning in a bottle with Downey as Iron Man and has never made a $850m ww grosser in which he does not star.
Point is… movie journalists wildly overstate the significance of outliers, successes or failures. There is a hard reality in producing movies that cost $200m-plus and another $150m to market worldwide. The lowest gross – as it reflects on the full revenue stream – to break even on these movies is in the mid-400 millions. But every movie doesn’t need to do a billion dollars either.
Another detail… the top four movies of 2016 so far have a China asterisk of between $25 million and $60 million in studio returns that will not be coming back to the studio because China returns less (about half) of the ticket sales than other international markets.
I know… details are boring. Chicken Little is better over coffee.
All that said… this weekend sucked. With cause.
No one expected Michael Bay’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot to do almost $200m domestic and almost $500m worldwide. The number this weekend, in the much more aggressively dated release for the sequel, is about where people expected the first film to be. Why would Paramount double-down and shove an August film into June? Because they have three movies dated in late July-early August. Not really a big enough to success to believe it needed an upgrade on the schedule. If a 2nd film did $600m worldwide, then it could get ambitious. But best laid plans…
This is similar to the story of Alice 2, which was a surprise monster hit from the previous movie regime (Dick Cook/Oren Aviv) a few months after “off with their heads!” A spring surprise… where movies and their marketing have time to breathe… shoved into the fiery cauldron of May without the benefit of pent-up demand for classic characters and with a lot of satisfied customers for Zootopia and The Jungle Book, which live in some of the same emotional movie space.
And as long as I am making excuses for franchises, was there someone at Fox who actually believed that Jennifer Lawrence in blue paint as Mystique was the same as Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games and she could carry X-Men: Apocalypse by herself, in terms of box office power? Huge misstep by the studio. And Marvel, by the way, deciding to completely wimp out and (SPOILER) not kill anyone in Cap v Irony Man, speaks to this very issue. Marvel is going to milk the original, established talent at any cost for as long as these actors can walk and have their wrinkles erased digitally. Downey doing Iron Man 4 is the end of integrity… sure… but they aren’t handing the keys to their empire over to Taron Egerton, hoping the suit and some jokes will make people forget Downey.
Warner Bros, which has a lot of talent that has opened a lot of hit movies for a lot of years, is in trouble. They can’t deliver the basics right now. They have had just two $20m openers amongst seven 2016 releases so far. One was BvS. The other was just barely over $20m… Barbershop 3, which had the weakest launch of the three films, though all were very close, meaning there is a locked-in audience. $18m for Me Before You isn’t a disaster. No Games of Thrones star has shown they can open a movie, so this is reasonable. But WB needs some wins. The group needs its swagger back. Three of their next five movies will open pretty well, I suspect. But that barely brings them to par, unless there are some shocking breakouts. I am honestly rooting for them now. You hate to see a company of this size and history flail like this, as it has now for a couple of years.
Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping reminds us how Andy Samberg opens. Fetch isn’t going to happen. Hopefully, it was really cheap and the money can be made up in post-theatrical. The marketing budget was tiny, it seems, so there is that.
The arthouse scene was also weak, with a couple one-screen wonders passing $10k per, but… not really much happening… sadly.