MCN Commentary & Analysis

Movie Content Scoreboard: Episode 3a – After The Fall, The Films

Let’s start again with…

THE UNTOUCHABLES (alphabetical order, as of July)

A Quiet Place II
Black Widow
Coming 2 America
The Conjuring 3
Connected
The Croods 2
Dune
The Eternals
Free Guy
The King’s Man
The Last Duel
Mulan
No Time To Die
Soul
Tenet
Top Gun Maverick
West Side Story
Wonder Woman 1984

Okay. Obviously, Warner Bros and Disney took a leap into experimentation with Tenet and Mulan. Both failed. (See Episode II)

That leaves a studio big-title library of 16 films waiting their turn. Wonder Woman 1984 pushed to December… primarily to give WB enough time to make whatever its release decision will be in a month or so.

Six of the titles are already dated in 2021… where many of them are still as likely as not to have to be moved again. But it takes the pressure off.

With the remaining 9 titles, let’s go to the calendar.

Black Widow. Disney is at their marketing “shit or get off the pot” point on this film for a November 6 release date. It’s moving to 2021.

No Time To Die and Soul, November 20. Marketing has started for the Bond movie, shared by Universal and MGM, but they have until the first week in October to make a real decision. Disney has now had its nose bloodied on Onward and now, Mulan. Unlike Hamilton, which is the only Disney movie to actually move to the Disney+ platform without a SuperPremiumVOD scheme, this film is a $200 million investment before marketing. Imaginary scenarios about churn don’t make it a sound financial decision to throw a $200 million lollypop to save some small percentage of a $350 million a month revenue business.

Bond films gross between $400 million and $800 million internationally. America is important, but international is the profit center. This film cost between $250m and $300m. So international is even more critical. If Bond does Tenet numbers internationally, the film has an outside shot at breakeven, even if the U.S. market opens up a bit more.

So the decision is just that simple. It’s not going to open America on Peacock. Netflix might be able to buy it for $550 million or so. (Not exaggerating.) But why would they, really?

In the next two weeks, Universal will either see a realistic path to $500 million international for No Time To Die or NY and LA will open theaters and a path to $400 million international will suffice. OR Universal and MGM will push the film to 2021.

December has the other six 2020 “untouchable” titles. Two from Disney/Fox, 2 Warner Bros, a Universal and a Paramount.

I don’t know what Free Guy cost. I am guessing over $150 million. Disney surely already knows whether they think this is a PG-13 Deadpool or your basic $200m worldwide Ryan Reynolds grosser. If it is the former, it is not opening in December. There is no route to the numbers needed, especially since it is a comedy and Reynolds, even in Deadpool, is a 40/50 domestic/international kind of star. If they think they can get an opening going for Free Guy, but that it is going to be disappointing for audiences, they could shoot for this December date, if either or both NY and LA have open indoor theaters as of Halloween.

West Side Story is not overly expensive ($100m) and obviously has Oscar ambitions. This is very different math. At this price and with the possibility (I think it’s 50/50 or worse) of an Oscar season, Spielberg and Kushner’s re-imagining of this classic show could be the next Disney+ PVOD experiment at something more like the $20 price point with a wide an international theatrical release as possible. It could also attempt a hybrid domestic theatrical with VOD where theaters are not open… if NATO can find a way to get members to agree. Drive-in premieres make perfect sense for this content, though I’m not sure how Spielberg will feel about the viewing experience.

Unless something dramatic changes by November 1, Wonder Woman 1984 is not opening in a traditional theatrical for Christmas. The title leans domestic, in terms of box office. So WB needs to have the possibility of at least $200 million domestic for this film to go forward into release. So they are not just waiting on the virus, they are waiting on Bond. If Bond moves or generates $400 million or less worldwide, Princess Diana will be on the move again.

Dune is a curious one. WB bet $200 million on one of the great working commercial directors in the world (more by quality than $) and the rising stars of Timothée Chalamet, Zendaya, and Jason Momoa. Denis has never had a $300 million worldwide grosser. So is Dune still untouchable? Again, a lot relies on the studio’s feeling about the film. In a perfect world – the old one – is this a $350 million grosser or a out-sized $700 million-plus worldwide event? WB knows what they think they have. So… potential outsized grosser = unlikley Dec release. Not so comfortable with it being a surprise box office hit means they could take another Tenet shot with this title.

The Croods was a grower, not a show-er. And it also did double international over domestic. So what of The Croods 2? Very Trolls 2, except that they will want serious international numbers. So the target is $250 million minimum international and a domestic PVOD play, perhaps at $15 instead of the Trolls 2 $20 rental price. I don’t see this film being released in any way – unless Netflix buys it for $250 million – until Universal sees a realistic $250 million international theatrical opportunity.

Coming 2 America has the very real potential to be the highest grossing Paramount-made release this century not named Transformers or Mission:Impossible (the deal for Indiana Jones 4 DQs it). When a company has had a dry spell like Paramount, giving away what might be the last coconut in the desert is not so easy. Now again… Paramount knows what is in the can. I do not. And comedies lean domestic. And though Eddie Murphy was doing better internationally in the 90s, he has leaned domestic as well. So… this title is a jump ball. Probably the least likely answer is a straight worldwide release on Dec 18. Anything is possible, but Magic 8 Ball is overheating here. Netflix, which bought the upcoming Beverly Hills Cop IV, is possible. $275 million worldwide for Bad Boys For Life didn’t encourage Paramount. C2A would likely be the most popular release on Netflix in any year. $250 million. Alternatively, Paramount could see try a variation on Mulan for the newly re-named Paramount+ streaming service. Sign up for $75 for a year on Paramount+ or $130 for Paramount+ and Showtime streaming and you get access to Coming 2 America. Or pay for a month and $20 for the movie as long as you have the subscription. And there is that lingering possibility that Bond opens and does over $100m domestic and Paramount goes for it in December or January.

The first “untouchables” scheduled for 2021 are not until February. So I am going to leave that hornet’s nest alone for now.

In terms of the next group that I laid out in the first episode of this scoreboard…

POTENTIALLY TOUCHABLE (as of July 2020)

355 (Kinberg directed – Chastain/Cruz/N’Yongo)U
Clifford The Big Red DogPar
Death on The NileDisney/Fox
Deep WaterDisney/Fox
I’m Your Woman (Rachel Brosnahan, Julia Hart dir)Amazon
The New MutantsDisney/Fox
News of the WorldU
Peter Rabbit 2Sony
RespectMGM-ish
Rumble (animation/WWE)Par

(Paramount’s Without Remorse is dated 2021… and is being discussed for a sale to Amazon. 7/23)

Of this group, only Death on the Nile is currently being marketed, with Disney releasing a new trailer last week for what is still officially a November release.

The New Mutants was thrown to the wolves by Disney 3 weekends ago… $30 million worldwide. $100 million writedown by Disney.

News of the World is still dated in December and is seen as a Hanks Oscar play (not really Greyhound) for director Peter Greengrass. This one will be caught up in Oscar decision-making. Do they drop it on VOD or streaming with some kind of theatrical where possible, walking the line for what still could well be a cancelled award season? I don’t know. All kinds of viable options and 6 weeks or more to decide.

Respect, 355, Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway, Rumble, and Cinderella are all dated for January. All 5 could easily be converted to streaming/VOD fodder. Modestly commercial entertainments without a huge price tag.

Clifford The Big Red Dog moved to 2021. I’m Your Woman is Amazon and will be an awards decision. And Deep Water is a Fox adult thriller from Adrian Lyne and Disney will likely hang onto it for a Hulu push sometime in 2021… or it could be fodder for theatrical if exhibition is still holding a lot of screens open and Disney is happy to write this one off.

On the arty front, Nomadland, Ammonite, On The Rocks, and The Father are the ones that seem to be in play, via Searchlight, Neon, Focus, and SPC. Everything else is in play. Throw a dart.

Next: Episode 3b: After The Fall, What Does The Road Ahead Look Like?

One Response to “Movie Content Scoreboard: Episode 3a – After The Fall, The Films”

  1. Bob Burns says:

    Openings, now, are like selling stock assets at the bottom of the market.

    Or, if you think of the film industry as manufacturing, openings are like selling your pricey inventory at the bottom of the market, while your factories are closed.

    People are not dying to go to movies. The companies that own the film industry are making plenty of money without their film divisions. They can afford to hold onto their assets.

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