Thursday, 23 April 2009

Hollywood Babble On & On #275: Miscellaneous Money Musings...


Gossip blog Defamer is asking the question: Is Harvey Weinstein broke?

Their evidence is that The Weinstein Company is no longer looking at new scripts or books to make into movies, there are no new independent productions they can buy and sit on, the ones they are sitting on are reportedly being offered back to the people who made them, if they can find a buyer willing to pay TWC the money they've spent, and Frank Miller is rumoured to be shopping around the long moribund sequels to Sin City because it looks like anyone whose name doesn't rhyme with Fentin Farentino will be getting anything done with TWC in a long time.

Once upon a time Harvey would have crushed those rumors beneath his heel like either a bug, or the career of an indie filmmaker. But like I've said before people aren't afraid of Harvey anymore, and now that he's taken a beating, they're all coming out to put their own boot in for good measure.

But, and this is Weinstein sized but, there are possible explanations for these developments that don't involve Harvey falling into penury.

1. The lack of interest in new scripts, books, or indie films. Well, who would want to sell their scripts, books, or indie films to TWC? Come on, when you sell one of those things to a movie company, the point is that someone, anyone, will someday be able to see it on a big screen. Not gather dust in Harvey's closet.

2. The films that they own and are trying to sell back are probably because the investors in TWC have convinced Harvey that buying films and not trying to make money from them, is not a good business plan for a movie company. I don't know how Harvey convinced them it was for as long as he did, but they've probably changed their minds by now.

3. While Sin City made $159 million internationally, how much of that was earned by TWC is a mystery, because the bulk of that was made overseas, and most of that remains with the local distributors. So while the project has a lot of edgy-indie street cred, it's probably not that appealing from a financial perspective. Maybe someone else will be able to do something with it, but probably not the Weinsteins.

All I can say is that I find the stories sadly believable. In fact, I consider them and more stories of corporate collapse inevitable, because how can you run a movie company that doesn't release movies, spend millions in litigation that should have been avoided, and spend huge money on Oscar campaigns, while alienating actual Academy members.


Take a look at this story from IMDB.
Financial Analyst Blasts Viacom Management (22 April 2009 2:39 AM, PDT)

In a blistering commentary about the management of Viacom, the parent company of Paramount and MTV, media analyst Rich Greenfield of Pali Research on Tuesday lowered the rating on the media company's stock from buy to neutral. Despite his continuing belief that Viacom's assets are undervalued, he wrote, "We simply do not believe its management team is capable of closing the valuation gap, particularly given a pattern of poor decision-making, the lack of respect [Viacom CEO Philippe] Dauman has from his employees, peer media company managements and investors, as well as a Board of Directors that continues to excessively reward under-performing management." Greenfield also concluded that Viacom's decision to launch the pay-tv operation Epix with Lionsgate and MGM is "a critical mistake" that will not generate the kind of revenue that Paramount's previous deal with Showtime did and will result in "producers becoming fearful of a weaker pay-tv window via Epix." Greenfield also blamed a dramatic drop in ratings for MTV on "unappealing" programming and the fact that "management has failed to bring fresh creative talent into MTV to reinvigorate the brand and its programming."
All I can say is "ouch."

I guess in today's economy this analyst saw no profit to be had from putting the proverbial lipstick on this pig, and good for him. It's about time that someone said this, at least someone other than me, and handful of others. And let's take a look at some recent decisions made by Paramount.

1. First they became almost entirely dependent on outside production companies, like Marvel, or Dreamworks, for hits, while simultaneously alienating many of the people they need to make their own hits. When Dreamworks left, so did half of Paramount's proposed release slate.

2. Bad management decisions have scared away many of the investors needed to finance productions, because who wants to attach themselves to a sinking ship that will take all the life boats and strap them to the captain that drove them into the iceberg into the first place.

3. MTV. Don't get me started on MTV. Their ratings are down because they either waste their air time on reality shows starring vacuous fame-whores with no talent, charm, or appeal beyond their ability to wear suspiciously trendy clothing or debase themselves solely to make aging millionaires a little more money, or they find something considered "edgy" and "alternative," buy it, dull the edge, make it mainstream, and then do whatever they can to drive it to the lowest common denominator, and then start digging. (I just got a new digital cable hook-up that carries MTV programs... stinky.) These are not programs designed to appeal to youth, they are programs designed to appeal to stupid youth, who are unable to see an extended clothing commercial when it bites them on the ass.

4. The Epix Channel. Their partnership with Lionsgate and MGM to further saturate an already over-saturated pay-tv market can't deliver what they think it could deliver. There was a show on in Canada about Canadian showbiz called Made in Canada (AKA The Industry in the USA). In one episode a Canadian movie mogul named Allan Roy buys the Subtitled Movie Channel, a digital channel that shows the same Eastern European movie 24/7. He doesn't buy it for the content, the channel-space, or to make money. He bought it so he could strut around wearing a jacket with his channel's logo on it, and make himself feel important. At first I laughed, thinking it was ridiculous, but now I don't think so anymore.


  1. Let me first say this, I've been reading your blog for some time now and one of the things that brings me back is your wit. Plus the occasional detective yarn that's loosely tied to hollyweird antics. TWC slow descent into nothing has been a long and ongoing tale of morons -who all are rich- planning to end their careers in the most flashliest of ways and you've been on the side commenting at every fubar action.

    When TWC implodes, I'm wondering what then for you? What ongoing idiot will inspire your id? As you recently wrote; who will be the prefect "villain" to chronicle and ridicule then?

    I know you've told many tales of hollyweird, and there's plenty of fools there. Yet none of them has gathered your interest more than Weinstein.

  2. One of the rules of Hollywood Business blogging is that there is always a new self destructive / company destructive figure popping up the way a fresh Bond villain shows up after the last one gets blown up.

    Before Weinstein there was Robert Shaye of New Line. And when his career collapsed, I didn't know who would replace him, but Xenu provides, and I got Harvey.

    After Weinstein, who knows. Though NBC-Universal seems to have a bumper crop to work with.

    Actually the fact that there always seems to be someone like that could be a blog post in itself.....

  3. Is it just me, or would it be probable that Paramount might not live very far beyond its 100th birthday (either 1912, when Adolph Zukor founded the Famous Players studio; or 1914, when W.W.Hodkinson founded the Paramount Pictures distribution company)?

    Given that all things must pass, it wouldn't be too improbable to see my and your suggestions happen; thus the first 2 major studios to be founded would also be the first 2 to fold.