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Why are studios canceling movies?

Posted by: James Lileks under Hollywood Updated: August 25, 2011 - 12:51 PM

 

 

Yesterday we noted that the “Ouija” movie was cancelled. This article wonders why is Hollywood getting so cheap all of a sudden:

It's not as if Universal is the only one euthanizing mega-productions these days. Two weeks ago, Disney put the future of the more than $200 million budgeted "Lone Ranger" in limbo, even though Johnny Depp was attached to star and Jerry Bruckheimer was on board to produce. With ancillary revenue sources such as DVD sales constricting, studios throughout town are being forced to dial down the amount of money they spend on theatrical releases.

DVD sales is part of it. For a decade we were encouraged to build our own libraries of movies, so we could watch anything we liked any time - and then hey presto, streaming video comes along. Inferior picture, but $20 per DVD vs. $10 per month? Sure. Also, the economy is horrid, and no one wants to spend fifty bucks to take the family to some soulless CGI-infested 3D movie that beats you over the head and pokes things in your eyes. “Lone Ranger” with Johnny Depp would probably be fine, but they’re not gong to recoup $250 mil selling masks to little kids, and they can’t sell toy guns, so that’s another revenue stream dried up for good.

They might ask themselves why these things are so expensive in the first place. I’ve seen plenty of good little-known Alfred Hitchcock films that were made for the modern equivalent of a million dollars, and while they didn’t have enormous spaceships or people running away from fireballs or anything, they made up for it with curious, old-school tricks like “Acting,” “Script,” and “Story.”

Then there’s this:

The studio has been in a costly rut in recent years, forced to shoulder costly failures such as last month's "Cowboys & Aliens," which has so far grossed just $108 million worldwide on a $150 million budget. "The Change-Up" was another disappointment, a movie the studio was convinced would be a sleeper comedy hit.

"They're in a state of shock after 'Cowboys and Aliens,'" said one former studio executive. "They had back-to-back misfires, which reinforced their most conservative instincts. But all of them are playing defensively."

“The Change-Up” cost $52 million. Grossed half as much so far.

So the days of brave, risk-taking, interesting cinema are over? Not at all:

Universal has some big projects on the horizon such as a sixth "Fast and Furious" film.

See, there’s hope.

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