Ask 411 Movies for 08.26.13: The Issue That Refused to Flop
Posted by Chad Webb on 08.26.2013
Is Ben Affleck a good choice to play Batman in Man of Steel 2? Is a film like The Lone Ranger considered a success by crossing the $100 million mark? All that and more covered this week in this week's Ask 411 Movies!
An "Ask 411 Movies" column would be nothing without questions, so please toss them my way. Why should you ask me instead of using Google? Well, perhaps I'll tell you something you can't find there, or maybe you just like my conversation and soothing words. You can post any questions or thoughts below in the comments section, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or send me a tweet using the links below:
I am finally beginning to gain ground on all the theatrical releases I've missed. I saw Elysium, Lovelace, Kick-Ass 2, Greetings from Tim Buckley, and Only God Forgives. Unfortunately I didn't like most of those, although Greetings from Tim Buckley was ok. I also checked out Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine, which was outstanding.
If you want to know more about my movie tastes, check out my page on Letterboxd by clicking right here. Also, make sure to look at all the great articles and writers at 411, particularly in the Movie-zone because that's where I predominantly am, but all of the zones.
Lee Thompson Young was found dead of an apparent suicide via self-inflicted gunshot wound this past Monday morning. He was 29 years old. His death is still a mystery as he was known for his positive energy, and did not do drugs or alcohol. He was currently on the show Rizzoli and Isles, but also had notable roles as Cyborg on Smallville, as well as The Famous Jett Jackson, Friday Night Lights, The Hills Have Eyes II and Akeelah and the Bee. My deepest sympathies go out to his friends and family during this sad time.
Ted Post passed away early Tuesday in Santa Monica. He was 95 years old. Post was a filmmaker who directed Clint Eastwood in Rawhide, Hang ‘Em High, and Magnum Force (a great sequel). He was a hardworking director who also made Beneath the Planet of the Apes, and continually worked on TV shows. He had been involved with the industry since 1950 and stopped around the early 1980's, though he did take a few jobs after that, the final one being in 1999. His interest in film stemmed from having a job as an usher as a young man. Post is survived by his wife of 72 years, Thelma; son, Robert Post, dean of Yale Law School; daughter Laurie; four grandchildren; his brother Joe; and his sister Ruth.
Elmore Leonard died this past week after complications from a stroke. He was 87 years old. Leonard was an American novelist and screenwriter. He started out writing westerns, but then began to specialize in crime fiction and suspense thrillers, many of which have been adapted into mainstream motion pictures. In total he wrote 45 books and was in the process of working on his 46th. Among his best-known works are Get Shorty, Out of Sight, Hombre, Mr. Majestyk, and Rum Punch (adapted for the movie Jackie Brown). Leonard's writings include short stories that became the films 3:10 to Yuma and The Tall T, as well as the current FX television series Justified. He was surrounded by his family when he passed. He will be missed.
Q: Hey, what do you think of Ben Affleck being cast as Batman? And might I add, you have a seasoned handsomeness that should be on the cover of GQ.
A: Well, whoever you are (clearly someone I have never met), you have good taste. I was all prepared to launch into a rant about the Ben Affleck backlash, but like most news of this caliber it has been talked about to death in only a couple days. Shawn Lealos wrote a good column defending the choice, and I agree with most of his reasons, especially the Daredevil: Director's Cut. Nevertheless, I do have a few things to add. If you're tired of reading about Affleck as Batman, too bad.
Seriously, the Daredevil reasoning is silly and that appears to be the go-to complaint. That was a different time period, a different director, and the flaws that movie did possess go beyond just Affleck. Come on people. But the director's cut is actually very good. I won't say it's great, but it takes a movie that would have gotten a "thumbs down" to a movie that gets a solid "thumbs up."
I can't say whether or not Affleck will succeed in the role, but I have been a fan of his for many years, so I'm rooting for him. Certainly he's not perfect. He has delivered his share of bad movies like everyone in Hollywood has, and this part will be an uphill battle for sure. I do think this is an odd choice for him at this stage of his career. To tackle a sought after role of this magnitude after building respect as a filmmaker and an actor, is a risk. I can only think of one reason why he would do it. Obviously at one point, it was not popular to like Ben Affleck. He was dating Jennifer Lopez and pumping out a series of flicks that weren't ummm, shall we say exemplary. We have to remember that actors are human, and when I think back to all the interviews he has given, not to mention comments from his friends like Kevin Smith, regarding that period of his career, I think that it all really got to him. How could it not?
I mean, how many times did he joke about being snubbed for the Best Director Oscar when he was racking up all the other awards for Argo? He alluded to it quite a bit. It bothered him, and I think the idea that everyone hated him in Daredevil got under his skin as well. I think he's playing Batman because he has something to prove, to us and possibly to himself, that he can pull this off and defy the odds. Knowing that he is already training is a clue at how determined he is. And in my mind, a determined Affleck is a positive thing.
If I had to guess, I would say that Affleck will be better as Bruce Wayne than he will as Batman. But hey, who knows? I'm intrigued by this choice, and am definitely glad it didn't go to Ryan Gosling, who I thought would have been terrible. I wish him luck, though Zack Snyder's direction is a concern we shouldn't forget either. Everyone is worried about Affleck, they should be nervous about that, or the script.
Q: Hey Chad,
When I was growing up (90s-early 2000s), it used to be 100 million domestic was the threshold for being a big hit. There have been 19 movies this year that have reached that threshold. However only 7 have reached the $200 million threshold and WWZ is only 2 million away; 10 movies have reached $150 million and 4 movies have reached $250 million.
Last year: 7 movies reached 250m; 11 movies reached 200m; 17 movies reached 150m; 31 movies reached 100m.
In 2003, 4 movies reached 250m; 6 movies reached 200m; 8 movies reached 150m; 29 movies reached 100m.
In 1993: 1 movie reached $250m (jurassic park), 2 movies reached $200m (mrs doubtfire); 4 movies reached $150m and 8 movies reached $100m
My question is what is threshold for what you consider a big hit today?
A: Let me preface this by saying that determining what makes a movie a "hit" is not an exact science. I have come across numerous articles all over the internet from people who think they know all there is to know about how much a movie needs to make to become a success, and chances are, they don't unless they are employed by a studio. I'm no different, but I'll do my best. There are so many factors that come into play here other than domestic box office. You have international box office grosses, DVD sales, budgets, and so on. Also, perception is a very big deal. I can't tell you how many movies that are deemed flops but in actuality are not flops. Well, you know what, yes I can, here is a list of them: click here. One problem is that many people think that quality and box office performance are related. They aren't, but that could be another column altogether.
But to answer your question, I recall an article a few years ago written by critic James Berardinelli. He stated that $250 million domestic is acceptable for a "blockbuster" level film, but that $300 million means you are a definite hit. As your figures show, there are only a handful of titles that make it over $250 million, and often fewer yet that attain $300 million or higher. I pretty much agree with his assessment, but you also have to consider that smaller movies, made with a less expensive budget, might not receive a wide release theatrically, but still gross a substantial amount, top their budget and then some. They are still technically successes financially, but you won't hear people talk about them because when we measure box office hits we customarily are only concerned with the summer tentpoles and big action pics.
Of course the budget for movies plays an important role as well, and I could be writing for days on how that affects the "hit" status of various movies, but generally I think that $200 million means it's doing well and is on its way, $250 million means it is a success, and north of $300 million says it's a bonafide hit and could be in the top 5 of the year in terms of grosses. Obviously the accepted number might change depending on what year it is, inflation and so forth, but those fit. Just to give you an idea of this summer's flops, there have been a lot of them. After Earth, The Lone Ranger, White House Down, Pacific Rim, Turbo, and R.I.P.D. cost a collective $950 million to make and only grossed $322 million domestically. That's a bummer if your a Hollywood exec. If you ask me, the current business model studios operate with is one that is ripe for disaster. They are painting themselves into a corner in that they have to make sequels or something that has a pre-established audience to turn a profit. I concur with Steven Spielberg and George Lucas that Hollywood will suffer from a major meltdown/collapse in the near future.
And on that optimistic note...see you next week!
"The plural of Chad is Chad?"
--From the movie Recount