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OK, Hollywood Learns A Scary Lesson From 'Paranormal Activity'

from the sequels-are-never-bad dept

A few weeks back, I noted that the low-budget (but highly-profitable) Paranormal Activity movie might teach Paramount a thing or two about how the business of making movies could succeed without spending millions on big stars and overly-expensive sets. However, it doesn't look like that was the lesson learned here. Paramount's CEO Philippe Dauman was recently interviewed about the success of the movie and talked about plans to make a sequel that he said would require the right marketing to ensure a benefit to Paramount. There's also the following insight into Dauman's strategy:
Asked by an analyst if the "Paranormal" model of a low-cost, high-box office film could be easily replicated with other releases, he said no, pointing to how much time passed between similar surprise hit "The Blair Witch Project" and "Paranormal."
So apparently, the decade that passed between Blair Witch and Paranormal makes for some kind of justification that low-budget movies can't be made profitably at will. Um. But couldn't that decade also be interpreted to mean that a studio should want to try more low-budget productions, more frequently? I can certainly understand that Paramount might not want to adopt a "throw everything at the wall to see what sticks" kind of business model for its movies. However, the existence of two huge box office hits that were produced for a pittance sounds more like proof that such a business model could work -- not a "lightning sometimes strikes twice" argument against making low-cost movies. But on the other hand, looking at the returns from the $15 million sequel Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2, that release grossed almost $48 million worldwide... and there's talk of another sequel for Blair Witch on the way. The scary ending to this story appears to be an endless cycle of horror movie sequels.


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  1.  
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    PaulT (profile), Nov 5th, 2009 @ 5:15am

    Blair Witch was a great movie but overexposed. A lot of people who saw it didn't like it, so they had no taste for a sequel. When the sequel came out, it was frankly inferior and only attracted a subset of those who liked the original. That's what will probably happen with Paranormal 2 if it happens.

    But, the time between BW and PA is of course irrelevant. There have been numerous movies where the plan to remake have gone through at great expense (mainly from foreign movies, such as the fantastic [REC] being remade into the OK Quarantine). It's also relatively rare for a studio to pick up a low budget independent movie and give it the wide exposure that PA received. Maybe if they stopped trying to second-guess what the public wants (e.g. by spending $100 million on a remake of a TV series that nobody remembers - Land Of The Lost) and actually concentrated on quality, there won't be a decade between each success story.

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 5th, 2009 @ 5:38am

    Twisted Hollywood Logic

    My guess is that the movie execs somehow link the cost of a movie with its value and put these low-budget successes to luck.

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 5th, 2009 @ 5:39am

    While I didn't go to see the movie, I have to disagree about the nobody remembers part. I have great memories of watching land of the lost. Unfortunately, the nearest theater that had it was almost an hour away, and I simply wasn't willing to drive that far for a mediocre experience in a theater staffed by high school kids who really couldn't care less about my experience.

    And while I grew up in a large metro area, and am fully aware that an hour away may not be all that far for some people, I currently live in a rural area and an hour away is in excess of 50 miles.

     

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  4.  
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    Yep, Nov 5th, 2009 @ 5:42am

    Not Suprising

    This behavior demonstrated by big media is a symptom of cranial posterior inversion syndrome.

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 5th, 2009 @ 5:50am

    I doubt they learned anything at all

     

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  6.  
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    PaulT (profile), Nov 5th, 2009 @ 5:50am

    Re:

    Oh, and as a horror fan:

    "The scary ending to this story appears to be an endless cycle of horror movie sequels."

    Better than the endless remakes of movies I loved growing up with. Besides, ever hear of Saw? Friday The 13th? Frankenstein. Endless sequels are hardly a new phenomenon for the genre.

     

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  7.  
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    PaulT (profile), Nov 5th, 2009 @ 5:53am

    Re:

    Well, maybe I did insert a little bit of hyperbole. I certainly don't remember the TV show (I don't think it even aired in my country), and the movie was a massive flop. It was just an example of executive thinking they know what people want - spending over $100 million in the process - rather than daring to buy independent productions and properly distribute them for a fraction of the cost.

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 5th, 2009 @ 5:58am

    Certain types of movies lend themselves to the whole "shaky hand held camera" thing, and horror movies happen to be one of those things.

    For those of you not in Canada, you maybe want to look a the TV series "Trailer Park Boys", entirely shot documentary / hand held style. Cheap to produce, funny as heck, barely scripted (ad libbed like mad) and a big hit.

    However, other types of movies don't translate well in handheld. Some of them just make you seasick to watch the movie with the constant camera movement, and are less than enjoyable. Horror movies are a rare gendre that really support this type of action.

     

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  9.  
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    Capt Obvious, Nov 5th, 2009 @ 6:06am

    Re: Hate to Break it to ya

    Low Budget != Shakey HandHeld

     

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  10.  
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    Leo Bloom, Nov 5th, 2009 @ 6:17am

    "I was merely saying that a Producer could make more money with a flop than he could with a hit"

    It seems the money is to be made in the making - not in profits from the selling.

     

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  11.  
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    Jon B., Nov 5th, 2009 @ 6:19am

    Re:

    Quite a bit of Paranormal Activity was done from a handheld point of view, but none of it was in ShakyCam. Much of it, the camera was stationary.

     

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  12.  
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    New Mexico Mark, Nov 5th, 2009 @ 6:19am

    Sequels / remakes

    The Hollywood Way: "Anything done right will be redone until we get it wrong."

     

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  13.  
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    Poddys (profile), Nov 5th, 2009 @ 6:23am

    I Am Still Looking For Those Batteries...

    The thing that got to me when I saw the Blair Witch Project was how long the batteries in the video camera lasted. Since mine only lasted several hours, and their's seemed to go on for 2 or 3 days (or at least it seemed like it), I am curious to know which brand they were using.

     

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  14.  
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    Drew, Nov 5th, 2009 @ 6:28am

    BLAIR WITCH 2

    Actually I think the "Blair Witch" sequel was FAR superior to the original. They should NOT have referenced "The Blair Witch" in it, (they could have used a different reason in the story line for the folks to be in he woods) and sold it on its own merits. I think the market that originally went to see it were the idiots who liked "The Blair Witch Project" and were hoping for more of the same tripe, and then were disappointed that it did not deliver the same crap they were used to... The people that would have liked it didn't go to see it because they figured it would be the same drivel and nonsense as featured in "The Blair Witch Project"... Marketing is not complicated, you've got to understand that people have different tastes, and don't sell them "chicken" when you have a "beef" product by claiming it "tastes like chicken". idiots...

     

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  15.  
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    Haywood, Nov 5th, 2009 @ 6:31am

    Frankly I'd rather this didn't catch on

    I like the big budget flicks, 1 million on special effects would seem like a reasonable minimum. I don't watch horror movies, I would rather not have that crap in my head. On the other hand I don't mind watching people blown up and shot to pieces, in line with the plot. This isn't to say you can't have entertaining low budget films, other than paying the cast, Phone Booth couldn't have cost much to make, yet it was fairly good. BTW, I've watched every episode of Trailer Park Boys, and found it addictive.

     

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  16.  
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    Another AC, Nov 5th, 2009 @ 6:40am

    Re: I Am Still Looking For Those Batteries...

    Well, really, the camera was only on for as long as the movie was, so i think that comes in at about the length a battery lasts.

     

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  17.  
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    Jake, Nov 5th, 2009 @ 6:42am

    A Radical Theory

    Perhaps some of these low-budget independent films succeed because they have to create strong characters and a well-written plot, since they don't have the budget for flashy visual effects and huge action sequences?

     

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  18.  
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    Richard, Nov 5th, 2009 @ 6:48am

    Paranormal Activities

    The scariest thing about this movie is that they actually get people to pay to see it. Absolutely the worst movie I have seen in decades.

     

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  19.  
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    caine, Nov 5th, 2009 @ 6:52am

    I didn't bother to read the whole article about the studio head because he will never admit he was wrong. But I do seem to recall many low budget movies doing very well on a regular basis. Just off the top of my head, The Usual Suspects (1995), which won two Oscars. Slingblade (1996) did well and won an Oscar. The Boondock Saints (1999) big cult hit. My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002). I'm sure I'm missing plenty. Now these may have not have been "as" cheap to make as PA, but they were significantly less than a regular Hollywood movie. So his two examples of BW (1999) and PA (2009) being rare occurrences only illustrates the typical studios short memory.

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 5th, 2009 @ 7:02am

    Maybe if it costs a pittance to make, it should cost a pittance for movie goers to get in. If the value of going to the theater was in any way tethered to the real market forces at work, maybe more people would go.

    I can buy 24 bags of popcorn at Wal-Mart for less than one small popcorn at Dipson Theaters. Go figure.

     

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  21.  
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    hexjones (profile), Nov 5th, 2009 @ 7:16am

    Re: A Radical Theory

    I concur

     

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  22.  
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    Eponymous Coward, AKA Doug (profile), Nov 5th, 2009 @ 7:16am

    I could throw a football a quarter mile

    Horror isn't the only genre that can make a low budget smash. Napoleon Dynamite cost about $400K to make, and it made a buttload of money. I fondly remember a lot of quiet hits, and the common denominator has always been solid story telling. Hollywood, she don't get that, and will pander to the teens who spend their allowance on the latest effects-driven pile of crap that Access Hollywood told them to see.

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Poster, Nov 5th, 2009 @ 7:21am

    Re: Sequels / remakes

    I'm honestly waiting for a remake of a REAL classic like Citizen Kane, Godfather, or Shawshank. Why? So I can have an excuse to form a lynch mob and burn Hollywood to the ground.

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    MattP, Nov 5th, 2009 @ 7:21am

    Re: Paranormal Activities

    Then don't buy the DVD, t-shirt, bobble-head, etc.

    Every movie isn't going to appeal to everybody. There are plenty of people out there that enjoyed the experience.

     

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  25.  
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    bshock, Nov 5th, 2009 @ 7:26am

    somehow this sounds familiar

    This clueless exec's babbling reminds me a bit of an anecdote I once heard from science fiction author Barry B. Longyear (who wrote the novella "Enemy Mine").

    Years ago Longyear wrote a novel that his publisher printed in a relatively small run, perhaps only 10,000 copies. (I probably have the number wrong.) Longyear kept watch on the sales of his book, and was pleased to see that it sold out in a short time. But when he called his publisher to mention that all 10,000 copies had sold, the publisher's response was, "Well, it's a good thing we didn't print any more than 10,000 copies."

    To which Longyear replied something like, "Huh?"

    "Sure," explained the publisher. "If the book sold only 10,000 copies, it's a good thing we didn't print any more than 10,000 copies."

     

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  26.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Nov 5th, 2009 @ 7:31am

    Are you crazy?

    "a studio should want to try more low-budget productions, more frequently?"

    Okay, you're not thinking this through. Logically, low-budget movies mean either less work for superstar actors and actresses or contracts that afford them less income. With a trend such as you're suggesting, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie stand to make far less money. And then what will become of their planned Bradgelina Xmas Football Spectacular?

    What? You're not familiar with the Bradgelina Xmas Football Spectacular? Well, the idea is to adopt enough dark skinned children that they can field a full football team. Then, once the adopted children have gone through several two-a-days practices, learning how to grow a beard from Bradley and how to use one's lips to cushion a fall from Angie, the kids will be trotted out against the Oakland Raiders on Xmas day for a little full contact football to see who wins (my money is on Brad and Angie's adoptees, better known as the Los Angelas Ego Bombs of Aneheim, Hollywood, and Tiajuana).

    And you want to take away their ability to field their team by limiting their income? You will NOT deny me my Xmas entertainment, Michael!

     

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  27.  
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    PaulT (profile), Nov 5th, 2009 @ 7:36am

    Re: somehow this sounds familiar

    Wow. I loved the movie Enemy Mine, and I didn't realise till this moment that it was based on a book. I'll have to find a copy (if one's available, of course!)

     

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  28.  
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    NullOp, Nov 5th, 2009 @ 7:37am

    Buffett....

    "Overkill", one of Jimmy's best songs said it right. "It's all about the silly stupid horseshit deal!" Hollywood just wants to do the "expensive" moves because it raises the studio persona. Making good movies just ain't its all about folks!

     

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  29.  
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    PaulT (profile), Nov 5th, 2009 @ 7:40am

    Re: Frankly I'd rather this didn't catch on

    I'm wondering, where is it that you live that people get forced to go an watch movies in a genre they don't like? Because if they don't, your post is just childish whining.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 5th, 2009 @ 7:55am

    Re: Re: Frankly I'd rather this didn't catch on

    Soviet russia...

     

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  31.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 5th, 2009 @ 8:24am

    Re:

    I think theyre talking about different things. The folks responsible for paranormal activity are talking about, quite understandably, amounts of moneys that individuals can rustle up and whether theres a chance for them to break into the big leagues with it. We're thinking of the distorted, ridiculous budgets of spidermans and land of the lost and waterworld and how ridiculous that seems to us when we're probably all a little more discriminating than the average movie viewer and wish those budgets couldve been spent on 10 movies instead of 1, though we sort of still like the super explosive immersion that their budgets can buy.

    Even a $1 Mln movie like slingblade is a bit out of reach of starving artists. $1 Mln doesnt buy you many special effects, but it does buy you production quality, which means anything cheaper than that is going to look like a TV show or a horror movie.

    Hollywood knows it can make money off of cheaper films and it makes plenty of them. But it doesn't really want to get into this game of making lots of cheap stuff "see what sticks to the wall" because that just isn't its nature. Maybe thats got to do with inertia and unions, but as an outsider in a different creative energy, I can tell you it might have a lot to do with a notion of artistry and a vision for the field of creative endeavour which can't tolerate too much democratization and has no interest in low production values.

     

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  32.  
    identicon
    Marc, Nov 5th, 2009 @ 8:25am

    Barriers to entry

    If the studios don't keep costs to $200M or so then anyone can make a film. That's not good.

    The 6 majors have too much invested in maintaining "release windows" of a bygone era.

    It's all about control...must have control of preciousssss.

    Hopefully they'll die soon so we can get back to a vibrant innovative film industry.

     

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  33.  
    identicon
    Jennifer, Nov 5th, 2009 @ 8:34am

    Another movie that is coming out that offers a clean alternative is ‘’Paranormal.’’ Below is some additional information about this new thriller!!

    Paranormal, the latest supernatural thriller from Cross Shadow Productions, (the
    creators of the Dove.org approved, best-selling BMG releases: Pray and Pray 2:
    The Woods) will be available in stores nationwide January 26th 2010. The 2009 Mrs. America is starring in it.

    See more information and trailers at:
    www.ParanormalTheMovie.com

    Following the success of family-friendly suspense/thriller The Exorcism of Emily
    Rose (Sony Pictures), comes a riveting supernatural thriller in the vein of the hit
    SyFy television series, Ghost Hunters and Frank Peretti's House (Roadside
    Attractions / Lionsgate).

    Paranormal follows best-selling, self-made novelist Greg Evans struggling through the worst case of writer's block in his award-winning career. In a desperate search for
    inspiration, Greg quickly finds himself immersed in a world he is not prepared to face.
    Turning to a group of paranormal investigators, Greg and the ghost hunting team search for proof and answers, yet are unaware they are about to have an experience of a
    lifetime! None will leave the way they came. Paranormal will peel back the supernatural curtain to reveal how The TRUTH will EXPOSE the darkness!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
    icon
    Jennifer (profile), Nov 5th, 2009 @ 8:41am

    Another movie that is coming out that offers a clean alternative is ‘’Paranormal.’’ Below is some additional information about this new thriller!!

    Paranormal, the latest supernatural thriller from Cross Shadow Productions, (the
    creators of the Dove.org approved, best-selling BMG releases: Pray and Pray 2:
    The Woods) will be available in stores nationwide January 26th 2010. The 2009 Mrs. America is starring in it.

    See more information and trailers at:
    www.ParanormalTheMovie.com

    Following the success of family-friendly suspense/thriller The Exorcism of Emily
    Rose (Sony Pictures), comes a riveting supernatural thriller in the vein of the hit
    SyFy television series, Ghost Hunters and Frank Peretti's House (Roadside
    Attractions / Lionsgate).

    Paranormal follows best-selling, self-made novelist Greg Evans struggling through the worst case of writer's block in his award-winning career. In a desperate search for
    inspiration, Greg quickly finds himself immersed in a world he is not prepared to face.
    Turning to a group of paranormal investigators, Greg and the ghost hunting team search for proof and answers, yet are unaware they are about to have an experience of a
    lifetime! None will leave the way they came. Paranormal will peel back the supernatural curtain to reveal how The TRUTH will EXPOSE the darkness!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
    icon
    nasch (profile), Nov 5th, 2009 @ 8:52am

    Re:

    Unfortunately, the nearest theater that had it was almost an hour away, and I simply wasn't willing to drive that far for a mediocre experience in a theater staffed by high school kids who really couldn't care less about my experience.

    But you would be willing to drive a short distance (and pay for tickets) for a mediocre experience in a theater staffed by high school kids who really couldn't care less about your experience??

     

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  36.  
    identicon
    TheStupidOne, Nov 5th, 2009 @ 8:57am

    Why Not

    Adopt the throw everything at the wall and see what sticks motto?

    I can see no reason not to do it. Paramount should pair up with independent film makers and finance 50% of their budget with absolutely no oversight. In return Paramount would get some percentage of the profits and the right to release it in the theaters as a Paramount film if they wish.

    If they can spend $10,000,000 on a whole bunch of movies and one of them becomes a box-office hit they will be much better off and there will probably be lots of new, good, 'independent' films made thanks to them. Obviously they should apply some discretion to who they give money to, but please hollywood, don't just make blockbusters.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 5th, 2009 @ 9:03am

    Re: Why Not

    They don't even have to do that. Releasing companies appear to be allow more and more small budget movies to get a small run in region theaters, which in turn allows them to spot movies that are selling and ones that are not. Those that do well can then be shopped up the ladder, or directly given wider release. It costs little to do it this way, and then you aren't invested in the thousands of really crappy movies that are made each year independently.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38.  
    identicon
    Haywood, Nov 5th, 2009 @ 9:33am

    Re: Re: Frankly I'd rather this didn't catch on

    USA, and no they don't force anyone to go to the movies at all, (but I'm sure they would like to force such a law).
    Where my childish whining is directed is; like reality TV taking over the air waves & pushing out nearly any intelligent content, so could the budget film push out its more costly to make counterpart. While that might be no problem for you, some might lament its passing.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39.  
    identicon
    pferland, Nov 5th, 2009 @ 10:41am

    Re: Re: Sequels / remakes

    If they even have a though in their head about remaking those, there would be a lynch mob ready to burn everything down.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40.  
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    azuravian (profile), Nov 5th, 2009 @ 10:59am

    Re: Re: Sequels / remakes

    You don't consider Hitchcock's Psycho a REAL classic. It was remade back in the late 90's and wasn't half bad (although it was 49% bad).

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  41.  
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    ranon (profile), Nov 5th, 2009 @ 11:07am

    Sequel

    You can bet that the sequel will not be a low cost movie. The budget will be escalated significantly.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  42.  
    identicon
    hegemon13, Nov 5th, 2009 @ 11:23am

    Re: I Am Still Looking For Those Batteries...

    Hence Heather's quote at the beginning, as she hefts a supply bag, "We've got enough battery power to power a f***ing third-world country."

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  43.  
    icon
    PaulT (profile), Nov 5th, 2009 @ 1:17pm

    Re: Re: Re: Frankly I'd rather this didn't catch on

    ...except that ain't going to happen.

    Low budget movies and big-budget blockbusters are going to continue for a long, long time. It's just that the studios always concentrate on pushing movies costing $100-200 million, often in front of cameras before the script is polished, and ignore the potential of low budget hits. The point is that it's simply hard to feel sympathy for an industry that regularly blows obscene amounts of money on low quality product.

    Oh, and what does the budget matter when it comes to quality entertainment? Every single genre from horror (Paranormal Activity) to comedy (Napoleon Dynamite) to sci-fi (Primer) can and has been made for very low budgets and reaped massive rewards - and those are just the "micro budget" movies. Most movies not dependent on special effects can be produced comfortably for $40 million or less.

    No matter the genre you happen to enjoy, both types of movie are out there. Nobody's forcing you to watch the genres you don't like - and they never will. I'll keep my horror, you can keep your CGI wankfests. Just stop bitching about a type of movie you don't want to see - nobody will force you to.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  44.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 5th, 2009 @ 9:18pm

    I know I am going out on a limb here, but is it possible (mind you...just possible) that Mr. Dauman has some experience and insight into the making of movies that may lend some measure of credence to the comment attributed to him?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  45.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 6th, 2009 @ 3:21am

    Doesn't just work with horror movies - Monty Python and the Holy Grail was made for about £150,000.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  46.  
    identicon
    anonymous, Nov 10th, 2009 @ 10:47am

    Thats pretty typical of studio executives. Anything that defies conventional wisdom is quickly dismissed as an anomaly.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  47.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 10th, 2009 @ 11:37pm

    I know I am going out on a limb here, but is it possible (mind you...just possible) that Mr. Dauman has some experience and insight into the making of movies that may lend some measure of credence to the comment attributed to him?


    Wow. It's like the idiocy vacuum this article created was suddenly filled with glowing, glorious logic...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  48.  
    identicon
    eustox, Feb 6th, 2010 @ 4:21am

    occult files

    occult files on www.eustox.com We offer Occult eBooks, Ritual Magick, Spells, Voodoo, Witchcraft, Black Magick, Metaphysical , Satan, New Age,Word Power e-Books,Magick and Witchcraft Books, Pagan Stuff Ritual Items, witches book of spells, mysterious manuscripts, metaphysical ebook, wiccan...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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