Stop The Madness
The results are coming in from this holiday season’s box office, and they are staggeringly bad. Almost everything is tanking, or at least performing below expectations. But let’s look at the ingredients in this fruitcake, shall we? My sister Katie is a producer and when she rattled off some recent movie budgets to me, I could not believe them… so I had to look them up myself. Check out these estimated budgets (taken from Box Office Mojo):
Dinner for Schmucks – $80 Million
Sex and the City 2 – $100 Million
Little Fockers – $100 Million
How Do You Know – $120 Million!!!
Yeah. You read that right. Expensive. Stupidly expensive. And none of these projects has come close to breaking even.
It’s easy to pick on the ballooning costs of “Event Films” like “Tron,” “Iron Man” or the “Narnia” movies, but at least in those movies you have to make people fly or turn into dragons. THESE recent budgets are much more disturbing to me. The four films above are mainly about PEOPLE IN ROOMS. People in offices, people driving cars, people shopping, people sitting down to dinner. How in the world does any studio justify $100-$120 million for what is basically an episode of “Cougar Town?” Do movie stars mean that much? Not really, as we’ve seen time and time again. If you ran any other business with these kinds of costs giving you these kinds of results, you would be FIRED. Your company would go out of business. COME ON, STUDIOS. Stop scratching your heads over this.
Here’s the answer: Do it cheaper. “Eat Pray Love” cost only $60 million and it shot all over the world with a movie star. “Date Night” had car chases and shot in New York with TWO movie stars and it was only $55 million. “Valentine’s Day” was a mega hit with fourteen stars in it and cost around $50 million. One of the biggest hits this year was “Easy A” and it cost only $8 million! That’s a movie in basically the SAME GENRE with the SAME SCOPE as “How Do You Know,” and it was 112 MILLION DOLLARS CHEAPER. My eyeballs cannot keep from popping out of my head when I say that.
You CAN make movies cheaper. Especially when the genre calls for it. And if studios can figure that out, they can make MORE movies with LESS financial risk. And then hopefully they can take more CREATIVE risks and have the money to do so when it really counts. But right now, they are still spending huge amounts making “safe bets” that, apparently, no one wants to see.
Let me be clear here: I’m not picking on “How Do You Know.” I haven’t even seen it. God bless Reese, James Brooks and everyone else in it. But the cost for that movie makes NO SENSE. The budget expectation for this kind of movie needs to come back down to $20-$40 Million, regardless of who’s in it. Because there’s no way this thing is going to make “Lord Of The Rings” money.
It’s beyond me. Welcome to Crazy Town. My only hope is that the pendulum swings back to a search for genuinely unique MATERIAL instead of just the right COMPONENTS. You can add up big star + successful genre + familiar brand, but it still doesn’t equal “Good Movie.” Please Hollywood, start opening your doors a little wider for creators in 2011. Because without creators and their new stories, your movie stars and marketing people have nothing to do.