PDA

View Full Version : What can we learn from B.O. failures...


RogerOThornhill
02-07-2010, 03:20 PM
It's easy to blame the execs for screwing up a script, but sometimes we writers need to learn some things from box office disasters...


Here are some recent ones with domestic box office thru today:

NINE $19mm sales, 80mm cost
IMAGINARIUM of PARNASSUS 7mm sales, 30mm cost
FANTASTIC MR FOX I don't have numbers, but they are not good
THE LOVELY BONES 41mm sales, 65mm cost
THE ROAD 8mm sales, 25mm cost


I know all about foreign BO, DVD sales later, etc...these above pics are still far below expectations.

I'd like to know what Mr. Weinstein saw in NINE to give it 80mm budget...but the real problem I find common to the pics listed above is that the pics and the marketing did not connect with any targeted audience and that is partially coming from the screenplays.

I try to keep in mind as I write that I need trailer moments and need to satisfy the interests of whatever the target market might be. It's easy to say marketing is not your problem as a screenwriter, but it is IMO.

Thoughts...

BattleDolphinZero
02-07-2010, 03:24 PM
Lovely Bones cost 100. For some reason (Peter Jackson) B.O.Mojo lowered the budget.

joe9alt
02-07-2010, 03:28 PM
THE ROAD never got released on more than a few hundred screens. You'll have to ask the Weinsteins why. THE ROAD's per screen average was actually pretty solid. There's a lot of behind the scenes stuff that come to play in here. Joe Penhall, the brit playwright who adapted McCarthy's novel, is widely considered to have written a great screenplay and his star is definitely on the rise in Hollywood.

RogerOThornhill
02-07-2010, 03:30 PM
Lovely Bones cost 100. For some reason (Peter Jackson) B.O.Mojo lowered the budget.

There are certainly many, many cases where studios just spend way too much relative to what a particular type of film might generate in revenues.

Sometimes it works out, like the 85mm budget for It's Complicated. That kind of spending for that type of older-skewed pic did not seem justified, yet it has now done over $100mm in sales. The trailers for Complicated make it pretty clear what we'll see and who might like the film. I was just confused by the whole Lovely Bones promo.


R.O.T.

joe9alt
02-07-2010, 03:34 PM
I try to keep in mind as I write that I need trailer moments and need to satisfy the interests of whatever the target market might be.

I personally would never do that...just focus on telling a good story, not creating trailer moments. A good story will inherently have them, anyways.

RogerOThornhill
02-07-2010, 03:40 PM
I personally would never do that...just focus on telling a good story, not creating trailer moments. A good story will inherently have them, anyways.

I hear what you are saying...but it really helps to have Meryl Streep actually deliver a line that sums up what is so darn complicated...something like "OMG, now I'm the other woman"

It really helps the A-Team marketing to shoot from a tank in mid air or Kickass where they talk about regular people becoming superheroes...it quickly tells us a bit about the film so we can make a judgement as to whether or not we might like to see it. Many great films never found an audience in theaters because people weren't moved to purchase a ticket.

Anyway, I take it into conscious consideration in writing.


R.O.T.

joe9alt
02-07-2010, 03:42 PM
I hear what you are saying...but it really helps to have Meryl Streep actually deliver a line that sums up what is so darn complicated...something like "OMG, now I'm the other woman"

It really helps the A-Team marketing to shoot from a tank in mid air or Kickass where they talk about regular people becoming superheroes...it quickly tells us a bit about the film so we can make a judgement as to whether or not we might like to see it. Many great films never found an audience in theaters because people weren't moved to purchase a ticket.

Anyway, I take it into conscious consideration in writing.

Whatever works for you, dude, but do you really think those helpful moments were born by the writer saying to himself, "I need a great trailer moment here!"???

Mad Mat
02-07-2010, 04:50 PM
I try to keep in mind as I write that I need trailer moments and need to satisfy the interests of whatever the target market might be. It's easy to say marketing is not your problem as a screenwriter, but it is IMO.


I totally agree.


but do you really think those helpful moments were born by the writer saying to himself, "I need a great trailer moment here!"???


Not all the time, but it certainly can help.

A few years back I was asked to talk to a small group of aspiring writers, so instead of doing the usual thing and discussing writing from the writer's point of view, I decided to try something different and spoke about writing from the producer's point of view.

This was actually quite a good exercise for me as a development exec, because it made me think about the things that I wanted to see in a script above and beyond the usual ... and these included:

Iconic shots
The Hero shot
The Money Shot (and yes, what you're thinking is exactly where I got the term from)
Trailer shotsAfterwards, I put the ideas into practise with the writer/director we were working with at that time and it worked - he created some far stronger moments within the script, because he himself now saw that he was writing 'specific moments' within the film ... not just moments within the scenes.

Now this kind of 'visual manipulation' of the text comes naturally to some writers, but not to all. That's why I think, as a writer, it's invaluable to recognise and enhance certain moments in a scene that are most definitely the Iconic, Hero, Money and Trailer shots.

Obviously it's all down to how the director shoots the film, but it doesn't hurt to float those images around everyone's subconscience beforehand.

All the best,

Mat.

joe9alt
02-07-2010, 06:14 PM
I totally agree.

Of course you do...you're a development exec. :cool:

Geoff Alexander
02-07-2010, 09:23 PM
It's easy to blame the execs for screwing up a script, but sometimes we writers need to learn some things from box office disasters...


Here are some recent ones with domestic box office thru today:

NINE $19mm sales, 80mm cost
IMAGINARIUM of PARNASSUS 7mm sales, 30mm cost
FANTASTIC MR FOX I don't have numbers, but they are not good
THE LOVELY BONES 41mm sales, 65mm cost
THE ROAD 8mm sales, 25mm cost


I know all about foreign BO, DVD sales later, etc...these above pics are still far below expectations.

I'd like to know what Mr. Weinstein saw in NINE to give it 80mm budget...but the real problem I find common to the pics listed above is that the pics and the marketing did not connect with any targeted audience and that is partially coming from the screenplays.

I try to keep in mind as I write that I need trailer moments and need to satisfy the interests of whatever the target market might be. It's easy to say marketing is not your problem as a screenwriter, but it is IMO.

Thoughts...

Here's what he saw in Nine:

Daniel Day-Lewis
Penelope Cruz
Kate Hudson
Nicole Kidman
Fergie
Marion Cotillard

I don't know the numbers on this combination of actors for foreign presales, but I bet they covered half the budget. And, Rob Marshall, who directed "Chicago" which did 170m domestic on a 45m budget.

Simple...but then they made a bad movie.

hscope
02-07-2010, 09:44 PM
Nine has grossed $30M worldwide and has still to to open in a few big markets such as Germany, France & Japan, so it may end up closer to $40M by the time it closes theatrically. With its cast, I'd also expect it to do well in rental & DVD release, so it's not going to be huge flop by any means.

The problem is that Chicago was a very well known musical, while Nine wasn't. The producers must have gambled that a stellar cast + Marshall would make up the difference and result in the same business as Chicago.

I saw the film, by the way, and thought it was a bit slow and boring - with some stunning musical numbers - but my wife and daughter loved it and will see it on the big screen again.

Mad Mat
02-08-2010, 04:47 AM
Of course you do...you're a development exec. :cool:


And I thought a little bit of insight might be useful :cool:

But I'm also a writer.

So as not to appear hypocritical, I now apply that thought process to my own writing. ;)

Mat.

Mad Mat
02-08-2010, 05:08 AM
What can we learn from B.O. failures...


Slightly off track, whenever I have a concept for a movie, I nip down to the local 20-screen multiplex and check out what's playing.

I always ask myself "If this idea was ever made into a movie, would it be likely to knock any of the films showing out of the top 20?"

If the answer's 'no', then I try and work out why to see if the project needs to be reworked or just shelved.

If the answer's 'Hell yes', then it's full steam ahead.

To me, writing a great script isn't just an exercise, it's about getting the ball rolling on a feature film ... and that ball's got to roll a long, long way before it ends up in the cinema.

Even ones that are Box Office failures.

So when I begin to write a script, I want to make sure that I'm writing one that's got at least some chance of going all the way.

I know I could probably just read the cinema listings instead of visiting the multiplex, but to actually stand there in front of 20 films that actually got made and distributed brings home a certain reality to the situation.

Mat.

RogerOThornhill
02-08-2010, 08:44 PM
Box Office Mojo shows IMAGINARIUM at $6.7mm domestic sales. The studio gets about $3mm out of that.

Regardless of the quality of the movie, the question remains WHY didn't more people see it in theaters? It may very well be that the limited release and lack of a studio marketing push doomed it...but then again it might have missed any targeted audience somewhere else in the process...


R.O.T.

NikeeGoddess
02-08-2010, 09:30 PM
Regardless of the quality of the movie, the question remains WHY didn't more people see it in theaters? there's a short list for every failure. i'd say marketing is #1 on most lists. people will come out in droves if the marketing for a crappy flick hits us with a bang.
but
as screenwriters do we learn anything from this? i say, not much. we should be asking how did this movie get made in the first place? there are so many reasons why crappy flicks get made. once you can tap into that then your okay... meaning you should be able to get your crappy script produced. lol!

since you guys are talking about nine, specifically the cast value, i keep seeing the ads for this valentine movie with a multitude of huge names/ensemble cast. makes one think the actor payroll budget far exceeded the cost of making the movie. but maybe... just maybe everyone did it for minimum salaries and attached it with a "deal" for past of future projects.

hscope
02-08-2010, 09:40 PM
Well, the overall gross is now listed on wikepedia &imdb as $48 million against a $30 million budget.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Imaginarium_of_Doctor_Parnassus

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1054606/business

And as I said it doesn't even have a wide release so that's a hell of a return. On one screening date (jan. 1) it had a $40,000 per theater average. That's far from a B.O. flop. So as per your question, why didn't people see it in the theaters- they couldn't!! The people who lived by the handful of theaters that were showing it did, and the rest of them didn't. Not to mention the fact this didn't have studio backing and an ad campaign to boot.

So why did you include this film with the rest of the garbage movies like Lovely Bones and Nine when it is in no way a flop? ($18 million dollar profit so far or half of it's budget) Why don't you just edit it out of that group for argument's sake?

Lovely Bones, which I thought was excellent, is another film I wouldn't call a flop. It's up to $54M world wide (est. budget $65M) and is still showing on a couple of thousand screens in the US. It hasn't even opened yet in the UK, France, Germany and many other European countries.

It might not be a huge financial success, but it looks sure to turn a profit in the long run.

Fortean
02-08-2010, 10:16 PM
FIFTY DEAD MEN WALKING (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1097643/combined) had a budget of £6,000,000, got shown at 76 screens, and promptly died with less than £100,000 taken in at the box office in the United Kingdom, (and about $150,000 in the United States).

It was shown twice at last year's Kingston Canadian Film Festival, premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, and, now, is available on DVD. Ben Kingsley was a recognizable star playing the police agent who recruits a Belfast hood as an undercover spy in the ranks of the Provisional IRA. I thought that it was a good film, with good acting, authentic sets, and great photography. The title did little to distinguish this film from something about zombies.

What bothered me was that Telefilm Canada, (a government agency that helps fund Canadian film productions), was involved in its production. Its writer and director, Kari Skogland (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0804556/), is a Canadian; but, the film was set in Northern Ireland, with an Irish story, and never once mentioned Canada. What makes this a "Canadian" film? Apart from film festivals, it got a "limited" release in Canada.

Do I want Telefilm Canada involved with my films and helping with co-productions with other countries?

"The Corporation provides financial support to the private sector to create distinctively Canadian productions that appeal to domestic and international audiences." ~ Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Telefilm_Canada)No thanks.

Mad Mat
02-09-2010, 03:39 AM
What bothered me was that Telefilm Canada, (a government agency that helps fund Canadian film productions), was involved in its production. Its writer and director, Kari Skogland (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0804556/), is a Canadian; but, the film was set in Northern Ireland, with an Irish story, and never once mentioned Canada. What makes this a "Canadian" film?


The director has her own production company which is listed as a co-producer, which allows her to access the Canadian tax dollars. Kari also wrote it. I don't know for sure, but the film was probably post-produced in Canada as well.

All of which would have allowed the Canadian production team to 'access' the Canadian tax dollars. It's all down to a 'points' system ... and having a Canadian writer, director and producer all adds up to big points.

That's how most UK-Canadian co-productions were/are structured - in some form or other.

I can think of a few reasons why tax credits would not be appropriate for some productions, but to imply you don't want their 'soft money' just because Canada was never mentioned in Fifty Dead Men Walking seems a bit daft to me.

Mat.

Fortean
02-09-2010, 11:38 AM
All of which would have allowed the Canadian production team to 'access' the Canadian tax dollars. It's all down to a 'points' system ... and having a Canadian writer, director and producer all adds up to big points.

That's how most UK-Canadian co-productions were/are structured - in some form or other.

I can think of a few reasons why tax credits would not be appropriate for some productions, but to imply you don't want their 'soft money' just because Canada was never mentioned in Fifty Dead Men Walking seems a bit daft to me.

The bureaucracy of dispensing tax credits for films that only have "Canadian content" in their production, (not their story), is daft, in my opinion. FIFTY DEAD MEN WALKING (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1097643/combined) and WATER (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0240200/combined) are good films, partly funded via Telefilm Canada, and have nothing to do with Canada, beyond employing a few Canadians in key roles in their production. And, apart from film festivals, such films do not get much distribution in Canadian theaters, (possibly because most Canadians find little interest in their foreign stories, and most Canadian distributors really do not bother to promote "Canadian" and foreign films).

I'd prefer to see Telefilm Canada shut down completely. If I am a Canadian film producer, risking my own money and that of investors, why should the government subsidize and promote competing productions that are doomed at the box office? If I wanted to use a screenplay by a non-Canadian writer, or to employ one to help polish one up, the "point system" either defeats my efforts or, (more often), is dishonestly employed, (credited to a Canadian front, not the actual screenwriters). While it may be daft to refuse government tax credits and loans, I'll argue that Canadian films that are profitable should be rewarded with tax breaks, to encourage quality and box office returns kept in Canada, (not sent to Hollywood).

Here's a bit of irony, regarding bureaucracy in Canada. To get a "rating" in Ontario, the Ontario Film Review Board gathers fees based upon the length of a film, (dollars per minute). If the film is shown at an Ontario film festival, no fee, or, if the film is "wholly made in Canada," no fee, yet, if a Canadian film isn't selected by a film festival and uses a single shot of some foreign location, you pay the fees, (which are to cover the operating costs of the government board that also provides ratings for one's competition). Thus, as I have establishing shots of the cities of Los Angeles and London, in my film, I must pay the fees; but, being shown at film festivals, (thanks largely to Telefilm Canada), a film shot "wholly" in Sri Lanka and the other film shot more than 95 percent in Northern Ireland would pay no fee for their PG and R ratings, (to be shown in Ontario theatres). Does that promote "Canadian content"?

Mad Mat
02-09-2010, 11:51 AM
Dude, no doubt, the system sucks ... for certain productions.

Mat.

catcon
02-09-2010, 06:21 PM
Why are you clumping Parnassus into the rest of these god awful pictures.

Right, and it's a completely different type of film from the others. Bound to be a cult classic, as most of Gilliam's do.

I'm aware of the limited release situation. The IMDB forum for Parnassus is full of complaints about "when is it coming here?"

Lastly, it was released at a somewhat unfortunate time... there was a little film called Avatar steamrollering over everything else.

Alyssa Runswithwolves
02-09-2010, 07:52 PM
After you write the "good story" go back and delineate those trailer moments... and make sure you add a "poster moment" too. And yes, it's good sense to target the four quadrant demographic. And write a great part for a male lead. Why ruin your odds? Tell a great story but who says you can't craft a great story with these elements inserted at the point of concept?

Nah, this is the first thing I'm asked lately: "What's the poster?" "Can you pop those trailer moments for us?"

RogerOThornhill
02-09-2010, 08:14 PM
I hadn't thought specifically about a 'poster' moment...but I have one in mind on my current project...the image came into focus in my mind within seconds of reading your post...even the tagline to go on the poster.


I now have a list of things that MUST be in a script...character flaw, arc, reversals..on and on....and now a poster moment. My checklist of script ingredients is now at exactly 110 pages...perfect!


R.O.T.

Alyssa Runswithwolves
02-09-2010, 11:17 PM
I hadn't thought specifically about a 'poster' moment...but I have one in mind on my current project...the image came into focus in my mind within seconds of reading your post...even the tagline to go on the poster.


I now have a list of things that MUST be in a script...character flaw, arc, reversals..on and on....and now a poster moment. My checklist of script ingredients is now at exactly 110 pages...perfect!


R.O.T.

Okay, so "poster moment" sounds ridiculous-- but you know what I mean:) .

Mad Mat
02-10-2010, 09:22 AM
this is the first thing I'm asked lately: "What's the poster?"


When the UK Film Council was first established, I was lucky enough to have a 'round table' meet with Robert Jones its Head of the Production Fund (and one of the exec producers on The Ususal Suspects, etc) and the one thing I took to heart was him saying:

"If you can't picture the poster, you don't know what your movie is".

Now I know he was talking mainly to the producers in the room, but it struck a chord.

Mat.

Kevan
02-10-2010, 10:56 AM
"If you can't picture the poster, you don't know what your movie is".


Blake Snyder used to say pretty much the same thing..

You only have to check out movie posters to see which movies have been sucessful and those failures to see this..

I would suggest a decent poster moment is the logline itself an image which encapuslates the story, something which once seen you have a glimpse of what the movie is about or at least a taster of that..

If you write screenplays you need to think visually, think iconography - not out of the box but within a frame..

Check out movie posters - think pictures..

Mad Mat
02-10-2010, 11:14 AM
I would suggest a decent poster moment is the logline itself an image which encapuslates the story, something which once seen you have a glimpse of what the movie is about or at least a taster of that..


Absoultely.

Robert also went on to mention that the poster is one of the most important marketing tools a filmmaker can have, because as Joe Public drives by that billboard, it is in that one moment alone that they decide to either see the movie at the cinema or at home on DVD.

Rather sobering ... but (in my opinion) true.


If you write screenplays you need to think visually, think iconography - not out of the box but within a frame..

Check out movie posters - think pictures..


Again, absolutely.

Mat.

Mac H.
02-10-2010, 07:07 PM
... if a Canadian film isn't selected by a film festival and uses a single shot of some foreign location, you pay the fees, (which are to cover the operating costs of the government board that also provides ratings for one's competition). Thus, as I have establishing shots of the cities of Los Angeles and London, in my film, I must pay the feesAre you sure there isn't an exception for stock footage?

Most rules I see have a phrase like:
Projects comprising stock footage are eligible provided they satisfy CTF’s genre and category definitions and are new productions
So as long as your establishing shots get counted as 'stock footage' then you might be fine.

So if you want Bob in the US to grab some footage of the Jersey Turnpike, instead of having the paperwork say "Pay Bob $1000 to get footage" you have it say "License 'Jersey Turnpike' stock footage from Bob for $1000".

The fact that Bob is going out and filming the stock footage especially for you (since he doesn't have the exact one in his library) is hopefully irrelevant.

As long as it doesn't have anything too particular to your film (eg: the actors!) then most establishing shots should count as 'stock footage' - as long as you make sure that everything reflects that.

Good luck !

Mac

Mad Mat
02-11-2010, 12:30 AM
So if you want Bob in the US to grab some footage of the Jersey Turnpike, instead of having the paperwork say "Pay Bob $1000 to get footage" you have it say "License 'Jersey Turnpike' stock footage from Bob for $1000".

Now that's what I call producing!