Thanks to Anne Thompson for posting this brilliance...
Thanks to Anne Thompson for posting this brilliance...
Erik Childress is a bit of a watchdog when it comes to how studios handle the critics, and how critics handle films. He's also quite verbose, and you should only read the entire article if you are passionate about this area (or skip to the bottom, where he just slams some quote whores relentlessly).
But if you want to see a new level of depravity in how studios are handling critics, check this out. It's one thing to not show a film to critics, so that they can't review it in their Friday papers. It's quite another thing to show it to them, but then tell them that even though they've seen it, even though the film has opened and random strangers on the street have sen the film, they still are not allowed to break their embargo and write about it until the Saturday after the film has opened.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Crank, distributed by Lions Gate Films... breaking new ground in public relations disasters.
Through April, there were 14 films kept from the non-junket press. This summer, including Snakes, there have only been five. And based on the eventual critical response – See No Evil (6%), Pulse (15%), Zoom (0%), Material Girls (6%), only Snakes had any serious backing. It was also a hype film, much like the sequels (Big Momma’s House 2, Underworld Evolution, Madea’s Family Reunion), remakes (When a Stranger Calls), video games (Silent Hill) and familiarity (Date Movie, The Benchwarmers) that turned any decent bank despite the non-screening strategy and the only title of the 19 to pass the 30% positive barrier.
Sept. 1 will mark the date when the “not screened for critics” banner hits the “three times as much as 2005” status as The Wicker Man, Crank and Mike Judge’s rampantly-delayed Idiocracy (which will be Fox/Fox Searchlight’s fifth no-show of the year ahead of Sony/Screen Gems pace-setting six.)
Crank is being screened for the junketeers, but issued a strict POST-RELEASE DATE embargo where attendees were not allowed to post their reviews online or in print until Saturday, Sept. 2. Quite a change from the studios utilizing junket whores to get their blurbs into print the Sunday before release.
Someone has created an entire blog dedicated solely to trailer mash-ups... you know, editing movies together into a trailer so that they're either the combination of two films, or a completely different genre. How Scarface Got His Groove Back is a good example...
I present to you the evidence of why celebrities hate doing press.
Seriously... the networks need to cancel all this pre-show Emmy/Oscar garbage, or at least find someone who has a brain AND can hold a microphone.
First, did anyone catch the idiot woman for NBC asking Annette Bening whether she'd like an Emmy to go with her Oscar? Yeah, um... Annette doesn't have an Oscar, you nightmarish toad. She has lost three times though, so, um... close. She's "been happy to be nominated" twice to Hilary Swank and once to freaking Whoopi Goldberg, so I'm sure she's all really cool about it, and definitely willing to answer awkward awful questions on live TV and all. Just for that encounter, here's hoping she wins for Running With Scissors.
Although Helen Mirren might have something to say about that. Good lord... that movie just screams Best Actress.
But the even better showdown, was Jeremy Piven handing Billy Bush his lunch. This idiot (apparently, the smart Bush) first asks him if he's seen Violet Garner (Ben and Jennifer's baby) recently. When Piven says no, Bush then asks him whether he's seen Shiloh (Brad and Angelina's baby). Piven gives him a big generous clue and says that he has had "116 other things to do... I don't go hunting for celebrity babies, thank you, Billy."
Incredulously, this idiot then asked him whether he's seen (wait for it) Suri Cruise. I shit you not. I can't believe Piven didn't just deck him on live TV. Instead he went with, "You need another job. You have potential as a human being. This may not be right for you. Seriously -- can you focus on other things?"
And my love for Jeremy Piven continues to grow...
As I look through my logs, clearly you're all searching for the Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert Emmy Presentation, and Google seems to be sending me your way. Unfortunately, you were all looking at last year's performance. Here is what they did last night.
Quote of the year... "I LOST TO BARRY MANILOW!!!!"
Now this is writing... the kids at Fametracker must have read their EW and Premiere Fall Previews, and instead of telling us what they want to see, we get the ever-snarky, "Fametracker's Ten Least Essential Fall Films, 2006." Example:
10. The Return
Release Date: November 17
The Plot: Sarah Michelle Gellar stars in a spooky thriller about a woman haunted by murder. (PS Totally not like The Grudge.)
The Pitch: If you loved her in The Grudge, you'll love her in The Return! (PS Totally not like The Grudge.)
Why It's Inessential: "Hi, Studio? It's me, Sarah Michelle. Yeah, I'm going to have to pass on The Grudge 2, because I'd really like to branch out in other directions and I don't want to get pigeonholed. I'd hate for people to think I'm only about young women haunted by little girls, when I'm also about less-oung women haunted by past murders. So, sorry. But maybe you can get another chick from TV. Trust me, there's lots of us. Thanks."
I love it.
This will probably be my last Tom Cruise post for some time, but among all the noise over the last few days, I did find three well written pieces that I found insightful and enjoyable to read.
First, there's "How the players fared after the Cruise attack" by Anne Thompson in her Hollywood Reporter column:
But why did Redstone insist on kicking Cruise off the lot so publicly? Sounding angry and betrayed, there was something personal about his demeanor. Remember, Redstone is a numbers man. After all the millions that he invested in building up the marquee global movie star brand "Tom Cruise," he was convinced that Cruise's offscreen behavior "effectuates creative suicide and costs the company revenue," he told the Journal. It seems clear that Redstone simply couldn't bear the fact that Cruise's self-destructive public conduct - most of which took place before War of the Worlds more than a year ago - had cost the studio untold millions in lost ticket sales while the movie star himself walked away with as much as $80 million from M:I-3, leaving the studio with chump change.
Next, there's "Who is Redstone's Target?" by Patrick Goldstein of the LA Times:
In other words, Redstone appears frustrated and angry about something far more worrisome than one movie star's deal. To me, he seems equally upset about what's happened to his flagship investment — his movie studio. By all accounts, something is amiss at Paramount Pictures and I suspect that Redstone, at 83, doesn't have the luxury of waiting forever for his new vassals to figure out how to operate the keys to the kingdom.
What surprised people the most about Redstone's attack on Cruise was that it severely undercut the authority of his studio lieutenants. They had presumably been working out an amicable "we wish Tom well" send-off after 14 years at the studio that would have still signaled Paramount's tough stance on talent expenditures without insulting Cruise or his agency, CAA, which represents a huge percentage of the top talent in Hollywood. Furious with Redstone, CAA has gone on the attack, with the agency's rarely-heard-from President Richard Lovett saying that Paramount has "no credibility," telling the New York Times "it is not clear who is running the studio and who is making the decisions."
Finally, in a tangentially related story, (due to the rumors that Tom either is or isn't working with Wall Street hedge funds to set up his own production company), you may be asking, "what the heck is a hedge fund?" Claude Brodesser-Akner has a good piece titled, "$200 Million Bet A Hedge...Really" on TMZ.com (which is becoming quite the media magnet these days... where did these guys come from? or, where have I been?)
My friend Scott asked an excellent question that I forgot to address in yesterday's post about Snakes on a Plane. While I sliced and diced how poorly it did, I failed to give enough reasons why it failed.
One way to go here, is to shrug your shoulders and say, "who knows?" William Goldman knows that "nobody knows anything" when it comes to Hollywood, and smarter people than me can't predict why a film is going to succeed or fail. Looking at a situation in hindsight, however, is different.
First, I'll let some others talk.
To me, I truly believe that the title was the worst double-edged sword you could possibly imagine. It's brilliant, but fraught with problems. Many years ago, when people said that Speed was Die Hard on a Boat, that mode of thinking slowly ingrained itself into our society. This film cut out the middle man. Forget calling it Fright Flight or Red Eye (which did better than SOAP) some other nonsense (Pacific Air Flight 121). Go to the most reductive title you can think of to tell people what the movie is: Snakes on a Plane.
Now, once you've gone there and named the film something like that, you're going to divide up audiences in two ways. First, Poland says it clearly that there's no doubt what the movie is, and there are people that like movies about snakes on planes, and people that don't. And for people that don't, the title is so blunt, there's no doubt, no question, no ambiguity about what's going to be in this movie, so they are not coming.
But let me also throw this at you. Don't you absolutely hate it when you see a trailer for a movie, and it tells you absolutely everything you need to know about the film? Turns you off, doesn't it? You probably won't go see that movie. Well, now we have a film that did that very thing just by the title alone. Boom. End of story.
Again, had they changed the title to something else, well, we're not having this conversation (or any of the SOAP conversations of the past year), and instead you've got something like Stay Alive with Frankie Muniz instead of Sam Jackson.
Next, you might say that the title is part of the fun, it's a joke. It's why Samuel L. Jackson signed onto the darned thing. Yes, absolutely. BUT... how many people do you really, honestly, understood that it was a joke? (Well, all of us on the Internet did, but let me get to that later.) And of those people who got the joke, who wanted to see a knowingly campy movie about snakes on planes?
I don't want to speak for everyone, but when I saw the trailer with an audience, they didn't laugh at the title. Instead, they took it seriously, and thought it was stupid - you could hear the air coming out of the balloon. It was one of those, "are you kidding me?" sort of responses. The meta "we're really laughing at ourselves and how silly the title is" didn't come across, and the majority of people in this country are not going to get it anyway... not the people who go see Click ($135 million) or Scary Movie 4 ($90 million).
And that leads to my last point. The thing that was also so loudly heralded about Snakes on a Plane was how they embraced the Internet, listened to the blogosphere, even so much that they added scenes to the film based on "our" feedback. Well, guess what this awful opening showed us?
We just do not matter... at least yet.
The blogosphere is still one giant echo chamber with each of us linking to one another in a giant circle-jerk. We get all whipped up into a frenzy about wikis and digg.com and ruby on rails and ajax... please. We need to get over ourselves and our self-importance. This is an amazing way to share ideas, to communicate with friends and family, to reach a small subset of the population, but... enough. Probably not the best place to test market movie marketing campaigns costing tens of millions of dollars.
Oh yeah, and by the time the film came out, the bloggers were tired of it and couldn't care less. When people are used to getting results immediately (Results 1 - 10 of about 33,000,000 for snakes on a plane. (0.10 seconds)), having discussions of the film languish on the web month after month made it seem like old news. This isn't Hollywood's fault, mind you. It's just the difference between Hollywood time and Internet time.
By the way, Box Office Mojo is reporting that Talladega Nights beat Snakes on a Plane yesterday, so a film that has been out for 19 days (three weekends) beat a film that has been out for 5 days. Nice.
But, to end on a hilarious note, here is Defamer's take on the situation:
Late last night, our cellphone rang, and we listened somberly as the weary, disappointed pre-recorded voice of Samuel L. Jackson arrived to deliver another promotional greeting: "Hello, BLOGGER. Pardon me if my memory is bad, but didn't I remind you last week to put down the BLOGGING MACHINE, step away from your BLOG, and make some time to go see my new movie, Snakes on a Plane? Where the fuck were you? Do you have any idea how motherfucking silly it feels sitting in this recording booth, reading from a list of hundreds of names and occupations just so you can feel like this message was meant just for you? And then you don't even go see my new movie, Snakes on a Plane? Fifteen motherfucking million? Fuck you, motherfuckers. I'm done with you. See you in motherfucking hell."
Apologies for how long this post is. I'm liking Windows Live Writer so much, that my posts are growing beyond my control...
Directed by Steven Zaillian (A Civil Action, Searching for Bobby Fischer), All the King's Men is a remake of the classic 1949 Oscar winner. It was delayed by a year, and while many times people rush to say that means that the film is bad, while it could simply mean that Zaillian wasn't done with it, and he needed more time. Surely the fall/winter is the best time to release this adult-oriented historical drama... and here we are. Sean Penn, Jude Law, Kate Winslet, James Gandolfini, Mark Ruffalo, Anthony Hopkins, Patricia Clarkson... enjoy.
Let's just say this wouldn't have happened under Pat Kingsley.
The facts are all over the MSM (The Wall Street Journal had it first and best) and the blogosphere, so let's not dwell on the main fact: Tom's out at Paramount, along with Paula Wagner, Cruise's production partner. The Hot Blog makes a key point of saying they weren't fired, but they were negotiating for a new deal, and talks broke off. Either way, he's out.
What I'd like to cover are two key things that popped out at me as odd... well, you know, odder than the world's biggest star getting fired by a studio.
First, the PR on this thing was completely screwed by Cruise's team. The PR winner here was going to be the team that got their story out first, and Paramount nailed this brilliantly by having none other than Viacom Chairman Sumner Redstone to comment. Jeezus... this guy doesn't comment on anything. Anyway, they get their story out first about how they don't want to be in the Tom Cruise business anymore, and that (with some help from some salacious quotes by Redstone, which I'll get to later) gets all the headlines.
Later, however, the Journal says:
After being contacted by The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Cruise's representatives presented a different version of events. They said that Mr. Cruise's production company had decided to set up an independent operation financed by two top hedge funds, which they declined to name (Craig's bolding for emphasis). Paula Wagner, Mr. Cruise's partner in the company, said such an arrangement represented a new business model for top actors prominent enough to take advantage of the flood of money coming into Hollywood from Wall Street.
"This is a dream of Tom and mine," Ms. Wagner said.
Not only is it buried, but it stinks. "Yeah, I do too have a girlfriend! She lives in Niagra Falls. You wouldn't know her."
Only now are they hitting back by saying that Redstone's remakrs were "outrageous and disrespectful" as they're trying to make that the story instead of "Tom Gets Fired," but it feels like too little, too late. Even later, she hits back harder. This is a good one, but again, feels like sour grapes:
"It is graceless. It is undignified. It's not businesslike," she said. "I ask, what is his real agenda? What is he trying to do? Is this how you treat artists? If I were another actor or filmmaker, would I work at a studio that takes one of their greatest assets and publicly does this?"
Here is Rick Nicita, Cruise's agent at CAA (and married to Paula Wagner) who is literally trying to tell the press that they're writing the wrong story. Again, good, but too late:
According to Rick Nicita and Tory Metzger, Cruise's agents at CAA, Paramount made an offer to renew C/W's overall Paramount deal. It was "within the zone of acceptability, but it wasn't acceptable," Nicita said. "It was not improper. That was not the issue. What is the issue is Paramount's behavior over the last 12-18 months. We got fed up."
Nicita, who is married to Wagner, said he became unhappy with the way Paramount "was negotiating the deal in public. It showed a lack of goodwill and a lack of appreciation for what Cruise/Wagner did for the studio and a sense of history. This shows that they're willing to not only invoke the wrath of CAA, but they're taking on the whole town. It's not so much Cruise/Wagner leaves -- it's Cruise/Wagner flees." (Craig's bolding for emphasis)
If they wanted to win this battle, as soon as negotiations were starting to go sour, they should have gone public with this notion of how poor Paramount treats artists. Not now... not after Sumner says "we're done."
Secondly, did you actually read those quotes that Redstone gave?
"As much as we like him personally, we thought it was wrong to renew his deal," Mr. Redstone said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. "His recent conduct has not been acceptable to Paramount."
"It's nothing to do with his acting ability, he's a terrific actor," said Mr. Redstone. "But we don't think that someone who effectuates creative suicide and costs the company revenue should be on the lot."
So Brad Grey hanging out with mobsters is cool... but jumping on couches and calling Matt Lauer glib, well, that's over the line buddy.
Look, say what you will about Cruise. He's probably a certifiable whack job, and we've seen enough evidence of that recently. Get him to a bar with Mel Gibson, and I bet they'll spill some interesting truths about how they really feel. However, there is no one in the world who works harder to market their movies than Tom Cruise does - like it or not... he's a workaholic, going on every show, morning radio, internet chat sessions, flying around the world, anything you can think of... he'll do it. Mind you, he will work this hard even if his girlfriend is about to give birth to his first born (probably alien) child.
His costs were probably too high, his movies weren't complete blockbusters given his price, so Paramount didn't want to be in that business. Tough call, as probably only Will Smith can bring in as many ticket dollars as Cruise worldwide. Wagner claims that Tom Cruise is responsible for 15% of Paramount's theatrical revenue over the last 10 years, and 32% in the last six years. Maybe this is also a reflection of how little theatrical revenue matters to these global conglomerates we now call movie studios.
Read more about it, oh, everywhere:
As for Mr. Redstone's allusion to Mr. Cruise's conduct, Ms. Wagner fired back, "I have no answer for a stupid statement." She speculated that Mr. Redstone was "trying to save face," having learned from Wall Street chatter of Mr. Cruise's hunt for alternative financing.
A spokesman for Mr. Redstone, Carl Folta, scoffed at Ms. Wagner's talk of new financial backers. "Did they give you a name?" he said.
I want to dissect how badly Snakes on a Plane did this weekend, and while it may end up being slightly profitable, I want to make it super clear that this performed way, way under expectations, and was nowhere near what New Line thought they'd end up with.
The ugly details:
|1. The Matrix: Reloaded||$91,774,413||3603||$25,471.67||5/16/2003||2003|
|2. Fantastic Four||$56,061,504||3602||$15,563.99||7/8/2005||2005|
|3. Men in Black II||$52,148,751||3557||$14,660.88||7/5/2002||2002|
|4. Van Helsing||$51,748,040||3575||$14,474.98||5/7/2004||2004|
|5. King Kong||$50,130,145||3568||$14,049.93||12/16/2005||2005|
|6. Scary Movie 3||$48,113,770||3505||$13,727.18||10/24/2003||2003|
|7. Meet the Fockers||$46,120,980||3518||$13,110.00||12/24/2004||2004|
|10. Anger Management||$42,220,847||3551||$11,889.85||4/11/2003||2003|
|11. Scary Movie 4||$40,222,875||3602||$11,166.82||4/14/2006||2006|
|12. 50 First Dates||$39,852,237||3591||$11,097.81||2/13/2004||2004|
|13. Monster House||$22,217,226||3553||$6,253.09||7/21/2006||2006|
|15. Just Like Heaven||$16,408,718||3508||$4,677.51||9/16/2005||2005|
|16. The Legend of Zorro||$16,328,506||3520||$4,638.78||10/28/2005||2005|
|17. Snakes on a Plane||$13,806,311||3555||$3,883.63||8/18/2006||2006|
|18. Herbie: Fully Loaded||$12,709,221||3521||$3,609.55||6/24/2005||2005|
It's no secret that Warner Bros. is having a bad year (Poseidon, The Ant Bully, Lady in the Water, and overall disappointment about Superman Returns), but they've done a decent job hedging their bets by getting partners to invest heavily in some of their leading losers (I'm talking about you Legendary Pictures and Virtual Studios - why are you doing this again? Remind me.)
But what I love the most about this piece is the quote from Warner Bros. President Alan Horn:
"The price of failure is high," Horn said. "It's not just the financial cost. It's reading about it in the newspaper."
I love it. It's not just that he's losing hundreds of millions of dollars (of other people's money), but also top of mind for him is that he has to read about it in the press. Oh well, at least he knows the impact of having a good PR team.
Read the full piece on Movie City News:
I am happy to report that despite all, I am doing well. I started physical therapy, I communicate with friends on a daily basis, I play my iPod and listen to songs with Chaz and the doctors and nurses, and I write. Don Dupree, the Executive Producer of “Ebert & Roeper” installed a plasma TV and DVD player in my room. I am going to watch Half Nelson and I hope Kevin Smith was right. I also thank my good friend Jay Leno for sitting in my chair in my absence, and, of course, thanks to Richard Roeper.
I thank all of you for your prayers, your well-wishes, your gifts, cards, e-mails and flowers. I don't have a crystal ball, so I can't tell you when, but I sure look forward to being back on the movie beat.
Whoa - did you know that writers of animated films get absolutely nothing when it comes to their films being sold to TV, video, and DVD? The LA Times enlightens us...
"Writers of live-action features get royalties when their work is repackaged and sold. But writers of animation don't. Their 'ancillary profit participation,' as it's known, is paid in multiples of zero."
That seems a bit criminal when you consider that 3 of the top 7 box office films of the year so far are animated movies (Cars, Ice Age: The Meltdown, Over the Hedge).
Though they claim not to have ditched animation, Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio, whose credits include Aladdin and The Road to El Dorado, haven't written an animation screenplay since Shrek, in 2001, for which they earned an Oscar nomination. And who can blame them? Their script for Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, which has just broken into the top 10-grossing films of all time, is likely to net them each at least an extra $1 million when the film explodes onto the video market. That money never would have materialized if they had written, say, Shrek the Third instead.