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Spielberg reveals Lincoln struggled to get cinema distribution, says filmmaking "heading for implosion"


Andrew Reid
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What about if you prove to yourself you can make shtty movie that earns millions and then do your creative niche movie that makes you even more millions? It's hard too say your creativity is worth something if you can't make standard successful kitschy movie where you don't need creativity. First know the rules, then brake them.

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Once upon a time is a story told, an alternative would be also 'a long time ago in a galaxy far far'... you get the idea.

 

However today it's all about ...once upon a dime. There really isn't much difference to what happened with the financial deficit with what is being recycled again but for film, it's the same game play at work. Lucas and Spielberg are just being whistleblowers, pre-empting if you will, what is to come.

 

The infamous statement is that nobody knows anything in film land, and that is absolutley true, as all creativity is a risk, otherwise every film made would be a hit, and for the ones that do, for the ones who do so because in their hearts, it's only about possibilty... well they are the ones being denied right now, but at the same time, Hollywood failures are giving them other paths to follow, and that hurts us as a culture and as an audience.

 

I don't want to sound all Jerry Maguire as Steven Soderberg came across in his recent speech, as it was numbing that it led him to quit, however, for whatever happens, it is stories told, that equal stories sold and they need to say that to themselves everyday before starting their day. I love going to the cinema, I love being enlightened by a creative sermon delivered with passion and a need to connect with us no matter what genre or subject it is, but i find it harder and harder to find something worthy of that visit that I used to make several times a week.

 

I just don't want to see the day when it only becomes about peer to peer audiences, or singular views in the solitary bowels of tablets and at home by yourself.. No man is an island, and we need to watch a film with the many sitting beside us, where we are all naked (metaphorically speaking here) and removed and stripped of the suit of armour we all have to bs each other with outside the cinema, in our everyday lives, that's why it is so importnat as a construct of cultural and social cohesion. It's where we get enlightened by what I have always thought were the modern day prophets, allowing us to partake their visions and imagined concepts and ideas together as one being, which is what we all become when the house lights go down.

 

Cinema has the power in its ability to transcend that, that, that is traditionally known into that, that is not, the meaningful unknown, so that it again becomes known and so fourth, and we all learn together. If the sermon is delivered as a telling, a seed is planted in each of us, that we choose to grow, which is why we return again and again to that story.

 

I don't mean to expose my deepness here as I know a lot of people find it hard to fathom spiritual understanding of what connects us all, but it's like when Obi Wan explains the Force, cinema is exactly like that, in that 'It's an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together.", that's exactly how I have always viewed cinema.

 

So may the force be with us, otherwise it all ends up like Alderaan :-)

 

hope.jpg

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I know that here in the USA there are still quite a few small independent theaters willing to take chances on small creative films. Many towns/cities have one or two.  Upstream Color was shown mostly in these kinds of theaters and people who are into movies have a way of finding them.  I think Spielberg and Lucas should start spending some of THEIR OWN money in the way Shane Carruth did and let's see what they do creatively. 

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A good job they didn't have a hand in Django Unchained's distribution.

You have to use a certain formula to get films like that to be successful.  Django Unchained succeeded because Tarantino knew exactly what he was doing. Without the Dr. King Schultz character that movie would have flopped.  Tarantino wanted to make a slave era film, but knew white americans would not go to see a serious Nat Turner revenge type of film.  Tarantino knew that the only way to pull the film off was with using humor to take the sting out of it and by having a redeeming character lead that white audiences could identify with and not be associated with the racist "bad" ones.  Also, Django wasn't really the lead character for most of the film. Dr. King Schultz lead most of the film and Christoph Waltz snagged a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for that role.

 

Any film that has 3 or more black leads doing something positive or showing a positive black male/black female relationship does not do well and is deemed a black/urban film and unsellable.  Movies like...The Help or The Blindside do extraordinarily well.  Just like with the movie "42" about Jackie Robinson.  It did very well, but the film really wasn't about Jackie Robinson's life but more about Harrison Ford's character getting Jackie into the league.  The same formula is found in The Help and in The Blindside.  Films like that do great....but films like "Ali", "Faster", or recently "After Earth" all flop at the box office.  Even The Book of Eli barely made money back. If a black lead is not paired with well know white lead then the movie has a high chance of flopping.  This is why Safe House did well at the box office.  The film really wasn't about Denzel's character.  It was more about Ryan Reynolds.  lol...that movie Flight did well because Denzel played another negative role.  But he didn't catch any shine for Malcolm X.  I would put money on it every time on what will flop and what will make money.  So, in a way I understand why many buyers behave the way they do.  It's somewhat insidious but they are trying to maximize profits off the collective unconscious of the majority markets.  This weekend The Man of Steel will make a ton of money like clockwork.  All these superhero movie will make a ton of money...but let them mess around and make a Black Panther film.  It will flop big time.

It's just the nature of the environment for minorities.  We go see everyone else's films but no one comes to see ours.  ROI is in making mainstream 4 quadrant hits.  

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Absolutely agree with mostly everything Im hearing on here. I hate how our industry is man handled by the big studios. I now even cringe at the thought at working a a big factory slamming together VFX porn. I hope there is another way for distribution because I would not want a larger studio to have their greedy little mits all over my work. Kevin Smith went an interesting route with Red State, and along with the kickstarter wave, vimeo on demand, netflix etc I hope we can just by pass the damn studios all together. Digital distribution to large theaters shouldn't take the backing of a major studio anymore its mainly about getting you $8M-$40M to make the film. But maybe Im wrong...Im in a part of thee industry im trying to get out of, if a movie like Life of Pi make $600M and the artists are all out of work its no wonder everything is falling apart, money flowing up and crap flowing down.

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I hate to be negative but perhaps the reason George Lucas' "Red Tails" had a hard time getting into theaters is that it was a lousy movie. I saw it and really thought it unworthy of the big screen...or any screen. It's a shame because the actual history of the events portrayed are amazing and deserving of a much better written and executed story.

Also, "Red Tails" is referred to as a "block buster"...a term that has been so watered down that it is almost useless. In my mind no one should call a movie a "block buster" until AFTER that movie has been released AND people line up around the block to buy a ticket to see it. Somehow "big budget" and "block buster" have become synonymous which is too bad. "Star Wars" was a block buster, "Jaws" was a block buster..."Red Tails" had short lines and lost at least ten million dollars...
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A"Oh man wish they'd make better movies, there's so much garbage in cinema these days why do they keep on doing that?"

B"So you've seen all those films, although everything these days are bad?"
A"Of course, it's all there is showing anyways, so I went ahead and watched them"
B*Facepalm*

It seems there isn't much an increase in movie goers when there's a good movie out, but that there are times when people just want to watch something, go all the way out to a theatre, and watch anything that's showing. And naturally, whatever film that was advertised all over the place will get all the attention as it sparks the "oh hey I heard of this, lets see it just because" in plenty of people. Even I've gone to watch films that I've read/heard about beforehand in having terrible reviews, but something in me says "go ahead, looks fun" and there we go, money lost over time ill spent, non-conversation worthy films are the worst...

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i have to agree with most people here, i think it's his career that is imploding, not the film business. Lincoln was a boring film, my wife fell asleep during it, the only reason i stayed awake was because i thought the cinematography was the best of the year. i couldnt even make it through red tails. both of those directors are out of it, they just dont make good movies anymore and their ideas are tired.

as well, some of these upgraded dine in theaters are so amazing that we will almost go watch anything to sit in a huge recliner and get served real food and drinks too! I think the studios just have to learn not to give tired old directors an unlimited budget to make whatever they want while his little bubble keeps telling him how amazing everything is up until the point that it bombs at the box office.

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The truth? Good films end up shelved ALL THE TIME.

 

Great films often get lost in the system. 

 

Brilliant ideas often never get funded. The best scripts, the ones that get passed around back and forth -RARELY- get greenlights.

 

About 15 years ago, there was a round table with Francis Ford, Spike Lee, Scorcese, Spielberg and others, and they ALL confessed they

struggled to get their next film made. 

 

Wait, it gets better....

 

The days of a Tarantino or Rodiriguez getting through the door and blowing up are slim to none. Even during the heyday of 90's indie cinema, only a few got past the gatekeepers...because even on a low indie level, there are gatekeepers.

 

There are only a hand full of sales reps, and only a couple dozen distributors who have handled projects you've heard of.

The festivals are set up like getting into Harvard Law....some are there on merit, but most on pedigree and association.

 

Think the internet is the great equalizer? It is. But it's also a slush pile of camera tests, and garbage that few people can wade through.

 

Which means a guy like Spielberg who was big man on campus, and owned his own campus feels the heat of a more democratizing process, and studios reacting by only producing sure thing major blockbusters with toy and product tie ins, so they can make back their marketing budgets. (Even Django had action figures).

 

All the while, indie films take even less economical risks, less creative risks, and the gatekeeping requires you the filmmaker to be the Prom King/Queen or the captain of the football team to get through that system. It means the big festivals have already selected films connected with a hand full of known industry people, before the submission deadlines. It means more than half the films a Sundance are repped by one man. It means distributors are offering award winning films deals in the 50k range, before you pay out E&O insurance, and differed costs. It also means distributors are making offers of 5K for a feature film, for world rights, and doing it with a straight face.

 

This is the reality we're up against. Creative filmmaking is not as important to getting your film seen as creative salemanship, and business. This is what we're all up against. 

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Think the internet is the great equalizer? It is. But it's also a slush pile of camera tests, and garbage that few people can wade through.

 

That's precisely why your film will stand out if you can deliver quality.

 

 

Creative filmmaking is not as important to getting your film seen as creative salemanship, and business. This is what we're all up against. 

 

Behind every successful director there is a successful producer. Get on a phone.

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Gatekeepers are true, film is often described as the hardest club to get into in the world, even all those people at Cannes officially are trying to get in. In the many meetings I have had, you gotta keep going you see, I found myself getting a door open to a very good company, a known company, tradewise that is.

 

A good old fashioned letter I wrote got me a callback. I went to see them, they loved my short work and said I sounded even better in the flesh, then the reality kicked in. They told me 'great, but we cannot help you', I said 'why' as anyone would, they said, 'we don't know you'...ermmmm, 'ok then we're here now, let's get to know each other'...'oh no, that's not how it works'...ok how does it work I say, ...'oh, someone has to recommend you to us then we can help'... and that's how it is folks.

 

You know that saying 'it's about who you know', not true, it's the opposite, it's about who knows you, and this lends itself so greatly to the now, to the self catering filmmaker, you make something special you can now put it out there on many platforms and portals, and if it is special and strikes a chord, everyone talks about, well actually it doesn't have to be special, you can film your cat taking a turd and falling out of a tree, put it on youtube and you suddenly have a billion hits... that's just crazy!

 

But once again we find ourselves having to squire through digital irk and ire to find anything good, so it's another slew of not so much gatekeepers but infinitely open gates! There has never been a sure way in to film, there is just your own way and you have to put heart and bloody soul every day to achieve it.

 

So enter everything and anything, get your work known and who you are. There again there is quite a lot of tosh, but do research. For example, look who the judges are. I entered a comp literally 24 hrs before the deadline, a comp I knew about for ages but they never announced the judges, plus I was in another country at the time. my work finished early and I got back to the UK and I saw the judges and they were all real filmmakers, as in people you know. So I quickly put something together and handed it in. I was astonished that I had won the comp whereas other entries had full blown crews and everything. But I believed in my idea and I knew the calibre of the judges, I also trusted my voice as a filmmaker and that is something you have to discover for yourself, I have never been good at following anything and have always been labelled as unorthodox and for being ahead of my time, all my filmmaking contacts can't understand why I have slipped through the net all the time, it's simple you need to find out which net to jump in, that's what I mean about research, that and following your heart are the most important to me.

 

http://www.londonscreenwritersfestival.com/four-nights-in-august-winners-announced-at-lsf-2011/

 

Having won that comp, it opened a few doors to me especially in the US. I now have a US producer helping me with my first feature becuase of that win. The comp ran again and is currently at judging stage, and again my entry has stirred a few boats in its comments section and is one of the highest rated, that alone earned me a UK producer and the short has it's first public screening at a film making masterclass this very weekend.

 

http://www.50kissesfilm.com/movies/neil-by-anil-rao/

 

Oh and for the record, I asked that particular company why they had agreed to see me if they couldn't help me, the guy told me that at the bottom of my letter I had written 'help me Obi Wan Kenobi, you're my only hope', and that he was a Star Wars fan... that's why :-)

 

You+must+unlearn+what+you+have+learned.j

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What you said about Denzel Washington and Malcolm X is completely false :

The film was critically acclaimed and garnered 91% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Denzel's portrayal of Malcolm X was widely praised and he was nominated for 
Academy Award for Best Actor. He lost to Al Pacino (who finally got his long overdue Oscar for Scent Of A Woman).
Denzel did win the 
Silver Bear for Best Actor at the 43rd Berlin International Film Festival and the movie received a number of awards at other festivals.

The film grossed $9,871,125 in its opening weekend and finished third after Home Alone 2: Lost in New York ($30 million) and Bram Stoker's Dracula ($15 million). The film ended its run with a gross of $48,169,610.

The film was widely praised upon its release. Roger Ebert ranked it No. 1 on his Top 10 list for 1992 and described the film as "one of the great screen biographies, celebrating the sweep of an American life that bottomed out in prison before its hero reinvented himself." 
Ebert and Martin Scorsese both rankedMalcolm X among the ten best films of the 1990s.

In 2010, Malcolm X was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".

 

that movie Flight did well because Denzel played another negative role.  But he didn't catch any shine for Malcolm X.  I would put money on it every time on what will flop and what will make money.

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Interesting and bang on...

 

Lynda Obst: Hollywood’s completely broken

 

When you stopped buying DVDs and started streaming on Netflix,

Hollywood's economics changed.

So did the movies

 

I was driving west in a classically horrible L.A. morning commute on my way to Peter Chernin’s new office in Santa Monica, thinking about our regular lunches back when he ran the studio and I worked as a producer there in the nineties. Peter, who is now building his own media empire at Fox and had been president of News Corp. for over a decade, was clearly the perfect person to ask what had turned the Old Abnormal into the New Abnormal. First of all, he was incredibly smart about the business. But more important, I now realized that during those lunches, he was the first to warn me that the proverbial “light ahead” was an oncoming train. It was way before things turned obviously grim. Since I was reliably churning out pictures then, I didn’t take his gloomy talk about piracy seriously. I just went around saying, “The landlord has the blues,” and blithely fell into the future.

 

Peter wasn’t exactly having a hard time making the transition. Once he decided in 2009 to leave the number-two job overseeing the News Corp. media empire, he became the biggest producer at Fox (one of the biggest anywhere), with guaranteed pictures and huge potential profit participation. His first picture was the tentpole smash Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and he already had three television shows on the air. More recently, he released the smash Identity Thief, with Melissa McCarthy and Jason Bateman.

 

The long drive got me thinking about the contrast between the struggling Old Abnormal producers (and writers) and the soaring New ones like Peter. It was discussed at a fancy-pants dinner party I went to a week before. “They’re completely broke,” said a studio head, when asked by me (of course) about how different things were these days. He spoke about famous players who regularly came to him begging for favors—a picture, a handout, anything. “Why?” his very East Coast guest asked incredulously.

 

I recalled his exact words as I sat in bumper-to-bumper traffic. “They have extremely high overheads,” he said to his guest with me listening in. “They have multiple houses, wives, and families to support. They’ve made movies for years, they were on top of the world and had no reason to think it would end. And then suddenly it did. They’ve gone through whatever savings they had. They can’t sell their real estate. Their overhead is as astronomical as their fees used to be. They’ve taken out loans, so they’re highly leveraged. It’s a tragedy.”

His natty guest looked unsympathetic, so I tried to bridge the worlds between us. “Okay,” I said, “the Sudan is a tragedy. This is just sad.”

 

I understood that it was hard to sympathize with broke producers when so many families were being tossed onto their lawns by bailed-out banks that had bullied them into bullshit mortgages. Meanwhile, New Abnormal producers like Peter were  thriving, easily finding supersized tentpoles with the “preawareness” that was so craved by the New Abnormal, like his hit film Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

That is because those films were so well suited to their sensibilities and ambitions. But Peter was more than just a successful model of a New Abnormal producer. He had green-lit the two biggest movies of all time when he was head of Fox during the Old Abnormal.

 

Peter had earned his top-down as well as bottom-up perspective on the business by working his way up through publishing, then TV, to eventually run both Fox Broadcasting Company and Twentieth Century Fox Film. He became Rupert Murdoch’s number two, overseeing the whole Fox empire, and shareholders clamored for the board to name him Murdoch’s successor. But this was a job designated by Murdoch to go to an actual heir, so Peter left to become a producer. He knew the business, as Joni Mitchell’s great old tune said it, “from both sides now.” More important, he was gifted with a brain both creative and financial in equal measure.

 

Peter’s offices are as close to the water as you can get without falling in. He came into the lobby to greet me, always personable, never grandiose, but still a bit larger than life. He is the humblest of moguls, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a strong ego— just not a damaged one. We sat in his Santa Monica office with huge plate-glass windows overlooking the Pacific, where he happily relayed that he rarely crossed the 405 East-West divide. When I asked for his help in getting to the bottom of all this, I was reminded of how tough-minded he is. Even though we are old friends (we went to high school together), he had no problem challenging my buried premises. Maybe they weren’t very buried.

 

“So how did we get here,” I asked, “where things are so different from when we started? What happened?”

I leaned back a little on Peter’s comfortable couch, and he sat forward to say, “People will look back and say that probably, from a financial point of view, 1995 through 2005 was the golden age of this generation of the movie business. You had big growth internationally, and you had big growth with DVDs.” He paused to allow a gallows laugh. “That golden age appears to be over.”

It was good we both could keep our sense of humor, the only way to survive the industry’s crazy carousel of wild ups and low downs. And this very carousel and its need for constant— bordering on psychotic—optimism to keep your projects going made it hard for a person like me to find a steady perch from which to see what was really going on.

 

Peter, however, had one. He seemed to be saying that the DVD market was critical to the life and death of the Old Abnormal. I knew the DVD profits were key, but it seemed to me like a classic case of the tail wagging the dog. “Why did those little silver discs go to the heart of the business?” I asked. “There have to be other key revenue streams.”

 

“Let me give you the simplest math,” he replied. “The simple, simple, simple math.”

 

Good, I thought. Because my friends and I are not so great at math. I can guesstimate the budget of a big movie to within a hundred thousand dollars by reading the script, but I can’t add the columns therein. “The movie business,” Peter said, “the historical studio business, if you put all the studios together, runs at about a ten percent profit margin. For every billion dollars in revenue, they make a hundred million dollars in profits. That’s the business, right?” I nodded, the good student, excited that someone was finally going to explain this to me.

 

“The DVD business represented fifty percent of their profits,” he went on. “Fifty percent. The decline of that business means their entire profit could come down between forty and fifty percent for new movies.”

 

For those of you like me who are not good at math, let me make Peter’s statement even simpler. If a studio’s margin of profit was only 10 percent in the Old Abnormal, now with the collapsing DVD market that profit margin was hovering around 6 percent. The loss of profit on those little silver discs had nearly halved our profit margin.

 

This was, literally, a Great Contraction. Something drastic had happened to our industry, and this was it. Surely there were other factors: Young males were disappearing into video games; there were hundreds of home entertainment choices available for nesting families; the Net. But slicing a huge chunk of reliable profits right out of the bottom line forever?

 

This was mind-boggling to me, and I’ve been in the business for thirty years. Peter continued as I absorbed the depths and roots of what I was starting to think of as the Great Contraction. “Which means if nothing else changed, they would all be losing money. That’s how serious the DVD downturn is. At best, it could cut their profit in half for new movies.”

 

I’d never heard it put so starkly; I’d only seen the bloody results of the starkness. The epic Writers Guild strike of 1988 was about the writers trying to get a piece of home viewing profits. It shut down the town for eight months, and estimates of what it cost the Los Angeles economy run between $500 million and $1 billion. They held out as long as they could, until all parties had bled out as if they’d been struck by Ebola. And still the writers got no piece of those golden discs. Then the writers struck again in 2007–8 for a piece of the Internet frontier, and won not much more than they did after the last awful strike, and we all watched its terrible and unintended aftermath play out during the recession and in the subsequent suspension of writers’ and producers’ deals.

 

“I think the two driving forces [of what you’re calling the Great Contraction] were the recession and the transition of the DVD market,” Peter said. “The 2008 writers’ strike added a little gasoline to the fire.” Well, at least my writer friends would be relieved to know that Peter didn’t think it was totally their fault, as some in town were fond of intimating.

 

He went on to say, “It was partially driven by the recession, but I think it was more driven by technology.”

There it was. Technology had destroyed the DVD. When Peter referred to the “transition of the DVD market,” and technology destroying the DVD, he was talking about the implications of the fact that our movies were now proliferating for free—not just on the streets of Beijing and Hong Kong and Rio. And even legitimate users, as Peter pointed out, who would never pirate, were going for $3 or $4 video-on-demand (VOD) rentals instead of $15 DVD purchases.

 

“When did the collapse begin?”

 

“The bad news started in 2008,” he said. “Bad 2009. Bad 2010. Bad 2011.”

 

It was as if he were scolding those years. They were bad, very bad. I wouldn’t want to be those years.

“The international market will still grow,” he said, “but the DVD sell-through business is not coming back again. Consumers will buy their movies on Netflix, iTunes, Amazon et al. before they will purchase a DVD.” What had been our profit margin has gone the way of the old media.

 

It hit me like a rock in the face. The loss of DVDs for our business had created a desperate need for a new area of growth. This was why the international market has become so important a factor in creative decisions, like casting and what movies the studios make.

We sat in mournful silence for a second before I realized that Peter probably had to take a call from China and I should go home and take a Xanax.

 

But then Peter said the most amazing thing. A P&L, if you’re not a numbers person, is a profit-and-loss statement. Studios create P&Ls in order to explain to their financial boards, banks and investors how they are going to recoup their costs when they green-light films. It estimates how much money key domestic and international markets are expected to gross based on how “elements” (i.e., stars, director, title) have performed in the past in those markets, country by country. It also estimates how they will perform in various ancillary markets like DVD, TV, pay cable, Internet, airplane devices, VOD, handheld devices, etc., again based on past performance. If it all adds up to the amount of the budget or more, Go!

 

These are the quantifiers that studios use to rationalize their decisions, to put them on solid-enough financial ground on which to base predictions to their corporate boards. “So,” Peter said as I was about to leave, “the most interesting thing is what a few studio heads said to me privately about two years ago.” He stopped to smile. “None of them from Fox, of course.”

 

“Of course,” I said. I knew he was about to share something very inside with me. “They said to me, ‘We don’t even know how to run a P&L right now.’” The look on his face expressed the sheer madness of that statement. “ ‘We don’t know what our P&L looks like because we don’t know what the DVD number is!’ The DVD number used to be half of the entire P&L!” “What are the implications of that?”

 

He looked at me incredulously, as if to say, Haven’t you run a studio? Then he said very emphatically, “The implications are— you’re seeing the implications—the implications are, those studios are frozen. The big implication is that those studios are—not necessarily inappropriately—terrified to do anything because they don’t know what the numbers look like.”

 

Of course they are. They’re frozen, so the gut is frozen, the heart is frozen, and even the bottom-line spreadsheet is frozen. It was like a cold shower in hard numbers. There was none of the extra cash that fueled competitive commerce, gut calls, or real movies, the extra spec script purchase, the pitch culture, the grease that fueled the Old Abnormal: the way things had always been done. We were running on empty, searching for sources of new revenue. The only reliable entry on the P&L was international. That’s where the moolah was coming from, so that’s what decisions would be based on.

 

The Great Contraction explains the birth of the New Abnormal, and so many of the cultural changes that came along with it. Technology changes culture. Think of the way the all-embracing texting culture of the Japanese teenager created the first-person text novel (keitai shousetsu). The anonymous romantic accounts of teens written by texters were sent chapter by chapter as apps were being designed in real time to meet the needs of the growing audience. That birthed a genre that spawned “real” books and movies. Our industry reformatted itself with an application called “new revenue streams.” A crucial question of that app was “what stars play in foreign territories,” and the answer was, “whoever had a big hit there before!” Casting was not the only thing that technology changed, nor was the (disappearing) pitch. The big change was what movies get made.

 

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10% profit margin on $1 billion? Nuts. Maybe the solution is to make cheaper movies, and be more creative. Maybe the situation as we know it now is the last gasp of the old guard, and daylight will break through the clouds.

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10% profit margin on $1 billion? Nuts. Maybe the solution is to make cheaper movies, and be more creative. 

 

Of course it is, they just don't know how to anymore, seriously.

Word out on the street is that WWZ cost $400 million after all the rewrites and reshoots, it's just insane.

Just walk into any big movie set and you'll be amazed at how much money they're wasting and how obvious it is.

 

A few years ago there was a blog post analyzing Avatar's box office numbers, apparently the studio only started making a profit when it reached $1.5 billion... that says it all.

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What you said about Denzel Washington and Malcolm X is completely false :

The film was critically acclaimed and garnered 91% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Denzel's portrayal of Malcolm X was widely praised and he was nominated for Academy Award for Best Actor. He lost to Al Pacino (who finally got his long overdue Oscar for Scent Of A Woman).
Denzel did win the Silver Bear for Best Actor at the 43rd Berlin International Film Festival and the movie received a number of awards at other festivals.

The film grossed $9,871,125 in its opening weekend and finished third after Home Alone 2: Lost in New York ($30 million) and Bram Stoker's Dracula ($15 million). The film ended its run with a gross of $48,169,610.

The film was widely praised upon its release. Roger Ebert ranked it No. 1 on his Top 10 list for 1992 and described the film as "one of the great screen biographies, celebrating the sweep of an American life that bottomed out in prison before its hero reinvented himself." 
Ebert and Martin Scorsese both rankedMalcolm X among the ten best films of the 1990s.

In 2010, Malcolm X was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".

Yeah after the film was made and years later people want to say it is good.  But when it was released, Malcolm X had a production budget of over 30 Million dollars.  Spike Lee had to put up most of his salary for the film to get it made.  It could have made some money back with that 48 million figure if marketing was included in the budget estimates.  Still, I wouldn't call that a box office hit.  Also, Denzel got a Leading Role Oscar for Training Day.  What did he play?  Halle Berry got a Leading Role Oscar for Monster Ball.  What did she play?

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