The Hot Blog Archive for May, 2017

Friday Estimates by NoWatch of the IP Klady

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56, 43, 35, 23. See a pattern here?

Those are the opening days of the first four Pirates movies. The first film had a Wednesday open and a $14m first Friday.

Domestically, Pirates is over at this scale, what with a $40 million star in the lead. Internationally, Disney is hoping not to care what happened domestically.

Paramount had an ugly Baywatch launch, weaker than Dwayne’s (and Wahlberg’s and Bay’s) Pain and Gain. I don’t think it’s just because of the movie’s flaws in filmmaking, but because of the concept, which was well-reflected by the marketing. Do you make a Baywatch movie that embraced the spirit of the show, which includes prurient titillation, but always keeps a lid on it. or do you focus on dick jokes and over-the-top action that doesn’t work as action? They’ll be hoping for international to make the pain go away.

Len typo’d in last week’s opening number in for Alien: Covenant. I believe the correct number is around $3 million and a drop of over 75%. More pain. More looking to international.

I hate “sky is falling” pieces. The sky isn’t falling. But you can be sure that a lot of studios execs are dirtying their Depends as what worked before is not working now. Some of these titles aren’t just off domestically, they are way off domestically. A lot of movies being made by Hollywood driven almost exclusively by international potential. But American moviegoers aren’t taking up the slack when they aren’t interested. There are too many other entertainment options.

What hasn’t changed is that people will go to the movies in huge numbers if they see something  they want, even when the movie is iffy. Sequels are not dead. IP is not dead. But more and more, studios are getting smacked for reaching behind their grasp… when they knew full well they were doing just that in the first place and closing their eyes and hoping for the best. Open your eyes, folks.

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Roger Moore Keeps The British End Up No More

roger_04Roger Moore was my first James Bond.

Live and Let Die was my first Bond film in a movie theater. I don’t recall whether I had seen Goldfinger or Dr No on ABC TV (Bond movies were a broadcast TV event back then). I think I had watched “The Saint” in black & white. But I loved — and love — that movie. Moore… Kotto… Geoffrey Holder… Jane Seymour. Sharks. Literally blowing the bad guy up.

Scaramanga’s Third Nipple and Hervé Villechaize weren’t played for comedy in The Man With The Golden Gun.

But there was something about The Spy Who Loved Me‘s combination of Barbara Bach, who was filthy-sexy in a way that previous Bond girls were not, and Jaws, who was not presented as funny, that somehow became Peak Bond and sent Moonraker into self-satire. Perhaps it was Moore’s age, then 52, and that Lois Chiles – even with the name Holly Goodhead – seemed to be smarter and more inherently capable than Bond. And they set big action in space. And of course, Richard Kiel’s Jaws was played for comedy in that one.

The final three Roger Moore Bond films were dragged along behind the car. Forgettable villains were cast (as casting was so critical). Moore was still a very handsome man and we were so familiar with him that we accepted that we didn’t really believe he was stronger and faster than everyone else. More of the stunts were done behind masking of some kind.

A View To A Kill was the end, with a great Duran Duran song, the amazing Grace Jones (though on the heels of Conan The Destroyer, which made the magic of who she is seem used up), and the first great Christopher Walken hair performance. But Bond seemed ready for retirement.

And Roger Moore, who would work to near the end (he is a voice in Guillermo del Toro’s Netflix series, Trollhunters), never chose to become a man in his 60s or 70s or 80s in front of the camera. Unlike Sean Connery, he seemed to have no urge to prove himself as any more of an actor than his decades of worldwide stardom suggested he was. No dying, no balding, no crying.

And so, he will be forever young, whether as Bond or as The Saint.

Roger Moore is the first James Bond to die. Sean Connery will be 87 this August. Lazenby will be 78. Goldfinger expected Bond to die… but these guys seem to live forever.

May Sir Roger Moore rest in peace.

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Review: Baywatch

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I was looking forward to some good, dumb summer fun.

And Baywatch has its moments.

But it’s taken down by an undertow of overthinking, over-raunching, and generally a complete miss of what made this series so absurdly popular for so long.

This is the bane of the IP-generated movie era: What do you do with the nostalgia? Do you embrace it fully? Do you mock it? Do you parody it broadly? Or do you split the difference between the three possibilities and miss the mark by an embarrassing distance?

Honestly, Baywatch is not as terrible as its massive failure suggests. There are still moments and this cast is aces, from top to bottom. And this makes the failure to be simple, stupid, joyous summer fun so very frustrating.

What were they thinking when then made a R-rated version of Baywatch when the only nudity was a not-funny dead-guy’s-penis joke and the other almost sexual thing is a guy somehow getting his erect penis and scrotum on the wrong side of a chaise lounge’s slats… which is not nearly as funny as they think it is (spending two full minutes on it).

There are breasts in bathing suits, low-cut dresses and wet suits. But the jiggle jokes are less overt than on the TV show. I didn’t need to see a bare bosom in the film… but I didn’t need the dick jokes either. And it’s not like they are smart, sly, insightful, ironic dick jokes. They are just dick jokes.

The core problem is that the idea of the movie is just not interesting. An endlessly recurring theme is that the lifeguards think they are police when they are just lifeguards. This never pays off. Never.

If you are extremely spoiler-sensitive, you can drop off now, but here is the primary storyline (aside from Zac Efron coming of age)… A super-hot Indian woman whose only clothes require tape to keep her breasts from falling out owns a beachfront hotel and wants to take over other beach front hotels because, somehow, this will make her drug smuggling (which never takes place on the beach) easier and is happy to torture or kill anyone in her way to they-were-hoping comic effect.

That’s it.

It makes no sense. But it offers bodyguard types big and mean enough to fight with Dwayne Johnson four or five times during the film. It must have been intended to offer a sexual tension with the villain… that is not longer in the film, as it appears that superhero Dwayne is a sexual eunuch in this R-rated film.

This is that place where I make a suggestion that sounds like I am telling the filmmaker what to do. But I am not. I am offering an option that would have been better than what was there. There are a million solutions and this is just one. But… MAKE A CHOICE. You could have The Rock sleeping with all the Baywatch beauties in a completely matter-of-fact way… of course people this good looking who are always running in bathing suits and have co-ed showers end up having sex… no big deal. OR he is mourning for his great love and has put all of his energy into Baywatch for years, but he is about to explode sexually. OR he is sexually insecure even though he is the toughest man on earth. WHATEVER. Make a choice.

It is one of the sad parts of the Baywatch effort that they created a very smart, capable, physically gifted female character of color (Ilfenesh Hadera)… then make her both a clitoral eunuch and the character with the least amount of story amongst the lead characters.

The film splits the other two screen melters (Alexandra Daddario and Kelly Rohrbach) into romantic dyads that are signaled clearly from the very beginning of the movie. And this is a shame. Both of these young women turn out to have real skill as comedians. Daddario is reminiscent of Alison Brie, a little younger (4 years) and on a slightly different track. She actually breaks away from the bombshell imact of here turn in HBO’s “True Detective” by being smarter than her objectification here. Rohrbach is what they are always hoping for when they cast a model to play comedy.

Again, the issue of the screenwriters and director making a strong choice is an issue for both of these actresses’ characters. Daddario’s Summer plays hard to get… so why not make it really hard for Zac Efron’s character and play with the line of sexuality. Rohrbach is on track to end up with the comic relied nerd… so take it to the next level. What if The Beauty really wants it from The Beast and he keeps on being unable to deliver? It’s almost there in the film… but it shies away. As a character, she is completely matter-of-fact about his penis, which is not seen but is played for jokes throughout. Why didn’t they really do something with that idea?

This entire movie is like the middle, boring part of a joke… like no one wants to get to the punchline.

Or go a different way. I don’t see the point of making this PG-13 movie into an R by saying “mutherfucker” a lot and showing a dead man’s penis if you aren’t going to make it a real R (like Horrible Bosses).

Sad to report that Seth Gordon, with his fourth major studio film here, still directs like an episodic TV director… single, single, single, boring 2 shot, single. There are shots that actually don’t match. Forget about getting a sense of space in any of these action sequences. Everything is a close-up and a jump cut. The guy makes character comedies, but he doesn’t know how to help his actors thrive on screen…. even though he has had some success. The fact that he ha overcome his limitations as a director in his films tells you how great he is at casting.

The unnecessary complexity of the story structure, given how simplistic the ideas were, really kept a great cast from flying here. I was even willing to put up with the Josh-Gad-wannabe (Jon Bass) by the end. But the movie doesn’t know what it has going for it and what is just meaningless complication.

By the time we got to the outtakes over credits, I was ready to leave… didn’t feel that the film had earned the right to be so self-amused.

If you are satisfied by a few laughs and looking at beautiful people for 2 hours, go for it. It’s not going to enrage you. As I noted earlier, it gets uglier by dissection, but it’s bland and beautiful enough not to hurt. But it could have been so much more.

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Obama Photographer Pete Souza Shoots “A Day In The Life Of Frank Underwood”

President Frank Underwood at Foggy Bottom Metro station in Washington, D.C., May 22, 2017 Photo © 2017 by Pete Souza

President Frank Underwood at Foggy Bottom Metro station in Washington, D.C., May 22, 2017
Photo © 2017 by Pete Souza

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“Twin Peaks”: A Place For Spoilers

Falling into a dream: the main credits of the new series.

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Weekend Estimates by Alien Trouble Klady

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This is a terrible result for Alien: Covenant. I thought they had found a strong, clear voice for the marketing about a month ago. Problem is… the movie didn’t open while the voice was strong. It opened an entire month later. In today’s movie marketing universe, timing is more important than ever. And when your campaign is “Run. Hide. Pray.,” sitting around waiting for the movie to open in a month and change later is clearly problematic.

I wasn’t sitting in meetings. I’m no expert on the A:C campaign. But you can see this all around.  a few studios now go for a very short marketing window compared to a decade ago, as little as a few weeks. And others, like Sony’s current Emojis campaign, push awareness as much as two months out.

Every time I see a Netflix ad for a show that isn’t on yet, I think of what a waste it is because a service that is based on instant call-to-action is not making its product available when it is calling me to action. There is so much content, the idea of anticipating all but a few shows/movies for more than a month is impossible. I would have watched the Brad Pitt/David Michôd war movie three times by now if it were already on Netflix. But I don’t even notice the ad (or remember the release date) after looking at billboards for a month.

I don’t think there is an easy answer. Star Wars and top-shelf Marvel is about the only stuff that could clearly open with virtually no marketing window. Someone needs to take that risk and do a 10-day campaign for a movie that can actually open. The imagination only lasts that long. It could work. But the irony is that a shorter marketing window might not lower costs, as the audience is so widely dispersed. You can find sports-loving men or pre-teen girls in specific spaces, but for a three- or fourquadrant movie, trying to push awareness and want-to-see in 10 days is an intimidating prospect. I get that.

And the question of whether Alien: Covenant got what it deserved goes back to the wrong-headed idea that opening weekend is about the film itself. It never is. Very, very rarely you can see a Sunday effect… almost never. The sales job for that opening weekend is done by Thursday night (earlier, really) and what is going to happen then is going to happen. (Tracking is wrong often because it is an imperfect art… again, not unlike trying to find every viewer in a short marketing window. Tracking is great for awareness, not so great for likely ticket sales.)

I think that Fox can be comforted by the idea that they did everything they could do to open A:C. The question is, for me at least, whether doing everything is still the most effective way to sell some movies, especially IP-driven films where awareness is not the big problem.

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Threads: Del Toro, McQuarrie, Mangold, Johnson et al.

Twitter is a lovely river when thread creates what participant James Mangold calls “a lively artistic banter among friends.”

This is only a sample. Listen in for a bit.

It began with a question from Christopher McQuarrie to a few colleagues:


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Friday Estimates by Alien: Klady

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Alien: Covenant takes a hit from Prometheus, as audiences aren’t quite ready to jump back into the water, even though Fox has pushed the action agenda more aggressively this time out. With Pirates a week away, the question of whether the same will happen there is legit.

Prometheus did $276m overseas. Will Alien: Covenant top that or not? And will A:C improve, as it should, on Prometheus‘ 2,5x opening domestic number? These questions will determine the future of this prequel franchise.

Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol 2 is building distance from the original as it goes. At the end of the first weekend, it was $52m ahead. Second weekend, $69m. After Friday, $71m. By the end of the weekend, we’ll see. And of course, international is enormous, passing $400 million this weekend.

Everything, Everything is a positive for ailing WB. It’s not a huge number, but it will lead to profit if the reported $10m price tag on the film is remotely true. The studio has clearly not spent a fortune marketing the movie.

Fox’s third release in the last nine days, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul, is eating it. Maybe cramming for three tests would be the metaphor. None of the three  openings went well, Snatched doing best (in perspective) of the three. Here, you had an openly acknowledged cast change and what seemed to be the hope that the old audience (now too old) would just show up. Captain Underpants seems to be what Wimpy was a few years ago (at least at my kid’s elementary school), so we shall see in couple weeks.

Two strong arthouse entries, Abacus and Wakefield, are in line to do $10k per in exclusive release this weekend.

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Woody Allen On Facebook Live

In which Allen offers his perpetrual shrug toward Annie Hall, talks about the CGI of Wonder Wheel, and his demand of total creative control at the age of 81. “When I make a film, I like the people backing the film, sometimes the studios, to put the money in a brown paper bag and then go away,” Allen says.  “And then six months later I give them film. That’s the way I’ve always been able to work, having complete control… I wouldn’t work… any other way… It came to a point where the studios would say, “Look, we’re not banks. If you’re asking us for $12 million, we want to read your script, we want to know who you’re casting and we want to have input. We’re not just bankers.” I, on the other hand regard them as, at best, bankers, if not criminals, and I said, ‘No, you can’t read my script and I’m not interested in your input.’I said this politely! And they said nicely, ‘Get lost.'”

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Trailers du Jour: Fox Apes Fight Humans & Feminism

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Weekend Estimates by Magic Snatched Klady

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This Mother’s Day weekend may (or may not) reflect the least accurate projections of Sunday numbers in memory. Both Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol 2 and Snatched are projecting Sunday as significantly bigger than their Friday gross, which would be unusual. Expect the 1-2-3 order to stay in line tomorrow, but with different grosses.

I almost did a spit take when I saw today’s weekend projections. Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol 2 made a giant leap on Saturday and a big projection for Sunday, but it is within reason, given Marvel’s history. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword took its sad $5m start and projected a sad, but unsurprising $14.8m weekend. And Snatched leapt from a $5m Friday to a $17.4m weekend. Huh?

Last Mother’s Day, in the only such example in the last five years of Mother’s Days, the 2 top movies (Captain America: Civil War and The Jungle Book) had exceptional Saturdays and Sundays. But the newcomer in the #3 slot, Money Monster… the only non-mega-movie? Just under 3x Friday. The movie Mother’s Day? Normal weekend trend line, Sunday less than Friday. So why is Snatched projecting 3.5x Friday? Likely to assure that it will be the #2 film and the #1 new film (and #1 comedy… ha ha ha) over the very close Friday competition of Krap Arthur.

Thing is, the Guy Ritchie bloodbath is laying down to die, so Snatched will be #2 even if the real number is $16m or under. And I wouldn’t be surprised if the Guardians number drops a million or two when “actuals” land tomorrow (not that a million or two means anything in that film’s box office history).

Only three films managed $10k per-screen this weekend (and mind you, that is only 1100 or so ticket buyers – at most – per screen over a three-day weekend): Guardians, the four-screen premiere of Paris Can Wait and the exclusive of  Stefan Zweig: Farewell to Europe.

Also of note, there are three $1m-plus non-English market films on the charts this weekend: How To Be A Latin Lover, Baahubali 2: The Conclusion, and Bon Cop Bad Cop 2.

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Friday Estimates by He Better Hope There Isn’t A Recording Of the Box Office Before He Estimates Klady

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Oh Guardians, my Guardians…

The second volume isn’t maintaining the “50% improved over the original” pace of the opening, but it is still well ahead of the first and internationally, it has already three-quarters of the way to the entire international gross for the first film ($326m going into this weekend vs 440m for the full run of the original). Given that, it is likely that V2 will come close to the total gross of V1 by the end of this worldwide weekend and it will pass it by next weekend (unless it somehow manages that feat by this Sunday).

Meanwhile, two new films arrived, neither encumbered in any way by Guardians’ haul this weekend… and both are as soft as a penis Amy Schumer would make into a gag about her not being attractive enough. (She is plenty attractive, but careeer-wise, should probably stop jumping between denying it and overstating it.) Ironically, the entire idea of King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is that it is rock hard. (I know… pushing the metaphor too hard… damn, did it again by mistake!) The male gaze upon the male is the least of KA’s problems.

There is a legit difference between these films. King Arthur will, unless saved by international, lose a bunch of money. Snatched, which I assume stayed under $50 million, will be breakeven or lose just a little. So a tale of two grosses that don’t lead to the same sadness.

Meanwhile, the #4 and #5 in the box office are both billion-dollar worldwide movies.

Not an interesting weekend. Paris Can Wait will be the exclusive-release representative in the $10k per screen club. Have a lovely Saturday. Enjoy streaming something!

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BYOB 051217

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The Myth of Movie Industry Myths: Exporting Films Of Color

There are things that are true and there are things that we want to believe.

The media loves to accuse Hollywood of all manner of malfeasance. (This piece claims to correct a myth and this piece claims that Hollywood is so invested in keeping women and people of color down that it is lying to itself.)

But often, the attacks are inaccurate, and even insulting, as well as ignorant of how Hollywood works, who is making choices and what the real intentions are.

There are plenty of ways to manipulate the system from the outside (that’s us, media). Shame works… to some degree. Studio execs take action to avoid public embarrassment. But in my decades of experience watching this industry, that will be only a temporary adjustment.

Things move slowly. Change happens. If you look at the face (and faces) of movies today, there is a marked difference from 20 years ago. There are still a lot of white male faces. A majority. Too many. Yes. But still, there is change. There is change in the content. The things characters say and do. And even much greater openness to color-blind and gender-blind and orientation-blind casting. Not enough. No.

But today, I want to get away from feelings and opinions about how movies starring or depicting people of color work outside of the U.S. and just look at numbers.

Every year, there are between 130 and 160 wide releases (over 1,000 screens at some point in the run) in the domestic market. Statistically, about 20 of those should be “of color” to match American society.

Here is the count from the last 5 years (2012 – 2016)
2016 – 21
2015 – 10
2014 – 12
2013 – 20
2012 – 12

The thing that jumps out immediately is that the fewest films “of color” released in any of these years was in 2015, which not coincidentally became the “Oscar So White” year.

Conversely, 2016, which saw a big bump in nominations for people of color was also, not coincidentally, the biggest year for wide releases of films “of color” in this survey.

We have had 46 wide releases in the U.S. so far in 2017, about a third of the films that will roll out. There have been seven movies led by people of color.  So that seems like a pretty good year coming. But I only see seven or so similar movies on the schedule. Ideally, that number will evolve upward, including wider expansion than currently planned for smaller titles.

Domestic grossers over $100 million will leads of color:

2016 – 5
2015 – 4
2014 – 1
2013 – 2
2012 – 5

But to the question, what about international?

In recent years, the standard for international is that most (about two-thirds of) American-made wide release films generate more than 50% of their overall box office from international markets.

How many films led by people of color are generating 50% or better overseas?

2016 – 6 of 21
2015 – 2 of 10
2014 – 3 of 12
2013 – 7 of 20
2012 – 4 of 12

That’s 22 of 75, or 29%… or less than half the rate that is the norm in the industry for films that have been released widely in North America.

But it’s worse than that, because the other alleged myth is the perception that a select group of movie stars of color are the “only ones” who do well overseas. But of those 22 films that did 50%+ overseas, 10 starred with Will Smith, Dwayne Johnson or Vin Diesel. (I’m not counting Moana for The Rock.)

Denzel Washington didn’t have a movie in the past five years that made over half its grosses overseas. In a remarkable career in which he has been a consistent box office draw in America for over 20 years, he has had only six movies in which more than half the box office came from international. And only one, Deja Vu, crossed that 50% mark without a white co-star who was a solid international box office draw. But the truth is, when Denzel started doing around 40% overseas consistently (on top of his expected domestic $70m & up), he was marked as a worldwide draw.

Of the other 11 films of color that grossed over 50% internationally, two were Best Picture winners (12 Years A Slave and Moonlight), three more were Best Picture nominees (Django Unchained, Life of Pi, Lion). Two were animated (Moana and The Book of Life), two specifically targeted Spanish-speaking audiences (Instructions Not Included and The 33), there was a biopic about an international figure (Mandela), a comedy (Scary Movie 5) and one tentpole that was dominated by white stars (Independence Day: Resurgence).

Maybe you don’t like these statistics.

Creed only grossed 37% of its gross internationally. But that 37% was $64 million. Seriously impressive. The Butler did $60 million, though that was only 34%. It would be wrong for anyone to say that there are no success stories.

A dozen films with black leads did over $100 million internationally in the last five years. But again, aside from the Big 3 and animation, there was only ID4:2 and that didn’t lean too hard on Jessie T. Usher or make him a movie star.

Here’s another stat…in the past five Oscar seasons, three Best Picture winners did over 50% of their box office overseas and two did not. The two that didn’t were Spotlight and Argo.

There are very real arguments that can be made about why films of color do not play as well overseas as other films. Does the system downgrade these films, signalling audiences in other countries to pay less attention? Is there significantly less being spent on marketing, given the history? Has the bias been so institutionalized that there are a hundred small things holding these films back in other countries?

Still, it would be dishonest not to question openly whether other countries are, in their moviegoing mainstreams, less racially tolerant than the U.S.

I don’t have an answer. The Intouchables, with a black man and a white man as co-leads, did record-breaking business in most countries of the world other than the U.S., racking up over $400 million. Omar Sy is an international star now. And the failure of the film in the U.S. points much more at Weinstein focusing on remake rights than the film itself.

Explain to me why Queen of Katwe performed better in the U.S. than A United Kingdom, but not as well internationally. I don’t know. (I could come up with a theory, but that’s not the point.) The two films are different, but both are fight-your-way-to-a-feel-good with roots on the African continent with the same lead actor. Theories aside, is there an answer to this question?

With due respect, when you are arguing that Straight Outta Compton is a shining example of international success, you are starting with an illusion. Did Universal expect it to play overseas? No. Is $40 million pretty strong for the film internationally? Yes. Would Universal or any other studio budget based on expecting $40 million or more international on their next black-historical-musical-character film? No, of course not. Not any more than they would budget a film like Get Out anticipating a $100m domestic gross… even months after it actually happened for Get Out. It has nothing to do with color. (Jason Blum is still very white.)

12 Years a Slave did $6.6 million in Italy while Creed did $650k, Selma did $1.8 million, and Collateral Beauty did $10 million. How do you sort out those numbers and come up with an argument about how films with people of color play in Italy? There are theories, but they all seem nebulous when you look closer at slices of history.

All that said… if you want to suggest  that there is a positive trend line – and I think there is – and that opportunity is limited by false claims that success in this direction is only an anomaly, you cannot make the argument by arguing only the anomalies. Regardless of what Twitter might have to say, the people who control the pursestrings – even the “good” ones – are smarter than that. They understand risk. And they understand that there are difficulties to be taken into account. Of course, the same is true of every movie that is made.

Trends in the movie business are not created by exceptions, but by repeatable rules. Those rules can and often do change, but more slowly than many of us would like.

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The Hot Blog

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Feature films are suffering a kind of bad time right now, in my opinion, because the feature films that play in theaters are blockbusters. That seems to fill the theaters, but the art-house cinema is gone. If I made a feature film, it might play in L.A. and New York, a couple of other places, for a week in a little part of a cineplex, and then it would go who knows where. I built this to be on the big screen. It will be on a smaller screen, but it’s built for the big screen. You want a feature film to play on a big screen with big sound, and utilize all the best technology to make a world. It’s really tough after all that work to not get it in the theater. So I say that cable television is a new art house, and it’s good that it’s here.”
~ David Lynch

“The purpose of film isn’t to present the kindness of the world.”
~ Isabelle Huppert