Monday, 19 November 2007

Hollywood Babble On & On... #6: How to Measure Star Power?

Recent reports showing Hollywood movies suffering a 26% drop in revenues from the same period last year. Some attribute it to a recent slew of anti-war movies that has driven the audience away not only from them, but from other films for fear that may contain similar political and religious messages.

But there's another reason for it as well.

It's the stars.

Too many names on the supposed "A List" couldn't sell a movie if their lives depended on it, and they being paid way too much to fail.

For the last couple of decades the positions on the 'A-list' of Hollywood stars has been based on the concept of "name recognition."

Basically, name recognition is based on how many times a person's name and face appear in the various tabloid media, from People Magazine, to Entertainment Tonight, to the National Enquirer, and even internet gossips like Perez Hilton.

But just because a person gets a lot of attention and are read about whilst on the toilet doesn't mean that they're going to do the chief job of a star, which is to sell movie tickets.

You see appearing in those media doesn't mean that the average movie-goers will pay money to see them on the big screen. It just means that their publicists have a lot of clout and influence with people in the media.

And publicists don't buy tickets, the audience does.

I have discovered a simple mathematical formula to determine the real star power of Hollywood actors. I originally came up with it years ago, but the success of the show 'Numbers' means that some people might actually pay attention to it now.

Here it is: (A+B)-C= B.O.S.S.

B.O.S.S. stands for "Bums On Seats Status" or if you want to be more scientific sounding "Box-Office Sales Status" and is a fair and accurate assessment of what a movie star's real box-office appeal is.

So here is how you do it.

A: This is a percentage of how many profitable films the star has been the lead in for the past 5 years.

Don't go by the studios profit/loss statements, they contain more fiction than a Barnes & Noble superstore.

For the purpose of this formula you take the production costs of the film, double it, and add $30. This will give you a rough estimate of the total costs of the film, including prints, marketing, distribution as well as the theater's piece of the action. If the box-office take is more than this amount, it's profitable, if it's less, it's a money loser.

B: Now this is the only part of the formula where market surveys are used. You do a poll of average moviegoers about the star in question and take the percentage of people who say that they would pay to see that star in a movie, and deduct 90% of that value.

I call for the chopping of the 90% because the majority of people who answer the poll are just being polite, or so lonely they will talk to anyone and say anything to keep the talk going.

Trust me, I know how wildly inaccurate they can be having been involved with a clever sketch comedy pilot that was bastardized into a sitcom based on a cream cheese commercial because of market research.

This is a percentage of movies that have been negatively affected by the star. Now this can be interpreted in several ways. The most concrete involve profitability lost due to the over-sized salary or unprofessional behaviour of the star in question. A star who drives up the budget isn't worth it anymore.

Now you add all that up together and you should get a score between 1 and 100, you then compare that score to this easy to read chart.

SCORE 0-10: This actor's next role should feature the line: "Do you want fries with that?"

SCORE 11-30: This actor might be okay cast as a wacky neighbour on a sitcom on the CW network.

SCORE 31-50: This star could be either on the way up, or on the way down. Stick to supporting roles in big-budget projects, leads in small budgets.

SCORE 51-70: You can call this person a "star" but unless you have a good script and a good director making a good film, it will still be a bit of a crap-shoot. They should get good money, but not so much that it cripples the budget, and points only if they are willing to take a cut in the up front money.

SCORE 71-90: The word 'bankable' might be used now. They have the charisma to sell a picture, and may even be forgiven the odd stinker or two, but you shouldn't push it too far. They should get good money, and a modest points deal.

SCORE 91-100+: These actors can sell out a theater with dramatic readings of the Peoria Illinois phone book. They are worth every penny they can get, and a heap of points too because you're going to be swimming in money like Scrooge McDuck on a meth binge.

So, there you have it, the solution to Hollywood's 'star' problem.

And all I ask is 10% of the gross profits derived from this system. I'm not greedy.

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