Day Fifty-Six – Guaranteed to Lose

25 02 2010

Update: I guess this can fall under yesterday’s post about timing, but Odeon has a great sense of it. They will not be boycotting any longer. You can probably expect AMC to quit the threats as well.

Still, the post works in a hypothetical sense. Read on…

I completely understand why AMC and Odeon, in the UK, are upset. The shortened window for Alice in Wonderland not only takes their most profitable section of the theatrical run away, but also puts matters on a slippery slope towards even shorter release windows.

Let’s forget the fact that the “slippery slope” theory basically prevents anyone from ever doing anything of substance. Using that theory, making dinner is just one more step on the slippery slope to obesity. Driving your car to work is getting on the slippery slope towards green house gases burning the skin off our bodies. Making one more poorly conceived analogy about slippery slopes is on a slippery slope to never getting to the point.

The actual AMC, located at Yonge & Dundas in Toronto, I will likely see 'Alice in Wonderland' in if they don't boycott the film.

Odeon and, potentially, AMC’s answer to this is to boycott Alice in Wonderland all together.

I’m not sure what point this makes. If their problem was having to show Disney movies at all, I could see how this might be reasonable. I realize the goal is to make it completely clear to Disney that they are not fans of shortened windows, but by not showing the movies in their theaters, it does nothing to cut off the supply to the public. Sure, I won’t be able to collect my MovieWatcher points if I were to see Alice in Wonderland, but that doesn’t stop Disney from making money from me. It would just be going through Cineplex or Empire.

If they wanted to show their displeasure, they could have done something superficial that wouldn’t prevent them from making the money that the film is sure to make anyway. Maybe pulling the posters and cardboard stand-ups out of the lobby. Maybe putting it at the back of the theatre, rather than giving it the prime retail space.

Maybe not bringing more attention to the film, and the fact that it’ll be available sooner than later on Blu-ray and DVD, by proposing a boycott in the first place.

Sometimes the idea that any publicity is good publicity is true. Kim Kardashian, Paris Hilton and the cast of Jersey Shore make a career from being clowns. Alice in Wonderland is being talked about and gaining interest, but AMC and Odeon are just coming off as the villains in this story. The average movie fan doesn’t like the window between the theatrical release and the DVD. The shorter, the better. AMC and Odeon are sounding like the music industry right about now. Instead of rolling with it, they’re trying to set things in stone.

I love the movie theater. The AMC, in particular, offers a great experience, but instead of worrying about the 200+ other movies that’ll be coming out this year, their name is out there for one they may not even be screening.


Day Fifty-Five – A Matter of Timing

24 02 2010

Timing is an important thing. I’m posting this post a day late, and clearly it won’t get the time it probably deserves when I post today’s post. It gets squeezed out.

The same logic could be used for movie releases.

Last year, the tubes of the internet were flabbergasted when Paramount announced that they were pushing the release of Shutter Island to February, effectively taking it out of the running for this year’s Oscars. Having seen the film, I don’t think it would have been nominated anyway, but that’s not why the move was such a good idea.

Shutter Island had the advantage of coming out in February, a time that is generally barren of high-thinking thrillers or prestige films.

Shutter Island opened with a $40 million dollar weekend. The highest on record for Scorsese or DiCaprio. Could this have happened in the “prestige” season of the fall?

I don’t think so. With so many other films coming out, week after week, jockeying for position, Shutter Island could have very well been lost in the shuffle. Given the choices in movies I had every weekend, watching a so-so reviewed thriller would have probably been the last of my concerns with films like Up in the Air and Brothers coming out around the same time.

Instead, Shutter Island is up against When in Rome and Percy Jackson and the Olympians. Not to mention, Shutter Island came out unchallenged, being the only wide release of the weekend.

Not to mention, it had a couple of months to build hype, with people waiting for something they could once again sink their teeth into as they wade through the garbage that is January. Shutter Island had the identity of an Oscar quality movie, without any of the pressures that identity would have. Shutter Island is an okay movie. It definitely has its flaws (like not starting until an hour into the movie), but for February, it’s acceptable.

Avatar could be given the same credit. Would it have broken all the records it did if it was wedged in between Transformers 2 and Harry Potter? I doubt it. People who were missing the summer blockbuster in the cold of winter has their escape, and given the numbers, they did so multiple times at the same movie.

Cop Out is coming out this Friday, but the reviews aren’t looking pretty. They don’t usually for any film by Kevin Smith, so I take it all with a grain of salt. His brand of humor is definitely for a niche market, but what Warner Bros is doing right is releasing it now. Given the cast and the subject matter, an homage to the ’80s buddy cop movie, Cop Out sounds a lot more like a summer release, but would probably get lost in the shuffle. Releasing it now just gives it that much more of a chance to flourish.

Zach and Miri, Smith’s last film, is the perfect example of mis-scheduling. It came out on Halloween; a weekend that people were more interested in seeing Saw V. We’ll see if Cop Out can follow this record of excellent scheduling, but so far I’m impressed by Hollywood’s willingness to finally let go of the release system and just releasing a film when it’s right.

Day Fifty-Three – Finally, Something Jim and I Agree On

22 02 2010

I have a hard time reading anything about what James Cameron has to say. It usually rubs me the wrong way.

Recently, he said that he thinks Katherine Bigelow should win Best Director, which was noble enough, but then he ruined any sense of that by saying the following:

3D movies have their place if they're made with 3D in mind, but exploiting the novelty will bring its demise.

“Look, for myself, I have already got an Oscar. I’ve got a couple of them, you know… I don’t really need another one.”

He’d still like to win Best Picture though, you know, for the team. He’s already been King of the World. A couple times.

Though graciousness isn’t his strong suit, the man knows what he’s talking about when it comes to technology. Specifically talking about 3D, I would have expected him and I to be on opposing war fronts. I’ve made my feelings about the current take-over about 3D quite clear in the past, but Cameron managed to get to the root of the problem I’ve had with the entire concept without even meaning to.

When talking at the 3D Entertainment Summit, which given my “love” for the format, sounds like the meeting to schedule the End of Days, Cameron made his feelings clear about what’s wrong with 3D:

“If you want to make a movie in 3D, make the movie in 3D! And by the way, it should be a filmmaker driven process, not a studio driven process. I’ve been telling filmmakers for the last five years, [there’s] this whole new way to paint, a whole new set of colors, and they’ve all kind of hung back. Now it’s getting crammed down from above, and people are getting told to make movies in 3D, and it should’ve been the other way around, they should’ve been banging on the doors of the studio saying, ‘I want to make a movie in 3D, let me do it!’ And it didn’t happen.”

This point was directed more at films like Alice in Wonderland, that intended to be in 3D at the on-set, but was shot in 2D and transferred to 3D afterward. Still, I agree with the virtue of what Cameron is saying here. 3D films should almost be a genre in themselves. Right now, Hollywood smells the extra dollar and knows the key to getting it is throwing in an extra dimension. It’s going to make everything 3D, regardless of whether it should be or not.

Cameron hopes that studios will make 3D movies for the sake of making movies with a third-dimension, not just to make a buck.

The current process of turning everything 3D will eventually lead to another demise of 3D if it continues. Hollywood seems to forget about the concept of diminishing returns.

I think there’s a place for 3D and so does Jimmy Cameron. Though we may not agree on where that place is, I think it does deserve to be given the extra thought, rather than being passed around like a collection basket at Sunday mass. The reasons for the demise of 3D the first and second time around was that the technology wasn’t quite good enough. Now we have the technology, but it all has the potential of being over-saturated for the sake of a quick cash-in.

3D movies have their place. They bring a special spectacle that can only be appreciated in the movie theatre. We can all agree that if they are treated properly, they can co-exist with 2D movies in the multiplex. Cameron and I seem to agree as far as that goes, and I wouldn’t have expected that.

Though, where he and I still disagree is that good story-telling and character should always come first. I’m still looking at you, Avatar.

Day Fifty-One – Keys to the (Magic) Kingdom

20 02 2010

Disney’s latest announcement didn’t seem like it even needed to be said. To me, it’s just common sense. Basically, if your movie idea can sell toys or comes from Pixar, you’ll be issued a key to the Mouse House’s vault o’ cash. If not, it better be cheap.

The concept of trying to make money outside of just box office isn’t new. I remember when the Godzilla remake came out and my local Blockbuster was filled with Godzilla toys, cups, mouse pads and other useless items. The movie wasn’t too concerned about making a ton at the box office. As long as I bought a bunch of crap outside of the theatre, they were more than happy. (Sadly, I bought the soundtrack. That was before I developed any kind of taste in music. I promise.)

Your only way into the Magic Kingdom is an idea that'll make money; one way or another.

Roger Ebert said on his Twitter that making this statement is the same as an admission of guilt. I don’t think that’s the case. I think it’s just reaffirming their stance in the world of Hollywood. They need to fill all those Disney stores in the malls with something other than Buzz Lightyear dolls and Cinderella pillows. They’ve basically made it clear to every agent and manager exactly what they’re looking for.

Have a great horror idea that takes place in a refrigerator? Does the fridge have a friendly face that can be made into an action figure that the 8-14 year old boys will want in their Christmas stockings? No? Try 20th Century Fox.

Anyone who grumbles that this is just another problem with corporate America owning the studios needs to do their research before worrying. Disney isn’t concerned with making less quality films. They just don’t want to pay for trash like G-Force when it has no potential for a return outside of box office. Can anyone really be upset about that?

Also, low budget in Hollywood means $50 million. I could make a pretty good movie for that amount of money. Sure, my talking unicorn will likely have to be dropped from my script, but I could just get a cheap TV actor to serve his purpose anyway.

Basically, if you need the money, you better have some way to make it back. If your movie can be made for $50 million, it’s reasonable to assume you can be profitable in box office alone. Think The Proposal. If not, your movie better have another way to make up what it owes. Whether it’s cutting the neighbours’ lawns over the summer or selling some cheap plastic toys, you better have a business plan to get your cash back.

Is there really anything wrong with that? Make a movie people will want to spend money on, one way or another, or go looking for your cash elsewhere.

Does that even need to be said?