Friday, January 29, 2016

BUDGETS Mid-budget movies missing from multiplex?

Another theme I've flagged up before; the disappearance of what used to be the dominant production model, the mid-budget movie, defined here as $10-50m, though I'd consider it more $20m and up for US productions.

There is another reason the barricades between “serious” and “popcorn” are coming down – the “squeezed middle”. In short, Hollywood movies have become either very cheap or very expensive. The middle ground – traditional habitat of awards-friendly drama – has all but disappeared. As Jason Bailey wrote in Flavorwire in 2014, that mid-budget range (roughly between $10m and $50m) was once filled by the likes of John Waters, David Lynch, Francis Ford Coppola, Spike Lee, Steven Soderbergh and countless others. Now Lee has to fund his films through Kickstarter, and Lynch and Soderbergh have quit movies in favour of television. Even Bay has noticed it. “The movie industry has really changed. The middle-[budget] movie is basically gone. They just want these big movies,” he complained to Rolling Stone, with no apparent trace of irony.

Why so serious? The directors ditching the daft for the dramatic

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

AGE RATING BOX OFFICE 5th Wave's 15 wipes target audience

I've raised again recently the issue of 18 ratings as box office cyanide, but here's a great example of the difference between 12 and 15 too - and a practical application of the Gant Rule to boot.

Adapted from the Rick Yancey science fiction novel, and featuring a female teen protagonist, future dystopia, alien invasion and two appealing romantic options for our heroine,The 5th Wave appeared to have all the elements needed to connect it with the tween and early-teen girl audience that has proved so crucial to the success of franchises such as Twilight, The Hunger Games and Divergent. What The 5thWave crucially lacked, however, was the certificate – a 12A – that would have made the film available to those audiences in The UK. Instead, British censor the BBFC slapped it with a 15 (for “strong violence” and “injury detail”). In the US, it’s rated PG-13. The 5th Wave debuted with a rather flat £498,000 from 338 cinemas. In the US, it opened with $10.3m. Based on that number, a UK debut gross of around £1m might have been predicted.

The Revenant mauls UK box office but Sandra Bullock's brand may be in crisis

Friday, January 22, 2016


Just a quick post to ensure you have quick reference of the two main age ratings systems we'll refer to.

The MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) you'll recognize from the green background on US trailers. [see Wiki]

The BBFC are the UK censor ... but they dropped the word censorship from their name quite smartly to take on a more neutral name ... the British Board of Film Classification. Their website is excellent, including a student-specific section, and a quick search tool to find their rationale for specific movie ratings.

In most cases, the 18/NC-17 rating is box office cyanide - see this post on Zombie, and here, where I analyse the record of 18-ratings including Fifty Shades of Grey, an exception. (There's also the possible F for feminist rating, the Bechdel Test applied in Sweden!). Wal-Mart won't stock any NC-17 DVDs, a serious consideration as the biggest DVD retailer in the US!

I include the BBFC explanation for 3 case study films in this post: This is England, Hot Fuzz, The World's End.

Do the regulators favour the studios and treat Indies more harshly? There's certainly a case to be made, and the 18 ratings of TisEng and Sweet Sixteen seem to be quite typical, as are the 12 ratings of films like The Dark Knight. You can make an interesting comparison of Warp and Working Title on this.

The following trailer is the ironic, entertaining (NB: and UK 18-rated) documentary investigating the ultra-secretive MPAA, This Film Is Not Yet Rated (IMDB; Wiki). In the full film you'll hear Trey Parker comparing his poor treatment by the MPAA when he submitted his Indie debut feature ... and how this changed utterly when he was behind the Sony-backed South Park movie.

(Can't embed the trailer: here's the link)

Here are the two ratings systems graphically compared.
(CMD/CTRL-) Click picture to enlarge


Saturday, January 16, 2016

CONVERGENCE Lionsgate jump at chance to sponsor TV show

A fortuitous bit of trashy reading ... buried at the end of this inconsequential article is the following revelation:

This year’s series is sponsored by Hollywood film company Lionsgate which is launching a biopic of Edwards, starring Hugh Jackman, Christopher Walken and Kingsman’s Taron Egerton, which will hit cinemas from 1 April.

Superman's Dean Cain and Girls Aloud's Sarah Harding join C4's The Jump

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

BOX OFFICE Di Caprio franchise-free; Star Wars only 15th

Gleaned from Phil Hoad's latest column on global box office, extremely informative, useful and interesting as ever - it's worth following through an RSS feed, the Guardian app... Newspaper indeed!

Adjusted for inflation Star Wars is only the 15th biggest hit of all time - Titanic still well ahead (some would quibble over the figures, which track ticket numbers rather than revenue). As I've blogged previously, hype over records is a central part of modern movie marketing.

It's clear that franchises rule and look set to continue doing so. Distributors still work on the assumption that star appeal is king, but this is becoming ever more questionable as stars struggle outside of franchises to successfully open movies on their name. Do Caprio is perhaps a rare, maybe even unique exception - Hoad works through the figures, including an impressive early run for Revenant, a difficult to market western.

The Revenant's franchise-free DiCaprio is the ultimate A-list survivor

Friday, January 08, 2016

MPAA Zombie celebrates drop from NC-17 to R

In Britain the 18 rating is generally box office cyanide, barring as it does the main cinema market of teens, although some horrors and the occasional drama (Fifty Shades of Grey) manage to succeed with an 18.

Warp have frequently been hit with an 18, This is England being a notorious but typical example - intended as a 15, the BBFC decided it's strong language (scripted by the teen cast themselves to a degree) and one violent scene made it an 18. Many newspapers noted their disagreement with this judgement, and several local councils used their discretionary power to make it a 15 in their area. See also Ken Loach's social realist Indie Sweet Sixteen (18) and the studio tentpole Dark Knight (12), or WT's World's End (15) for could be seen as a system that favours the studio releases.

The documentary This Film Has Not Been Rated exposed a very clear bias of the US film censor towards the studios, with South Park's Trey Parker noting the contrast between the help he got to keep the South Park movie rating down and the stony silence he got when producing his debut film, a low budget Indie.

Rob Zombie has just tweeted his relief at getting his next film, 31, down to an R rating from the NC-17 it had twice gotten from the MPAA - whilst promising fans he'd release the uncut NC-17 version on DVD. He also released the poster (which takes the same basic design approach as Warp's '71 I noticed!) on his Twitter feed, a nice example of convergence and the potential importance of social media to Indie filmmakers (do Warp use it as well as they could?).

Thursday, January 07, 2016

GLOBAL Gotta be Indiat to win it


Bollywood box office takings down for first time in five years

ANALOGUE Kodak resurrect Super-8 cameras

With vinyl exploding, and even Polaroid enjoying a resurgence, the march of digitisation is not absolute, there remains enthusiasm for analogue tools and formats.

The Super-8 camera had largely existed as a special effect plug-in for editing software, something I've looked at with students seeking a retro look, but it is once more to receive mass production from Kodak, backed up with marketing featuring enthusiasts such as Quentin Tarantino.

The return of Super 8: why Kodak’s rebooted old-school camera could be a hit