Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Hollywood Babble On & On #865: An Alternate Dimension?

I was recently asked a question by reader ILDC...
Here's a question inspired by a recent article about the fall of Bob Weinstein's Dimension Films. Can a man pushing 60 still sell movies to pretty much solely bored young adults? I don't think so, but I don't know how old the marketers for John Carter and The Hunger Games are. It could explain why Harvey has been getting more "success" selling solely to aging Oscar voters.
If you're too lazy to click the link included in the question, I'll give you a summary.

Since their salad days running Miramax the Weinstein brothers had a clear division of duties.  Harvey was the public face of the company, and acted as the company's  shameless campaigner for Academy Awards while Bob was the quieter guy who paid for everything by pumping out a steady stream of low budget horror, comedy, and action movies for the younger set through Dimension Films. When they were driven out of Miramax by its then owners Disney, they took Dimension Films with them, because they needed its regular income.

However, recently the company's fortunes haven't been as bright as they used to be.  They're making fewer movies, and the movies they do make are making way less money.
Now to answer ILDC's question, age really shouldn't matter when it comes to running a studio, even one that specializes in selling to a predominantly teen audience.  

What matters is that the person who is running the studio remembers these simple rules for making films that sell to teens...



These are two things that Dimension Films seems to have completely gotten rid of in recent years.

NOVELTY comes from always having a ready supply of fresh talent with fresh ideas. This comes from attracting new filmmakers and helping them develop their ideas into good feature films.  To do this you need to be able to offer the new people a sense of security, stability, and that they and their films will not get financially and creatively sodomized by the deal.

Dimension Films offer none of these things.  The executive suite isn't so much a revolving door but a catapult. Then there are all the stories of filmmakers being promised the moon in the form of a major theatrical release, only to see their films gather dust for a few years, get chopped up into something unrecognizable, and then get dumped into the DVD discount bin.  

And the films that get the big releases are all either remakes (their coming rehash of Short Circuit), or attempts to extend franchises long past their best before date (Scream, Spy Kids).

Creative people are going to become wary of doing business with a company like that.

RESPECT can be boiled down to a very simple piece of advice: "Don't piss in the audience's ears and tell them it's raining."

A classic example is their treatment of the Hellraiser franchise.  The makers of the original film have been trying to orchestrate a proper remake with modern special effects for years. Dimension Films however, has been blocking them at every opportunity, to continue making sequels that eventually drove creator Clive Barker to say that the last film wasn't even worthy of coming out of his butt-hole.  Why did they make such a bad movie, and drive all the franchise's fans against them?  It wasn't for any creative reason, it was so they could hold onto the rights to the franchise for just a little bit longer.

Companies are obsessed with the concept of "brand identity."  While most of it is complete nonsense, such blatant marketing department hackery can come true when you associate your company with the blatant abuse of fans of a certain genre.  Those fans will see your label, and their subconscious will say to them: "Those guys are assholes, don't pay to see that movie."

To summarize, I don't think it's age that's behind Dimension's problems, it's management.

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