Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Hollywood Babble On & On #554: Bruckheimer's Bucks

Welcome to the show folks...

The Wrap has a piece analyzing the box office performance of blockbuster kingpin Jerry Bruckheimer's recent productions. The costs have been creeping up, while the box office take is going down.

His most recent film The Prince of Persia raked in only $89 million domestic, and they're crowing about it making $230 million globally, but that's not all that hot. The film cost $200+ million to make, and Disney probably spent at least that much again for prints and advertising. Add the simple fact collecting the money from foreign distributors and exhibitors is a nightmare that never really gets you every penny you're due, and the film would need to clear a minimum of $400-$500 million just to break even.

Which brings me to the point of this little sermon.

Bruckheimer spends too much.

The secret of his success is that where people just did it, Bruckheimer overdid it. His specialty was producing bigger, if not necessarily better, than everyone else. Big, epic visual spectacles was his stock in trade, and could very well be his downfall.

The problem with Bruckheimer and his movies is that they are built on the premise that spending more money solves every problem. All you need are bigger explosions, bigger special effects, and bigger hype.

But audiences aren't flocking to movies that put spectacle over story in the numbers they used to. It's like the millions who bought the Avatar DVD and then watched it at home without the 3D, mega-screen, ultra-surround sound systems suddenly felt cheated. The sense of wonder created by being bombarded with digitally generated special effects is just plain burnt out. Folks want stories to go with their special effects. Millions even bought tickets to Shyamalan's Last Airbender despite the bad buzz in the hopes that they can get a sequel with a better filmmaker because they loved the story found in the original source material.

My advice to Bruckheimer-

1. Get better stories. Audiences are willing to pay for stories that go beyond excuses for special effects now more than ever. Pair good stories with good story tellers, and Bob's your uncle.

2. Control costs. A film should never have to make $1 billion worldwide just to make a small profit at best, or even still lose money at worst. It just shouldn't.

If Bruckheimer wants to keep his crown as King of the Blockbusters he should follow that advice. Do you readers have any suggestions for him?


  1. Blast Hardcheese14/7/10 4:31 pm

    As a part of controlling costs:

    3) Ditch the stars and that whole toxic stew. One thing (the only thing?) Avatar did do right was to show you don't need 'big name' stars leading the movie to make a mint. I'm sure Nic Cage and Johnny Depp (and even Jake Gyllenaskahskjf... Jake Wossname) don't come cheap. Use character actors, where possible. Also make sure you treat them well, don't screw them over, and keep using them in films. Be the John Ford of big blow-em-up movies, and have a stable of actors who love working with you.

  2. je pressman15/7/10 12:03 am

    Well Bruckheimer's choice of video game Persia was not wrong headed. The movie was expensive to make but I'll bet that Jake's salary was not huge.It seems likely that all kinds of costs are factored into the budget and auditing such a budget might make it more clear just where and to whom the money goes.There is a lot of down talk about overpaid a-listers but as I see it a genuinely good story is what is needed. I don't want the stars to be inconsequential to the movies as it is good to see a familiar face on screen and that factor can make a film more consequential overall.Now my view about why the Persia video game movie didn't do better is that it was released in May when too many big films were released and also that some of the public stayed away because the action took place in Persia. Also why Gyllenhall as the action hero?Also FURIOUS D this film has made over 300 million dollars worldwide,when did a figure like that indicate disappointment or why are the financial hurdles set so damn high? Do these Studio execs actually think that all big movies should make a half billion or more? That's nuts.

  3. Also FURIOUS D this film has made over 300 million dollars worldwide, when did a figure like that indicate disappointment or why are the financial hurdles set so damn high?

    That question requires its own blog post to answer. Check back later.