Monday, July 10, 2006

Things That Keep Me Wondering...

I've been thinking a lot about these guys here:

See, I went on the old IMDB pro and looked up some estimates for the budgets on these two films. These are both hefty cannons in the WB arsenal and I wanted to know a few things about what it cost to make each of the movies. Now it's been said that Hollywood is like a crapshoot - on friday you roll the dice and on sunday you find out if it came up snake eyes...

Take a look at the following figures and tell me if the movies are worth it:

BATMAN BEGINS Budget: $150 Million Box Office Worldwide: $352 M

SUPERMAN RETURNS Budget: $250 Million Box Office Worldwide: $171 M

Isn't this gambling? Even with all of the international tax shelters and funds and lease backs and dozens of other financing tricks - isn't this just a frikkin' drunk at the bump, whippin out a pair of dice and really coming up empty?

And yeah, I'm a bit jealous. I admit it. There may be the taste of sour grapes in my mouth. This is a truckload of benjamins and I can think of a lot of different and better ways the money could be spent. It wouldn't necessarily be my stuff either, but it would definitely be movies and TV that would be responsible to the creativity and the budget.

I'm glad I'm not a stock holder in this company.

Jeffrey Katzenberg wrote an infamous memo many years ago about how Disney needed to be making more fiscally responsible movies - smaller movies but more of them. "Base hits" he called them, and at the time Disney needed that "talking to." People laughed, but Katzenberg was right.

But if Katzenberg had been at Disney, he probably wouldn't have greenlit:

PIRATES OF THE CARRIBEAN Budget: $140 Million Box Office Worldwide: $653 M

Some days it's snake eyes, and some days it's lucky seven.

Oh, and you silly WB people?

GLOBAL. FREQUENCY. DVD.

You are going to need some base hits to make up for this debacle called SUPERMAN RETURNS.

15 comments:

Jutratest said...

What was Aquaman's budget?

Aric Blue said...

Let's be honest though--Supes will pay off in the long run. It's STILL in theaters and will make a boatload on the dvd.

And if I were WB I'd look at it this way: There were so many pay-or-play deals that Supes 1 was NEVER gonna make it's money back.

But as long as the first one didn't KILL the franchise, Supes II will be much cheaper to produce and should rake in the dough--it'll be a better movie since they shouldn't have to waste time re-setting up the story.

Bill Cunningham said...

Uh Aric - I think that the next Superman we see is going to be animated. Seriously.

RogerRmjet said...

Bill, while I mostly agree with you, I think there's some apples to oranges in your comparisons. First, the final numbers for Superman aren't in yet. It's already taken in $171 M and hasn't been out a full two weeks yet. "Analysts" keep calling it a "disappointment," but it's actually doing pretty good, especially for a movie that's way too long.

I know, I know, the "disappointment" monikor is because of the price tag. But that $250 M includes the $50+ M that Jon Peters wasted over a ten year span. Why didn't WB give this guy the boot years ago? You, me, and a dozen other people could have made several PROFITABLE films with that amount of money (your point to start with).

One of the things that struck me about SR is that they shot it in Australia to save money. Excuse me, WB, if you do that and your film STILL costs north of $200 M, then I don't think location/crew costs are your real problem.

We all have Sony to thank for the sky-high star salaries, but I think even that is just the tip of the iceberg. The whole system of movie budgeting is an ever-growing monster that seems fast on its way to imploding. A good example was the Project Greenlight movies, where the aim was to give someone $1 M to make a Hollywood movie. What they quickly discovered was that you CAN'T make a Hollywood movie for $1 M. It's impossible without changing the system.

Robert Rodriguez showed the way. Maybe one day, Hollywood will follow. Maybe one day they they won't have any choice.

RogerRmjet said...

So, Bill, have you seen POTC: Dead Man's Chest? Anxious to hear your thoughts.

Jutratest said...

If the next Superman is animated, I would like Brad Bird to write and direct.

Joey Fidler said...

Has anyone here read any of the unproduced Superman scripts? You can find them at www.simplyscripts.com. They have J.J. Abrams' infamous SUPERMAN draft he did in 2002 and Kevin Smiths' SUPERMAN LIVES script that Tim Burton didn't like. They also have BATMAN VS SUPERMAN by Andrew Kevin Walker that was going to be directed by Wolfgang Peterson.

Random said...

And you've got to keep in mind how much dough the merch licensing is raking in. I mean, how often do you go an entire day without seeing an S-Shield? The movie itself has got to be pushing an extra couple hundred thousand t-shirts a week, y'know?

Bill Cunningham said...

Random - merchandising is predicated on the idea that the movie is doing well. And all of that money isn't going to WB anyway, they get license fees and a percentage of the sales.

A client of mine got the license to do the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory shirts. Not a good outcome there either...

MaryAn Batchellor said...

Variety yesterday said that Disney is going to be making fewer movies next year - something like only eight per year. Only? How many were they making before?

RogerRmjet said...

"Variety yesterday said that Disney is going to be making fewer movies next year - something like only eight per year. Only? How many were they making before?"

About eighteen per year.

platyjoe said...

So, is Disney giving up completely on base hits, and focusing on POTC-stuff, or are they just scaling back and concentrating on the DVD market. I've always thought a big share of their earnings was DVD/VHS sales....

Bill Cunningham said...

I read an article in the LA Times today about how this has been planned for some time in order to reduce costs. Even before Iger.

They will still have a Touchstone label, a Miramax label and yes, will be doing DVD Premieres of movies. Of course they also have Pixar and their Burbank Animation units.

They're concentrating on their core family-fare audience, by creating stuff they own outright.

wcmartell said...

There was an article in the trades recently that said *statistically* the larger the budget of the movie, the greater the chance it has of making big old piles of money. They were talking 'bout studio films, of course, but it was interesting that smaller budget studio films are more likely to lose money.

I'm sure most of this is star power and just the scope and production value of the film - if you sk me which film I'd rather see: SUPERMAN RETURNS or THE BREAK UP, I'm going with Supes. It looks like more fun. I've seen the inside of a condo before, but Supes offered things I had never seen.

I think this falls into what I call "dog juice" - the interesting, exciting, exploitable elements of your movie. On a huge tentpole movie, there's no shortage of the juice. In a smaller film, there may not be enough juice to attract an audience.

In the killer B world, we need to make sure our films have AS MUCH juice as the big summer tentpole flicks. We don't have big starts... so what *do* we have? What can we put in the film that makes it exciting and interesting? I think a large part of this is pushing the envelope in ways the studios shy away from. Another part is having a better concept, and cooler characters and scenes than the big budget counterpart. Imagination is our secret weapon.

- Bill

Bill Cunningham said...

I agree with almost 100% of what you say here Bill...

Except for the part where "smaller budget studio films lose money"...

If this is the case, then why does every studio have some sort of DVD Premiere production division?

SONY - SPECIES 3, STARSHIP TROOPERS 2, HOLLOW MAN 2

WB - DUKES OF HAZZARD 2 (Plus 5 more a year at around $5m each)

UNIVERSAL - VAN HELSING ANIMATED, LAND BEFORE TIME(?), CARLITO'S WAY: RISE TO POWER.

NEW LINE...
DIMENSION...
PARAMOUNT...
LIONSGATE...

Let's put it this way: Low budget THEATRICAL movies at the studio level tend to lose money...