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Friday, August 26, 2016

Disney bank on franchise not A-List stars selling

Dreddful...star power meant unmasking
Sly to exploit his appeal, rather obviously
ruining the concept of the masked Dredd
I've picked up on this theme a few times, and there is strong evidence to argue the point either way, but there clearly is some doubt emerging over the continuing veracity and vigour of the star system; movie marketing being centred on attaching and selling star names.

The now well-established dominance of the franchise system appears to offer an alternative - though its only Disney currently that seems to be banking on this, its tentpole productions shaving many $10s of millions from CGI-heavy budgets by casting young unknowns in key roles - AND tying them into multi-film contracts that will keep them on relatively low salaries, avoiding awkward renegotiations where actors have a strong hand. Look at the budgets for the first two Scream movies, or BJDiary, for examples of how actors can up their demands to stay in a franchise.

The Disney examples (Star Wars: Force Awakens and much of the MarvelCU, excepting Robert Downey Jr) shouldn't, i think, be seen as typical enough to dismiss the rule #1 of the film business, and Disney currently are an exception amongst the Big Six in taking this approach.

Some franchises/IP have sufficient pre-existing audiences to cope without stars. Harry Potter and the Hunger Games are good examples, so too Twilight (as horrible as those movies are, at least to non-teen, non-girl viewers like myself!).
Shocker: critics and audience hate this movie.

Hollywood showed repeatedly before The Dark Knight kick-started the current MCU hegemony that shoving a big name into an iconic costume is often box office poison: Stallone's abysmal Judge Dredd is the classic example; whether his star brand or performance, or the script, were to blame, fans hated it and a general audience couldn't suspend belief for 90 minutes to really get into Rockie/Rambo as the meanest (robo)cop of them all.


Such casting often leads to a camp outcome, with efforts to maximise the mining of the star brand and keep the age rating low lead to losing the edginess of the source material - Batman and Robin anybody?
This star-studded atrocity killed the franchise, until the Nolan reboot. DC Comics (through Warner) have leaned on star power, and largely failed, with Batman vs Superman and Suicide Squad

Franchises with brand recognition but limited real fanbase, like Pirates, needed the big names to attract a huge four quadrant audience. The strength of the IP is clearly important: Harry Potter and the Hunger Games were virtually guaranteed success such was the strength of their book fanbase.
Rising production costs in the Scream franchise didn't boost box office. The cast were in a strong negotiating position. (Source)

The star system would appear to be getting less reliable; the time when Arnie, Julia Roberts, Tom Cruise or Will Smith were a near guarantee of box office gold seems to have past, and its clear that Johnny Depp's appeal is unreliable outwith Pirates.
with this failure of “Alice Through the Looking Glass” this weekend and a tabloid-ready divorce from Amber Heard dominating airwaves, moviegoers may be growing tired of the actor. AsDeadline’s Anthony D’Alessandro notes, 35% of people cited Depp as the major reason for seeing “Through the Looking Glass.” Five years ago, 51% of moviegoers said the star was the reason they saw its predecessor,  “Alice in Wonderland.” It’s a signal that Depp’s reign, which lasted for much of the early aughts, could be nearing its end. [Variety]

BUT... the system remains, with the declining global share of the US box office key. There are still relatively few major names with global recognition, and stars are demanded by distributors in China, India and most other markets. Indeed, the phenomenon has now arisen of Western tentpole flops getting sequels mostly on the back of success in China and the wider Asian market, most notably (tbc) Terminator, despite the abomination of Genisys (makes you wish you could go back in time and, ah, have a talk with the execs who laid out the dumb plot and crazy 12-rating). Read here for more on this.

So, the star system is losing some of its shine, but it'll be light(saber) years before it is fundamentally challenged by a very conservative industry.


Luke...(almost) no stars! The brand, not the cast, sold this - Disney are undermining the star system

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