Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Superman Returns the new standard of Hollywood fiscal lunacy

I admire Bryan Singer, pretty much. I mean, I thought The Usual Suspects was a little overrated, but still a good movie. And Singer is a guy who rose from the indie ranks and hit it big.

But still, if you thought budgets in the range of $200 million were absolutely out of control, when you start to push $300 million, you need to be taken out back and roughed up a little, if only to have a little sense knocked into you. Three hundred million dollars!? That is the direction the rumor mill has Superman Returns' budget headed towards. Yes, King Kong might have made jaws drop at $207 million, but at least Peter Jackson delivered three hours of non-stop ass-kicking for the investment. If SR becomes the first movie to hit the $300M price point, how can it possibly make its money back? I mean, it could end up clicking with audiences better than Sam Raimi's Spider-Man movies have done, but how likely is that? Even Chris Nolan's Batman Begins, one of the most well-reviewed comic book movies ever, only took in $205.3 million domestically, towards a worldwide $371.9 cume. SR would have to take in over $600 million globally to break even at a $300 million budget — not categorically impossible. But way riskier than I'd be happy with, were I an exec with any sense.

Hollywood is in a quandary. Theater attendence remains ho-hum, because people are tired of the expense, the ads, the crying babies, and the asshole in the row behind you smacking his popcorn or talking on his cell phone. Ticket sales aren't disastrous, but disappointing, and yet production costs for the tentpole, hopefully-franchise-launching movies all studios desperately want in order to remain players continue to spiral into orbit.

Just to give you an idea: Egypt is the 31st country, out of 192, on the IMF's list of national wealth ranked by gross domestic product. Its GDP is recorded at just over $282 million. This means that more money is about to be spent on a single Hollywood movie than the wealth produced individually by 161 nations in a year.


It had better not suck.

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