Tuesday Morning Quarterback Part II
By BOP Staff
July 6, 2005
Crazy little thing called scientology loveKim Hollis: Why didn't War of the Worlds suffer from Tom Cruise backlash?
David Mumpower: I very much look forward to the inevitable run of Tom Cruise biopics and unauthorized biographies. He's our most fascinating cinema icon. He's an out and out nutter but for whatever reason, he's absolutely bulletproof at the box office.
Tim Briody: It was a movie with aliens and a lot of explosions directed by the world's most famous director. Those are backlash proof.
David Mumpower: Even his "failures" are hits for anybody else.
Reagen Sulewski: "If you blow it up, they will come."
Tim Briody: If it were a smaller movie, it would've been doomed.
David Mumpower: One point I'd like to make here is that Reagen and I were having a conversation about six weeks ago. We were testing the theory that there's no such thing as bad press by examining recent troubled productions. A shocking number of those were negatively impacted (we call it Giglied) by the buzz to the point that we struggled thinking of films that were not affected. With Mr. & Mrs. Smith and War or the Worlds, there are now two examples of not being impacted in a month.
Kim Hollis: Though if Gigli had generated early buzz as a "good movie" rather than being savaged by the critics, would things have been different?
Reagen Sulewski: But what about Gigli looked entertaining, in and of itself? I realize it's difficult to separate it from its negative buzz now, but even trying to look back with clean eyes, it looked terrible.
David Mumpower: I doubt it. I think that the Affleck/Lopez relationship was so offputting as to actively alienate potential customers.
Kim Hollis: Ah, but I actually heard people at work talking about how angry they were with Cruise for his Today Show stunt. Some of them definitely avoided the movie as a result. I thought that might be a more widespread opinion.
Suffocating puppies is bad, mkay?Reagen Sulewski: The conclusion should perhaps be that if there is a perceived weakness in the film, then it's going down. People saw Tom Cruise going nuts but saw the commercials and still said, "That looks cool."
David Mumpower: The marketing on War of the Worlds was sublime.
Reagen Sulewski: It's stunning to me how little of the film they actually showed in the commercials.
Tim Briody: It's not like Tom Cruise was suffocating puppies or something, anyway. When something happens one way or another with his Katie Holmes phase, we'll see some kind of backlash on a future Cruise film. I think people respond more to celebrity relationships with the shunning of their films than anything else.
Kim Hollis: I think a lot of it, maybe, is that he's a much more time-tested performer, too. He's pretty reliable with regards to quality. You can't say the same for Affleck/Lopez. Also, The Spielberg doesn't hurt.
Reagen Sulewski: And it's always a tricky thing to determine how many people "should" be turned off by a stunt. Were they going to see the film anyway?
Kim Hollis: Now, if Cruise decides to make Battlefield Earth 2, wear dreadlocks, and laugh loudly and obnoxiously, we'll talk again. Well, he already laughs loudly and obnoxiously, but the other two.
David Mumpower: One thing I feel should be mentioned about Cruise is that whenever you see a writer from one of his projects talking, they celebrate his passion for projects. We've recently seen Frank Darabont and JJ Abrams both rave about his willingness to immerse himself in a movie's production. This is in stark opposition to so many screenwriters who start all their stories with "I hate my job and it's why I'm a divorced alcholic." Darabont said on Dinner for Five that Cruise asked him to move into the guest house. That's dedication to the cause right there.
Kim Hollis: Going on to another topic, was this a needed hit for Spielberg?
Reagen Sulewski: Doesn't he control his own funding? I think it very much helps his Olympics movie later this year, though.
Tim Briody: It's not like he has to hit the bread lines if one of his films under-whelms.
David Mumpower: I think that Catch Me If You Can had already established him as a still-solid director and that The Terminal's hiccup was overstated for the most part. Even so, a $235 million earner (which is what this extrapolates to be using the Spider-Man 2 numbers from last year) always helps. This is Hollywood and someone that popular always has people looking to tear him down. Another Terminal-style disappointment would have been highlighted by the media.
Reagen Sulewski: He briefly went on food stamps after The Terminal.
David Mumpower: Actually, it's that he collected stamps after The Terminal, but he stopped after buying all the ones with the airplane upside down.
Spielberg's fast...not that there's anything wrong with that.Kim Hollis: On a totally different note, I think it's really impressive that War of the Worlds was officially fast-tracked in mid-August last year, and he finished it on time and in a quality manner.
Tim Briody: He's no Clint Eastwood.
Kim Hollis: Well, he will be with the Munich Olympics film.
David Mumpower: I do think that this circles back to what Tim was saying earlier. Spielberg saw this as a lackluster summer for tentpole films, so he sought to fill the vacuum. So many people doubted that the special effects would get done in time but the reality is that this film looked grrrrreat.
Reagen Sulewski: And you're really walking on a tightrope these days in regards to effects, since top notch is expected as a -baseline-.
David Mumpower: The tripods had an omnidroid from The Incredibles vibe, but they were very impressively implemented.
Did you know there was another opener last weekend? No, really.
Reagen Sulewski: Martin Lawrence: threat or menace?
Kim Hollis: Non-entity.
Tim Briody: Who?
David Mumpower: Rebound will not. End of story.
Accursed consumers! They've figured it out!David Mumpower: The other news item this week is the downgrading of Pixar stock. Pixar dropped roughly $7 after news that they had overestimated DVD sales of The Incredibles. This comes on the heels of DreamWorks having the same thing happen with Shrek 2. Analysts are deeply concerned with the pattern of behavior for new DVD releases.
Reagen Sulewski: I believe Nelson Muntz has been hired by DreamWorks animation specifically to yell "Haw-HAW!" How long before we see some kind of audited system like Soundscan put into place?
David Mumpower: There is a huge opening week spike followed by a Millennium Force-like plummet afterward. Once the price is lowered, consumers again show interest. Effectively, consumers have gotten wise to the process. Those who aren't desperate to have a DVD on its first day know that in a few months, the disc will sell for 2/3 off in the bargain bin.
Tim Briody: We're cheap bastards, what can I say?
Kim Hollis: I believe that the retailers have trained consumers to behave a certain way. It used to be that David and I would buy discs on day one. Not so much anymore, unless it's something we're just dying for.
Reagen Sulewski: Studios have tried to protect DVD sales like it was the key to the kingdom, but I think if incidents like this continue to happen, the system will demand reliable figures.
Tim Briody: Video game retailers like GameStop and EB have used (oops, sorry, "pre-owned") DVDs for sale now, too. Get anything you want shortly after it's out, cheap.
Act now while operators are standing by.
David Mumpower: Is there a way for studios to alter this behavior? According to Business Week, they receive $12 for each disc sold. It's in their best interest to move as much product as possible.
Kim Hollis: Shorten supply.
David Mumpower: That's a Nintendo console type gambit, Kim. Wouldn't lessening supply hurt more than it would help?
Kim Hollis: Not if they want people to buy the discs before they go in the $5 bin.
David Mumpower: But they want consumers to buy more of them. How is offering less going to solve that? Are you certain it would increase frontline demand through some sort of velvet rope system?
Kim Hollis Well, it is a gambit that Disney has tried in the past. "Available for only a limited time." It does create heightened urgency and make the product more special.
David Mumpower Okay, I misunderstood your intent. That is an interesting idea. Threatening to pull the DVDs completely would create at least some semblance of urgency.
Kim Hollis I sure bought my Lion King and Aladdin DVDs right away.
Tim Briody: Fewer features, then release the Extra Super Special Limited Double Deluxe Edition down the line.
Reagen Sulewski: Limited time only special offers, like coupons.
David Mumpower: Don't they already do that to an extent? I saw a couple of different ads in the Sunday paper saying I would get a free Fantastic Four movie ticket with DVD purchase.
Reagen Sulewski: I'm not sure you really can change this behavior when there's dozens of new titles coming out each week.
David Mumpower: That's the other issue, Reagen. A lot of Wal-Mart type chains are reporting that shelf space issues have reached crisis levels. If something isn't moving, it gets buried quickly. It's simply not feasible to leave an unpopular disc in a prime store location.
Reagen Sulewski: David, the coupon idea must be working to some extent if they keep using it. The flip side of that is that if you do it enough times, it becomes an expectation and you're back where you started. Consumers are greedy, complacent bastards.
David Mumpower: From the meta perspective, this is a fascinating evolution. You have movie exhibitors threatened by the boogeyman of DVD. Now we are seeing DVDs threatening themselves as new product denigrates old product. And everyone realizes that eventually, an MP3 form of movies will do to DVD what mp3s did to CDs.
Tim Briody: We should really just all quit while we're ahead.
David Mumpower: The Sony PS3's AV section is little more than a movie distribution device, after all. Sony sees it coming. It comes with gigabit ethernet and multiple A/V outs including 1080p.
Kim Hollis: Basically, they're paving the way for the Sony library to be available for download. Which includes MGM, nowadays.
Tim Briody: I'm waiting for the day I never have to leave my house again to be entertained.
David Mumpower: That day comes to pass in 2008, Tim. Hookerbots for everyone!
Kim Hollis And what a glorious day that will be. Get me a treadmill and I'll even get my exercise in the house. Begone, foul gamma rays!