Hollywood Playbook: Tuesday's Top 5 News Items

Hollywood Playbook: Tuesday's Top 5 News Items

Why Gross-Out Comedies Reign: Rise of Cable TV, Collapse of DVD Sales

In an otherwise terrific write-up about the rise of cut-rate, R-rated gross-out comedies, The Wrap fails to point to the risks (which I’ll get to) of relying on the genre, but The Why of why it’s happening is fascinating.

Neighbors

The average production cost for a film comedy has dropped from $74.1 million in 2010 to $33.8 million today. That’s a drop of more than $40 million. For example, this year “Neighbors” cost only $18 million to produce, “22 Jump Street” $50 million, and “Tammy” $20 million.  

The reason for this isn’t intelligence or good business instincts — it’s survival:

There was a time when those movies were the exception to the rule. Stars such as Jim Carrey, Adam Sandler and Vince Vaughn commanded $60 million to $80 million to make comedies such as “Yes Man,” “Click” and “Couples Retreat.”

What’s happened since then? The rise and fall of the DVD market, as well as the proliferation of quality programming on cable television.

The DVD market once buoyed comedies, transforming modest box office hits like “Old School” and “Anchorman” into cultural sensations. As the market for DVDs dried up, greater receipts from foreign territories helped offset the losses. Comedies tend to be a tough sell overseas.

“It’s harder to get comedies made,” Bender said. “Even if a comedy didn’t work internationally, there was a huge chunk of revenue that came from DVDs. Once DVDs went away, international became more important; foreign becomes essential.”

The thinking is to make comedies on the cheap but also to push the gross-out gags past what can be seen on cable television.

Now the risks…

A couple of years ago, the low-budget horror film was the sure thing. This year four of five of them have flopped in a row.

Eventually audiences feel as though they have been there and done that.

So no one accuses me of being partisan, these low budget Christian films doing so well this year could very easily hit the same wall someday.

The over-arching story in all of this is that plummeting DVD sales and the incredible rise in quality storytelling on our television sets have painted the film business into an increasingly small corner.

With video games, streaming, bigscreen televisions, quality television programming, the Internet, and all the other shiny objects delivering the same thrills as a trip to the movies, what’s left for the film business to conjure?

I can tell you what isn’t the problem…

Why Doesn’t AMC Spend $600 Million On Personal Movie Headphones Instead of Recliners?

Going to the movies is my job. It’s a good job. I’m not complaining. But were it not my job, I would not go to the movies. When it isn’t my job, I never go to the movies.

One thing that could entice me to want to go to the movies again would be personal jacks in each seat that would allow me to plug in my own set of headphones and watch the movie without being interrupted by talkers, wrapper crinklers, and all the other obnoxious behavior that deters so many from attending movies.

The theatre doesn’t even need to provide the headphones. Just put a jack in the seat and we’ll take it from there.

More reclining seats — $600 million worth — are not going to increase ticket sales. If, however, theatres could guarantee a non-disruptive experience through access to personal headphones, I bet that would entice quite a few people to at least give it a try.

Do I have to think of everything.

Ben Affleck Perfectly Cast as Man America Hates

The trailer for David Fincher’s “Gone Girl” seems to give away an awful lot of the story. At first you’re wondering if Nick Dunne’s (Ben Affleck) wife didn’t just run away. Then there’s the shot of her dead body in the water. It also looks as though Affleck’s character is eventually arrested for the murder. The only plot point left hanging is whether or not he’s guilty.

Unless it’s misdirection (a shot from a nightmare or something), why reveal she’s dead?

If you’ve read the Gillian Flynn novel maybe you can tell us (without spoiling anything) how much the trailer gives away.

I hate movie trailers.

Gripes aside, the film looks great and casting Ben Affleck as a Scott Peterson-type hated by all of America  is, well, genius. Those of you who have been reading me for a while know I’m an Affleck fan. But that doesn’t blind me to a smart casting choice. People always hate guys like Affleck who seem to have gotten it all handed to them based only on a square jaw and thick head of hair.

Speaking of David Fincher, for the first time since hating it in the theatre over 20 years ago, I gave his “Alien 3″ (1992) a second try last night. The word is that the 2003 re-cut was a big improvement over the original (both of which Fincher disavows, hates and makes no secret of hating).

Other than crushing disappointment, I remembered nothing about the original cut of “Alien 3.” Regardless, the re-cut stinks. No scares, no compelling story, and nothing close to a memorable cinematic moment. What a waste. What a shame.

Daily Beast: Fat Is Okay Now Because Melissa McCarthy’s Fat

I thought fat people were fatty-fat-fatty-fat-fat losers who had no discipline, were draining our health care dollars, not protected by political correctness, and deserving of public scorn and shame until they lost enough weight to satisfy Michelle Obama.

Not if you’re Melissa McCarthy. According to the Daily Beast her obesity needs to be left alone:

No, the distress of McCarthy’s fans has very little to do with women’s roles, and everything to do with distaste for working-class women and their bodies.

One of the great hypocrisies built into our standards of beauty is the idea that all women can be beautiful with the right effort. For women who already fit into this ideal–white, thin, blond, blue-eyed women–beauty can be flouted. Charlize Theron can take off her makeup and head into a coal mine and get an Oscar nomination for her bravery, and we’ll applaud Jennifer Lawrence all day for talking about how much she hates exercise. These women are powerful! They’re standing up to the man! We call them heroes, as if there has ever been a time in their lives that they wouldn’t be considered beautiful.

But women who don’t fit into this narrow ideal have a different relationship to beauty. If beauty is power, then for most women beauty is an obligation directly related to opportunity. Beautiful women are more likely to get jobs, more likely to be promoted, and more likely to find romantic partners. If you aren’t born beautiful, then choosing to opt out of the beauty industrial complex has consequences. You’re letting yourself go. You’re not even trying.

I’m not sure what all of that psycho-babble means, but how about the idea of just leaving people the hell alone to live their lives how they like. And I’m saying that as someone who’s vain about his weight and who works hard to keep it in check.

If Melissa McCarthy chooses relaxation and rich foods over exercise and health, that’s up to her. If she’s willing to give up 15 or 20 years to live life how she likes, who cares?

The Left will claim that fat people gobble up health care dollars, therefore it’s a crisis, therefore the government has to do something, therefore in 20 years like all good Socialists we’ll all be outside in our communities doing jumping jacks at 6:30 a.m. in front of giant government television monitors that see both ways.

Because your fatty-fat-fat fat is costing me money, I get to tell you what to do.

Maybe obesity is costing me money. That’s the cost of liberty. I’d rather pay for Melissa McCarthy to live her life how she likes than for those government television monitors that see both ways.

But what is it with the left? Why is it okay for Melissa McCarthy to be an obese role model?

One of the methods of Totalitarians is to create a Kafka-esque environment where The Little People don’t know the rules. It paralyzes us; makes us afraid to do or say anything.

Today obesity is good. Tomorrow it’s a crisis.

‘Transformers’ Whups ‘Avatar’ In China

In just a couple of weeks, “Transformers: Age of Extinction” has passed “Avatar” as the top-grossing film in China. Michael Bay’s giant robot flick might be under-performing here in America but it’s already grossed $223 million in the People’s Republic.  

Bay went out of his way to appeal to the Chinese. The climactic battle is staged there, popular Chinese actors have supporting roles, and a couple of quick scenes portray the government as competent and in charge.

On the flip-side, while Texas and Texans are portrayed as the salt of the earth, our government is portrayed as incompetent and unable to deal with or control a renegade CIA executive out to take over the world with his own personal Transformer army.

Pretty sly.

Variety thinks this success in China is a turning point in the business of film.

Quick Hits:

Steal: Planet of the Apes: 5 Film Bluray Collection – $17.99

Harry Potter Turning 34 As JK Rowling Reunites Hogwarts Gang

‘Goodfellas,’ ‘Casino’ Writer Pens Another Mob Film

Hipster Director Reduced to Playing Flack for Multinational Corporation

Kevin Smith Says Weinstein Passed on ‘Clerks 3′


Upcoming Releases:

From the Sony press release…

MOMS’ NIGHT OUT

Directed by The Erwin Brothers

Available Sept. 2 on Blu-ray™, DVD & Digital HD

Two-time Emmy Award® winner Patricia Heaton (TV’s “Everybody Loves Raymond”), Sarah Drew (TV’s “Grey’s Anatomy”), Sean Astin (Lord of the Rings trilogy) and country music superstar Trace Adkins star in MOMS’ NIGHT OUT, a comedy with heart debuting on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD Sept. 2.  

The Blu-ray and DVD are loaded with family friendly bonus materials, including a blooper reel, deleted scenes, and commentary with the Erwin Brothers and producer Kevin Downes.  Fans can also enjoy four featurettes, including a discussion with filmmakers in “The Heart of Moms’ Night Out,” giving the back story that inspired the film as something their wives and mothers could relate to. Additional featurettes include “Casting Moms’ Night Out,” giving viewers a chance to meet the actors, as well as “The Art of Improv,” an exploration into the film’s experimental improvisation.  Finally, “The Art of Action” gives fans a deconstructed look at the film’s car chase sequence.  


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