Monday Morning Quarterback Part I
By BOP Staff
July 25, 2005
DreamWorks to Michael Bay: About that $130 million you cost us...Kim Hollis: So, this weekend was more or less devoid of any news. Well, unless you count the fact that The Island, a Michael Bay film that was budgeted in excess of $130 million, bombed and bombed hard. What in the world happened here?
Reagen Sulewski: Apparently you can go broke underestimating the intelligence of the public.
David Mumpower: This is the most stunning box office result I have seen in years. I have been trying to think of a similarly shocking failure without success. Reagen asked me for feedback about its opening weekend, and I said $40 million.
Michael Bentley: I'm utterly amazed at how badly it did. If you doubled its take I would still have been surprised. I'm still waiting for them to add $30 million to the total and say "Oops, that's a typo, we forgot to add the 1 each day."
Reagen Sulewski: I think the most telling thing about this is that the DreamWorks distribution head couldn't even be bothered to invent a crazy excuse for its failure.
Kim Hollis: If it makes $12 million every three days with 0% drop, it will make back its negative cost in only five weeks! That's likely, right?
David Mumpower: I saw that, Reagen. He's hoping that millions of people find it in later weeks. It's like he is saying that the trailer was running as an overnight infomercial and operators are standing by.
Kim Hollis: Bay's not taking calls from DreamWorks today in the fear that he'll be fired from The Transformers before the stink of failure can be forgotten.
David Mumpower: That was my first thought, Kim. It seems like they have spent the past two weeks hyping Transformers like there is no tomorrow. The web site is already live for a release two calendar years away. The timing on this could not have been worse. It's like getting involved on a huge project with Renny Harlin two weeks before the release of Cutthroat Island. Sidenote: what I have learned from the performances of Cutthroat Island and The Island: never put "Island" in your movie title. Nothing good can come of it.
Reagen Sulewski: He'd like to ponder the film more, but then he'd have to start drinking straight from the bottle.
Kim Hollis: If you look at the career of Michael Bay, he's one of the most reliable directors in the industry's history. Everything he touches turns to gold. Then, he explodes the gold into a noisy cloud of dust.
David Mumpower: Right. If you look at Bay's track record, even his first film opened well by the standards of the day. That was Bad Boys, and it did $15.5 million in 1995. Since then, he's opened to $25.1 million with The Rock, $36.1 million with Armageddon, $46.5 million with Bad Boys 2 and a $75 million four-day with Pearl Harbor. It's the movie equivalent of Albert Pujols going 0 for his next 250 at bats.
There goes any hope for a Farscape movie.Reagen Sulewski: Strange as it may sound for a Bay film, was this a result of some kind of bias against "hard" sci-fi?
David Mumpower: I just don't see any diehard science fiction fan leaving Friday night to watch The Island when they could have stayed home and watched Firefly and Battlestar Galactica on Sci-Fi.
Kim Hollis: It certainly seemed difficult to market in that regard. How do you make a film about cloning appealing?
David Mumpower: There is a level of irony in the fact that Bay has finally tried to make a smart film that is generally well received...and it has totally alienated his fan-base. This almost feels like a prank. Every movie-goer in North America just agreed to pull one over on Bay by not showing up for his film.
Michael Bentley: Has the movie-going public finally woken up and realized that Bay is a total hack?
Reagen Sulewski: Even Spielberg and Cruise had a tough time getting people out for Minority Report, which this film looked a lot alike.
Kim Hollis: He should have had a shanty demolishing scene a la Bad Boys II. People apparently love that crap.
Reagen Sulewski: No wise-cracking 'street' characters either. That was a big mistake.
Kim Hollis: I do think if the marketing had perhaps centered on the humor of the film (not the Steve Buscemi humor, but the inherent humor of being in the world when you're a "three-year-old" adult) and the big explosions, it might have drawn some people in.
It takes more than a cockney accent to be a star, bub.David Mumpower: Here's my contention and a new discussion topic. I think the blame lies squarely with Ewan McGregor. For all the industry respect and popularity he has attained, he's not a box office draw at all.
Reagen Sulewski: Yes. This also highlights just how little Ewan McGregor really got out of starring in Star Wars. He's no action leading man yet in the eyes of the public. I don't think you can fault him for taking the money.
Michael Bentley: Mark Hamill would be the world's biggest star today if actors were able to use Star Wars as launching pads to a successful career.
Kim Hollis: No, now McGregor can go back to making several small films in a row.
David Mumpower: Have you looked at his filmography? Pillow Book, Life Less Ordinary, Velvet Goldmine, Little Voice, Eye of the Beholder, Down with Love, Young Adam...if you take out the Star Wars prequels, it puts the ug in ugly.
Reagen Sulewski: But then, only a couple of these films were really intended to be big films. Most were obscure British indies. This was his Johnny Depp play.
The big mistake was not making her wear a pink wig.Kim Hollis: Right, I really do think that like Depp, he's most comfortable in small-scale productions. He takes the occasional big role to keep going for awhile (and to allow himself such luxuries as motorcycle trips across the country), but generally, you're going to continue seeing his successes on a smaller scale. For what it's worth, I think the same thing applies to Scarlett Johansson.
David Mumpower: He's got some stuff like Black Hawk Down and Moulin Rouge! but in each instance, it's hard to argue he is the draw. The -closest- film he has to a hit is Big Fish, a production which did not even recoup its budget. Down with Love is one of my favorite films in recent memory yet you could not pay people to watch it.
Reagen Sulewski: I agree Kim. Lost in Translation was a huge hit relative to its budget, but that still topped out at $45 million. Then again, we almost never put the onus on female stars to open an action film.
David Mumpower: Johansson is still just a kid. Her biggest performance is in a film that did not make $50 million domestic.
Kim Hollis: Right, I realize she's just a youngster, but my point is really that both McGregor and Johansson are indie stars, but not really well-known in the mainstream. Trying to market a film with them at its center was a tough job.
Sitting by the dock of the (Michael) BayDavid Mumpower: The more we discuss it, the more I wish we had this conversation last week. Hindsight is certainly 20/20 and all of us were way off on this one. When we talk about the causality, though, it seems so obvious...except for Bay, anyway. I can't believe this film is going to lose $130 million in its domestic run. He's been a safer financial bet than Spielberg.
Reagen Sulewski: I don't know. Perhaps we've all been too hasty in promoting Michael Bay into the ranks of "directors that can open a film".
Kim Hollis: He's consistently done so with every film he's attempted up to now, though. He's as close to bulletproof as any director we've seen.
David Mumpower: I guarantee you that this locks up at least one if not two huuuuge acting names for Transformers. He won't make this mistake twice. George Clooney for Optimus Prime went from sounding absurd to a distinct possibility after Friday numbers came in.
Reagen Sulewski: If you look at The Rock, that was a time when big explode-y action was just coming back in, and at the peak of Jerry Bruckheimer's powers. Armageddon came around right at the peak of disaster movies. Pearl Harbor was Titanic with more explosions. Bad Boys II was a sequel that managed to catch Will Smith back on the upswing. This one had no Bruckheimer as a producer, no stars, and no zeitgeist.
David Mumpower: The Island is Serenity without the built-in loyal fan-base. All kidding aside, Serenity is probably going to open higher than The Island. You could have made a lot of money placing that bet at the start of summer. Diary of a Mad Black Woman opened $10 million higher, for God's sake. This is just unbelievable.
Michael Bentley: There are a countless number of laughable films that have opened higher. It's really mind-boggling.
Let them play!Kim Hollis: The Island wasn't the weekend's only major opener. The Bad News Bears only opened to $11.5 million. It's certainly no the Island, but is it a disappointment?
David Mumpower: I'm disappointed in North American audiences. This is the film Wedding Crashers was not. It's subversive and vicious and very, very funny. The Bad News Bears remake is a film that Walter Matthau would have loved.
Michael Bentley: Walter Matthau was wonderful as Coach Buttermaker, and yet I think Billy Bob Thorton may have been even better.
Reagen Sulewski: Mildly, I'd say, especially in light of the performance of Wedding Crashers.
Michael Bentley: I'd call it a disappointment, but I'm not terribly surprised. I wonder if audiences are starting to show a bit of backlash towards remakes. There have just been too many of them recently. Sure, a few have been successful (like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), but others have sunk.
David Mumpower: I found the dichotomy between the two big openers and the two little ones this week is fascinating. All of them are in the same general box office range yet The Island and Bad News Bears are bombs while Hustle & Flow and The Devil's Rejects are hits.
Kim Hollis: Well, you have to keep in mind that Hustle & Flow has already more than doubled its budget, so it is of course a success financially. The Devil's Rejects probably will have to work a bit harder for profitability, but it will get it. I would rate Wedding Crashers higher than Bad news Bears in terms of quality. But only just slightly. Bad News Bears was a little scattershot and uneven, though still quite amusing.
David Mumpower: Gee, it's shocking that the Owen Wilson/Vince Vaughn stalker likes it better.
Reagen Sulewski: It's always a bit of a crapshoot as to how highly regarded a classic film really is. But still, you have to think The Bad News Bears was up there.
David Mumpower: People who liked the original will love the update if they enter the theater with an open mind. It's perfectly in tone with the intention of Bad News Bears.
Kim Hollis: As for Bad News Bears, it's totally in keeping with the original. The problem for it is that it is *really* not appropriate for youngsters, which means that it can't quite be honestly marketed as a family film.
Michael Bentley: It's definitely not appropriate for little kids. I was shocked to see a woman bring a group of perhaps ten first or second graders to the movie.
Kim Hollis: Finding it the right audience had to be a bit of a challenge.
There are worse things than being typecast as a drunken horndog.David Mumpower: Right, The Devil's Rejects has the same per-venue average as The Island. That does not seem impressive on the surface but just a split second of logical inference shows what a shocking achievement that is. Rob Zombie is making movies which sell as well as Michael Bay ones with 20 times the budget.
Kim Hollis: Unlike The Island, though, Bad News Bears will at least be profitable by the time it hits home video.
David Mumpower: It also could perform similarly to Bad Santa. Sure, it's not December now (when films demonstrate fantastic post-opening weekend holdover), but that film did $12.2 million in three days. It still wound up with over $60 million. I have to think Bad News Bears getting to $50 million would be satisfying to the studio.
Reagen Sulewski: I wonder if a full "Bad Santa-ing" wasn't what the doctor ordered for Bears.
Kim Hollis: That's such a tough call when you have kids as the centerpiece of the film along with Thornton, though.
Reagen Sulewski: No, you're right. You run the risk of completely alienating people when it's kids in the mix. But if you're in for a penny, go in for a pound.
Michael Bentley: There were certainly a couple scenes that were just begging for nudity.