Monday, December 10, 2007

Monday Morning Musings.

Wherever you woke up this Monday morning, and wherever it is that you might be off to, you might want to count yourself lucky, so long as you don't have to walk into the business offices of New Line Cinema. The division of Time Warner is the "responsible" party for The Golden Compass and as Ricky was apt to say to Lucy when things got a little mixed up - "You got some 'splainin to do...".

By most reports, New Line poured about 180 million into the production of The Golden Compass and likely around another 60 mil in promotion & distribution. (And those promotion dollars don't stop because of a slow weekend.) Having opened this past Friday, New Line was looking for numbers approaching 40 mil but by this morning it was clear that even 30 mil was an unreachable goal. So what's the deal? I'll be catching the movie myself a bit later this week but you have to feel for New Line. Did the Catholics really impact the potential success of a wide release movie? Now that would be scary. Did the goods just not match the hype? Is Nicole Kidman box-office dead weight? Like always, it's probably a little of all of this, but it's interesting that no one sees these things coming. As usual in American business, the last people to have a clue are somehow always the people in charge. We'll be revisiting this as Compass gets a few more weekends in the bank.

And speaking of not seeing the forest for the trees, this is the big week for Disney to set sail for more pirate booty. Perhaps one of the most squandered opportunities in movie history, Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl signaled an extraordinary adaptation of intellectual property from another media (namely a theme park ride, dominantly conceived by Walt himself) into a full blown, big as you can dream, blockbuster. It was as close as anyone had come in a long time to igniting the kind of cinematic history that's the rarified territory of Star Wars and that Ring trilogy.. by the third picture in the series, At World's End, the DVD release is an afterthought that seems like forced marketing of a "B" quality direct to video sequel. Even the "Johnny Depp" enhancements at Disney's theme park ride have taken on the air of dated kitsch as fans fondly remember the first time we saw Jack Sparrow swagger off a sinking boat onto solid ground (well, a wooden pier). How that journey went full circle. Jack, it was good to know ya, please let us have fun with Sweeney.

Lastly, it's also news today that 20th Century Fox has made some inroads with Apple in securing larger fees for posting it's films on the iTunes store, yet to earn respect as a viable source for securing a broad range of movie downloads (though the promise remains tantalizing). One of the culprits here deserves the ire of movie fans and DVD buyers the world round. Walmart is flexing it's considerable power as retailer in insisting that movie studios and DVD distributers demand pricing from iTunes that more closely matches the prices paid for the DVD package in Walmart's giant rodent mazes. Except that buying a movie on iTunes means no packaging, no extras, (lobby cards, coupons, booklets, feature maps, chapter documentation, etc. etc.) no commentaries, no deleted scenes and no promo trailers. And that all ads up to no overhead for the studio. How on Earth could anyone justify the idea that a digital download of a movie not be significantly discounted from the price of the same film packaged as a DVD? The very idea is outrageous.

I would ask all DVD buyers to boycott buying any DVDs or movie related items from Walmarts world wide. Let them know that they have no right to influence your right to purchase the formats and products you want from retailers, who agree with you that pricing be fair and equitable for the end product received. Steve Jobs should be lauded for taking a stand and movie fans everywhere should support him. So go dump on Walmart and tell all your friends. We'll defintely have more to say about this as well, but for now, that's our Monday.

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