Friday, April 1, 2011

A Win Win Situation?

And now… my lament for little movies and their mostly piss-poor treatment in today’s modern megaplex marketplace. Take Win Win, for example. Here’s a modestly-budgeted highly entertaining comedy/drama for adults, with a great cast, and it barely stands a chance of being discovered by a wide audience. According to it opened in 5 theaters, expanded the following week to 23 theaters and is going for the jackpot this week in 149 theaters. To compare, the week’s widest release, the Spring/Easter-timed animated bunny picture, Hop, is opening in 3,577 theaters; the Jake Gyllenhaal sci-fi thriller Source Code in 2,961.

So, what’s the problem? Well, Win Win isn’t a genre picture with a presumed built-in audience, it isn’t a high-concept comedy or rom-com with comedians that have long lost their edge or big stars mugging for laughs, it isn’t a superhero movie (there are 4, count ‘em, FOUR opening this summer: Thor, Captain America, The Green Lantern and X-Men: First Class), it isn’t a sequel (how many of those are coming? – new Pirates, Transformers, Twilight, Harry Potter, Hangover II, Kung Fu Panda 2, Cars 2, Spy Kids 4, Scream 4 and Final Destination 5!), and it isn’t a remake/re-imagining/adaptation of an already established franchise (Winnie The Pooh, The Smurfs, Rise of the Apes, Fright Night, and Conan The Barbarian). In this landscape of movies we’ve already seen at least once before, Win Win doesn’t really fit in.

Now, don’t get me wrong here. I’m opinionated, but I’m no indies-only lovin’ supersnob. I’m admittedly pumped for many of the studios’ tent pole summer blockbusters (you know, the ones that are blockbusters even before they’re actually blockbusters) – though, come on, man, The Smurfs? Are you f*cking kidding me! – but, I also appreciate and cherish films like Win Win, and I’m annoyed and offended on their behalf that they aren’t even given half the chance that the major releases are.

You know, if 2010 proved anything it’s that there’s still a ravenous audience out there for mature, original, thought-provoking character oriented dramas. Just look at these box office receipts! Again, quoting numbers from BoxOfficeMojo:

True Grit (budget-$38mil./gross-$170mil.)

The King’s Speech (budget-$15mil./gross-$135mil.)

Black Swan (budget-$13mil./gross-$106mil.)

The Fighter (budget-$25mil./gross-$93mil.)

The Social Network (budget-$40mil./gross-$96mil.)

I mean this was the year of the relatively little movies that could! To be crystal clear, in the states Black Swan out-grossed both Robin Hood and Prince of Persia (to name just two); their combined estimated cost before marketing: $400 million.

I’m not arguing against the tent poles. The industry needs the tent poles and the franchises, but they cost so much to produce and market that when one flops it flops huge (Mars Needs Moms, anyone?). And you need an absolute smash to really blow up the profit margin. Also, the studios shouldn’t over spend on the little guys, which can happen too. Let’s face it, Win Win doesn’t really have sequel potential, it doesn’t have much international box office appeal and there’s not going to be a Paul Giamatti action figure anytime soon (though if Sideshow Collectibles gets any wild ideas, sign me up!). Every movie doesn’t need to be a cross-platform, mass market extravaganza. All I’m saying it that the studios will risk $20-$30 million on a throwaway teen comedy and give it decent marketing & distribution; they’ll do the same for a horror flick. Take some of that money and put more of it in the hands of visionary directors, consummate artist/technicians, and gifted actors and let them make movies for the over 30 set (my apologies to the younger generation of diverse-appetited film enthusiasts; I know you’re out there), who are still clearly up for an intellectually stimulating night out on the town.

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