Dear studio execs, production presidents, film investors and bean counters:
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. You people need to manage your expectations. When I open a newspaper log onto Deadline and read that a movie opens at number one with a $90 million take, and that people are calling this “soft”, or worse, “disappointing”, I get stabby. In what universe is earning NINETY MILLION DOLLARS in THREE DAYS “disappointing”?
A huge part of what I love about the movie industry is that, as a business model, it’s completely insane. There is no other manufacturing process that could, or would, sustain this kind of development. I mean, can you see this happening in the real world:
Manufacturing boss: A toaster that’s big enough to fit your whole hand inside? That’s brilliant! People don’t enjoy prying their toast out of the toaster with forks and knives, of course we should make a toaster big enough to put your hand in! What’s the fail-safe? Oh there isn’t one? You haven’t figured out how to make sure people don’t burn their hands off while reaching in for fresh hot toast? That’s okay! We don’t need a failsafe! It’s not like there’s anything that could wrong in this scenario! Here’s $200 million—crank out as many of those suckers as you can!
Would that ever really happen in the toaster industry? No, of course not. Yet it happens in movies all the time and I love it. It’s totally fascinating to see how these decisions get made, who makes them, and how they decide to spend their money. My problem lately, though, has been that there is no reason involved in this process at all. Someone, somewhere has to be reasonable. Personally I don’t think any of you people should be allowed to make a decision without one regular Joe (or Jane) in the room to go, “Hey, that’s actually a horrible idea and you shouldn’t do it.” (I also think the government should be run this way.)
Here’s what it comes down to guys. You are spending too much money on your movies. Your expectations continue to be unrealistic because you’ve spent so much money getting your project out there that you have to bring in eleventy billion dollars on opening weekend or else you’re going to get fired. Take Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (or don’t, because it was horrible), which had that $90 million #1 opening weekend that was so disappointing to Disney. For any other movie that’s a win. A big win, even. But for you people at Disney it wasn’t enough. Why?
Because you spent TWO HUNDRED AND FIFTY MILLION DOLLARS making the movie. And I don’t even want to know what you spent on marketing. I’m guessing enough to rival the GDP of several small nations. So what’s the solution? Whine about how $90 million wasn’t enough? No, that’s never the right decision. Whining about $90 million not being enough makes me want to poke you in the eye.
The solution is to stop spending $250 million on a movie. There is no movie on this planet that should cost that much. If you’re pondering a greenlight and the bean counters tell you it will cost $250 million to make that movie, you know what you do? You don’t that make that movie. Or you ask the filmmaker to do more with less. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince cost $250 million and you know what? That was too much. If the Lord of the Rings movies could be made for around $100 million a pop, there’s no reason any of the HP movies should cost more than $150 million (the five previous installments cost between $100-150 million). It’s really easy guys.
NO MOVIE SHOULD COST MORE THAN $150 MILLION. EVER.
And that $150 million price tag is reserved for stuff like HP, Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies, etc. I hear you Disney—filming on water is a bitch and the Pirates movies have elaborate sets and expensive casts. Still shouldn’t cost you more than $150 million. Think about it. How much better does that $90 million opening look against a $150 million budget? It looks a lot better, right? You’re still spending an insane amount of money for grown up adults to put on fancy dress clothes and pretend to be Not Themselves, but at least you aren’t like, insulting the manufacturing output of Guam by complaining when your huge box office take isn’t enough because you spent too much making your product.
Take it from a regular Jane, guys. You’re spending way too much money and it’s throwing your perspective out of whack. You’ve got to learn to manage your expectations, and that means learning to manage your budget.