a pro script reader ponders movies, reading, writing and the occasional personal flashback

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Last Thoughts On The Film Year

Things have been a little mini-hectic, but not in particularly exciting ways. The wife and I are heading to New York tomorrow to see my family, so everything has been a process of gearing toward that -- getting a late rush of work done, making sure Christmas presents and such are taken care of, attending to all of the random details of the season.

So don't expect a new post here until the new year, though after that hopefully they will be very regular again.

Otherwise, a few film thoughts:

It's a bit strange the lack of huge blockbusters this Christmas season -- there is no Lord of the Rings-level hit, no Narnia, no Harry Potter, not even a King Kong. Instead, we get things coming out like Night at the Museum, which looks like Jumanji, complete with an overacting Robin Williams. Or We Are Marshall, which is supposed to be rousing but just seems a bit too depressing at its core. And it's hard to imagine The Good German or The Good Shepherd breaking $50 million gross for their whole runs.

So that leaves Rocky Balboa, which is apparently male comfort food -- you know what you are going to get, there's some punching, and word is that it doesn't suck as badly as Rocky V. Even though we know it probably does.

One of the reasons that I like studying box office is that it is a good indicator of what producers will be looking for, but the news in the last few months has been a little odd. Children's movies always seemed a bit automatic, but now there are so many cartoons that it is diluting that (while though Happy Feet did well, it also cost $100 million). Charlotte's Web opened at $11.4 million in its first three days; it cost a reported $85 million. Ouch.

In fact, the reported budgets for a lot of the movies out right now are kind of scary, especially since few of them seem like they will make the money back. I'm sure the new Bond movie will turn a profit, but it cost $150 million. The Holiday cost $85 million; what the hell did they spend that on? And this is without advertising costs.

Flushed Away cost $149 million. Yikes. It has made about $70 million U.S. box office. They are going to have to sell a lot of DVDs.

Though at budgets like these, someone is getting paid.

Blood Diamond cost $100 million, and has made $18.2 million in 10 days. It'll probably do some worldwide business, but it's hard to see it turning much of a profit. Between this and Catch A Fire, which didn't make much at all, it's not a good time to be shopping around serious thrillers set in Africa.

Apocalypto cost a reasonable $40 million, but it looks likely to top out at less than $50 million in the U.S. box office. The Nativity Story only cost $35 million, but it has only made $18 million in its first 17 days.

A lot of movies completely tanked this fall. Fast Food Nation was a complete flop. Few people cared about Tenacious D. Turistas made it clear that movies like that are no longer automatic hits. The Fountain bombed. A Good Year has only made $7 million. Flyboys, which cost $60 million, made $13 million.

Bobby isn't doing much of anything; neither are For Your Consideration or The History Boys. Little Children, despite a lot of good reviews, has only made $2 million. The Last King of Scotland has only made $3.5 million, and it's on its way down. The Nicole Kidman movie Fur won't break $250,000.

So what made money? Borat made $122 million -- and only cost $18 million. Little Miss Sunshine made $59 million, and only cost $8 million. So comedies are largely doing well; even The Santa Clause 3 has made $80 million.

The Departed did well. The Prestige did okay. The Queen has made $25 million, and can't have cost much. Stranger Than Fiction did okay. Deja Vu will probably make money after the worldwide gross is figured in.

The Pursuit of Happyness may wind up being the sleeper hit of the season, and its $55 million budget seems practically reasonable.

But there just isn't a whole lot out there to get thrilled about. Dreamgirls is supposed to be solid, though it doesn't have the buzz it had a few weeks ago. Children of Men still looks interesting, but no one is talking about it for any prizes any more. Letters From Iwo Jima is supposed to be good.

Hopefully 2007 will be better. Until then, have a safe holiday season, and don't eat the fruitcake.


At 10:33 AM, Blogger Naila J. said...

I think the problem is that many of the good movies came out at the same time... And then you had weeks and weeks of nothing good being out...

I missed many movies I wanted to see simply because of lack of time. And when I had time, there was nothing I really wanted to see...

THAT gets worse every year!

At 4:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It was a pretty lame year for movies. The Departed was good. I liked Harsh Times and think Bale deserves the Oscar. I thought Talladega Nights and Borat were funny. Apocalypto was a bit silly, but was a good flick overall.

I wouldn't recommend anything else that I saw.

I think the problem is that a lot of the major releases just don't offer anything new. Why bother to go to the movies when you know exactly what you're going to get? I considered seeing Blood Diamond and Deja Vu, but I couldn't drag myself out to the theater because I knew exactly what these movies would be like.

The landscape is pretty bleak these days. I'm sure next year won't be any better. We'll get a few tent pole super hero movies, some dumb comedies starring people from Old School, and a handful of lame flicks demonstrating the many virtues of the human spirit.

If we're lucky, there might be a Midnight Cowboy, Boogie Nights, City of God, or Fight Club thrown in there.

Then again, it's tough to blame the studios for being boring when risk-taking movies like The Fountain tank.

I can't explain why some of these movies are bombing. I get the sense that people are a little bit sick of going to the movies right now. I think it might take a risky "event" movie/trilogy like the original Star Wars films or the Lord of the Rings series to get people out to the theaters. I don't think another Fantastic Four is the answer.

At 4:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good post!

- Allen

At 9:26 PM, Blogger Mark said...

Hey Scott,

Yeah, nothing like King Kong vs. Narnia. I think Rocky will probably be the big hit.

Next Year should be solid with Spiderman 3. Just read the article in Premiere, sounds like it could be the best one of the series.

Anyway, thanks for blogging all year. Have a Merry Xmas.


At 10:47 PM, Blogger Patrick J. Rodio said...

Some good stuff coming in 2007, although I say that every year and 88% of it ends up sucking.

Merry Christmas.

At 10:13 AM, Blogger Brett said...

What's wrong with fruitcake? I LIKE fruitcake.

One day -- when the bombs finally get dropped -- it'll be down to just me and the roaches and a few million tons of glowing post-apocalyptic fruitcake.

And THEN we'll see who's laughing.

At 11:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe the big budget blockbuster needs a rest...

I didn't find much of interest this year, either.


At 8:57 PM, Blogger Chesher Cat said...

"The Holiday cost $85 million; what the hell did they spend that on? And this is without advertising costs."

I worked on a short last spring. We were fed by The Holiday caterers at the same time they were shooting. We shot two weekends and ate a lot so I'm figuring we were good for part of that 85M.

At 6:36 AM, Blogger wcdixon said...

Happy holidays sir...

At 7:36 AM, Blogger Word Demon said...

Interesting insight...

At 11:47 AM, Anonymous Joe Valdez said...

I'm home for the holidays in Houston, where there are only 27 movie theaters serving a population of at least six million from downtown to Katy, Tomball and Texas City. No new theaters are being built. There's no demand for any.

My mom teaches 4th grade at a fine arts magnet school. None of her students go to the movies. She says when the DVD comes out, their parents buy it - not rent it, buy it - and then the kids watch it a hundred times.

What 2006 may say for screenwriters trying to read the tea leaves is that if you can write a comedy, you're okay. If you write something that can be shot in under 40 days without special effects, you're okay.

Pirates of the Caribbean was huge, but the fact that so many people seem to have disliked it - critics and real people - I find it difficult to believe it would have found a buyer had it been submitted as a spec with no stars attached. Then again, I haven't seen it. It's #18 on my Netflix queue.

At 1:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Next year won't be better than any other year. Not being pessimistic but the quality of movies overall is about the same every year.

I don't know about box office but you need to start tracking dvd sales 'cuz that's where the money is being made. Personally, I haven't been to a theatre is two years. I just buy dvds. It's cheaper and more fun.

At 11:01 PM, Blogger Jeff said...

No need to hate on Rocky.

At 11:18 AM, Blogger MaryAn Batchellor said...

Merry Christmas, Scott

At 9:43 AM, Blogger Brett said...


While there might only be 27 theater complexes in the Houston area, I think you need to at least consider how many SCREENS those theaters account for.

I live in Katy, and we have "just" three movie theaters. The small artsy theater has siz screens, while the two big ones on teh freeway have 24 and 30 screens.

That's sixty movie screens in a suburban community.

On holidays and weekend nights those screening rooms are packed, so clearly there is no great shortage of moviegoers.

I guess I just don't see what point you are making.

At 12:22 PM, Anonymous Joe Valdez said...

Katy has three movie theaters now? Man. You guys are movin' up!

Scott knows far more about theatrical exhibition than I do. All I know is driving around my hometown and seeing fewer theaters than there were when I was a kid. Many more people, far fewer movie theaters.

Meanwhile, even if there's a movie out there worth paying $11 to see in the theater - like The Descent - I would find it difficult to convince many of my friends to go anyway.

These include guys who can spend four hours on the Internet reading about motorcycle engines, or watching backyard wrestling, but one doesn't even own a TV anymore. Most have blogs they follow religiously. Some are fanatics for "The Amazing Race" or "Battlestar Galactica" and not only never miss an episode, but are busy watching previous seasons on DVD.

My point is that these and other alternatives have really cut into what was once the domain of Simpson/Bruckheimer or Joel Silver to dominate America's entertainment landscape.

Personally, I love it. I think this could be a portent to Easy Rider, the lunatics taking over the asylum a la 1969 all over again.

At 6:15 AM, Blogger Malnurtured Snay said...

Casino Royale was awesome. Hope everything is less hectic for you - Happy New Year!

At 9:48 PM, Blogger Dave said...

My take:

A night at the museum - Jumanji/ Zathura clone which actually isn't. Word of mouth will make or break it.
Rocky - He's not dead yet?
The Good Shepherd - CIA. Who likes the CIA? Raise of hands. Thought so. pass.
The Good German - Wasn't that Schindler? Covered this with Spielberg. Doesn't get better than him. Pass.
We Are Marshall - Agreed. Too depressing. Probably uplifting, but it takes a real diehard to go see a film knowing the design is to tear your heart out in 45 minutes.
Happy Feet - No idea wtf this is about. Thus, the response from the audience.
Charlotte's Web - Did we really need another Charlotte's web this decade?
Flushed Away - Life in the sewer? Not exactly appealing.
Catch A Fire - Seems more of a summer flick.
Blood Diamonds - Again, seems more of a summer flick.
Apocalypto - Reaching for something big. Always a gamble. Recent press couldn't have helped.
The Nativity Story - Again. Think this has been covered to *death*. Exactly what was the point?
Fast Food Nation - Haven't we been told to avoid fast food the last 5 years?
Tenacious D - Cult flick.
Turistas - How many of these do we really need in a year? They spread by word of mouth and it may have been bad.
Flyboys - Probably should have invested more in cast names than effects.
The Fountain - I don't get this after reading the backstory and seeing the clips. Perhaps too European for American audience.
A Good Year - Typical/standard fair.
Borat - Lowest common denominator. There is a reason we're writing to a high school level.
Little Miss Sunshine - The wonder flick that pays the bills for another year.
The Prestige - Sci-fi/fantasy novel. Can't expect much unless it's a huge novel (which I don't believe it was).
The Departed - A story we see in the previews and don't know the end of until you watch it.
Bobby - Don't we already know the ending?
Fur - Did as expected I surmise.
The Last King of Scotland - *yawn* Didn't we cover Scotland with Mel Gibson awhile back?
For Your Consideration - huh? No idea what it is from the title or media.
The History Boys - huh? No idea what it is from the title or media.
Santa Claus 3 - You know what you'll get. Tim Allen + funny santa jokes. Easy Holiday fair.
Stranger Than Fiction - Great concept, but it's not for everyone. Quirky, runs on word of mouth and word is that the 3rd act limps to the finish.
Pursuit of Happyness - Will Smith. He sells like hotcakes and the story is right up his alley.

Bottom line is out of the 30 or so flicks, there aren't a whole lot that are appealing to a large audience. Some, to me, just don't seem to be out at the right season. Some just seem stupid. Go figure.

Just goes to show it's really a lot of guesswork.

I think Eragon will probably do well as it was a pretty popular book (as far as fantasy goes).


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