Friday, 31 August 2012

Hollywood Babble On & On #948: Oogieloves Get No Love

Kenn Viselman is the man who brought British children's TV sensations The Teletubbies and others to North America.

He's also, barring a miracle, just lost a shit-load of money on his independently produced family feature The Oogieloves In The Big Balloon Adventure. The $20+ million film currently holds the record for the lowest per-screen average of a wide release movie on its opening night with approximately $47 per screen.

That is a take that sucks donkey balls.

Now you're probably wondering how this could have happened. No one goes out to make a bomb. Everyone goes into the making of the film hoping that it will be a hit, and often it's the desire to make a film a "guaranteed hit" is what sucks out all the appeal of it.

I suspect that's what happened here, with a healthy dash of ego-blindness.

The producer has had enormous success with the Teletubbies and other toddler-friendly franchises on TV, so he probably thinks that making and selling a feature film directed at toddlers will be a natural progression.

It all looks good on paper, and probably sounds great at the pitch meeting.

Except in reality, it's a disaster waiting to happen.

The key problem: Targeting toddlers.

Toddlers don't go to the movies by themselves. No matter how much you yell at them, they don't drive and they can't buy their own tickets because they don't have their own credit cards.

They need to be taken to the movies by their parents.

That's the key.

Now selling a TV show to toddlers is EXTREMELY different from selling a feature film to toddlers. A parent can turn on a TV show, and go read a book, listen to music, or more likely, spend the time cleaning up after their little bastard spawn. They don't have to watch, let alone participate in the TV show their toddler is watching.

A theatrical feature film is different. 

Parents cannot do chores, read books, or chat on the phone with their illicit lovers during a movie for toddlers. They have to sit there and watch the frigging movie, and they're already edgy from packing the little shits into the minivan, finding a parking space, and paying for tickets and snacks.

If you're going to get the parents to go through all that trouble, and sit through your movie, you're going to have to have something for them.

That's what Disney/Pixar and to a lesser extent Dreamworks do. They deliver the sights and sounds that pleases the rugrats while entertaining the parents with stories, characters, and humor.

Oogieloves promises something for toddlers and only toddlers.

No parent is going to pay good money for 90 minutes of creepy neon-colored humanoids when they're not allowed to watch it while high without getting the cops and social workers involved.

The fact that the people behind this film didn't realize that is why they're now out $20 million in production money, plus millions more in prints and advertising.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Hollywood Babble On & On #947: Boob Tube Bits...

Today 3 short pieces about TV....

1. BEVERLY HILLS COP: THE SERIES?

Eddie Murphy, the future of his fat paychecks and lavish entourage related perks in jeopardy, is working with experienced TV writer/producer Shawn Ryan to pitch a TV series sequel to his 80s action comedy Beverly Hills Cop.

Now Murphy's not leaping into the weekly TV grind. Instead the lead will be the son of Axel Foley, the titular cop, who leaves his native Detroit to take a full time job as a detective with the Beverly Hills Police Department. Murphy himself will only do occasional guest appearances as Axel.

Shawn Ryan is a good TV writer with a good record with police procedurals, and I thought his show The Chicago Code was unfairly cancelled, so this show might have a chance to at least be entertaining and get the taste of Beverly Hills Cop 3 out of the audience's collective mouth.

Will it sell, I can't say.

But if it doesn't have Judge Reinhold as the Beverly Hills PD Lieutenant, it will be doomed.

DOOMED I SAY!

DOOMED!

Where has he been lately?

2. ABC RAISES THE S.H.I.E.L.D.

ABC has given the green-light for Joss Whedon to co-write and possibly direct a pilot for a TV spin-off of his mega-hit The Avengers, centering on the secret agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.*

For those who don't follow comics, SHIELD is the American intelligence service of the Marvel Universe, and is run by Nick Fury, who is played in the movies by Samuel L. Jackson. So expect lots of spy-fi action, that might involve super-villains, but not any that might appear in the next Avengers related movie.

Now if Whedon directs the pilot, and it goes to series, he could be looking at a sweet, long-term payday. That's because the director of a pilot gets a check for every episode that airs, and then gets rerun for as long as the show appears on screens, even if they never direct another episode, because they set the look and style of the show. It's all gravy.

I find it interesting that they're going for SHIELD, a more direct connection to The Avengers, when I thought a cheaper TV version of Daredevil was a good fit for Whedon's style.
*Don't ask me what the acronym stands for, Marvel has a couple of different versions.
3. ANGER MANAGEMENT GETS A MEGA-ORDER

Charlie Sheen's comeback vehicle Anger Management got an extremely rare 90 episode back order from the FX Channel.

That means that FX has to pay the producers and stars of the show for 90 more episodes, if they want to or not.

This type of situation doesn't happen very often. Most channels order at most 22-25 episodes a season.  However, once in a while a show that has a deal, either for syndication or a cable channel, has to produce a minimum 65-100 episodes necessary for what the producers hope is a healthy life in reruns.

The first time I heard of a show doing this was a Canadian revival of the Addams Family. They shot 65 episodes in about a year and a half to fulfill their commitments. This model was repeated with shows from the Tyler Perry machine that ran on TBS. They sold the pilot, shot 100 episodes as quickly as possible, and moved on.

Now being the star of a multi-camera sitcom is normally one of the cushiest gigs in Hollywood. The workload is light, with two table reads, one day of filming, a week. Then you have several months off until you start filming the new season.

That might change if they try to cram all 90 episodes in as fast as possible, which could burn out their star.

So, what's the over-under before Charlie has another meltdown?

I suspect somewhere around episode 60.

What do you think?

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Hollywood Babble On & On #946: Comic Book Kisses & Musical Numbers

OH, SUPERMAN!

The comics fan community is all aflutter about DC Comics. Right after launching their most recent reboot of their comic book universe with the "New 52" they're shaking it to the core once again because...

It's probably inevitable, since Wonder Woman's one of the few women in the DC Universe who could probably survive the rigors of making sexy-times with a hopped up Kryptonian. (Just ask Ma & Pa Kent about the holes that started appearing in the ceiling in Clark's room when he hit puberty.)

However, this whole thing just reeks of yet another pointless publicity stunt on the part of DC Comics.

I can remember the 1990s. The collector's market had exploded and the comics industry felt that every frigging thing they put out had to have some sort of "collectible" status. In every issue someone had to be killed, married, crippled, or otherwise drastically and irrevocably changed, and then they changed everything back as soon as frigging possible.

DC's gonna grab some headlines, then they're going to let it fade away because the odds are pretty good that they don't know what to do with it after the initial consummation.

Much ado about nothing folks.

WILL FAME FLY AGAIN?

MGM-TV has inked a deal with TV talent show maven Nigel Lythgoe to produce a TV series revival of MGM's franchise Fame.

In case you don't know Fame is about the students and staff at New York's Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School for Music, Art, & the Performing Arts. They're all singers, dancers, musicians, and actors and all are looking for a shot at... FAME!

 The franchise started in 1980 as a movie directed by Alan Parker, that was followed by an NBC TV series starring some of of the movie's original cast. The NBC show didn't do very well in the ratings and was cancelled during its second season. However, it was the show that would not die, at least for a while, and went into first run syndication for four more seasons.

MGM did a movie remake in 2009, and while the film did turn a modest profit, mostly because of its small budget, even the few people who saw it, don't really remember it.

But that's not the reason why I'm feeling iffy about this project.

You see MGM is hot to get this off the ground because they think they can cash in on the popularity of shows like Glee and American Idol

Now here's the problem.

American Idol is on a ratings slide, and can't keep their celebrity judges for love or money.

Then there's Glee.

If your twitter feed contains more than one twenty-something to thirty-something female you can get an interesting sample of the Glee audience and how they feel about the show. They talk about how much they love the songs, but hate the story-lines, the characters, and just about everything else about the show.

I don't see Glee hanging on after its last contractually obligated season, and I don't see people rushing to see a Glee clone, even if it was inspired by a movie made over 30 years ago.

Personally, I think MGM should look a little deeper if they want to turn one of their old library titles into a TV series.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Hollywood Babble On & On #945: Have Writer -- Will Travel


The original series, which ran from 1957-1963 and 225 episodes was set in the 1870s starred Richard Boone as a man living under the name of Paladin. Paladin was a man with sophisticated taste, a classical education, and a vague and mysterious past. He made his living as a freelance champion, charging up to a thousand dollars a job protecting people from outlaws, scoundrels, and rogues.

He would arrive in town, dressed completely in black, and give the miscreants one chance to end their criminal ways and leave in peace. Usually they didn't listen, and then the fighting would commence, and the bad guys would promptly rest in peace.

The show featured a lot of the then up and coming writers and directors working in TV at that time, including Gene Roddenberry, Sam Peckinpah, and even Ida Lupino.

So, let's look at the pros and cons...

PROS:

1. DAVID MAMET: David Mamet is probably one of the best dramatists working these days. He also has experience making TV, as he did as a writer/producer with the military drama The Unit, which ran for 4 years on CBS.  He can bring depth of character and story to the normally wafer thin genre of the action-drama. Plus, he won't be bound by political correctness when it comes to presenting the historical setting.

2. THE GENRE:  There was a time when Westerns dominated television. But it faded away eventually, and despite some attempts it, so far, has only shown signs of life on cable channels like AMC and HBO.

However, in the right hands, an adult-oriented Western, with good characters, story, and a liberal peppering of action, could be seen by audiences as exotic and interesting.

CONS:

1. THE GENRE: While the "adult Western" genre has a potential for a comeback on network television, the networks have managed to find ways to screw it up.

The problem is the mindset that many network executives have that dictate that shows set in the "wild west" have to be either The Lone Ranger, Little House On The Prairie, or some bastardized amalgamation of both.

If they go for The Lone Ranger they treat it as an action-adventure aimed at boys between the ages of 6 and 12. Lots of unrealistic action, politically correct (for the time) lessons for the young members of the audience, thin characters, no romance, and no drama.

If they go for Little House, they try to mold it into an overly sincere family drama about life with cute bucket-headed children that tries to teach a different lesson about understanding and working together in every episode.

2. THE NETWORK: As I've written earlier this week it's really hard to get something that breaks the mold on network TV.  While there was once a time when a new Western show would be a no-brainer, it's now a tremendous risk.

CBS is notoriously risk-averse. So far it's worked out well for them, but I fear that they may have forgotten that their biggest hits of the past decade, like the CSI franchise, their multi-camera sitcoms, and their recent hit Person Of Interest, were all considered "risky" choices at the time they were given the green light.

Personally, while I normally don't care for remakes on principle, I would like to see a network try to make a real adult Western, and I would like to see Mamet's take on the genre. 

That's what I think, let me know what you think in the comments.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Hollywood Babble On & On #944: Legendary Tunes Out Of Television

Legendary Entertainment, the production and financing juggernaut behind the Chris Nolan/Batman trilogy, and about a dozen other major big screen blockbusters is shutting down their TV division, ending their partnership deal with Warner Brothers TV division, and putting their plans to expand into television on hold.

Now you are probably wondering why such a successful and growing company would want to drop out of a market that is so potentially lucrative.

The answer is development.

Legendary reportedly didn't care for the way networks develop new TV shows.

Development is the process where a studio or a network "develops" anything from a completed screenplay to a rough idea, into something that can be made into a movie or TV show.

That means polishing the script, recruiting cast, director, producers, and in the case of television convincing a network into commissioning a pilot.

Once a pilot's made the network can decide to make it into a series or not.

And by the way, during every step in the TV development process, every executive in the company and their cousin gets to toss in their two cents, and if you don't take every word from every yahoo like it's gospel, the project is sunk.

And then there's the element of internal network politics you have to deal with.  A classic example is if the network's vice-president champions your show, there's no way the network's president is going to endorse it, because it might make the vice-president look good as a potential replacement for the president.

Does that make any sense?

If it doesn't, then you can at least take the lesson that very little in major TV network develop makes even less sense than my little statement.

Network TV development is inefficient, slow, erratic, wasteful, and lets a lot of shit go through. Just look at NBC's schedule. The exit of Legendary, simply because it couldn't do any business, should be seen as a wake-up call.

But it probably won't.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Hollywood Babble On & On #943: Is The Dark Tower Too High To Climb?

First Universal Pictures passed on it when it was going to star Oscar winner Javier Bardem, then Warner Bros. passed on it when it was going to star Oscar winner Russell Crowe, and now Media Rights Capital is looking at possibly taking up the mantle.

"What mantle?" you ask, furrowing your brow in a feeble attempt to understand.

Well, if you're too lazy to click the links I'll explain.

I'm talking about Ron Howard's dream adaptation of Stephen King's epic horror/fantasy/science fiction hybrid book series The Dark Tower.

The series of 7 novels and associated other material a knightly gunslinger from another dimension called Mid-World named Roland Deschain who forms a fellowship of other wanderers to find the mythical Dark Tower that lies at the center of Stephen King's fictional cosmology.

Howard's dream was to put out both a big budget movie trilogy and an interconnected big budget TV series with an all star cast.
 
And I think that's where he fumbled the ball. 

A movie franchise, I think it could be pulled off.

A TV series, a possibility.

Both.

No.

Not gonna sell.

Here's why.

If an entry in a movie franchise fails at the box office, they just aren't going to make another one.

A television series fails you cancel it.

However, if you have both, you are opening up a big can of complication worms.

Let's say the first movie's a hit, but no one watches the TV series? It's essential to understand the second movie, what do you?

What if the first movie's a horrendous bomb while you're already committed to a season of the TV series?

You can't get people to watch TV spin-offs of most hit movies, how are you going to get them to watch one spun off a bomb? Especially when seeing the movie at the right time is kind of essential to understand what the hell is going on.

What if the movie's a hit and the TV series is a hit, but the TV show is on a cable channel that a large chunk of the audience doesn't get? Do you wait to release the next movie until after everyone's caught up via DVD box-sets and Netflix?

And there are probably a hundred more complications a studio/network executive could see if any of them had any imagination.

If Howard and his minions at Imagine Entertainment want to see this project on any screen I think they're going to need to simplify.

Either make it a movie franchise, or a TV series.

Trying to have both is just too much to ask for.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Hollywood Babble On & On #942: Movie Budgets Are Too Damn High!

A tip of my jaunty sombrero to reader Blast Hardcheese for aiming my jaded eyes at this article from the LA Times.  If you're too lazy to click the link I'll sum it up for you: J.J. Abrams, the man behind the Star Trek revival and other major projects on the big and small screen, say that movies, especially big studio movies, cost too damn much.

He's right, while he's made some big budget movies, primarily for Paramount, the films that he tends to have complete and direct control over are relatively inexpensive. Films like Cloverfield and Super 8 were large scale science fiction projects, but were done for budgets that wouldn't cover the cost of James Cameron's ego polish.

It's a philosophy I'd like to see spread through Hollywood because the industry is intent on pricing itself out of business.

The major studios are spending more money on fewer films than ever before. Yet despite a handful of hits, the summer movie season, usually pure gravy for the industry, is most likely going to be either flat, or slightly down from last year.

Folks are blaming the flat to dwindling state of the box office on the expansion of entertainment options to be found on TV and the internet, and that the studios need to make these mega-sized blockbusters to get the teenagers to spend money in theaters, and hopefully pay extra for the 3D.
 
I call bullshit on that.

Thanks to technological advances the movies should be cheaper than ever to make and distribute.

But they're not. 

Why?

There are no natural market reasons for their prices to go up, this inflation is purely artificial and comes from an unspoken collusion between studios, stars, and filmmakers, and each have their own reasons.

STUDIOS:

1. The more money being spent on a movie, the more control they can exert over the project. Mo'money, mo'power!

2. Tossing money at a problem is easier than using imagination.

3. If they throw lots of up-front money at the big stars they're less likely to make a stink about the outright looting of the "back end" profits.

4. When the movie costs a fortune and a half, it's way easier to claim the film lost money at the box office than if it was a smaller budget movie.

STARS:

1. It's assuages their anger at not getting as much of their share of the profits as their contract stipulates.

2. It makes them feel important, and gives them more power and status on set, and in the Hollywood community.

FILMMAKERS:

1. The bigger the movie the better the chance that it'll get a big release, even when it's a piece of steamed over shit.

2. Outside of stars the biggest thing a movie buys a filmmaker is time. The more time you have to fiddle and tweak, the happier a lot of filmmakers are. 

3. Money is easier to use than imagination. When in doubt make everything look busy, complicated, and loud.

Do I see this changing anytime soon?

I really can't say.  Reform's necessary, but too many people are too heavily invested in the inefficient and expensive status quo to accept change at the speed that's probably necessary.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Hollywood Babble On & On #941: Late Night Losses

It's incredible how things can change.

In the 1970s The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson was directly responsible for 20-25% of all the revenue earned by the then struggling NBC Network.

With its entire profit margin in the hands of one man, host and producer Johnny Carson, NBC couldn't do enough for him. He was treated like royalty, and any attempt to "bring him under heel" tended to backfire in the face of the network executives.

As I said at the beginning, things have changed, drastically.

This past week The Tonight Show with Jay Leno lost 20 staffers, and Leno himself took a multimillion dollar pay cut to avoid any more job losses. Now the official word is that the cuts are a way to adjust the show's budget back to its original late night standard, after bumping it up for Leno's disastrous prime-time run in 2009. However there just happens to be an even larger wave of layoffs hitting the NBC-Universal media congealment conglomerate ordered by their owners Comcast.

However, I'll stick with talking about the late night talk shows.

Apparently, The Tonight Show is only just breaking even. That's shocking, not only because of its past as a money machine, but because of its status as the number one late night talk show in America.

However, having the number one late night talk show in America right now is like having the nicest house made of shit in all of Shitsville.

Overall viewership is down, their demographics are aging, and the cultural influence of talk shows is practically non-existent.

I can remember a time when a relatively unknown performer could appear on the Tonight Show and have his or her career made overnight. If you're a comedian having Johnny Carson call you to the couch at the end of your set was like getting blessed by the Pope of Comedy, and your life and career would never be the same.

Nowadays, appearing on what the networks consider their flagship late night talk shows really doesn't do anything for anyone. If you're a big star you're not going to be affected unless you show up sans pants and your antics get you mentioned negatively in other media outlets, and if you're an up and coming performer, you're not really going to get any real benefits from it.

Part of this is because of the fragmentation of the audience. There are a hell of a lot more entertainment options out there than just three TV channels, but that's not the whole story.

Another part of the story is that both the fundamental natures of the format and the hosts of the 11:30 flagship network shows* just don't measure up the way they used to.

Now socially Johnny Carson was, by his own admission, shy and stand-offish, however, on air, he was very relaxed, quick, and a master of getting the funny out of his guests. His casual, conversational style humanized his celebrity guests. When things went wrong, he didn't freak out, he rolled with it, made a joke out of it, and made everyone involved look good. He really looked like he enjoyed being there on stage with his quests, and that he loved show business in general.

Leno and Letterman both look like they are only there to fill time until the other either quits or drops dead. Leno strikes me like he wants to get the whole thing over with so he can get back to his car collection. He doesn't seem remotely interested in his guests, just that they're over and done with before the next commercial break.

David Letterman doesn't strike me any better. All I get from Letterman is a desire to show that he's smarter than his guests, which isn't that hard; which I'll get to in a minute, pandering to the critics and the elite New York media social circle, and outliving Leno.

Neither host seems like they want to get to know their guests the way Carson did. If they can't be interested in their guests, than there's no way their audience is going to get interested, and they tune out.

The format's also a problem. There's not time really for the audience to get to know anyone, no time really to be funny, just get them on, get them off, to make room for an appearance by the latest brain-dead reality TV troglodyte, or inarticulate kiddie pop star in the vain hope that their fans aren't already in bed before the monologue's done.

There's no room for casual conversation or even a funny story, just make your plug and get the hell out.

But it's not all the fault of the hosts and the network. The current crop of celebrities is hurtin' for certain when it comes to being an entertaining guest. Far too many are inarticulate, uninteresting, and completely incapable of being funny or charming. Those that are, have to fight to get a slot on a talk show because Leno's afraid of them replacing him, and Letterman's afraid of them looking smarter than him, unless they're an old friend.

What's happening to the late night talk show is what's happening to the old-school variety show in the 1970s. Too many shows, not enough talent, and not enough material to go around.

Eventually those old variety shows disappeared from American TV, and I fear the late night talk show might go the same way.

---------------------------

*And yes, I know I left out Jimmy Kimmel and the other after midnight talk shows, but they're not really in the same time-slot, or given the same cultural importance by the media.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Hollywood Babble On & On #940: Random Drippings From My Brain Pan

Time for three tiny tales and the lessons that they may teach us...

ITV WANTS DICK....

...Clark Productions that is.  The British commercial broadcaster ITV has expressed interest in buying the television production company  founded by producer and American Bandstand host Dick Clark. 


Now you're probably wondering why two pretty big TV networks are so keen to buy a production company that's comparatively small when compared to the major studios.

CBS has its reasons, and while ITV has similar reasons, it also has a reason that's uniquely its own.
Most commercial broadcasters buy their shows from production companies and studios through what's called a license fee. That fee pays for the episode to be made, including salaries, and gives the network the right to premiere the show on their channel and rerun it at least once following a pre-agreed payment schedule depending on their contract with the producer. The key is that during this airing period the network keeps all of the revenue made from selling advertising on the show.

After the initial airing, the production company/studio that owns the show can then license the show to local stations, cable networks, and home video outlets, and pocket all of the profits from these sales.

The networks looked at the money being made by producers and studios and said "me too." They started their own production divisions or bought their own studios, and started giving those divisions prime spots on the network's schedule.

The results have been mixed at best.

That's because it denied what made network broadcasting successful: variety.

I'm not talking about old-fashioned variety shows, but a variety of shows, in different genres, and different styles. The competition between studios, and independent production companies meant that there was a steady supply of new ideas crashing against the rocks of narrow TV network mindsets, and eventually a few drips of something good will get through.

When the networks tried to monopolize their schedules with stuff from their own studios suddenly the competition moved away from the networks to cable channels.

The broadcast nets are opening their door slightly to outsiders, but are also hoping to freshen their blood by buying smaller companies that have track records and libraries.

ITV shares those reasons with CBS, but it also has one of its own: America.

Purchasing Dick Clark Productions gives ITV a foothold in an English language TV market that's way bigger than the one in their native England. ITV exports a lot of shows to America via PBS and cable networks, and it can expand their place in this market.

Let the bidding war begin!

RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE INTERNS

The interns who are suing Fox Searchlight over being unpaid interns on the movie Black Swan are expanding their suit to include all interns working for the 20th Century Fox movie/media empire.

Do unpaid internships suck?  

Are they over-used by greedy studios? 

Of course, but I wrote about this story before, the aggrieved interns seem to have missed the point of internships, and I don't think they're suit is really going to change anything other than make them unemployable in the movie business.

DAREDEVIL GOES HOME

Fox is letting the rights to the Marvel superhero Daredevil lapse, and, come October, he'll be back home with Marvel Productions and Disney. 

This development fizzles out rumors that Fox wanted to hold onto Daredevil so much they were willing to trade their rights to elements of the Fantastic Four to keep it, and could potentially put the kibosh to director Joe Carnahan's proposed 1970s period action flick for which he made this sizzle reel...



Personally, I don't think Fox was too keen to keep Daredevil. Their movie version with Ben Affleck as the blind crime-fighter did okay, but it wasn't a major blockbuster domestically, and they probably weren't too keen on rebooting it as a 70s movie.

However, there is a silver lining to this.

Right now Marvel/Disney/ABC are developing a series with Joss Whedon that would share the same fictional universe as their successful movie franchises, while not necessarily being a direct part of them.

Daredevil's a perfect fit for television. He's a "street level" hero, dividing his time between fighting traditional comic book costumed villains, ninjas, and normally dressed New York city mobsters, not massive alien invasions, world destroying disasters, or giant bug-eyed monsters.

That makes him affordable for small screen weekly adventures, that don't have to result in massive changes in Earth's geography that then must then be included in the movies for the sake of continuity.

The franchise also has a large supporting cast of friends, foes, and fellow travelers, extended story and character arcs, and frequent elements of personal tragedy. All things Joss Whedon has a good track record with.

Now I'm not predicting a Daredevil TV series here. I'm just saying that I think it would be a pretty good fit.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Hollywood Babble On & On #939: Warner Plops Premiere

Movie and media conglomerate Warner Bros. is closing down its direct-to-DVD division Warner Premiere, which they founded in 2006.  

Now the folks at Warner Bros. is blaming the collapse of the DVD market for the division's collapse, but let's look a little deeper.

Yes, the DVD market is weak. Cable, internet, and other mediums have stolen its thunder, and people are iffy over whether or not to commit to Blu-Ray, but that's not the whole story. If it was the whole story, then Warner Premiere would still be running, just selling its output to the aforementioned other mediums, I think what sank WP was its very business model.

You see, since the advent of home video as a viable market in the early 1980s people have been making movies directly for that market, and often making money out of it.  

Usually these were low budget "exploitation" movies in the genres of horror, action, science-fiction, and lowbrow comedy. For the most part the big studios avoided this market, thinking it was beneath them.

However, they soon realized the money-making potential wasn't beneath them, and jumped in with both feet.

And this is where they screwed up, not only their direct-to-video divisions, but the DVD market as well.

"What was the screw up?" you are asking, furrowing your brow in a feeble attempt to understand.

The screw up was the choice of movies they made and released.

You see the big studios couldn't let a division of theirs pump out low budget exploitation movies by new talent heavily ladled with of over the top novelty. No, that wouldn't be right for a major studio like Warner Bros. to do.  Instead, they churned out a bunch of cheap knock-off sequels and prequels to movies that did well in the theaters, but not well enough to justify a theatrically released sequel.

I'm talking about films like this--
Movies guaranteed to repel fans of the original, and fail to win over new fans. 

Now I'm not saying that every one of these knock-offs was a stinker financially. But it's like running a pyramid scheme, eventually you will hit a wall, and folks will stop buying what you're selling.

Add that to the general ennui the audience has been feeling towards a lot of the big studios' output in recent years and you have a recipe for the collapse of the home video market.

Not only that, other mediums, like cable TV, downloads, etc... more or less shut out the bulk of these officially sanctioned knock-offs.  

Why?

Imagine you run a cable channel, you're starved for content and a studio comes to you with a package of movies to sell, and the meeting goes something like this:
STUDIO STOOGE: I got a bunch of sequels and prequels to big hit movies for your channel.

CHANNEL GUY: Great, do they have the original stars?

STUDIO STOOGE: No.

CHANNEL GUY: The writer?

STUDIO STOOGE:  No.

CHANNEL GUY: The director?

STUDIO STOOGE: No.

CHANNEL GUY: Is there anyone from the original movie involved?

STUDIO STOOGE: No. But the replacements all have the same haircuts as the people in the original movie.
CHANNEL GUY: I think we'll stick with reruns of Small Wonder and Lifetime 'Woman in Peril' movies.
These same outlets might spend money for the broadcast rights to a novel low budget genre movie, but they're not going to spend it for a cheap counterfeit that's guaranteed to leave audiences disappointed.

From what I was able to gather, the most popular stuff put out by Warner Premiere was the DC Universe series. They were animated movie adaptations of popular comic books with an eye towards giving the fans what they wanted.

The DCU animated movies will be the only thing continuing after the shuttering of Warner Premiere, and obviously so.

What sticks in my craw the most was that Warner Bros. pissed away an opportunity to use a direct-to-video label to develop new talent and new ideas. Instead, they tried to rehash old ideas cheaply, and that's why they failed.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Hollywood Babble On & On #938: NBC- National Bialystock Corporation

The London Olympics are over, NBC enjoyed a ratings bonanza from its coverage, and may even get a modest profit out of the deal, but it's also revealed something about NBC's business plan.

NBC's business plan is to offend, insult, and annoy as many viewers as possible.

Yes, millions of people watched the network's coverage, but I've yet to hear of anyone who was happy about it. I know that my own twitter timeline was dominated by complaints from viewers who complained about the tape delays, the games they played with the editing to make it look more like a reality show than a sporting even, the interrupting of events to air yet another interview with swimmer Michael Phelps, the brainless and constant chatter of the commentators during the opening and closing ceremonies, dropping coverage of a memorial to the victims of the London terrorist attacks, and holding back on airing sections of the closing ceremonies to air a preview episode of this show:



It's almost as if NBC is being run by Max Bialystock, one of the main characters in Mel Brooks' The Producers. If you're not familiar with the film, the stage musical, or the film of the stage musical, The Producers is about Max Bialystock, a washed up Broadway producer who teams with his accountant Leo Bloom to scam investors by putting on a deliberate flop.

Their plan is to find the worst, most offensive, play they can find, oversubscribe it to investors, let it flop and pocket the money.

The problem with NBC's resident Bialystocks is that no one seems to be really gaining anything out of it.

NBC is struggling to reconnect with audiences after David Jeff Zucker's extended reign of error. That reign was supposed to have ended with cable giant Comcast's purchase of the NBC-Universal empire, but there seems to be no end in sight.

NBC scored good ratings with the Olympics, and they're going to trumpet that as a triumph and proof that they're a pack of geniuses, but it comes with 3 caveats.

1. The Olympics are a major sporting event that can generally get pretty good ratings any year when the USA isn't boycotting it like they did at the old Moscow games in 1980.

2. NBC had a monopoly on the live coverage, which made them the only place to go to see the Olympics.

3. I have yet to hear from anyone who was remotely pleased with how NBC handled the Olympics. In fact, most report being annoyed and angered that an event meant to promote international fraternity and peace was being used to push this--
--A sitcom that looks like something you would see in a sketch or a movie about bad network TV shows.

Not only that, millions of people who saw the preview, now actively resent the show, and will probably avoid it like the plague during the Fall TV season.

So you have to wonder, who the hell could possibly be gaining from this nonsense?

It's certainly not NBC, and it's definitely not the viewer.