My Black List Experience

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  • JoeNYC
    replied
    Originally posted by JeffLowell View Post

    the limited upside is part of why Romantic Comedies have largely disappeared from theaters.
    Okay, thanks for your input on the business side of things. I guess for the most part romantic comedy writers will need to look at the streaming platforms for their material.

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  • JeffLowell
    replied
    Just Like Heaven lost money in the theaters, but that was back when DVD sales and rentals were stronger. So it was still underwater after its theatrical run. (It may have opened #1, but it only made 16 million, which is not a strong number. September isn't when you release something you think will be a blockbuster, because kids just went back to school.) The DVDs made up for that. But it was, at best, a single.

    I was in the marketing meeting for my film. I know what it cost to release. I know they spent 25 million marketing and distributing it.

    They were hoping it would perform more like 27 Dresses, which came out at the same time. It also had a star who was mostly famous from her TV work, like Eva. It cost 30 to make, probably another 30 to release, and it grossed 162. So it was already roughly 40 million dollars ahead before DVDs and cable and whatever.

    FWIW, the collapse of the DVD market and the limited upside is part of why Romantic Comedies have largely disappeared from theaters.

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  • Done Deal Pro
    replied
    Originally posted by JoeNYC View Post

    It opened at number 1 and it was being reported as a commercial success. In the first 10 weeks of its DVD sales, it made 38 million, but this isn't my point.

    My main point was that a studio marketing department knows costs and box office potential. So, I don't understand spending 25 million on marketing for a 10 million movie. Eva Longoria doesn't have the same drawing power as a Reese Witherspoon. An expectation of 70 million return, or better to be commercially successful in this situation just doesn't make sense.
    Studios some times throw money at marketing a film to get people in day one before they hear from all their friends that a film wasn't good or are able to bad read reviews. They will also pull back on spending after some screenings if they truly realize they are going to take a bath on the project and thus attempt to mitigate their losses. It's a gamble which can fail but sometimes it works. I don't know how true this is today, but years ago there was a 90-10 split in which the studios got 90% of the box office for like the first couple of weeks, so they wanted as much of the pie as they get could (back). The longer a film stayed in the theaters the more money the theater would get to keep as they split slowly shifted in their favor.

    And sometimes they again "roll the dice," and hope that at least the trailer gets stuck in people's minds, so that a few months later they will buy the DVD for $10 simply out of curiosity or rent it online. It's better than paying $14 a ticket for two people and buying $20 worth of popcorn & drinks -- maybe even dinner beforehand. Much cheaper. They try to strategize the best they can based on past films. That's about the best I can tell ya.

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  • JoeNYC
    replied
    Originally posted by Done Deal Pro View Post

    Who (or what) considers JUST LIKE HEAVEN a commercial success?
    It opened at number 1 and it was being reported as a commercial success. In the first 10 weeks of its DVD sales, it made 38 million, but this isn't my point.

    My main point was that a studio marketing department knows costs and box office potential. So, I don't understand spending 25 million on marketing for a 10 million movie. Eva Longoria doesn't have the same drawing power as a Reese Witherspoon. An expectation of 70 million return, or better to be commercially successful in this situation just doesn't make sense.

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  • Done Deal Pro
    replied
    I don't think you are factoring in a few things, most important of all the split at the box office. When a film grosses $100 million, the studio doesn't see all that, of course. At the end of the day, they may see around 60% of that gross. So if you start multiplying a film's B.O. by that percent you quickly see it's not as much gross for them as one might think. Not at all.

    Breaking even isn't success in (this) business. Studios don't want to net a few million off a movie. That want to make a great deal more than that before they ever consider it a commercial success. Also, keep in mind that interest is lost when their money isn't in the bank. Studios also have high overhead for their lot, their offices, all their employees' salaries & insurance, desks, power & water, etc. all come into play, just like they do for all of us in everyday life. They are big machines - mini cities, if you will. I've had offices on Fox (four different ones), Paramount, and Sony. There are a ton of moving parts there that all cost money. Don't forget the cost of housing independent companies on their lots who have overhead deals or all the scripts they option or buy and never make. Money pours out of those places.

    Who (or what) considers JUST LIKE HEAVEN a commercial success? I've never seen the whole thing and I never even think of that movie existing. I had to look it up just to remember what it was about. I would never call it a commercial success after running any numbers on it. I doubt the studio would either. They surely wrote it off as a loss that year, particularly when you add in P&A costs on top of their production costs vs. what it brought in.

    On a side but related note, do keep in mind the budgets listed on IMDB are not necessarily accurate for many films. I'm looking at some of the films I've worked on, and they are not correct. Relatively close for one or two, but not accurate. You need to have the "top sheet" for the budget of those films to really know. The numbers they list won't hold up in court, so to speak. Heck, look at M. Night's THE VILLAGE. The entire budget is online and it's $71.6 million. Anyone can read the entire thing easily. But go on IMDB and the budget is listed at $60 million. Who is correct? The accountants for the film that ran numbers everyday, did production reports and had to sign-off on those budgets or IMDB?

    As for Jeff's film, I understand your question, at least. Even using the percentage/rule-of-thumb I noted above, the studio might have seen some net profit. And some analysts even note studios only see about 50% of the B.O. office, so that could come into play. But Jeff can clearly comment better than I on his own film. Maybe there are other factors or numbers we are not privy to that came into play.

    [I might have to break some of these posts off into their own thread in the BUSINESS section, if the profitability discussion keeps going.]
    Last edited by Done Deal Pro; 01-22-2021, 09:36 AM.

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  • JoeNYC
    replied
    Originally posted by JeffLowell View Post
    Marketing and distributing a film is expensive. The costs scale - a low budget movie may take tens of millions, while a Marvel movie will run north of a hundred million.
    I’m having a hard time accepting this 70 million to break even figure on a 10 million film.

    Let’s talk scale:

    OHDB’s production budget was 10 million and it’s box office doubled that with $21,500,000, but because you say its marketing was 25 million, it’s considered a commercial failure.

    If this is true, then why is “Just Like Heaven” (released in 2005), which is similar as far as being a romantic comedy fantasy with a ghost and come to think of it a psychic also (Napoleon Dynamite’s Jon Heder) is considered a commercial success, when its box office of 103 million is only double its production budget of 58 million.

    In the same year OHDB was released, 2008, another film with a ghost was released: the comedy fantasy titled “Ghost Town,” staring Rick Gervais. It was a great, critical success, but with a budget of 20 million and a box office of 27 million, I would call this a commercial failure.

    I know marketing and distributing is expensive, but Studios have marketing departments that possess hard numbers on what past similar movies cost to produce and market and have expectations on a future film’s box office potential. So, if they have a low budget 10 million film, with an expectation of a 30 million box office, then why would there be a 25 million marketing campaign?

    Also, keep in mind, studios are notorious for having creative accounting methods on what a film cost to market and distribute in order to reduce exposure to corporate taxes, royalties, profit-sharing agreements. There’s a long list of creative people who sued the studios because they were told that their blockbuster hits lost money.

    I’d like to say something about “Just Like Heaven” and the romantic comedy predicable haters.

    WARNING! SPOILER’S ALERT!


    This movie is about an overworked doctor, Elizabeth, where after working long hours is driving to her sister’s house for dinner and to meet a blind date, but has a traffic accident that leaves her in the hospital in a comma. She’s between life and death, where she shows up at her apartment not realizing that she’s in ghostly form and that her place was sublet to David. She nags and annoys him to leave her place but he resists believing he’s delusional from being depressed about his wife’s death.

    Okay predicable haters, guess what? They fall in love, he saves her from being disconnected from life support and on top of that the blind date that she was suppose to meet at her sister’s house was -- David! They live happily ever after.

    In order to be not predicable, would you predicable haters be happy if Elizabeth died in the hospital? What kind of romantic comedy would that be?

    Leave a comment:


  • JeffLowell
    replied
    Marketing and distributing a film is expensive. The costs scale - a low budget movie may take tens of millions, while a Marvel movie will run north of a hundred million.

    Leave a comment:


  • JoeNYC
    replied
    Originally posted by JeffLowell View Post

    It cost 10 million to make ... it had to earn 70 million at the box office to break even.
    A $10,000,000 movie needs to earn $70,000,000 at the box office to break even? This is inconceivable. Who would make low budget 10 million dollar movies if it had to earn 70 million just to break even? I was thinking a 10 million dollar movie would have to earn around 25 million to break even.

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  • JeffLowell
    replied
    Yeah, you hit it exactly. It cost 10 million to make, 25 million to distribute. On average, only half of the box office goes back to the studio.

    So at 35 million dollars, it had to earn 70 million at the box office to break even. It made 20, or 10 for the studio. All the secondary markets wouldn't make up for the 25 million dollar hole it was in.

    This has been fun to relive.

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  • Done Deal Pro
    replied
    Originally posted by JoeNYC View Post

    If you could address the business side of Hollywood, how could the movie lost money for the studio when you take into consideration such things as its estimated budget being $10,000,000 and its box office was $21,500,000, and then you have the DVD income, licensing fees to TV, cable, etc.?
    Jeff can obviously speak more about his movie, than I can, but as rule-of-thumb from my film school days, in general movies need to make back like three times what they cost to break even. P&A (prints & advertising) costs are in certain ways the same for every movie. I could run an ad for a small indie film during a Super Bowl and it'd cost the same for me as it would for (now) Disney to run a Marvel movie ad. Now granted the P&A costs for big movies is so much more far reaching & expensive than an indie film, but still there are some given costs no matter what. So even if a film only cost $10 million, for example, one might have to spend $20 million to advertise it, promote, do a premiere, send the actors all over the world for interviews & foreign premieres, etc.

    Studios write off all kinds of costs to films which never show in the budget. They are big machines and there is a lot to pay for. But the key in so, so many ways is how they handle the "accounting" of it all. The facilities. Services on the lot. Etc.

    And if a movie isn't a really a hit at the box office and/or with critics then DVD, streaming, etc. can't make up for that much in many cases. Sometimes they do, of course, but theatrical success (and the "must see" perception) play into things in terms of it's success down the road. And there are costs to mastering DVDs, making them, sending them out, etc. All written off towards the studios costs. It's an almost never ending cycle.

    Here are just a few of a number of articles/references out there on the subject of Hollywood accounting:

    https://priceonomics.com/why-do-all-...es-lose-money/

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hollywood_accounting

    https://www.theatlantic.com/business...itable/245134/

    Leave a comment:


  • JoeNYC
    replied
    Originally posted by JeffLowell View Post

    My movie definitely lost money.
    If you could address the business side of Hollywood, how could the movie lost money for the studio when you take into consideration such things as its estimated budget being $10,000,000 and its box office was $21,500,000, and then you have the DVD income, licensing fees to TV, cable, etc.?

    Edited to add: I get the Judd Apatow factor with his R-rated "Superbad" and "Knocked Up." This is why I put my original version of my teen romantic comedy in the drawer, but still, as a hard core romantic comedy fan, I enjoyed OHDB as others, according to Rotten Tomatoes audience score.
    Last edited by JoeNYC; 01-21-2021, 06:48 AM.

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  • JeffLowell
    replied
    Joe:

    My movie definitely lost money. If I look at it even slightly objectively, it was out of time - it was a spec I'd written five years before it got made, and the concept felt dated in a world where more realistic romantic comedies like "Knocked Up" were ruling the day. I'm not holding it up as an example of anything except ironic that I made it, given this conversation.

    Live and learn.

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  • finalact4
    replied
    Originally posted by JeffLowell View Post
    I just realized something that amused me - I sold and made a version of this movie. A guy pining for a woman he can't have, a woman pretending to help him but really wanting him for herself, trying to help him get over her... the twist in mine is that one of them was a ghost.
    Oooh, like that.

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  • lostfootage
    replied
    Originally posted by JeffLowell View Post
    I just realized something that amused me - I sold and made a version of this movie. A guy pining for a woman he can't have, a woman pretending to help him but really wanting him for herself, trying to help him get over her... the twist in mine is that one of them was a ghost.
    Wow, just realized a story I've been working on for a year is one of these triangle things. I found your movie streaming on my library site and I'm watching it now. Stephen Root as an ice sculptor. Heh. My best friend was this kind of bride -- she had her wedding storyboarded into 5 minute increments and yelled at everyone on her wedding day. I know this woman. Okay, here goes.

    Leave a comment:


  • JoeNYC
    replied
    Originally posted by sc111 View Post

    Did you run this concept by any teenagers?
    No, I did not. I believe it's an execution dependent situation for its success or failure.

    Now, will my screenplay be a success in contests? Previously, I was confident that it would, but now with its overall average Black List score of 5, who knows.

    On my list of concepts to write, I do have a unique high concept comedy romance fantasy, where a 10 year-old-boy prays for his mother to meet a guy so he could have a dad. A guardian angel in the form of an elderly homeless man appears to help him make it happen.

    Leave a comment:

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