2006: Hollywood diagnoses its audience
Reviews, release dates, campaigns (and dull pix) help create a flock of turkeys
By NICOLE LAPORTE
Weighing a film's success is easy. Just add up the box office grosses and DVD sales.
Failure, however, is more complicated to assess. Financial loss is divided between various studios and other equity resources. And international box office receipts can pull a presumed dud out of the water. Finally, as this past year demonstrated, "underperforming" can mean making $133 million domestically think "Mission: Impossible III." Nonetheless, using an admittedly inexact science, herewith are the biggest losers of '06 as determined by an inhouse Variety poll, as well as theories of what went wrong. There were many more winners over the last 12 months, but how can we close out the year without one last bah humbug?
First and foremost in determining the list was the ratio between a film's cost and its revenues. Thus smaller-scale pics that stumbled were not considered. (Note: Several of these movies were co-financed, thus the "loss" is not always fully on the back of one studio.) As for trends, it's notable that none of the flops were comedy or horror pics, and that very few were mega-budget films. For the most part the films were midrange adult dramas and/or period dramas, as well as a smattering of remakes.
Pics are listed alphabetically.
All the King's Men
Domestic gross: $7 million
When it comes to winning formulas, "King's Men" had it all: an all-star cast (Sean Penn, Kate Winslet, Jude Law), an Oscar-winning screenwriter and director (Steve Zaillian) and a Pulitzer Prize-winning property. And the original film version, starring Broderick Crawford, won an Oscar in
1949. Yet the film failed to resonate with a broad aud, perhaps becauseit felt more like a niche pic dressed up in flashy trimmings. Its opening weekend also was overwhelmed by the success of "Jackass Number Two" with the younger crowd. Negative buzz was stirred by the fact that the pic, which cost about $55 million, was held a year for re-editing.

Basic Instinct 2
Domestic gross: $5 million
Perhaps the biggest buzz killer of all was that Sharon Stone didn't uncross her legs, a move that helped propel the original 1992 film into some version, anyway, of a classic. Pic also suffered from not starring the original film's cast (no Michael Douglas sparks) and from being released so many years after the first pic, when there was no real demand for a follow-up. Auds presumably sensed the exploitative strategy. Critics were no kinder: David Edelstein quipped, "They replaced the director's Viagra with Valium." Sony, which released the $70 million film (the German film fund IMF3 provided financing), tried to blunt the blow by not screening the films for critics.

Flushed Away
Domestic gross: $61 million
An unfortunately apt title for a pic that could cost DreamWorks Animation $90 million. The DreamWorks-Aardman alliance has historically yielded better reviews than grosses, but that reality was stark with a film with a budget of about $150 million (made more cheaply, pic likely wouldn't have made this list). The release date also was less than ideal, considering the glut of family films in the market and the unforeseen blitz of "Borat." And pic was up against an unusually competitive year for animated films, with nearly every major studio unspooling a feature toon.
Flyboys
Domestic gross: $13 million
Despite producer Dean Devlin's best efforts (he shopped the film to every studio, finally locking distribution with MGM), "Flyboys" failed to take off, confirming Hollywood's prejudice against WWI films. Today's auds particularly teens, who generally swarm out on opening weekend aren't wowed by antique, wooden planes, and without a star cast the film dive-bombed. Lucky for Devlin, almost half the cost of the $60 million film was covered by Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison whose son David, one of the top acrobatic pilots in the nation, stars in the film.

The Fountain
Domestic gross: $9 million
Originally intended as a $70 million project with Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, pic shut down when Pitt left to film "Troy," tossing away $18 million in pre-production costs. Resurrected on a smaller budget of $35 million, pic lost some of its star wattage with a new cast of Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz. A transcendental love story that spans 100 years, pic proved too complex for auds and crix alike and was up against crushing competition when it opened Thanksgiving weekend: "Deja Vu" and the still strong-holding "Happy Feet" and "Casino Royale."

Freedomland
Domestic gross: $12 million
Savvy auds are suspicious of films released in the graveyard month of February, particularly films such as "Freedomland" that are pushed from the awards-heat-seeking month of December. Director Joe Roth had worthy intentions, but the critics were unkind and auds didn't warm to the grim retelling of Richard Price's dense novel about a kidnapping that sets off racial strife in New Jersey projects. Despite a top-rate cast Julianne Moore, Samuel L. Jackson, Edie Falco the film died a quiet death.
A Good Year
Domestic gross: $7 million
Fox faced a challenge in selling the pairing of director Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe in something other than a "Gladiator"-like action pic. Marketing for the film, based on the Peter Mayles novel, conveyed this unease, and the film failed to reach a broad aud. The light-hearted romp, set in the South of France, was not an obvious sell to Crowe's male fans and failed to capture the females. News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch publicly deemed the pic a "flop," predicting it would lose $20 million. Film has fared slightly better overseas, where it grossed $19 million.
Lady in the Water
Domestic gross: $42 million
Knives were out for the movie, and director M. Night Shyamalan, before it was released, thanks to a book about the making of the movie in which Shyamalan comes across as whiny and self-important. After Disney passed, Shyamalan took the project to Warner Bros., which put muscle behind the marketing of the $75 million pic but was unable to sell it strongly to auds who may be tiring or at least too knowing of Shyamalan's artistic formula. And though Paul Giamatti has a following, it is more arthouse than big studio. Foreign coin provided a $30 million boost.

Poseidon
Domestic gross: $60 million
Movie posters of an overturned ship presciently forecast the fate of this $160 million remake of a campy 1972 disaster pic. Rather than re-enact the kitsch, director Wolfgang Petersen opted for a serious thriller that was perhaps too reminiscent of another big movie about a sinking ship. As Warner Bros. chief Alan Horn said earlier this year: "I heard a 15-year-old girl say, 'I've seen a luxury liner go down. I saw 'Titanic.' " On a smaller budget the pic would have suffered less disastrously, though overseas grosses came somewhat to the rescue, bringing in $121 million.
The Wicker Man
Domestic gross: $23 million
Fans and even the original film's director were vocally dismayed by plot tweaks in Neil LaBute's remake of the 1973 cult horror pic that included swarms of killer bees and that had the film's lead (Nicolas Cage) turn into a pill-popping madman. As for tapping new auds, the $40 million film faced the dilemma of not fitting neatly into either the horror or thriller genre. And Cage's mopey face didn't make for titillating marketing. Warner Bros. tried to protect it by not screening for critics, to no avail.
Read the full article at:
http://www.variety.com/article/VR1117956263.html

What would Borat do?
1 2 3 4 5
2006: Hollywood diagnoses its audience Reviews, release dates, campaigns (and dull pix) help create a flock of turkeys By NICOLE LAPORTE

(snip)
All the King's Men Domestic gross: $7 million When it comes to winning formulas, "King's Men" had it all: an ... buzz was stirred by the fact that the pic, which cost about $55 million, was held a year for re-editing.

Personally, I think it's absurd to imagine that the failure of "King" was due to it's target opening weekend audience migrating to "Jackass."
The movie truly, and despite its good intentions, didn't work. For whatever reason, and at whatever point in its creation, either at script or during the editing, the decision was made to make Jude Law not merely the "POV" character, but truly the Protagonist of this piece and as a protagonist his is so profoundly inactive that it makes the viewing experience incredibly frustrating. The story is structured such that it virtually demands that he act. We expect him to act. We want him to act. And he does nothing. And it kills the movie.
Basic Instinct 2 Domestic gross: $5 million Perhaps the biggest buzz killer of all was that Sharon Stone didn't uncross ... film (the German film fund IMF3 provided financing), tried to blunt the blow by not screening the films for critics.

Bill Martell discussed the movie's structural flaws at length, but as far as I'm concerned, the fundamental flaw is that Sharon Stone was born in 1958. That made her around 35 at the time she made the original a reasonable age to play a hot, dangerous sexy seductress. It also made her 48 at the time she made the re-make.
Maybe Stallone can come back for Rocky Balboa but there are some things that you just can't come back from. Sorry. Some of us saw her in Catwoman and I don't think there's any distance apart that Sharon Stone could possibly have spread her legs in this movie that could have brought her back from that.
The success of the movie, all other issues aside, depended on her being able to carry that role that same image from the original. She can't carry it any more, just as Meg Ryan can't play the cute perky little ingenue any more.
Those days have simply passed.
Flushed Away Domestic gross: $61 million An unfortunately apt title for a pic that could cost DreamWorks Animation $90 million. ... pic was up against an unusually competitive year for animated films, with nearly every major studio unspooling a feature toon.

Again, that seems like apples and oranges. I can't imagine "Borat" cutting very deeply into the market for "Flushed Away."

Quite simply, the trailer didn't come across as anything special. And the competition in this CGI animation stuff this year was huge it seemed like there were a ton of these things out all big budget, many of them seemed weirdly similar I think a lot of them cut the legs out from one another. A few, like Happy Feet rose to the top. The rest sort of floundered around.
Flyboys Domestic gross: $13 million Despite producer Dean Devlin's best efforts (he shopped the film to every studio, finally locking ... Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison whose son David, one of the top acrobatic pilots in the nation, stars in the film.

Well, my prejudice, frankly, is more against Dean Devlin than World War I. It just seems as if, given the sorts of things that modern effects could bring to something like World War I dogfights, it might be rendered in terms that were incredibly spectacular and harrowing visually I mean, these guys are flying around in things that are made of strips of wood held together with laquered cloth and bailing wire but there wasn't anything in the trailer that really made me want to see it.
Apparently, others agreed.
The Fountain Domestic gross: $9 million Originally intended as a $70 million project with Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, pic ... up against crushing competition when it opened Thanksgiving weekend: "Deja Vu" and the still strong-holding "Happy Feet" and "Casino Royale."

There's nothing wrong with the idea of a love story spanning the ages but this thing just sort of loses its way the spirit of his wife sort of somehow ends up in a tree and he's living by eating the bark of the tree flying through space in the distant future having flashbacks to a book about what happened or maybe didn't happen to a version of himself as a conquistador and he's going off into a distant star where somehow or other he thinks his wife is going to be reborn. Or maybe not. And it all ends really sort of mystically and what really matters is to make the best use of the time we have together here on earth and not to try to live forever, and the tree's got hair on it you see.
It was not a movie ever destined to succeed with a mainstream audience.
Freedomland Domestic gross: $12 million Savvy auds are suspicious of films released in the graveyard month of February, particularly films ... projects. Despite a top-rate cast Julianne Moore, Samuel L. Jackson, Edie Falco the film died a quiet death.

This was actually a movie that I'd wanted to see but it came and went so fast that I missed it. I guessed from the trailer (and who knows, maybe it's a wrong guess) that this was a Susan Smith scenario that the woman in question murdered her own child and blamed the disappearance on a black kidnapper, thus precipitating a major crisis.

That sounded (if, in fact, that was what it about) like an interesting story. Of course, who knows, I could have been wrong.

At any rate, obviously, it wasn't interesting enough to me to get me to go see it.
A Good Year Domestic gross: $7 million Fox faced a challenge in selling the pairing of director Ridley Scott and ... pic a "flop," predicting it would lose $20 million. Film has fared slightly better overseas, where it grossed $19 million.

Is there a competition to see just how "soft" we can make Russell Crowe? Okay, we softened him up in "A Beautiful Mind" now let's go all the way and completely transform him into Hugh Grant.

I think what the makers of this film failed to understand was that it wasn't his "softeness" in Mind that made Crowe appealing it was that softeness in combination with that edge of danger with the fact that he was crazy.
In fact, in all of his movies, it is that weird combination of gentleness and danger that has formed the basis of his appeal. Contained, seemingly gentle and then this dangerous, lethal side appears.
No dangerous lethal side nobody wants to see him.
Lady in the Water Domestic gross: $42 million Knives were out for the movie, and director M. Night Shyamalan, before ... though Paul Giamatti has a following, it is more arthouse than big studio. Foreign coin provided a $30 million boost.

Well, the answer to this conundrum, really, is quite simple. M. Night Shyamalan is totally full of himself and shouldn't be allowed to direct any more movies.
Poseidon Domestic gross: $60 million Movie posters of an overturned ship presciently forecast the fate of this $160 million remake ... budget the pic would have suffered less disastrously, though overseas grosses came somewhat to the rescue, bringing in $121 million.

It wasn't a question of being kitschy the original movie was vivid. The characters stood out. They were sharply dilineated. The issues in the sense of the story issues of that journey were likewise clearly dilineated. However absurd, you became involved with them in a way that you never became involved with these characters, because they never really meant much of anything. They were just there.

And especially in a movie where the most visually spectacular sequence is going to come at the very beginning of the movie as it obviously did in both versions of this story you've got to be sucked into the issues of the characters for the movie to work, because things can never get more exciting or spectacular visually as the movie goes on. You've shot your wad, spectacle-wise, right up front.
The Wicker Man Domestic gross: $23 million Fans and even the original film's director were vocally dismayed by plot tweaks ... face didn't make for titillating marketing. Warner Bros. tried to protect it by not screening for critics, to no avail.

Well, the reason that The Wicker Man failed is obvious. They didn't go with my pitch.
NMS
Basic Instinct 2 Domestic gross: $5 million Perhaps the biggest ... blunt the blow by not screening the films for critics.

Bill Martell discussed the movie's structural flaws at length, but as far as I'm concerned, the fundamental flaw is that ... age to play a hot, dangerous sexy seductress. It also made her 48 at the time she made the re-make.

Actually, I found Sharon Stone the least* of its problems. I thought her performance was kinda fun and although this wasn't the film to demonstrate it, I think wshe has plenty of sex appeal and not just "for her age." It was the *rest of it silly plot, nonentity zero-impact male lead that sunk it for me.
Flyboys Domestic gross: $13 million Despite producer Dean Devlin's best ... top acrobatic pilots in the nation, stars in the film.

Well, my prejudice, frankly, is more against Dean Devlin than World War I. It just seems as if, given the ... wire but there wasn't anything in the trailer that really made me want to see it. Apparently, others agreed.

The moment I saw the trailer I said, "DVD."
Freedomland Domestic gross: $12 million Savvy auds are suspicious of ... Jackson, Edie Falco the film died a quiet death.

This was actually a movie that I'd wanted to see but it came and went so fast that I missed ... have been wrong. At any rate, obviously, it wasn't interesting enough to me to get me to go see it.

I have seen it, and it's dour and dull.
A Good Year Domestic gross: $7 million Fox faced a ... has fared slightly better overseas, where it grossed $19 million.

Is there a competition to see just how "soft" we can make Russell Crowe? Okay, we softened him up in ... seemingly gentle and then this dangerous, lethal side appears. No dangerous lethal side nobody wants to see him.

The moment I saw the trailer I said, "Not even DVD. Stuck on a plane, maybe."
Lady in the Water Domestic gross: $42 million Knives were ... than big studio. Foreign coin provided a $30 million boost.

Well, the answer to this conundrum, really, is quite simple. M. Night Shyamalan is totally full of himself and shouldn't be allowed to direct any more movies.

Ah, but what if he wanted to direct something you'd written that's an interesting dilemma, I think...
Poseidon Domestic gross: $60 million Movie posters of an overturned ... grosses came somewhat to the rescue, bringing in $121 million.

It wasn't a question of being kitschy the original movie was vivid. The characters stood out. They were sharply ... that you never became involved with these characters, because they never really meant much of anything. They were just there.

The mo,ment I saw the trailer I said, "Not even stuck on a plane."
The Wicker Man Domestic gross: $23 million Fans and even ... protect it by not screening for critics, to no avail.

Well, the reason that The Wicker Man failed is obvious. They didn't go with my pitch.

Well, obviously.

What would Borat do?
Students: Are you brave enough to let our tutors analyse your pronunciation?
2006: Hollywood diagnoses its audience Reviews, release dates, campaigns (and dull pix) help create a flock of turkeys By NICOLE ... Warner Bros. tried to protect it by not screening for critics, to no avail. Read the full article at: http://www.variety.com/article/VR1117956263.html

The trades can't ever take into consideration a major reason the majority of the public doesn't see certain films - the bad if not loathsome behavior of stars. From the films mentioned:

Sean Penn - Going to Iraq pre-war when a lot of people supported the war (like Hillary Clinton, for example) soured him for many. Being interviewed and coming across as a babbling idiot on Larry King didn't help either. Then the thing in SF and he's got a concealed weapon yet is against guns or appears to be - it all adds up.

Sharon Stone - Need I say more?
Russell "Duck, It's a Telephone" Crowe
Nic Cage - I married my hero's daughter and considered $cientology, and when he's interviewed he's often just weird
Shamalayan being full of himself and dishing out the same old formula (pretty much) every time
With the rest of those movies, I got a real "who cares?" feeling about all of them. There was no STORY I wanted to have told to me.

And the original Wicker Man was just a ridiculous downer, anyway.

When actors are popular and they blow it publicly, the who cares factor comes into play. Look what happened to Tom Cruise. The trades can't really talk about that much because their reporters want access to those same stars.
Lady in the Water Domestic gross: $42 million Knives were ... than big studio. Foreign coin provided a $30 million boost.

Well, the answer to this conundrum, really, is quite simple. M. Night Shyamalan is totally full of himself and shouldn't be allowed to direct any more movies.

I think you're banning him from the wrong discipline. I think he should be barred from WRITING any more of the movies he directs! Possibly his least flawed work is "Stuart Little," becuase he adapted someone else's plotting.

Caroline
Lady in the Water Domestic gross: $42 million Knives were ... than big studio. Foreign coin provided a $30 million boost.

Well, the answer to this conundrum, really, is quite simple. M. Night Shyamalan is totally full of himself and shouldn't be allowed to direct any more movies.

I saw LiW. the first act actually managed to build good tension and I was loking forward to what seemed like a thrilling good time. Then it fell apart. It was rambling, convoluted and went in too many directions. From all the script coverage that I've done, it seemed like the script of someone who has some theory, not nearly enough practice, and never bothered to have it picked apart by someone with more experience and objectivity. I'm told that's the spitting image of M. Night Shyamalan.
Of course, casting himself as "The One" beat all previously- set records for megalomania, and if nothing else that alone totally ruined the movie for me.
Can't write, can't act, can't take constructive criticism. His undeserved fifteen minutes of fame have gone on for way too long.
jaybee
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(big snip)
Read the full article at: http://www.variety.com/article/VR1117956263.html

The trades can't ever take into consideration a major reason the majority of the public doesn't see certain films - the bad if not loathsome behavior of stars. From the films mentioned:

I'd be interested to see the evidence that supports this because my hunch is that the public will go to any film they think will entertain them irrespective of the loathsome behaviour of the stars. If you pick the 5-10 movies you've really enjoyed in the past few years, how many of those would you have stayed away from because the star assaulted someone or made a bigoted assertion or got caught drunk driving?
On the contrary, it seems the bad-boy/bad-girl image makes a lot of actors more magnetic.
Sean Penn - Going to Iraq pre-war when a lot of people supported the war (like Hillary Clinton, for example) ... he's often just weird Shamalayan being full of himself and dishing out the same old formula (pretty much) every time

Really, does this qualify as bad/loathsome behaviour that deters an audience?
With the rest of those movies, I got a real "who cares?" feeling about all of them. There was no STORY I wanted to have told to me.

Now this is the most likely reason people will stay away, don't you think? I'd say the 'who cares' factor rates much higher than what you describe as 'the major reason' above.
Cough
(big snip)

The trades can't ever take into consideration a major reason ... if not loathsome behavior of stars. From the films mentioned:

I'd be interested to see the evidence that supports this because my hunch is that the public will go to ... you have stayed away from because the star assaulted someone or made a bigoted assertion or got caught drunk driving?

I have a Yahoo group with hundreds of writers from all over the world, a course available in over 1200 schools on three continents, I write articles for UK mags, and I hear from my readers all over the world including in Russia. My "evidence" might not be an opinionated article with a URL I can post, but I have plenty of it.
I stayed away from Russell Crowe movies after his hotel incident and know many people who did the same. After that horror called "Vanilla Sky" with Cruise and then his behavior in the past year, I won't see anything he's in and don't know a single person (whether they loathe $cientology or not, as most do) who feels differently than I do.
On the contrary, it seems the bad-boy/bad-girl image makes a lot of actors more magnetic.

"Seems" would be the operative word. Reality is different. I'm also from the Midwest and recorded three audio books in Dallas this past year. The general consensus among my friends back home are that most Hollywood stars are nuts, and it definitely affects their moviegoing.
Sean Penn - Going to Iraq pre-war when a lot ... dishing out the same old formula (pretty much) every time

Really, does this qualify as bad/loathsome behaviour that deters an audience?

Probably not in "Captain Cough" world from your tone, but with most people outside Hollywood, yes.
With the rest of those movies, I got a real ... was no STORY I wanted to have told to me.

Now this is the most likely reason people will stay away, don't you think? I'd say the 'who cares' factor rates much higher than what you describe as 'the major reason' above.

It's just your opinion. I'd like to see the "evidence" to back it up.
Perhaps I misread it but are you saying everyone you know has sworn abstinence from Crowe/Cruise movies because of those actors' behaviour?

Although I loved Crowe in "Beautiful Mind", I haven't seen "Cinderella Man" and anything after that because of his personality off the set. It's not a moral stance, it's just that it's all I can think about when I look at the screen, and he's not a good enough actor to disappear behind the role. Same thing for Cruise.
Not sure what 'tone' I adopted there, but again I just find it hard to believe that audiences would stay away from Shamalayan movies because of his petulant arrogance in the industry.

I hated "Lady in the Water" because it was ***, but I began intensely disliking it as soon as I recognized him in the role of the Chosen One.
jaybee
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