The BLOGFlume—S.O.S. (Same Old Stuff)

Universal matches Disney, another surprising Disney box office topper, and an anniversary.

Written by Russell Meyer
Published: March 6, 2005 at 8:28 PM

While the computer that I’m writing this weekend’s BLOGFlume on is brand new, a drastic improvement on my 8-year old outgoing dinosaur, the news is much of the same with Universal trying to match Disney’s success, a surprising box office result, and the anniversary of a classic hotel.

Following Disney
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.

How? 3/6/05

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.

Readers' Opinions

From Derek Potter on March 6, 2005 at 11:15 PM
I have the same question, how in the world did the Pacifier make 30 million this weekend? A typo maybe?? act of God?? Did Eisner go buy 10 million tickets or something?? When I saw the preview I was reminded of a waste of film from about 10 years back called Mr. Nanny...starring Hulk Hogan. I'm left scratching my head here. Be Cool seemed like a lock, and is still the movie I will go see.

Congrats to the Hotel Breakers. While one of the wings needs some serious updating, the hotel still has lots of charm, a great location about 50 feet from an entrance gate, and one of the best views at sunrise anywhere. While other nearby hotels are newer and more modern, my pick for those staying at Cedar Point remains the Breakers. Happy 100th and I'll see you later this year.

From Anthony Murphy on March 7, 2005 at 12:11 AM
Maybe people like the Pacifier? Disney may know how to make movies that people will go to see, especailly families. I mean everybody thought that Pirates of the Carribean was going to bomb, but it didn't. Do not judge a movie by its preview. SOme of the best previews have been for the worst movies. Congrats to 100 years as well, wow!
From Robert Niles on March 7, 2005 at 12:34 AM
I cannot overstate the desperation with which parents look for movies to which they can take their children. Taking the kids to a movie is an excellent way to reward the kids -- and let a harried parent relax.

But Hollywood releases so very, very few films without violence, incessant foul language, sex scenes or situations inappropriate for small children. Too few that parents looking for films can't get too picky about the originality of the plot, the quality of acting or the general quality of the film. (Parents who do get picky to see, oh, about two flicks a year with their kids.)

The studio that figures out there is a *huge* market for high-quality, well-told original family films -- and delivers 12 of them a year -- will financially destroy every other studio in the industry. Kids don't care about "bankable" stars. And their parents crave stories that won't make them wince. Meanwhile, the idiots in Hollywood throw tens of millions of dollars at "bankable actors" or CGI-laden comic book adaptations, leaving billions of dollars on the table from an underserved family market.

From Mark Hollamon on March 7, 2005 at 1:46 AM
Have any of you actually seen this movie? Usually the sequence of events is SEE the movie and then CRITIQUE the movie. I love how the people who post on this site can find something wrong with everything and now can do so without actually experiencing it. How talented.
From Arthur Cashin on March 7, 2005 at 5:22 AM
Robert is absolutely right!

I am one of the guilty parties. I took my son to see the movie this weekend. It did have 2 scenes that made me laugh outloud, but that was it. My son on the other hand (9 years old) enjoyed it. The studios save all their kid friendly releases for summer and Christmas, When a kid-friendly (albeit bad) movie is released outside those periods, expect it to have a big first weekend.

As for Universal direct to video, now is a great time for it. Disney advertises all their stuff insessantly on their channels. Now with NBC/Universal, they finally have the same capability. Maybe these guys do know what they are doing?

From Russell Meyer on March 7, 2005 at 8:04 AM
I wish I could watch every movie that is released, but unfortunately time and availabilty cannot allow me to do that. I did actually have an oportunity to see The Pacifier, but wasn't able to make it. The Pacifier topping the box office was a big surprise for Hollywood over the weekend, regardless of whether or not you've seen the movie. It is at 20% on Rottentomates, which is approaching the worst reviewed movies of the year status. However, Robert is correct in pointing out that family entertainment is growing increasingly thin at the theaters. Because of Winn Dixie and The Heffalump Move are the only other family movies out there right now, and Disney was able to capitalize on an undersaturated market for one week. I can see it now, next year Disney will release Vin Diesel's next big hit, The Potty Trainer.
From Justin Smith on March 7, 2005 at 4:23 PM
The reason Pacifier did well was:
a) Because it seemed like a good film for the families to see.
b)Vin Deseal fans will see a Deseal movie no matter how bad it looks.

I never saw it but I was one of the few who thought it might be somewhat enjoyable. As for Universal doing the DTV(direct to video) thing I think it will be as bad as most DTV videos.

From Justin Smith on March 7, 2005 at 4:27 PM
You know Russel don't judge a movie by it's reviews, Star Wars was a film nearly everyone thought it would stink but now it is considered one of the greatest films of all time. Plus there are a few films that got bad reviews but resonable box office dollars: Cat in the Hat, Van Helsing, Shark Tale just to name a few.
From Michael Patalano on March 7, 2005 at 7:53 PM
One correction needs to be made. No Pixar film is coming out this year. Cars has been moved back to Summer of 2006. In November, Disney releases 2 huge films, Chicken Little and Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.


From Kevin Baxter on March 12, 2005 at 11:36 PM
I don't see how saying something LOOKS awful is critiquing the movie itself. It's critiquing the ad campaign, concept, everything we know about it at this point. Seriously, why WOULDN'T everyone want to see a movie where a duck has one of the biggest scenes???? It had been nice seeing Diesel smile on talk shows though.

As for Disney... Disney usually does well at the beginning of the year because they frontload. While the logic of most studios is that they will put out the movies they know will bomb in this timeframe, Disney has wisely decided to put out cheap high-concept films out to rake in the dough. Usually they are a kiddie film, a family film, a girlie film and an adult film. Last year, these slots were filled by Teacher's Pet, Miracle, Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen and The Ladykillers with Hidalgo thrown in as another family film (basically because The Alamo stole its April slot). This year it's Pooh's Heffalump Movie, The Pacifier, Ice Princess and Aliens of the Deep filling the adult role, I guess.

Disney has done very well with this strategy, which isn't really that difficult a strategy to figure out when MOST of your non-CGI movies are low-cost high-concept middle-of-the-road affairs. Creatively, I will always question Disney, but I applaud them for at least trying in this timeframe.

From Kevin Baxter on March 12, 2005 at 11:37 PM
Whoops, forgot to comment on the Universal DVD thing. Universal isn't actually copying Disney because:

1) They've been doing this crap for quite a while with the damn Land Before Time which must be on the 87th sequel by now.

2) Last I read, Warner Bros was king of the DVD market. And they have been rakin it in with their Bugs Bunny collections. In fact, Warner is doing so well with DVDs, that they don't even have sure sellers The Animaniacs and Pinky and the Brain scheduled for release yet! And Entertainment Weekly even asked them about it!

But Universal doesn't have much in the DVD treasure chest, like Disney or Warner, since Xena and Hercules are finally out at more reasonable prices. Of course, they have 47 seasons of various Law & Orders, but what else? So if they want that constant scratch, I guess they hafta create some crap.

From TH Creative on March 14, 2005 at 9:46 AM
Isn't it about time that they create the Law & Order cable channel. It's many variations seem to be on 24/7.
From Kevin Baxter on March 15, 2005 at 5:41 AM
They can steal the ubiquitous Animal Cops from Animal Planet and rename it Law & Order: Animal Cops to fill in the rest of the L&O Channel's schedule.

"In the criminal justice system, animal cruelty is considered especially heinous. In (enter city name here), the dedicated detectives who investigate these vicious misdemeanors are members of an elite squad known as the Animal Cops. These are their stories." BUM-BUM!!

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