Friday, 3 June 2011

Hollywood Babble On & On #738: Is This A Question I See Before Me?

The news is a little slow today, so I'm going to reply to a question from a reader.
Blast Hardcheese asked...

I'd heard about HDYK costing a boatload, but I figured that was due to Jack.

It can't go on. There has to be some point at which investors will just say 'heck wit it' and bail, right? Or will the 'glamor' of being in the movie industry keep the suckers, I mean investors lining up?
Well, that's a bit of a two-part question. While the stars of How Do You Know were paid their full "quote," which added up to about $50,000,000, there is actually a lot more to why the finished product cost about $120,000,000 by most conservative estimates. (They are reported to getting $20,000,000 in tax credits/rebates, but those savings were lost in the $50-$75 million spent promoting/releasing the movie.)

You see the biggest thing that a
movie's budget buys you is time. Word is that writer/producer/director James L. Brooks took his sweet time making the movie. The longer he took, the more that had to be paid to, not only, the cast, but the crew as well, and crew members, being all skilled tradespeople, don't come cheap.

Then there are the reported re-shoots to make Reese Witherspoon's character likable, which ended up costing even more, and then you have a boondoggle.

Now how was Brooks allowed to take so long to do so wrong?

The answer is that he is James L. Brooks, and no studio says no to the great James L. Brooks.

You see, it's a case of being just too big to deny.

If you are a big name within the Hollywood community, you can pretty much get away with almost anything, at least until you crash and burn, leaving a smoldering $120 million plus hole in the ground. Then, and only then, it can get a little iffy.

If you're big within this narrow circle you can be like Katie Couric and sign a big money deal with the ABC network for a syndicated talk show and occasional butt-ins with the news, even though your much hyped stint as the CBS News anchor was a complete and total ratings disaster. But she's a member of the right clubs, supports the right causes, and moves in the right circles, so, like Mr. Brooks, it's an extremely rare moment when they hear the word "No."

An ironic twist is that if you're not one of the "in crowd" but still commercially successful, you get beaten like a rented mule. Harassed regularly over budgets, schedules, and content, just ask the producers of AMC's hit show The Walking Dead.

Now onto part two of the question.

A lot of investors are fleeing Hollywood. When times are good, and lots of money flowing, folks don't mind the "more risks than rewards" business model that currently dominates investing in Hollywood. It's always good to have a few minuses on your balance sheet to balance out the pluses during tax time.

Now, with lean times among the big money players, there really isn't as much cash lying around for them to play with. Hollywood studios don't really need the money, they are massively cash-flush subdivisions of even more massively cash flush international conglomerates, but they like to have it around, because it's more fun than spending their own money.

Movies will always be appealing to investors regardless of the problems partially because you are more likely to score with a starlet/model if you tell her that you're a movie producer instead of a the plumbing supply king of Pennsylvania. And there's always someone with money saying: "That won't happen to me," just waiting around the corner, so there will always be another sucker investor willing to get into movies.

There are ways both Hollywood and investors can end this self-fulfilling idiocy, but explaining those ways would take up way more time and space than I can put into a single post.

1 comment:

  1. Blast Hardcheese4/6/11 7:10 pm

    Lies! Scurrilous lies! I look nothing like that photo!

    (I'm actually much more buff)

    My own guess is that the only way that the current mess could get straightened out is when the first big 'studio-system-free' movie is a success. I'm talking about a movie with recognizable stars and good production values, made for much less and maybe digitally distributed. Once you have a proof of concept, I think the money will begin to shift away.

    That, or we clone an army of Chris Nolans to go through Hollywood with a vengeance.