Blockbusters… really?


The following essay was produced as part of my 2013 effort for the November National Novel Writing Month effort. As such, please understand that while I did give it a quick review, it has not gone through the same proofreading and editing I normally try to give all of the material posted on this site.

I always make some mistakes. There are errors to be found throughout this web site, and many exist despite dozens of attempts to correct problems. That said, ask that you approach this material in the spirit intended – a basic thought, slightly worked out and very informally researched, delivered in the hopes of writing more than 50,000 words by the end of November.

Thank you.

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I have a confession to make.

I didn’t hate The Lone Ranger.

Now don’t go viewing that as a solid endorsement of the film. I didn’t love it, and I had several problems with it… in fact, I could write a fairly lengthy list of problems if that happened to be the intent of this essay (which it isn’t). I agree with those that say it wasn’t good.

But I don’t believe it was the most brutally awful and hideous movie ever released to cinemas. Edit out a few things and trim the length down about thirty minutes (which would still place it roughly around two hours long), and there might be a completely different flow to it. A flow that allows it to work as a so-so, average but still not really solid film.

Here’s the thing though… did you watch as the media just killed the film? I mean… they were destroying it before it was even released. Articles about production delays… postings referencing budget concerns… and on and on, only getting worse when the reviews began.


Several years ago, on my web site, I made a joke about Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life. As I recall, when the numbers began rolling in during opening weekend, the heads of the studio immediately began blaming poor box office returns on an underwhelming video game that had been released a few weeks ahead of the film. The joke was based on the idea that it was quite possible (and, in my mind, far more likely) that more of the problem with ticket sales for Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life was that the film was pretty bad.

(I’ll let you do some of the research, but here are a few tidbits to get you started. The video game in question from the Tomb Raider series was Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness. It was not designed to directly tie in to the movie, by theme or content. However, Lara was there, and it was released in June with the movie out in late July. And it was, if I have the details right, the first Tomb Raider game for PlayStation 2. So there is a bit of potential marketing overlap, some excitement that would generate a bit of extra attention, and the game certainly didn’t do any favors for the movie. The trouble is… if you do the research… you’ll find that many people actually enjoyed the film better than the first one. Don’t believe it. The second film was pretty bad. And the real story is basically this… blame it on the video game? This wasn’t exactly an earth-shattering release for the game. Sure… it did alter the direction of the franchise (and, rumor has it, was the basis for the cancellation of at least one video game project). Still… depending on what platforms you want to use, it was about the ninth title in the Tomb Raider video game efforts. And… wow… man, you had Angelina Jolie, in a prime run of her acting in films, in a role many felt was simply perfectly cast, and apparently you feel comfortable saying that the big reason people stayed away was because you couldn’t work your publicity for the film around a video game release. Wow. Just -- Wow. Anyway…)

The reason I find all of this so amazing… and, regardless of the quality of the film, do have to show a tremendous amount of sympathy for the actors, directors, writers and so on when they claim their film was quashed by outside forces… comes in the form or the seventh Star Wars film.

Because whether Tomb Raider the Second or The Lone Ranger Reborn or whatever other accepted-as-an-underperformer you wish to consider, the reality is simple…

In general terms, it likely doesn’t matter.

Sure… you’ve heard all sorts of stories about how numbers are crunched and adjusted and revisited and so many other amazing things in an effort to reduce what ends up being the final dollar number. Or, in shorter terms, studios… since they may have to pay a bonus… do not like to show profits.

And as such, we’ll hear all sorts of things that make it look like even the greatest money makers barely broke even.

But that certainly didn’t stop the news I started seeing this summer.


We’re still years away from its release… in 2015. But back in July, there were box office predictions being made. No… honestly…

A Moviefone source: Episode 7 should hit $1.2 billion.

A supposedly independent on-line source: Yup, again, $1.2 billion for Star Wars: Episode 7.

Cinema Blend: Analysts prediction for Episode 7 is that it will cross the $1 billion mark and bring in well over $700 million in profit.

Umm… has anyone else noticed that -- with exception of the rumors surrounding Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford… and the likely inclusion of R2-D2 and C-3PO that seem so obvious and safe to predict -- not a single actor has officially been cast for this movie yet?

Does anyone recall that -- while sure, no questions, I’ll accept it as a general statement they were wildly profitable -- the second trilogy sold significantly less tickets and has a much lower box office when adjusted for inflation than the original trilogy?

Heck… anyone else -- I remember the reaction for the second trilogy was at times so bad that most of the Star Wars fans that had been cheering passionately for the announced return of the universe with Episode 1 were, by the time Episode 3 was released, hoping the third trilogy might never get made.

Hey… I want to see the next Star Wars film. I admit it… a reunion of the original cast, even if only to be cameos and side notes in a brand new adventure being kicked off, sounds great. And I will fall prey to the teasers and rumors and hype and plan on going to the cinema.

But hold on for just one second…

We’re about two years or so away from the release, and there it is, estimated at clearing $1 billion dollars.


How is that possible?

With no finished script… with no production schedule finalized… with no actors on board… and yet, toss it out there during a year already brimming with potential huge releases (Ant-Man and Avengers: Age of Ultron are just two from Disney alone, with the Mouse running this Star Wars machine now as well) and we get a $700+ million in profit estimate.

For a totally different reason… offered again, in a it kind of leaves me speechless way -- Wow.

Hey… Star Wars: Episode 7 might very well clear a billion in box office dollars. Shouldn’t be a surprise if it does. And, I think there is a very good chance the first film will be a solid piece that a new run of films can be based upon.

My problem is the 2013 box office estimate for a 2015 movie. And, judging by the way everyone is circulating the numbers, we are talking about a total the industry seems fairly comfortable with.

Is that what’s happening now? We don’t even need to release a film in order to declare it dead?


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