Can you name Fox's biggest money-making movie of 2010?
I won't keep you in suspense, it was the indie production/Fox Searchlight release Black Swan. The low budget bat-shit ballerina movie raked in $103.9 million, and here's why:
1. Fox Searchlight, unlike other major studio's "indie" divisions actually hopes for a return on their investment beyond getting their executives invites to the swankier Oscar parties. So they handled the promotion and release of the film extremely well with the intention of selling it to more than Academy and Indie Spirit voters.
2. Two hot chicks making out.
3. The buzz about the film's strangeness inspired curiosity, good word of mouth from the initially curious ticket-buyers inspired consistently solid ticket sales.
Now that we know why Black Swan did well, why did it beat so many of Fox's other productions from A-Team to Date Night to Knight & Day?
Well, there's a lot of conjecture, but from what I've seen that conjecture seems to be quite accurate. The legend I heard is that Fox operates everything around a simple strategy. That strategy is to release certain types of films at certain times of the year, and watch the money roll in.
If this is true, then they're making the classic gambler's mistake. Releasing films is an inherently risky business. It doesn't matter how good or bad the film is, or how well you promote it, a film's ultimate fate is based on a capricious, fickle, and often perverse creature called The Whimsy Of The Audience.
Folks think they can understand this strange creature, and create "systems" to bring it under control, but it's all an illusion. Sure, you can have a few wins when you roll the proverbial dice, but sooner or later, the hideous bitch goddess of success will turn on you and kick you square in the cinematic pills.
The best system is no system at all. Using instinct, looking at projects and thinking: "I would pay money to see that!" over trying to find something to fit some sort of release date protocol is good. Working hard to make sure you make and market the most entertaining and interesting films around is good. Understanding that the business will always be risky, and understanding that you can only prepare for, but only rarely prevent, disaster is good.
In fact, maybe you should put someone with absolutely no system outside common sense and gut instinct to run your movie business, might I humbly suggest:
You can't blame me for trying. Have you seen what these CEOs are making these days?