Sunday, 29 March 2009

Hollywood Babble On & On #259: Monsters vs Aliens vs Watchmen

Dreamworks Animation's movie Monsters vs Aliens is being touted as a "monster hit" for making around $56-$58 million dollars this weekend. Now I want you to think back a couple of weeks, or the lifetime of a Hollywood assistant, to think about the opening weekend of The Watchmen.

Watchmen cost about the same as Monsters vs Aliens, had similar critical response, and post-viewing word of mouth, (some liked it/some hated it/some didn't care) made a very similar amount of money on its opening weekend, and was branded a failure from the word go. This branding caused a wave of bad buzz to overtake the film, and eventually snuff it's potential to make serious money.

So what's the big difference.

The difference is the estimates and how they sold them.

Dreamworks Animation undersold the estimates, while outsiders were expecting around $60 million, Dreamworks declared that they were only expecting $50 million. Remember that this film opened in almost 500 more theatres than Watchmen, and was a G-Rated kid pleaser with a popular cast and a funny-sunny image, as opposed to a grim, nihilistic R-Rated movie that had no broad comedy, a very narrow audience base, and was adapted from a comic-book known for its intellectual density, its bleak outlook, and that its writer disowned any movie version decades before it was even made.

And yet Warner Bros. oversold the estimates, claiming that it would hit over $70 million, and beat director Zack Snyder's last hit, the rabble rousing military adventure 300, at the box-office. Knowing full well that it probably wouldn't do that well, and that failing to meet that estimate will brand it a failure, and most likely hurt its chances at selling tickets after the opening weekend.


Well, my theory is that sometimes in the convoluted logic of Hollywood studio management, it pays to periodically have a bomb. Especially when you have its costs shared with another studio (Paramount) and owe a percentage to yet another studio (Fox) because your own company couldn't keep track of who actually owned the damn movie rights.

So, you get an estimate of how well it could do, then you slap on another $20 million, knowing full well that it could create enough bad buzz to sink the picture.

Dreamworks on the other hand needs to not only have a hit movie, but to appear to have a hit movie. They need to do everything they can to make MvA a hit, and that includes putting out a low-ball estimate, so when it exceeds that estimate, they can tout it as the second coming of Shrek, and all will be right in their happy little kingdom.

Now you see why I don't trust box-office estimates and the reactions to them, there are just too many agendas hiding behind them.

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