Archive for the ‘Analysis’ Category

2016: the Year the Stars Went Out?

December 11, 2016

2016: the Year the Stars Went Out?

No question, there have been many sad losses of celebrities this year. For one thing, mainstream news has reported on several actors who played iconic geek-friendly roles…from Willy Wonka (Gene Wilder) to Chekov (Anton Yelchin) to The Man Who Fell to Earth (David Bowie).

People have suggested that this is the worst year to date for celebrity deaths…what we could call “The Year the Stars Went Out”.

Is that the case, though?

Every death matters. It’s not a competition, and each person deserves individual attention.

However, I thought it was worth looking at this idea…I’m always reluctant to frame things in a negative way. Have more celebrities died this year? If that’s not the case, why is that perception there?

My first thought was that there have been other years…and not just recent ones. After all, the In Memoriam segment at the Oscars always takes some time.

The year that immediately occurred to me was 1977. I remembered offhand that Groucho Marx and Zero Mostel had both died in 1977, and that at the time, I noted that there were several other big stars. I speculated then that babies named after celebrities that year might have some odd names (not that I’m someone to speak about the oddness of someone’s name).

To refresh myself, I ran a search for celebrities with a “death year” of 1977 at IMDb:

Most Popular People With Date of Death in 1977 at IMDb

My recollection had been correct. Just from that list:

  • Elvis Presley…arguably, there are no bigger music stars
  • Bing Crosby: an iconic figure, a giant of music, then movies, and TV
  • Charlie Chaplin: a very nostalgic figure at the time
  • Groucho Marx
  • Zero Mostel
  • Joan Crawford
  • Ethel Waters
  • Howard Hawks
  • Andy Devine
  • Eddie “Rochester” Anderson
  • Freddie Prinze: a popular actor of the period, in the category of “dead too young”
  • Of more specifically geek interest were Richard Carlson, Allison Hayes, Jacques Tourneur, William Castle, and Henry Hull

That search returns more than 1,300 names (not all of which will be well-known).

Still, I would say that there was at least a higher public awareness of celebrities who died in 2016 than in 1977.

I think there may be three main reasons for that:

  1. Pop culture now has a much longer “shelf life” than it used to have. Thanks in part to the preservation and distribution enbaled by the internet (following television giving audiences the ability to see older movies, starting especially in the 1950s), people can easily see media which is one hundred years old, which wasn’t the case even twenty-five years ago. Electronic distribution of public domain works is very low cost. There are lots of sources. My own The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project is built on the concept of enjoying older media. When Andy Warhol popularized the idea that “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes…” in 1968, the suggestion was that someone would be famous, and then not famous. Now, it’s much more that if you become famous, you will at least continue to be known to the public forever. See also You’re showing your age when you say, “You’re showing your age”.
  2. Geeks honor their own…and the vast majority of famous actors has a geek connection. Now that geeks are the mainstream (look at the most popular movies in any week), this tradition of ours to recognize actors who have had even a single credit or a small recurring role means that geek-friendly actors get a lot more respect than they used to get. Oscar winners always got coverage: that wasn’t the case with non-stars of geek-friendly TV shows, for example, but I’m now likely to see several articles on the passing of someone like that
  3. The multiplicity of media: there are 24 hour news channels, but also blogs and websites which specialize in geek topics…and those may be picked up by the mainstream

So, I do think part of it is perception…and that perception will continue next year. We will hear about the deaths of stars of the 1960s, 1950s, earlier, and also later. The news media will cover the passing of geek-friendly stars, and we will honor their lives.

Over the next few weeks, we will be updating our 2016 Geeky Goody-byes, where you can see more of a list.

Join thousands of readers and try the free The Measured Circle magazine at Flipboard !

All aboard our new The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project! Join the TMCGTT Timeblazers!

When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) By the way, it’s been interesting lately to see Amazon remind me to “start at AmazonSmile” if I check a link on the original Amazon site. I do buy from AmazonSmile, but I have a lot of stored links I use to check for things.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

 

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Is My Favorite Martian’s “Uncle Martin” a Jedi?

September 22, 2016

Is My Favorite Martian’s “Uncle Martin” a Jedi?

My Favorite Martian was a popular “mermaid out of water”* sitcom which aired from 1963 to 1966. I’ve recently been re-watching it on Hulu, and it got me thinking.

“Uncle Martin”, the Martian (whose real name is Exigius) has a number of “unearthly abilities”. They are fairly well established in the first season (although they arguably expand in the third season).

Some of them seemed a bit familiar to me, and then it struck me: they reminded me of the Jedi abilities in Star Wars.

Now, let me be very clear: I’m not suggesting that George Lucas copied My Favorite Martian! Certainly, it seems likely that he saw the series (he was 19 when it debuted), but was undoubtedly familiar with the themes through other science fiction. Nothing here originated with the John L. Greene/Jack Chertok’s sitcom.

It’s more the idea for me that “Uncle Martin” may be a Jedi…even though Star Wars takes place in a galaxy far, far away, a long time ago (perhaps the Martian Jedi philosophy was a survivor from an ancient time).

Let’s take a look at what Uncle Martin can do, and compare it to Jedi.

Telekinesis

This is one of the most obvious parallels. Uncle Martin uses his “levitation finger” to move things with his mind. It may look sillier (this is a comedy, after all) when he wiggles his finger, but it’s actually less effort than when a Jedi makes full arm swings. Darth Vader comes close when he chokes someone. There are certainly limitations…Uncle Martin can’t influence things which are very far away, and neither can Jedi. If they could, they’d be able to take fighter spacecraft out of the sky with a gesture. Martin, who is quite a techie, did create a levitation machine with an extended range…something we don’t see in Star Wars.

Acrobatics

One of the things that defines Jedi for me is the acrobatics. The Martian does do very Jedi moves in one episode, The Disastro-Nauts. He is applying to be an astronaut on an Earth rocket to Mars, and despite appearing to be a meek, older human, shows up all of the young military types. That includes demonstrating extraordinary strength. We don’t usually see this, but he is a quiet type most of the time (not unlike the Jedi).

Telempathy/reading minds

Martin can sense emotions from somewhat far away…a “disturbance in the Force”, so to speak. However, again, Martin would win in a contest…he can read actual thoughts. If Lord Vader could do that, they would have a much simpler time fighting the rebellion. It’s not easy: he needs to be close, and generally, the other person has to concentrate (as does Martin). Martin sometimes tricks people into thinking about a topic (by asking questions) so he can get the details of it as he reads their minds.

Talking to animals

Interestingly, the Martian can speak with non-human animals…perhaps not surprising, since his telepathy already crosses species with humans. The animals appear to be cognitively much more advanced than would generally be accepted, but their motivations and perspectives are generally reasonably appropriate. A cat may be motivated by food, but hides an object to affect future events and understands what that object is and its importance. Can Jedi speak with animals? There are a lot of species involved in Star Wars, in addition to artificially intelligent droids. I can’t say that I’ve seen Jedi have the kind of communication Martin has with dogs and cats…they don’t appear to ask Tauntauns for specific information, for instance.

Jedi mind tricks

As is the case with Jedi, Uncle Martin can’t possess someone and control their actions. He can push them physically around with telekinesis, of course. However, he is also able to confuse them…we see a scene quite a bit like the “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for” scene. Martin is speeding (to help Tim), and two police officers chase him. He slows them down, and after they catch up, they can’t figure out why they were after him.

Invisibility

Uncle Martin can actually become invisible at will (unless something like a lightning storm messes it up). That’s an ability that Jedi don’t have (they do a lot of sneaking around in the movies which they wouldn’t have to do if they could just go transparent). That appears to be an inherent Martian ability, though…Martin needs his (metallic appearing, but apparently biological) retractable antennae to work for that. They may be implants of some kind, and the invisibility might be technological, but it’s clear that Martians generally have them. Martin is clearly not a Homo sapiens (for one thing, he is about 450 years old…and those are Martian years, not Earth years), but neither is Yoda.

Those are really Uncle Martin’s signature abilities. Now, Martin doesn’t have a light saber and isn’t a warrior (he’s a professor of anthropology), but do you have to have that to be a Jedi? If a Jedi loses their light saber, does that make them not a Jedi any more? It might make it hard for them to be a Jedi knight, but isn’t it possible there are Jedi who aren’t knights? If not, why add the term “knight” at all?

There are other parallels with Uncle Martin and Yoda: they are both relatively long-lived; they both dispense advise (Uncle Martin advised many famous humans over the centuries, on return trips to Earth…as far as we know, he just hasn’t been stranded on Earth before)…although Uncle Martin probably physically resembles Ben Kenobi more.

Could the Jedi philosophy have survived on Mars a long time later? By the way, Martin makes so many references to the actual planet Mars (trying to hideaway on an Earth probe there, for one thing) that it is hard to argue that he really isn’t from Mars…unless he has some form of transportation there that gets him to the actually more life-friendly location he describes.

What do you think? Is Uncle Martin a Jedi? Feel free to let me and my readers know what you think by commenting on this post.

 * “Mermaid out of water” is a term I use for a situation that is like the classic “fish out of water”, but the outsider is magical, from another time, from another planet, or something otherwise outside of the human norm

Join thousands of readers and try the free The Measured Circle magazine at Flipboard !

All aboard our new The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project! Join the TMCGTT Timeblazers!

When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) By the way, it’s been interesting lately to see Amazon remind me to “start at AmazonSmile” if I check a link on the original Amazon site. I do buy from AmazonSmile, but I have a lot of stored links I use to check for things.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

“Alexa, what did all those Back to the Future stories miss?” (and fact future v fict future)

October 22, 2015

“Alexa, what did all those Back to the Future stories miss?” (and fact future v fict future)

Yesterday was October 21st, 2015,

Back to the Future Day (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

That’s the day in 1989’s Back to the Future II that Marty McFly and Doc Brown arrive in the future.

There were many, many stories about it…enough to fill a Ford Super De Luxe convertible. 😉 Now, I’m not suggesting they were similar to the material that filled Biff Tannen’s car…far from it.

Most were thoughtful comparisons of what was shown in the movie (fict((ional)) future) versus how we actually live today (fact future…at least, the future to 1989). I particularly liked this one:

Back to the Future 2015 SuperScholar.org

However, as an owner of an

Amazon Echo (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

I’ve been really surprised that people have generally ignored Marty McFly’s future home’s automation and talktech.

In the movie (and there are mild spoilers here…more about bits than about the plot), the house welcomes a character. Another character says, “….you should reprogram: it’s dangerous to enter without lights on.” When the character repeats, “Lights on?”, the lights come on in the room, with a tone to let the user know that the command has been heard (or just to acknowledge the lights coming on).

That is how I turn the lights on in my house…and the voice that tells me “Okay” is much more natural than what we generally hear in the movie.

I say, “Alexa, turn on the Family Room”, or “Alexa, turn on the Library”.

My Echo hears me and Alexa turns on the appropriate bulb which was part of the

GE Link Starter Kit, PLINK-SKIT, Wireless, A19 LED Light Bulb, Pack of 2 (at AmazonSmile*)

Could I “reprogram” the house to simply turn on the lights when I got home?

Yes!

The Wink app (Wink, by the way, has been sold following a bankruptcy by Quirky, but my equipment still works) has “robots”. I could tell it:

  • If the robot detects my location changing to arriving at my home address
  • Anytime
  • Then turn lights on

I don’t do that, but it’s an option.

Later, another character tells the talktech to turn off the “art” on a big screen and to display several channels (simultaneously).

That’s a bit tougher to do currently. I’m going to be testing in the near future using our

Amazon Echo (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

to communicate with a

Samsung SmartThings Hub (at AmazonSmile*)

to control a

Logitech Harmony Home Control (at AmazonSmile*)

to in turn control an

Amazon Fire TV (at AmazonSmile*)

I know, I know…that’s quite a daisy chain. Alexa is on my Fire TV (this is the 2nd generation), but it can’t actually control the channels or do voice search. The Fire TV does voice search, but that’s a different system. I do hope that the Fire TV will eventually be able to natively not only open, say, Hulu, but “Show me the next episode of [show name]”. I think we’ll get there within the next two years.

Regardless, talktech is a solid hit for BttF2…why wasn’t it being mentioned in stories and infographics along with self-lacing sneakers, hoverboards, and holograms?

Does it seem so natural that it wasn’t worth analysis? Alternatively, did the writers not realize that this arrived right on schedule? The Echo and the Alexa Voice Service have had a super soft launch…there weren’t lines of people outside a store waiting for the Echo. It’s been more like a rising tide than an asteroid strike. Amazon may be very clever in avoiding huge expectations and great demand and having it gradually just become part of our lives.

Now, let’s talk about fact future versus fict future.

How many predictions did Back to the Future 2 get right?

There were no predictions…so none. 😉

Back to the Future 2 is a work of fiction: it’s not the analysis of a futurist or the premonitions of a psychic.

Much of what we see is there for comic effect, and to tie into the first and third movies.

Let’s take Jaws 19 playing at a movie theatre.

  • Jaws was released in 1975
  • Jaws 2 was released in 1978
  • Jaws 3-D was released in 1983
  • Jaws: The Revenge (effectively Jaws 4) was released in 1987

From 1985 (when Bttf2 is set) to 2015, a new Jaws movie would have to have come out on average every 15 months or so. While it’s certainly possible that production schedules will become shorter as technology improves, I’m not sure that’s a specific prediction they intended (but I’d be happy to be contradicted by the moviemakers…comment, Bob Gale?). 😉

We can also see that Jaws 19 is directed by Max Spielberg. Max was born on June 13, 1985…and is the son of Steven Spielberg, the director of the original Jaws (and an Executive Producer) on BttF2. Is this a prediction of a fact based on trends and analysis…or an in joke? I’d lean towards the latter… 😉

While some geeky fiction is trying to project current trends, it’s also often a commentary on the present. It may not be intended at all to represent a likely future…in some cases, it’s actually intended to help stave off some developments portrayed within it.

That’s one issue with fict future versus fact future comparisons.

Another one is this: the future may be boring. 🙂

Drama is based on difficulty: stress, risk, friction, and difficult choices.

Technology, especially in the past decade or so, has been about removing all that.

Let’s say we set a new Back to the Future, set thirty years from now (2045).

Cars are impossible to crash. It’s impossible to fall off a building. All weaponry is nonlethal. Anyone on the street can be immediately identified and helped.

I’m not saying that’s going to happen by then…but it is a not unreasonable assessment of the trends.

Not only is the tendency towards less danger (and therefore less drama), there are two other factors.

Technology is becoming more invisible, and it’s becoming more internal.

BttF2 uses fingerprint technology for the house to allow someone to enter.

Currently, SmartHomes can use SmartPhones to recognize when someone comes to the home and unlocks the door (although there is a hypothetical risk that the phone could be stolen).

In the future, I fully expect that our technology will recognize us by our simple biology…no technology necessary to be carried. Facial recognition is one way, but there may be others, akin to the original Outer Limits’ O.B.I.T. (Outer Band Individuated Teletracer), which basically picks up on an individual’s unique electromagnetic emanations.

It wouldn’t be very dramatic in a movie, though, to simply have the door open, with no indication of how the individual was recognized.

Similarly, the TV should have been able to largely anticipate what the character wanted to watch…or at least, most of it. That conversation should not be necessary at some point in the future (not necessarily in the next thirty years), but again, would be much less dramatic. Imagine this scene in a movie:

A detective wakes up at home. The lights simply come on. The self-cleaning clothes change from pyjamas to a uniform with no interaction. The detective sits down to a breakfast table, where the food is already ready and eats breakfast (again, no interaction). The detective steps outside, and a car is waiting. The detective gets in the car, and it drives away…already knowing where the detective wants to go, and monitoring the detective’s emotional reaction to its choices. En route to where a criminal is already unconscious (having been spotted and subdued by autonomous technology), other cars smoothly move out of the way on their own.

Not very dramatic, right?

In terms of technology becoming more internal…I feel like we are very connected to other people now, but not with the strangers immediately in our vicinity.

Classic old time movie scene: a newsboy shouting, “Extra! Extra! Read all about it!” Somebody buys a paper, and we see the headline. The character exclaims, “Gosh all hemlock!”

Current version: character gets a subtle vibration notification, glances at a watch, and reads the news. In the same room, other characters are checking watches or phone…could be the same headline, might be something else, like a reminder to buy milk. Everything is done without speech.

Which one makes the better scene?

Even though geeky fiction isn’t usually trying to actually predict the future, sometimes it does…but intriguingly, it is sometimes a case of life imitating art.

Dr. Martin Cooper has suggested that seeing the communicator on Star Trek inspired his work on the mobile phone.

Does anyone doubt that Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon have been inspirations for work on ray guns?

Fiction may not intentionally predict the future…but it may help to inspire it.

Join thousands of readers and try the free The Measured Circle magazine at Flipboard 

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the  The Measured Circle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Mid-year box office check 2015

August 2, 2015

Mid-year box office check 2015

We’ve gone through six months of the year, so it’s a good time to look at how the box office is going (based on movies released in the USA through the end of June).

It’s entirely possible that this year will have the largest dogro (domestic gross) to date (not adjusted for inflation), especially since there are some really big movies yet to come.

Breaking it down, what do we see?

Jennifer Lopez is a movie star

That might not be the lead in stories you’ll see in other publications about this year at the movies, but the success of The Boy Next Door is staggering, and largely due to J.Lo.

Oh, I’m sure some of you want to jump in and say that Chris Pratt is a bigger star.

Well, The Boy Next Door has a dogro of $35.4m on a reported production budget of $4.0m. That’s a return of 885%, nearly triple golden in our awards system.

It did that in part because of its star’s (and sorry, John Corbett and Kristen Chenoweth, but I doubt very many people went to see the movie who weren’t significantly interested in seeing J.Lo) smart and relentless promotion, appearing on TV shows, in magazines, and so on.

Universal has it figured out

Universal is one of the most geek-friendly studios ever (along with Hammer in England, and AIP). Of course, they had the famous horror cycle starting with Boris Karloff in Frankenstein and Bela Lugosi in Dracula, and continuing in that cycle until they may have killed it with Abbott and Costello Meets fill-in-the-blank. The list goes on and on from The Creature from the Black Lagoon and The Incredible Shrinking Man, to their relationship with Steven Spielberg, bringing us Jaws and E.T. This year, four of the top 5 of

The Measured Circle’s Most Profitable Movies

at time of writing are from Universal:

  • Jurassic World ($478m in profit, domestic gross ((dogro)) versus production budget…419%)
  • Minions ($201m in profit | 372%)
  • Furious Seven ($160m in profit  | 184%)
  • Pitch Perfect 2 ($154m in profit | 631%)

Those are four very different movies, with different target audiences. Yes, they are all sequels/prequels, but that’s certainly no guarantee of success (for an example from this year, Hot Tub Time Machine 2 didn’t domestically make back its budget…which was $14m). They did have a couple of misfires (Blackhat and Seventh Son), but they’ve more than made up for it.

So does Blumhouse

Universal has been investing money, and getting a return on it. Blumhouse, on the other hand, spends very little money…but has a higher percentage return than Universal…and they’ve been doing that for years. Looking at 2015:

  • The Lazarus Effect ($25.8m dogro on a $3.3m production budget | 782%)
  • Insidious: Chapter 3 ($52m dogro on a $10m production budget | 520%)
  • The Gallows ($21.9m on a $100,000 production budget | 21,580%) (note: this was released July 10th, so it’s past our cut-off…but it’s still a stand-out, so we’ll cheat a little) 😉

Golden movies on our list

To get to our list, a movie has to dogro at least $40m. We also give awards to movies, based on their returns…at least 300% return is “Golden” (double, and this is still dogro versus production budget, is “Money”). These movies are Golden this year:

  • Pitch Perfect 2 Double Golden (at least 600% return)
  • Jurassic World (highly unusual that a movie with a $150m budget to go Golden)
  • Minions
  • Fifty Shades of Grey
  • Magic Mike XXL
  • Insidious: Chapter 3

The $500 Million Club

We also track

The Measured Circle’s Box Office MVPs

To get on the list, an actor needs to be first billed in a movie that dogros at least $100m, and appear in at least one other movie that dogros $40m.

Eleven actors are on that list, and six of them have had movies on our list that dogroed at least $500m this year:

  1. Judy Greer: Jurassic World ($628.0m); Tomorrowland ($91.8m); Ant-Man ($120.0m) | Tentative total: $839.8m
  2. Hayley Atwell: Cinderella ($201.0m); Avengers: Age of Ultron ($456.0m); Ant-Man ($120.0m) | Tentative total: $777.0m
  3. BD Wong: Jurassic World ($628.0m); Focus ($53.8m) | Tentative total: $681.8m
  4. Stellan Skarsgård: Cinderella ($201.0m); Avengers: Age of Ultron ($456.0m) | Tentative total: $657.0m
  5. Samuel L. Jackson: Kingsman: The Secret Service ($128.0m); Avengers: Age of Ultron ($456.0m) | Tentative total: $584.0m
  6. Dwayne Johnson: Furious 7 ($350.0m); San Andreas ($151.0m) | Tentative total: $501.0m

Of these six, only Samuel L. Jackson is repeating from 2014…although Dwayne Johnson was on the list for 2013.

There you are…halfway through the year, and there is a lot more coming!

Join thousands of readers and try the free The Measured Circle magazine at Flipboard 

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the  The Measured Circle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

 

The Geeky Seventies

June 9, 2015

The Geeky Seventies

CNN is following up their successful series on the 1960s with one on the 1970s:

http://www.cnn.com/shows/the-seventies

Tom Hanks is an Executive Producer.

The existence of this series is kind of funny to me. I did a comedy bit years ago on our community access TV show (Freedom from Fear) called “In Search of the Seventies”. I treated it as a mystery as to whether or not the Seventies even (culturally) existed. I asked if they were really just “…the end of the Sixties and the start of the Eighties”.

I think that’s because I was too close to it. I was really engaging in pop culture in the Seventies…well, often culture that wasn’t so popular, but you know what I mean. 😉 I didn’t have the distance from it and maturity to recognize what was special about it.

Certainly, I thought the 1960s had a unique culture…with the Beatles in part driving the bus.

As to the 1980s, well, New Wave music seemed to stand out to me.

The 1970s? At that time, I wasn’t seeing what made it special.

Now I do. 🙂

This post is going to give you an overview of geek-friendly culture in the 1970s.

It was definitely a transformative decade…even if the Transformers didn’t arrive until the 1980s. 😉

Geek culture moved mainstream in very big ways. Predominantly, there was Star Wars, which made space opera a blockbuster, but we could also look at The Exorcist for horror, and Interview with the Vampire (Anne Rice) for vampires.

We saw the arrival of Stephen King as a novelist, and the publication of Dungeons and Dragons.

Home video technology meant that people could easily watch movies after they were out of theatres…decades after, in some cases. Prior to that, some of us had three-minute long Super 8 movies, and the real hobbyists might have 16mm reels, but the Betamax and others meant our cinematic history (including the geeky part) was much more accessible.

Star Trek: the Original Series was canceled in 1969…but the fandom continued. That led to the first Star Trek convention in the 1970s. Science fiction conventions went back to 1939, but this was different.

Batman in the 1960s might have made superheroes a hit on TV, but Wonder Woman and The Incredible Hulk were part of the 1970s scene.

The Weird World interested a lot more people…the In Search Of TV series was only one part of that, but was many viewers’ first exposure to some of these topics.

Let’s look at some of the highlights in different areas:

Movies

How times have changed!

When you look at the top ten US grossing movies released in the 1960s, arguably only two are geek-friendly (GF) and not specifically intended for the family/children’s market:

  1. The Sound of Music
  2. 101 Dalmations
  3. The Jungle Book
  4. Doctor Zhivago
  5. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
  6. Mary Poppins
  7. My Fair Lady
  8. Thunderball (GF)
  9. Cleopatra
  10. 2001: A Space Odyssey (GF)

By the end of the 1970s, that picture had entirely changed, and would look more like our box office today:

  1. Star Wars (GF)
  2. Jaws (GF)
  3. The Sting
  4. Animal House
  5. The Rocky Horror Picture Show (eventually) GF
  6. The Godfather
  7. Superman (GF)
  8. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (GF)
  9. Smokey and the Bandit
  10. Blazing Saddles

The Exorcist (1973) brought straight up horror to blockbuster status and mainstream acceptance (along with a lot of protests).

In 1975, Steven Spielberg changed the summer. Up to that point, it had largely been a season of cheapo exploitation movies. People actually went outside (including drive-ins), not to the movies. Jaws reshaped all that, giving us the summer blockbuster season. There have been heated debates about whether or not Jaws is a fantasy (are we supposed to believe the shark is just a shark, or something more?), but it was clearly a monster movie.

Then in 1977, Star Wars changed it all.

While those movies were all big hits, there were a lot of other significant geek movies. Undeniably, we have to count the Rocky Horror Picture Show as establishing midnight movies and a special kind of cult film. It flopped when it came out, but then got a new life in a new way. He’s the hero…that’s right, the hero. 😉

Here are some other stand-outs:

  • Alien (1979)
  • A Clockwork Orange (1971)
  • Mad Max (1979)
  • Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)
  • Carrie (1976)
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
  • Halloween (1978)
  • Young Frankenstein (1974)
  • The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
  • The Omen (1976)
  • King Kong (1976)
  • Eraserhead (1977)
  • Solaris (1972)
  • Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)
  • Logan’s Run (1979)
  • The Wicker Man (1973)
  • Live and Let Die (1973) (the first Roger Moore James Bond)
  • Soylent Green (1973)
  • Enter the Dragon (193)
  • The Amityville Horror (1979)
  • Dawn of the Dead (1978)
  • Zardoz (1974)
  • The Wiz (1978)
  • Westworld (1973)
  • Four of the original Planet of the Apes movies
  • A Boy and His Dog (1975)
  • Phantom of the Paradise (1974)
  • Tommy (1975)
  • The Lord of the Rings (1978) (Ralph Bakshi)
  • Escape to Witch Mountain (1975)
  • The Andromeda Strain (1971)
  • Phantasm (1979)
  • The Sentinel (1977)
  • Suspiria (1977)
  • Death Race 2000 (1975)
  • Rollerball (1975)
  • The Hills Have Eyes (1977)
  • Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)
  • The Omega Man (1971)
  • Tales from the Crypt (1972)
  • The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976)
  • Freaky Friday (1976)
  • The Kentucky Fried Movie (1977)
  • The Car (1977)
  • The Muppet Movie (1979)
  • The  Stepford Wives (1975)
  • Dark Star (1974)
  • Eraserhead (1977)

TV

Sure, the 1960s had been huge for high concept TV (with 1964 particularly important), but the 1970s built on that with many geek-friendly hits. Batman on TV had burned out by 1970, but opened the field for other superheroes (DC, Marvel, and bionic). Star Wars and James Bond were both big in movie theatres, and we saw their effect on the small screen as well. Home video arrived, which began to give us more options (although cable wouldn’t be a factor until the 1980s). Saturday morning got trippy with the Kroffts (although H.R. Pufnstuf debuted in 1969), and saw the return of Star Trek with the original cast…in animated form.

Some geek-friendly series:

  • Wonder Woman
  • The Incredible Hulk
  • Saturday Night Live (Coneheads! Land Shark!)
  • Battlestar Galactica
  • Fantasy Island
  • Mork & Mindy
  • Land of the Lost
  • Buck Rogers in the 25th Century
  • Kung Fu
  • Space: 1999
  • The Six Million Dollar Man
  • The Bionic Woman
  • The Muppet Show
  • The Tomorrow People
  • Isis
  • Kolchak: The Night Stalker
  • Blakes 7
  • The Amazing Spier-Man
  • Nanny and the Professor
  • Shazam!
  • Tales of the Unexpected
  • SCTV
  • Paddington Bear
  • The New Avengers
  • Schoolhouse Rock!
  • Super Friends
  • Star Trek: The Animated Series
  • Man from Atlantis
  • Return to the Planet of the Apes
  • Sigmund and the Sea Monsters
  • Sapphire & Steel
  • Star Blazers
  • The Prisoner
  • Quark
  • Josie and the Pussycats
  • The Invisible Man (David McCallum)
  • Electra Woman and Dyna Girl
  • Doctor Who in the United States
  • Monty Python in the United States

Books/literature

I’ve gone into depth on the general topic of literature of the 1970s in another blog of mine:

I Love My Kindle: Books in the 1970s

In terms of geek-friendly, it was a huge decade! Just as movies saw the mainstreaming of geek-friendly genres, bookstores saw bestsellers from a new author named Stephen King, and a vampire hit (Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice).

While geek-specific bookstores (and comic book stores) were crucial, you could walk into a the newly national Barnes & Noble chain and get a variety of science fiction/fantasy/supernatural horror. You wanted military SF? You had Joe Haldeman. Light fantasy? Enter Xanth by Piers Anthony. Social science fiction? The Sheep Look Up by John Brunner. Ringworld…Riverworld…we weren’t only reaching out to new planets, we were visiting new worlds and universes.

Here are some of the stand-out titles and authors:

  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
  • Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke
  • The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin
  • The Stand by Stephen King
  • Nine Princes in Amber by Roger Zelazny
  • Gateway by Frederick Pohl
  • Time Enough for Love by Robert A. Heinlein
  • To Your Scattered Bodies Go by Philip José Farmer
  • Lucifer’s Hammer by Larry Niven
  • The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin
  • Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
  • Logan’s Run by William F. Nolan
  • Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang by Kate Wilhelm
  • The Sheep Look Up by John Brunner
  • Altered States by Paddy Chayefsky
  • Autumn Angels by Arthur Byron Cover
  • The Cave of Time (Choose Your Own Adventure) by Edward Packard

Gaming

1974 saw the release of Dungeons & Dragons…and we had Advanced D&D by the end of the decade. This was really the decade that saw the RPG (Role-Playing Game) world established, and would include Runequest and Traveller.

Fandom

Star Trek:  The Original Series ended in 1969, but the people who had come together to fight for a third season kept at it. That included the first Star Trek convention (well, the first widely available to the public one in 1972), the return of the original cast for the animated series, and eventually, 1979, to the big screen.

Comics

Again, there was a transition happening, with some significant experimentation.

  • Jack Kirby jumped from Marvel to DC, and introduced Darkseid
  • The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide first appeared
  • Green Lantern and Green Arrow take a philosophical walk-about across America
  • Mister Miracle debuts
  • An arc in Spider-Man features drug use, and defies the Comics Code Authority
  • Ra’s Al Ghul first appears
  • The Kree-Skrull War storyline
  • The Sandman
  • War Machine makes his first appearance
  • Wonder Woman gives up her powers

The Weird World

  • The TV series In Search of… (hosted by Leonard Nimoy) was instrumental in reinteresting people in the Roswell Incident
  • 1973 was dubbed “The Year of the Humanoids” by UFO researcher David Webb…one of the most famous was the Pascagoula incident
  • Uri Geller was famous, even appearing on the Tonight Show in 1973 to “bend spoons”
  • Psychic Discoveries Behind the Iron Curtain by Lynn Schroeder and Sheila Ostrander was published in 1970
  • The Mysterious Monsters was a Sunn Classics documentary, featuring Peter Graves
  • The Legend of Boggy Creek was released in 1972
  • The Unidentified, published in 1975, by Loren Coleman & Jerome Clark, is Coleman’s first “name on the cover” book
  • John A. Keel’s inimitable The Mothman Prophecies was published in 1975
  • Momo, the Missouri Monster, was just one of many hairy bipeds
  • Newsstands had magazines galore, including Ancient Astronauts
  • The “flipper photo” of the Loch Ness Monster was taken in 1972 by Dr. Robert Rines’ team
  • In 1975, Travis Walton is missing for several days, and a report emerges of an abduction by aliens

Records

Listening to LPs was definitely a 1970s thing, and there were some definitely geeky concept albums.

  • 1972: David Bowie’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars
  • 1973: Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells
  • 1978: Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds
  • 1978: Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!

Science/Tech

  • Home computers became a thing in 1977, with the Apple II, the Commodore PET (Personal Electronic Transactor), and the TRS-80 (Tandy Radio Shack)
  • Skylab launched in 1973…and docked with the Russian Soyuz in 1975
  • The Atari 2600 was released in 1977
  • The first Pong arcade game was put to use in 1972. Arcade games would really take off with Space Invaders in 1978

There’s a bit of the geeky 1970s for you! We certainly didn’t cover everything, but you can see the big shift from geek culture being kids and niche to becoming the mainstream pop culture force that it is today. Want to add something? Feel free to comment on this post.

Join thousands of readers and try the free The Measured Circle magazine at Flipboard 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the  The Measured Circle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Will Into the Woods reverse the Depp Dip?

December 17, 2014

Will Into the Woods reverse the Depp Dip?

Look, we love Johnny Depp. He’s talented, charismatic, and can do both comedy and drama.

For the past few years, though, audiences haven’t loved him enough to actually go see his movies in theatres all that much.

Here at The Measured Circle, one way we judge the success of a movie is by comparing its dogro (domestic gross) to its production budget.

As recorded both on this blog and on our IMDb list

2014 The Measured Circle’s Most Profitable Movies

we give movies awards based on the following metrics:

Dogro 2X production budget = “Money”
Dogro 3X production budget = “Golden”
Dogro 30X production budget = “Platinum”

Dogro less than 50% of production budget = “Underperformer”

Let’s take a look at Depp’s starring movies for the past three years (leaving out 21 Jump Street as a cameo):

  • Transcendence (4/18/2014): dogro $23m / production budget $100m = 23% UNDERPERFORMER
  • The Lone Ranger (7/3/2013): dogro $89m / production budget $215m = 41% UNDERPERFORMER
  • Dark Shadows (5/11/2012): dogro $80 / production budget $150m = 53%

As you can see, the trend has been diminishing returns.

Taking these three movies as a whole, it’s dogro $192m / $465m = 41%.

Going back to the previous three year period, the picture is quite different:

  • The Rum Diary (10/28/2011): dogro $13m / production budget $45m = 29% UNDERPERFORMER
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (5/20/2011): dogro $241 / production budget $250m = 96%
  • Rango (3/4/2011): dogro $123 / production budget $135 = 91%
  • The Tourist (12/10/2010: dogro $68 / production budget $100 = 68%
  • Alice in Wonderland (3/5/2010): dogro $334m / production budget $200m = 167%
  • The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (12/26/2009): dogro $8m / production budget $30m = 27%
  • Public Enemies (7/1/2009): dogro $97m / production budget $100m = 97%

(not included: When You’re Strange, with Depp as narrator)

While only one of them was an underperformer, and none of them got to our Money level of 200%, this is still a much better showing. Taken as a whole: dogro $884m / $860m = 103%.

Skipping 2008 (no major releases), the previous three year period showed real strength:

  • Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (12/21/2007): dogro $53 / production budget $50m = 106%
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (5/25/2007): dogro $309m / production budget $300m = 103%
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (7/7/2006): dogro $423m / production budget $225m = 188%
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (7/15/2005): dogro $209 / production budget $150 = 139%

(not included: The Libertine and Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride, due to lack of production budget data)

Here are the other movies for which we have data (from http://www.boxofficemojo.com):

  • Finding Neverland (11/12/04) dogro $52m / production budget $25m = 208% MONEY
  • Secret Window (3/12/2004) dogro $48m / production budget $40m = 120%
  • Once Upon a Time in Mexico (9/12/03) dogro $56m / production budget $29m 193%
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (7/9/03) dogro $305m / production budget $140m = 218% MONEY
  • From Hell (10/19/01) dogro $32m / production budget $35m 91%
  • Blow (4/6/01) dogro $53m / production budget $53m = 100%
  • Chocolat (12/15/00) dogro $72m / production budget $25m 288% MONEY
  • The Ninth Gate (3/10/00) dogro $19m / production budget $38m 50%
  • Sleepy Hollow (11/19/99) dogro $101m / production budget $100 = 101%
  • The Astronaut’s Wife (8/27/99) dogro $11m / production budget $75m 15% UNDERPERFORMER
  • Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (5/22/98) dogro $11m / production budget $18.5 59%
  • Don Juan de Marco (4/7/95) dogro $22m / production budget $25m 88%
  • Ed Wood (9/30/94) dogro $6m / production budget $18m 33%
  • Platoon (12/19/86) dogro $139m / production budget $6m 2317% SEPTUPLE GOLDEN

Did you think that Platoon would be Johnny’s best movie, based on return on the investment dollar? That Chocolat was second? That The Astronaut’s Wife had done worse in that department than Transcendence?

Taking a look at it graphically (without Platoon, which is such an outlier that you wouldn’t be able to see the other differences very well  if we included it), you can see that there have been ups and downs…but all downs recently:

Depp Dip

 

So,  back to the question: will

Into the Woods

opening December 25th, reverse that slide?

Unfortunately, while it may certainly do better than Transcendence, we think its unlikely that it returns to “Money” territory, and would be very surprised if it was “Golden”. The rumored production budget is $50m. Director Rob Marshall’s track record questions the ability to get to Golden, at least after the first big hit:

  • Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (5/20/2011): dogro $241 / production budget $250m = 96%
  • Nine (12/18/2009): dogro $20m / production budget $80m = 25%
  • Memoirs of a Geisha (12/9/2005): dogro $57m / production budget $85m = 67%
  • Chicago (12/27/2002): dogro $171m / production budget $45m = 377% GOLDEN

We hope the movie is terrific, and that it exceeds all of our expectations at the box office. We wish everybody involved with it well, and will be interested to see the results (and we will continue to watch Johnny Depp’s career in the future).

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This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the  The Measured Circle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them

 

 

2013 The Year in Movie Box Office

December 29, 2013

2013 The Year in Movie Box Office

While I would be surprised if this year stands out in the history of movies the way that last year did, it was certainly interesting!

In this post, we’re going to do some analysis of the box office.

We have to first point out that the list isn’t final, and that there are some newcomers which will move up considerably (The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is still burning up the box office, and for a movie with a snowman main character, Frozen surprisingly has legs). 😉 We think that American Hustle could eventually top $100 million dogro (domestic gross), and Walter Mitty and Anchorman 2 are just getting started.

We’ll continue to update our 2013 box office page

2013 Movie Box Office: 40, 80, 1, 2 , 3

at least until no 2013 release appears on the IMDb top ten box office list for a week. If that happens before the Oscars (which are scheduled for March 2), we’ll probably keep going until then…the Oscar bump can have an impact.

That said, let’s look at where we are as of now. We are only doing this on dogro, although we’ll have something to say about international later. We also cut it off at the bottom at $40 million:

1 Iron Man 3 $409,013,994.00
2 The Hunger Games: Catching Fire $384,324,000.00
3 Despicable Me 2 $367,607,660.00
4 Man of Steel $291,045,518.00
5 Monsters University $268,492,764.00
6 Gravity $254,067,000.00
7 Fast & Furious 6 $238,679,850.00
8 Oz The Great and Powerful $234,911,825.00
9 Frozen (2013) $229,775,000.00
10 Star Trek Into Darkness $228,778,661.00
11 World War Z $202,359,711.00
12 Thor: The Dark World $201,727,537.00
13 The Croods $187,168,425.00
14 The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug $170,564,000.00
15 The Heat $159,582,188.00
16 We’re the Millers $150,394,119.00
17 The Great Gatsby (2013) $144,840,419.00
18 The Conjuring $137,400,141.00
19 Identity Thief $134,506,920.00
20 Grown Ups 2 $133,668,525.00
21 The Wolverine $132,556,852.00
22 G.I. Joe: Retaliation $122,523,060.00
23 Now You See Me $117,723,989.00
24 Lee Daniels’ The Butler $116,146,955.00
25 Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 $115,740,196.00
26 The Hangover Part III $112,200,072.00
27 Epic $107,518,682.00
28 Captain Phillips $104,287,640.00
29 Pacific Rim $101,802,906.00
30 This is the End $101,470,202.00
31 Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa $100,837,000.00
32 Olympus Has Fallen $98,925,640.00
33 $42.00 $95,020,213.00
34 Elysium $93,050,117.00
35 Planes $90,288,712.00
36 The Lone Ranger $89,302,115.00
37 Oblivion $89,107,235.00
38 Insidious Chapter 2 $83,586,447.00
39 Turbo $83,028,128.00
40 2 Guns $75,612,460.00
41 White House Down $73,103,784.00
42 Mama $71,628,180.00
43 Safe Haven $71,349,120.00
44 Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues $71,198,000.00
45 The Smurfs 2 $71,017,784.00
46 The Best Man Holiday $70,033,270.00
47 Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters $68,443,727.00
48 A Good Day to Die Hard $67,349,198.00
49 Warm Bodies $66,380,662.00
50 Jack the Giant Slayer $65,187,603.00
51 The Purge $64,473,115.00
52 Last Vegas $62,439,761.00
53 Prisoners $61,002,302.00
54 Ender’s Game $60,900,026.00
55 After Earth $60,522,097.00
56 Escape From Planet Earth $57,012,977.00
57 Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters $55,703,475.00
58 Evil Dead (2013) $54,239,856.00
59 Free Birds $54,089,000.00
60 Red 2 $53,262,560.00
61 Tyler Perry’s Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor $51,975,354.00
62 The Call $51,872,378.00
63 Pain and Gain $49,875,291.00
64 American Hustle $46,885,000.00
65 Gangster Squad $46,000,903.00
66 Jurassic Park 3D $45,385,935.00
67 The Internship $44,672,764.00
68 Instructions Not Included $44,467,206.00
69 Snitch $42,930,462.00
70 Riddick $42,025,135.00
71 A Haunted House $40,041,683.00

Some movies which may still make $40 million dogro:

  • Tyler Perry’s a Madea Christmas
  • 12 Years a Slave (especially with an Oscar bump, but even without)
  • Saving Mr. Banks
  • The Wolf of Wall Street
  • The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
  • 47 Ronin
  • There are some that could do it with an Oscar bump, for example, Philomena and Fruitvale Station

Counting Gravity as a geek-friendly movie (even though Gravity is not science fiction), the top 14 all qualify.

That’s just based on gross, though. Geek movies often cost more to produce, which reduces the profit. When we look at

The Measured Circle’s Most Profitable Movies of 2013

the top ten looks considerably different.

  1. Despicable Me 2: profit of $292m to date
  2. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire: $209m
  3. Iron Man 3: $209m
  4. Gravity: $154m
  5. Monsters University: $153m
  6. The Conjuring: $124m
  7. The Heat: $117m
  8. We’re the Millers: $113m
  9. Identity Thief: $99m
  10. Lee Daniels’ The Butler: $86m

As you can see, three comedies and a mainstream drama make the cut with those numbers (dogro versus reported production budget).

Like last year, the biggest losers were all geek friendly:

  1. Jack the Giant Slayer: -$129.8m to date
  2. The Lone Ranger: -$125.7m
  3. Pacific Rim: -$88.0m

We don’t know yet where 47 Ronin might end up, with an estimated budget of $175m…it is possible it will lose as much as Pacific Rim, but it is too soon to tell.

This year, we started a new feature. We label movies based on their dogro versus their reported production budgets:

A traditional measure of success if the dogro being twice the production budget. Using that as a starting point…

Dogro 2X production budget = “Money”
Dogro 3X production budget = “Golden”

Dogro less than 50% of production budget = “Underperformer”

Here are those groupings:

Golden (16 titles out of 69 tracked by us so far)

  1. Septuple Golden: The Purge: 2147%
  2. Quintuple Golden: Insidious: Chapter 2: 1,672%
  3. Quintuple Golden: A Haunted House: 1,600%
  4. Triple Golden: The Conjuring: 1053%
  5. Double Golden: Instructions Not Include: 890%
  6. Double Golden: Jackass Presents Bad Grandpa: 673%
  7. Despicable Me 2: 484%
  8. Mama: 477%
  9. The Best Man Holiday: 411%
  10. We’re the Millers: 405%
  11. The Call: 392%
  12. Lee Daniels’ The Butler: 387%
  13. Evil Dead: 387%
  14. Identity Thief: 383%
  15. The Heat: 372%
  16. This Is the End: 316%

Money (7 titles out of 69)

  1. Snitch: 286%
  2. Safe Haven: 255%
  3. Gravity: 254%
  4. 42: 238%
  5. Monsters University: 233%
  6. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire: 226%
  7. Iron Man 3: 205%

Underperfomer (4 titles out of 69)

  1. White House Down: 49%
  2. After Earth: 47%
  3. The Lone Ranger: 42%
  4. Jack the Giant Slayer: 34%

No question, horror (especially when we include the horror spoof A Haunted House) had the best return for the studios’ investment dollars. The Purge knocks it out of the park, and every movie that was more than Double Golden was a horror movie (again, counting A Haunted House).

Mainstream comedies also do very well, though, including Jackass, We’re the Millers, Identity Thief, and The Heat…proving that while it isn’t necessary to have Melissa McCarthy top-billed, it’s a good idea. 😉

Non-horror, non-animated geek movies don’t even make the Golden cut.  On the other hand, three out of four of the underperformers were geek-friendly (and we could debate the fourth).

Does that high risk mean studios should stop making megabudgeted geek tentpoles?

Nope. 🙂

There are a few reasons for that:

  • Even though Iron Man 3 wasn’t golden, it still dogroed hundreds of millions more for the studio than the production cost. That’s a lot of money! Profit matters, but having cash on hand counts, too
  • Lots of money on geek-friendly movies is made outside of the tickets for the initial theatre run. There are the merchandising bucks…how many licensed Halloween costumes from comedies are sold? Not that many, certainly compared to superhero movies
  • We have just been looking at domestic numbers so far…here’s where that international part comes into play. Comedies just don’t do as well internationally…humor is much harder to translate than explosions and special effects. 😉 Iron Man 3 made 66.3% of its box office outside the USA; The Heat made 30.6%. You’ll find similar numbers on other successful geek-friendly movies and mainstream comedies. As international box office becomes increasingly important, geek-friendly movies become more valuable

One other quick list: some geek-friendly movies which did not make the $40m dogro cut (and aren’t likely to do so):

  • The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones: dogro $31m, reported budget $60m. Even though we wouldn’t quite label it an underperformer, this is one of the ones that may scare studios away from young adult literature as source material. Not completely, of course, but it does make them a bit more cautious
  • Kick-*ss 2: dogro $29m, reported budget $28m. It did barely make a profit…did we witness the power of Jim Carrey’s not supporting the movie? If so, is that better or worse for Carrey: would you be more reluctant to cast Carrey knowing that, if the actor later decides the movie has a moral issue, you could lose promotional support?
  • The World’s End: dogro $26m, reported budget $40m. Don’t worry too much about this one: it will be profitable when everything is taken into account, and even if it wasn’t, we still love Pegg and Frost
  • Carrie: dogro $35m, reported budget $30m. It made a profit, but I think most people would have predicted more out of it
  • Machete Kills: dogro $7m, reported budget $12m. It’s not about the money with this one…
  • Beautiful Creatures: dogro $19m, reported budget $60m. A major underperformer…see Mortal Instruments above
  • About Time: dogro $15m, reported budget unknown. Our guess is this one was still a success, but we don’t know for sure
  • R.I.P.D.: dogro $34m, reported budget $130m if this one could have clawed its way to $40m, it would have been one of our underperformers. This was not a good year for Ryan Reynolds, although The Croods did well. This movie and Turbo, though? Not so much…we still love you, Ryan! Although, you know, maybe not like we love Pegg and Frost 😉
  • Jobs: dogro $16m, reported budget $12m. This one did okay
  • The Host: dogro $27m, reported budget $40m. We thought this one would do better: see Beautiful Creatures above
  • Scary Movie 5: dogro $32m, reported budget $20m. That’s good enough: expect a 6 at some point
  • Dark Skies: dogro $17m, reported budget $3.5m. Again, good enough

We’ll keep tracking 2013…and then on to 2014!

See you in the movies!

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Movies through Labor Day 2013

September 4, 2013

Movies through Labor Day 2013

The On the Circumference posts contain short pieces which may or may not be expanded later.

Even though there have been records set, this has not felt like a great year for movies so far. There have been some movies that have really lost a lot of money, when you compare their domestic gross (dogro) to their production budgets, as we do here:

http://www.imdb.com/list/KL-q-CWciQY/

Two movies at this point have dogroed more than $100 million less less than their production budgets:

Jack the Giant Slayer

Dogro to date: $65.2m
Reported budget: $195.0m

Tentative dogro v production budget profit: $-129.8m (34%)

The Lone Ranger

Dogro to date: $88.0m
Reported budget: $215.0m

Tentative dogro v production budget profit: -$127.0m (41%)

The percentages there are dogro v. production budget.

When the box office has been setting record grosses, it seems like it has been because there have been more movies in the marketplace, not because some have been particularly profitable.

There have been some low budget movies that have done really well…and yes, a couple of movies that cost more than $100 million to make, and have made a lot of money.

We are now giving movies awards based on their categories. Let’s take a look at the top and bottom of those, with the highest percentage of dogro to production budget first:

Golden (dogro at least 300% of production budget): 10 movies to date this year

The Purge (Septuple Golden)

Dogro to date: $64.4m
Reported budget: $3.0m

Tentative dogro v production budget profit: $61.4m (2147%)

A Haunted House (Quintuple Golden)

Dogro to date: $40.0m
Reported budget: $2.5m

Tentative dogro v production budget profit: $37.5m (1600%)

The Conjuring (triple golden)

Dogro to date: $132.0m
Reported budget: $13.0m

Tentative dogro v production budget profit: $119.0m (1015%)

Mama

Dogro to date: $71.6m
Reported budget: $15.0m

Tentative dogro v production budget profit: $56.6m (477%)

Despicable Me 2

Dogro to date: $351.0m
Reported budget: $76.0m

Tentative dogro v production budget profit: $275.0m (462%)

The Call

Dogro to date: $51.0m
Reported budget: $13.0m

Tentative dogro v production budget profit: $38.0m (392%)

Evil Dead

Dogro to date: $54.2m
Reported budget: $14.0m

Tentative dogro v production budget profit: $40.2m (387%)

Identity Thief

Dogro to date: $134.0m
Reported budget: $35.0m

Tentative dogro v production budget profit: $99.0m (383%)

The Heat

Dogro to date: $156.0m
Reported budget: $43.0m

Tentative dogro v production budget profit: $113.0m (363%)

This Is the End

Dogro to date: $96.8m
Reported budget: $32.0m

Tentative dogro v production budget profit: $64.8m (303%)

Clearly, if you wanted the biggest bang for your buck (the highest percentage return), this was a good year to be a horror movie! Counting A Haunted House (a horror comedy…it can count in both), the top four movies were all in that genre.

Note also that the only sequel in this bunch is Despicable Me 2…the rest are all originals.

Despicable Me 2 high budget is an anomaly for this group, but that’s not surprising…the more you spend, the harder it is to triple that at the box office.

We also have a “Money” category, for movies that make twice their production budget…but that’s not really a stand out. We’ll skip those in this post (you can see them at the IMDb link above), and move to the bottom category. We’ll these with the lowest performers first:

Underperformers (dogro under 50% of the production budget): 4 movies to date this year:

Jack the Giant Slayer

Dogro to date: $65.2m
Reported budget: $195.0m

Tentative dogro v production budget profit: $-129.8m (34%)

The Lone Ranger

Dogro to date: $88.0m
Reported budget: $215.0m

Tentative dogro v production budget profit: -$127.0m (41%)

After Earth

Dogro to date: $60.5m
Reported budget: $130.0m

Tentative dogro v production budget profit: -$69.5m (47%)

White House Down

Dogro to date: $72.4m
Reported budget: $150.0m

Tentative dogro v production budget profit: $-77.6m (48%)

Does anything group these together? I’d say big stars…which certainly may drive up the production budget, affecting these figures.

Melissa McCarthy has two movies in the Golden category this year…but if her asking price goes up, that may become less likely in the future.

It is still possible that White House Down will earn enough to move out of this category. Some movies are making money for quite some time…Iron Man 2 added another million the last time we updated the list, for example.

Next, let’s take a look at our The Measured Circle Box Office MVPs so far this year:

http://www.imdb.com/list/1qpmYwE-IJs/

This is based on the combined dogros of their movies this year (provided the movie dogroed at least $40 million…that’s our cut off). To qualify, someone needs to have been first-billed in a movie that dogroed at least $100 million this year, and appeared in another movie that dogroed at least $40 million this year.

At some point, we may look at the profitability of movies for actors…that might let them know when to ask for a raise. 🙂

Let’s pull some interesting ones from the list:

At the very top is

James Badge Dale

Iron Man 3 ($408.0m); World War Z ($198.0m); The Lone Ranger ($87.7m)

Tentative total: $693.7m

We wouldn’t say the actor is a household name, but Iron Man 3 and World War Z were both seen by a lot of people, so that may change.

Dwayne Johnson

Snitch ($42.9); G.I. Joe: Retaliation ($123.0m); Pain & Gain ($49.8m); Fast & Furious 6 ($238.0m)

had four movies that made that $40m minimum, with two over $100m. “The Rock” is #4 overall, and we think it’s safe to say that Dwayne Johnson is a draw for audiences.

There are some children high on the list, which we think may be an interesting trend.

Joey King (#5)

Oz the Great and Powerful ($235.0m); White House Down ($72.1m); The Conjuring ($128.0m)

Tentative total: $435.1m

was born in 1999.

Sterling Jerins (#17)

World War Z ($198.0m); The Conjuring ($128.0m)

Tentative total: $326.0m

was born in 2004.

They were both in The Conjuring, which certainly helped. When you look at the list, you’ll see a lot of actors who appearing in more than one movie in the same year with another specific actor. That is presumably due to them sharing an agent in some cases.

Shaquille O’Neal (#38)

Shaquille O’Neal: Grown Ups 2 ($127.0m); The Smurfs 2 ($57.7m)

Tentative total: $184.7m

surprised us. Shaq’s movie career didn’t really take off in the mid-1990s, and the former basketball star only has 11 total IMDb acting credits. Kudos to an actor so well-known for physicality for making the list with a voice role!

It is very hard to be on the list year after year. If you make big budget spectaculars it may take so long to do one that it limits your opportunities the following year. However, here are two that are on the list year, and were on it in 2012:

John Goodman (#6)

Last year: #49, $285.7m

The Hangover Part III ($112.0m); Monsters University ($261.0m); The Internship ($44.6m)

Tentative total: $417.6m

Goodman (a personal fave…we thought the former sitcom star deserved a best supporting actor nom last year) increased the take. We were hoping Goodman’s Amazon pilot wasn’t picked up…for one thing, we didn’t like it, but for another, it will limit big screen opportunities. Goodman still has another movie which might make the list to come this year (The Monuments Men).

Channing Tatum

Last year: #32, $377.0m

G.I. Joe: Retaliation ($123.0m); White House Down ($72.1m); This Is the End ($96.7m)

Tentative total: $291.8m

Well, there is a lot more movie year left to go! Looking forward to it…

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog.

2012 The Year in Movies

December 25, 2012

2012 The Year in Movies

While the counting certainly isn’t over (and we just saw Les Miz in a crowded theatre), this is clearly a great year for geek movies!

Let’s talk about box office first.

If we look just at the domestic gross (dogro), geek movies dominated the top 100.

Title Dogro
The Avengers 623
The Dark Knight Rises 448
The Hunger Games 408
Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 2 281
Skyfall 279
The Amazing Spider-Man 262
Brave 237
Ted 219
Madagascar 3 216
Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax 214
MIB 3 179
Wreck-It Ralph 172
Ice Age: Continental Drift 161
Snow White and the Huntsman 155
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey 150
Hotel Transylvania 144
Taken 2 138
21 Jump Street 138
Prometheus 126
Safe House 126
The Vow 125
Lincoln 117
Magic Mike 114
The Bourne Legacy 113
Argo 106
Journey 2: The Mysterious Island 104
Think Like a Man 92
Flight 91
The Campaign 87
The Expendables 2 85
Wrath of the Titans 84
Dark Shadows 80
Rise of the Guardians 80
Life of Pi 76
John Carter 73
Act of Valor 70
Contraband 67
Looper 66
Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Witness Protection 66
Battleship 65
Mirror Mirror 65
Chronicle 65
Pitch Perfect 64
Hope Springs 64
Underworld Awakening 62
The Lucky One 60
The Dictator 60
Total Recall 59
Titanic 3D 58
American Reunion 57
Paranorman 56
This Means War 55
Project X 55
The Woman in Black 54
Paranormal Activity 4 54
The Devil Inside 53
The Odd Life of Timothy Green 52
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance 52
The Grey 52
Red Tails 50
The Possession 49
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days 49
Sinister 48
Beauty and the Beast 3D 48
Savages 47
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel 46
Moonrise Kingdom 46
The Three Stooges 44
Star Wars Episode 1 3D 43
Here Comes the Boom 43
Red Dawn 43
Resident Evil: Retribution 42
The Cabin in the Woods 42
What to Expect When You’re Expecting 41
Finding Nemo 3D 41
End of Watch 41
Rock of Ages 39
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter 38
Lawless 37
That’s My Boy 37
Trouble with the Curve 36
The Watch 35
Step Up Revolution 35
Tyler Perry’s Good Deeds 35
Frankenweenie 35
2016 Obama’s America 33
House at the End of the Street 32
The Pirates! Band of Misfits 31
Joyful Noise 31
Chimpanzee 29
The Five-Year Engagement 29
Cloud Atlas 27
Alex Cross 26
One for the Money 26
Katy Perry: Part of Me 25
Sparkle 24
Premium Rush 20
Big Miracle 20
Silver Linings Playbook 20
The Secret World of Arrietty 20

Geek movies can also cost more to make, though. Take a look at the movies ranked by profit. I’m using budget figures from Box Office Mojo. They don’t have budgets listed for every movie, and I’m leaving off ones where they don’t. These appear to be production budgets, and there can be considerable costs beyond that (especially marketing).

Title Dogro Budget Profit
The Avengers 623 220 403
The Hunger Games 408 78 330
The Dark Knight Rises 448 250 198
Ted 219 50 169
Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 2 281 120 161
Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax 214 70 144
Magic Mike 114 7 107
21 Jump Street 138 42 96
The Vow 125 30 95
Taken 2 138 45 93
Think Like a Man 92 12 80
Skyfall 279 200 79
Madagascar 3 216 145 71
Ice Age: Continental Drift 161 95 66
Argo 106 44.5 61.5
Flight 91 31 60
Hotel Transylvania 144 85 59
Act of Valor 70 12 58
Chronicle 65 12 53
Brave 237 185 52
Lincoln 117 65 52
The Devil Inside 53 1 52
Paranormal Activity 4 54 5 49
Pitch Perfect 64 17 47
Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Witness Protection 66 20 46
Sinister 48 3 45
Contraband 67 25 42
Safe House 126 85 41
Titanic 3D 58 18 40
Looper 66 30 36
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel 46 10 36
The Possession 49 14 35
End of Watch 41 7 34
The Amazing Spider-Man 262 230 32
Moonrise Kingdom 46 16 30
The Grey 52 25 27
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days 49 22 27
Journey 2: The Mysterious Island 104 79 25
House at the End of the Street 32 10 22
The Three Stooges 44 30 14
Katy Perry: Part of Me 25 12 13
Sparkle 24 14 10
Wreck-It Ralph 172 165 7
American Reunion 57 50 7
Savages 47 45 2
Step Up Revolution 35 33 2
What to Expect When You’re Expecting 41 40 1
The Five-Year Engagement 29 30 -1
Silver Linings Playbook 20 21 -1
Prometheus 126 130 -4
Paranorman 56 60 -4
Frankenweenie 35 39 -4
The Dictator 60 65 -5
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance 52 57 -5
Underworld Awakening 62 70 -8
Red Tails 50 58 -8
Alex Cross 26 35 -9
This Means War 55 65 -10
The Bourne Legacy 113 125 -12
One for the Money 26 40 -14
Snow White and the Huntsman 155 170 -15
The Expendables 2 85 100 -15
Premium Rush 20 35 -15
Mirror Mirror 65 85 -20
Big Miracle 20 40 -20
Red Dawn 43 65 -22
Resident Evil: Retribution 42 65 -23
The Pirates! Band of Misfits 31 55 -24
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter 38 69 -31
That’s My Boy 37 70 -33
The Watch 35 68 -33
Rock of Ages 39 75 -36
Life of Pi 76 120 -44
MIB 3 179 225 -46
Rise of the Guardians 80 145 -65
Wrath of the Titans 84 150 -66
Total Recall 59 125 -66
Dark Shadows 80 150 -70
Battleship 65 209 -144
John Carter 73 250 -177

As you can see, geek movies are still at the top, but other movies like Magic Mike, The Vow, and Think Like a Man move much farther up the list. Note that the biggest losers are clearly the geek movies (hello, John Carter and Battleship).

I’m also interested in profit percentage. Some low budget movies make many times what it cost to produce them, which means there is less risk. This is a place where low budget horror movies shined this year.

Title Dogro Budget Profit%
The Devil Inside 53 1 5200%
Magic Mike 114 7 1529%
Sinister 48 3 1500%
Paranormal Activity 4 54 5 980%
Think Like a Man 92 12 667%
End of Watch 41 7 486%
Act of Valor 70 12 483%
Chronicle 65 12 442%
The Hunger Games 408 78 423%
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel 46 10 360%
Ted 219 50 338%
The Vow 125 30 317%
Pitch Perfect 64 17 276%
The Possession 49 14 250%
Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Witness Protection 66 20 230%
21 Jump Street 138 42 229%
Titanic 3D 58 18 222%
House at the End of the Street 32 10 220%
Taken 2 138 45 207%
Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax 214 70 206%
Flight 91 31 194%
Moonrise Kingdom 46 16 188%
The Avengers 623 220 183%
Contraband 67 25 168%
Argo 106 44.5 138%
Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 2 281 120 134%
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days 49 22 123%
Looper 66 30 120%
Katy Perry: Part of Me 25 12 108%
The Grey 52 25 108%
Lincoln 117 65 80%
The Dark Knight Rises 448 250 79%
Sparkle 24 14 71%
Ice Age: Continental Drift 161 95 69%
Hotel Transylvania 144 85 69%
Madagascar 3 216 145 49%
Safe House 126 85 48%
The Three Stooges 44 30 47%
Skyfall 279 200 40%
Journey 2: The Mysterious Island 104 79 32%
Brave 237 185 28%
American Reunion 57 50 14%
The Amazing Spider-Man 262 230 14%
Step Up Revolution 35 33 6%
Savages 47 45 4%
Wreck-It Ralph 172 165 4%
What to Expect When You’re Expecting 41 40 2%
Prometheus 126 130 -3%
The Five-Year Engagement 29 30 -3%
Silver Linings Playbook 20 21 -5%
Paranorman 56 60 -7%
The Dictator 60 65 -8%
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance 52 57 -9%
Snow White and the Huntsman 155 170 -9%
The Bourne Legacy 113 125 -10%
Frankenweenie 35 39 -10%
Underworld Awakening 62 70 -11%
Red Tails 50 58 -14%
The Expendables 2 85 100 -15%
This Means War 55 65 -15%
MIB 3 179 225 -20%
Mirror Mirror 65 85 -24%
Alex Cross 26 35 -26%
Red Dawn 43 65 -34%
One for the Money 26 40 -35%
Resident Evil: Retribution 42 65 -35%
Life of Pi 76 120 -37%
Premium Rush 20 35 -43%
The Pirates! Band of Misfits 31 55 -44%
Wrath of the Titans 84 150 -44%
Rise of the Guardians 80 145 -45%
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter 38 69 -45%
Dark Shadows 80 150 -47%
That’s My Boy 37 70 -47%
Rock of Ages 39 75 -48%
The Watch 35 68 -49%
Big Miracle 20 40 -50%
Total Recall 59 125 -53%
Battleship 65 209 -69%
John Carter 73 250 -71%

I was curious about how profit tended to trend against budget. The sweet spot seemed to be around $40m to $50m budget, and it was unlikely to make a profit (The Avengers excepted) on a budget over $100m.

2012 Budget versus Profit

I think this will be a tough year for geek titles to get much love in terms of awards. That’s always hard, but this year, I think the mainstream movies are so strong that it will be particularly difficult.  I wrote back on November 10th that I thought that 2012 is a strong contender for the best movie year since 1939 and its odds have only increased since then. Even for technical awards, the Academy would rather give them to a Les Miz than a movie like The Dark Knight Rises, but we’ll see what happens when we get the Oscar noms on January 10th and then the awards themselves on February 24th.

Before I list some trends/stories for the year, let me remind you that you can see more detail at

2012 Movie Box Office: 40, 80, 1, 2 , 3

and

2012 The Measured Circle’s Box Office MVPs

  • Directors mattered at the box office. It wasn’t just what they put on the screen. I think the audiences cared that Joss Whedon directed The Avengers, Sam Mendes directed Skyfall, Gary Ross directed The Hunger Games, and Tom Holland directed Les Miz. Look for directors to start getting more money
  • While I thought earlier this year that Baby Boomer nostalgia had faded, and I still think that to some extent, Skyfall, The Dark Knight Rises, and The Amazing Spider-Man arguably benefited from it
  • Interestingly, remakes of Total Recall (1990) and Dredd (1995) suggest that the 1990s may not be prime time for second servings yet. The 1980s? They were hot, with 21 Jump Street and Wreck-It Ralph
  • Books (not just comic books) were good sources for the movie box office. The Hunger Games, Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 2, and The Hobbit will all have studio development teams looking at lit. However, One for the Money and Alex Cross may make them more cautious about adapting titles without a lot of young adult appeal

Those were a few things I noticed. Feel free to let me and my readers know what you think are the trends by commenting on this post. Later, I’ll look ahead to 2013.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle.

What Hollywood has learned from the box office this year

May 28, 2012

What Hollywood has learned from the box office this year

Every year, the box office provides studios with a tremendous amount of data: what works, what doesn’t work, what’s making money, what isn’t.

This year is no different…as we get the returns from the Memorial Day weekend, we can speculate on what the studios have learned this year.

Sequels are good…and multi-series sequels (MSS) are better

The biggest movie of the year (and likely to be the third biggest movie in the USA all time by the end of this week), The Avengers, is a multi-series sequel (MSS). I don’t think there has been a team-up like this since Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. 😉 While the movie was mega expensive at about $220m, it’s going to have made a ton of money. This makes a Justice League movie a whole lot more likely…although I don’t know that Batman would be a part of it. They’ve made the character so dark, he clearly doesn’t play well with others. Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Arrow, Green Lantern, Aquaman…there are quite a few possibilities. Journey 2: The Mysterious Island broke $100m dogro (domestic gross), and surpassed its predecessor. American Reunion was a relatively inexpensive investment, revitalized a series, and will make a nifty profit worldwide. Men in Black III knocked The Avengers off the top spot, and has a solid opening. It’s too soon to say where it will really end up, but it certainly has had a respectable opening.

Sequels are bad

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance didn’t exactly burn up the box office, so to speak. It won’t make half what its predecessor did domestically. Of course, they could just blame that on Nic Cage. 😉  Wrath of the Titans cost about $150m, and hasn’t dogroed $100m

Baby Boomer nostalgia is bad

It had to happen at some point. Baby Boomers are a population segment born roughly between 1946 and 1964, when there were an unusually high number of births. For years, movies have been made to appeal in part to this group. One of the big media definers for the Boomers was television: it brought them together, before it became more fragmented with the advent of cable television. Dark Shadows was one of those unifying shows, with both boys and girls rushing home to see it. However, the Johnny Depp/Tim Burton version will struggle to dogro half of its budget. Television also brought some older theatrical properties into homes, making new fans for the Universal horror movies…and The Three Stooges. Despite what was generally considered a respectful reboot, the Farrelly brothers’ movie is unlikely to dogro $50m. Battleship may have banked in part on Boomer nostalgia for the boardgame, introduced in 1967. If we figure that you had to be at least seven to play the game, that means you had to have been born by at least 1960…and maybe fifty-two year olds aren’t driving the box office (at least for big budget 3D movies). This doesn’t bode well for Depp’s The Lone Ranger, opening May 31st of 2012. That show had also been on radio, and therefore may appeal to the previous generation, called the “Greatest Generation”…but again, they may not be the ones to fill theatres. That didn’t happen with George Lucas’ World War II movie, Red Tails.

Gen X nostalgia is good

Gen Xers were the group that followed Baby Boomers…say, born in about 1965 to 1981 or 1982 (generation naming is inexact). 21 Jump Street  is currently a top five movie for the year, and around $135m dogro. The source series started in 1987 and ran until 1991. The success of this follows the Tranformers movies and The Karate Kid remake to show the current market power of this age group. Expect more of this, even though it doesn’t always work.

CGI is bad

John Carter is being painted as a legendary flop, along the lines of Ishtar and Heaven’s Gate, but that’s an exaggeration. Those two movies didn’t dogro $20m combined…and John Carter is close to eighty. Yes, John Carter cost a lot more, but with both Ishtar and Heaven’s Gate having budgets near $50m, John Carter was relatively a success. If you Google John Carter and CGI, you’ll see many headlines blaming the movie’s dependence on CGI (Computer Generated Images). The same thing is true if you Google Battleship. In both cases, the perception is that lots of money was spent on CGI special effects and it wasn’t worth it.

CGI is good

The Avengers has about 2,200 special effects shots…very close to John Carter’s 2,295, from the figures I’ve seen. The Avengers is seen as more character driven, but certainly the long climactic battle is just as CGI driven as BattleshipMen in Black III, while having great Rick Baker physical make-up effects, also has significant CGI. This year is not going to stop studios from using the technology.

Bows and arrows are good

What do the two biggest grossing movies (by far) of the year have in common? Twang! Both The Avengers and The Hunger Games feature bow-wielding heroes. It will be interesting to see if that helps the ratings for the archery events in the Olympics (and the CW’s Green Arrow series in the fall). Even if it’s Cupid’s metaphorical arrows did well: love is good. 🙂 The Vow dogroed $125m..on a reported budget of $30m. Think Like a Man dogroed over $85m…on a relatively tiny budget of $13m. Love is cheap…but it pays off. However, the studios will have to be careful that it doesn’t lead to budget inflation in the future. In the 1950s, science fiction movies almost always made  money because they were so cheap and high concept. Now, they can be very expensive…relationship movies will have to avoid that.

Movies based on books are good

The Hunger Games is blowing away records for a non-sequel. There is no question that having a built-in audience from the books helped launch it…and maintain it. What’s the third biggest movie of the year so far, and well over $200m dogro? Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax. Throw in Journey 2: The Mysterious Island  and Think Like a Man, and you have a bunch of over performers. Compare the $78m budget for The Hunger Games with the $220m for The Avengers, and you’ll see that words can be cheaper than effects.

Movies based on books are bad

John Carter. I could just stop there, but this is really a concern for some geeks. The movie was based on a series of books that have been available and avidly read for about a century. It had a director/screenwriter with a great record, no skimping on the budget, released by a major studio…it seemed like a pretty sure bet. This is going to make studios cautious about making older books into new movies…and there are so many great old geek books that could be done!

In summary…

As you can tell, there are a lot of lessons…but they often contradict each other. 🙂 If it was clearcut, studios would get better every year at being profitable, and that’s just not the case. One reason? It’s a lot easier to hire a person than a concept. If Channing Tatum and Josh Hutcherson have a great year, it’s a simple choice to cast them in your movie for a hoped-for boost. There are other lessons this year (a movie that people didn’t like can be marketed into a big profit, for example). One thing we know about next year: the studios will be right…and wrong. 😉

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog.


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