Wednesday, April 30, 2014
The first film to win "Best Picture" (awarded a year later because there was no "Best Picture" at the first Academy Awards)
|Directed by||William A. Wellman|
|Produced by||Lucien Hubbard |
Jesse L. Lasky
B. P. Schulberg
|Written by||Story: |
John Monk Saunders
Louis D. Lighton
|Starring||Clara Bow |
Charles "Buddy" Rogers
|Music by||Uncredited: |
|Editing by||E. Lloyd Sheldon |
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Release date(s)||August 12, 1927|
|Running time||141 minutes|
|Language||Silent film |
On May 16, 1929, the first Academy Award ceremony was held at the Hotel Roosevelt in Hollywood to honor outstanding film achievements of 1927 and 1928. Wings was entered in a number of categories but in contrast with later awards, there was no Best Picture award. Instead, there were two separate awards for production, the Most Artistic Quality of Production, won by Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927) and the Most Outstanding Production, won by Wings as well as Best Effects, Engineering Effects for Roy Pomeroy.
The following year, the Academy instituted a single award called Best Production, and decided retroactively that the award won by Wings had been the equivalent of that award, with the result that Wings is often listed as the winner of a sole Best Picture award for the first year. The title of the award was eventually changed to Best Picture for the 1931 awards.
Wings is a 1927 silent film about World War I fighter pilots, produced by Lucien Hubbard, directed by William A. Wellman and released by Paramount Pictures. Wings was the first film, and one of two silent films (the other being The Artist in 2012), to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. Wings stars Clara Bow, Charles "Buddy" Rogers, and Richard Arlen. Gary Cooper appears in a role which helped launch his career in Hollywood and also marked the beginning of his affair with Clara Bow. 
The above is from Wikipedia (click here).
IMDB Gallary of stills of the actors and scenes from the film (click here). 25 stills and 3 videos.
With the silent film The Artist in competition for this year's Best Picture Oscar, movie critic Bob Mondello has been thinking about the pre-talkie era. As it happens, the only silent film to win for Best Picture has just been released on Blu-ray: the 1927 flying-ace epic Wings.
Biplanes dive through clouds high above a World War I battlefield. Dogfights in the air, bombs on the ground, and all of it without special effects —Wings is an old-school epic, enormous in scope and basically real. The U.S. Army provided 220 planes, several thousand soldiers, tanks, artillery, and all sorts of logistical help.
And that was the year The Jazz Singer brought sound to film, so Wings had to be bigger, better and louder, too. In big cities, it was accompanied by a full orchestra, with sound-effects guys in the theater to provide the roar of planes and bullets. To recreate that for the Blu-ray restoration, the filmmakers went back to the original shooting script and musical score — so they knew exactly where the sound effects should be, where the orchestra should burst into Mendelssohn for soaring flight scenes, and where the director wanted hand-painted yellow flames leaping from cockpits as planes went down. In an age of black-and-white silent film, those flames must have astonishing.
When director William Wellman started working on Wings, Hollywood hadn't yet figured out how to film an air-war story. Most World War I planes, remember, were almost like kites, made of canvas and baling wire, and they were way too small to hold a cameraman and a pilot and an actor.
So Wellman bolted cameras directly to the planes and gave his 20-something stars flying lessons. In the making-of extras, Wellman's son remembers that leading man Charles "Buddy" Rogers, had never been in a plane in his life.
"They would go up in a two-seat plane, and there would be a 'safety' pilot who would duck down, and then the actors flew the plane," he says. "But you have fly those planes. You have a control stick, and you've got to work it to keep it in the air. My father said Buddy Rogers spent something like 98 hours in the air. When he would come down after shooting for a while, he would throw up."
Who could blame him? But the results are spectacular — flying footage that makes the green-screen trickery of modern films look downright lame.
Wings offers some down-to-earth pleasures, too: Gary Cooper in the bit part that kicked off his career, and Clara Bow, the It Girl, silently lighting up the screen. No wonder so many in the film industry despaired when big, clunky sound cameras came in, forcing everyone to stand in one place and talk into microphones. Spectacle and daredeviltry wouldn't make a comeback for years, but this one last time, Wings sure sent them soaring.
- Clara Bow as Mary Preston
- Charles "Buddy" Rogers as Jack Powell
- Richard Arlen as David Armstrong. Arlen met co-star Ralston on the set and married her in 1927.
- Jobyna Ralston as Sylvia Lewis
- El Brendel as Herman Schwimpf, a cadet who washes out and becomes an air force mechanic
- Richard Tucker as Air commander
- Gary Cooper as Cadet White
- Gunboat Smith as Sergeant
- Henry B. Walthall as David's father
- Roscoe Karns as Lieutenant Cameron
- Julia Swayne Gordon as David's mother
- Arlette Marchal as Celeste
- Hedda Hopper as Jack's mother (uncredited)
- George Irving as Jack's father (uncredited)
By Richard Verrier
A new report from FilmL.A. provides further evidence that California is rapidly losing its share of big budget feature films to rival states and countries.
Last year, only two of the top 25 big-budget movies, whose combined budgets totaled more than $3.5 billion, filmed primarily in California: "The Hangover Part III" and "Star Trek: Into Darkness," according to a report released Thursday morning by FilmL.A.
That's a sharp decline from 15 years ago, when 16 of the top 25 live-action movies at the box office were filmed in California, the report states.
Among 2014 releases, just two live-action movies with budgets of more than $100 million shot primarily in California: "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" and "Interstellar."
"The analysis... serves to highlight a very basic, yet fundamentally important, point: big budget movies are simply not being made in California anymore," the study concludes.
The United States served as the primary production location for 65% (70 films) of the 108 films FilmL.A. surveyed.
However, only 14% of the films were primarily produced in California, causing the state to slip behind Louisiana in total tracked projects.
Louisiana ranked first with 18 movies. Canada and California tied with 15 movies apiece, followed closely by the United Kingdom, which hosted 12. Rounding out the top five locations was the state of Georgia, which hosted nine films.
Without exception, California’s most successful competitors for new feature film projects offer significant, uncapped film incentive programs, the report concludes.
The research echoes the findings in a Los Angeles Times report in December that found California’s share of top grossing movies dropped by 60%, from 57 movies wholly or partially shot in the state in 1997 to just 23 in 2012.
“Considering California’s vast filmmaking talent, the state should be exporting films for global audiences, not jobs to global competitors,” said Paul Audley, president of FilmL.A., which handles film permits for the city and county. “State policymakers have the opportunity to make a difference this year by expanding California’s film and television tax credit. We hope they give the strongest possible signal to the film industry that they want to keep film jobs in California.”
The report did identify some bright spots. When it comes to commercially successful big-budget films, California-produced animated films outnumber California-produced live-action films by more than 2 to 1.
When Characters get "Whacked" it is not always about the plot. Intel to deliver television and film content over the net.. Has advertising recovered from the recession? Major new additions to Disney Theme Parks.
From The LA Times Company Town Blog.
From Avatar to Superman, Disney Parks will expand into other companies fantasies and comic book characters. The Walt Disney Co. has done preliminary work on introducing Marvel's superhero characters to the happiest place on earth: Disney's theme parks.
Disney Chief Executive Bob Iger told shareholders attending an annual meeting that the company has had a number of discussions and done preliminary design work that it hopes will one day lead to Marvel characters appearing, as Disney's other familiar faces do, in the theme parks.
"We haven't announced anything yet," Iger said Tuesday, in response to a question posed by a shareholder at the company's annual meeting in Kansas City, Mo. "But we're working on some concepts."
When Disney acquired Marvel Entertainment Inc. for $4 billion in 2009, the Burbank entertainment giant talked about incorporating the comic book giant's library of 5,000 characers throughout its various businesses -- which include movies, television shows and merchandise. Indeed, a new animated television series, "Ultimate Spider-Man," kicks off a new programming block April 1 that's devoted to Marvel characters on its boy-focused cable network, Disney XD. And Marvel's big screen presentation of "The Avengers" superhero mash-up will be in theaters this summer under the Disney banner. Disney showed a film trailer to investors at its annual meeting.
Iger didn't mention which Disney parks might get some Marvel muscle -- just a vague reference to "a few places around the world." Its theme park competitor, Universal Studios, operates the Marvel Super Hero Island attraction in Orlando, Fla.
For the moment, Disney is focused on an ambitious theme park project based on director James Cameron's blockbuster science-fiction fantasy, "Avatar." Disney struck a licensing deal with Cameron, his producing parter, Jon Landau, and film distributor 20th Century Fox, to develop rides and attractions based on the 2009 hit.
The first "Avatar" inspired land is planned for Disney's Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Orlando. Iger told shareholders that the new attraction won't likely open until 2015.
In other developments at the shareholders meeting, Iger announced a company-wide initiative to hire at least 1,000 returning veterans over the next three years. Dubbed "Heroes Work Here," Iger said, the program "reflects our commitment to hire, train and support military veterans and military families."
Disney stockholders re-elected all 10 members of Disney's board, including Iger as the company's new chairman. A proxy advisory firm had recommended investors withhold votes for the four members of the board's Nominating and Governance Committee in protest of the decision to give Iger the combined title of chairman and chief executive.
Shareholders also approved the company's executive pay plan in an advisory vote.
US Advertising sets record $144 billion mark. Television advertising once again formed the bedrock of the U.S. advertising industry, which closed the books on 2011 at $144 billion in spending.
Overall advertising spending rose slightly -- 0.8% -- over 2010, according to data just released by Kantar Media, which tracks spending.
Network television advertising fell 2% last year, despite a strong fourth quarter lifted by popular NFL football games, Major League Baseball's World Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and Texas Rangers, and Fox's new singing competition, "X Factor."
Ad revenue to national syndicated TV programming jumped 15.4%, with department stores and health and beauty brands increasing their buys. Spanish-language television ad spending climbed 8.3% for the year. Cable television advertising grew 7.7%, the Kantar study found.
Advertising revenue for Internet media inched up a mere 0.4% for the year. Internet display ads were up 5.5% but paid search was down 2.8%.
Most worrisome to media companies that rely on advertising was a pullback in spending by marketers during the fourth quarter. Revenue declined 1% compared with the fourth quarter of 2010 -- marking the first quarterly decline since the end of 2009. Kantar said ad growth rates have been slowing sequentially for five consecutive quarters.
“Some mature digital media formats were also touched by the year-end tide of reduced spending," said Jon Swallen, senior vice president of research at Kantar Media Intelligence North America. "Whether this is an isolated occurrence or an early sign of digital dollars moving more quickly toward emerging and unmeasured digital platforms bears watching as 2012 unfolds.”
Wal-Mart has unveiled an exclusive arrangement with five of Hollywood's top studios to convert DVD collections into digital copies.
Beginning April 16, consumers will be able to take their DVDs to about 3,500 Wal-Mart stores and have a digital copy stored in the cloud -- a storage system offering access from a broad array of Internet-connected devices -- for $2 each. Customers will have the option to upgrade standard DVDs to high-definition online copies for $5 each.
Wal-Mart -- by far the nation's largest retailer of DVDs -- will be the only store that can offer so-called "disc-to-digital" until its period of exclusivity ends in the fall. The retail giant received exclusive rights from the studios in exchange for an aggressive offer to launch the service first, according to people briefed on the matter but not authorized to discuss it publicly.
The news came as part of an event held in Hollywood on Tuesday announcing Wal-Mart's support for UltraViolet, the online movie technology backed by most movie studios and a coalition of technology companies. The previously expected news provides a major boost to UltraViolet, which has had a rocky launch and faces a formidable competitor in Apple's iCloud film service.
As part of the announcement, Wal-Mart's online video store Vudu is now part of UltraViolet and all movies that it sells will be compatible with that service's online cloud, which allows consumers to access films they own from a wide variety of digital devices.
Home entertainment executives from 20th Century Fox, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures, Universal Pictures and Warner Bros. at the event said Wal-Mart's backing was the biggest advance yet for UltraViolet. They were particularly excited about the disc-to-digital option, which they said would acclimate consumers with existing DVD collections to storing their movies online.
Customers can take their DVDs to Wal-Mart photo centers where employees will add digital copies to Vudu accounts. To make sure the same disc is not copied multiple times, store associates will stamp the discs after the conversion is done. They won't accept DVDs rented from outlets such as Redbox, Netflix and Blockbuster.
Not every movie will be available to convert, however, as studios have not yet created digital copies of all their movies. Universal Pictures, for instance, currently has about half of its library of 1,300 titles online.
Studios are hopeful that the Wal-Mart deal will pressure other retailers that don't yet back UltraViolet, including Amazon.com and Best Buy, to jump on board.
Walmart is a non-union corporation that has historically actively fought against unions and pushed vendors to take their companies overseas.
Daily Dose: Normally, when an action movie opens to $30 million at the box office, cable networks are lining up to buy the rights to it. But when that movie is Walt Disney Co.'s "John Carter," it's a different story. Don't look for TNT, FX, USA and the other usual suspects to whip out their checkbooks this week to buy the rights. Disney will likely have to find a way to package "John Carter" with some more successful films as part of a group deal. The film may be the biggest bust of all time for Hollywood. The studio anticipated a larger adult fantasy adventure audience, and some say, miscast or mis-imagined the leads.
"John Carter" blame game. With Disney's "John Carter" turning into the 21st century's "Ishtar," there is lots of finger-pointing going on in Hollywood over who should take the heat for putting this turkey in the oven. In this case, it seems like it was a team effort. Although a previous administration initially greenlighted the movie, the current team at Walt Disney Studios had two years to turn the project into something and didn't. Perhaps the plug should have been pulled, but the movie was a passion project for a very important director. The back story from the Los Angeles Times.
Steven Schirripa, left, and Dominic Chianese on "The Sopranos."
(Barry Wetcher, HBO / March 12, 2012)
When Characters Get Whacked. The courtroom battle between former "Desperate Housewives" costar Nicollette Sheridan and the show's creator, Marc Cherry, over the circumstances of her character's demise is another reminder that for an actor, the only thing worse than not getting a part on a show is getting killed off a show.
"It's a one-way contract, they can drop you at any time," said Steve Schirripa, who spent seven years nervously pawing through the pages of scripts for "The Sopranos" wondering if this was the episode where his character would get whacked.
Producers tend to try to keep the lid on such dramatic events so stories don't leak out to the gossip pages and the actors don't subconsciously alter their performances knowing the end is near. Schirripa, who played Bobby "Bacala" Baccalieri on the HBO series — bodyguard to Tony Soprano's Uncle Junior — got the word he was on the way out only 10 days before the episode was scheduled to shoot.
A look at why some TV characters get whacked. It's not always about the plot.
Photo: Rebekah Brooks. Credit: Alan Crowhurst / Getty Images
Wall Street Journal, is computer giant Intel, which has been meeting with programmers to discuss building a system that would deliver content via the Internet.
The problem is that no matter the delivery system, the cost of content is the challenge.
Intel, according to the WSJ, has been talking about offering fewer channels. But programmers won't likely play ball with that. Disney, Viacom, News Corp., NBCUniversal and Discovery own lots of channels and generally don't let distributors cherry-pick the ones they want. If they do that for Intel, every other cable and satellite operator will be knocking on the door demanding the same treatment.
Never too early to start campaigning. The 2012 Oscars are still fresh in our brains, but that's not stopping some from already trying to figure out who will have the edge for next year's show. USA Today looks at the very early front-runners, a list that includes Steven Spielberg's "Lincoln" and Leonardo DiCaprio's "The Great Gatsby." Even Bill Murray could be in the running with his portrayal of Franklin Roosevelt in "Hyde Park on Hudson."
"Hunger Games" goes on diet. Lionsgate had to snip seven seconds from "The Hunger Games" in order to get a rating in Britain that would allow more pre-teens to see the movie, which does have some violence in it. The U.S. version was not required to make any cuts for its PG-13 rating. Details from Variety.
Hallmark moment? After striking out with Martha Stewart, the Hallmark Channel is going back to its roots by offering more feel-good movies and family-friendly reruns. However, fixing programming is only half the battle for Hallmark and its parent, Crown Media. Crown stock has languished for several years, leading to some pretty unhappy shareholders. A look at Hallmark's plans to revitalize itself from the Los Angeles Times.
Inside the Los Angeles Times: Everything you needed to know about the "Desperate Housewives" trial.
-- Joe Flint
Follow me on Twitter and I'll help you with your March Madness picks. Twitter.com/JBFlint
Photo: Rebekah Brooks. Credit: Alan Crowhurst / Getty Images
Movie Studios Are Forcing Hollywood to Abandon 35mm Film. But the Consequences of Going Digital Are Vast, and Troubling
LAWeekly (click here)
As the directors settled into their seats, Nolan addressed them with words ripped from the plot of an old Batman serial.
"I have an ulterior motive for bringing you here," the British director announced.
And then he made a plea for 35mm film.
Nolan pointed out that The Dark Knight Rises was made on celluloid. That he is committed to shooting on film, and wants to continue doing so. But, he warned, 35mm will be stamped out by the studios unless people — people like them — insist otherwise.
There is a war raging in Hollywood: a war between formats. In one corner, standing with Nolan, are defenders of 35mm film. Elegant in its economy, for more than 100 years film has been the dominant medium with which movies are shot, edited and viewed.
In the other corner are backers of digital technology — a cheaper, faster, democratizing medium, a boon to both creator and distributor.
A few months later, Nolan steps out of the editing bay to discuss his purpose on that December evening. He says he wanted to remind his fellow filmmakers what photochemical film can do. It is too easy to forget the beauty and power of 35mm.
"The danger comes from filmmakers not asserting their right to choose that format," Nolan says. "If they stop exercising that choice, it will go away. I tell people, 'Look, digital isn't going away.' "
It certainly isn't. James Cameron's Avatar got the ball rolling back in 2009. The 3-D blockbuster could only be shown via digital projectors, and so the first wave of theaters upgraded in a hurry.
Today, the driving force isn't so much a single movie as it is the studios' bottom line — they no longer want to pay to physically print and ship movies. It costs about $1,500 to print one copy of a movie on 35 mm film and ship it to theaters in its heavy metal canister. Multiply that by 4,000 copies — one for each movie on each screen in each multiplex around the country — and the numbers start to get ugly. By comparison, putting out a digital copy costs a mere $150.
"Distributing movies digitally into theaters has been the holy grail of the studios," former Universal Pictures chairman Tom Pollock told Variety back in 2010. "They stand to eliminate billions of dollars in costs in coming years without spending very much."
In 2012, it seems, the grail is finally within the studios' grasp. Fate hasn't yet been sealed on the image-capture end, as directors like Nolan dig their heels in about aesthetics and continue to insist on shooting on film. But even a motion picture shot entirely on film can be converted to digital after the fact. And on the projection side, digital is winning.
This year, for the first time in history, celluloid ceases to be the world's prevailing movie-projector technology. By the end of 2012, according to IHS Screen Digest Cinema Intelligence Service, the majority of theaters will be showing movies digitally. By 2013, film will slip to niche status, shown in only a third of theaters. By 2015, used in a paltry 17 percent of global cinemas, venerable old 35 mm film will be mostly gone.
The repercussions will be vast — and felt down the entire length of the movie-industry food chain.
PHOTO BY JENNIE WARREN
Julia Marchese, originator of the "Fight for 35 mm" petition, at the New Beverly Cinema
Upgrade or Die
Hadrian Belove wanted to show Breakfast at Tiffany's for Valentine's Day. As executive director of the Cinefamily at the Silent Movie Theatre in West Hollywood, he's used to working with studios to borrow prints of rare or classic films.
But this year it proved trickier. Studios are pushing a new format. And Belove's cinema — a nonprofit collective of cinephiles dedicated to presenting "weird and wonderful" movies — hasn't made the upgrade.
The new format is called a DCP, or Digital Cinema Package. It is a virtual format, a collection of files stored on a hard drive. Roughly the size of a paperback novel, the hard drive is mailed in a lightweight, foam-lined plastic case to the theater, where it's inserted (or, in the lingo, "ingested") into a server that runs the digital projector. DCPs won't run on traditional film projectors, however. So if they want to play the new format, theater owners must update their equipment.
For this privilege, exhibitors can expect to shell out from $70,000 to $150,000 per screen. Because the studios will save so much money on shipping costs, they've agreed to help finance the conversion. For the next 10 years, they will pay theater owners a "virtual-print fee" for each new release shown digitally.
To continue reading this story (there is more) and for LAWeekly news, click here.
"Chinawood" is a reality (or soon will be) to rival the US. "The Avengers" takes the world by storm. The Summer Movie Season may look like a rerun. There's an Ap for That. One bonus week on top for "Think like a man".
Photo: Chris Hemsworth, left, stars with Chris Evans in "The Avengers." Credit: Walt Disney Studios
From the LA Times Company Town blog. Click here for the latest industry news.April 30, 2012
"The Avengers" makes bank in Asia and Europe one week prior to US Release. "The Avengers" is set to dominate the domestic box office next weekend with a massive opening of over $150 million -- but overseas, the film's ticket sales are already soaring.
The superhero action flick debuted in 39 foreign countries last week and has since raked in a phenomenal $178.4 million, according to an estimate from distributor Walt Disney Studios. By comparison, Universal Pictures' "Battleship" passed the $170-million mark overseas this weekend after three weeks in international release.
The Skinny: I promise I'll never turn off another playoff game, no matter how much of a blowout it looks like. I was safe with the Knicks game but missed a classic comeback by the Clippers. Lesson learned. Monday's headlines include the surprise success of "Think Like a Man" at the box office, the struggle to bring apps to television and a look at why this summer's movie season will feel like a rerun.
Seven Stars Entertainment, a production company owned by media entrepreneur Bruno Wu, and the city of Tianjin said they would invest more than $1.27 billion to build a new entertainment and media complex outside of Beijing. To be called "Chinawood," the facility is to serve as a base for Chinese co-productions with filmmakers from the U.S., European nations and other foreign countries.
The complex is to include a 114,000-square-foot facility, scheduled to open in October, and house a film studio and private equity group controlled by Wu, who said the new center will "dramatically benefit" U.S. production partners.
Co-productions are exempt from China's quota system on foreign films allowed into the country.
"With the East Asia film market on course to be worth $10 billion by 2015, of which China will account for 50%, and rapidly catching up to North America, it is crucial, as well as inevitable, that we offer the products and services to facilitate substantial cooperation between the two territories," Wu said in a statement. "This project is a significant step towards closing that gap by providing expertise and facilities in all areas of financing, legal, co-production, distribution, marketing, sales and infrastructure."
Photo: A scene from "Think Like a Man." Credit: Alan Markfield / Associated Press
Return that ring. "Think Like a Man" once again surprised the box-office experts by staying in first place and beating back four new movies. The romantic comedy took in $18 million and is clearly appealing beyond its African American base. The big disappointment of the weekend was the romantic comedy "The Five-Year Engagement," which was supposed to open at No. 1 with $18 million but finished fourth with $11.2 million. I do recall saying in this space last Friday that the movie's marketing left much to be desired, so I'm honestly not surprised that viewers stayed away. It was pitched like a straight-to-DVD release and tried too hard to tie itself to "Bridesmaids." Box-office recaps from the Los Angeles Times and Movie City News.
Daily Dose: This time of year, TV actors and producers are walking on egg shells waiting to hear if their shows will get renewed for the fall schedules, which are announced in a few weeks. Some casts have to be good sports about the whole thing too. NBC had its prime-time programs take part in filming a bit the network will show at its presentation to advertisers next month. Some of those participating, including the cast of the drama "Parenthood," still don't know if they'll be back next season. If the show gets cut from the schedule, their faces will get cut from the video. Ouch.
Gambling on a Blockbuster to make the summer hot...
Why isn't there an app for that? Although new platforms have changed the way people get their content, cable and satellite companies have steered clear of so-called apps. Though it may seem like only a matter of time until one turns on the TV screen and downloads apps for the cable channels they want, programmers have little incentive to tear up the current business model. Time Warner doesn't want to sell you a TNT app. They want you to have to buy TNT, TBS, TruTV, CNN and their other channels. The New York Times looks at the challenges of introducing the app approach to the pay-TV world.
Bygones. Although much of Hollywood cooled on its love affair with President Obama after the administration expressed concern about anti-piracy legislation that was subsequently defeated, now the wallets are opening up again. George Clooney is hosting an all-star fundraiser expected to bring in at least $10 million. The Wall Street Journal looks at how Obama is wooing back Hollywood.
We have met the enemy, and he is us. Kids love watching cartoon on Netflix. Disney and Nickelodeon make nice money selling their content to the streaming service. But in some cases, Netflix viewing may be taking eyeballs away from the cable channels. Media analyst Todd Juenger wonders if kids' programmers should rethink how they sell to Netflix. More from Barrons.
Maybe the lockout was a good idea. A shortened basketball season gave a sense of urgency to the season, and ratings were up at ABC and TNT and flat on ESPN. The playoffs are already off to a strong start as well. Still, I don't recommend the labor dispute strategy again. Details from Variety.
Inside the Los Angeles Times: If this summer feels like a rerun, that's because there are lots of sequels at the box office. Ben Fritz looks at what is coming this summer (see graph at right).
-- Joe Flint and others
Follow me on Twitter because, well, I'm the man. Twitter.com/JBFlint
Question: Why are so many of our classic films, and those well we loved the most when we were younger, films that would not get a second chance today?
Opening box office or critical acclaim do not determine the long term value of a film...here's proof!
The Disney Studio in Burbank has produced 52 animated features* since Snow White was released in 1937. But the company’s founder, Walt, only oversaw nineteen** of them before his death in 1966.
Walt was a creative and entertainment genius, not only in his own right, but also amassing a trove of talented artists who produced some of the longest standing film classics of the previous century. However, during Walt’s lifetime only a few of his animated features made a profit at the box office. The studio was often on the verge of bankruptcy.
Together with his brother Roy, Walt managed to run a multi-million dollar entertainment empire with marketing prowess to be envied. Long before home video was invented, they re-released each feature every seven years, so a new audience could enjoy them. So eventually, every film made money. But initially, most of Walt’s efforts were flops. Here is a list of his biggest box office bombs.
While box office and budget numbers are scarce for some of these films, their placement on the list is a reflection of profits and losses as listed in the company’s annual report the year of the film’s release.
It’s not really fair to list this little gem of a film as a failure. Over the years it has garnered millions in box office receipts, not to mention home video sales and rentals. But in 1941 and ’42, though well received, it had an uphill battle helping the Mouse House get out of the red. At a modest budget of between 800 and 900 thousand dollars, it is Disney’s least expensive film. It was Walt’s 4th feature, following the very expensive Snow White ($1.8 mil), Pinocchio ($2.5 mil) and Fantasia ($2.3 mil). It had great pre-release buzz and was all set to appear on the cover of Newsweek for its release, but was displaced by the events at Pearl Harbor. With the European markets cut off, the flying elephant was able to make back its cost, but just barely.
The Sword in the Stone
It is quite possible that the only reason this classic made any money at all is because it was in the post-Sleeping Beauty era of slash and burn budgets (more on that later). Audiences seemed to like the Arthurian tale more than the critics did, but the boy who would be king was a sluggish performer. At the time, the kids were all wanting to see those zany Merlin Jones movies with Tommy Kirk and (yowza) Annette Funicello!
The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad
This was the last of Walt’s compilation films. Made up of two stories, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and The Wind and the Willows, it got a lukewarm reception from audiences and critics alike. Over the years, it has been edited into two separate films and released in a number of different formats, Ichabod being a Halloween favorite. Of course, Mr. Toad inspired the popular ride at Disneyland and Disneyworld, where you follow Toad’s adventures… ending up in Hell. Seriously… You rode a car through Hell, complete with dancing demons. The Florida version was replaced a few years ago by a Winnie the Pooh romp that skips the jaunt into the underworld.
Make Mine Music
After the Government helped to fund two compilation films that were moderately successful (Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros), Walt continued the trend on his own. They were relatively inexpensive and easy to produce, which was important in the first few years after the War. Two of the segments, Claire de Lune and Blue Bayou, were leftover concepts that weren’t used in Fantasia. However, MMM didn’t turn many heads or drive the post-war crowds into the theaters. Individual segments (like Casey at the Bat, Peter and the Wolf, and Little Toot) were eventually released separately on television and other formats, and over the years Walt made his money back.
Following the hugely successful Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Walt produced the ambitious and artistically superior story of the little wooden boy with the built in lie detector. Its budget was nearly double Snow White’s, but it didn’t originally charm the masses as much as the Princess movie did. And wishing upon a star couldn’t fix the European markets getting cut off by the growing expanse of the Third Reich. It recouped its cost by a cool million, but the studio was still having trouble staying ahead of its growing debt.
Since the little puppet made of pine became a real boy, it has grossed over $100 million.
I know, I know. This is now one of the cornerstone films of the Magic Kingdom, but it took a while to find its place on the positive side of the balance sheets. Walt knew he was in trouble financially with this one. He kept trimming it down, making it as lean as possible, not only story-wise, but also easier to complete on time and on budget. Yes, it was one of the wartime films that suffered from a lack of overseas distribution and the fact that audiences just weren’t in the mood to see a movie about a young Prince of the Forest getting shot at. James Cagney’s Yankee Doodle Dandy was all the rage that year. Go figure.
On a side note, the film was art directed by Chinese immigrant Tyrus Wong (who turned 102 this year). Walt hand picked him, saying that his paintings did more than look like a forest, they felt like a forest. So much for being a racist bastard.
This adaptation of J.M. Barrie’s tale of the boy who wouldn’t grow up should’ve done better at first. Based on well-known and loved source material, it was a shoe-in with audiences. But it just didn’t land. Critics were merciless over Walt’s break with certain traditions. For instance, Tinkerbell was a sexpot, while she had always been played by a faceless spotlight in the stage versions. And what’s this? A boy is portraying Peter Pan? He was always played by a girl before! No, Walt, you just didn’t do it right. No wonder it eked its way to regain its $4 million budget.
Alice came out on the heels of the hugely popular Cinderella (1950). Cindy had pretty much saved the studio from bankruptcy after its postwar slump, then Alice nearly sank it again. Maybe the surreal imagery was too much for a pre-’60s America. Maybe audiences were confused and went to see the British version that was released the same year. Or maybe Walt was right when he later commented that Alice lacked heart.
Like the White Rabbit, the profits were late, but better late than never.
This production was lavish on a grand scale. Walt decided to make the film in CinemaScope. The graphic style created by painter Eyvind Earle was insanely detailed and precise. It was four years in production at an unheard of cost of just over $6 million! However, At the same time, Walt was becoming more and more involved with his theme park project, thus leaving the films without a shepherd. Princess Aurora was meant to entrance the masses with her beauty, but instead she sort of put them to sleep. What do you expect when the entire cast starts yawning contagiously? Snoozefest! Hopefully, you woke up in time to see the kick-ass dragon fight at the end. On its initial release, the fair Briar Rose only managed to dream up $5.3 million.
As a result of this over indulgent spending, the following film, 101 Dalmatians, had roughly half the budget …and grossed over twice as much!
Since that time, SB has earned a respectable $36+ million. Sort of a sleeper hit, you might say.
Now seen as Walt’s masterpiece, this wondrous exercise in abstract imagery nearly ruined the studio. It started out as a short, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, but the music alone (conducted by the renowned Leopold Stokowski) cost three times the budget of the average Mickey Mouse cartoon.
Rather than cut his losses, Walt upped the budget to $2.3 million and pushed ahead with his grand experiment, turning it into a feature length film. Most of his movies ran about 83 minutes, but Fantasia is over two hours.
Not only were the visual effects on a massive scale, Walt’s technicians invented a multitrack stereo surround system some thirty years before THX was ever thought about. However, most theaters did not want to invest in the expensive speaker upgrade.
After all, this was 1940 and the country was still recovering from the Great Depression, plus a World War was brewing in Europe, so the film only played as intended in a handful of select markets. Lackluster reviews didn’t help its tepid reception either. By the end of the decade, after multiple re-releases, it finally earned back most of its cost. It wasn’t until the 1960s when a drug-addled youth audience rediscovered the film that it started making money. Peace, love and animation. Groovy.
*Snow White and the Seven Dwarves through Wreck-It Ralph. This number does not include the live action films with animated segments, like Song of the South, So Dear to my Heart, Mary Poppins, etc. It also does not include the features produced by Disney Toon Studios (e.g. A Goofy Movie), Pixar, ImageMovers Digital (e.g. A Christmas Carol), or stop motion films (e.g. Frankenweenie).
** This includes The Jungle Book even though it was completed and released the year following Walt’s death. Walt was heavily involved in its production. Though The Aristocats was in development before Walt died, it was not very far along and the final product bears little resemblance to where he left off.
1. The Disney Studio Story – Richard Holliss & Brian Sibley, 1988, Crown Pub.
2. Bambi: The Story and the Film – Frank Thomas & Ollie Johnston, 1990, Stewart Tabori & Chang Pub.
3. Fantasia – John Culhane, 1983, Abrams Pub.
4. Walt Disney’s America – Christopher Finch, 1978, Abbeville Press Po
By David Horsey
(click here for the latest industry news).
First run 9/18/2013
First run 9/18/2013
When audiences first heard Clark Gable utter the line, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn,” in the 1939 premiere of “Gone With the Wind,” they were shocked and amazed that the D-word got past the censors. Such a reaction seems quaint in today’s entertainment world, where the F-word reigns supreme.
Once the most forbidden of curse words, the F-word is now ubiquitous. It is the lightly bleeped expletive put to constant use by Jon Stewart and the comic newsmen on “The Daily Show.” HBO built itself into a cable TV behemoth partly on the impact of that four-letter word unleashed in several great series, from “The Sopranos” to “Deadwood.” The characters in Seth Rogen and Judd Apatow’s raunchy and hugely successful comedies would hardly be able to speak if they were not allowed to drop a steady stream of F-bombs.
The F-word has been brought out of the closet and now is a script staple in the majority of movies and cable television shows. On balance, that is a good thing. It was crazy to cleanse from the vocabulary of artists certain words that were common in the daily lives of those who bought the tickets to the movies – as crazy as insisting that married couples in films and TV shows sleep in separate beds.
But artistic license needs to be paired with artistic sensibility. When use of the F-word was rare, it had impact when uttered onscreen. Now, overuse has made it mundane. In the hands of mediocre screenwriters, one of the most versatile words in the English language has become a crutch to get cheap laughs or an easy imitation of grittiness.
Maybe the average young screenwriter in Hollywood utters the F-word in every other sentence, but not everyone does. When a script has everyone from a street punk to a little girl to a grandmother speaking in the same expletive-driven language, it does not create verisimilitude, it is just bad writing.
Years ago, a friend and I were wandering the narrow passageways of the medina in Marrakech. A young Moroccan kept pestering my friend, insisting on being paid as a guide through the labyrinthine marketplace. My friend politely kept saying no. In youthful pique, I finally confronted the Moroccan and said, “My friend keeps telling you no. Do you understand what the word 'no' means?” Angrily, the Moroccan said, “Yes, I know what 'no' means!” So, then, as if it were a movie, I asked him if he knew what a certain usage of the F-word meant. Apparently he did, since he kept shouting it at us as he continued to follow us.
My injection of the F-word into the exchange certainly added drama to the moment, but, as I contemplated how we actually were lost and how this guy might have a gang of friends with knives lurking nearby and how those friends might also find my use of the word a wee bit offensive, I began to wish I had employed a less provocative figure of speech.
The lesson being: the F-word is potent and powerful; think twice before you use it too much.