PENNIES FROM KEVIN - Nostradumbass 2005 - Disney's Film Division
Finally back from a loooong vacation (and loooong recovery period), Nostradumbass is here for the third part in his six-part series. Today's column will predict how Disney's film division will weather 2005.
Written by Kevin Baxter
For Part One of this magnificent series, check out Nostradumbass 2005 - Disney's Theme ParksTweet
For Part Two of this outstanding series, check out Nostradumbass 2005 - NBC Universal's Theme Parks
DISNEY'S FILM DIVISION
This year is another story. (Yes, I know the year is half over, but considering summer - the short period which accounts for 50% of Hollywood's annual box office revenue - is just beginning, this is actually a perfect time for predictions.) Disney has been very waffly with its schedule this year - Cars is a summer film! No, it's a Thanksgiving film! No, it's a 2006 film! - and the Miramax/Dimension split has only complicated matters.
But the schedule seems set, the divorce is final, and Disney's first summer film has premiered! And done nothing. Yeah, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy opened with a fairly impressive $21.1M, but it hasn't exactly set the world on fire since. Reviews have been mixed to good, but there is just no buzz out there, which might not be Disney's fault entirely. There is no buzz out there PERIOD. The movie biz is in trouble, at least on the theater side of things.
Many believe next week's release of the next crappy Star Wars movie should change everything, get people excited in going to the movies again. Considering Disney used to be the company to get people excited about spending a night at the movies, this is really sad. Where's this summer's Finding Nemo or Pirates of the Caribbean? Hell, even a Freaky Friday or Princess Diaries 2 would liven up this schedule (leaving off the reallllly low-budget Miramax entries):
Wow. How.... lame. At least Disney was smart enough to move Valiant to less-competitive August, but still. I know very little about most of these movies, if anything, and what I do know isn't good:
HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE
THE ADVENTURES OF SHARK BOY AND LAVA GIRL IN 3-D
HERBIE: FULLY LOADED
THE BROTHERS GRIMM
And that's all. Maybe you think that isn't a bad schedule, but check out the competition this summer: Kicking and Screaming, Monster-in-Law, Star Wars Episode III, Madagascar, The Longest Yard, Cinderella Man, Mr & Mrs Smith, Batman Begins, Bewitched, George A Romero's Land of the Dead, War of the Worlds, The Fantastic Four, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Wedding Crashers, The Bad News Bears, The Dukes of Hazzard and The Pink Panther. Not one of those did I have to do research on to find out what it was. Summer is going to be HUGE this year, and Disney is going to have little to do with it.
Well, that's only 50%, so how about the rest of the year? Well, I must say Disney is usually one of the best studios at putting out hits outside of summer. This year did have a big hit in The Pacifier ($110M) and more modest hits in Hitchhiker's Guide (more than $40M after this weekend), Sin City ($73M) and Amityville Horror($61M). But those totals barely make up for production costs, and certainly aren't covering for underachievers like Hostage ($34M) or bombs like Ice Princess ($24M), A Lot Like Love ($20M) and Cursed ($19M). (BTW, does anybody else love the fact that the current season of Project Greenlight has been trumpeting Wes Craven as the "horror master" or some crap, yet the "master" routinely leaves piles like Cursed lying around?) If you think this isn't so bad, look back a year to Disney's horrible 2004 and see that in this time period the studio had Hidalgo making $67M, The Ladykillers making $40M, Home on the Range making $50M, Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen making $29M, Miracle making $64M and Kill Bill 2 making $66M. Hell, last year's trumpeted bombs Jersey Girl and The Alamo made $25M and $22M respectively. So this year isn't looking too hot after all, is it? (Even I didn't get how bad this year was going until I looked up those numbers.)
So what does Fall and Winter 2005 hold for Disney? That's a little more difficult as only the big films are usually given a date this early in the season. Steve Martin's Shopgirl has been getting buzz, but mainly because it's a known commodity, the book having done well. There should be plenty of interest in Jodie Foster's thriller Flight Plan since she hasn't been onscreen in a while. The Greatest Game Ever Played is getting a major push from Disney, but that could be for many reasons: A) Disney has done well with sports movies, so is throwing their marketing money behind this one. B) Disney believes, and rightly so, that Shia LeBeouf is a superstar in the making. C) Disney thinks this one has Oscar written all over it. D) Disney doesn't have much else to offer. "D" may be the most correct, because I can't find a lot out there for the Mouse this Fall. The Weinsteins seem to have gotten all the Oscar-bait films in the divorce, leaving Disney with little to save their year with.
Still, there are two possibly major films that could save this year. First is Chicken Little. I must tell you that I am not impressed. The "jokes" in the trailer seem like the same damn jokes the Disney writing staff has been trotting out for over a decade. Disney was smart in reaching out to a Shrek producer - though Valiant may not have been the film they were hoping for - but it really needs to go outside the studio for writers, because few of the inhouse staff have been getting the job done. Chicken Little, though certainly a round-table affair, is being credited to two guys who wrote Brother Bear, which scares me to no end. Well, at least it wasn't given to the Home on the Range guys. Still, this is CGI with the Disney name slapped above the title, so it should be pretty big. It won't be Pixar or Shrek big, but it will be interesting to see if it can beat Madagascar or last year's Shark Tale. I doubt it will though, what with Tim Burton's Corpse Bride (and just HOW did Disney let this one get away?), Wallace & Gromit and the Ever-Changing Movie Title and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire all in its vicinity. I'll give it Shark Tale but no more.
While Disney clearly has a lot of eggs in the Chicken Little basket - and just why isn't anyone screaming that chickens were already done by Aardman??? - the rest of their eggs are clearly lying over in the Chronicles of Narnia basket. The money Disney isn't spending marketing Valiant and Sky High is clearly being thrown upon The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe (sometimes the grammarian in me grows tired of fixing incorrect capitalizations). The film already has trailers online as well as two featurettes on Apple's trailer site. It is the featured film on the Disney website too, even though Disney has a summerload of films it should be focusing on right now.
Not that this film won't need lots of help. Following on the heels of Harry Potter but a mere five days before Peter Jackson's King Kong, it could be in serious trouble. Yeah, the books are popular and the film has a great look, but Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events was based on popular books and had a great look and it only pulled in $119M. Even worse, the film is being produced by the company behind the lackluster Garfield and Around the World in 80 Days. Furthermore, it has no big-name star, it was written by a first-time screenwriter, and it was directed by a guy whose previous directorial credits are the two Shrek films. From CGI characters to real-live actors? I would not be surprised to see Narnia stall in Lemony Snicket's' neighborhood, even though $200M would be a safer guess. But since this is my last prediction, I'm going to go out on a limb with that $120-millionish guess, which would seriously hamper a future for this expensive series.
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