Monday Morning Quarterback Part II

By BOP Staff

June 21, 2005

Kind of reminds you of Kevin Dyson in the Super Bowl, doesn't it?

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Primary Colors?

Kim Hollis: Is Batman Begins too adult? Too long? Did rebooting in this more mature fashion hurt it in the short term but save it in the long haul?

Tim Briody: We're all guessing on five days of box office, but I say yes.

Reagen Sulewski: I brought this idea up earlier, and maybe I should have paid more attention to it, but the basic color scheme and look of the films may have a lot to do with this. Spider-Man is all bright primary colors that capture one's attention and that registers with kids. Batman is black and yellow and grey. It doesn't catch the eye.

Kim Hollis: This Batman is definitely drab - muddy even. And, in previous films, the villains at least had color to them. Joker, Riddler, Poison Ivy and so forth added a brightness. I would suggest that at least the first Burton film was more accessible (though probably not Batman Returns, certainly).

David Mumpower: Agreed. I find the first Batman film to be wildly cartoonish. The scene in the art gallery is downright vaudevillian.

Reagen Sulewski: And Schumacher, for all his faults, realized that himself - Batman Forever was garish - although Batman & Robin went over the line.

David Mumpower: I think the dark colors are an intentional decision on Nolan's part. Bruce Wayne has been living in a world of gray. The color in his life is gone since his parents were killed.

Kim Hollis: Oh, absolutely. I don't fault the decision.


David Mumpower: Is this a disappointing five-day number for the film? Reagen, you predicted it would make more than this in three days. What was the basis for your conclusion and why do you think you were off?

Reagen Sulewski: I expected the simple idea of him being a character that everyone knows and understands on a basic level bringing people in. I didn't anticipate the degree to which Schumacher had damaged his reputation long-term.

David Mumpower: So, Reagen, would you say it's fair to say that you made the same mistake that WB's marketing team did? Both of you thought having Batman in the title was more than good enough to get curious onlookers opening weekend.

Reagen Sulewski: On a basic level, yes. This is an opening weekend akin to Daredevil, a hero about 1/10th of the people know about as compared to Batman.

David Mumpower: Exactly. This is what comic book pretenders should make opening weekend, not Batman.

Shiny, Happy Movie-Goers

Reagen Sulewski: To make a potentially overbroad and crazy sociological point, people like "happy" movies these days. Batman Begins ends with a battle won but a war raging.

Kim Hollis: Well, I believe Mr. & Mrs. Smith flies in the face of that somewhat. As does Cinderella Man, for that matter. If they like happy, theoretically, that thing shouldn't be dying like it has been.

David Mumpower: I think that Reagen hit the nail on the head with Cinderella Man the other day. That film was marketed as smug and self-important. It wanted to be Seabiscuit so bad, but it came across as a lesser version of Million Dollar Baby. Plus, I wouldn't want to open a film with Russell Crowe as my box office anchor right now.

Kim Hollis: Go Russ go (out the door)!

Reagen Sulewski: Maybe the idea of "happy" doesn't fit on all levels. But then, there's almost never any one reason a film does what it does.

Kim Hollis: Are people getting sick of comic book stuff? Will Spidey 3 and X3 suffer some backlash?

Tim Briody: I doubt it, Kim, because people know what to expect from those movies. I think the potential unfamiliarity and again, the stink still remaining from the last Batman movies hurt this one's opening weekend.

Reagen Sulewski: I would like to think WB decided they had to take the hit to rebuild the franchise, but you keep the budget at $80-100 million if you know this kind of weekend is coming. So really, it's the producers of the '60s TV show's fault. If they'd had Ra's Al Ghul going BIFF, POW, BAM, people would have known this villain.

David Mumpower: Heck, I saw the movie and I didn't know who the villain was.

Kim Hollis: You know, the stupid TV show really did ruin the mystique of Batman.

Maybe We Should Change Our Name To DVDProphets

David Mumpower: Of course, this circles us back to another topic of importance here. The reality that nobody likes to discuss is that box office is not where the money is for movies these days.

Kim Hollis: In 2004, total movie all-media (box office, DVD, TV, everything) revenue amounted to $44.8 billion. $21 billion of that was DVD/video; free TV is $12.6 billion; and movies in theaters made $7.4 billion.

David Mumpower: So, half of the money movies make these days stems from DVD/video while only about one sixth of it comes from box office receipts. And that turns us back to the thought that it's more important for Batman Begins to be a good movie that people will tell their friends is worth checking out. That goes double if the other option is that the film makes monster opening weekend numbers, then flames out like Daredevil did.

Kim Hollis: Summarizing the new state of movie revenue, if a film can sell on DVD and do big bucks at Blockbuster, that's where the money is, really.

The Bat Lives.

David Mumpower: Was Batman Begins too long? Do you think it's suitable for kids under ten?

Reagen Sulewski: Under ten would be pushing it.

Kim Hollis: As far as I'm concerned, the franchise has absolutely rebooted. The film is superlative. However, I will say that it has been rebooted for a more mature audience - much as was the case when Frank Miller rebooted it for the comic book crowd. Batman would have been considered a dying comic book franchise in the late '80s. Then, Miller came along with Year One and the Dark Knight Returns, and Batman was cool to comic geeks again.

Tim Briody: I believe the franchise has found new life, at the expense of the box office figure for Batman Begins. (I haven't seen the film yet).

Reagen Sulewski: I think if it ultimately can reach to about the 200 million mark, we are virtually guaranteed Batman continues.

David Mumpower: For what it's worth, I think that no matter what the box office on this is, we will see a follow-up film. The cast is locked up at reasonable prices, and there is every reason to believe that its numbers from here on out will be exceptional.

Reagen Sulewski: Of course, box office could still be an outdated metric for determining a sequel. If DVD sales can revive Family Guy and get us a Firefly movie, the superlative DVD sales that we know will be coming here will make a new Batman film likely.

David Mumpower: I think you're dead on, Reagen.

Reagen Sulewski: I was thinking about this the other day. We got three big-budget Blade films, and none made more than $80 million in theaters. It's a much cheaper film to produce for various reasons, but that's not usually the kind of numbers that secure a franchise.

David Mumpower: Well, it didn't for The Hulk or Godzilla, but those were doomed by word-of-mouth. Batman Begins has a sunny upside, and that's the crux of the discussion.

Liar, liar? Guess not.

David Mumpower: One other comment about the revenue numbers of Batman Begins: it's made $41.7 million overseas, and there is already a deal in place with F/X for second level broadcast rights. This film, Constantine and six scrub movies have been sold for $30 million. So, just as the numbers we had displayed early demonstrated, it's already making big money in the other markets that nobody who evaluates box office talks about for some reason I've never quite understood.

Kim Hollis: So ultimately, maybe Dan Fellman's pants are not on fire. He sees the big picture.

David Mumpower: I think that if I were Dan Fellman, I would be frustrated that so much crap makes a mint while they have produced a genuinely memorable movie and he's forced to apologize for its performance.

Tim Briody: So including overseas money, Batman Begins is already looking like another Troy. It looks disappointing domestically, but will probably make its production budget back when you factor in worldwide figures.

Reagen Sulewski: That is, if people had liked Troy.

Mr. and Mrs. Smith Still Honeymooning?

David Mumpower: We touched on Mr. & Mrs. Smith earlier when Reagen mentioned its legs. Tim, we received feedback from some readers indicating you were a bit too doom and gloom on its performance this weekend. What do you think of its 46% drop? I won't lie that I had hoped it might buck the trending. I accept that 46% is status quo these days, but it seemed like one of the few 2005 releases with a chance at real, old school legs.

Kim Hollis: I think it's a touch heavy for a film that had such great audience reaction and word-of-mouth. That said, it's not particularly out of line with other similar stuff in 2005.

Reagen Sulewski: It's sad and alarming that this has become a figure that people can look at and say, "yeah, that's average."

David Mumpower: Sadly, I don't think they are accurately described as extreme since it's pretty much normal behavior for huge openers these days. It takes a 60% drop for me to even blink.

Tim Briody: I completely understand that it's June, but that's still a tad high. And higher than 50% Fri-Fri drops are extreme, even for well received films. I thought the weekend decline would be in the upper 30%'s, personally.

David Mumpower: Agreed, Tim. Also, I think that is the key to any box office analysis. Your evaluations might fly in the face of the reader, but you can only formulate opinions based on personal expectation.

Kim Hollis: I think it really is largely a function of the fact that studios just want their big money opening weekend when they get their monster cut. So they market it in advance of debut, then just cut it off.

David Mumpower: Yes, when BOP launched in 2001, I remember we got torn apart for that supposition regarding the ever-decreasing legs of films due to exhibitor contracts. Now, it's become status quo and accepted conventional wisdom in the industry.

Reagen Sulewski: I wanted to go see The Interpreter in its fifth weekend. I live in a city of a million people, and there was not a single theater showing it. So much for letting films hang around.

David Mumpower: That's odd, Reagen. We're finding the opposite here. Since exhibitors are getting screwed so badly by current licensing agreements, our local theaters have decided to display unique business practices. If a film is a hit, they give it every opportunity to linger in the theater rather than dump it for some doomed release.

Kim Hollis: Hitch is still playing, for God's sake (it was released on DVD Tuesday).

David Mumpower: I think that's the best business model, too. They get to keep more of the money for the seven tickets that are sold for this as opposed to High Tension.

Reagen Sulewski: And can you blame them? Hollywood has become completely indifferent to exhibitors.

David Mumpower: By the same token, can you blame the exhibitors for that behavior? We've just shown that their money doesn't come from theatrical release.

Tim Briody: Which is why a large popcorn and soda sets you back another eight bucks. But that's neither here nor there.

Kim Hollis: "I don't want a 12 pound Nestles Crunch for $25!"

David Mumpower: We had a theater manager tell us that if a consumer isn't going to buy a snack, they dread seeing the customer before 6 p.m. There just isn't any profit from such a consumer.

Parting Cheap Shots

David Mumpower: Okay, this concludes our discussion for today.

Reagen Sulewski: But what about the impact of The Perfect Man? (He said with a straight face.)

Tim Briody: The what of the what?

Reagen Sulewski: You know, impact, like when you drop something from a tall building and it hits the sidewalk.

David Mumpower: It keeps Hilary Duff out of Child Actors State Penitentiary for another two years.

Tim Briody: She can't wait until she turns 18 so she can whore it up like Lindsay and/or stop eating.

Kim Hollis: She and Haylie are doing TV commercials. I think she's accepted her fate.

David Mumpower: It's hard to believe that at the start of 2004, Lohan was considered the good one.



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