Like an anxious high school senior class thinking they'll never see these people again, this town can be harsh and judgmental when it has no right to be. A big movie moves its release date at the last minute? Oh, something must be wrong, it must not play, it's a misfire, it doesn't work. All scuttlebutt heard on cellphone to E-mail to instant to messages across Hollywood.
Granted, there is a lot of history to back this line of thinking up. "All the King's Men" and "The Life of David Gale" are two former Oscar bait pictures eventually dumped that immediately come to mind. So, when Paramount announced last October that the Joe Wright's inspirational drama "The Soloist," starring Robert "I'm edging out Johnny Depp as the hottest star in town" Downey, Jr. and Jamie Foxx, was moving out of its November release date to a spring 2009 date, eyes rolled across the 323. Especially as it was only a few weeks before the picture was set to open the city's increasingly prestigious AFI Film Festival. "Guess it wasn't a true awards contender, huh?"
In anticipation of conducting some "Star Trek" editorial later this week, I scoured a number of Trek fan sites over the weekend to see what the current take from the hardcore contingent was on J.J. Abrams reboot. What I found was troubling. As you'd expect, a bunch of fans were voicing their displeasure that "The Next Generation" crew weren't getting their due in the relaunch. Other fans were horrified over some of the changes to the Enterprise's iconic design. Much more disconcerting, however, were Trek fans obsessing over the box office performance in comparison to another May release, "X-Men Origins: Wolverine." A debate so fierce it seemed that many of those posting were so emotionally invested that if the movie isn't a massive blockbuster, they fear their beloved franchise will really be left for dead.
Relax Trekkers, Trekies and Tribble lovers, "Star Trek" has already been resurrected and isn't going anywhere.
The drama began on Friday, when industry publication Ad Age published an article based on data from studio tracking service Marketcast. The survey company released findings to studios predicting "Wolverine" is on its way to a massive $80-100 million opening the weekend of May 1. That's not surprising as most surveys are showing massive interest in a film that's smartly been sold as an "X-Men" sequel. "Star Trek," in comparison, is tracking for an opening at about half that level. The report also noted that Paramount Pictures, the longtime shepherd of the Trek franchise, was having problems enticing younger women (i.e., women under 25) to consider the property. At the time of these surveys, "Wolverine" had a 38% definite interest among that category and "Star Trek" only had 18%. Additionally, I can also report that competing survey services have been very, very positive with surprisingly low definitely not interested scores for "Trek" (more on that later).
And just like that, we're back! With legitimate awards season news to wax over.
It wasn't completely unexpected, but it was still jarring to read the announcement that next year's Academy Awards won't take place until March 7, 2010. Figuratively, that's two weeks later than this year's February 22 show.
The reason for the delay has to do with the Winter Olympics beginning a tad later than usual, In 2006, the Olympics forced the Oscars to move to a March 5 date. Of course, before 2004, the big show was always held in late March. After years of fatigue because of such long and intense award season campaigns, the show was moved to late February. It also was supposed to help the studio save money on campaigns which didn't really happen. Studios shot themselves in the foot by beginning the whole scenario earlier and earlier until legitimate contenders were packing October's release slate instead of the usual traffic jam in December.
The bigger surprise is how this move affects the overall awards season calendar. Here's a quick rundown of the new dates thanks to the AMPAS.
- Tuesday, December 1, 2009: Official Screen Credits forms due
- Monday, December 28, 2009: Nominations ballots mailed
- Saturday, January 23, 2010: Nominations polls close 5 p.m. PT
- Tuesday, February 2, 2010: Nominations announced 5:30 a.m. PT,
- Wednesday, February 10, 2010: Final ballots mailed
- Monday, February 15, 2010: Nominees Luncheon
- Saturday, February 20, 2010: Scientific and Technical Achievement Awards presentation
- Tuesday, March 2, 2010: Final polls close 5 p.m. PT
- Sunday, March 7, 2010: 82nd Annual Academy Awards presentation
Important dates? Nominations aren't due until the 23rd of January. Final polls won't close until March 2. Even if most o the contenders move their release dates to mid-November forward, we're talking about a very, very intense first two months of 2010 for Oscar campaigning. Additionally, this could make the results of the Golden Globes (still scheduled for January), SAG Awards and the BAFTA Awards even more influential than in previous years.
Want some more winners? How about those struggling trades Variety and The Hollywood Reporter? Along with the popular Oscar section of The Los Angeles Times (that yours truly once worked for), those both the print and online versions of those outlets (assuming paper even exists 8 months from now) should get a nice bump by the extension of the season. See? The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is all about helping the economy too!
Who might loose in all this? It may amount to only two extra weeks, but that could be enough for studios nervous about their prestige pics to skip the trifecta of festivals that traditionally kicks off awards season: Venice, Telluride and Toronto. And considering the importance of the Hollywood machine at those events, that could be very dire news.
Don't be surprised to see some release date shuffling due to this announcement. Fox Searchlight currently has "Amelia" on Oct. 23. Is that too early now? Does Paul Greengrass' "Green Zone" open limited to avoid the December rush? The news will certainly make distributors big and small take a second look at their release patterns.
As for AMPAS, the biggest remaining question on Oscar's agenda? To Hugh or not to Hugh. Will Jackman be back or not? The host was very popular with the rank and file and those in attendance at last month's show, but critics gave him mixed reviews. The clock is ticking AMPAS. You only have 8 or 9 months to figure that one out. Ah, the drama stirs even in the offseason. In the meantime, it's time to get ready for....the MTV Movie Awards!
Aren't you excited?
As the projected weekend numbers for "Watchmen" hit the web on Sunday morning, no doubt many "I told you so" pundits were furiously typing away at their computers about the huge disappointment the opening weekend gross of "Watchmen" was. And while a few will spin it that Warner Bros. was wrong to invest the rumored $150 million budget into a 2 hour and 43 minute R-rated comic book thriller with no recognizable stars, another contingent are secretly hoping this can be the beginning of the end of all these "horrible comic-book" movies (really).
Hardly to both points.
It's clear that many in the mainstream media (and a few online) have a disdain for the exuberance and over-enthusiastic response to the whole process (announcement, production, marketing, release) of beloved genre movies coming to fruition such as "Watchmen." (Of course, many of them act similarly at the altar of Clint Eastwood or Spielberg, but that's a topic for another day.) No one will dispute that a little reality needs to be injected into the proceedings on both sides, but wishing for a project to fail because a large audience of fanboys are chomping at the bit to see it? Do we really want people to not get excited about going to the movies? Really? Think about it for a moment.
Now, let's get back to the primary point of box office and do some math, shall we? "Watchmen" is now the third biggest opening ever in March, behind Snyder's "300" which raked in $70 million two years ago and "Ice Age: The Meltdown" which cumed $68 million in 2006. The "Ice Age" sequel was something "Watchmen" never intended to be: a four quadrant family flick that was only 90 minutes long. Newsflash: "300" was also almost a complete hour shorter. You can make the argument that in this age of the multiplex theater owners can throw up enough screens to compensate so moviegoers can have more options in case they miss the first 8:00 PM show. That's partially true, but there are laws of time and physics at work here. You can't max out the number of showings to the level a shorter film did (like "300") during the same period. This does compensate for some of the difference in per screen average. "300" did a little over $22,000 per screen its opening weekend and "Watchmen" was also slightly more than $15,000 per screen. But, we're hardly drinking the kool aid here.
No one should argue that "Watchmen" maxed out on its opening weekend. Clearly, R-rated blockbusters have done way more, but each film is really it's own animal. "The Matrix Reloaded"? Sure, it got to $91 million during its opening weekend, but anyone remember the publicity maelstrom around that sequel? "The Passion of the Christ"? Never doubt the power of the mighty one and Mel Gibson, but that marketing, promotion and audience around that phenomenon is too complex to dissect here, nor is it fair to compare. "Hannibal's" $58 million? That sequel word is gonna come up again. And finally, "Sex and the City." Yes, Carrie Bradshaw's jump to the big screen opened to just $2 million more than "Watchmen" last June, but in many way's it's the perfect comparison.
Probably the only true disappointment from Warner Bros. this weekend was their inability to broaden "Watchmen's" must see outside the core demo of 18-34 year old men. Exit polls showed 65% of the audience was male and only 35% of it over the age of 25. Ironically, that last figure was the opposite of pre-release tracking services, who said the older audience was more interested in the film than younger. Warner's can only hope those older moviegoers follow form and show up next week when the crowds have died down somewhat. But, if you were to flip the exit polling numbers, they would look a lot like "Sex and the City." The percentage of moviegoers would be completely female dominated with older women turning it into a major movie event instead of twentysomething men. And that flick, naysayers aside, didn't crash and burn after one weekend. It grossed a startling $150 million by the time it was all said and done. And that takes us back to the biggest number of all: production budget.
Publicly, "Watchmen's" production budget is at $150 million and the studio has claimed only $50 million in marketing expenses (domestically). Even if you believe those figures, a similar $150 million gross to "Sex" isn't going to cut it (especially with Fox taking 8.5% after settling the rights lawsuit in January). However, "Watchmen" grossed $35 million overseas on Friday alone. [Correction: Initial reports were wrong, "Watchmen" did only $27 million overseas this weekend.] Final numbers for the weekend will be available later today, but a $300-350 worldwide gross when it's all said and done? Let's just say Warner Bros. stockholders should be more worried about the future of AOL than the profit margins on "Watchmen" which should certainly be in the black after DVD and the growing video on demand market is taken into account.
And I'm sure Mr. Snyder and producers Larry Gordon and Lloyd Levin can hold their heads up high about that.
"Damn you 'Departures'!"
Yes, that was the refrain heard from coast to coast Sunday night as the little Japanese Foreign Film entry that could upset perennial favorites "The Class" and "Waltz for Bashir" in a night that was pretty much a ride on the "Slumdog MIllionaire" train. And yes, I got it wrong with just about everyone else (save some very lucky and happy peeps at U.S. distributor Regent Releasing).
As for the rest of the winers, your fastidious prognosticator didn't do too badly in his picks nailing 18 out of 24. What did I blow?
Winner: "The Dark Knight"
Lame Excuse: We all know that the Academy has little respect for their animated film nominees, but who knew they had almost zero when it comes to actually awarding statues?
Yes, awards season is over, but I'm not going anywhere (wait, was that disappointment I heard?).
At some point, this blog will be rebranded for the off season as "the EIC." It's still going to cover the highlights of what's become a year-round awards season and no doubt may of you are counting the days till the MTV Movie Awards (although I'm not sure why), but until things heat up in early September, the EIC is going to try and fill in the gaps in the worlds of movies, music and pop culture that Drew McWeeny and Melinda Newman are amazingly chronicling in their Motion/Captured and The Beat Goes On blogs respectively. And no, I'm not going near TV except for my "Battlestar" recaps, because I think my continuing disdain for the medium may drive Fienberg over the edge. And as we all know, that can't happen at least until "Idol" finishes it's current season in May.
[And yes this means dance music will finally gets its occasional due on HitFix. House music will never die people. Deal with it. Just be glad I'm obstaining from writing about the depressing state of Clippers basketball.]
So, while an Oscar wrap up is coming tomorrow (I swear), I had to pass on this interesting twist to DreamWorks/Paramount's marketing campaign for "I Love You, Man."
The upcoming comedy stars Paul Rudd as Peter, a real estate agent who is psyched to be marrying his longtime sweetheart. Unfortunately, Peter's been one of those guys who has always had more "girl" friends than "guy" friends, so when it's time to find a best man he's sort of screwed. After going on a bunch of "man dates," he finally finds his destined buddy, or so he thinks, in Sydney, played by Jason Segal. I haven't seen the flick but as the opening night film at SXSW next month it's got to be better than your average studio comedy, right?
In any event, in a sly move to tap into Peter's metrosexual tendencies (apparently butch men have no interest in "The Devil Wears Prada"), Paramount has put up a fake billboard at the corner of Beverly Blvd. and Robertson Blvd. touting the character's real estate services in a most provocative manner. According to our own Drew McWeeny (who knows a good deal more about the movie than I do), "Peter's competition in the film is a guy who puts up really douchey billboards all over LA, and Peter refuses to play that game. He thinks it's tacky. Obviously, something changes by the end of the movie. But what?"
More third act conflict. Nice.
Besides the fact the ad is within walking distance of The Ivy and paparazzi row, it is also directly on the border of West Hollywood (where liberal means mandatory washboard abs and being the home of the first Pinkberry store). They are even pushing a fake front end to their official "I Love You, Man" website at PeterKlaven.com.
Now, whether the gays who live in WeHo will fall for such shrill marketing tactics as a shirtless Paul Rudd remains to be seen. If they do, Focus will be cursing themselves for not putting a bare-chested Sean Penn on the "Milk" poster to drive the movie into profitability (I kid Focus peeps! I kid!).
Update: Paramount has just launched a new Restricted Clip titled "Boat Race" (although it has little to do with one) that's pretty funny. Check it out here.
"I Love You Man" opens nationwide on March 20.
There have already been some surprises at the red carpet, but we're gonna get a lot more during the show itself.
Usually, this prognotiscator is at a party in the hills, but we're taking a break this year to watch it with a number of Indiewire peeps and a good buddy from Variety. So, get ready for some very catty responses.
You've been warned.
5:03 PM PST
Tim Gunn is asking Amy Adams movie questions. Sort of odd.
5:05 PM PST
Woot. Sarah Jessica Parker is in the house as Jess Cagle of EW interviews her and Matthew Broderick. Could a "Sex and the City" shout out be in the works for tonight's show?
5:09 PM PST
Gunn interviewing Valentino, who has a documentary about his life "Valentino: The Last Emperor" headint to theaters. I am guessing most people would like to see Robin Roberts who is with the entire "Slumdog Millionaire" cast. It's really great all the kids could make it.
5:16 PM PST
What a star rundown. Robert Downey, Jr., Anne Hathaway, Kate Winslet and Viola Davis all in a row. Short and sweet, but they are pushing the star power.
Anyone notice all the movie ads this year? The Academy lowered their restriction against theatrical advertising and we've already seen adds for "Angels and Demons" and "Knowing."
5:20 PM PST
Cagle with Meryl Streep and her daughter. Is this her first red carpet? "Oh, no. I've done this a number of times before." Priceless.
5:29 PM PST
Nice piece on Michael Gaccinno, the show's musical director, hyping up his take on the show's score and the production designer describing the 100,000 crystals that make up the show's curtain.
Now its time for the big show.
Thousands of hours of campaigning, screenings, TV spots, ADs, screaming publicists and more behind-the-scenes drama then you'd ever believe.
5:34 PM PST
Wow. That is one pretty set.
The big day is finally here. Oscar Sunday. Hollywood's Super Bowl. The red carpet of all red carpets. And in so doing, an awards season that began in earnest with the premiere of "Slumdog Millionaire" at last year's Telluride and Toronto Film Festivals is finally coming to a close.
In all honesty, it's been a very weak year. Looking at 2008's nominees, it's conceivable only "Slumdog" or "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" could have cracked the final five and that's a very big maybe. Of course, years from now, people will wonder how "The Dark Knight" got overlooked, but at least the industry has another strong arguement to pressure the Academy's board of governors to increase the number of younger members into the mix (your relevancy depends on it AMPAS). But, I digress...
While Hugh Jackman has been rehearsing from coast to coast for his inaugural run as Academy Awards host, another first time emcee is getting ready for is own debut, new Spirit Awards host Steve Coogan.
The popular British comedian has recently gained notoriety in the states with roles in "Tropic Thunder," "Night at the Museum" and as the unforgettable acting teacher Dana Marschz in "Hamlet 2." Unbeknownst to many moviegoers though, Coogan has legit indie cred on his resume. Highlights include the acclaimed "24 Hour Party People," Don Roos' "Happy Endings" and "Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story."
Coogan will also be joining a list of unconventional hosts for one of the more up and down award shows on the circuit. Previous hosts include Samuel L. Jackson, Sarah Silverman, John Waters and last year's host, Rain Wilson. He took some time from his busy schedule last week to chat about what he's working on for the show and his own neurosis in hosting a live gig like the Spirits.
Q: Obvious first question, how did you get this gig? Did you throw your hat in the ring?
Steve Coogan: No, they asked me if I was interested in hosting the Independent Spirit Awards and I said I've got nothing better to do, so I'm here.
Q:You've got a nice history of work in independent cinema, have you ever attended the ceremony before?
SC: Never. I've seen them on TV and also when I came to do this and I watched a bunch of them.
Q: It's customary that hosts and producers of the Oscars get tapes for almost every Oscar show they want to watch. Did the Spirit producers send you all the previous shows?
SC: Wow. They sent me like three. And they sent me some of the [nominated] movies. I've tried to watch a bunch of those and they sent me a bunch of the awards ceremonies. I try to think how mine is going to work in that context. I've done live comedy in the U.K. I just did a tour [last] fall. So, I'm certainly not petrified about being in front of a live audience, but an American audience is very different or me.
There's a running theme as we wrap up the major categories for this year's Academy Awards: "Slumdog Millionaire." A fantastic achievement in filmmaking, marketing and Oscar campaigning, the almost tossed away Fox Searchlight and Warner Bros. picture is on its way to making Hollywood history. But first, let's take a look at the filmmakers behind the Best Picture nominees.
The nominees are....
Danny Boyle, "Slumdog Millionaire"
Lowdown: You try and shoot an entire film in Mumbai.
David Fincher, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
Lowdown: A more conservative approach for the groundbreaking director, but couldn't bring the heart.
Stephen Daldry, "The Reader"
Lowdown: Two movies, two Oscar nods.
Ron Howard, "Frost/Nixon"
Lowdown: Arguably, his best film.
Gus Van Sant, "Milk"
Lowdown: Did the most with the weakest script and pulled out the best performances overall from his actors, but couldn't overcome the film's problematic third act.
This category comes down to two directors whose films have inspired countless imitators in the world of film, TV and music videos. Both are well on their way to lifetime achievement awards, but this year is different. Fincher oversaw an amazing technical production, but Boyle pulled out charismatic performances from young kids from the slums of Mumbai. It's hard to compare, but the love for "Slumdog" will give Boyle the bump.
Winner: Danny Boyle, "Slumdog Millionaire"
The nominees are....