Hollywood Playbook: Monday's Top 5 Stories

Hollywood Playbook: Monday's Top 5 Stories
‘Movie Stars Have Become an Endangered Species’

Writing for Variety, Peter Bart declares the movie star an endangered species about 10 years after the rest of us figured that out:

Summer blockbusters make studios happy, but they make stars nervous. That’s because a lizard is the real star of “Godzilla,” not an actor. And in franchises like “Captain America,” “Spider-Man” or “X-Men,” the superhero is the brand, while the casts seem interchangeable. The several tentpoles that emerged from “Pirates of the Caribbean” enhanced Johnny Depp‘s salary, but the Depp brand didn’t enhance “Transcendence” or “The Lone Ranger.”
The art of managing a star’s career has become challenging in Hollywood’s New Economy. In years past, major projects could be pre-sold worldwide on star names, but distributors know they can’t be monetized to the same degree any more. Warners may pour $200 million or so into “Batman v Superman,” but its potential success won’t depend on Ben Affleck’s chemistry with Henry Cavill.

No one, though, ever wants to talk about WHY… 
Why is the movie star an endangered species?

It is not a chicken or the egg scenario. The business of making movies didn’t shove the movie star out. The business of making movies was forced to change after movie stars stopped being movie stars. When names no longer puts enough profitable butts in seats, concept became king — which was the Big Formula in the nineties. Eventually, though, concepts stopped working as well, and then the franchise was born.

Except for a few like Denzel Washington and Sandra Bullock, movie stars assholed themselves into extinction with their loutish, divisive behavior. Hollywood was also too eager to go young and metrosexual, so we were Orlando Bloom’d to death. Hollywood assumed young people wanted to see themselves on the screen, but… 

Movie stars are not us. They are larger than life. We want to be them, we aspire to be them, but we are not them.

‘How to Train Your Dragon 2’ Adds to DreamWorks Animation’s Troubles
You would think a $50 million opening would be good news for any film, but the box office is a game and business of expectations. And within that context, the well-reviewed DreamWorks Animation sequel “How To Train Your Dragon 2” disappointed in a big way. The stock not only dipped, analysts are now questioning the power of the DWA brand:
How To Train Your Dragon 2‘s lower-than-expected $50M domestic box office in its opening weekend left many DreamWorks Animation shareholders feeling burned. The company’s stock price fell 11% in early trading as several analysts lowered their box office estimates for the film – which they’d hoped would help DWA recover after it took writedowns on three of its four previous releases. Cowen & Co’s Doug Creutz called Dragon 2‘s performance “somewhat 2-thless” – he figured it would come in closer to $60M — and lowered his ultimate worldwide box office estimate by 20% to $650M. If Dragon doesn’t “significantly grow box office,” then it’s “fair to ask if there are any implications about the strength of DWA’s brand.”

“Mr. Peabody and Sherman” alone cost DWA a $57 million loss. I have no idea what the other two cost but I think we all know what this means: the announcement of a new “Shrek” trilogy any day now. “Shrek” really is the only DWA brand that people trust. Outside of that, DWA means not-as-good-as-Pixar. 

‘Father of the Bride 3: The Gay Marriage’
Nikki Finke reports that Steve Martin’s “Father of the Bride” franchise will get a sequel after nearly 20 years. Following up on 1995’s “Father of the Bride 2,” Disney and Warner Bros. are now developing “Father of the Bride 3,” which will feature a gay wedding between Steve Martin’s son Matty (played by Kieran Culkin in 1 and 2) and the son of a Navy SEAL.
Hopefully this is just the starting point. When it’s over, what would be perfect is if Matty’s betrothed is a transgendered illegal alien with a physical disability and PTSD who wants to be a Boy Scout leader.

Go for it, Hollywood!

Why Am I Not Excited About Two New Spielberg Films?

Things sure have changed. There was a time when the thought of two new Steven Spielberg films would have me counting down the days. No longer. When you look at Spielberg’s output as a director over the past 10 or so years, it kinda kills the enthusiasm.

As far as I’m concerned, except for “Lincoln,” Spielberg hasn’t made a decent film since “War of the Worlds” in 2005 — and both of those were just good, not great. Other than that, you can keep “Munich,” “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the OhMyGawd This Movie Sucks,” “The Adventures of Tintin,” and “War Horse.”

Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be much to get excited about in these new projects:
First up is the Untitled Cold War Spy Thriller, which has been scheduled for October 16, 2015. That’s the same date Universal has scheduled the Guillermo del Toro-directed horror film, Crimson Peak.

Tom Hanks will star in Spielberg’s spy thriller, which was written by the Coen brothers, based on an original script by Matt Charman. …

Then, on July 1, 2016, Spielberg’s adaptation of the Roald Dahl novel The BFG will be released. …

The BFG was written by Melissa Mathison. Spielberg and Frank Marshall will produce, and Kathleen Kennedy, John Madden and Michael Siegel will executive produce. In the film, a young girl, the Queen of England and a benevolent giant known as the BFG, set out on an adventure to capture the evil, man-eating giants who have been invading the human world.

‘Ray Donovan’ Season Two Trailer 

Showtime’s series about Hollywood’s most capable fixer, Ray Donovan, returns for a second season July 12. The first season was terrific; much better than expected. All the actors are first rate, but as the title character, Liev Schreiber is outstanding as always, and as his degenerate father, Jon Voight won his 4th Golden Globe award.

The show is “Entourage” meets “The Sopranos,” and it works. 

What an era of television we are living through.


Quick Hits

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