Thursday, June 18, 2009

Check Out Aaron's Blog

My friend Aaron sees even more movies than me and since he has good if eclectic taste, he's worth checking out.

His blog, quite accurately named "All The Movies I Watch" is here.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Namechecked In Variety

If I can't write for Variety, at least I can get quoted in Variety. A new article in Variety about the success of Pixar's Up quotes my Huffington Post article, which dissed the Wall Street critics who questioned the film's potential and dissed the New York Times for factual errors and letting the analysts mouth patent untruths when making their case. (Not to mention ignoring how analysts have been wrong about Pixar films time and time again.) All good.

Two minor problems. The Variety article implies that I chided analysts and the New York Times AFTER the movie Up opened to glorious reviews and excellent box office. But I deserved a little more credit than that. In fact, I wrote my detailed critique six weeks ago, the very day the New York Times article appeared. And I didn't intend to write "mockingly;" I was highlighting mistakes that should have been corrected by the Times as well as numerous instances where the analysts quoted were shortsighted, misleading or just plain demonstrated a lack of knowledge about the business they're supposed to be talking about. Still, it was fun to see myself quoted in Variety, a trade paper I've been reading since I was a little kid growing up in South Florida.

But the other problem really hurt: they spelled my name Glitz instead of Giltz. I suppose it's my fault for not changing it to "Michael Gannon" the way I wanted to when I was twelve years old. (NOTE: And now it's been corrected! Thanks Mr. Lowry.)

P.S. By the way, the article gives one of the analysts (Pali Research's Richard Greenfield) a chance to redeem himself...and he falls flat on his face. First, rather than acknowledge that Up got off to an excellent start, he pettily says "It's hard to call success/failure for the film after one weekend...especially given the fact that 5% fewer people saw the film opening weekend than 'WALL-E."

Huh. Where to begin. First, it's actually very EASY to declare some films a flop after their opening weekend: Land of the Lost certainly bellyflopped. Maybe it will do exponentially better overseas (where the title has no resonance, unlike in the US). But it's pretty easy to call it a disappointment. At best, a huge overseas success would make it not a disaster unless it behaves unbelievably better around the world. However, the point that a movie's success or failure isn't inherently determined on opening weekend is a truism. But what you can say is boy, Up sure got off to a terrific start: it's the third-highest opening weekend for Pixar in their history. By failing to do so, he's just refusing to admit he's got egg on his face. Surely, the starting point should not be, yeah, well it could still stumble but "Yes, I made a mistake and the film has launched very well indeed."

Next, his cheap shot that "5% fewer people saw the film opening weekend than 'WALL-E'" ignores that this is the trend for virtually every film and every franchise you can name over the past decade -- Hollywood has been raising prices and selling the same or fewer tickets for many years. Why wouldn't Pixar reflect that industry-wide trend? Besides, the audience for Up was notably older and included a lot of adults without children. More adults means higher ticket prices and a higher box office gross despite having sold fewer tickets. That's a plus. Pixar films appeal to everyone, not just families and the more their audience broadens, the better it is.

Finally, Greenfield says "We continue to focus on whether this film will be more or less profitable than WALL-E." Really? Why is "Wall-E" suddenly the standard for success? It grossed $534 million at the box office worldwide. However, only 63 films in HISTORY have grossed more than $500 million at the box office worldwide. Some 600+ movies are released theatrically a year. Is he really saying that if "Up" doesn't become one of the 60 biggest hits of all time that it's going to be a disaster?

Only an idiot would expect every new film to gross more money than the one that came before it. But that's the stupid standard that analysts sometimes expect from Hollywood. What they should really do is take a deep breath and wait for all the money to come in: US, overseas, TV, cable, pay per view, downloads, rentals, DVD sales and so on. Add it all up. Plus merchandising and spin-offs and other revenue. Add it up again. Did you make more money than you spent? Good. Did you make a lot more (which is the case with virtually every single Pixar film so far)? Then great! Expecting every James Cameron film to gross as much as Titanic would be dumb. Expecting every musical to make more than The Sound Of Music is stupid. Arbitrarily stating that Up must make more than WALL-E -- as if box office grosses build upon one another -- is dumb. Pixar films have proven remarkably consistent -- with the last eight looking like they'll all gross more than $200 million, with foreign a huge upside and merchandising even bigger. So they never lose money, often make a lot of money and sometimes make a LOT of money.

That list of the top-grossing movies of all time worldwide? 63 of which have made more than $500 million? Pixar has FIVE of them: Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Ratatouille, WALL-E and Monsters Inc. (When Toy Story 2 gets re-released in 3-D, it will jump from $485 million into the same rarified ranks, making Pixar six for nine. And Up might very well join them, making them 7 for 10. But even if it "only" grosses $400 million worldwide, only a fool would label that a failure or some sign of a stumble by Pixar. Not every film can gross half a billion worldwide. But as long as they can make a profit, get great reviews, add to the company's jewel-like reputation and keep product in the pipeline, that's a success in my book...and should be in the book of any analyst too.