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March 22, 2012: "Reviewing the Budget" 
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Post March 22, 2012: "Reviewing the Budget"
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Thu Mar 22, 2012 11:09 am
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Gaffer

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Post Re: March 22, 2012: "Reviewing the Budget"
The answer, I think, is "Hollywood gives a crap". We have better information than we did twenty or thirty years ago - rather than reading puff pieces in film magazines, we have information directly from the studios; we know that the main in-studio measure of a film's success is its box-office performance, and even more its first-weekend performance (preferentially looking at people easily led by advertising, who don't bother to wait for reviews). So if we care about the future career of the cast and crew, or about sequels, that's where we have to look.

It's worth remembering that (a) cinemas get a share of a film's reported box office - a wildly variable one, anywhere from 20% to 70% depending on the film - and (b) Hollywood accounting is deliberately deceptive and always makes a film look less profitable than it really was, so that the people on a percentage can be screwed out of their share. With those things pulling in opposite directions, looking at budgets and box offices isn't likely to tell one anything useful.

Hollywood loves the box office numbers, because inflation means every year brings a new Biggest Film Ever. An honest comparison based on ticket sales would reveal the truth, that film will never again reach the audiences it did in the 1950s.


Thu Mar 22, 2012 11:37 am
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Post Re: March 22, 2012: "Reviewing the Budget"
When I first saw the trailer for John Carter, my first thought was "This is going to bomb, and bomb hard." And of course it did; when to compare the film's budget to the rule of 2.5, then John Carter would have had to make $625 million just to break even.

It's just a movie, and it doesn't need to cost that much. Give me a cheapo but fun B-flick like Sharktopus anytime.

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Thu Mar 22, 2012 12:32 pm
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Post Re: March 22, 2012: "Reviewing the Budget"
Sexual Chocolate wrote:
When I first saw the trailer for John Carter, my first thought was "This is going to bomb, and bomb hard." And of course it did; when to compare the film's budget to the rule of 2.5, then John Carter would have had to make $625 million just to break even.

It's just a movie, and it doesn't need to cost that much. Give me a cheapo but fun B-flick like Sharktopus anytime.

My thoughts exactly! Give me a Sci-Fi Channel original film over another overblown epic film any day of the week. Who in their right mind thinks it's a good idea to release a film with a 250 million dollar budget during March?


Thu Mar 22, 2012 12:40 pm
Gaffer

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Post Re: March 22, 2012: "Reviewing the Budget"
What I'd like to see is a separation of the Hollywood machine and filmmaking. The way to achieve this, I think, is to encourage what's starting to happen already: make films cheaply, distribute them cheaply, and make smaller money off a smaller budget - but distribute it between fewer people, so they each individually do better (and the other people make another film).

If a film needs big money, the people putting up the money will want a say - and under the current system, the only thing they can look at is box-office returns. I'd much rather see ten films with unknown cast and crew - of which maybe one or two are really good - than roll all the dice on one huge film that's been sanded down to anodyne smoothness. (And I see Vexer agrees...)

Film festivals go some way to showcasing this, but distribution is still the problem. Cinemas right now barely break even on film showings, given how much they have to pay the studio - which is why you get the $5 coke and $10 popcorn. What's worse, the cinemas are often tied down to contracts that don't allow them to show non-studio films. Is it time simply to let them die? Home theatre isn't cheap enough for everyone, but most people have a TV and a net connection. Remove the stigma of "direct to DVD" and "viewed on-line", dump the DRM, and you might have a real competitor for the incestuous world of Big Movies.


Thu Mar 22, 2012 12:44 pm
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Gaffer

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Post Re: March 22, 2012: "Reviewing the Budget"
Interesting article, James. Sometimes I wonder why the hell I read the box-office numbers myself. I mean, its not like I'm getting any of that net gross LOL! For me, I guess its because there's a irresistible curiosity to see exactly how many people actually care about an individual film, especially if it's a film I care about and love. THE DARK KNIGHT RISES will be an example of that kind of film. Even the grosses of the TWILIGHT movies matter, if only to piss me off and show me how pathetic the tastes of a good portion of American audiences are :/

BTW James, what exactly are your Top 5 Must-See Movies for 2012? First and totally foremost for me is THE DARK KNIGHT RISES, followed by THE HOBBIT, then DJANGO UNCHAINED, and capped off with THE AVENGERS and MEN IN BLACK 3 . Honorable mentions are THE HUNGER GAMES, THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, PROMETHEUS, and LINCOLN.


Thu Mar 22, 2012 12:51 pm
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Post Re: March 22, 2012: "Reviewing the Budget"
What I find even more interesting is that with the advent of endless $ amounts published came the demise of the publishing of the actual number of tickets that were sold, which would TRULY show how far Hollywood has fallen.

Of course, that would be far too much truth for Hollywood to handle...


Thu Mar 22, 2012 3:31 pm
Post Re: March 22, 2012: "Reviewing the Budget"
Obsessing over grosses makes sense if you're a fan of a franchise, because obviously how well one does is going to affect whether or not another one is made.

Beyond that, I suppose it's the same thing that drives people's obsession with sports. People like to pick a team and root for it to win. I'll refer people to any given movie message board--well, lesser message boards than this one--and point out that you see very similar trash talk as you would for any given sporting event. While I have no interest in that, it's what passes for a part of the movie experience these days. Not only do you get a movie to like, but you get to crow when it does well and lament when it doesn't. The reverse is also true.

The movie industry is aware of this, which is part of the reason for the investment in 3D. Jack up the price for an individual ticket, release the figures without adjusting them to compensate for the surcharge, and watch people rave about how well the movie performed.

As for the increasingly insane amount of money that gets spent on movies, I suppose the technology does get in the way of the craft. But then, I can't imagine a way to make a decent John Carter of Mars movie without a lavish budget.


Thu Mar 22, 2012 3:32 pm
Post Re: March 22, 2012: "Reviewing the Budget"
I wonder how much influence the current trends in television are going to impact big screen films. Despite the mass produced sitcoms and reality shows, we are still currently in what a lot of people think is the true golden age of TV shows, at least in the United States. When studios finally realize that audiences DO want to see more than live action adaptations of comic books and teen lit, maybe we'll have a "New" New Wave. Like the "Popularity Polynomial" page on TvTropes. :D


Thu Mar 22, 2012 5:00 pm
Post Re: March 22, 2012: "Reviewing the Budget"
I think the reverse is happening. As TV becomes more competitive, the movie industry is trying to create more of a specialty experience. These people do not want to compete with TV on its own turf--character development, drama, etc.--so they're trying to come up with stuff you can't get from TV, which is big-budgeted widescreen spectacle.

It's going about as well as you'd expect.


Thu Mar 22, 2012 5:06 pm
Post Re: March 22, 2012: "Reviewing the Budget"
I was thinking way down the line, years from now when the "spectacle" strategy had long failed.

The downside of serialized TV shows today is all the filler. There are lots of supposedly really good programs that I got bored with quickly because they stretched out the plot for way too long, years on end(I might call it the "Lost" effect). Movies have the advantage of being more poetic I guess(if that's the right word), where they show what's necessary and you can fill in the blanks.


Thu Mar 22, 2012 5:16 pm
Post Re: March 22, 2012: "Reviewing the Budget"
If movies as we know them are still around in the time frame we're talking about, they may very well be forced into a smaller scale, not by competition and popularity trends, but by pure matters of logistics. The movie industry is threatened with irrelevance and it is trying to buy its way out of the jam, which, it seems to me, is bound to backfire.


Thu Mar 22, 2012 5:22 pm
Post Re: March 22, 2012: "Reviewing the Budget"
Please just pretend I'm stupid for a moment and explain patiently to me why people keep talking about how they 'used' to like superhero movies? Surely between the likes of Batman (which JB did mention I suppose) and Iron Man/Thor/Avengers, these movies are better than they have been?

I personally don't let box office performance alter my perception of a movie. I'm not a caveman. I do however think that it's interesting to look at what 'succeeds' and what 'bombs' alongside the reasons why. Is anyone in any doubt that 'Avatar' is the highest grossing movie due more to it's marketing than how good a movie it is? At the opposite end, was 'Golden Compass' a box office fail because it wasn't a good movie? I can write a rather long list of reasons why it failed but 'bad movie' isn't one of them :)

I hope 'The Hunger Games' does do well as I really would rather the whole thing was adapted. Will be seeing it this weekend and I already know it will be in my top 5 of this year!


Thu Mar 22, 2012 5:49 pm
Post Re: March 22, 2012: "Reviewing the Budget"
Dragonbeard wrote:
Please just pretend I'm stupid for a moment and explain patiently to me why people keep talking about how they 'used' to like superhero movies? Surely between the likes of Batman (which JB did mention I suppose) and Iron Man/Thor/Avengers, these movies are better than they have been?

1. Fatigue. These movies used to be relatively few and far in between. Now that there's a glut, people are beginning to look elsewhere for entertainment.

2. For every Superman: The Movie and Batman Begins, there are several Jonah Hexes, Ghost Riders, and Daredevils. As the years go by, the pool of quality becomes more and more diluted.

3. This one is unprecedented. I think the Marvel approach, while an interesting experiment, is ultimately backfiring, because it turns substantial portions of their standalone movies into advertisements for each other and for the forthcoming Avengers movie.


Thu Mar 22, 2012 5:56 pm
Post Re: March 22, 2012: "Reviewing the Budget"
Dragonbeard wrote:
Please just pretend I'm stupid for a moment and explain patiently to me why people keep talking about how they 'used' to like superhero movies? Surely between the likes of Batman (which JB did mention I suppose) and Iron Man/Thor/Avengers, these movies are better than they have been?


1. Fatigue, as Ken said, but also now that there's a lot more of them, viewers are more discriminating. For example, back when Tim Burton's movies were being released, audiences were just happy not to see a campy interpretation of the character. They didn't mind so much that Bruce Wayne was totally ignored and that the villains were just more violent versions of the caricatures that were on the 1960's show. Now that we've got a Batman film series that actually try to give depth to everyone and whatnot, some people can't enjoy the Burton filmss on the same level anymore.


Thu Mar 22, 2012 6:07 pm
Post Re: March 22, 2012: "Reviewing the Budget"
Ken wrote:
Dragonbeard wrote:
Please just pretend I'm stupid for a moment and explain patiently to me why people keep talking about how they 'used' to like superhero movies? Surely between the likes of Batman (which JB did mention I suppose) and Iron Man/Thor/Avengers, these movies are better than they have been?

1. Fatigue. These movies used to be relatively few and far in between. Now that there's a glut, people are beginning to look elsewhere for entertainment.

2. For every Superman: The Movie and Batman Begins, there are several Jonah Hexes, Ghost Riders, and Daredevils. As the years go by, the pool of quality becomes more and more diluted.

3. This one is unprecedented. I think the Marvel approach, while an interesting experiment, is ultimately backfiring, because it turns substantial portions of their standalone movies into advertisements for each other and for the forthcoming Avengers movie.


Okay sorry, I had actually failed to take into account the 'lesser' attempts at adaptations (Ghost Rider etc). Jonah Hex had it's moments but could have been millions of times better!

I don't know, I quite like how they are approaching it. If the Avengers was a stand alone movie, and there hadn't been Iron Man etc, I think it would have been pretty pedestrian (it still might, I'm hoping it will rock my face clean off!). I think a better option might have been to have made a series of movies introducing the core characters (Stark, Thor, Rogers, Banner) all filmed back to back with the same crew/direction etc released in a more serialised fashion (LOTR or Harry Potter style).

The sole reason I don't mind the 'advertising the Avengers' thing is because I'm really putting a lot of hope into the final movie being something worth seeing. At the very least, I can see this whole thing going the way of Nolan's Batman saga and actually having a final ending while the material is still fresh.


Thu Mar 22, 2012 6:37 pm
Post Re: March 22, 2012: "Reviewing the Budget"
"Although The Dark Knight Rises is on my "Top Five Can't Wait To See" List for 2012."

What are the other four, James?

I'm assuming "The Hobbit" is on there.


Thu Mar 22, 2012 7:00 pm
Post Re: March 22, 2012: "Reviewing the Budget"
"If a movie makes a lot of money, it must be good and therefore there must be sequels. If a movie fails (by whatever definition), it's not worth the time to watch and should be buried. This mentality leads to an assembly line of cookie-cutter productions, which is dangerously close to what the last two summer blockbuster seasons have brought us. I used to enjoy comic book superhero movies; now I'm bored of them."

I totally agree with this. Hollywood always assumes that just because a movie had a high opening gross it means everyone has loved the film. People sometimes forget about the curiosity factor which can influence a high gross.

No wonder we're getting so many unnecessary and belated sequels and comic book films. I used to be excited for films like these, but now I'm jaded and bored of them. There are too many of them and a lot are being made just because the previous film(s) made money.

All of these remakes and reboots are also being made because the original film made a lot of money. I generally won't blow $15 on a remake/reboot when I can just watch the original at home.

No wonder Hollywood has become creatively bankrupt and afraid to take risks. It's too much about the money and playing it safe to ensure the money is made.


Thu Mar 22, 2012 7:07 pm
Gaffer
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Post Re: March 22, 2012: "Reviewing the Budget"
Hey all, first time posting here. I know box office numbers are currently all the rage, but are there other official sources akin to Box Office Mojo that publicly release video on demand or DVD/Blu-Ray sales numbers? The only reason I ask is because like James alluded to, a films theatrical run doesn't paint the complete picture. Movies like Donnie Darko and Boondock Saints tanked in the box office and yet made a killing in DVD sales. I'd like to know these numbers.

The way films are being exhibited is also changing, especially for independents. Melancholia was had a pre-theatrical release where it was available to stream. It made $2M in this window as opposed to the $3 it would make in theaters. Margin Call took a slightly differently approach by being simultaneously released on VOD and theatrical release. Other independent films and even bigger budget movies (Tower Heist being a recent example) are also toying with this idea.

If there isnt an official source for VOD/DVD sales, there should be, because VOD will be playing a much larger role in the future.


Thu Mar 22, 2012 7:18 pm
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Gaffer

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Post Re: March 22, 2012: "Reviewing the Budget"
Holywood is and always was a business, but I think the modern wave of movie studios being owned by international corporations probably doesn't help. I doubt any of them have the slightest concern for the artistic side of film.

On a side note, it is hard to understand why movies are so expensive these days. I think Cleopatra is still viewed as the most expensive movie ever (barely) when adjusted for inflation, but at least that one had massive REAL sets and a cast of thousands of REAL people to show for it. From the commercials I saw for John Carter, I doubt it has either.

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Thu Mar 22, 2012 7:31 pm
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