Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Hollywood Babble On & On #383: A Li'l Sumtin Fer Summit

Welcome to the show folks...

Yesterday I wrote about Summit going on a possible shopping spree for film libraries, and weighed the pros and cons of different ones. (Click HERE and scroll past Polanski) Today, I'm going to talk a little bit about Summit, its money situation, and what it can do with that money.

Right now Summit is swimming with cash. A certain little movie named
Twilight that all the other studios passed on, made literally shit-loads of money, hence the reports of corporate sized shopping sprees.

I'd like to take a moment to give a little advice to Summit Entertainment, ahem....

STOP!

There.

Now I think I should explain things a little.

1.
Twilight was big, and the odds are pretty good that the sequel will do big box office as well. But, and this is a massive, Michael Moore sized but, Twilight is finite. It's target demographic are teenage and tween girls who are dim enough to think that an undead creature that sucks blood from the innocent is some sort of romantic ideal. Girls like that are notoriously finicky. All it takes is Robert Pattinson discovering the wonders of bathing, and the whole will go from hot stuff to gross faster than you can say "flash in the pan." Suddenly that seemingly never-ending spring of money will dry up, leaving nothing but dust, and a bunch of DVDs collecting such dust at the bottom of the discount bin.

2. Summit's box office record
sans vampires isn't exactly stellar, with only one film coming within $25 million of that $100 million domestic box office milestone, and most failing to reach even half that. That's not healthy.

So what can Summit do?

Well, it can follow my rules for "New Independents" which I will reiterate here:

1. DON'T DO WHAT THE MAJORS ARE DOING, DO WHAT THEY ARE NOT DOING.

That shouldn't need explanation, but since I'm a blowhard-know-it-all in love with the sound of my own voice, I'll do it anyway. Big studio movies follow extremely narrow patterns aimed at extremely narrow demographics. Look not at the films that they are making, but the ones that they are not making. There are parts where what the audience wants, and what the studios are making do not overlap. Fill those gaps yourself.

2. DON'T WASTE MONEY ON MAKING YOUR FILMS.

Not every film will be another Twilight, but you should know that already. Be thrifty, and wise, but not stingy. Money will not make a bad story good, but it can make a good movie a hit, so use your head, and your instinct.

3. EMBRACE THE AUDIENCE.

To anyone who lives outside of the bubble of the Axis of Ego, Hollywood looks and acts like an alien culture. Often entertaining, but alien nonetheless. This is where the gaps are, so get to know the average moviegoer, their hopes, their dreams, and most important, what they want to see on the screen. And don't just rely on market research firms, I have a beef with them.

4. AVOID THE BLOCKBUSTER MONEY TRAP.

This is part of being thrifty. Pursuing box office records is a trap that can crush your company. Pick your battles carefully, and be strategically smart. Lew Wasserman was given the option of opening Jaws in a then unheard of 800 theatres. He said "Open in 600!" Why? It wasn't just to save money on prints, Wasserman wanted long lines getting on the news and spreading buzz. That's called strategy.

5. EMBRACE NEW TECHNOLOGY BUT DON'T LET IT HYPNOTIZE YOU.

The means of production have never been more affordable, but don't think that some slick camerawork or CGI will turn a flop into a hit. That takes talent.

6. FORGET ABOUT THE STAR SYSTEM.

Most stars aren't worth the money. Ashton Kutcher may have a lot of followers on Twitter, but when it comes to movies and TV shows, his record is more shitter than twitter.

7. FORGET ABOUT WINNING HOLLYWOOD.

As long as you are not a major studio you will always be treated like Hollywood's country bumpkin cousin. So forget about them, get the audience on your side, and you won't need them, but they will need you.

8. TREAT INVESTORS AS INVESTORS, NOT SUCKERS.

Too many businesses in Hollywood run like fly-by-night ponzi schemes. Make your company a safe harbour, and investors will come.

9. MAKE DECISIONS WITH YOUR BRAIN, NOT YOUR EGO.

Your shit does stink, and not every idea you have will be a winner. Look at every decision from a logic based viewpoint, not a viewpoint based on the concept of "I'm great dammit!"

10. SEEKING AWARDS CAN ONLY LEAD TO SUFFERING.

The Weinstein Co. is currently on your radar for a takeover. There's a reason for that. It's because they alienated the audience, and chased after the approval of Hollywood through awards, over the approval of the audience through box office receipts. Forget awards, they are mostly meaningless these days. The audience is your king.

I hope this helps, because you don't want to end up like so many other companies before you.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Hollywood Babble On & On #382: Wanted & Desired In 2 Ways

Welcome to the show folks...

1. SOMETIMES YOU DON'T DO WHAT THE ROMANS DO...

Film director Roman Polanski was pinched in Zurich, and not in a good way. He was arrested and is looking at extradition over his conviction for sharing drugs and having sex with a 13 year old girl in 1977. Now Hollywood has risen to his defense, telling the press that 30+ years of award winning, luxury in Europe is punishment enough, and that he should be let go, sparking waves of disgust among the great unwashed known as the rest of the population.

This is a classic case of Hollywood not knowing how to pick its battles.

Sure, Polanski felt screwed over by a glory-hogging judge, and that's why he fled, but Hollywood seems to have forgotten that HE HAD SEX WITH A 13 YEAR OLD GIRL.

The details don't matter, what he did was a crime, and no matter what Harvey Weinstein, Woody Allen, Brett Ratner, or anyone else says matters. He committed a crime, he plead guilty and then he skipped out on the punishment. He had smart lawyers, and he could have beat that judge that wanted him deported, but he chose to run to Europe. Which is ironically, what the judge wanted anyway.

There's a reason behind Hollywood closing ranks around a man described by many as a child rapist. Hollywood has a very strong "Us VS Them" attitude, with the "Them" being "You" in the general public. You buy the tabloids that invade their privacy, You read the gossip blogs that expose their every nose-pick and cellulite dappled thigh, and You also make their careers possible, but that little tid-bit usually gets forgotten.

There's also an attitude that taboos are bad, and those who break them are not to be punished, especially if that taboo involves sex or sexuality. Now there are very hard and fast rules to who gets that sort of "get out of shit free" card. You have to be rich, famous, considered an "artistic" over "commercial" in your work, and not do anything that may be construed as racist, oppressive, or seen as supporting a unfashionable political stance.

Polanski fits all those rules, he is a very talented filmmaker, with a lot great movies under his belt, so Hollywood gives him a pass. To them statutory rape is merely a footnote, because they want to judge him by his art, and not by what he's done in the real world.

I say that Polanski should stop fighting extradition, return to the United States, and finally end this. Not only for himself, but for the girl, now a mature woman, in the centre of this mess. The Los Angeles County D.A. is not going to stop hounding either of them until a judge puts a ribbon on it.

Besides, Polanski should remember that this is the Los Angeles DA he's dealing with here. They only celebrity they were able to convict was Phil Spector, he was literally standing over the body, and even then they had to try him twice to get that conviction.

2. SUMMIT PLANS TO KEEP CLIMBING

Summit Entertainment, flush with cash from those teen-vampire love movies, is sniffing around Hollywood looking to start buying other companies or their libraries. So let's take a look at what's possible...

MGM/UA
PROS- The MGM/UA film library, despite missing most of the "Golden Age" MGM movies, is still worth a truckload of money, and the revenue from it is the only thing keeping the company afloat. There's also the Bond franchise to consider, which is going great guns lately.

CONS- The company is literally BILLIONS IN DEBT. Anyone looking to buy either the company, or the library will be expected to either take on that debt, or pay it off, and then some. Thus possibly putting it out of reach without accruing the sort of crippling debt that currently killing MGM.

THE WEINSTEIN COMPANY
PROS- There are a few critically acclaimed films in the library, including some Oscar winners, and with company coming apart faster than a sand-castle in a hurricane, they can be obtained for a good price.

CONS- There are way more jokers than aces in this deck, a lot more. Then there are all the films that were buried until all interest was lost and they were forgotten. Then there's Harvey and Bob, and they won't let go without a costly fight.

LIONSGATE
PROS- It's got some hit movies and cult classics in its library, and the company's been in a little slump lately.

CONS- Lionsgate is only in a little slump. It's not collapsing like TWC, and could recover very quickly and become very expensive, if the management makes the right moves. It's stock is already on the rise, and there are other sharks circling it.

So, we're going to have to keep our eyes on this one to see what pops up.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Hollywood Babble On & On #381: What Do You Think?

Welcome to the show folks...

1. TIME TO TERMINATE THE TERMINATOR?

This isn't a judgment of the McG prequel, but just a simple statement of logic. You see, there is one thing that the now legendary cyborg killing machine is guaranteed to snuff out, the companies that make
Terminator movies.

Look at the list.

HEMDALE PICTURES- Produced
T1, SHUT DOWN

ORION PICTURES- Distributed
T1, BANKRUPT

CAROLCO- Produced
T2, BANKRUPT

HALCYON- Produced
T-Salvation, and the Sarah Connor show, GOING BANKRUPT

JAMES CAMERON- Creator of
The Terminator movies, Judging by the Avatar trailer CREATIVELY BANKRUPT.

It's time to let the red light in his android eye fade to black, because the damn thing is jinxed.

2. FREDDY'S DEAD, BUT THAT'S NOT STOPPING THE REMAKE

Here's the trailer for the remake of A Nightmare On Elm Street:


I don't know, I think they flogged the first concept to death about thirty minutes into the second movie, and had hit the realm of self-parody right after that. The remake looks what I call "slick gritty." Which would be ta great name for a country-punk band, but doesn't really work for me in a horror film.

It opens with the sort of blasted industrial hell-scape that just beats you about the head with THIS IS A HORROR MOVIE! BE SCARED NOW!! The original showed Springwood, Ohio, as a cosmetically "perfect" town, but also gave the sense that it was beset with rot from within. There doesn't appear to be that sort of subtlety in this version, and the first version wasn't really all that subtle to begin with.

Other than that, the more effective shots seem to be the near recreations of scenes from the original movie, while everything else looks like a music video for an Emo-band.

Anyway, I'm not holding my breath about this film.

What do you think?

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Hollywood Babble On & On #380: Oh Those Weinsteins...

Welcome to the show folks...

Here's a little update on the sinking ship otherwise known as The Weinstein Company. Tom Ortenberg, who only became president of theatrical films a little more than eight months ago, has skedaddled for "personal reasons."

I joked that personally wanted to get paid, and that's why he left.

The Wrap says that despite his record with running Lionsgate the head honchos, Harvey and Bob, kept him at arms length and prevented him from doing what they allegedly hired him for, namely the running an independent film company.

Then there's the company's ongoing money troubles. There's $600 million in debt that needs to be paid, including $75 million in debt to the Ziff Brothers financial firm that's not getting paid, and is currently accruing mucho interest, hence digging their hole deeper. Dir
k Ziff, despite claims of still being a friend of Harvey's who is still willing to work with the company, has left his seat on the TWC board, which I don't think is a good sign.

Miller Buckfire, their restructuring consultants, has them laying off whoever might be left from the company's last round of layoffs, but I'm not sure that really gets to the root of the problem.

A fish rots at the head, and all the problems seem to point directly to Harvey and Bob Weinstein. Let's look at the facts...

1. People have lost track of the number of independent films the Weinstein Co. purchased since the company's inception, only to be buried by TWC because they might compete for awards and box office with films directly produced by the Weinsteins.

2. Filmmakers that aren't part of the select clique of Weinstein friends have nothing but bitterness and resentment towards TWC after doing business with them.

3. The Weinstein Co. has put most of their eggs in Oscar's basket. Putting more into winning awards in an age when the general audience don't really give a crap about Oscars anymore. The once expected "Oscar Bounce" is now rarer than hen's teeth.

4. They hire an experienced independent film executive like Tom Ortenberg, and then don't let him make any decisions, because all the power is in the hands of the two Weinsteins, who don't appear all that big on delegating authority.

5. $1.2 billion in equity investment and loans are gone, poof like a fart in a hurricane. Showing that the business model of paying too much for films that end up being seen by too few, is not the way to run a railroad, no matter how their status as "assets" may look on the books when pitching the company to investors. Despite the success of Inglorious Bastards, and the possibility that Halloween 2 broke even (though I don't know what they spent on P&A) there were just too many overpriced jokers in their deck.

Which brings me to the conclusion, that the biggest problem the Weinstein Co. has is that it's a Weinstein company.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Saturday Silliness Cinema: Smith & Jones

Welcome to the show folks...

Time for my usual Saturday break from ranting and raving about business for a quick laugh.

Today, those perennial Brit funsters Smith & Jones, and a very thrilling chase...


Friday, 25 September 2009

Hollywood Babble On & On #379: MGM- Must Get Moolah!

Welcome to the show folks...

MGM is in it deep today kiddies. A lot of the people holding the company's $3.7 billion debt are now pushing for the company to go into bankruptcy so they can sell off the MGM assets and move on.

Some folks are predicting quick millions to be made selling off the rights to the James Bond 007 franchise to Sony/Columbia, and the upcoming movie version of The Hobbit to Warner Bros., but I'm a little wary of that plan.

Yes, the Bond movies are solid moneymakers, that's a fact. However, if a company buys the franchise for the sort of money that might make a serious dent in the MGM debt situation then you can be pretty sure that amount would be the one thing that could kill said franchise.

Remember, we're talking about amounts in the HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS of dirty sexy money needed to buy these franchises in an way that can affect the debt of MGM. What company will want to start making movies that already cost a minimum of $100+ million that already have two to five times that amount hanging over it. The only way it could work is if the studio would be willing to lose millions for the first five or six movies until they franchise pays off its overhead. The Bond films and their perennial appeal could be handled as such a long term investment, but I don't see any company being that patient in these uncertain times.

As for The Hobbit, such a financial burden could kill the franchise more readily that Robert Shaye ever could.

Now the most valuable asset MGM has is its library. While the bulk of the "Golden Age" MGM films are now owned by Warner Bros., it does have thousands of other films in its catalog. I'm talking about the post-1952 United Artists library (including the Bond films), Orion Pictures, American International, Filmways, Cannon, Hemdale, and Polygram Filmed Entertainment.

But even then we have a bit of a pickle.

Not all these films are created equal. Some have perennial appeal, some have been forgotten, some rightfully forgotten, but that's just the beginning...

1. Most companies capable of buying the MGM/UA library have their own problems managing their own libraries, and the addition of Xenu knows how many thousand more titles will only add to those problems. So few would be willing to take on that responsibility, especially if it means dropping a few hundred million dollars to get them. It threatens to complicate an already needlessly complicated process, and has the threat of the MGM films being treated like the proverbial "poor cousins" and never reaching their full potential.

2. Home video sales are down, for various reasons, some blame can be based on the week economy, some blame can be put on uncertainty over the whole DVD vs Blu-Ray vs Download format. Also the TV market, at least judging by the channels my satellite dish gets, is waaaay underexploited with many channels, even ones that are supposed to play old movies, re-running Las Vegas, Bones, and Xena: Warrior Princess four times a day, only a handful of old movies, and even then decent prints of these films being even rarer.

Most experts are saying that any sort of forced bankruptcy sale would lead to a lot of these bondholders taking a financial bath. As you can see, I agree with that. The MGM management is asking for a forbearance, or a holiday on their interest payments so they can use the revenue they do make to make more movies, better market their library, and make some of the real cash needed to finally do something about their debt.

Of course, this could be part of Relativity Media's plan to convert debt into ownership and take over MGM, but only those deep inside know the truth.

What I do hope for is that something is done to rebuild MGM into a viable and successful company, because the rest of Hollywood could use the competition.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Hollywood Babble On & On #378: Developments in Development

Welcome to the show folks...

1. MAMET TOSSED INTO TURNAROUND

David Mamet's rather daring adaptation of
The Diary of Anne Frank into a modern day fable about contemporary antisemitism has been put into turnaround by Disney. Turnaround is movie development-speak for "We're not going to make the film, but we're not canceling it either."

Now it's not the news itself that caught my eye, movies, especially ones that tackle controversial politically incorrect subjects, get put into turnaround all the time. What caught my jaundiced eye was this quote from a Disney executive in the original report in Sharon Waxman's The Wrap:
"It's very intense, and dark and scary," said the executive. "It's not a film version of 'The Diary of Anne Frank.' The story evolved into something more intense."
Because we all know that THE HOLOCAUST wasn't intense, dark, and scary.

Why do I get the feeling that the executive who said that went to an Ivy League school?

2. HE MAN FINDS A HOME

Sony has picked up the adaptation of Mattel's Masters of the Universe toy line that was recently dropped by Warner Bros.


Call me cynical, but I'm not holding out much hope for a movie version about a muscle man
with a Prince Valiant haircut battling a dude in a Halloween mask. Especially with a story that makes He-Man an astronaut from Earth, who lands on Eternia, and a lot of hooey about science vs magic.

I don't care if it has one of the few characters with the same name as me that does not get killed off, I'm not going to be waiting for this flick with bated breath.

3. CRONENBERG TO TAKE ANOTHER SWAT AT THE FLY.

David Cronenberg is reportedly planning to reboot his reboot of the horror standard The Fly.

All I can say to Cronenberg is
Why Fly?

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Hollywood Babble On & On #377: A Couple Of Miscellaneous Musings

Welcome to the show folks...

1. LAYOFFS ENDING AND STARTING

The new fangled, and slightly mangled, William Morris-Endeavor Agency has announced that they are done with laying off workers, and will begin "integrating" their clients and agents.

It's about time, all that was left of WME was Ari Emmanuel and Dwayne the janitor. Dwayne will now handle international co-production deals.

Meanwhile, those Whacky Weinsteins are reportedly going to start laying off employees at their beleaguered company, again, and their restructuring consultant is telling the Brothers Weinstein to stick with making movies. Perhaps releasing them might help too.

2. NBC-U IPO PDQ?

Jeff Zucker, honcho of NBC-Universal is telling everyone to get ready for Vivendi's IPO of their 20% stake in the battered TV network/studio. There were some rumours of media behemoth Time-Warner buying NBC-U from General Electric, but I doubt they're true.

While the Universal film/TV library is pretty valuable, Time Warner already has too much on their plate already, and are only now just starting to get their own house in order. They can't afford to spend billions to buy not only NBC-U, but all the problems inherent in the company itself.

So I'm not expecting any major mergers emerging from this 20% sale.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Hollywood Babble On & On #376: Some Miscellaneous Musings...

Welcome to the show folks, let's get the ball rolling with...

1. THERE CAN BE ONLY CRAP!

Sharpen your katanas, because the folks at Summit Entertainment have decided that crappy sequels and a Canadian TV series wasn't enough because they're plotting a remake of Highlander.

The original
Highlander was the tale of immortals bound to battle and behead each other on the streets of New York until there is only one left to rule the world. I was a teenager when it came out, and found it an eye-popping festival of raging sword-fights, and a screaming soundtrack by Queen. Sure, it had a Frenchman playing a Scotsman, and a Scotsman playing an Egyptian posing as a Spaniard, but since it all came at you in a torrent of action and weirdness, you suspended your disbelief and went for the ride.

The makers followed it up a few years later with
Highlander 2, which pretty much took all the mythology of the first movie and tossed it all out to replace it with a bunch of crap about alien rebels.

I don't even know about the third movie, because I don't even want to risk another narrative reaming from that franchise. The TV series, about an immortal cousin, had its moments, but didn't provide the giddy thrill of originality a kid felt the first time they saw the first movie.

Ironically, this company is looking for that thrill, by doing the exact opposite of what made that first film stand out.

2. ARCHIE GOES BIG SCREEN

CAA, the coven behind the rash of toy/board game related movies currently clogging up studio development slates has signed a deal with the makers of Archie Comics for possible big screen adventures.

At least Archie had a semblance of a story behind it, though I'm still holding out hope for Lars Von Trier's adaptation of
Hungry Hungry Hippos.

Anyhoo, back to the story. I say, do Archie the movie, but make an R-Rated comedy that makes
Superbad look like a Pixar movie. Then it might work.

Archie, Betty, Veronica, threesome.

That's all the log line you need.

3. LENO LOSES LOOKERS

Viewers are leaving Jay Leno's week-nightly chat-fest for new shows, which is sad, but inevitable news. Remember this is NBC we're talking about. There former flagship show
Heroes has lost 46% of viewers compared to last season's already shitty opener.

The entire network needs to torn down, and rebuilt from scratch, because right now they couldn't buy a hit with God himself as a guest on Jay's show.

4. CINEMATIC KRYPTONITE

You know how I love to bring up the $65 million pissed away by the producers of Superman Returns before a single frame of film was even shot, well now we have a picture of where some of those millions went...

How many millions were pissed away on this conceptual abortion that makes Nick Cage look like a hippie drag queen encased in plastic?

And the scary part was that Tim Burton and Nick Cage were serious about going through with it. If I was the head of Warner Bros. and you brought that to me, I wouldn't show you the door, because the goddamn window would have been a lot closer.

Damn!

What were they thinking?

Or smoking?

Monday, 21 September 2009

Hollywood Babble On & On 375: Meatballs Beat Stars

Welcome to the show folks...

It's been a pretty weak weekend, or to coin a new phrase
weakend, where star laden and heavily hyped films like Matt Damon and Steven Soderbergh's The Informant, and Jennifer's Body starring Hollywood starlet du-jour Megan Fox underperformed at the box office. They were crushed by the digitally animated juggernaut of Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs.

Now it's not much of a stretch to see that coming, family films and animated fantasies generally do better than R-Rated fare, but these films performed worse than the most conservative estimates.

Why?


Jennifer's Body's biggest mistake was relying on its star Megan Fox to carry all the publicity for the film. She gets a lot of attention, but Fox had to ask themselves if it was the right kind of attention.

I heard waaaaay more about Transformers 2, which was long done, dusted, and on DVD, than I did about Jennifer's Body with her constant stupid comments making great copy for gossip bloggers, but lousy publicity. The movie she was supposed to promote, ended up a minor footnote to reports of her feuding, and constant swirling rumors about her personal life.

Plus, an October release may have been better, with Halloween on the horizon, and the autumnal chill putting a desire for movie chills in the audience, but Fox acted like they could make it into a late summer blockbuster.

Steven Soderbergh's The Informant was essentially a comedy about a bipolar snitch and embezzler who exposes a scandal involving price fixing in the food additive industry.

But that's not what audiences saw. They saw Steven Soderbergh's name, associated with many a George Clooney project that usually sank without the word "Ocean's" in the title, Matt Damon gaining weight in the classic act of Oscar whoring, and the words "corporate crime" in every review, and they figured that it was going to be another Michael Clayton snooze-fest where big business millionaires lecture them on the evils of big business millionaires to win Oscars from other big business millionaires and the people who love them.


The films wasn't like that, and the ads tried to push it as a comedy, but the audience just wasn't biting.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Hollywood Babble On & On #374: Kirby Strikes Back

Welcome to the show folks...

The estate of comic book legend Jack Kirby are suing the new Marvel-Disney conglomerate over the characters he co-created, and have hired copyright and intellectual property pit bull Marc Toberoff to head their fight.


Now the comic geeks know Kirby, but to
those of you who don't know Kirby, the man was a legend. He started out working as an assistant for Will Eisner (creator of The Spirit) and Jerry Iger (great uncle of Disney Boss Robert Iger) at the Eisner-Iger comic strip studio. Over the next decades he worked with just about every major publisher, but he was most famous for his work with Marvel Comics where he developed his unique visual style and co-created characters like Captain America, The X-Men, The Fantastic Four, and The Hulk.

Those creations are why he's suing, because despite their success and continuing popularity, Kirby was royally screwed by his bosses, and he got an amount somewhere between jack and shit.

This was because that the old school comic book companies were pretty much run like fly-by-night operations whose business model consisted of screw everybody out of everything no matter what the cost in the long run, because we'll probably declare bankruptcy by then. Even when the big two publishers became major forces, they pretty much maintained this model to some sort of degree, doing everything legal and extra-legal to keep the original creators from having any share of their creations. Hence the regular litigation over just about everything in the industry.

Naturally Marc Toberoff is saying that his case will be the be all and end all of the company, but I doubt that. What it will be is a Hulk sized pain in the ass to the new Marvel-Disney company, at what is the best time for the Kirby estate to strike, but the worst time for Marvel-Disney.

Right now superhero movies are hot, Marvel superhero movies are particularly hot, and that is where the trap lies.

Superhero movies have great profit potential, but they are extremely expensive to make. The last thing the makers of any big-budget movie wants are millions in legal fees slapped onto the overhead of their movies. That increases the costs, shrinks the profits, and raises the risk factor.

They do not want that, because that is bad.

I'd advise figuring out some sort of reasonable settlement, like a sensible royalty scheme, and putting this thing to bed, because Marvel-Disney would be very hard pressed to find a sympathetic ear, let alone a sympathetic jury, and Toberoff has a fearsome reputation. However, Disney tradition is to litigate, litigate, and litigate again until all who oppose them are financially and physically crushed. So we could be in for quite a fight.

Let's keep an eye on this one true believers!

UPDATE: Marvel has made a statement to the press about the Kirby lawsuit, and it's pretty lean. It's lacking the usual "this case has no merit" and "we'll be vindicated in court" kind of boilerplate that's standard issue in all statements about lawsuits in Hollywood. This signals a lack of confidence on the part of Marvel to win this case. This could get very interesting kiddies.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Saturday Silliness Cinema: Triumph!

Welcome to the show...

Time for my usual Saturday break from ranting and raving to have a laugh. So check out this classic bit featuring Triumph the Insult Comic Dog at the opening of a Star Wars movie.


Friday, 18 September 2009

THE ADVENTURE OF THE CLUSTER FLUX

Captain's Log, Stardate September 18th, 2009.

My ship the USS Furious had just left my usual shtick of parodying old detective novels and started doing something in the vein of science fiction when I got two important messages from my communications officer Lt. Youtuba. First was to wake up, and the second was that I had a call coming in from Starflick Command.

"Come in Furious D," said Admiral Tellitall, chief of the Exposition Department of Starflick Command.

"Captain Furious D here," I said jutting forward my strong chin, and puffing out my mighty chest, so my loyal crew could bask in my raw sex appeal. "How can I save the galaxy today?"

"The USS Weinsteinco is currently in a state of flux," said Admiral Tellitall, "films are getting shuffled, delayed and disappearing altogether. We need you to bring your blend of sheer genius, incredible sexiness, awe inspiring manliness, and simple modesty to the Minimajor System and find out what flux is going on there."

"I'm on it," I said, my deep voice matching my rugged good looks. I then turned to my ship's navigator, "Mr. Hulu, the MiniMajor System, maximum warp."

"We're on our way you fat bastard," said Mr. Hulu.

"What?" I asked, wondering how I could be narrating the story, yet still missing things that I'm writing about.

"I said 'We're on our way much faster,'" said Mr. Hulu.

"Very good Mr. Hulu," I said in a patronizing and condescending way. "Mr. Spec-Script, as my chief science officer I will need all sensors running."

"Well d'uh," said Mr. Spec.

"What?"

"I said 'Well done,'" replied Mr. Spec.

"Yes," I said, "everything I do really is well done." I then turned to the nearest mirror to bask in just how wonderful I really am.

#

The MiniMajor System lay where the main-stream of the Indie Quadrant met the fringe of the Hollywood Quadrant. It was tricky territory, dotted with the wreckage of many a rebel ship. The USS Vestron, the USS Carolco, the USS Polygramfilmedentertainment and dozens of others, drifted in this part of movie-space, their libraries and assets stripped by bigger ships once their engines died.

"I see the USS Weinsteinco," said Ensign Jakov, annoyed at having only one line and not being able to say anything snarky under my nose.

"I am detecting an incredible amount of flux," said Mr. Spec.

"Put it on the main viewer," I commanded, and got a bitching hi-def picture of the USS Weinsteinco. "Wow, that really is fluxed up." I had never seen anything quite like this before, the ship was badly damaged, and drifting. The ship's hull was dotted with big holes, employees were spewing out of every orifice, cast into the outer darkness of movie-space, and films were drifting, their release dates getting farther and farther away. "Great Zanuck's Ghost," I exclaimed, "that company looks really fluxed up."

"What do you want to do Captain?" asked Mr. Spec.

"Tell Spotty to get the transporter warmed up," I said, "you, me, and Dr. McGoy are going to beam over there to investigate."

#

After a few special effects I Mr. Spec, and Dr. McGoy, were in the ship's main reception area. The ship was swaying beneath our feet, and an Englishman dressed like an extra from Mad Men was sitting in a seat reading a copy of Variety.

"Hello," said the Englishman, "are you a new film acquisition?"

"No," we said, "we're from Starflick command to save the day."

"Oh," said the Englishman, "I'm A Single Man and I've just joined the crew heeeeeeereeeee."

In an instant the Englishman was gone, vanished, kaput, leaving a trail of festival awards and Oscar consideration ads.

Spec whipped out his tricorder and started scanning the area.

"He been fluxed away," said Mr. Spec.

"He's dead Jim," said McGoy.

"Whose Jim?" I asked, "and whose dead?"

"Listen," growled McGoy, "I'm a doctor Furious, I don't do script continuity."

"Let's just find out what's going on," I said, "and we can find the answers at the bridge."

We stormed our way to the bridge of the USS Weinsteinco, dodging clouds of pink slips, and hearing the wails of lost and forgotten films. Then we reached the tastefully appointed bridge of the ship.

"If anyone knows what's going on on any ship," I said, "it's the captain."

"Like you know so much," said McGoy.

"What?" I asked.

"I said 'Mike do blow too much,'" replied McGoy, then he grumbled, "fuck it, I'm no good at this game, you're a dumb-ass."

I opened the door and went into the bridge, and was shocked. Then I took my finger out of the light socket, and saw something incredible.

It was a black hole in the centre of the bridge, it was sucking away all of the films into oblivion.

"What is it?" I asked Mr. Spec.

"It's a collapsed star," said Mr. Spec. "It burned brightly for a while in the 1990s, but it started spitting out money to suck in Oscars. The Oscars caused an increase in the ego density of the star, and then it collapsed in on itself, and started sucking in the company with it."

"Well," I said, "there's nothing I can do to save this company, but at least I solved the mystery."

"Don't you mean I solved the mystery," said Mr. Spec.

"Never question the star," I snapped, remembering that I didn't have to put up with this when I was doing solo detective parodies. "Let's go. Beam me up Spotty!!"

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Hollywood Babble On & On #373: Would You Buy NBC-U?

Welcome to the show folks...

As I mentioned yesterday, and I'm mentioning again because it's a snail-slow news day today, Vivendi is possibly looking to unload its 20% stake in NBC-Universal. Now yesterday I compared it to buying the anchor of the Titanic, but today, since I've got nothing else to report, I'm going to go a little deeper and break it down into pros and cons.

PROS:

1. NBC-Universal has a very large library of movies, TV shows, music as well as theme parks and other holdings. These properties have a lot of potential for making money.

2. The cable channels, especially the USA Network, are doing very well, and even SyFy seems to be surviving the lamest name change in TV history. In the case of the USA Network it many shows that out-rate some of the shows from their parent network.

3. General Electric, the parent company, seems to be doing very well, and if the "Cap & Trade" energy policy becomes the law of the land, it stands to make billions from government subsidized alternative energy programs.

CONS:

1. The large library of material is sadly underutilized, I used to catch old Universal films all the time on local stations growing up, now I have a satellite dish, and laying my eyes on an old Universal film has become rarer than hen's teeth. Plus, I've had more Universal DVDs turn out to be defective than from any other company,
but that's just my personal griping.

2. NBC-Universal doesn't seem capable of adding to that library with desirable entertainment, Universal Pictures had a dreadful summer at the box office, and the main broadcast network NBC has been unable to buy a hit for love or money in a disturbingly long time. Then there's such craven acts of greed and malice towards the audience like commissioning a reboot of the reboot of
Battlestar Galactica just months after the series concluded its run.

3. There are literally truckloads of reports about how toxic the corporate culture of NBC is. Power vacuums at the top, caused by promotion based on ass-kissing over merit, lead to constant treachery and backstabbing among folks in management. There are political games going on that have nothing to do with running a smooth and efficient network, and that's one of the main reasons why it's a rough and inefficient network.

Now you know what I think. What do you think?

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Hollywood Babble On & On #372: Some Slow News Day Stuff...

Welcome to the show folks...

1. VIVENDI VIES TO VEND

French water-utility turned botched media empire Vivendi is reportedly planning to sell off their 20% stake in flailing failing studio-network conglom NBC-Universal either to NBC-U's parent company GE, or as an Initial Public Offering.

Wouldn't you like to buy a piece of the shooting star that is NBC-Universal? It's sort of like buying the anchor on the Titanic.

Sheesh...

2. FOX FIGHTS BACK

First sputtering bulb Megan Fox compared Michael Bay to Adolph Hitler, then some members of the
Transformers movie crew called her "dumb as a rock," then Michael Bay forgave her, and said she was welcome back for Transformers 3, but now another salvo has been fired.

Fox's publicist said that they were happy that she's going to be in Transformers 3, but then decided to top off the sundae of forgiveness with a turd-cherry of "you're all a bunch of liars."

A production assistant decided to make himself the object of countless speculations about copulations by playing Megan Fox's knight errant and call the anonymous trio a pack of pants on fire.

This should have been ended with Michael Bay's public forgiving, because this game of "she said/they said/he said" is making him look like a comparative saint, and the anonymous trio like they were right all along.

Way to go Meg.

3. WILL HARVEY BRING AN OSCAR TO TOM?

Probably not, but Tom Ford, fashion mogul and director of
A Single Man, said that the promise of a guaranteed Oscar was what clinched the deal with TWC.

Okay, but did he explain that he needs a shitload of money to do his usual strategy of carpet bombing Academy voters to the point that they forget all other potential nominees? Because guess what, it's highly unlikely that TWC has that sort of scratch, and even then, that still doesn't guarantee a release, especially with Weinstein.

Good luck Tommy, you're going to need it.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Hollywood Babble On & On #371: WTF? Why Tom Ford? Why?

Welcome to the show folks...

Tom Ford may have conquered the world of fashion, but I think he got in over his head when he went into the movie business with his film
A Single Man.

Here's the story, Tom Ford's movie got raves and awards at the Venice Film Festival, and sparked a bidding war among some top distributors, and the Weinstein Co., and the Weinstein Co. won in the wee hours of the morning. TWC made a seven figure buying offer, but according to Ford, it's not just the money that convinced him to go into business with the restructuring TWC. He said that Weinstein laid out an elaborate and detailed marketing plan that promised not only people seeing the film, but winning major awards as well.

It's times like these that make me think that Harvey has some sort of supernatural talent that goes beyond simple smooth talking. I mean his reputation for buying and burying independent movies is rather obvious, and I'm sure that he made similar promises to all the others whose films went from winning awards and praise at major festivals to gathering dust either in discount DVD bins, or having the negatives being used as doorstops at the TWC head office.

I'd also like to know where Harvey got the money. Sure
Inglorious Bastards* is doing pretty well, but the money's split with Universal, Brad Pitt, Quentin Tarantino, and the TWC's creditors. Halloween 2 didn't help, even though the film itself was made cheaply, they spent a comparable shit-load in prints and advertising, and all that costs big money that TWC can't really afford to lose.

I hope Ford at least got his money up front because I fear that's pretty much all he's going to get from this deal.

* I refuse to bow to Tarantino's pretension of deliberately misspelling the title. Quentin, I liked a lot of your movies, but sometimes you get a little too damn self-indulgent.

Patrick Swayze RIP

Actor Patrick Swayze passed away at the age of 57 from pancreatic cancer.

He brought a great amount of sincerity to every role he played, and made his mark in pop culture with films like
The Outsiders, Dirty Dancing, Ghost, and his last project playing a possibly crazy, possibly corrupt undercover FBI agent in The Beast.

I'd like to offer my condolences, as weak as they are to his family and friends. He will be missed.

Monday, 14 September 2009

A Little Shameless Plugging...

If any of my readers are members of Authonomy, the Harper-Collins writing site, then you can do me a solid. My novel JOE AVERAGE is currently up on the site, and so far the response has been really good. Great actually, but like Kanye West, I'm a bottomless pit of ego and I need more, more, more!

If you enjoy science fiction, superheroes, with lots of humor and action, then check out my novel by clicking on the subtle little picture I made for it.

Drop me some feedback, the more eyes on this book the better.

I now return you to my regular rants and raves.

Hollywood Babble On & On #370: Slow News Day Ramblings...

Welcome to the show folks, bit of a slow news day, but what the heck...

1. ALL IS FORGIVEN

In an act of magnanimity not seen since Frank Sinatra saved Don Rickles from a beating by saying: "He's had enough," director Michael Bay said he does not condone the criticism of actress Megan Fox by members of the Transformers crew.

Yes folks, you can cue the violins because it gets even more heartwarming.

Michael is currently writing the script for
Transformers 3 all by himself, and he let me have a sneak peek to excite all you geeks, and Megan Fox has a major role in the movie. According to Bay's script the fate of the world rests on the shoulders of Megan Fox's character and she has to perform some incredible tasks to save the Earth.

First she has to wash Bay's car collection, followed by time working undercover as a toilet cleaner in a biker bar, and then she has to recover the sacred Key of the Omnitron, which is lodged in the prostate of an elephant suffering from diarrhea. Bay assures me that he taking a whole new tack by going for realism, realism, realism. Fox will really be washing real cars, scrubbing real toilets in the skankiest biker bar in the United States, and be working with a real elephant with real diarrhea, with no special effects, no computer graphics, and no gloves.

You know, I take back all the bad things I've said about Bay, he's a real mensch.

2. KANYE "GAY-FISH" WEST IS A DICK.

Shameless attention whore Kanye West decided to ruin teen singer's Taylor Swift's moment in the sun in a drunken attempt to get some attention from Beyonce.

Kanye is the classic case of someone who views fame as an entitlement. He got extremely lucky and exploded very quickly onto the music scene, he then literally let it all go to his head, and now thinks that his every brainfart is some sort of gospel.

It's only a matter of time before his fans start to see through the bravado and see that there's nothing standing behind it, because if there was, he wouldn't feel the need to get drunk enough to have the balls to ruin a teenage girl's supposed to be important moment in front the whole world.

I understand his next project is to interrupt weddings with long winded rants about how MC Hammer is under appreciated.

3. FINALLY SOME GOOD NEWS

I was shocked to find out that they've started seriously working on Seth Rogen's
Green Hornet movie, but I was pleased to find out that Austrian actor Christoph Waltz has been given the main villain role.

I say good for him, and hopefully good for Hollywood. Right now the movie biz is suffering from a decent villain drought. Most movie villains these days are pretty much forgotten as soon as the final credits roll. Part of it comes from weak storytelling, putting more on shaky-cam flash than narrative or character development.

Now some actors may balk at being "typecast" as "the villain" but there is an upside. It's the best way to be a real scene stealer, actors love that, and for a middle aged actor playing the villain is pretty much a guarantee of regular work, for a long time. A good villain player can graduate from physical threat to moral and intellectual threat, and work pretty steadily well into their 70s and even 80s.

Good luck Mr. Waltz, bank your money, and ride this pony as long as you can and for all you can get.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Hollywood Babble On & On #369: All Hitler, All The Time!

Welcome to the show folks...

The internet is all abuzz about Megan Fox pausing a second in vamping for the paparazzi to compare
Transformers Auteur Michael Bay to Adolph Hitler. I guess Megan Fox has never heard of the variations of Godwin's Law and the other belief that the first one to compare another to Hitler automatically disqualifies them from serious debate. But I'm willing to bet dollars to donuts that Megan Fox hasn't heard about photosynthesis, or the truth about Santa Claus either.

Michael Bay's allies from the
Transformers crew posted their own message in defense of their Dark Lord, and calling Megan Fox as "dumb-as-a-rock."

Now that's unfair. Rocks don't constantly say stupid things to the press, in fact, rocks don't say anything at all. It is better to be silent like a rock and thought of as a idiot, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.

And she's not the only one who is quick with the Nazi comparisons. Woody Harrelson, actor, marijuana advocate, and the son and defender of a professional hit-man, recently decided that since he did not like the political stance of Fox News, that it's main shareholder Rupert "Binky" Murdoch is the moral equivalent of Goebbels.

Now you have to wonder why people from Hollywood are so quick to compare people they don't like to the perpetrators of one of history's greatest mass murder sprees.

Well there are two answers.

1. "NAZI" "HITLER" & "FASCIST" HAVE BECOME SHORTHAND REGARDLESS OF THEIR REAL MEANING...

To be more specific, short-hand for "I don't like you." I really doubt that Michael Bay ever ordered the murder of one Jew, let alone 6 million, but Megan Fox thought he was a bossy meanie, so that made him "Hitler."

Woody Harrelson doesn't like Fox News, because it criticizes the policies of the President Harrelson most likely voted for. So that must make Rupert Murdoch "Goebbels," completely forgetting that Goebbels worked for the government, and didn't criticize it. However, a quick look at Rupert Murdoch's history shows a slightly different story than the narrative stuck in Woody's mind.

If you look at Murdoch's beginnings in Australia most of the major newspapers leaned towards that country's equivalent of the Tories. That meant that people who voted Labor, were an under-served market. So Murdoch's papers started leaning toward the Labor Party, and those voters bought those papers and got the ball rolling on his empire.

In America, anyone can see that the majority of the media slants toward the Democratic Party and to liberal political causes. Don't deny it, there's an entire industry dedicated to cataloging it, and they can discuss it in more detail than I. Rupert saw a gap, he filled it, creating something that sounds supremely different from the rest of the media, which is why Fox News tends to dominate in the ratings.

But in this age of mangled history and hyperbolic emotions, such facts don't really matter, what matters is that "I don't like you, and since Hitler was bad, you are Hitler."

2. THE PUBLICITY MACHINE AIN'T WHAT IT USED TO BE

Movie stars are the main ingredient in a great big pot of verbal trouble stew. Many are not highly educated, live in a very rarefied world of money where everyone they meet is either in the business, or a wannabe, both wanting something from them, leading to rampant ass kissing, and are constantly praised for their "talent" and "insight" because of their ability to recite words written by others in an at least semi-believable manner.

This tends to create outbreaks of verbal diarrhea, where they endorse dictators, insult the religion of the majority of Americans, talk about details of the sex life that "Letters to Penthouse" would rather not know, or compare their co-workers to mass-murdering totalitarians.

It wasn't always that way. The Hollywood machine had a two pronged defense to prevent such outbreaks, or at least keep them contained. First, they had their publicity department riding herd on their stars, and second they had their advertising dollars to pressure the press to keep their mouths shut.

But things have changed. The publicity departments are no longer interested in good publicity, they simply want publicity, regardless of quality, and lots of it. Nothing garners loads of publicity than a movie star making a stupid public proclamation about the politics and/or religion of a large swath of ticket-buyers to get their pictures on a lot of web-sites, newspapers, and tabloid TV shows. Because a lot of people, mostly women, buy up this infotainment by the truckload, the studios can't bully these outlets, because they're most likely making loads of money off them as well. So the old days of a studio publicity man swooping when they detect their leading star about to have a public brain-fart are over, instead, it's fart away, and in many cases the media deliberately asks them questions to goad them into brain-fart territory.

Of course, they all forget the key point of publicity, putting bums on theater seats. Many times such publicity frenzies outshine the project the star was meant to promote. Megan Fox's comment is getting more attention than her movie Jennifer's Body, and Harrelson seems to have forgotten that he was there to sell Zombieland, not to compare Fox News viewers to Nazi sympathizers. Those Fox News viewers are going to see that quote, then look at the ad for Zombieland, and say: "I was going to see that movie, but I think the star just called me a Nazi, so I won't give him any of my money."

Now what can stop this trend?

Well, I think anyone given a starring role in a movie or television show should have to take a course, called "Knowing When To Shut The Hell Up 101, by Prof. Furious D." My tuition is reasonable, and I'm tough but fair. Okay, I'm brutal, and totally unfair, but if you criticize me, then you sir are worse than Hitler!

Saturday Silliness Cinema: The Marvel-Disney Deal

Welcome to the show folks...

I know these Saturday posts are a break from my usual ranting and raving about business, but every once in a while a video pops up that is about business. So check it out.


Friday, 11 September 2009

Larry Gelbart R.I.P.

Legendary comedy writer and screenwriter Larry Gelbart passed away today at the age of 81. He is best known for the classic sitcom MASH and movies like Tootsie, but he started out as a young gag writer for many big name comedians of the late 1940s and 1950s.

One story I read involved him being hired to work for Bob Hope, the very next morning he was told to pack a parka, they were doing a tour of US Air Force weather stations in Alaska. Then a tour of American bases all over the world, writing jokes with his typewriter perched on a crate in the back of a cargo plane, or in a truck, or in the back of a jeep.

That's a hell of a preparation for a career in comedy.

And that started a career of unprecedented longevity and variety that any writer would be bitterly jealous of.

He will be missed.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Hollywood Babble On & On #368: Random News Bits...

Welcome to the show folks...

1. MORE WARNER BROS. NEWS

An interview with new honcho of DC Entertainment Diane Nelson shows that she is going to be giving serious consideration to profit/loss when it comes to DC products, especially movies. Hopefully this means putting an end to pissing away millions of dollars in "development" of projects by producers and filmmakers who don't understand or appreciate the nature of the source material. I also hope that both DC Entertainment and Marvel/Disney do something to try to open up the comics market. Sure, the geeks are a great audience, but they're aging, and they're not being replaced, their has to be a way to get people reading comics again, someone just needs to find it, and exploit it.

Warner is also trimming some deadwood, namely the inevitably lame film adaptation of Masters of the Universe. Toy company Mattel and producer Joe Silver are pledging to take the film somewhere else. My money is that Universal will take it on, because it would cost immense amounts of money, and most likely sink like a stone in theaters.

I know I sound cynical about it, but I can't help it. There's just something about the whole thing that works way better as a toy where kids make up their own stories, than having an adult trying to cash in on nostalgia and familiarity.

2. AMERICAN IDOL GIVES UP ON MUSIC

With the one time flagship talent show slipping in the ratings American Idol has decided to name comedian and talk show host Ellen Degeneres as the official replacement for Paula Abdul.

Despite what you may think of Paula Abdul, she at least had a background in music, and musical performance. Ellen, though very likable, is a comedian and talk show host, whose musical background consists of attacks of bodily arrhythmia on the set of her show that she calls dancing.

Though I do give a tip of the hat and a MAGNIFICENT BASTARD AWARD to her agents at ICM for not only getting her the gig, but for getting her signed to a five season deal.

Who is her agent? Reveen the Impossibilist? Will the producers and executives over at Fox think they're chickens when people snap their fingers?

I'll bet dollars to donuts that there's something in the contract saying she'll get bought out if she's ever fired, or the show gets canceled. The deal just reeks of a booby trap like that. Either way Ellen wins.

Anyway, it doesn't really affect me outside of admiration for her agents, because I only channel surf on commercial breaks to catch American Idol during the first auditions when Simon disembowels the delusional. It appeals to the sadist that dwells deep within me.

3. THE ROAD WON'T HIT THE ROAD YET

The flailing and failing Weinstein Co.'s Dimension Films has announced that they've bumped back their film adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's post apocalyptic bleak-fest The Road until November 25, fully a year after it was supposed to be released.

I think The Road's director should have changed his name to Quentin Tarantino, then he might have had a chance of getting his film out before all the buzz around it completely fizzles.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Hollywood Babble On & On #367: Huge DC Comics Shake-Up

Welcome to the show folks...

They're busy little beavers at Warner Bros. this week. First they settle the lawsuit with the Tolkien estate, opening the way for
The Hobbit, and now there's a major shake-up at DC Comics and its relationship with the movie company. You read the details at Nikki Finke, but I'll give you the gist of it all.

Basically all the deals with producers that have left characters like The Flash, and Wonder Woman in development limbo have been ixnayed. Plus, the comics company itself will be reporting directly to the head of the entertainment company, and its business affairs, namely movie development has been put under Diane Nelson.

Nelson's got a good record managing franchises, having organized the extremely lucrative Harry Potter money factory for the company, and has recently been running Warner Premiere.

I'm taking this as a positive step. Warner Premiere is the direct to DVD division that's been producing those animated DC- Universe movies that have proved popular among comic geeks, and are, in comparison to the live action movies, a model of efficiency. And by that I mean that they
actually make the movies they announce that they're going to make.

Now live action movies are a different kettle of fish. The amounts of money and ego are exponentially larger than in animated productions. However, I don't think the situation there can get any worse.

Remember this is the company that successfully pissed away $65 million before shooting a single frame of Superman Returns, and currently seems completely incapable of developing anything successful that doesn't involve Batman or Christopher Nolan.

So while I'm cautiously optimistic, I will be waiting and watching to see how this pans out. I wish them luck, because they're going to need it to straighten out the current mess.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Hollywood Babble On & On #366: The Lord of the Lawsuits

Welcome to the show folks...

I'm going to be checking Hell for signs of frost because a major studio has actually settled a lawsuit. Warner Bros. the corporate heirs of Robert Shaye's New Line Cinema debacles have settled the lawsuit over the Lord of the Rings trilogy with the estate of JRR Tolkien and publisher Harper Collins. This could mean hundreds of millions of dollars for both parties, which means PARTY AT TOLKIEN'S HOUSE!!

But first here's a little back-story...

For those who have spent the last dozen years in a cave in the Antarctic the Lord of the Rings trilogy made billions, literally
BILLIONS, of dollars in profits from box-office, home video, and other merchandising for New Line Cinema. Almost from day one there was talk of giving the same big screen treatment to Tolkien's prequel The Hobbit.

The problem was that Robert Shaye, who founded and ultimately practically destroyed New Line, thought that the best way to get The Hobbit off the ground was to alienate everyone he needed to make The Hobbit by screwing them out of the share of the profits promised by their contracts.

Lawsuits were filed, ugly words exchanged, and I got a truckload of material for this blog. Shaye was eventually forced out of New Line, and the company absorbed into the Warner Bros. parent company.

Warner Bros. wanted to make The Hobbit, so they broke from the traditional approach of dragging out lawsuits until all parties are too crushed to fight or dead, and started settling these lawsuits.

Now I know that Warner Bros. only did this to get The Hobbit out of the proverbial hobbit hole, but I'm hoping that it imparts a lesson that Hollywood actually learns.

One of the fundamental rules of capitalism is that if a business deal is done without fraud, and/or coercion, then everyone involved walks away happy.

Sadly Hollywood business practices are rife with fraud (shady accounting) and coercion (lawsuits & counter suits), and no one walks away happy, in fact, they all seem to be walking to the nearest courthouse. I call it the self-fulfilling idiocy, because such scheming and scamming is done under the pretense of saving money for the corporation. However this causes prices to go up in rates unseen outside of Weimar Germany, because everyone wants everything up front, and then there's the costs of constant litigation added onto the company's overhead. So what's intended to save money, costs even more money, and because anyone with half a functioning brain cell could see it coming, makes it a self-fulfilling idiocy.

I would like Warner Bros. to learn from this experience, and realize that if they treat such deals as a business deal, instead of an elaborate ponzi scam, they might start the change that Hollywood needs to survive and ultimately thrive.

Hollywood Babble On & On #365: How Do You Measure Success?

Welcome to the show folks...

Fred Silverman, former bigwig from all of the original three big networks, has some concerns about the upcoming Jay Leno hosted variety show. This concern comes from NBC's alleged inability to set up a way to measure if the show is successful or not.


Now you'd think that the simple premise of the show making money or not is the way to measure success, but like most things in Hollywood, it's more complicated than that.

The show will be cheap to produce in comparison to scripted television dramas and comedies, so the profit margins could easily be very generous even if it doesn't hit it big.

However, there's a catch.

You see while scripted drama and comedy are expensive investments, they are much more likely to have long term profitability than a week-night variety show.

Scripted shows can be rerun indefinitely as long as they have the sort of stories that continue to catch people's interest. A daily variety show, with much of the comedy being up-to-the-moment topical in nature, doesn't rerun all that well outside some interest on the novelty-nostalgia front, and even then it's only individual episodes, or even segments deemed re-watchable. Even in the relatively new frontier of DVD box-sets, no one is going to drop good money for an entire season of the show, just to see the blooper where a thrown tomahawk hits a cardboard cutout in the gonads.

It's these long-term revenue generators that truly decide how successful a show really is. They are where the real money is made, and I don't really think that Jay Leno's show has the legs for them. In order for it to be truly successful and make up for the loss of these revenue streams, Leno would have to completely dominate his time slot, not only against the other networks, but cable as well, each and every night without fail. It can't be merely profitable from ad revenue, it has to super-duper profitable.

But don't worry, even if only one person watches it, they'll declare Jay the "King of Prime Time." Because even if you don't know if you're making it, you can at least declare yourself the winner.