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.

19 Responses to “Stop The Madness”

  • Daniel Says:

    Remember when Waterworld (giant Hollywood blockbuster built on the freakin’ ocean) tanked because of its outrageous $175 million budget?

    Now things like Little Fockers’ (basically a 2 hour television sit-com episode) budget is $100 million?!

    That’s just embarrassing. Hollywood is making stupid, stupid decisions. When you can make an indie film to compete with Little Fockers, please, please, please pour the “big” money into things that deserve being seen on a big screen. Leave sitcoms and teen love stories to the indies.

  • Daniel Says:

    forgot to add…

    “Because without creators and their new stories, your movie stars and marketing people have nothing to do.”

    AMEN, brotha!

  • cory Says:

    Nice, Daniel. And a beautiful short film based on commonplace objects.

  • Travis Says:

    I completely agree that these budgets are outrageously large. They are inflated by the stars paychecks and in the case of “How Do You Know” James L. Brooks’ salary as well.

    As you point out, big stars and directors do not guarantee either a good or profitable movie (though I should say that I really enjoyed How Do You Know). Nor are low budgets and no name actors an indication of poor quality. Winter’s Bone cost only 2 million to make and I think that it was one of the best movies of the year. Blue Valentine cost 1 million and although I have not seen it, it has been met with rave reviews. The Kids Are All Right cost 4 million to make and it had four fairly big name actors (Annette Benning, Julianne Moore, Mia Wasikowska and Mark Ruffalo) and it was phenomenal.

    Still, it might be worth pointing out that some of the movies you mentioned will (or have already) made a profit.

    Little Fockers already grossed more than 100 million domestically and with the international box office sales, dvd sales, itunes, etc. it will surely make a fair amount of money.

    Sex and the City 2 (as awful as it looks) made 288 million worldwide and its profit margin will increase with dvd sales, itunes, on demand, etc.

    Dinner For Schmucks made 86 million worldwide and could recoup its losses with its video sales.

    Still, your point stands. You can make movies that are just as good on a much lower budget and the chances of making a profit increase.

  • Travis Says:

    Also, correct me if I am wrong, but one of my favorite animated movies “Hoodwinked” cost 15 million to make and it grossed over 110 million worldwide.

    • cory Says:

      Just a small correction: “Hoodwinked” cost under $8 million, and if you are including home video, etc., I’m sure by this point it has made well over $150 million. Thanks for your great comments, and for saying it’s one of your favorites!

  • Travis Says:

    I knew I couldn’t trust Wikipedia! The rest of the numbers came from boxofficemojo. The fact that Hoodwinked cost only 8 million is even more amazing and just reinforces your point.

    My wife and I watch Hoodwinked all the time and show our friends. It really is one of our favorites. We are hoping that the sequel will be released sometime soon. Good luck with that and with Fraggle Rock. We are looking forward to both.

  • AJ Says:

    How many low budget movies “bomb” at the box office? It seems like taking $100 million dollars and splitting it between 10 small theatrical films stands a way better chance of hitting a profit. :/ And if any of those DO “bomb,” the studio’s out — what? — 8 million? That’d be nearly breaking even by Spider-Man standards.

    Good write, Cory. Studios need to buck the system and start exploring.

  • Jeremiah Says:

    Hey, I’ve got a question about the original Hoodwinked film. On IMDB it lists Joel McCrary and Sally Struthers as the original voices of Chief Grizzly and Granny. What does it mean by the original voices? Were they replaced after the Weinstein Company got involved or what? If you could explain this I’d really appreciate it. Thanks!

    • Cory Edwards Says:


      We had many different actors in voice roles for “Hoodwinked” for almost three years into its production. I loved our cast and thought they were excellent, but when Weinsteins got involved, they wanted bigger names to feel more comfortable about luring people to theaters. So more well-known actors came in at the very end to ADR some of the roles. Not sure why the original cast is still listed on IMDB. This is a common situation with many animated films.

  • Jeremiah Says:

    Did other roles have original actors who were replaced later? I don’t know how much you’re allowed to share, but if you can tell me some of the other names, I’d be really curious to hear.

    • cory Says:

      Tara Strong played Red, Sally Struthers played Granny, David Ogden Stiers played the Woodsman, Joel McCrary played Chief Grizzly, Tony Leech played Bill Stork & Tom Kinney played Woolworth the Sheep. Again, all of these folks were stellar and recasting them had nothing to do with their original performances. I was actually very sorry to lose them.

  • Jeremiah Says:

    So wait, would David Ogden Stiers have played the Woodsman and Nicky Flippers?

  • Jeremiah Says:

    Hi. I was hoping to include the information about the film’s recastings on Hoodwinked’s Wikipedia page, and was wondering if you made a typo and meant to write that Tom Kenny played Woolworth the Sheep, or if the role really was originally going to be played by someone named Tom Kinney.

    • Cory Edwards Says:

      Correct — Tom Kinney, a very talented voice actor, was the original voice of Woolworth the sheep in earlier cuts of the film. He also voices another character you may have heard about, “Spongebob Squarepants.”

  • Jeremiah Says:

    Isn’t his name Tom “Kenny” though? I’ve never seen it spelt “Kinney”.

Leave a Reply

another site by