Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Hollywood Babble On & On #152: Paramount Goes Straight To Hell DVD

The good news: Paramount Pictures is going to be producing more movies instead of relying on Dreamworks and Marvel to fill their slate.

The bad news: They're increasing their slate of straight to DVD sequels, remakes, re-boots, and re-imaginings of films already in their library via their
Famous Pictures imprint.

You know what I'm talking about, you find a DVD in the discount bin at Wal-Mart or on the shelf at Blockbuster, and it has the name of a
famous movie in the title, and a number following that, but you don't see any of the original stars or filmmakers associated in any way. And to top it all off there's usually a busty blonde in a low cut outfit on the cover, whether she has anything to do with the movie or not.

They're like those CDs you see in the big box stores during the holidays that promise THE GREATEST HITS OF YOUR FAVOURITE BAND/SINGER FOR $4.99 in large print on the cover, and "performed by the Buggerville Singers" in small print somewhere on the bottom. And while the tune may be familiar, it lacks the creativity, energy, passion and the success of the original. I mean, I don't think I've ever seen anyone actually buy one of those CDs, and I'd like know who does, as well as who buys/rents these knock-off sequels and remakes. I just get the feeling that when the people who do buy these knock-offs turn off their CD or DVD players, they feel a twee bit cheated.

But enough about me, let's talk about Paramount's situation, and why it will most likely end up like a wet firecracker, something with the promise of a boom, but delivers nothing more than a fizzle.

Now there's a bit of history associated with Famous Studios/Pictures etc.. It's a play on both the name of the founding company of Paramount, Famous Players-Lasky, and it's former animation unit formed after the takeover of the Fleischer animation studio.

And in keeping with this theme, the revived Famous Pictures will be putting out flicks that should be history.

Now I'm sure some marketing gurus sold the Paramount mucky-mucks that this is going to be a great idea, and will have money rolling in hand over fist, and will use such buzzwords as "name recognition," and "familiarity" doing most of the marketing for them.

But how many of these knock-off films actually become hits, (translation: very profitable) even by straight to DVD standards? I'll bet dollars to dingleballs that it ain't many.

And how many knock off movies catch on with viewers, and become real cult hits, with devoted followings? Probably not many, if any.

Why is that?

Because the people assigned to make these knock-off flicks have no personal investment in these films. There's no passion, or even much interest, on the part of the people making them. Their only interest is getting their mortgage paid because doing commercials for used car dealers, or writing ad copy for a free weekly newspaper printed on hemp-paper ain't cutting it anymore.

Now don't get me wrong, I like low budget movies. In fact, many of my favourite flicks were low budget genre films.

What I don't like seeing is a, probably not golden, but possibly silver plated, opportunity, get lost in a sea of marketing snake oil.

Low budget films are a great way to scout new talent, and that's what Paramount has to do if they want this Famous Pictures to be known for more than just filling space on store shelves and discount bins.

Sequels and knock offs have expectations set by their successful predecessors, expectations that films lacking passion, effort, or budget could possibly meet. What Paramount should do is use Famous Pictures as a way to foster and develop new talent via low budget straight to DVD genre pics.

Make it a door into Hollywood, where young filmmakers are challenged to prove their worth by not only showing their talent, but by being able to work within a limited budget. Put out challenges to new talent, an old trick is to get aspiring writers to adapt material to fit sets you've already built for a bigger project or locations you've already rented. Appeal to their egos, to make the best damn horror, comedy, thriller, or action film they can.

Don't just hold them to straight to DVD oblivion, let flicks that meet a strict criteria of quality have an actual theatrical release. With everyone trying their best to get into the theatres, they will invest more of themselves into the movies, and make better movies. And if people actually find a straight to DVD movie they enjoy, word will get around, especially with the internet.

And if you treat them right, then when they're ready to go mainstream, they'll view Paramount as their home, and not an enemy.

Thanks to new technology, the ability to make professional looking work is cheaper than ever, while mainstream films become more expensive, mostly due to "star" salaries. Paramount can reclaim mainstream's Hollywood place in the field of cult cinema.

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