The End. We Mean It. We're Pretty Sure.
Monday Morning Quarterback Part I
By BOP Staff
November 1, 2010
Kim Hollis: Saw 3D opened to $24.2 million, not quite on the level of Saw II - V but a significant increase from Saw VI. What do you think of this performance? How much credit do you give to the 3D? What is your best guess for the release date of the next Saw film?
Josh Spiegel: Clearly, this movie has only made as much as money as it did because of 3D. Box Office Mojo is reporting that 92% of the film's revenues came from 3D theaters. My guess is: no 3D, no uptick from Saw VI. The performance isn't horrible; even with a higher budget due to the 3D technology, Saw 3D has already made back what it cost, sans marketing. But maybe Lionsgate will soon get the hint that no one really wants to see these movies anymore. A bunch of teenagers are just too damn bored to do anything else but drop 10 bucks on another cheeseball horror movie.
Bruce Hall: Let's assume for a moment that this really IS the final Saw film. Let's imagine that they're not going to change their minds a year or two from now when someone's tracking data tells them it is time to make one more last, final total, absolute end chapter to the series. Much like the big brains behind the Jackass juggernaut, the minds behind this franchise saw the same opportunity to cash in on the kind of technical gimmickry that comes along once in a generation. How could they not? So while it looks impossible to refute the fact that the 3D curiosity got the most butts in seats for Saw this weekend, I think that if I am Lionsgate I will take what I can get.
You don't have to have a marketing degree to know that Saw's best days are behind it but I think if they were going to make one last *ahem* foray into the franchise, now was the time to do it. Let Saw go out with a loud, hokey, bloody, dark, derivative, headache inducing bang, instead of the whimper that would have occurred had this film been released in 2D.
So since I don't live in Candyland I am going to to ahead and assume that this movie is going to outstrip part VI's domestic haul sometime this week. This means 60% of what I just said is garbage. The cynic in me says that the sound of all those cash registers ringing is just too loud to resist. They're already least tossing around concepts for a sequel. They're apparently never going to stop making Friday the 13th films, or Freddy Krueger films, or Hellraiser films, so what reason is there to believe they won't find a way to keep making these lucrative movies until one finally fails to break $10 million? Maybe, maybe not. But I would be willing to wager it'll be on someone's drawing board by next weekend.
Tim Briody: This is a fine recovery from the disaster that was Saw VI, and I'm sure you can contribute a bulk of it to 3D. But the franchise is done, it had a good (and insanely profitable) run but the horror film around Halloween throne now belongs to Paranormal Activity, which I'm sure will now see a yearly entry until something else come along and the cycle will repeat itself.
Matthew Huntley: From a film lover point of view, I am ashamed of Saw VII's performance at the box-office. Seriously, how could the movie-going public spend nearly $25 million on what is likely the worst film so far this year (and that takes into account Sex and the City 2 and The Last Airbender)? I'm not sure if anyone else in the group had the unfortunate experience of seeing this travesty, but take it from me, it is quite awful. The only really I chose to see it was to review it (no, really), but I hope everyone who did see it feels the same way I do and we see a massive drop-off next weekend when the holiday fare rolls out.
As for Saw VIII, I give it 10 years. That's about the average for franchises that are clearly done which the studios think they can still milk when a new generation comes along.
Bruce, one thing I disagree with you about. You wrote, "They're already least tossing around concepts for a sequel." I don't think Lionsgate ever tosses around concepts; in this case, they merely copy pre-existing ones.
Tom Houseman: Oh Matt, it's adorable that you still have faith in the American public to see good movies.
Having never seen any Saw films, I am fairly confident that this will be the last Saw film for at least half a decade. Lionsgate smelled the milk they had and realized it was a day or two past its expiration date, so they decided to make one last bowl of cereal before it started to really stink up the place. 3-D was a good choice, because it gave it a more "must-see" feel for people who were getting tired of trudging out to theaters every year for the new Saw film. I think this franchise is finished until they get to work on "Saw: Origins" or some baloney like that.
Shalimar Sahota: It's a good enough result, obviously bolstered by the 3D. Sure it's profitable, but clearly the signs are there that the audience is dwindling (I stopped after viewing the fourth one), and Lionsgate ought to quit while they're ahead. As for the next Saw film, I really hope it doesn't happen. But I think Tom nailed it, and if one is in the works it'll probably be some prequel - Jigsaw's games before the bathroom incident. Or maybe they'll have better luck turning Saw into a TV series.
Edwin Davies: I suspect that if you took away the extra cash earned from the 3D ticket price hike then Saw 3D's total wouldn't be that much of an improvement on Saw VI's, so I'd attribute this success almost solely to the filmmakers really hammering home that 3D gimmickry.
Since Jigsaw died something like four films ago, I don't imagine that the series that bears he name will stay dead either. It might get rebooted in five years time, but I think the days of Saw being a yearly tradition are numbered. That is unless they finally see sense and adopt my idea for Saw 4D, in which the audience are strapped into their own traps and have the length of the film to escape. Sure, repeat viewings will be negligible, but think of the publicity!
David Mumpower: I agree with Tim's sentiment that this is a nice recovery that allows the Saw franchise to go on hiatus for a while without seeming like a total failure, which would have been the case if they had taken a break after Saw VI. I also agree with Mr. Huntley that we've gone wrong as a people when a movie this horrible can open this well. The storyline revealed in Saw 3D makes me believe that nobody wanted to stop making Saw movies until such a time as they could completely undo all of the good ideas from the original. What they chose to do with one of the characters from Saw in order to make Saw 3D surprising is an abomination and one that requires a total lack of credulity to boot. As for the release date of the next Saw film, put me down for October of 2014 in the betting pool. Winner doesn't have to see Saw VIII.
The horror. The horror.
Kim Hollis: There were six Nightmare on Elm street films released from 1984-1991. There were eight Friday the 13th films from 1980 through 1989. This is the seventh Saw film since 2004. Philosophically, does this sort of near-annual release pattern for horror films bother you? Why or why not? Do you think you would have a different strategy if you were a studio boss with the keys to the franchise?
Josh Spiegel: I'll answer the last question first, because it'll be the shortest answer: if I was a studio boss, I'd do what every studio boss has done and order as many sequels as possible. Money is money, and the studio execs probably don't care how the movies do in the long-term, as long as they're cheap and make enough in the first weekend. The pattern mentioned in the original post would bother me...if I was a big horror-movie fan. I'm not, so I see the constant annual sequels as more cash-ins that I'm not going to help out. Paranormal Activity 3 should be announced soon, and once that happens, it'll become yet another franchise that doesn't know when to quit, because those studio bosses don't want them to quit.
Bruce Hall: You nailed it Josh. I couldn't have said it better! I know this because I did type something out, it just wasn't better!
Matthew Huntley: Great reply, Josh. I agree wholeheartedly. If I may answer the first question: yes, it does bother me. Why? Because I am a fan of all films and it's hard not to take it personally when something you like is tarnished in the name of profits. Regarding all the sub-par franchises Kim mentioned, I get the impression the filmmakers/studios behind them just don't care about quality. I'm sorry, but that's just wrong, especially when your product reaches so many people. I would like to think if I was a studio boss I would try to balance my personal love of cinematic storytelling with my decisions to greenlight certain projects, to balance integrity with profits.
From a business standpoint, yes, it is all about money (corporations such as movie studios are considered living entities and they have to survive), but I can't imagine turning my back on my own ethics (which in this case would be to put out high quality content) just to make a buck. As a studio boss, you have to keep the studio going, but you also have to look at yourself in the mirror everyday and convince yourself you're trying your best at what you do, which is to entertain audiences and run a business (that may sound a bit dramatic, but we all take cinema seriously). No one said the job was easy. I'm not sure who the head of Lionsgate is, but he/she has lost points with me. Can they honestly say they like the Saw films?
Max Braden: I never saw any of those movies in theater, mostly be cause horror isn't really my thing. But a reliable horror movie at Halloween time feels like the American way, and I wouldn't want to give that up. That doesn't mean I'm looking for any old garbage to fill a spot, but it's like fast food: comforting even if it's never going to be good for you. That doesn't mean there isn't room for other horror entries to compete, and isn't that the way every series starts?
Tom Houseman: I'll jump on the praising Josh bandwagon (Yay Josh!) but I'll point out a few factors that he overlooked. These sorts of franchises rely on setting up a tradition in the minds of moviegoers. Much like every Thanksgiving I watch the Cowboys play, a lot of people go out every Halloweekend to see the newest iteration of their chosen franchise. Studios can keep going back to the well because 1) These movies are very cheap, and 2) They don't rely on star power at all. The fact that new characters keep getting introduced and killed off makes it very easy to round up a bunch of fresh faced (and large-bosomed) youngsters who are eager to work for next to nothing. It's a very effective strategy for making a quick buck.
As a fan of great movies, I find myself disappointed in the strategy, but no more so than I am disappointed in most reality TV from my vantage as a fan of great television. It smacks of laziness, because it's practically impossible to make a great movie in a year, but since I don't care, it doesn't bother me that much. I plan on ignoring the Saw franchise it goes away, which apparently will be soon.
Shalimar Sahota: Already appropriately answered. Yearly sequels appear to have resulted in an ultimate a lack of quality in the later films and fewer audiences turning up, but there's enough of a profit to make another, and another...
On a slightly similar note, it's as if some of these studio bosses are just too lazy, or scared, to fund anything original and are instead finding films from yesteryear to reboot. During the last five years we've seen the resurrection of dead franchises. There have been remakes of A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, Halloween and The Hills Have Eyes. The last two have their own sequels too, and there's another Elm Street sequel in the works. I guess the recent releases of The Crazies and Piranha 3D could probably fit in here as well. I don't really have anything against remakes (provided they're done well), but in some of these instances it just feels like a rush to get them out there and make a quick return at the box office. I wouldn't be surprised if Saw ends up with an unnecessary remake in about ten years time.
David Mumpower: I think that Tom's comment of "smacks of laziness" encapsulates the issue. One of the basic tenets of economics is that money today is better than money tomorrow. While I maintain that a better infrastructure would allow for multiple projects to be created simultaneously and the quality of each would improve due to this focus on planning, I'm a realist here. At the end of the day, movies are just a widget of a different sort. The quality of output matters only to people who care about movies. Capitalists are focused on the revenue the products accrue and that logic supports what Josh said. Getting new product out on an annual basis is the imperative. The original Saw is a clever movie comprised of numerous good ideas. The sequels have been lackluster most of the time and truly heinous recently. A worse product is usually met with poorer sales, which is what we saw with Saw VI. Despite this, most horror movies released in October perform well enough to justify the initial investments. We could debate the opportunity cost of making a lousy movie until we're blue in the face - and I do this a lot, probably too often. That's a side issue to the basic one of having revenue surpass investment cost. All three franchises under discussion have managed that, which is more important to the people cutting the checks than the perceived quality of the projects. Right or wrong, that's the focus of the decision making process.