Once Again, If You're Trying To Save The $200 Million Movie, Perhaps You're Asking The Wrong Questions

from the why-$200-million dept

Many years back, when discussing new business models that don't need to rely on copyright at a Cato event, an NBC Universal executive demanded to know how he could keep making $200 million movies. As we said at the time, that's asking the wrong question. It's makes no sense at all to start from a cost, and then derive back how to make that profitable. I could just as easily ask how can we possibly make $1 trillion movies in the future? The only thing that should concern Hollywood is how it can make profitable movies in the future. That could mean figuring out ways to make a profit on a movie that costs $200 million (and, certainly big blockbuster movies like Avatar sure seem to still be able to make plenty of money, despite being widely downloaded via unauthorized means). However, it might also mean making really good movies for a lot less money. Of course, we've suggested that in the past, and got mocked by Hollywood folks who seem to insist that any good movie has to cost a lot of money. That seems pretty presumptuous.

I'm a bit behind on this (the SOPA/PIPA stuff took up a lot of time), but filmmaker/actor/director/writer Ed Burns, who came to fame a couple decades ago with the massively successful indie film The Brothers McMullen, likely had every opportunity to follow the path of plenty of successful indie moviemakers: go mainstream. He could have hooked up with a big studio and been filming the latest of those $200 million bubble-gum flicks. And while Burns has appeared in a few big studio films (Saving Private Ryan), over the last few years, he's really focused on staying close to his indie roots. In fact, he's stayed so close to them, that you could argue his latest efforts are even more indie than his first film.

He filmed his latest movie, Newlyweds for a grand total of $9,000 ($2K for insurance, $2k for actors, $5k for food, transportation, and other costs) and was done in just 12 days -- but spread out over 5 months. He used a three-man crew, natural lighting, found locations that didn't require paying, and filmed with a Canon 5D camera.
Of course, he's admitted that the editing and post-production work really brought the overall budget up to about $120,000 -- but that's still an incredibly inexpensive movie. He's also focused on using Twitter to market the film. In that interview, he notes that if you connect with your fans, they'll "work on your behalf" to help you do stuff. He's distributing it using VOD, and it seems very likely that it will make a nice profit (if it hasn't already), just given the low budget, and all the buzz the film has been getting.

Of course, no one is saying that all movies should be made for $9,000 (though, I'm sure some of our regular critics will pretend that's what I'm saying). But there is an argument that lots of really great movies that would never have been made before, now have the ability to get made, distributed, watched (and be profitable!) in a way that simply wasn't possible just a few years ago. Frankly, I'd rather focus on ways to help more filmmakers be able to make movies like this, than worry about how some exec at NBC Universal defends his decision to waste $200 million on the next "reboot" of some franchise no one cares about.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    rubberpants, Jan 25th, 2012 @ 2:34pm

    *puts on troll handling gloves*

     

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  2.  
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    Rikuo (profile), Jan 25th, 2012 @ 2:35pm

    Hey, out_of_the_blue...Why are you producing a $100 million movie?

    Oh wait, he's been gone for a while now...my bad!

     

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  3.  
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    DannyB (profile), Jan 25th, 2012 @ 2:42pm

    Avatar was not profitable

    > Avatar sure seem to still be able to make plenty of money, despite being widely downloaded via unauthorized means).

    I beg to diff. Everyone knows Avatar was not profitable.

    Just Google for "avatar hollywood accounting".

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 25th, 2012 @ 2:44pm

    i miss ootb:(

     

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  5.  
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    :Lobo Santo (profile), Jan 25th, 2012 @ 2:45pm

    Re: MIA

    I miss *Angry Dude*--he was a prince among trolls...

    :-P

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 25th, 2012 @ 2:50pm

    Rosa writen and produced by a no name using free software(i.e. Blender) that got picked up by Fox to be produced.

    http://blenderartists.org/forum/showthread.php?236983-ROSA-Short-Film

    Anybody can do great special effects today.
    Blender Siggraph 2011 reel (Revised) by BlenderFoundation on Aug 24, 2011

    There is a growing number of people doing story telling just because they want too, that may be a big problem to Hollywood than piracy, those little guys will canibalize their market share all over the world.

     

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  7.  
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    JayTee (profile), Jan 25th, 2012 @ 2:58pm

    It is obscene to spend such a vast amount of money ($200 million making) a movie

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 25th, 2012 @ 3:00pm

    Why are you turning a story about an indie film into an Anti-Hollywood rant? Are you so twisted and jaded that you can't leave "the industry" alone for even a single post? Oh I forgot that's what this site is all about now, it isn't about technology, it's about slamming the MPAA and the RIAA - my bad.

     

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  9.  
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    Jeremy2020 (profile), Jan 25th, 2012 @ 3:01pm

    Re:

    The small guys is exactly why they are trying to jam SOPA/PIPA through in the name of 'Piracy'! They want the control back so they can force the people making movies without them to *have* to go to them to do it.

     

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  10.  
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    Violated (profile), Jan 25th, 2012 @ 3:05pm

    Indie

    Well if he spent $9000 on making the movie and $111,000 on the post-production then something seems clearly wrong in the post-production part.

    Maybe he needs to find Indie post-production.

    I say this because the first Paranormal Activity movie was made for about $20,000 complete. So Newlyweds even beat their harsh filming budget but then lost it by 6x on post-production.

    Indie movie making is sure to improve in time and they could even be funded through Kickstarter.

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 25th, 2012 @ 3:05pm

    $200 million movie budgets have nothing to do with profit or accounting, it's all about bragging rights.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 25th, 2012 @ 3:07pm

    Why are you looking to limit the options of film makers Masnick? The public has shown a rather keen appetite for movies that cost xxx million.

    If the customer wanted what Ed Burns does more than what Hollywood does, that would show itself via normal market conditions.

    The finished work is all the consumer cares about. Profit margin has nothing to with how they'll feel about it.

    You're bringing up a cheaply made film in a discussion about profit while completely ignoring the aesthetic considerations and what audiences want from films.

    Do everyone a favor and stay away from the film business.

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 25th, 2012 @ 3:09pm

    "an NBC Universal executive demanded to know how he could keep making $200 million movies"

    And what is wrong with the way they make them now? Last time I checked, in 2011 they made record profits. The whole question is bullshit.

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 25th, 2012 @ 3:09pm

    Re: Re:

    You're an idiot.

    SOPA/PIPA had nothing to with anything but foreign pirate sites like demonoid, what.cd, waffles, etc.

    Stop lying.

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 25th, 2012 @ 3:10pm

    come on guys. get things in perspective. if the labels didn't spend a huge amount on making a movie, how could they complain about 'piracy' costing them a fortune in lost sales?
    just doesn't seem to have the same 'ring' to it if they say they only spent $100,000 in the first place

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 25th, 2012 @ 3:14pm

    Re:

    Rosa was great! I first heard of it on one geek site, then within a day on another, and it just spread from there. I hope the person responsible first that gets more opportunities to produce similar stuff.

     

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    jupiterkansas (profile), Jan 25th, 2012 @ 3:16pm

    It's interesting that other countries have phenomenal film industries without spending $200 million on a movie.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_most_expensive_non-English-language_films

    Look here and you'll see hardly anything over $100 million, and these are the most expensive foreign films, not the average cost.

     

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    jupiterkansas (profile), Jan 25th, 2012 @ 3:18pm

    Re:

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 25th, 2012 @ 3:18pm

    Re:

    "If the customer wanted what Ed Burns does more than what Hollywood does, that would show itself via normal market conditions."

    It is showing. Indie films are exploding all over the place. He's just pointing out a trend in the market.

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 25th, 2012 @ 3:24pm

    meh..

    most movies don't cost $200 million. it's not the exact price tag. it's the fact that to produce a movie of production quality, is a big investment, that shouldn't be lightly stolen by the likes of you on your high horse thinking you are entitled to such things for free.

     

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  21.  
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    Spaceman Spiff (profile), Jan 25th, 2012 @ 3:27pm

    No there there

    Mike, the only thing I can say to your post is, AMEN BROTHER! I'm sure my sister-in-law, an animation film producer, director, creator, teacher (and dean of the film animation department at a suitably impressive university) would agree with you - I'm sending her a link tonight after my bluegrass gig. :-)

     

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  22.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 25th, 2012 @ 3:30pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Then why were they scrapped?

     

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  23.  
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    Anonymoose Custard (profile), Jan 25th, 2012 @ 3:31pm

    What about Star Wreck?

    Star Wreck: In the Pirkinning was produced, filmed, edited, and published on a total budget of 13,462.33 , and yet still managed to garner a sizable fan base and made boatloads of money.

    Metal Gear Solid: Philanthropy (a fan movie based on the popular MGS video games) cost a mere 10,000 to produce, and is distributed for free, to great success.

    If Hollywood chooses to ignore these successes, then they're surely in the wrong business: They don't know how to make movies.

     

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  24.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 25th, 2012 @ 3:31pm

    Re:

    Well, they are a threat to the internet.

     

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  25.  
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    Anonymoose Custard (profile), Jan 25th, 2012 @ 3:33pm

    Re:

    You're free to consume news and commentary elsewhere. :)

     

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  26.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 25th, 2012 @ 3:36pm

    Re:

    You guys keep screaming for examples....whine and moan about...."Show me proof how other business models will work in this day and age"

    When it's done, time and time and time again......now you whine about that.

     

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  27.  
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    Violated (profile), Jan 25th, 2012 @ 3:39pm

    Re:

    This is all "old market versus new market".

    File-sharing is a part of the new market but then so is Indie film making which can use file-sharing for distribution.

    So the point is even if there was no old market then movies can still be made, and quite successfully, on the new market.

    In fact one thing I would have loved to have seen, had they not sold old, would be to make Paranormal Activity 5 on the Indie market. This would be to use Kickstarter to amass the budget, make and edit the movie, offer it for sale like $5 download and $7 DVD, then to welcome file-sharing. Old market distribution could be employed to fill the shops as well.

    Then millions be made.

    Instead we wait for someone else to have a genius idea and Indie movie making desire.

    I will also be glad to get your Hollywood fame freaks off their millions (and drink and drugs) and to pay them a normal working wage. Them like every other person working on the movie can then take a fair cut of the profits.

    Still the old market lives on and quite successfully. So pomp up your anorexic movie stars and fund them into royalty status to be worshipped by the dweebs.

     

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  28.  
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    Jay (profile), Jan 25th, 2012 @ 3:46pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    SOPA/PIPA had nothing to with anything but foreign pirate sites like demonoid, what.cd, waffles, etc.

    And how much have they cost the industry, pray tell? It's amazing how people continue to push for more punishments against these "pirate sites" when all evidence continues to say they aren't costing the industry as much as you seem to think.

     

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  29.  
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    Rikuo (profile), Jan 25th, 2012 @ 3:59pm

    Re:

    How is he looking to limit the options? That would mean that movie makers wouldn't have the option at all to spend $200 milllion, if they wanted to.
    No, what Mike is arguing for is that you don't NEED to. If you want to piss away that much money, go right ahead. However, you should have the opportunity to create movies for a pittance. Problem here is, that option is getting harder, distribution wise, what with the shutdown of Megaupload and the frightened reactions of the other cyberlockers. So, it actually looks like Hollywood limited the options of film makers

     

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  30.  
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    Benjo (profile), Jan 25th, 2012 @ 4:03pm

    Re: meh..

    FYI, Techdirt isn't pro-piracy. Just trying to clear up what seems to be a common misconception. Also, piracy isn't theft. I believe their is case law that makes this pretty clear.

    Forgive me if you were actually ranting about the guys stealing all dem DVDs from your local Walmart. Screw those guys.

     

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  31.  
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    Franklin G Ryzzo (profile), Jan 25th, 2012 @ 4:09pm

    Re:

    Here's a list of Hollywood films that had a budget over 150M: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_most_expensive_films

    Of all the movies on the list, many of them are unwatchable, and only 3 or 4 (aside from the Pixar flicks) would ever be worth watching a 2nd time or actually purchasing for a home collection. If this is what 200 million buys you, then clearly they are doinitwrong!

     

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  32.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 25th, 2012 @ 4:12pm

    Middle Squeeze

    Actually, given the tech-driven ability to produce low-cost films, I think it might be the middle-budget pictures that are living on borrowed time.

    Low(-ish) budget films using cheap (but good) technology could theoretically dominate many genre (e.g. slasher), and high(-ish) budget films could survive in genre that reward expensive cutting-edge technology and techniques (e.g. SF). The middle-cost, middle-tech might have to fight for a niche or get squeezed out. Perhaps star-driven, (cf Tyler Perry).

     

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  33.  
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    Marcus Carab (profile), Jan 25th, 2012 @ 4:34pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    So wait, is he an idiot or is he lying? Because if he's an idiot and he's lying, then what he says should be true, right?

     

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  34.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 25th, 2012 @ 4:35pm

    Re:

    You got this backwards the people trying to limit things are the people saying that only the $200 million flicks are worth anything, when there is a lot of other options that they don't think to consider or even want to consider.

     

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  35.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 25th, 2012 @ 4:37pm

    Re: meh..

    It should, it always will and there is nothing you can do about it, nothing.

    Now that is not reason to throw out democracy and instate an authoritarian regime so you can try and criminalize every single thing you don't like.

     

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  36.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 25th, 2012 @ 5:28pm

    Did the crew get paid?

    I don't see a line item in there for the crew. If they got paid at all it couldn't have been very much. I've done the "indie movie" scene. I've worked long days for less than minimum wage, with zero benefits, and I've worked on others for nothing. Most of those films, to be honest, sucked, a few were pretty good. It's not pretty and, while it may be romantic to starve for one's art, it's no way to make a living, support a family. Union jobs pay $15.00-22.00/hr (and up) with medical benefits (which we will be fighting to keep later this year). I can take care of my family on that.

    Let me be clear: I am unequivocally opposed to SOPA/PIPA and agitated vigorously against them. I support reform of copyright laws, with scaling back terms and opening up fair use being key points. And I decry the rampant abuse of DMCA takedown, ICE actions and civil awards we are seeing. But I also support the basic concept of the copyright system: granting a temporary monopoly on a work so investors are incentivized to keep funding such works.

    I respect you a lot Mike. You are a hero to me got your leadership role in these issues. But I think it's unrealistic to think the mainstream movie business could operate on this kind of business model. Sure, a small fringe of the ecosystem, and there's an important place for that, but to support the 300 or 400 thousand of us who do this for a living takes a more robust profit model. I think you tend to alienate mainstream union film workers by seriously espousing stuff like this as applicable to the industry as a whole.

    It takes money to make quality, and you see that in the finished product, but I will also say Hollywood wastes a lot of money. Lots of $200mil films could be made for $100mil, $80mil for $30mil, etc. But we would still need a quasi status quo business model to support even that.

     

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  37.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), Jan 25th, 2012 @ 5:34pm

    Re: Middle Squeeze

    As the software evolves for tablets and PC's, and cameras on them get better, special effects cost will drop, making anyone a producer. Eventually you will see movies coming out that are produced in people bedrooms for just their time that rival Avatar. Between the VR stuff that came out of CES this year and Moores law, the studios do not stand a chance.

     

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  38.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 25th, 2012 @ 5:47pm

    Re:

    Have you actually performed research on audience demands? Has anyone declared, "I won't watch this movie unless it cost $200 million to film!"?

     

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  39.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 25th, 2012 @ 6:01pm

    I guess I don't get it.

    What does the fact that one can make a good movie for cheap have to do with the demand for big-budget movies?

    The fact that someone can produce, and people will buy, a $2000 moped, doesn't mean nobody should care about the ability to produce a $20,000 4x4.

    Now, if you could produce the *type* of movie that costs $200 million for less, that might be interesting.

     

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  40.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 25th, 2012 @ 6:03pm

    Re: Re:

    Interestingly enough, he's also free to criticize.

     

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  41.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 25th, 2012 @ 6:05pm

    Re: Re:

    You seem to be misconstruing his post (intentionally?).

    Was "The finished work is all the consumer cares about. Profit margin has nothing to with how they'll feel about it." hard to understand?

     

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  42.  
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    Rekrul, Jan 25th, 2012 @ 6:24pm

    Maybe they could make films more cheaply if they didn't have to pay the stars $10-20 million.

     

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  43.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 25th, 2012 @ 6:36pm

    Re:

    Maybe they could films more cheaply if they didn't use creative accounting to pretend they spend that much money on effects and post-production using their own equipment and companies they own.

     

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  44.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 25th, 2012 @ 6:39pm

    Re: Did the crew get paid?

    Your ethic is obviously admirable, but you are looking in the wrong direction here on this blog for the support you most definitely need and deserve.

     

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  45.  
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    Endtimer (profile), Jan 25th, 2012 @ 6:47pm

    But what about Batman?

    I don't think anyone says "I don't what kind of movie I want to make, but I want it to cost 200 million dollars." They decide if they want a comedy, action, drama documentary ect, and some of those types cost ALOT more then the others. Sure you can make a comedy for a fairly reasonable price, but if you want the latest Batman, good luck getting it made for anything less then 100 million (I believe the Dark Knight was in the 175 mill range).

    Admittedly there are ways to cut the number down. Take Red State, Kevin Smith's recent Action/Thriller movie. Anyone who was listening to his podcasts or following his tweets know how on the cheap and indie he made it (mostly due to minimal advertising and very selective theatre run. Having a director/editor working for free probably helped to). It just 4 million, which is admittedly chump change compared to the magic 200 million.

    The problem is it only grossed a little over 1 million, which probably won't sell many Hollywood executives on the idea of the Kev Smith style of action movies.

     

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  46.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 25th, 2012 @ 7:04pm

    Re: Did the crew get paid?

    Quote:
    It takes money to make quality


    You may want to look at the open source scene to see what they are doing, their business model has zero dependencies on a granted monopoly.

    And to be very honest what is needed for quality is not money, but work, that is the important part, work done, not the amount of money you have otherwise other countries would never be able to out spend the US and beat it to gain manufacturing supremacy over it, those people over there work for little to nothing and still survive and produce things that you want and buy everyday, America did it to Europe, Japan did it to America and South Korea and China are doing it to Japan now.

    You don't need a monopoly to produce anything, what you need is hard work, if that was not true you wouldn't have Arduino or Red Hat as multi million dollar companies, you wouldn't have McDonalds, you wouldn't have Coca-Cola or any of the other companies that don't have monopolies on anything.

     

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  47.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 25th, 2012 @ 7:15pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Yes, he free to criticize Techdirt,but, whats point of reading it in the first place if, you know the site's subject matter and don't like it.

     

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  48.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 25th, 2012 @ 7:37pm

    It is wonderful that you point this out, however, just like with the record industry, the last thing these people want to hear is that the artists/creators no longer need them (to front $, promote, etc).

    I won't miss them.

    For multiple generations, they've been asking us to buy their intentionally fragile products, promoting overly-lavish lifestyles and excesses... if any sports league had as many key players overdose, we would be asking more serious questions...

    We no longer need them. Slipknot proved that you can even be successful without fame, if you desire.

    How can we bring these corrupting companies to their eventual deaths more quickly?

     

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  49.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 25th, 2012 @ 8:24pm

    Re: But what about Batman?

    "The problem is it only grossed a little over 1 million, which probably won't sell many Hollywood executives on the idea of the Kev Smith style of action movies."

    Honestly, I liked Red State. The thing is, the average movie going public WOULD NOT have liked that movie at all. Especially if advertised by Hollywood. Were it done on the scale of the average movie.

    I can see it now. It would be advertised as a pure action/thriller flick. It would be advertised as "the newest thing from Kevin Smith".

    Audiences would flock in droves on opening weekend to see it. They'd walk out confused as f*ck and wondering if perhaps "Kevin Smith" is the name of another director, who shares a name with the "guy who makes those Clerks and Jay and Silent Bob movies".

     

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  50.  
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    ottermaton (profile), Jan 25th, 2012 @ 8:35pm

    Re: Re: Did the crew get paid?

    "...you are looking in the wrong direction here on this blog for the support you most definitely need and deserve."

    And that support would be ... what? Creating even more absurd and draconian IP laws with something like SOPA? Let's use the OPs original figures to look at this, and be generous by using the higher "400 thousand of us who do this for a living" figure.

    That equates to 0.013% of the US population.

    You want to set up a system that "helps" and "protects" less than 1 in 10,000 people, while screwing over everyone else ... oh, and stifling free speech and breaking the internet while you're at it? Really?

     

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  51.  
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    RadialSkid (profile), Jan 25th, 2012 @ 8:43pm

    Re:

    The public has shown a rather keen appetite for movies that cost xxx million.

    They've also shown a rather keen appetite for downloading those same movies online without directly paying. Selective attention much?

     

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  52.  
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    RadialSkid (profile), Jan 25th, 2012 @ 8:48pm

    Re: What about Star Wreck?

    Metal Gear Solid: Philanthropy (a fan movie based on the popular MGS video games) cost a mere 10,000 to produce, and is distributed for free, to great success.

    But don't download it, because nobody is entitled to free movies.

     

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  53.  
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    Loki, Jan 25th, 2012 @ 8:48pm

    Re:

    After over a decade (since I've actually started paying attention) of watching/hearing the industry essentially telling both their customers and clients to bend over and like it I'm all for slamming the industry any chance we get.

    I'm a gamer geek. I'm just playing the game by the rules they've established.

     

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  54.  
    icon
    Samuel Abram (profile), Jan 25th, 2012 @ 9:00pm

    Re: Re:

    Or you could use Bit-torrent merely as as means to get your piece of content out after the consumer pays for it. This model of pay-and-torrent has been a model for Robert Fripp's record label, Discipline Global Mobile:

    "Bit-Torrent" does not always equal "piracy". It's just a tool like any other. I just wish Hollywood and the Major Labels knew what they were missing...

     

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  55.  
    identicon
    Loki, Jan 25th, 2012 @ 9:08pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I was fairly critical of Techdirt when I first found it years ago. I thought Mike was a bit of a loon myself. But I like hearing all sides in a debate. Even if all an opposing viewpoint does is to clarify and strengthen my position/belief/opinion, than it still has accomplished something.

    The thing I found when I really started to look at the arguments was that the industry arguments tended to be largely emotional pleas interspersed between collections of data point that were mostly either difficult to substantiate or easily debunked. While the arguments from Techdirt and similar sites tended to be more balanced, their facts more easily verified.

    I do think Techdirt has become a bit more skewered/biased from what I remember years ago, but then I find it hard to fault them. When one side in a debate is so clearly unbalanced, it is hard to maintain the middle ground and keep sliding down their side.

    If nothing else, some of the critics here remind me when I'm starting to feel reasonable why I "switched sides".

     

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  56.  
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    Loki, Jan 25th, 2012 @ 9:18pm

    Re: Indie

    Paranormal Activity also made $193 million worldwide. I'd say a rather decent return on investment (I'd like to see even Hollywood accounting say that one wasn't profitable).

    Paranormal Activity 2 was made for $3 million and made $177 million worldwide.

    Paranormal Activity 3 was made for $5 million and made $203 million (so far).

    Then there are "lesser successes" like Clerks that was made for $26,000 and made $3 million.

    The big problem is not in making the movies, it is that Hollywood keeps cockblocking all the distribution channels that would actually allow those films to find widespread audience.

     

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  57.  
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    Samuel Abram (profile), Jan 25th, 2012 @ 9:19pm

    Re: Did the crew get paid?

    My position is more closely aligned with yours than with most of the commenters here. You seem to have more of a Lessigist view on copyright, which is closer to mine as well.

    That being said, keep in mind that Mike Masnick said this:
    Of course, no one is saying that all movies should be made for $9,000 (though, I'm sure some of our regular critics will pretend that's what I'm saying).


    Think of the music industry. It seemed that it was in the gutter because of file sharing and it seemed to go in the direction of iTunes and *blech* Spotify. But as it turns out, look at what Bandcamp has done: it created a template for independent musicians to host their music that was so good that it even lured would-be pirates away from piracy and into actual customers. What's to stop someone from doing the same for independent movies? The great thing about the internet is that new business models are always being developed. There may even be a bandcamp for independent movies in the future!

     

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  58.  
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    VMax, Jan 25th, 2012 @ 9:46pm

    Money is the problem

    Art used to be about Art. A good storyteller enjoys the story as much as the audience. A musician wants to share the sounds in their head with others. A painter wants to say "Have you looked at it this way?". Now, it's "I want to make money and I'm kind of good in this media, how do I make money?".
    If your passion and skill are up to the challenge you may make money. If you start with wanting money, you'll never make art.

     

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  59.  
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    Samuel Abram (profile), Jan 25th, 2012 @ 9:57pm

    Re: Re: Re: Did the crew get paid?

    I guess you missed this comment by him:


    Let me be clear: I am unequivocally opposed to SOPA/PIPA and agitated vigorously against them. I support reform of copyright laws, with scaling back terms and opening up fair use being key points. And I decry the rampant abuse of DMCA takedown, ICE actions and civil awards we are seeing. But I also support the basic concept of the copyright system: granting a temporary monopoly on a work so investors are incentivized to keep funding such works.


    [Ed: bold mine]

    He is not calling for "absurd and draconian IP laws" la SOPA in the least. I am assuming he wants an actual legal model of a copyright system that actually "promote[s] the progress of useful arts and sciences" and not just the publishers themselves. I would also assume that he's looking for a similar business model as well. I suggested that there be a bandcamp for indie films, but someone has to do something like that. Then again, on the internet, you never know! New business models are always being developed!

     

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  60.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 25th, 2012 @ 11:00pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Did the crew get paid?

    Not happening:

    Clearing rights can cost millions of dollars the risks are tremendous, the legal minefield that copyright is actually is a barrier for the promotion of anything.

    Thus why people don't go near movie production for anything, because it could cost people their own business for doing so, and that is why there is so little experimentation in finding new ways to do business and that in turn is why there are no other alternatives that succeeded yet, not that is not going to happen it will, but it will take longer for it to happen.

    When you don't have nobody to forbid anything people copy one another, reinvent the copying and end up with something different, now look at the US and see if that happens.

    That is exactly what monopolies do they end competition, reduce innovation and economic activity and they are not stable the keep growing and growing until they die and the cycle restarts, now it is time to end it again.

     

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  61.  
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    JMT (profile), Jan 26th, 2012 @ 12:02am

    Re:

    "Why are you turning a story about an indie film into an Anti-Hollywood rant?"

    Since you missed point entirely, Hollywood says you need 9-figure sums to make movies, the indies prove them wrong.

    "Are you so twisted and jaded that you can't leave "the industry" alone for even a single post?"

    You sound like you need to go make a "Leave Hollywood Alone!" YouTube video. Remember to wear plenty of mascara...

    "Oh I forgot that's what this site is all about now, it isn't about technology, it's about slamming the MPAA and the RIAA - my bad."

    You mean the MPAA and RIAA who represent the companies that've been aggressively fighting against every new form of content-delivery technology for a century?

     

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  62.  
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    JMT (profile), Jan 26th, 2012 @ 12:19am

    Re: Re:

    Cost definitely doesn't equate to quality. Looking at IMDB's Top 250 list, you have to go down to #9 before you get to a movie that cost more than $100M. The eight movies above it only cost $80M combined.

     

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  63.  
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    PaulT (profile), Jan 26th, 2012 @ 12:34am

    Re: Re: Re:

    So, why do all the complaints about "new business models" focus on the fact that a $200 million movie would be difficult to achieve?

     

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  64.  
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    PaulT (profile), Jan 26th, 2012 @ 12:46am

    Re:

    "The public has shown a rather keen appetite for movies that cost xxx million."

    No, they haven't. They've shown an appetite for superhero and disaster movies in recent years, which are special effects-driven and can be expensive (although there's a good debate to be had that they really don't need to be). These are trends which have been and gone before, at the whims of fashion - not a good thing to claim needs to be legally protected.

    But, look at the actual trends elsewhere. There's a lot of successful movies that don't fit in these genres and thus have much lower budgets - comedies, horror, drama, even sci-fi. The most successful movie so far this year in terms of box office has been The Devil Inside, which has managed to make back over 51x its production budget to date. Many of the most successful movies of last year cost less than $50 million, while some movies that cost $100+ million didn't make back their production budget theatrically, let alone their equally bloated marketing budgets.

    Sure, The Devil Inside won't be the most successful movie for very long (and certainly not the best received critically), and even the flops will have made back their production budget on DVD at some point. But, to pretend that $200+ million movies are all that matters is at best disingenuous, and at worst an outright lie.

     

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  65.  
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    rosspruden, Jan 26th, 2012 @ 1:07am

    Actually, I think it was 5K for actors. Trying to find a source, but I remember being struck by how over half the budget was for actors... just like Hollywood movies. :)

     

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  66.  
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    PaulT (profile), Jan 26th, 2012 @ 2:55am

    Re: Did the crew get paid?

    "It takes money to make quality"

    Citation most certainly needed.

     

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  67.  
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    btrussell (profile), Jan 26th, 2012 @ 2:59am

    Re:

    That is exactly what we need. A site dedicated to following the **AAs'.

    They are relentless in pressuring Governments around the world. A site dedicated to their activities to keep the light shining on them and their corruption.

     

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  68.  
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    PaulT (profile), Jan 26th, 2012 @ 3:10am

    Re:

    "The fact that someone can produce, and people will buy, a $2000 moped, doesn't mean nobody should care about the ability to produce a $20,000 4x4."

    It also doesn't mean that the 4x4 makers should get protectionist laws that kill the freedom of everybody else when they find they don't make enough profit.

    "Now, if you could produce the *type* of movie that costs $200 million for less, that might be interesting."

    Define "type of movie that costs $200 million", and I'll show you any number of examples.

     

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  69.  
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    btrussell (profile), Jan 26th, 2012 @ 3:14am

    Re: Re: Middle Squeeze

    "Eventually you will see movies coming out that are produced in people bedrooms for just their time that rival Avatar."

    My SO and I can do that now. But I doubt if most here want to see that much of me.

     

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  70.  
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    btrussell (profile), Jan 26th, 2012 @ 3:16am

    Re: Re: Re: Middle Squeeze

    Who heard of Kim Karadashian before she did same?

     

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  71.  
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    btrussell (profile), Jan 26th, 2012 @ 3:23am

    Re: Did the crew get paid?

    "...granting a temporary monopoly on a work so investors are incentivized to keep funding such works."

    What is their incentive now with all the pirating that has decimated the industry in the last decade?

    Or are you being lied to about the need for copyright?

     

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  72.  
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    PaulT (profile), Jan 26th, 2012 @ 3:46am

    Re: But what about Batman?

    Erm, yeah so the new Batman franchise is expensive. They made money - but that was because they're quality films, not because they cost $150+ million. In fact, that franchise can be held up as a good example of what happens when a film *needs* the budget to get the quality script on screen. Whatever money was spent was needed.

    Guess what happens when people just try throwing money at the screen without a good script? Green Lantern also cost $200 million ($116m domestic). It flopped. The Green Hornet cost $120 million. It flopped ($98m domestic). Cowboys & Aliens cost $163 million. It flopped ($100m domestic).

    Spending a ridiculous amount of money to make a film is no guarantee of a return, just as the fact that, say, Super 8 and Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes both cost significantly less means nothing in terms of their success - they were both highly profitable (especially internationally).

    "The problem is it only grossed a little over 1 million"

    Citation?

    Perhaps you're talking about the domestic theatrical gross. What about DVD sales, VoD, international, the money he made from tours where he did Q&As that aren't included in those figures? IIRC, he reported the film was in the black *before* the theatrical release. Smith's entire point was to make a movie outside the standard model so why use the standard model to judge its success?

    The obsession with opening weekend theatrical grosses at the expense of all else is one of the fundamental problems with Hollywood. Red State isn't successful under those metrics? No surprise, it was never going to be. That doesn't mean it didn't make money...

     

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  73.  
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    btrussell (profile), Jan 26th, 2012 @ 4:05am

    Re: Re:

    "They are relentless in pressuring Governments around the world."

    See next article.

     

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  74.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 26th, 2012 @ 4:31am

    Re: Re: Re:

    You're an idiot shill.

    SOPA/PIPA will do nothing to reduce foreign pirate sites like demonoid, what.cd, waffles, etc.

    Stop shilling for laws that will screw the public.

     

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  75.  
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    ottermaton (profile), Jan 26th, 2012 @ 5:37am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Did the crew get paid?

    I guess you missed the fact that I was replying not to the OP (who you're quoting) but to the AC who suggests that the Techdirt community isn't sympathetic to the OP because we don't support SOPA et al.

    You're right, though: I should have made it more clear that I wasn't attacking the OP's comments, which I think are reasonable and fair. I just thought it worthwhile to point out to those who think we need SOPA what a miniscule percentage of the population they're pretending to protect (anyone with any reason knows that these types of laws are really just intended to keep the fat cats fat).

     

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  76.  
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    Samuel Abram (profile), Jan 26th, 2012 @ 6:19am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Did the crew get paid?

    Oh. My mistake, then. I apologize.

     

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  77.  
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    kirillian (profile), Jan 26th, 2012 @ 6:34am

    Re: Re: MIA

    He's been gone for so long, I don't even clearly remember anymore. He only shows up every now and then to pretend he's still with us.

     

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  78.  
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    Joe Publius (profile), Jan 26th, 2012 @ 7:43am

    The RIGHT question

    How is the restaurant industry going to maintain its workforce of attractive, fit, and well-coiffed part-time waitstaff if they no longer have that incentive of the remote possibility of becoming a movie star and receiving a huge salary?

    If your waiter/barista is ugly, remember that one time you torrented Real Steel and know you have yourself to blame.

     

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  79.  
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    ChrisB (profile), Jan 26th, 2012 @ 9:12am

    Re: Did the crew get paid?

    "Why do Hollywood movies cost so much?!?!"

    > Union jobs pay $15.00-22.00/hr (and up) with medical benefits

    I think we have our answer. Look at any industry with costs going out of control, and you'll find a union.

     

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  80.  
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    Samuel Abram (profile), Jan 26th, 2012 @ 9:27am

    Re: Re: Did the crew get paid?

    Union jobs are good, decent hard-working jobs. Sure beats working at FoxxConn in China.

     

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  81.  
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    JEDIDIAH, Jan 26th, 2012 @ 11:12am

    Filming on a shoestring

    Guess who used to be great at making movies cheaply? George Lucas. He was a cost conscious producer in his youth and he tried to control costs. On the original Star Wars movie, these constraints were imposed upon him. However, he remained somewhat frugal even after he was a success.

    One need not be limited to extremes and you can be budget minded if you are making a "spectacular".

    Although most films simply don't need to be "spectaculars". THAT is the real message for Hollywood here. Creating art requires talent and a willingness to take risks. Being a timid bean counter and (paradoxically) throwing money around is not the best approach.

    Hollywood needs to start making movies again, or someone else should fill the gap.

     

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  82.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 26th, 2012 @ 11:20am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Lol.

    God forbid people be exposed to contrasting viewpoints.

     

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  83.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 26th, 2012 @ 11:21am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Because of the *type* of movie that costs $200 million. A lot of people want to see that *type* of movie, even though they don't actually care how much it cost.

     

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  84.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 26th, 2012 @ 11:24am

    Re: Re: Did the crew get paid?

    "their business model has zero dependencies on a granted monopoly."

    Not so. Most open source license rely on copyright as a foundation. Otherwise, people could do whatever they want (e.g., make modifications and sell them commercially without disclosing source).

     

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  85.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 26th, 2012 @ 11:25am

    Re: Re:

    "It also doesn't mean that the 4x4 makers should get protectionist laws that kill the freedom of everybody else when they find they don't make enough profit."

    Ok, so we're in agreement that the existence of $9000 movies has no bearing whatsoever on the desirability of the status quo or modifications to copyright law, right?

     

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  86.  
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    Bryan O'Doyle, Jan 26th, 2012 @ 3:03pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    12:00
    12:00
    12:00
    12:00
    12:00
    12:00
    12:00

     

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  87.  
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    ned, Jan 26th, 2012 @ 3:14pm

    i remember having a friend make me listen to a John McLaughin cd years ago and telling me that this was done in his little home studio (i saw the picture and it really was small) and while I was a huge fan, it was a beautifully textured project.
    That day, I started questioning the need for million dollar budget for albums and videos.
    THe more technology got better and cheaper, the more it became affordable to make your own albums, to film and edit your own movies (and as someone who has been using Blender for the past 2yrs: your own animations.

    The ceiling to produce your own content has been dropped to where its affordable for all and the internet is a fabulous content delivery mechanism and more and more artists (who might get here 1$ per 20$ cd sold) are figuring out where the money goes and how they can cut costs without cutting quality.

    There is no lack of talented artists in the world and the more the Burn's of the world show how movies can be done, the more they will be willing to do it themselves instead of an model from a century ago.

     

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  88.  
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    Endtimer (profile), Jan 26th, 2012 @ 6:24pm

    Re: Re: But what about Batman?

    @ Paul

    Are you saying that Batman could be made for a lot cheaper? Yes good writing is always important, but if the Batmobile was just a black musclecar and all the explosions in the car chase scene are 20 dollar firecrackers, it's just not going to work. Yes, you can make a bad $200 million movie. You can also make great ones too. You can even make bad $120k movies. and if you're answere to the Exec who says 'I can't make a $200 million movie anymore is 'Then don't make that movie.' Then you better be ready to live with alot fewer Batmans and alot more Gnomieo and Juliets and New Years Eves

    My figures for Red State come from imdb, which shows a total of 1,065,000 dollars as of August 2011. Admittedly, it only shows domestic, but since he sold the rights to his movie overseas it might be awhile before the world wide numbers (plus, since you choose to declare those other movies flops based on their domestic numbers, I don't think you'll object too much). He got into the black by selling the rights to his movies overseas and through good merchandising, not through ticket sales or VoDs (that would quite a feat indeed to pull off before actually releasing the movie).

    I'm not bashing Red State, and I like what Kevin Smith did with it, but it's very difficult to mass produce that model, since it rellies on having a very loyal fanbase. I'm not sure you could have taken, say, Rise of the Planet of the Apes on the road and packed hundreads of loyal Wyattites into theatres accross the country at 98 bucks a ticket. Probably could have worked for JJ Abrams and Super 8 though. You could definately get people out to hear Christopher Nolan talk about how awesome Batman is, but then you get into the question of if the directors and casts of these movies are willing to tour like Rockstars.

    Actually, that sounds really cool...dibs on Anne Hathaway and Liam Neeson for the Toronto showing!

     

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  89.  
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    jupiterkansas (profile), Jan 26th, 2012 @ 6:48pm

    Re: Re: Re: But what about Batman?

    The cost of a movie has absolutely nothing to do with the quality of a movie, and the quality of a movie has absolutely nothing to do with the popularity of a movie. None of these things correlate.

    That said, Hollywood makes the most expensive movies on earth, many of them just in the last five years. Hell yes they can make them cheaper, and they'll probably be forced to soon. It's bloated with corporate bureaucracy. If people start losing jobs, it will only be so that CEOs can maintain their salaries, and shareholders can get a return on their investment, not because of piracy.

     

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  90.  
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    ced1106 (profile), Jan 26th, 2012 @ 10:36pm

    Anyone who wants to watch a $200 million dollar movie should pay for it, but what the RIAA/MPAA want to do is eliminate *content* production, and shutting down file sharing sites is one way for them to do it.

    If you read other TechDirt articles about MU, many song artists distribute their music via MU. Premium users download the music, MU pays the artists because they pay the content providers who result in the most downloads. Everyone wins except the MPAA, which is why MU got shut down.

    I read the articles about the movie. What I find interesting is how it takes advantage of the "killer app" that's killing movie theatres -- home entertainment systems. Another interesting comment was that the movie would film a scene only once every few weeks when people were available and that friends were happy to let the filmakers borrow "stuff" for the movie. If *that's* not crowdsourcing, I don't know what it. And what it *isn't* is about money. It's people putting together a movie because they *want* to, not because of $$$.

    As for Kevin Smith's movie, what's wrong with making a movie? Isn't that the whole point of "indie" films? That you can *express yourself* and whoever likes it is there for the ride? Okay, fine, you don't like his movie. Plenty of other movies to watch.

     

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  91.  
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    PaulT (profile), Jan 27th, 2012 @ 12:58am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    " A lot of people want to see that *type* of movie, even though they don't actually care how much it cost."

    So, again, why do all the complaints whine about the $200 million cost? If a similar movie can be made for $70 million then they should do so, not whine about how they can possibly make a profit on $200 million.

    Plus, the "type" of movie that is often made for $200 million is often made for less - and often more profitable at the lower price points. I'm yet to see a movie that was successful purely because of the money thrown at the screen unless there's technological development underlying the higher price (such as with Avatar).

     

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  92.  
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    PaulT (profile), Jan 27th, 2012 @ 1:02am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Contrasting viewpoints backed with logic, evidence and polite discource, yes.

    Idiot trolling? Not so much.

    You will note that the original post being criticised is free of fact, taking the article out of context and attacking the author for imagined slights. If that's all he's got, his "opposing viewpoint" is worthless, and he's welcome to go elsewhere.

     

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  93.  
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    PaulT (profile), Jan 27th, 2012 @ 1:04am

    Re: Re: Re:

    "Ok, so we're in agreement that the existence of $9000 movies has no bearing whatsoever on the desirability of the status quo or modifications to copyright law, right?"

    Not directly. But, when the argument for new draconian, counter-productive and destructive new laws is that the MPAA's model is the only way that's possible, the fact that profitable movies can be made much more cheaply is a valid counterpoint.

    The existence of profitable competitors points to a flaw in their business model, not something that requires legal protectionism.

     

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  94.  
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    PaulT (profile), Jan 27th, 2012 @ 1:23am

    Re: Re: Re: But what about Batman?

    "Are you saying that Batman could be made for a lot cheaper?"

    No, you seem to be deliberately missing my point and going back to obsessing over money as if it's the be all and end all of the equation.

    I'm saying that everything that was in the script was needed to tell the story, and that a talented director who didn't ego trip and waste money put all the money up on screen to tell the story. Nolan is a talented director who is skilled at telling stories without wasting money on the unnecessary. He succeeds, even when he requires larger budgets, because he uses only what is needed to tell his story.

    Compare that to the Transformers movies, which are almost uniformly overlong, overblown, badly written, flabby with excessively over-produced scenes that should have been cut from the final shooting script by a competent writer before filming began. From anecdotal reports, many of the most offensive things about Transformers 2 (e.g. the racist comic relief robots) were not only inserted by Michael Bay himself, but would have cost thousands or even millions to realise on screen (e.g. the offending robots required extensive CGI work).

    There's no problem with a $100+ million movie where the money needs to be spent. there is a problem when the film could have been made much better for less money had the greed, ego and waste not been prevalent. Such waste is not a compelling argument for the movies "needing" to cost that amount of money.

    "My figures for Red State come from imdb, which shows a total of 1,065,000 dollars as of August 2011."

    So, domestic theatrical gross before the movie was officially released theatrically (Sept 25th according reports I saw), and not showing the bulk of avenues where he would have made his money. Not the best thing to base your assessment of his success upon.

    "He got into the black by selling the rights to his movies overseas and through good merchandising"

    As do many other movies, although citation needed for the breakdown of how he earned his money. Do you have that data? Forgive me for not taking your assertions at face value.

    "I'm not sure you could have taken, say, Rise of the Planet of the Apes on the road and packed hundreads of loyal Wyattites into theatres accross the country at 98 bucks a ticket."

    No, but it did gross over $450 million worldwide on a budget of $90 million. It's an excellent film with almost universal acclaim from critics and audiences and didn't waste money on a bunch of crap that didn't need to be there, or ego trips from spoiled brats. That's kind of my point.

    There's room for the Nolans of this world and the Smiths to work side by side. There's no reason to shut down the internet to protect Bay's ability to spray his ego on screen to create sub par entertainment for $200 million a pop.

     

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  95.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 27th, 2012 @ 1:58pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "free of fact, taking the article out of context and attacking the author for imagined slights."

    If all such commentary were banished from Techdirt, I think content would be cut by at least 50%.

    But feel free to focus only on such commentary you disagree with.

     

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

  96.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 27th, 2012 @ 2:01pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Has anyone suggested any movie has been successful "purely" because if its price tag?

    If you want to argue with an imaginary bad guy in your head, you can do so without me.

     

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

  97.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 27th, 2012 @ 2:04pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Again, the existence of profitable candy bar makers doesn't necessarily point to a flaw in the bread manufacturer's business model.

    Comparing a $200 million movie to a $200 thousand movie makes about as much sense as comparing candy bars to bread.

    That is not a defense of big budget movie business model, just a criticism of this particular way of attacking that model (which is really irrelevant).

     

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

  98.  
    icon
    PaulT (profile), Jan 28th, 2012 @ 8:25am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "But feel free to focus only on such commentary you disagree with."

    So you have nothing other than the aforementioned imagined slights, and offer no facts to refute me.

    Like I said...

     

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

  99.  
    icon
    PaulT (profile), Jan 28th, 2012 @ 8:27am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "Has anyone suggested any movie has been successful "purely" because if its price tag?"

    Yes. Otherwise, why are we arguing about "saving" $200 million movies when there's so many movies being made for significantly less?

    "If you want to argue with an imaginary bad guy in your head, you can do so without me."

    Feel free to offer facts and/or reality next time we talk, it will help.

     

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

  100.  
    icon
    PaulT (profile), Jan 28th, 2012 @ 8:29am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "Comparing a $200 million movie to a $200 thousand movie makes about as much sense as comparing candy bars to bread."

    I forget, when was the last time dangerous and draconian laws were being threatened to protect the candy bar?

    "That is not a defense of big budget movie business model, just a criticism of this particular way of attacking that model (which is really irrelevant)."

    That model is being defended in ways that restrict lower budget independent movies, and in ways that would destroy the internet and our freedom of speech because the industry can't compete in the modern world. It's completely relevant.

     

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

  101.  
    identicon
    Al Zimmer, Jun 8th, 2012 @ 3:16am

    Unpredictable

    There's really no sure fire way to make that much money off of a film. We've seen both small budget films and expensive ones make a lot of money as well as bomb at the box office. If anything, a film will have to get the perfect combination of story, acting, and appeal to be able to even make a profit these days. Crowds can be really fickle.

    home theatre brisbane

     

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

  102.  
    identicon
    SMSF Brisbane, Jun 27th, 2012 @ 3:47am

    SMSF Brisbane

    I watched this movie trailer on you tube. I really enjoyed this video.

     

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

  103.  
    identicon
    Karan Sardana, Feb 4th, 2013 @ 4:15am

    The scope and scale is going up for sure

    I came across a crowd-funding campaign, that aims to make a feature length English film which appears very unique and interesting.
    http://www.indiegogo.com/project103

    And I think this only a start and we are about to witness some incredible cinema that is funded and presented through this upcoming channel.

     

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


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