The Couch Jumper Can't Win
Tom Cruise's new moviegets panned in London.
Bye- Bye: A strong source tells us that things blew up badly with in The Lovely Bones, the Peter Jackson-directed film based on the Alice Sebold novel. Recall that in May, DreamWorks prevailed in a bidding war by offering a very rich deal to make this film, which tells the story of a child who is raped and murdered. Gosling is out in the role of the child's father, and Mark Wahlberg slid in over the weekend just hours before shooting was set to begin. And apparently, the break with Gosling may lead to litigation, though it's still unclear what the fight was about. Sure seems that DreamWorks has been hitting a few speed bumps lately. The first movie under its own label was The Heartbreak Kid. Things We Lost in the Fire got incinerated over the weekend, opening to $1.6 million. And Kite Runner has been delayed because it put its child stars in danger in Afghanistan. Schadenfreude, Mr. Grey?
This would also seem like worrisome timing for Gosling, who got an Oscar nomination for his role in Half Nelson and is getting a fair bit of praise for Lars and the Real Girl. If he's managed to tick off Peter Jackson and DreamWorks honcho Steven Spielberg simultaneously, that could not be considered a good career move. ( link)
Oct. 17, 2007
Curious George: We admit that we were a little disappointed when Michael Clayton opened to a weak $10 million and fourth place last weekend. The critics were gaga about Michael Clayton, though Variety's Brian Lowry was astute enough to peg it is as a "difficult-to-market" film.
We all know that grown-ups are not usually in haste to go to theaters to help movies chalk up a big opening weekend, but many thought Michael Clayton might do better. We've also heard a lot of you grown-ups complaining about a lack of grown-up films, or a lack of good ones, and this isn't going to help.
Since Michael Clayton is fairly crackling entertainment, we asked around to see why Hollywood thought the movie failed to connect with audiences. A number of theories emerged:
- It'sClooney. Clooney is very popular in Hollywood, but he cannot be counted on to open a movie. It's happened for Ocean's 11-12-13, but when you're in a movie with Matt Damon and Brad Pitt, you don't get bragging rights. There was The Perfect Storm, but that kind of co-starred the wave. "George has made a series of bad decisions as a movie star," says a top producer. "Not as an actor, not as an artist, but as a movie star." Clooney has given a nod to fans with the Ocean's series, he continues, but he doesn't give them a lot of gratification. "George has made calculated decisions about what he wants, not what the audience wants," this producer concludes. As it turns out, you can make bad decisions as a movie star and still win Oscars and have a villa in Italy.
- It's not Clooney, it's the marketing. Who can be counted on to open a movie these days? Maybe Will Smith. Maybe Adam Sandler in a comedy. "There ain't a whole lot of 'em," says a former studio chairman. The days are gone when you could book Julia Roberts into Dying Young—"a movie that nobody wants to see"—and watch the audience line up. So, if you can't count on selling the star, he says, you'd better sell an idea. That didn't happen with Michael Clayton. "When you look at the marketing, you don't know what it's about," he says. To him, that's understandable because Michael Clayton is "a really well-executed movie that's not about anything." But a good marketer shouldn't let that stand in the way. Make it look like it's about something. And create a campaign that hints the movie is, in fact, pretty entertaining. "It doesn't look like it's really different from In the Valley of Elah," this observer says. "I don't mean to piss on that movie, but there's 50 of 'em like that right now. I'm tired of death and destruction." Which leads to the next theory:
- All at once, there are too damn many grown-up movies. "A lot of movies are going after the same audience," says a studio chief. The Kingdom; Elizabeth: The Golden Age; 3:10 to Yuma; Into the Wild; Darjeeling Limited; Lust, Caution; Eastern Promises … and many more to come. "It's a tough market," the studio chief continues. "If you don't have a defined perspective, you're just one of the many." He also argues that Michael Clayton should have been released on fewer screens. The movie is sophisticated and plays pretty urban, he explains, so putting it out on 2,511 screens put it in a lot of places where it wasn't going to rack up much business. "If it had gone out on 1,500 screens and it did $10 million, you'd say, 'Hey, it did pretty well,' " he says. (link)
Oct. 11, 2007
Drowning their pens: No one is dragged more reluctantly into covering the industry's labor problems than your Hollywoodland correspondent. But since the writers are rattling the saber very loudly, here's a quick and simple look at the situation.
The writers feel they've gotten screwed on DVD revenues and don't want to repeat that experience. They are attacking on numerous fronts—trying to organize reality-show staff, demanding a federal rule requiring networks to disclose when advertisers pay to have their products woven into television shows. But this is really about getting a piece of the revenue from new media, whatever that new media may be.
Kim Masters is an NPR correspondent and the author of The Keys to the Kingdom: The Rise of Michael Eisner and the Fall of Everyone Else.
Photograph of Tom Cruise by Sean Gallup/Getty Images. Photograph of Ryan Gosling by Olivier Laban-Mattei/Agence France-Presse. Still from Adaptation copyright 2002 Columbia Pictures. Still from The Kite Runner copyright 2007 Paramount Classics. All rights reserved. Photograph of George Clooney by Francois Guillot/AFP/Getty Images.