Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Box Office Blues, By the Numbers

(courtesy Box Office Mojo)

In the era where studios deliberately put out target-marketed shit chock full of hot bods, special effects, and shallow characters, then expect to recoup at least 50% of their budget from curious/duped audiences on opening weekend, before word of mouth can get around, I am pleased to bring you the following news this week:
The A-Team has yet to make back half of its production budget in two weeks on over 3,500 screens. Add in marketing costs of $5 trillion and this bitch is in trouble.

Prince of Persia cost $200 million (plus marketing) and has only reaped $80 million so far--in four weeks on over 2,600 screens. Maybe a hog-wild Iranian box office will balance America's extreme disinterest?

Jonah Hex only made $5 million its opening weekend, on 2,800 screens--it cost $47 million to make. You have to watch this trailer and see their TOTALLY PSYCHED AWESOME WEBSITE! It makes the movie's utter failure so perfect, so just.

Sex and the City 2 still has not cracked $100 million domestically--after four weeks in theaters. Sure, it turned a profit when you add in the $157 worldwide gross, but that still won't cover marketing costs for this behemoth and has to have embarrassed the four most annoying women on Earth.
The Killers and Marmaduke both have barely made back 50% of their budgets after three weeks in theaters, shocking development executives across Hollywood. "But America loves Ashton Kutcher and Katherine Heigl!?! They're not tired of them at all! Nobody knows they can't act and never have any chemistry with anybody!" "And family movies aren't supposed to bomb--that's why we usually only put out one every two weeks, so that people with kids have no choice but to give us their money, even if the movie looks bad. Even The Cat in the Hat made $100 million--how did this one not work?"
Ridley Scott's flaccid Robin Hood has finally managed to crack $100 million after six weeks in theaters, but has a long way to go before turning a profit on a budget rumored to be in excess of $230 million (plus advertising).
Are audiences finally tiring of all the half-hearted turds crammed down their throats? In the coming years, will there be a significant shift within the film industry, allowing for more interesting character studies, offbeat comedies, and movies without a love interest? Has the comic book well finally run dry?

Only time will tell, but I sure hope so.



Anonymous said...

I echo your hopefulness that we're witnessing a return of "Hello Dolly!"'s and "Paint Your Wagon"'s, which would mean the next generation of "Harold & Maude"'s and "Mean Streets"'s is around the corner, but I think that even if domestic box office numbers are soft for these wastes of celluloid, they do eventually turn a profit when you factor in international box office (especially for action movies), DVD, cable, itunes, etc. Not that you can't still make a bomb, but I'm sad to say I don't see a return to the ethos of 70's Hollywood - I think the studios are more likely to just transition into something like video games, which, if I'm not mistaken, already take in more money annually than movie theaters. And the convergence of the two media is already happening, as things like Grand Theft Auto or Assassin's Creed include detailed narratives and cinematic cut scenes, while movies like "300", the "Star Wars" prequels, and [insert crappy superhero movie title] are loaded with gratuitous fight scenes that feel like watching someone else play a video game. I've not played or seen either, but I would bet that Red Dead Redemption is both more profitable and a more enjoyable experience than "Jonah Hex". Maybe cinema had its moment in the sun, and will now recede, like opera to the cultural margins, where a few dedicated connoisseurs will still enjoy it, but the great masses of people will go on to attend the latest cross-platformed, focus-grouped, 3-D multimedia A/V experience.

BTW - did you like Greenberg?


Goodtime Charlie said...

While I generally agree with you on principle--that even shitty movies generally turn a profit when you factor in foreign/dvd/cable/etc--I don't think that is the case with most of these movies I mentioned.

Once you factor in the obscene marketing costs of all these turds (gotta advertise bad movies more, right?), they will at best break even.

Which still sucks, since we want them to lose tens of millions of dollars to prove a point, but when you invest $100 million, you expect a return far greater than 0%, so a break-even movie is still a huge problem for the financiers who expected a healthy return on their investment, might make them think twice next time about investing in a stupid movie about a cartoon dog or a romantic comedy with Katherine Heigl.

I believe you are correct about video games out-earning Hollywood these days and I agree that the line between cinema and video games is blurred more with each passing day, mainly due to all the CG we see in movies.

But there will always be a market for movies, at least in our lifetimes. No industry that rakes in over $10 billion in the USA alone (and that is just box office) is going anywhere anytime soon.

Although people like video games more than ever, that is still a relatively small percentage of the population.

_I_ will never be a video game man. You probably won't either. Neither will any of our parents. In fact, nobody that I know will ever be a video game person. Most women will never become video game people.

So, while I think the shift toward video games will continue within the male demographic and certainly steal revenue from shitty action movies, there will still be an enormous market left open for movies--whether they are viewed in the theater or at home.

Perhaps if video games steal away all the shitty action movies, the cinema will become a three-faced monster--shitty romantic comedies for women, kids far for families, and Woody Allen fare for the likes of us.

I have not seen 'Greenberg' and don't plan on it, as I am not a fan of either Ben Stiller (these days) or Noah Baumbach.

'Kicking and Screaming' = horrendous
'Margot at the Wedding' = horrendous
'Squid & the Whale' = decent

Did you like it?

Anonymous said...

I liked Greenberg a lot. I think Baumbach's take on a certain kind of emotionally arrested Angeleno, and the milieu in which he exists rings very true, and is a somewhat disturbing cautionary tale to people like us.

I've seen Kicking & Screaming, and remember being entertained by it, though I don't remember much about it. I really liked Squid & the Whale, and didn't like Margot (or The Life Aquatic), so I'm not a huge fan of Baumbach's, but I would probably say Greenberg is his best effort. I don't know if I just identify more with Greenberg's cranky Jewish protagonist, but whereas Margot just annoyed me and made me not care with her unlikeability, I didn't have the same response to Greenberg. And I was pleasantly surprised that Ben Stiller can rein in the manic mugging and give a good performance, kind of like Jim Carrey did in Eternal Sunshine.

Definitely worth a look.