Thursday, August 04, 2011

It's Personal

The DreamWorks Animation and Paramount boxing tournament gets dissected by the Reporter:

... Given that the DWA-Paramount relationship outwardly makes so much sense, the acrimony clearly goes beyond the usual posturing over a deal. It dates to the contentious rupture between the live-action DreamWorks unit and Paramount in 2008. Even though DWA already had been spun off from DreamWorks into a publicly held company, Katzenberg was and continues to be allied with his fellow DreamWorks founders Steven Spielberg and David Geffen, who own stakes in DWA.

"What people don't realize is how personal this rift is," says a source with knowledge of the relationship.

Methinks that DreamWorks Animation and Jeffrey have only a few options besides Paramount/Viacom, and who knows if those options will pan out? I mean, the marriage has spawned many productive, lucrative children, so why give it up just because the spouses don't get along?

Hollywood's too mercenary to let a little thing like personal animosity stand in the way of riches. The odds are that Paramount and the Glendale's biggest feature animation studio will ultimately patch things up.


Anonymous said...

rango's actal budget was $180 million-- with at least another $100 million for p&a. It's not only one of the worst chilren's cartoons ever made--not to mention one of the ugliest--but It did not even turn a profit. Very far from it.

Anonymous said...

Rango was one of the ugliest cartoons to hit theatres ever.

Jumpman said...

The previous comments about Rango give the impression they were posted by jealous DWA workers with a grudge against the film.

Personally, I found the "ugly" visual look of Rango to be quite beautiful and a breath of fresh air to the cutesy CGI characters flooding theaters. The movie itself was also entertaining.

Not only did Rango perform well with critics, it also performed quite well in the domestic and foreign box office, as well on the DVD charts. For a non-cutesy CGI film with a more grown up appeal, I'd call that a success.

If Paramount can make more animated films like Rango, I would not shed a tear for the loss of DWA.

Anonymous said...

Jumpman, you didn't read the article, did you? Even the Hollywood Reporter says Rango lost money. There's nobody (not even Paramount) who's claiming it made a profit. They ARE saying that "if they made it today" they could make it for less...

Anonymous said...

Rango is one of the strangest animated movies released in the last decade. It's obvious when watching it nobody ever told the film's creative crew, "Hey, that's kinda weird, could you tone it down?"

Rango is also easily the best animated movie of the year, no question.

Jumpman said...

Anonymous, I've read the article. The HR does suggest the film could have cost more money then they raked in, but nothing really concrete. I've read more news articles touting Rango as a success--critically and commercially--than anything else. It's also far from being called the "worst chilren's cartoons" either.

To get back to DWA, they've experienced more box office disappointments in recent years, with Kung Fu Panda 2 being the latest one. They're going back to the Shrek pool with Puss In Boots, but I don't see the film performing as well as past Shrek films--which also went down in profit with each release.

Anonymous said...

Couple of things:

The highest-grossing Shrek film was the THIRD film in the series. They did not "go down in profit with each release".

"Puss in Boots" is a totally stand-alone film and story with no other characters or reference to anything from the Shrek universe except Puss himself. He's a very popular character with a lot of juice to him and that's why he got his own film. It's in no way, shape or form going back to some Shrek "pool". Just facts.

I work at DWA and I thought Rango was cool-looking and great fun. I also have friends here who thought it LOOKED beautiful, thanks to ILM, but had a very derivative story ripped straight from "Chinatown"(if you've heard of that one).

Actually,DWA hasn't "experienced more box office disappointments" in recent years. What 'disappointment' is is all relative and the hits far outweigh the misses. We still get bonuses based on those hits as we have for years now.

Anonymous said...

I've read more news articles touting Rango as a success--critically and commercially ...
To get back to DWA, they've experienced more box office disappointments in recent years, with Kung Fu Panda 2 being the latest one.

You're doing some interesting math. In theatrical release Rango made less than 40% of what KFP 2 has made (so far). Put another way, KFP 2 made over 250% of the theatrical grosses of Rango. Since DW already had all those characters designed/modeled/rigged, and since they didn't have to give first dollar gross to the director or star actor (as was the case with Rango), KFP 2 was also a less expensive movie to make.

It baffles me why people repeat nonsense when the facts are so easy to check.

The highest-grossing Shrek film was the THIRD film in the series. They did not "go down in profit with each release".

No, it's still the second one that made the most, both domestically and worldwide (just shy of a billion dollars). The third and forth ones made a similar amount worldwide ($798 and $752 million, respectively), which was well ahead of the original's $484 million).

Jumpman said...

Yes, I was mistaken about the Shrek films. Shrek the Third had the highest opening for the series, but the second film grossed the most. Shrek Forever After had the weakest opening out of the series. This is why I fear Puss In Boots may not do as well as many hope it will. I am glad to hear PIB will be a stand alone film.

KFP2 also had a weak opening in America (which caused DWA's stock to hit a two year low), but performed much better overseas.

I also know Jeffrey Katzenberg has expressed disappointment with genre films DWA has released like Megamind, saying they performed poorly internationally, and said they will no longer make 'em.

For Rango being an original film (a rarity these days) that was edgier than other CGI films being released at the time, and being ILM's first animated movie, I believe it did well for itself.

Anonymous said...

Rango made much less than either Bee Movie, which was considered an outright flop, and Megamind, which was seen as a big financial disappointment. Both those were also 'original' films. Both Disney and Sony have considered films that make less than $250 million worldwide to be huge disappointments. So tell me again why it is that Rango "did well for itself" and we should consider it a success, especially when it was an enormously expensive film to make, and was made by one of the premier animation studios in the world?

Anonymous said...

rango was a very juvenile film--and very ugly. That it didn't make money at the box office makes one wonder what paramount is thinking.

Anonymous said...

Rango was a fine children's cartoon for small kids, but it doesn't help that it bombed.

Jumpman said...

It all comes down to different studios having different expectations for their films. The opening for KFP2 would have been considered a success for any other movie studio, but analysts considered it a disappointment for a DWA film. Paramount executives were pleased with the performance with Rango (not the same way WB executives are "pleased" with Green lantern) and their actions afterward seem to back it up. They're now planning to making more animated films, with talks of another SpongeBob and Rango film in the works. The HR article where Paramount talks about a film like Rango could be made for $100 million seems to indicate they are working on a sequel, or making another film similar in design. Paramount is also releasing the upcoming Tintin movie under the Nickelodeon Movies banner, just like they did with Rango. Then there's the talk of Paramount making their own animated studio. Right now, it's unclear if Paramount will follow through with this decision, but what is becoming increasingly clear is that Paramount and DWA will go their seperate ways.

If Rango were a box office failure, we wouldn't be seeing Paramount so eager to end their deal with DWA. As of now, it looks like Paramount doesn't give a damn about their contract with DWA is about to expire.

I would like to modify a statement I made in my first post. If Paramount can continue to make good films like Rango, then I will be happy, however, I do think it is sad to see them cut off DWA after all the money they made for them for years. I am positive DWA will be fine with or without Paramount.

Anonymous said...

Rango was not a kids film - Cars 2 was.
Dreamworks is the only studio releasing quality sophisticated animation these days.

Anonymous said...

@ Jumpman - You're really buying into the Paramount PR machine. Rango didn't do as well as Megamind, Bolt, Bee Movie, Monsters vs. Aliens, Over the Hedge, Horton, Christmas Carol, Chicken Little, or Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. All of those films were tagged as disappointments, regardless of their quality or originality. Rango could have been made for half it's budget, and had half the marketing money spent on it, and had Depp and Verbinski work for free, and it still would be in the red.

The expectations of EVERY studio are the same: make as much profit as possible with each film. Rango wasn't made as art. Financial success isn't a relative thing - take in less than you earn, and you lose money. And the schism between DWA and Paramount has nothing to do with Rango's supposed success. It's personal, as has been widely reported.

Anonymous said...

rango was a film that could only (and apparently did) appeal to very small children. It was amateurish. And it flopped. Big time.

Paramount rejected the idea of doing 2 proposed sequels to range because they were too expensive.

Anonymous said...

I can't understand people stating that Rango only appeals to little kids. If anything, it's an animated movie that only appeals to adults. No kid would ever understand the film's layers of meta-fiction and identity crises.

Jumpman said...

"Cloudy" was tagged as a disappointment? It was the highest grossing animated film for Sony and it made back its $100 million budget and then some.

All this talk about box office performance is reminding me of Amid's piece about the media bias against animated films. Particularly the part where he criticizes the LA times for comparing "Cloudy" success to past animated films, instead of the movies available in theaters at the time:

Anonymous said...

So for "Cloudy" you use a reasoned argument but for DWA features you use analyst argument to make your case. The truth is that most DWA features recoup their budget and P&A cost (some even turn a profit) during the box office run. That usually doesn’t happen for most movies. I’m always amazed that people listen to analyst at all, they usually set unreasonable expectations and when those lofty expectations aren’t met they use their megaphone to crap all over studios.

Jumpman said...

I did acknowledge my numbers for DWA films like Shrek were wrong and most of their films are indeed profitable. I only brought up the opening of KFP2 to talk about studio expectations being different from one to another.

Anonymous said...

Jumpman, you really are a case. Cloudy looked like a success only compared to the horrid grosses of Sony's other animated films, which were financial weapons of mass destruction. Cloudy made $243 million worldwide. That means somewhere in the neighborhood of $120 million came back to Sony, and even less than that after the distribution department takes their cut out.

Production costs and P&A costs were on a par with the films made by DreamWorks or any other major studio (probably somewhere between $180 and $220 million). So that means it needs to sell a LOT of DVDs to end up in the black.

Compare Cloudy's theatrical gross to the 'disappointment' of KFP 2 (well over $600 million), Over the Hedge ($336 million), Megamind ($321 million), Chicken Little ($314), Bolt ($309 million), and Bee Movie ($287 million).

You have to go back to Antz to find a DreamWorks CG film that did as poorly as Cloudy, and if you correct for inflation, Antz did just as well for much less cost.

Anonymous said...

Jumpman has now been schooled.

Making as much money as "production costs" no way makes a film profitable. Even if you understand the concept that no studio wants to break even. They're not there to break even - they want PROFIT - lots and lots of profit.
Besides production costs a film needs to make back advertising and print money - which usually puts the real break even point at about 3x the number released as production costs.
Now you could argue that DVDs and licensing add into that, but that still doesn't make the film itself profitable and you can pretty much assume they don't put it on their books that way. DVD sales are put up against how much it cost to create and advertise the DVD so they can quickly show their stockholders how much profit they are creating.

Jumpman said...

With a sequel to "Cloudy" currently in the works, that does suggest the film was profitable for Sony. Now, I'm not saying "Cloudy" was the highest grossing animated film of all the time, but the film did meet the studio's expectations. Again, this goes back to different studios having different standards for their films.

KFP2's opening week should be considered a success, but due to the high bar DWA has set itself with their films, many were disappointed the opening wasn't bigger. KFP2, however, was successful in the end.

Cars 2 is the worst performing Pixar film--domestically and internationally, but the merchandise has been a huge hit. The recent Pooh film was also made to generate sales for the merchandise and I hear talk the film will do much better in DVD sales (not entirely sure it will, though).

X-Men: First Class had the lowest opening for an X-Men film, but Fox expected this. They knew First Class couldn't open as big since it had no big Hollywood stars and had to overturn the negative perception set by the previous X-Men films. Fox expected First Class to perform as well as Batman Begins and it did. It should be noted First Class had a low budget and a tax reduction, which made the film even cheaper to make.

Anonymous said...

With a sequel to "Cloudy" currently in the works, that does suggest the film was profitable for Sony.

They also made a sequel to Open Season. Are you going to tell us that Open Season was a successful, profitable film? The sequel to Cloudy will be an outsourced, direct-to-video deal, made with minimal investment. It is not a sign of success.

Sony Pictures Animation was founded to compete with Pixar and DreamWorks. It was founded with the expectations that they could match both the quality and financial success of those studios. The quality has mostly been there, but the financial success has been so dismal that Sony has gone though a couple of management clean-outs, and massive layoffs from the artistic and creative ranks. They've also dramatically pulled back from anything approaching a full production slate.

The consistent lack of success, and the debacle of Hotel T and Arthur Christmas, might just completely shut the whole enterprise down.

If you actually worked there, or even know people who worked in the industry, you'd know this. But you don't. You're an outsider who bases their opinions on studio press releases. Because of that, almost everything you've had to say about the industry has been wrong.

I'll leave you to your naive opinions now. I need to get back to work on an animated feature film.

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