Written by Russell Meyer
Published: March 6, 2005 at 8:28 PM
Los Angeles Daily News 3/4/05
It seems that Universal Studios is launching a home entertainment division that will be very similar to what Disney has done with its direct-to-video sequel releases. The new unit, to be called Universal Studios Home Entertainment Family Productions, will acquire and produce family movies, and release them straight to video for home consumption. Disney is the clear leader in this segment with numerous titles to their credit, many of them sequels of their popular theater releases. Universal is clearly trying to take a piece of a very lucrative market, with home DVD sales increasing faster than filmmakers can release them. Hopefully Universal will stay away from the tactic that Disney has employed over the past 5 years, and inject some originality into the market. However, considering that Universal’s current family DVD offerings, Babe and Land Before Time, which both have sequels, originality is probably not something that will result. The biggest problem with this entertainment sector is that people keep purchasing titles. Franchise recognition is huge with children, and parents continue to cave into their kids’ demands for more of the same instead of looking harder for more original entertainment. One would think that competition would increase originality, but it looks like despite Universal’s aggressive foray into this sector, it will be more of the same in the family DVD market. Most companies are becoming increasingly timid in releasing original movies, because a failure can spell disaster when taking a chance on a new movie. With sequels, most of the work is done, and even a small payday means a moderate success, because less money is required to produce sequels. Unless children become more finicky when asking their parents for a movie, we will be stuck with the same franchises. Nothing bothers me more than the thought that when I have children, they will want to watch Land Before Time 27 and Lion King 44 and 15/16ths.
I don’t know if it’s the draw of the Walt Disney name, or the bank ability of Vin Diesel, but Walt Disney Pictures’ new release, The Pacifier, starring Vin Diesel, has managed to capture the weekend box office with an estimated $30.2 million. I was not fortunate enough to catch a screening of this movie, which looked about as entertaining as a root canal, but I am completely surprised that a movie about a Navy Seal turned nanny was able to top a strong list of box office contenders. The ridiculous-looking Pacifier was able to top the star studded, but slightly disappointing, Be Cool, very successful Hitch, and Best Picture Oscar winner Million Dollar Baby. I guess with a lack of family entertainment, The Pacifier was the only option for families with younger children to see this week at the Cineplex. However, one would think the families would be saving their money for next week’s release of Fox’s Robots, which is increasingly looking like a movie that will have some staying power in a month that traditionally does not yield the best movies of the year. Disney has already surpassed $300 million for the year, not even through the first quarter, with a lackluster cast of releases. Considering where Disney was last year with the pathetic Alamo, and nothing much else, this year is shaping up pretty well, with a Pixar release coming in November, and a number of other decent releases on the horizon. Will Disney top the record setting 2003? Probably not, but beating last year is looking increasingly probable.
Another Big Anniversary
Point Buzz 2/5/05
Disneyland is not the only park celebrating a significant milestone this year. Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Hotel Breakers. Once billed as the largest and greatest hotel on the great lakes, Hotel Breakers which was built in 1905, is still a must for people who want to truly experience The Point. The hotel has received a number of upgrades over the years, including a number of conference rooms, restaurants, and modern amenities. Currently, the hotel has 650 rooms and suites, 3 swimming pools (2 outdoor and 1 indoor), a T.G.I. Fridays, and many other luxuries that one would expect from a “resort hotel.” While the Hotel Breakers does not have the bells and whistles that most Disney Hotels contain, it does have a long history and an ambiance that very few Disney hotels can match. It is also within walking distance of the largest collection of roller coasters on earth. Happy Centennial to Hotel Breakers, and here’s to another 100 years of success.