Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Hollywood Babble On & On #454: Miscellaneous Movie/Media/Money Musings

Welcome to the show folks...


That's right, Cameron's taking his war against plot and character development to a whole new front by announcing that he is writing a novel inspired by his film Avatar.

Since it took Cameron 15 years to make
Avatar the movie, the quickest route is to take the novelization of Dances With Wolves off his Kindle and doing a "search & replace" so that "train" reads "spaceship." He still won't explain what unobtainium is supposed to do, because he probably doesn't know himself.

And the really sad part, apart from actually reading it, will be that he will get a huge advance, a massive marketing blitz, sell several million copies, 90% won't be read past the first chapter, and several thousand better writers, with actual stories to tell with actual characters in them won't get published, let alone similar treatment by publishers.

Plus Amazon won't let them charge an extra $5 bucks to see the text in 3D.


Two scripts with "big names" attached haven't sold yet. They are
Abducted, which has the soon to be omnipresent Taylor Lautner attached, and Contagion, from Stephen Soderbergh, Participant Productions and has Matt Damon, Kate Winslet and others attached.

So let's look at the reasons these films haven't sold yet.


This script pretty much all rests on the appeal of star Taylor Lautner, and the major studios currently have the screaming thigh sweats for him, but this frenzy could end in two ways:

1. They discover that Lautner's appeal is completely entwined in his role in
Twilight, and that he cannot sell tickets to lifeboats on the Titanic outside that franchise.

2. Lautner does have appeal outside of
Twilight, but his target audience quickly becomes sick of the sight of him because of overexposure.

It's actually about time that someone takes a wait and see approach to see if the young man is worth the money, and how to avoid strangling the golden goose before it lays a few golden eggs.


This is supposed to be one of Soderbergh's "commercial" films like his
Ocean's 11 movies, a thriller about a killer disease, and an all-star cast. Of course that's what they said about his last film The Informant! which was marketed a wacky crowd pleasing comedy about corporate malfeasance, and only became an "art film" when it failed to make back its prints and advertising budget at the box office.

Also Participant Productions was created by its billionaire founder to be a "politically activist" film company. That is pretty much telling everyone that is hoping to make some money off of this film that there's going to be some sort of heavy handed political message in this "commercial thriller," and recent history shows that most attempts Hollywood make at being political fail unless its buried under tons of 3D CGI and big battle scenes.


As reported everywhere else on the planet Tom Cruise is back at Paramount, and planning to return to the
Mission Impossible franchise that's dominated his career for the past 15 years. However, Cruise is not getting the usual "dollar one gross" deal that he had with the last movie.

For the uninitiated a "dollar one" deal means that on top of his $20-25 million up front fee, Cruise also got 22.5% of the money made by
MI3 at the box office from the very first dollar to the last. With the film's bloated development, production, and distribution budget the film made $400 million internationally, Cruise pocketed $80 million of that money, but Paramount barely got the bills paid.

That deal is the perfect embodiment of what I call the self-fulfilling idiocy of Hollywood. The big studios used to offer a piece of the net, which meant that folks like George Lucas, Francis Ford Coppola, and several major actors made a lot of money when their films hit it big. However this big blockbusters attracted big corporations who absorbed the studios as part of their new media conglomerates. The new conglomerates decided that they wanted to keep those net profits for themselves, and suddenly they mysteriously disappeared into the arcane realm of corporate bookkeeping.

Except this happened to coincide with the age of super-salaries for the A-List. So any stars and agents with clout started asking for huge up-front payoffs, and the dreaded "dollar one" deals for the really big players expecting to get screwed. Then the studios saw costs skyrocket, their net profits disappear for real, and their gross profits shrink into nothing, while they ended in a futile chase for a steady stream of blockbusters that needed to break records just to break even.

Cruise's deal is now for a big upfront payment and a piece of an "adjusted gross." Adjusted gross means that the studio gets to have the film's bills paid before they have to start paying Cruise his cut. Now one can hope that Cruise's reps have negotiated a deal where the numbers the film has to reach these adjusted numbers are set in stone, because the studios will take advantage of the slightest vagary to get the whole self-fulfilling idiocy rolling again.

1 comment:

  1. I find the novel thing hilarious. First of all, because of certain anecdotes involving the novelisation of 'The Abyss' - specifically, Orson Scott Card was hired to do it, and came away with the impression that Cameron was a raging dick to everyone that wasn't his main stars.

    But mainly, because one of the reviews I've seen claiming that Avatar was 'good' said that it was because the story wouldn't work in any other medium - its glaring flaws become even more obvious when outside of film - which, while meant as a compliment, is probably the best example of damning with feint praise I've seen in a while.

    Sadly, geeks, are nowhere near as smart as they like to pretend to be, so they'll probably eat the book up.

    Oh, and, as for the $5 3-D thing - I dunno, Amazon could use a good gimmick for the Kindle right about now.