Sunday, July 21, 2013

Movie Industry Trends

I've come across several fascinating articles about the movie industry lately since it is in a huge state of flux right now.  Rather than post them all separately, I consolidated them all into one long post that gives a great overview of where things stand now, which I'm sure is differently than how things will look in ten years.
Spielberg And Lucas Predict ‘Massive Implosion’ In Film Industry
(By Bryan Bishop, The, June 13, 2013)

George Lucas and Steven Spielberg think the film industry is heading towards a cliff. The pair behind some of the most successful franchises in movie history think that conservative programming choices and rapidly evolving distribution schemes have set the stage for a massive upheaval — and internet-based services may become the dominant medium when moviegoing as we know it crashes and burns.  The duo were joined during a panel at the University of Southern California by Microsoft's president of interactive entertainment Don Mattrick, who played backup with the occasional Xbox reference as Lucas and Spielberg took center stage. While the focus was ostensibly on the future of the entertainment medium- USC just opened a new building for the school's Interactive Media department-  the topic quickly pivoted to the state of film distribution in a world where everything from games to television are competing for consumers' attention.

"A studio would rather invest $250 million in one film for a real shot at the brass ring.  People simply have a limited amount of time, said Spielberg. "We can't expand the week. We can't expand the 24-hour cycle. So we're stuck with so many choices." The enormous amount of available content has pushed movie studios to be more conservative, banking on the power of event films to break through the white noise of a crowded marketplace. "You're at the point right now where a studio would rather invest $250 million in one film for a real shot at the brass ring," he said, "than make a whole bunch of really interesting, deeply personal — and even maybe historical — projects that may get lost in the shuffle because there's only 24 hours.  There's going to be an implosion where three or four or maybe even half a dozen of these mega-budgeted movies are going to go crashing into the ground," Spielberg said, "and that's going to change the paradigm again."

Barreling from opinion to opinion throughout the discussion, Lucas presented a clear vision of this post-crash entertainment landscape: a world where going to the movies is no longer a casual outing, but a high-end experience more in line with Broadway. "What you're going to end up with is fewer theaters," he said. "Bigger theaters, with a lot of nice things. Going to the movies is going to cost you 50 bucks, maybe 100. Maybe 150." It will be more in line with sporting events, with films playing in these high-end cinemas for as long as a year. "And that's going to be what we call ‘the movie business.' But everything else is going to look more like cable television on TiVo."

As Lucas painted it, the shift will present new opportunities both for consumers and filmmakers. "It's not going to have cable or broadcast," Lucas said. "It's going to be the internet television."  Viewers will have access to a wide variety of programming, "usually more interesting than what you're going to see in the movie theater. And you can get it whenever you want, and it's going to be niche-marketed, which means you can really take chances and do things if you can figure out there's a small group of people that will kind of react to it."  That kind of niche focus has already paid dividends for cable networks like HBO, he said, which have lower thresholds for success than a movie studio or traditional network — and are able to produce less-conventional programming as a result. "All you need is a million people," Lucas said. "Which in the aggregate of the world is not very many people. And you can actually make a living at this. Where before you couldn't."

Spielberg offered a softer touch — even turning wistful when discussing the increasingly narrow theatrical window movies have to deal with today. "It used to be, when I first started making movies it was really cool, my movies stayed in theaters for one year," he said. "If it was a hit, it was a year long. Raiders [of the Lost Ark] was in theaters for a year. E.T. was in a theater for a year and four months... That was an amazing situation, back then."  Today's movies are in hotels two weeks after they hit theaters, he said. "There's going to be eventually day and date with movies" — when films are available on demand at home the same day they hit theaters — "and eventually there's going to be a price variance. You're going to have to pay $25 to see the next Iron Man. And you're probably only going to have to pay $7 to see Lincoln."  Lucas jumped in: "I think eventually the Lincolns are going to go away and they're going to be on television."  Spielberg smiled, saying, "And mine almost was! This close. Ask HBO — this close!" 

Despite the chaos, both men see the changes as something the industry will overcome, with Lucas taking particular relish in the opportunities the disruption is providing — adamantly stating that "now is the best time we can possibly have."  Comparing the industry's panic over fleeting DVD sales and crumbling business models to the 2008 economic crash, he stressed that now is the time to look forward. "It's a mess. It's total chaos," Lucas said. "But out of that chaos will come some really amazing things. And right now there are amazing opportunities for young people coming into the industry to say, ‘Hey, I think I'm going to do this and there's nobody to stop me.'  "It's because all the gatekeepers have been killed!"

VOD ‘Definitely Not Offsetting Decline On DVD’
(By Rachel Abrams,, March 6, 2013)

It’s fairly well-accepted that subscription VOD platforms are helping to ease the pain from declines in DVD sales. But for Hollywood, the question has become “Can that happen fast enough?”  “DVD does seem to be going away, and it is being replaced by this new digital format, and there will be the question of ‘Well how much dollar for dollar are we making up? ’ ” said Eli Baker, a partner at fund Hemisphere Capital Management. “And the answer is that it’s very difficult to pinpoint.”  Baker spoke on a panel at the Film Finance Forum West presented by Winston Baker in association with Variety on Tuesday.  Hemisphere operates in the somewhat safer space of the studio tentpole, and has co-financed pics including “The Smurfs,” “World War Z” and “The Adventures of Tintin.” The globally commercial nature of those projects have helped Hemisphere hedge its bets against declines in disc sales (Blu-ray still shows signs of growth), but it’s still paying close attention to how digital streaming platforms are changing the value of its content.  “I don’t know whether we’re at an inflection point, but clearly there’s a reason to be optimistic,” Baker said.

These streams are becoming a more vital resource for financing, especially in the independent sector. But with only a few years of historical data from SVOD players like Netflix, it’s hard for both financiers and film execs to quantify just how many digital dimes they can rely on. And with many financiers more risk-averse than before the 2008 financial collapse, there’s less of an appetite to lend or invest against unpredictable cash flows.  “Now what we’re seeing is something really meaningful,” said DreamWorks CFO Larry Wasserman at Tuesday’s panel. Wasserman noted that while SVOD and other digital platforms barely factored into financial modeling a decade ago, they could now help a “good title” earn upwards of $10 million for DreamWorks or a comparable situation.

But, Wasserman also pointed out, those platforms are “definitely not off-setting the decline on DVD.” Homevideo could typically earn between 70% and 80% of the box office before 2008, but at least two panelists said they now use estimates of between 50% and 60%.  If digital dimes ever end up making up for lost analog dollars, it likely wouldn’t be for years. And that means that Hollywood has to adjust its cost structures to account for revenues that have changed drastically since DVD’s heydey.  The two biggest areas that need fixing: Production and marketing budgets.  While the studios are playing mostly in the tentpole big-budget space, budgets of $150 million and up can’t save a picture. “Jack the Giant Slayer” is the most recent example of this: The Warner Bros. pic opened to under $30 million million at the domestic box office on a budget of nearly $200 million. (And therefore likely upward of $100 million in P&A on top of that.)

“You really need to adjust the cost side of the business,” said Scott Parish, CFO and COO of Alcon Entertainment (not about “Jack” specifically). “You can’t rely on an opening weekend anymore … especially for younger-skewing movies … the word gets out, and you see the falloff happen a lot quicker.”  Two big places where belts need to be tightened: Upfront talent deals and P&A.  While the industry has seen a slight surge in the number of P&A funds looking for films, more money doesn’t mean more butts in seats (or in front of a computer).  “I think there’s a lot of room for innovation on the marketing side,” said Doug Hansen, president of Endgame Entertainment and CEO of Endgame Releasing. Hansen pointed toward social media as one example of a cost-conscious way to create buzz around a film.  “There’s a lot of money spent (in marketing) that just gets blasted out, and if we could only be more laser-specific to … hit the right people for movies and save some money on that side, or at least be more efficient on what you’re spending (so that) you’re really hitting the right people.”

Wasserman and Parish said their respective films “Transformers” and “The Blind Side” illustrated this point well. On each film, the executives said, upfront talent deals were cut in favor of making participants like Sandra Bullock “true equity participants.  If we can take this SVOD bump and keep the cost of talent down … to me that’s a win,” said moderator Clint Kisker, director of finance firm Screen Capital Intl.

Movie Theaters Cut Print Show Times As Web Gains
(By David Twiddy, Associated Press, August 22, 2009)

Filmgoers who have long turned to the local newspaper to find theaters and show times for movies may have to start looking elsewhere as theater chains rethink the value of paper and ink in a digital age.  The top two U.S. chains, Regal Entertainment Group and AMC Entertainment Inc., have begun in recent months to reduce or eliminate the small-type listings showing the start times for movies at individual theaters. Theaters typically must pay newspapers to print that information.  Looking to cut costs, the theater chains are instead directing consumers to their Internet sites or third-party sites, like Fandango, Moviefone or Flixster, which offer those listings for free and make money from the fees they charge for selling advance tickets to movies. Many of those sites also feature film reviews and movie trailers.  
The effort may be gaining some traction, as U.S. Internet traffic to AMC's Web site rose 21 percent in July compared with a year ago, according to comScore Inc., while visits to Regal's Web site were up 18 percent. The Newspaper Association of America doesn't track revenue that newspapers generate from print movie listings, but believes the amount is relatively small. Yet every dollar counts as newspapers are forced to cut staff, reduce the frequency of print editions or even close completely amid the recession.

And readers have come to expect such listings. Seeing them curtailed or disappear could give them yet another reason to abandon their subscriptions.  "For a reader, some things that are ads are actually considered news," said Mort Goldstrom, the NAA's vice president of advertising. "Ads for concerts and things at clubs, for restaurants and movies - that's a reason people read."  He said the pullback in listings will hurt theaters by reducing their visibility among potential customers, sending those dollars to competitors that still buy listings or to other sources of entertainment like plays or clubs.  Readers formulating weekend plans "may look at something broader than Moviefone," he said. "That's the piece that newspaper Web sites have and niche (entertainment) publications have."

Kansas City-based AMC helped shine a spotlight on the trend last month when it pulled its listings from The Washington Post, prompting the newspaper's ombudsman, Andrew Alexander, to deflect readers' ire in his blog.  "Most readers believe that it was the newspaper's decision," Alexander wrote, comparing it to The Post's recent move to cut back on the newspaper's television listings. "In fact, movie listings in the print product are paid advertising, and it was AMC's decision to stop paying."

The Post declined further comment, and Alexander wrote in his column that the newspaper wouldn't tell him either how much revenue the AMC ads provided.  AMC spokesman Justin Scott said daily movie listings are expensive and the theater chain believes that that money would be better spent promoting its value programs or other theater events.  "In an era when many moviegoers are using alternative resources to access show times, AMC has chosen to reallocate its show-time information methods," Scott said.  Scott wouldn't say where else AMC has cut its listings and how much it has saved. But he said "so far we've seen no impact on attendance."

Regal, based in Knoxville, Tenn., said its in-theater and online surveys found 60 percent to 80 percent of respondents saying they received their movie listings online.  "So we've evaluated our newspaper strategy on a case-by-case basis and in a number of markets have eliminated our newspaper ads," spokesman Dick Westerling said, adding that in other markets Regal theaters run movie listings only on the weekends.  The company has eliminated ads in such markets as San Francisco, Seattle, St. Louis and Orlando, Fla. Westerling would not disclose how much Regal spends on movie listings, but he said ticket sales haven't significantly changed. He said that the company has also tapped social networks, such as Facebook, MySpace and Twitter, to communicate listings with customers who sign up for updates.

Carmike Cinemas, a Columbus, Ga.-based chain that operates primarily in smaller towns, also has cut back on newspaper ads in some markets, in most cases just buying listings on the weekends.  "Out of the 50 markets where we've done drastic reductions, I've received one complaint," said Dale Hurst, Carmike's director of marketing. "I'm not trying to be a soothsayer but everyone seems to be going high-tech. They want it now."  Some newspapers don't charge for movie listings, considering them akin to community meeting notices or television listings. In markets where the listings are free, Regal and AMC said they've continued to run movie listings. The NAA's Goldstrom said, though, that he knew of no newspaper that has dropped fees as a result of the theaters' pullback.

Movie studios, meanwhile, have been cutting their own newspaper advertising as well. The newspaper trade group said national movie-related display advertising totaled $141.5 million in the first quarter of 2009, or 51 percent lower than five years ago.  Ken Doctor, a media analyst with Outsell Inc., said some newspapers have responded by teaming up with Web sites that sell movie tickets, gaining a small revenue stream on each ticket sold, or by selling movie studios sponsorships for parts of their Web sites. For example, he noted that The New York Times displays small ads for movies when a user wants to e-mail a news story to a friend.  In general, though, Internet ad rates haven't matched what print commands.

And as social-networking sites like Twitter and Facebook become the place to learn about which movies are hot and where they're playing, he said, newspapers and their Web sites risk losing their readers if they cannot quickly figure out how to tap in.  Andrew Lipsman, director of industry analysis for comScore, said the online sites have become more interactive than newspapers. Although newspapers may try to add similar features to their own sites, he said, the damage may be done.  "Once a behavior has moved from the print medium to online, in many cases people go to the online brands," Lipsman said. "They won't necessarily go to the newspaper."


Opening Now In New York, Los Angeles ... And Washington?
(By Ned Martel, Washington Post, December 8, 2011)

Starting Friday, moviegoers in New York and Los Angeles get to white-knuckle it through the Cold War thriller “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy,” starring Gary Oldman and Colin Firth. Washingtonians, however, have to wait an extra week. The movie isn’t slated for release in the nation’s capital until Dec. 16.  Doesn’t make sense, does it? After all, this is where Jackie told Jack that she did not want to evacuate when Fidel and Nikita had us on the brink, where spooks haunted suburban parks and Chinese restaurants and embassy parties. We’re on a first-name basis with the Cold War here. Why not open the film in Washington instead, or at least simultaneously with L.A. and the Big Apple?

It’s a sad fate that our region’s moviegoers know too well: Washington gets films (especially the really good ones) after New York and Los Angeles, sometimes even after Boston, Chicago and San Francisco. Back in the day, when there were only so many prints available and film distributors invented a pecking order, we were deemed second-rate. Washingtonians were supposed to have other things on their minds (pressing global concerns, perhaps?), and marketers devised a mysterious and self-serving metric for how long it took the cultural conversation to reach us.

In the 1980s, it was four weeks. Now, with their formula adjusted, the gurus say it’s more like two weeks — which is how long we’ll have to wait in January, when the Meryl-as-Maggie biopic “The Iron Lady” comes our way. Apparently, we’re still far behind the times.  Except we’re not, and there’s no good reason for Washington to take a back seat to New York or Los Angeles anymore. This is a city that starts conversations, and its citizens are fluent in cinema — and not just movies about pressing global concerns.  On top of that, Washingtonians exhibit two behaviors that marketers value most: We make money, and we spend money. We’re buying all sorts of cognoscenti things- e-books and tagliatelle pasta, Mercedes Benz and Michael Kors-  but movies still come to us via a creaking cultural conveyor belt that studios are too entrenched to modernize.

As moviemaking got more radical in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Hollywood got more conservative with its marketing money, deciding that adventurous films needed time to entice adventurous audiences. “If you go all the way back . . . to movies like ‘Bonnie and Clyde,’ ‘Easy Rider’ . . . all of the great movies of that era, they were platform-released,” explained Tom Bernard, a Sony Pictures Classics executive.  “Platforms” were imaginary tiers that started with cineaste audiences in the most populous cities- New York and Los Angeles-  and descended to the hinterlands, with hype orchestrated region by region. “It took awhile for people to learn about the film,” Bernard recalled. “There was only the telephone and the newspaper.”  But why persist with this system now? “We have this argument almost weekly,” lamented Jamie Shor, a film publicist who recently opened D.C.’s West End Cinema and who has encouraged distributors to think anew about the region. Washington readers consume all the coverage — premiere shots on E!, interviews on, reviews in Variety — but can’t act on it, she said. Before the movie ambles into town, “the national campaign dies off,” Shor explained. “Many times, you lost the window to capitalize on a really engaged audience.”

But there is good news: Some box office numbers have D.C. inching ahead of other markets. “At this point, Washington, D.C., can be seen as a higher-performing market for us than Los Angeles, Boston and Philadelphia. But not New York,” said Neal Block, head of distribution at Magnolia Pictures. “Your audience is a mix between keyed-in and politically inclined and also ready for standard art house,” said Block, who noted that Tilda Swinton’s florid “I Am Love” drew crowds here last year. “I believe in D.C. as a market,” he continued, calling those who don’t “dinosaurs.”  Sony’s Bernard similarly saw big ticket sales for “Midnight in Paris,” Woody Allen’s time-travel adventure. The film was popular nationwide and remained so in Washington for months, morphing from a literati romance for the older crowd to a date movie for younger couples. “You can open Washington, D.C., now with five or six screens with competitive grosses,” said Bernard — by which he means we have more places to see movies, and they’re packed.

This season, Washington is showing what it can do: “Margin Call’s” critique of Wall Street is well-timed, and local audiences are buying lots of tickets, just as they did with topical documentaries such as “Food, Inc.” and “Page One.” And the Nov. 9 release of Clint Eastwood’s “J. Edgar” marked a rare occasion- the film opened in Washington at the same time as in New York and Los Angeles, before being blasted to other markets two days later.  Yes, “J. Edgar” depicted the federal bureaucracy ably and condensed a ­half-century of complicated history, but here’s the bad news: “J. Edgar” depicted the federal bureaucracy ably and condensed a half-century of complicated history. So will the movie industry look at regional box office results for “J. Edgar” and decide that Washington didn’t do its part to sanctify an Important Film? Or was the nearly $35 million in ticket sales in four weeks a success that started here in Washington? The studios refuse to share their analysis.

Film execs haven’t realized that wonky movies are not all that plays well here. D.C. moviegoers have a knack for finding films that speak to them — and to others like them. Take 2006’s “Little Miss Sunshine,” which opened first in New York and Los Angeles but became so popular in Washington that its long run at Landmark’s E Street Cinema was the most lucrative of any booking in the country, according to Stephanie Kagan, who manages bookings at Landmark’s theaters at E Street and Bethesda Row.  “Weirdly, last summer’s ‘Mao’s Last Dancer’ was a sleeper hit,” Kagan said. “It was based on a true story about a dancer that came over from China for a ballet career here.” Crucial marketing strategy: outreach to local dance companies, big and small, telling them that their kind of movie was coming soon.  “Things that are very, very specialized and look like it would have a tiny, tiny niche audience work well here,” Kagan said. If there’s a movie that looks like it would appeal intensely to two people, those two people will show up and tell everyone they know to do the same. “There’s a movie for everyone here and someone for every movie here,” Kagan said.

Small Washington movie houses have been getting monthly lessons in District demographics: Hip-hop lovers came in large numbers to see the documentary “Beats Rhymes and Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest.” Pacific Islander audiences turned out for “Amigo,” the John Sayles narrative feature about the Philippine-American War. Hispanic viewers showed up for “The Way,” starring Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez making a religious pilgrimage in Spain. Gay men thronged to see a one-night stand flower into love in “Weekend.” And “The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceaucescu” lured former intel types, Iron Curtain emigres and practitioners of word-and-image polemics who are making Washington an international capital of documentary film. 

New York will always be a land of plenty — there are simply more screens and more moviegoers — and Los Angeles is the obvious cinematic company town. But Washington is emerging as a megaphone city, a place where citizens often organize around a movie and amplify its values.  Early access to movies, therefore, would work for both Hollywood, which would benefit from a smart national forum, and Washington, which tends not to discuss movies after the conversation elsewhere has wrapped up. Mike Feldman, who worked for Al Gore, the presidential candidate, got to know this phenomenon when introducing Al Gore, the star of the documentary “An Inconvenient Truth.” “The former vice president giving a keynote address about global warming — it doesn’t immediately scream ‘box office success,’ ” recalled Feldman, who works at the Glover Park Group, a political strategy firm.  Through a concerted effort, columnists got to see the film early, as did science writers and environmental analysts. “That then gave the broader theater public permission to embrace it as a film,” Feldman said. Insider thumbs-up happened early and often.

Feldman’s firm took an entirely different film, 2009’s “The Hurt Locker,” and made sure the D.C. military community had a chance to chime in early. Absorbing the coverage, moviegoers saw that combat veterans gave the film their approval. “The community of EOD teams — you didn’t know these people existed, right?” Feldman said, referring to the military’s “explosive ordnance disposal” experts. “They looked at it and said, ‘This captured what we went through.’ When it came time for Oscar consideration, there were audiences that had the feeling this was real.”  Sony Picture Classics has taken a similar tack to hype movies, Bernard said, recalling Jimmy Carter’s visits to Washington in support of Jonathan Demme’s documentary about him, “Man From Plains.” Similarly, insiders got to see “Inside Job,” the financial industry post-mortem that aired to what Bernard called “the shadow community” — pundits and lawmakers assembled by Sony’s in-town lobbyist. After these influencers see a movie, “it goes through the government and translates back to where everybody’s from.”

In contrast, “The Ides of March” came and went; Washington can’t be relied on to rescue a film just because it’s political and stars George Clooney. Indeed, Feldman and his colleagues constantly tell potential Hollywood clients that “it doesn’t need to be about campaigns, politics or elections to be relevant to a community that considers issues and ideas,” he says. “It starts with you seeing the film, and you might tweet about it, you might blog about it, you might talk to a friend who’s a producer of a dayside cable show who might need a segment that is not a live shot from the Capitol or the White House.”  Washington has many such players who come out in droves to movies about all sorts of subjects, and their reactions can have all sorts of resonance, in ways that the sacrosanct “per-screen average” in our local Zip codes might never detect. “If you walk into the Loews in Georgetown on a Saturday night on opening weekend of any given title,” Feldman observed, “it’s hard to throw your Snickers bar across the room and not hit someone who has an audience, a following, a reach, some influence.”

Former senator Chris Dodd (Democrat- CT) recently considered the mutual Washington-Hollywood obsession at a dinner honoring his arrival as chief lobbyist for the Motion Picture Association of America. He said he has seen directors depict Washington intrigue ever since his father was a senator and he was a page, and Otto Preminger was given access to shoot “Advise and Consent” scenes in the Senate subway. He has seen Clooney expound on the Sudan, winning far more attention than the average Capitol Hill orator. But he noted that Hollywood does not necessarily realize how much movies mean to political power players. “It is part of my job to convince the industry that this is an important place to be,” he said.  At the soiree, a piano player banged out movie themes and guests guessed at the titles- with blazing success. “For two or three hours, Iraq never came up, the debt ceiling never came up,” Dodd recalled. “I was surprised how many had such knowledge.”


Rating High on Hollywood's List: Immature Audiences
(By Ann Hornaday, Washington Post, August 23, 2009)

If 2009 is remembered for anything in American cinema, it might be as the year grown-ups and Hollywood finally agreed to call it quits.  This is the year when such slick, star-driven, adult-oriented movies as "State of Play," "Duplicity," "The International" and "The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3" underperformed at the box office. And when talking-toy movies like "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" and "G.I. Joe" raked in millions.  Suddenly, movies for grown-ups are in the cross hairs. "I'm caught up all in it," Spike Lee said recently with a rueful laugh, noting that the sequel to his 2006 thriller "Inside Man" is hanging in the balance. "I'm waiting on Universal," he said.  As it happens, Universal is the studio that has come to symbolize the current plight of movies for adults, having released both "Duplicity" and "State of Play," as well as "The Soloist" and "Funny People," considered box-office disappointments. Last week, Universal Co-chairman Marc Shmuger told the Los Angeles Times that 2009 "has certainly been a humbling year. First, there's a real need to be making movies for less money. Second, there's a real premium on sharper, more marketable concepts. Audiences are clearly seeking escape from their lives."  Translation: Hello, "Paul Blart." Sayonara, "Frost/Nixon."

The trend has been under way for some time now: With movies becoming more expensive to make and market, Hollywood has increasingly gone for sure bets. Studios want movies -- preferably based on an already successful book or video game, preferably featuring non-stars who need not be paid much -- that are guaranteed to bring in audiences not just once but twice or three times. Franchises like "Lord of the Rings," "Harry Potter" and "Twilight," with their sequels, prequels and just plain 'quels, fit that bill nicely.  Alternatively, small, modestly budgeted films that become sleeper hits -- the "Little Miss Sunshines" and "Junos" of the world -- also are prospering, simply because even with smaller-than-"Transformers"-size audiences, it's easier for them to make their budgets back. (It looks like this year's winner in the category will be the winsome romantic dramedy "[500] Days of Summer.")

The result is that only two types of movies -- big-budget blockbusters or poverty-row strivers -- seem to be making profits these days. The middle range of high-end, relatively sophisticated movies made with glossy production values and well-paid stars might do well with critics and some filmgoers but, between star salaries and the high costs of marketing, fail to earn their keep. And many observers worry that this will influence Hollywood's decisions about which projects to greenlight.  Note: These aren't movies described as "quirky" in their newspaper ads. Nor are they "gritty," "edgy," "offbeat" or "groundbreaking." These are movies that are simply smart, well-made and directed at filmgoers with discerning but not necessarily adventurous tastes. The year 2006 provides a useful core sample: That was when such movies as "The Devil Wears Prada," "The Departed" and "The Pursuit of Happyness" made the Top 20 list of box-office earners, and Lee's "Inside Man" came in close behind.

Part of the problem is that, with services like Netflix and video on demand making it easier for adults to avoid the parking headaches, high concession prices and annoying ads of the modern-day multiplex, more and more grown-ups are looking at the Friday paper and saying, "Why bother?"  One distributor that has capitalized on this trend is IFC, which this year released Steven Soderbergh's "Che" and the foreign films "Gomorrah" and "A Christmas Tale" in theaters and on its cable channel simultaneously. On Wednesday, it will release "Passing Strange: The Movie," Lee's documentary version of the Broadway show by performance artist Stew, the same way (it's also opening at the IFC Theater in New York), on a new pay-per-view channel, Sundance Selects.  IFC initially saw the simultaneous release of films in theaters and video on demand (known colloquially as "day-and-date") as ideal for small independent films, says IFC Films President Jonathan Sehring, who notes that "Che" and "Gomorrah" enjoyed roughly equivalent audiences in both venues. But he foresees a time when more mainstream movies are released the same way. "It's a way for films that either have bigger budgets or are really smart adult-oriented films to reach that audience," he says, "when megaplexes are programming [blockbusters] and studios are having a tough time doing anything else."

Would Lee consider the day-and-date strategy for, say, "Inside Man 2"? "Nope!" he says, without hesitation. "I've had my share of firsts already, so let somebody else take some bullets." He adds, however, that "it's gonna happen. I think we're getting [to the point where] the same day you see a movie in the theater, you can see it on video on demand or download the DVD to your home or computer or your telephone.  "Everybody and their mama has a 52-inch screen in their house," Lee says. "It's not necessarily a luxury item anymore. It's like having a toaster. And they have sound systems and Blu-ray machines. So in actuality, what people are viewing in their living rooms might be better than what they might see in these run-down theaters. As a filmmaker, I prefer for people to see my films in the theater. But if it's a choice between not seeing them at all, I'll take seeing them at home."

Meanwhile, observers agree that, if adult-oriented mainstream dramas and comedies are to survive, Hollywood must rethink some of its most cherished assumptions. Like astronomical star salaries. "There's something going on with these movie stars now," says industry analyst and Indiewire blogger Anne Thompson. "They don't work. Part of the problem is that they've been overpaid for a long time. But whatever the magic formula was where the studios thought they could pay them $20 million and get it back, it isn't working."  Consider: Russell Crowe couldn't get tushies in seats for "State of Play" or "Body of Lies," the latter of which featured the added catnip of Leonardo DiCaprio. Julia Roberts didn't coax oldsters off their couches to see "Duplicity." Brad Pitt, Johnny Depp and Tom Hanks didn't tip the scales for "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," "Public Enemies" or "Angels and Demons." (And most of these movies had the benefit of strong to favorably mixed reviews.)

Producer Laura Bickford ("Traffic," "Che," "Duplicity") agrees with Thompson that more stars are going to have to emulate George Clooney, who has often taken a salary cut to make good movies. He starred in "Michael Clayton" for a price far below his customary $15 million, making it possible for the 2007 thriller to make a profit with a $93 million box-office take. "Movies have to be made for less," Bickford says, "and the interests of financiers and talent have to get more aligned, where everyone gets less up front and shares the upside."  Another Hollywood habit coming under scrutiny is the pathological focus on the Oscars. Increasingly, studios have saved their classy productions for the end of the year, spending tens of millions of dollars on Oscar campaigns that boost awareness and prestige -- and, the studios hope, ticket sales. The strategy flopped this year, Thompson says. "Even with films that got good reviews," she says, "like 'Frost/Nixon,' 'The Reader' and 'Milk,' their Oscar campaigns cost more than the money they yielded."  

Hollywood Reporter writer Carl DiOrio, who in April wrote about the struggles of adult-oriented dramas, says it all comes down to one thing: marketing. "It's less about whether there will be actual motion pictures and more about whether they're concepts that are easily marketed," he says. "You need to let the viewer understand what their moviegoing experience is going to be like in a very simple TV message, and that's not easily done unless you have something that can be boiled down to a [one-sentence synopsis]. And the [typical] modestly budgeted adult-oriented drama of the character-driven variety doesn't really lend itself to a convenient marketing hook."  (Last winter's "Taken" and the current "Julie & Julia," both adult-aimed movies that have done well, exemplify DiOrio's point. One is a fast-moving action thriller about a retired CIA agent who must rescue his abducted daughter. The other features a beloved actress playing an equally beloved American icon, in a story set in romantic postwar France and full of delicious shots of food and cooking. What's not to like?)  Bickford echoes DiOrio's observation. "As long as you can figure out a way to market these movies without spending your entire profit, they'll be made," she says.  "The last 18 months have been just devastating," she continues. "But in terms of audiences for these movies, they're there. Look at how many people want to see Meryl Streep play Julia Child."


6 Things the Film Industry Doesn’t Want You to Know About
(By Ashe Cantrell, Cinematic Listology, September 8, 2011)

You may already be a film industry cynic. Maybe you think Hollywood is a barren wasteland, devoid of creativity and originality. Maybe you’re sick of seeing talented people get ignored and vapid hacks get splashed all over the trades. Maybe you’re tired of 3D everything and having to re-buy your movies every five to ten years.  I’m not here to dissuade you of any of that. Hell no, I’m here to make it worse. Get ready, because this is some of the rottenest shit of which the film industry is capable. These are the things so terrible that Hollywood has to cover them up, lest God see their sin and smite them accordingly (and keep various government entities and lawyers off their backs, of course).  If you still had any kind thoughts toward Hollywood, I suggest you prepare yourself for crushing disappointment.  But first, I’d like to give a very huge shout out and thank you to writers C. Coville and Maxwell Yezpitelok for their help on this article. You guys are great!  And now back to the shit storm, already in progress:

6. Tricky Hollywood Accounting

Here’s a basic example of Hollywood Accounting: A studio makes a movie. The studio distributes the movie itself, and although the distributor is technically a separate company, they both belong to the same parent company. Also, the distribution arm sets whatever fees it wants. If they want to charge themselves eleventy quintillion dollars for distribution, they totally can. Then, even if the film earns billions of dollars in box office receipts, they’re still technically in debt (to themselves) and thus haven’t turned a profit.

Sound ridiculous? It happens all the freaking time. David Prowse, the guy who was in the Darth Vader costume in the original trilogy of Star Wars (before being ousted by that douche Hayden Christensen in the special edition) has never been paid for Return of the Jedi because it hasn’t turned a profit after nearly 30 years. That’s after dozens of home video and theatrical re-releases. (All the merchandising money goes to Lucas directly, of course.)  Similarly, someone leaked Warner Bros.’ accounting sheet for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix onto the internet, showing that the film that had grossed about $1 billion worldwide had lost $167 million on paper.  Winston Groom, the writer of Forrest Gump was told that the film based on his work wasn’t profitable. Of course, he got the last laugh when they came to him asking if they could turn the sequel, Gump and Co. into a film as well, and he reportedly told them, ”I cannot, in good conscience, allow money to be wasted on a failure.” In other words, “Go fuck yourself.”

And then there’s Art Buchwald, whose spec script got stolen by Paramount (remember that, it’s going to come up later), and got turned into Coming to America. When he took them to court and sued for a percentage of the profit, Paramount was totally cool with it, because according to their books, it hadn’t made any kind of profit, so they didn’t owe him one red fucking cent. The judge later ruled that it was “unconscionable” for Paramount not to pay Buchwald something in a settlement. Otherwise, he’d have to ask Paramount to open their books for the courts to review. Paramount quickly backed down and settled with Buchwald instead.

5. Extorting Theaters

Ever wondered why popcorn, something that costs $.25 a bag on Planet Earth, costs $7 at the movies? Here’s a hint: it’s not because of the reconstituted pig flesh that they call butter.  Movie theaters have had to look for more and more ways to increase revenue, like jacking up the prices of things at the concessions stand and adding a dozen ads to the beginning of each film. Why, when new releases are constantly breaking records and making obscene amounts of money? Because film studios don’t like the theaters getting their beak wet.

Movie theaters operate on a kind of sliding scale. The first weekend of a movie’s release, the profit is split heavily in the studio’s favor, typically around an 80/20 split. The second weekend, it may change to a 70/30 scale, and so on. It’s even rumored that some major blockbuster films like Avatar are released with 90/10 or even 95/5 splits. Now keep in mind that exceptionally few films do very well after the first week of their release.  So why do the theaters take these awful deals? Because if they don’t, the studio is under no obligation to lease their films to that theater, so they can just totally bounce if they want to. If that happens, the theater has no films to show at all, and then what have they got to draw people in? Overpriced hot dogs?

4. Fake Reviews

Have you ever seen a trailer for a shitty movie on TV and it has one of those blurbs that’s like “…stunning…,” and maybe a soothing voice reads it aloud? You may joke with your friends that the rest of that quote is “a stunning pile of horse shit.” Turns out, that actually happens. It’s not a joke at all. Marketing departments just plain don’t give a fuck. For example, one critic’s review of Live Free or Die Hard got shortened from “hysterically overproduced and surprisingly entertaining” to “hysterically… entertaining.” Sometimes they’ll even take the blurb from parts of the review where the critic was referring to a different movie entirely or the genre as a whole, like when a blurb used for Definitely, Maybe turned out to be from the critic’s description of the romantic comedy genre as a whole and not his actual thoughts on the film.

Another fun trick Hollywood likes to use is trying to woo critics with free screenings, food, set visits, and other goodies. The people who take the bait are called quote whores. If your film needs a good review, they’re there to give it. One of the most infamous is a critic named Earl Dittman, who is the film critic for a publication called Wireless Magazine. You’ve probably never heard of Wireless, and that’s because they apparently have zero subscribers and no web presence, and yet that doesn’t stop film studio marketing departments from using his blurbs like they’re gold. In fact, Dittman was the center of a lot of controversy when an e-mail he sent to Fox contained not one, but ten different blurbs for the movie Robots and instructions for the studio to pick and use whichever one they liked best. But at least Earl Dittman’s a real guy.

David Manning, however, is a different story. In 2000, Sony Pictures created the fictitious Manning and claimed that he worked for The Ridgefield Press, a real newspaper. Unfortunately, they didn’t foresee someone actually asking the paper if they’d ever heard of the guy, because, you know, they hadn’t. All of his blurbs were concocted by Sony Pictures’ marketing department. Fox pulled similar shit, using footage of employees pretending to be ordinary movie-goers for promotional material.

3. Copyright Bullshit

Now, I’m not going to sit here and say that copyright sucks and it should be abolished, because I think it’s a useful tool for creators who want to protect their work from douchebags who might rip it off. What sucks is the way that big film companies use copyright as a bludgeon to keep people away from their intellectual property.  See, originally, copyright was limited to a maximum of 28 years. If you created something, you had 28 years to get all you could out of it, because after that it became public domain. Since those days, copyright terms have been extended numerous times, and each time one company has been leading the charge: Disney. 

Each time the copyright on Steamboat Willie is about to run out, Disney loses their shit and lobbies the government to pass another copyright extension law. Although a popular explanation for this is that they’d lose the rights to Mickey Mouse if Steamboat Willie were to become public domain, that’s not the case. Mickey Mouse is actually a trademarked property, and trademarks are perpetual as long as the company continues to use it. (If you haven’t noticed, Disney uses the fuck out of Mickey Mouse.) The simple fact is that Disney still makes lots of money selling DVDs and merchandise relating to Steamboat Willie.

In fact, Duke University compiled a list of all of the films that could have entered the public domain this year if Disney hadn’t argued for the law to be changed in 1976. Movies like On The Waterfront and Seven Samurai, and even the first two books of The Lord of the Rings would be in the public domain now, free for anyone to use and enjoy and remix and learn from. As it stands now, Steamboat Willie remains under copyright until 2023, and even fairly boring things like the very first issue of Sports Illustrated are protected until 2050. You can imagine what that means for movies that came out this year.

Here’s something funny, though: Some legal experts believe that Steamboat Willie may have never been registered for copyright at all. Nowadays, the very act of creating something gives you copyright, whether you register it or not, but back then, you had to specifically register the copyright for the works you wanted protected, and you had to label it in a very certain way afterward. A Disney researcher, Gregory Brown, believes that Walt Disney may have improperly formatted the copyright notice on Steamboat Willie, thus making the copyright void. In fact, a law student at Arizona State University researched Brown’s claims and agreed with him. Not only that, but a George Washington University copyright expert agreed with both of them and published a paper saying so. It was at this point that Disney took notice of the issue and actually threatened to sue him for “slander of title.” Holy shit, Disney.

2. Strangling Consumer Choice

If you’re like many millions of other Netflix customers, you were probably pissed off when they jacked up their prices last month, effectively doubling the cost of some people’s subscriptions. And before that, you were probably annoyed when they started putting out their DVDs 28 days after they went on sale. And maybe you’re mad now that they’re losing their contract with Starz because they had an argument about money.

It’s almost like Netflix got tired of making money or something. Why do they keep doing all this stupid stuff? Well, simply put, it’s not really their fault. You see, film studios aren’t the biggest fans of things like Netflix, Redbox, or Hulu. You know, those things that allow you to pick and choose what you want to watch when you want to watch it for a reasonable, affordable price. The reason is that it eats into their sales of DVDs and pay-per-view rentals, for which they get a much higher cut of the profit. As DVD sales drop, movie studios panic.

So, instead of adapting their business model to a format that consumers obviously prefer, they’d rather try to turn back the clock and take away the distribution methods people love and enjoy. That means demanding more money from Netflix to lease their movies, ever-increasing delays between a DVD’s release and its availability out of Redbox machines, and putting Hulu, a service created by the content creators themselves, up on the auction block when it ended up being too successful. The Time Warner CEO has even taken to blasting Netflix in the press for the last year, describing them as a “fading star.” You’d fade, too, if someone wrapped their hands around your throat.

1. Stealing Scripts

Remember Art Buchwald from earlier? The guy who almost got screwed by Paramount before a judge stepped in and told them to cut that shit out? Well, there’s a little more to that story. A few years before the big court case, Buchwald was already a successful humor writer and satirist, even winning himself a Pulitzer for his work. Then he set his sights on Hollywood, and he pitched Paramount an idea for a movie about an African prince who moves to America to find a bride. He suggested Eddie Murphy as a lead actor. (That’s right, kids. People used to want Eddie Murphy in their movies.)

Paramount took the pitch, but then had trouble getting it off the ground. Eventually, the rights returned to Buchwald and he pitched it to Warner Bros. Shortly after they began work on it, though, Warner Bros. killed the project. Turns out, there was a similar film going into production at Paramount. It was a movie about an African prince who moves to America to find a bride. Oh, and it starred Eddie Murphy, who was also given writing credit. That movie, of course, was Coming to America. Buchwald was furious and immediately took Paramount to court, which instigated the events discussed back in the Hollywood Accounting entry. So Buchwald didn’t just get screwed, he almost got double-screwed. But he’s not the only one.

Turns out, some of those crazy people who constantly crop up and say Hollywood producers ripped off their scripts aren’t so crazy. In fact, it turns out that it’s a dirty little secret of Hollywood’s that stealing scripts is almost commonplace. Jeff Grosso wrote a script about his life as a professional Texas Hold ‘Em player and had it turned down by Miramax, only for them to turn around and begin production on an identical project that became the Matt Damon film Rounders.  Another writer, Reed Martin, pitched his idea and, like Buchwald, even recommended the perfect actor for his script– Bill Murray. Months later, an exceptionally similar movie, Broken Flowers (starring Bill Murray, of course), went into production without Martin. Although Martin’s claim survived many attempts at dismissal, it saw a trial in which a jury sided with the studio. Due to the high cost of the appeals process (an approximated $800,000), he has not filed an appeal.

The problem is that while scripts can be copyrighted, ideas cannot. So, if Hollywood gets pitched an idea and likes it, but doesn’t want to deal with the whole “paying for the script” thing, they can just hire someone to write another script based on “their” idea. Since they have much bigger, meaner lawyers than your average spec script writer, the writer kinda gets boned. So even the mythical “original idea” in Hollywood? Yeah, it may not be so original after all.


Ratings System Runs Adrift
(By Ann Oldenburg, USA TODAY)

      Quick: What does TV-Y7-FV mean?  Is the f-word likely to be in a PG-13 movie?  Do you know for what age group the new video game starring Conker the squirrel is most appropriate?  After hidden explicit sexual content was found in the Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas video game, its M for mature audiences (17 and up) was no longer valid and the game was pulled from many stores' shelves.  Now, a cry has gone out: Fix the game-ratings system. Fix all media-ratings systems.  Even though TV programs, movies, music and video games all carry labels denoting age-appropriateness, parents groups and politicians say the systems aren't working.  The complaints: Ratings are too confusing because they vary by medium. Ratings are too lenient and inconsistent in the level of violence and sexuality they allow. The entertainment industry isn't doing enough to police itself because that could cut into profits.  "The scandal is about video games," says David Walsh, president of the National Institute on Media and the Family. "But we could be talking movies or television programs."  Says Tim Winter, executive director of the Parents Television Council: "What you're seeing here is an industry that refuses to accept responsibility for the harm it is capable of."

     One suggested solution: a universal ratings system.  In 1999, Hillary Clinton called for one in the wake of the Columbine High School shootings, carried out by two video-game-obsessed teenagers. Last week, the senator from New York was among those on Capitol Hill reiterating that idea, calling for "ratings systems that work" and legislation to ensure they do.  Making the issue even more critical, Walsh says, is the changing media world. "We are moving into an area of media convergence, and as we do that, the lines separating all these forms of media will disappear. A child with a remote will be able to switch from a Web site to video-on-demand to television -  all with the click of a remote. As we go from screen to screen, it makes more sense to have a universal rating system."  By the way, the answers to the above questions are:  TV-Y7-FV is a TV rating denoting content that is appropriate for age 7 and up and contains fantasy violence.   PG-13 movies, for children 13 and up, are allowed "one use of the harsher sexually derived words," according to the Motion Picture Association of America.  Xbox's Conker: Live and Reloaded, with a fighting squirrel, is rated M for Mature, age 17 and up.

"The system is working effectively now," says Patricia Vance, president of the Entertainment Software Rating Board, which assesses video games. "There's nothing broken."  San Andreas, she says, "is an isolated incident."  No ratings system would have caught the content problem in the game because it could be found only by a downloaded modification to the game, she says.  And parents, she says, are fully aware of what games are rated. Vance points to a 2003 study commissioned by her board and conducted by Peter D. Hart Research Associates in which researchers found that parents believed ratings were "about right" 77% of the time.  In the movie world, Jack Valenti, former head of the Motion Picture Association of America who still oversees the ratings system, says there's nothing wrong with his process, either. Every year parents are surveyed to see whether they think it's working. "Last year, 80% of all parents with children under 13 found the ratings very useful to fairly useful. Members of Congress don't have an 80% approval rating," he says.

     Since 1985 in the music industry, the Recording Industry Association of America has provided record companies with the warning sticker that alerts parents to explicit lyrics. There isn't a ratings system, per se. In 2002, when politicians called for stricter warnings for music, Hilary Rosen of the RIAA told The New York Times it was unnecessary because a large number of adolescents no longer bought music in stores. "They simply go to the Internet and download it."  And in TV, networks say they're complying with the Federal Communications Commission mandate that a rating be placed on every episode that airs.  "Surveys we have seen suggest parents are using them," says Dennis Wharton of the National Association of Broadcasters. "The ratings system that we have put forth is not meant to replace the role of parents, but it's a tool to empower parents." As for being too confusing, he says, "We think the parents who truly value these descriptors understand them." 
So, asks the software ratings board's Vance, "Where's the problem?"  The answer: It varies from medium to medium.  "I think there's inconsistency," says Tara Paterson, mom and founder of "We have a Spider-man game rated E for Everyone, but Spider-man's kicking and punching the bad guys.  "I think things should be rated, but parents have to pay attention to what the rating is."  Gregory Keer, dad and founder of, says the industry should be held accountable, but not blamed. "It's always the battle between who is ultimately responsible, and ultimately it's the parent."  The industry, he says, will always be concerned with "the bottom-line dollar, but I don't think they're evil and I don't think they want to corrupt kids. I think they look for the easy route." Parents, he says, get "lazy and say we're mad at the ratings board. But PG is parental guidance - that's a parent's job."

     In movies, a lack of consistency in the ratings that parents are supposed to follow draws the most criticism. A study released last year by the Harvard School of Public Health found that a decade of "ratings creep" has allowed more violence and sex into films, suggesting that movie raters' standards have grown more lenient. For example, Disney's 1994 movie The Santa Clause was rated PG while the 2002 sequel, The Santa Clause 2, which had comparable content, was rated G.  Valenti says in defense, "Let me ask you a question: Do you think the society has changed? Well, the ratings system has changed as well. The ratings system tries in its own halting way to change with it." He concedes, "A PG-13 today might have been an R 15 years ago." But, he adds, "it depends on the movie."  TV has drawn even more criticism.  "The TV ratings are meaningless," says Brent Bozell of the Parents Television Council. In a study released in April, the council found that "there is no inter-network consistency in the ratings, nor is there even intra-network consistency."  On top of that, parents don't heed the warnings. A March report by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that for a majority of kids there are no rules in the household about media use. Where there are rules, often they aren't enforced or they apply only to how many hours children watch TV, not to content. 

     In each medium, there is a circular argument. Parents look to producers and the government for guidelines and regulations, the government looks to the producers and the industry to self-censor, and producers expect parents to make their own decisions regarding their kids.  To help fill the void, outside ratings sources have cropped up. Various non-profit parent organizations offer reviews.  Last week, a coalition of organizations such as corporations, entertainment companies & family groups launched a new Web site - - dedicated to educating parents about ratings.  Other for-profit groups are tackling the topic, too. For example, employs a staff of five critics who list scenes that could be considered objectionable in movies and DVDs, and they hope to expand to video games. It's advertiser-driven, or subscribers can pay $12 a year for access to the same content without ads. 
David G. Kinney, CEO of Los Angeles-based PSVratings available at, says he has the solution to the universal ratings problem with his database-driven technology.  It assigns ratings to movies, TV series, DVDs and video games based on rules designed by a board of educators, child psychologists and child psychiatrists, all of whom are parents.  Another alternative: legislation. Several bills are pending in states pushing for harsher penalties to be levied against retailers who sell adult-content videos to minors.  Gov. Rod Blagojevich just signed the Safe Games Illinois Act, making Illinois the only state in the nation to ban the sale and rental of violent and sexually explicit video games to children.  "Parents don't need government to raise their kids. That's their job," Blagojevich said. "But government can help them protect their children from influences they may not want their kids exposed to."  In response, the Entertainment Software Association is leading a fight to reverse the bill on First Amendment grounds. The group said in a statement, "The law will have a chilling effect on free speech."

Eight Lessons From Summer Movies
(By Ann Hornaday, Washington Post, 23 August 2013)

The summer of 2013 might be remembered best as the Season of the Collapsing Tentpoles. As mega-budget spectacles such as “White House Down,” “The Lone Ranger” and “After Earth” fell apart at the box office, little engines that could — one with a name that was literally “Mud” — proved they could not only survive the competition, but thrive.  As we learned last summer, which featured such debacles as “John Carter” and “Battleship,” quality still counts. Studios, which generally avoid movies that are novel or risky or not based on a comic book because they’re “execution dependent,” may slowly be realizing that everything’s execution dependent, no matter the star, source material or special-effects budget.

That goes for enduringly reliable family films as well — in the pile-up of animated kids’ movies this summer, the triumphs happened also to be the best: “Despicable Me 2” and “Monsters University.” Those victories, plus a few out-of-left-field hits and misses, made the past few months particularly instructive for anyone willing to pay attention. Before we all go back to school, here are a few lessons learned that Hollywood may want to study up on when it plans our next summer vacation.
1. Even the biggest stars burn out

Two of the biggest stars on the planet — Will Smith and Johnny Depp — got rude awakenings this summer when their movies flopped. “The Lone Ranger” proved that a dusty period Western based on a 1930s radio serial — surprise! — won’t connect with young audiences or international viewers, regardless of explosions, spectacular stunts and the magical Mr. Depp. “After Earth” has done better overseas, but probably not well enough to turn a genuine profit.
2. It’s not just about U.S.

Even if non-U.S. box-office receipts can’t save a debacle such as “After Earth,” they have tipped the scales in favor of “Pacific Rim,” especially in China: Guillermo del Toro’s science fiction fantasy underperformed when it opened domestically but has more than made up for that in other markets, largely because of del Toro’s instinctively global point of view and knack for cosmopolitan casting.
3.Women aren’t the enemy, Hollywood

One of the biggest surprise hits of the summer was “The Heat,” the only big-popcorn movie to feature a female lead (two, in fact: Sandra Bullock and Melissa Mc­­Car­thy). And another dark horse can attribute its success to women: Brad Pitt’s zombie chase movie, “World War Z,” went from disasterpiece to Brad’s highest-grossing film, thanks to the women who made up a whopping 50 percent of its audience.
4.Black films don’t ‘overperform.’ They perform, period.

With successes such as “Fruitvale Station” and “Lee Daniels’ The Butler,” this was a great summer for African American stories on screen. And they became hits not just because they were good, but also because they were made for modest budgets and marketed with savvy and sensitivity. Like the Tyler Perry oeuvre, rom-coms such as “Jumping the Broom” and “Think Like a Man” and “42” before them, this summer’s films by and about African Americans connected with just the right audiences — whether that meant the Weinstein Co. reaching out to black churches to promote “The Butler” or Codeblack Entertainment, which produced “Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain,” researching Hart’s ticket sales and Twitter and Facebook followings. The result? “Let Me Explain” was one of the sleeper hits of the summer, grossing a little more than $32 million (which, coincidentally, is also the gross from ticket sales from Hart’s last tour).
5.A rising tide can’t lift all boats if the harbor is too crowded

The movie season broke box-office records this summer, earning north of $4 billion. But John Fithian, president and chief executive of the National Association of Theatre Owners, suggests that studios left money on the table by crowding their movies into an already busy three-month period. “Some of those movies would have done a lot better somewhere else. A family title moved from summer to February could have increased its gross. Even some of the popcorn action movies released somewhere else could have increased their gross,” Fithian says. “There are 12 months on the calendar. We continually urge distributors to spread their movies out.” (Hear that, “White House Down”? Or “Croods”? Or “Turbo”?)

6. Ditch the cape . . .

“You don’t need superheroes to succeed,”’s Phil Contrino says. “If you look at the one studio that had one of the best summers it would be Universal — minus ‘R.I.P.D.’ — and they had ‘Fast and Furious 6’ and ‘Despicable Me 2,’ [neither] a superhero franchise. This idea that you have to take a superhero and make eight movies out of that character is not the only way to go.” That goes for franchises in general: Series installments such as “Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters” and “The Smurfs 2” arrived in theaters gasping for air, but original horror films such as “The Conjuring” and “The Purge” — as well as the literary adaptations “The Great Gatsby” and “World War Z” — defied Hollywood’s tired reboot-sequel-franchise paradigm. (Of course, “World War Z” has reportedly launched another franchise, and the world goes round and round.)
7. . . . And let serious dramas save the day

One of the most profitable movies of the summer was “Mud,” an atmospheric bayou thriller starring Matthew McConaughey in the title role; after opening in theaters in April, it played all summer long, still attracting audiences even when it was available on DVD. Similar successes include “The Place Beyond the Pines,” the midlife romance “Before Midnight,” Woody Allen’s “Blue Jasmine,” the coming-of-age comedy “The Way, Way Back” and the emotionally gripping urban drama “Fruitvale Station.” All of these winners prove that “the audience is really craving classic filmmaking,” says Howard Cohen, co-president of Roadside Attractions, “Mud’s” distributor. “ ‘Mud’ had Matthew McConaughey, it had some ambition, it had some scope, it was accessible for the whole country, it was not culturally exclusive. But most [important], it was a movie for grown-ups, the kind that’s not getting made anymore outside movies engineered for Oscars.”
8. We may be getting over 3-D here, but it isn’t over over there

After a mad rush to convert movies and theaters to 3-D in the wake of blockbusters such as “Avatar” and “Alice in Wonderland,” the 3-D market has matured in the United States. Less than a third of box-office revenue for two of the summer’s biggest hits — “Despicable Me 2” and “Monsters University” — came from 3-D premiums. Says NATO’s Fithian, the success of 3-D “breaks down geographically as well as [by] genre. Three-D did pretty well internationally this summer, but not so hot domestically.” Genre-wise, he says, “family titles, particularly involving young children, aren’t working on 3-D as well as we thought.” Meanwhile, an adaptation of a Jazz Age novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald does gangbusters. Says Fithian, “Three-D’s not going away in the United States, but we have to be more selective in the movies where we expect it to work.”


Longing For The Lines That Had Us At Hello
(By Michael Cieply, New York Times, October 19, 2010)

Have we heard the last (truly memorable) word from Hollywood?  Probably not, but it’s been a while since the movies had everybody parroting a great line.  Like, say, “Go ahead, make my day.” That was from “Sudden Impact,” written by Joseph Stinson and others, more than 27 years ago.  Sticky movie lines were everywhere as recently as the 1990s. But they appear to be evaporating from a film world in which the memorable one-liner — a brilliant epigram, a quirky mantra, a moment in a bottle — is in danger of becoming a lost art.

Life was like a box of chocolates, per “Forrest Gump,” released in 1994 and written by Eric Roth, based on the novel by Winston Groom. “Show me the money!” howled mimics of “Jerry Maguire,” written by Cameron Crowe in 1996. Two years later, after watching “The Big Lebowski,” written by Ethan and Joel Coen, we told one another that “the Dude abides.” 

But lately, “not so much” — to steal a few words from “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.” Released in 2006, that film was written by Sacha Baron Cohen and others and is one of a very few in the last five years to have left some lines behind.  Maybe it’s that filmmaking is more visual, or that other cultural noise is drowning out the zingers. “I’m at a loss, because the lines for a while were coming fast and furious,” said Laurence Mark, who had us at “hello” as a producer of “Jerry Maguire,” and is a producer of “How Do You Know,” which is written and directed by James L. Brooks and scheduled to open just before Christmas. (In 1987 Mr. Brooks mapped the media future in seven words from “Broadcast News”: “Let’s never forget, we’re the real story.”)

If film lines don’t stick the way they used to, Mr. Mark said, it is not for lack of wit and wisdom in Hollywood. “What I don’t believe is that the writers are less talented,” he insisted. “I don’t think that’s true, I just don’t.”  Speaking by phone recently, however, Mr. Mark was hard-pressed to come up with a line that stuck with him in the last few years. “I will try my darnedest to think of one,” he promised.  It may be that a Web-driven culture of irony latches onto the movie lines for something other than brilliance, or is downright allergic to the kind of polish that was once applied to the best bits of dialogue. Thus one of the most frequently repeated lines of the last year came from “Clash of the Titans,” which scored an unimpressive 28 percent positive rating among critics on the Web site after it was released by Warner Brothers in April.  “Release the Kraken!” thundered Liam Neeson as Zeus — spawning good-natured mockery on obscene T-shirts and in Kraken-captioned photos of angry kitty cats.

In truth, a good deal of thought went into the line. “When we came on, one of our conditions was that the line had to be in the movie,” said Matt Manfredi, who, with his writing partner, Phil Hay, joined in revising a script by Travis Beacham.  A predecessor film in 1981, written by Beverley Cross, had used the line, alongside another formulation that called for the Kraken to be “let loose,” Mr. Manfredi recalled. “In terms of poetry, ‘release’ worked for us,” he said.  “Machete don’t text,” from “Machete,” written by Robert Rodriguez and Álvaro Rodriguez, also traveled well on the Internet this year. But “can you imagine comparing that to ‘round up the usual suspects?’ ” said Mr. Mark, invoking a much-quoted line from “Casablanca,” the 1942 film that marked the golden era of movie quotations.

Written by Julius Epstein, Philip Epstein and Howard Koch, based on a play by Murray Burnett and Joan Alison, with uncredited work by Casey Robinson, “Casablanca” placed six lines in a list of 100 top movie quotations compiled by the American Film Institute in 2005, with help from a panel of 1,500 film artists, critics and historians.  “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn,” was first on the list. Those words, of course, come from “Gone With the Wind,” whose screenplay, based on the novel by Margaret Mitchell, was written seven decades ago by Sidney Howard and a number of uncredited writers.  Only one post-’90s line made the institute’s ranking. That would be “My precious.” The line came in 2002 from “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers,” written by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Stephen Sinclair and Peter Jackson, based on a novel by J. R. R. Tolkien.

When the film institute updates its list in another five years, at least a handful of lines from the current era will perhaps have aged into greatness, alongside classics like “Forget it, Jake, it’s Chinatown,” from “Chinatown,” with a screenplay by Robert Towne, in 1974, and “Hasta la vista, baby,” from “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” written by James Cameron and William Wisher Jr., in 1991.  “I drink your milkshake” is a possibility, said Bob Gazzale, the institute’s chief executive. Those words, connoting triumph, came from “There Will Be Blood,” written in 2007 by Paul Thomas Anderson and based on a novel by Upton Sinclair.

Great movie lines might communicate insouciance (“La-di-da”), rage (“You talking to me?”) or something more cosmic (“May the Force be with you”). But they are almost never so much about Noël Coward-like turns of phrase as simply capturing “indelible character moments,” says Tom Rothman, a chairman of the Fox movie operation, who has also introduced regular showings of classic films on the Fox Movie Channel.  (In a window display at the headquarters of the Writers Guild of America West and the Writers Guild Foundation here, some of the more elaborate wordsmithing comes from Billy Wilder and his various associates. Even Mr. Coward would be hard-pressed to one-up a line from a script by Mr. Wilder and Charles Brackett for “The Major and the Minor.” The line is spoken by Robert Benchley, and Mr. Wilder attributed it to him, although Mr. Benchley, in turn, apparently attributed it to his friend Charles Butterworth: “Why don’t you get out of that wet coat and into a dry martini?”) 

And Mr. Rothman cautions against believing that the great lines are all behind.  “It just takes a little time to sort the wheat from the chaff,” he said in an e-mail last week. Mr. Rothman predicted, for instance, that “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps,” with a script by Allan Loeb and Stephen Schiff, would have a keeper with “Stop telling lies about me, and I’ll stop telling the truth about you.” (Written by Stanley Weiser and Oliver Stone, the original “Wall Street,” from 1987, will ever be remembered for declaring that “greed, for lack of a better word, is good.”)  Meanwhile, a call to Eric Roth, the veteran screenwriter behind movies like “Munich” and “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” found him scratching to find an unstoppable one-liner in “The Social Network.”  That film was written by Aaron Sorkin and directed by David Fincher, and in a bit of dialogue that inspired Web parodies galore, it has the Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg “talking about taking the entire social experience of college and putting it online.”

Mr. Roth said that he deeply admired “The Social Network,” and that he thought that it could secure its place in history with a simple bon mot.  But “is there a great line” in it? he pondered. Its best lines, Mr. Roth said, were not as “sophomoric” as his own much-quoted speeches from “Forrest Gump.” Who could forget “Stupid is as stupid does”?   Neither are they quite as angry as Paddy Chayefsky’s mad-as-hell work in “Network,” from 1976, he noted.  But, Mr. Roth said, there is still time for viewers to find a word or two that will sum up “The Social Network” — much as “plastics” did for “The Graduate,” with a script by Calder Willingham and Buck Henry, in 1967. Besides, memorable words have a way of popping up when they are least expected. “The minute you write this, you’ll be proved wrong,” Mr. Roth predicted.  As Quentin Tarantino wrote in “Inglourious Basterds,” just last year, “That’s a bingo.”


AFI’s Top 100 Movie Quotes

1 "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn." Rhett Butler Clark Gable Gone with the Wind 1939

2 "I'm going to make him an offer he can't refuse." Don Vito Corleone Marlon Brando The Godfather 1972

3 "You don't understand! I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I could've been somebody,
instead of a bum, which is what I am."[2] Terry Malloy Marlon Brando On the Waterfront 1954

4 "Toto, I've got a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore." Dorothy Gale Judy Garland The Wizard of Oz 1939

5 "Here's looking at you, kid." Rick Blaine Humphrey Bogart Casablanca 1942

6 "Go ahead, make my day" Harry Callahan Clint Eastwood Sudden Impact 1983

7 "All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up."[3] Norma Desmond Gloria Swanson Sunset Boulevard 1950

8 "May the Force be with you." Han Solo Harrison Ford Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope 1977

9 "Fasten your seatbelts. It's going to be a bumpy night." Margo Channing Bette Davis All About Eve 1950

10 "You talkin' to me?" Travis Bickle Robert De Niro Taxi Driver 1976

11 "What we've got here is (a) failure to communicate."[4] Captain Strother Martin Cool Hand Luke 1967

12 "I love the smell of napalm in the morning!" Lt. Col. Bill Kilgore Robert Duvall Apocalypse Now 1979

13 "Love means never having to say you're sorry." Jennifer Cavilleri Barrett Ali MacGraw Love Story 1970

14 "The stuff that dreams are made of."[5] Sam Spade Humphrey Bogart The Maltese Falcon 1941

15 "E.T. phone home." E.T. Pat Welsh E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial 1982

16 "They call me Mister Tibbs!" Virgil Tibbs Sidney Poitier In the Heat of the Night 1967
17 "Rosebud." Charles Foster Kane Orson Welles Citizen Kane 1941

18 "Made it, Ma! Top of the world!" Arthur "Cody" Jarrett James Cagney White Heat 1949

19 "I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!" Howard Beale Peter Finch Network 1976

20 "Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship." Rick Blaine Humphrey Bogart Casablanca 1942

21 "A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti." Hannibal Lecter Anthony Hopkins The Silence of the Lambs 1991

22 "Bond. James Bond." James Bond Sean Connery[6] Dr. No[7] 1962

23 "There's no place like home." Dorothy Gale Judy Garland The Wizard of Oz 1939

24 "I am big! It's the pictures that got small." Norma Desmond Gloria Swanson Sunset Boulevard 1950

25 "Show me the money!" Rod Tidwell Cuba Gooding, Jr. Jerry Maguire 1996

26 "Why don't you come up sometime and see me?"[8] Lady Lou Mae West She Done Him Wrong 1933

27 "I'm walking here! I'm walking here!"[9] "Ratso" Rizzo Dustin Hoffman Midnight Cowboy 1969

28 "Play it, Sam. Play 'As Time Goes By.'"[10] Ilsa Lund Ingrid Bergman Casablanca 1942

29 "You can't handle the truth!" Col. Nathan Jessup Jack Nicholson A Few Good Men 1992

30 "I want to be alone." Grusinskaya Greta Garbo Grand Hotel 1932

31 "After all, tomorrow is another day!" Scarlett O'Hara Vivien Leigh Gone with the Wind 1939

32 "Round up the usual suspects." Capt. Louis Renault Claude Rains Casablanca 1942

33 "I'll have what she's having." Customer Estelle Reiner When Harry Met Sally... 1989

34 "You know how to whistle, don't you, Steve? You just put your lips together and blow." Marie "Slim" Browning Lauren Bacall To Have and Have Not 1944

35 "You're gonna need a bigger boat." Martin Brody Roy Scheider Jaws 1975

36 "Badges? We ain't got no badges! We don't need no badges! I don't have to show you any stinking badges!"[11] "Gold Hat" Alfonso Bedoya The Treasure of the Sierra Madre 1948

37 "I'll be back." The Terminator Arnold Schwarzenegger The Terminator 1984

38 "Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth."[12] Lou Gehrig Gary Cooper The Pride of the Yankees 1942

39 "If you build it, he will come."[13] Shoeless Joe Jackson Ray Liotta (voice) Field of Dreams 1989

40 "Mama always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get." Forrest Gump Tom Hanks Forrest Gump 1994

41 "We rob banks." Clyde Barrow Warren Beatty Bonnie and Clyde 1967

42 "Plastics." Mr. Maguire Walter Brooke The Graduate 1967

43 "We'll always have Paris." Rick Blaine Humphrey Bogart Casablanca 1942

44 "I see dead people." Cole Sear Haley Joel Osment The Sixth Sense 1999

45 "Stella! Hey, Stella!" Stanley Kowalski Marlon Brando A Streetcar Named Desire 1951

46 "Oh, Jerry, don't let's ask for the moon. We have the stars." Charlotte Vale Bette Davis Now, Voyager 1942

47 "Shane. Shane. Come back!" Joey Starrett Brandon De Wilde Shane 1953

48 "Well, nobody's perfect." Osgood Fielding III Joe E. Brown Some Like It Hot 1959

49 "It's alive! It's alive!" Henry Frankenstein Colin Clive Frankenstein 1931

50 "Houston, we have a problem."[14] Jim Lovell Tom Hanks Apollo 13 1995

51 "You've got to ask yourself one question: 'Do I feel lucky?' Well, do ya, punk?"[15] Harry Callahan Clint Eastwood Dirty Harry 1971

52 "You had me at 'hello'" Dorothy Boyd Renée Zellweger Jerry Maguire 1996

53 "One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got in my pajamas, I don't know."[16] Capt. Geoffrey T. Spaulding Groucho Marx Animal Crackers 1930

54 "There's no crying in baseball!" Jimmy Dugan Tom Hanks A League of Their Own 1992

55 "La-dee-da, la-dee-da." Annie Hall Diane Keaton Annie Hall 1977

56 "A boy's best friend is his mother." Norman Bates Anthony Perkins Psycho 1960

57 "Greed, for lack of a better word, is good."[17] Gordon Gekko Michael Douglas Wall Street 1987

58 "Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer."[18] Michael Corleone Al Pacino The Godfather Part II 1974

59 "As God is my witness, I'll never be hungry again." Scarlett O'Hara Vivien Leigh Gone with the Wind 1939

60 "Well, here's another nice mess you've gotten me into!"[19] Oliver Oliver Hardy Sons of the Desert 1933

61 "Say 'hello' to my little friend!" Tony Montana Al Pacino Scarface 1983

62 "What a dump."[20] Rosa Moline Bette Davis Beyond the Forest 1949

63 "Mrs. Robinson, you're trying to seduce me... Aren't you?"[21] Benjamin Braddock Dustin Hoffman The Graduate 1967

64 "Gentlemen, you can't fight in here! This is the War Room!" President Merkin Muffley Peter Sellers Dr. Strangelove 1964

65 "Elementary, my dear Watson."[22] Sherlock Holmes Basil Rathbone The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes 1939

66 "Get your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape!" George Taylor Charlton Heston Planet of the Apes 1968

67 "Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine." Rick Blaine Humphrey Bogart Casablanca 1942

68 "Here's Johnny!"[23] Jack Torrance Jack Nicholson The Shining 1980

69 "They're here!" Carol Anne Freeling Heather O'Rourke Poltergeist 1982

70 "Is it safe?" Dr. Christian Szell Laurence Olivier Marathon Man 1976

71 "Wait a minute, wait a minute. You ain't heard nothin' yet!"[24] Jakie Rabinowitz/Jack Robin Al Jolson The Jazz Singer 1927

72 "No wire hangers, ever!"[25] Joan Crawford Faye Dunaway Mommie Dearest 1981

73 "Mother of mercy, is this the end of Rico?" Cesare Enrico "Rico" Bandello Edward G. Robinson Little Caesar 1930

74 "Forget it, Jake, it's Chinatown." Lawrence Walsh Joe Mantell Chinatown 1974

75 "I have always depended on the kindness of strangers." Blanche DuBois Vivien Leigh A Streetcar Named Desire 1951

76 "Hasta la vista, baby." The Terminator Arnold Schwarzenegger Terminator 2: Judgment Day 1991

77 "Soylent Green is people!" Det. Robert Thorn Charlton Heston Soylent Green 1973

78 "Open the pod bay doors, HAL." Dave Bowman Keir Dullea 2001: A Space Odyssey 1968

79 Striker: "Surely you can't be serious!" Rumack: "I am serious... and don't call me Shirley." Ted Striker and Dr. Rumack Robert Hays and Leslie Nielsen Airplane! 1980

80 "Yo, Adrian!" Rocky Balboa Sylvester Stallone Rocky 1976

81 "Hello gorgeous." Fanny Brice Barbra Streisand Funny Girl 1968

82 "Toga! Toga!" John "Bluto" Blutarsky John Belushi National Lampoon's Animal House 1978

83 "Listen to them. Children of the night. What music they make." Count Dracula Bela Lugosi Dracula 1931

84 "Oh, no, it wasn't the airplanes. It was Beauty killed the Beast."[26] Carl Denham Robert Armstrong King Kong 1933

85 "My precious." Gollum Andy Serkis The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers 2002

86 "Attica! Attica!" Sonny Wortzik Al Pacino Dog Day Afternoon 1975

87 "Sawyer, you're going out a youngster, but you've got to come back a star!" Julian Marsh Warner Baxter 42nd Street 1933

88 "Listen to me, mister. You're my knight in shining armor. Don't you forget it. You're going to get back on that horse, and I'm going to be right behind you, holding on tight, and away we're gonna go, go, go!" Ethel Thayer Katharine Hepburn On Golden Pond 1981

89 "Tell 'em to go out there with all they got and win just one for The Gipper." Knute Rockne[27] Pat O'Brien Knute Rockne, All American 1940

90 "A martini. Shaken, not stirred."[28] James Bond Sean Connery[6] Goldfinger[29] 1964

91 "Who's on First?" Dexter Bud Abbott The Naughty Nineties 1945

92 "Cinderella story. Outta nowhere. A former greenskeeper, now, about to become the Masters champion. It looks like a mirac...It's in the hole! It's in the hole! It's in the hole!" Carl Spackler Bill
Murray Caddyshack 1980

93 "Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death!" Mame Dennis Rosalind Russell Auntie Mame 1958

94 "I feel the need—the need for speed!" Lt. Pete "Maverick" Mitchell and Lt. Nick "Goose" Bradshaw Tom Cruise and Anthony Edwards Top Gun 1986

95 "Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary." John Keating Robin Williams Dead Poets Society 1989

96 "Snap out of it!" Loretta Castorini Cher Moonstruck 1987

97 "My mother thanks you. My father thanks you. My sister thanks you. And I thank you." George M. Cohan James Cagney Yankee Doodle Dandy 1942

98 "Nobody puts 'Baby' in a corner." Johnny Castle Patrick Swayze Dirty Dancing 1987

99 "I'll get you, my pretty, and your little dog too!" Wicked Witch of the West Margaret Hamilton The Wizard of Oz 1939

100 "I'm king of the world!" Jack Dawson Leonardo DiCaprio Titanic 1997


Top Movie Role Reversals
(By Andrew Banks,, June 2007)

To quote 1980’s pop-star Tiffany: "Could've been so beautiful, could've been so right".  Then again, it could have been a bloody disaster.  Have you ever wanted to go back in time and right the wrongs of a movie classic? Or do you cringe at the thought of your favourite film being played by a totally different cast? If you were directing, what changes would you have made?  Through the beauty of hindsight (and considerable help from has compiled a list of movies that might have turned out quite differently had the original stars cast for the roles not passed on them.

In Pictures- How The Cinema Hits Could Have Looked:

Charlie's Angels:  Thandie Newton turned down the role played by Lucy Liu because she wanted to work with her husband Oliver Parker on a low-budget British film instead.

Lord Of The Rings:  Matthew Newton was considered to play Frodo, but passed. The role was snapped up by Elijah Wood. Daniel Day Lewis was offered several times and turned down the role of Aragorn (Strider), which eventually went to Viggo Mortensen. Kate Winslet was offered the role of Eowyn, played in the final film by Miranda Otto. Sean Connery turned down the role of Gandalf because he didn't want to film down in New Zealand for 18 months, and could not understand the novels. Sir Ian McKellen took over.

Little Miss Sunshine:  Bill Murray turned down Steve Carell's role, which reportedly became one of the few choices in his career that he regretted.

The O.C. (TV):  Chad Michael Murray was originally up for the role of Ryan Atwood, but turned it down for One Tree Hill.

Star Wars:  Nick Nolte, along with Christopher Walken (second choice), were both considered for the role of Han Solo. Al Pacino turned down the role, as did Burt Reynolds. Harrison Ford took the part. For the prequels, Ryan Phillippe turned down the role of Anakin Skywalker because of the age difference between Natalie Portman and himself. Leonardo Di Caprio was also considered. The role went to Hayden Christensen instead.

Raiders of the Lost Ark: Nick Nolte turned down the role of Indiana Jones, which eventually went to Harrison Ford. Steven Spielberg originally wanted Tom Selleck to play Indy, but he was still under contract for Magnum, P.I.

Ghost:  Bruce Willis turned down the role of Sam Wheat in Ghost (the role played by Patrick Swayze opposite Willis's now ex-wife Demi Moore) "because he didn't think the plot would work and that playing a ghost would be detrimental to his career". Ironically, he played a ghost in The Sixth Sense. Molly Ringwald turned down Moore's role.

Speed:  Halle Berry turned down the role of Annie, which was later picked up by Sandra Bullock. Stephen Baldwin turned down the role of Jack - which went to Keanu Reeves.

Saving Private Ryan:  Edward Norton passed on Private Ryan. Matt Damon got the gig.

Interview with the Vampire:  Julian Sands was novelist Anne Rice's choice to play Lestat, but producers wanted a bigger box-office draw, hence Tom Cruise was cast.  Christian Slater won the role of the interviewer after the death of friend and fellow actor River Phoenix, who had been cast in the role. Kirsten Dunst beat out Christina Ricci for her role.

Shakespeare in Love:  Kate Winslet turned down Gwyneth Paltrow's Oscar-winning role, as did Julia Roberts.

Man On The Moon:  Edward Norton was considered for the role of Andy Kaufman in Man on the Moon. Director Milos Forman could not decide between him and Jim Carrey and left the decision up to the studio. The studio decided to go with Carrey.

The Blue Lagoon:  Matt Dillon had been the original choice for the role of Richard, but turned the role down because of the nudity. Christopher Atkins dutifully obliged. Lori Loughlin had the lead role as Emmeline, but turned it down. John Travolta's wife Kelly Preston was turned down for the role of Emmeline.  This was Preston's first film audition.  It went to Brooke Shields.

American Psycho:  Producers wanted Edward Norton to play Patrick Bateman.  Leonardo Di Caprio was set to star, but had to drop it due to scheduling conflicts. Christian Bale won the role.

The Passion of the Christ:  Jason Patric turned down the role of Jesus in the Mel Gibson epic. Jim Caviezel put his hand up.

Fatal Attraction:  Miranda Richardson turned down the role, subsequently taken by Glenn Close.

Minority Report:  Samantha Morton was actually the third choice to play Agatha; Cate Blanchett and Jenna Elfman both turned it down.

Carrie:  Melanie Griffith auditioned for the title role that eventually went to Sissy Spacek.

The Horse Whisperer:  Natalie Portman turned down a role to act in The Diary of Anne Frank on Broadway. The film gave Scarlett Johansson her start on the way to superstardom.

Silence of the Lambs:  Michelle Pfeiffer was offered the role of Clarice, which went to Jodie Foster.

Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe:  Michelle Pfeiffer turned down the role of the White Witch - she was reportedly the only major Hollywood star to be offered the role. Tilda Swinton took up the role.

The Patriot:  Ryan Phillippe was considered for Heath Ledger's role.

Pretty Woman:  Daryl Hannah turned down the role of Vivian because she felt it was denigrating to women. She later appeared in Dancing at the Blue Iguana as a stripper. Molly Ringwald also passed. Vivian's role was snapped up by Julia Roberts and the rest is history. Al Pacino turned down Richard Gere's role.

Lolita:  This was a pretty volatile role, eventually falling into the path of Dominque Swain. But not before Melissa Joan Hart (Sabrina, The Teenage Witch) auditioned; Jennifer Love Hewitt and Claire Danes were both considered, Natalie Portman turned it down due to her feelings about young adult actors/actresses being exposed to sex in films.  Christina Ricci was turned down four times for the role.

Apollo 13:  Brad Pitt turned down a role as an astronaut to accept his role in Se7en. John Travolta passed too. John Cusack turned down Bill Paxton's role.

Thelma & Louise:  Brad Pitt was the third choice for J.D. in Thelma & Louise. William Baldwin, the first choice, left to star in Backdraft.  George Clooney auditioned five times for Ridley Scott for Brad Pitt's role. Cher was offered the part of Thelma (played by Susan Sarandon), while Melanie Griffith turned down Geena Davis's role.

The Matrix:  Brad Pitt was considered for the lead. Will Smith turned down the role of Neo. Keanu Reeves did the honours. Chow Yun-Fat turned down the role of Morpheus, later played by Laurence Fishburne.  Sean Connery turned down the role of the Architect in The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions.

The Graduate:  Robert Redford turned down the role of Ben Braddock because "he didn't feel he could project the right amount of naivite".  Dustin Hoffman didn't have that problem.

The Godfather:  Francis Ford Coppola suggested Warren Beatty, Alain Delon and Burt Reynolds to play the role of Michael Corleone (which went to Al Pacino). Paramount production chief Robert Evans had suggested Robert Redford at the time, because he could be perceived as "northern Italian."

Romancing the Stone:  Superman's Christopher Reeve turned down the role of Jack T. Colton, which eventually went to Michael Douglas.

American Gigolo:  Richard Gere had to settle for second best after Superman's Christopher Reeve passed on the part. Or maybe third best, considering John Travolta was offered the role too, but passed.

The Terminator:  Director James Cameron originally wanted Arnold Schwarzenegger for the role of Kyle Reese, but when Arnie walked into the restaurant to meet Cameron about the role, Cameron reportedly took one look at him and said "You're a machine!" Famke Janssen was offered the lead role in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, but declined.

Die Hard:  Bruce Willis made this movie his own. But not before Richard Gere, Sly Stallone, Burt Reynolds and Arnold Schwarzenegger had all passed on the role.

Wall Street:  Richard Gere turned down the role of Gordon Gekko, as did Warren Beatty. Gere has since said that was the role he regrets passing on the most. Michael Douglas went on to star. Sean Connery turned down the role of Simon Gruber in Die Hard: With a Vengeance (1995) "due to the diabolical nature of the character".

X-Men:  Can you imagine Mel Gibson as Wolverine instead of Hugh Jackman? Someone thought it was a good idea at the time. Thankfully, Mel passed. Russell Crowe, too was offered the part of Logan/Wolverine, but he declined.  Rachael LeighCook was considered for the role of Rogue, but turned it down due to having work with CGI costumes and effects. The role went to Anna Paquin, her co-star from She's All That.

Girl, Interrupted:  British actress Samantha Morton turned down the role of Lisa, which later went to Angelina Jolie who went on to win the Oscar.

Spider-Man:  Kate Hudson turned down the part of Peter Parker's girlfriend Mary Jane Watson for the role of Ethne Eustace in The Four Feathers. Kirsten Dunst stepped into the breach.

Romeo + Juliet:  Natalie Portman was the first choice to play Juliet, but turned it down because of the scenes and the age difference between her and Leonardo DiCaprio. Jennifer Love Hewitt lost the role of Juliet to Claire Danes because the director felt she wasn't "modern" enough.

Basic Instinct:  Good on Sharon Stone for taking a role that nobody wanted (Meg Ryan, Kelly Lynch, Kim Basinger, Melanie Griffith and Julia Roberts all passed) and forging a career out of her infamous Britney Spears flash scene.

Buffy, the Vampire Slayer (TV):  Katie Holmes auditioned for the role as Buffy Summers, but she was too young. Sarah Michelle Gellar took the role.

As Good As It Gets:  Helen Hunt got the lead after Holly Hunter turned it down. Melanie Griffith was unable to star because she was pregnant at the time.

Grease:  Susan Dey (LA Law) turned down the role of Sandy (won by Olivia Newton-John).

Batman:  Tim Curry was director Tim Burton's second choice for the role of the Joker (played by Jack Nicholson). Kim Basinger replaced Sean Young for the role of Vicki Vale. Marlon Brando was considered by Tim Burton for the role of The Penguin in Batman Returns and Mel Gibson had been considered for the role of Batman/Bruce Wayne in the original Tim Burton film.

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