Thursday, January 19, 2006

Booty or Loot... You Decide

The Golden Globe Awards have been given out. 'Brokeback Mountain' garnered four, 'Capote' got one, 'Transamerica' was given one, 'Syriana' took one, and 'Narnia' received none. It doesn't take an aluminum foil pyramid on one's head to predict the criticism that followed. I'm beginning to believe that the Hollywood elite are politically left of center.

In the real world, however, 'Narnia' did bring home some gold that the others did not. According to Box Office Mojo.com, 'Brokeback Mountain' cost $14 million to produce and grossed $33 million in the U.S. and $35 million internationally since its opening on December 9th. 'Narnia', on the other hand, cost a whopping $180 million to produce, but grossed $265 million in the States and $586 million world-wide since it opened on the same day. $406 million over production costs is at least some consolation for that humiliating showing at 'The Globes'.

The moral of the story: Cowboys coming out of the closet get the booty, children going into the closet get the loot. (Or in case Rob drops by... 'Brokeback Mountain' proves to be a slippery slope... 'Brokeback 2' will be about a Wyoming cowboy with his horse in a cozy, nicely decorated line shack.)

(H.T. Becky Perry of World Magazine Blog.)

7 comments:

tee bee said...

I'm beginning to believe that the Hollywood elite are politically left of center.

Well that would just be paranoid. Wouldn't it?

Steve said...

Reverse hyperbole.

Rob Berry said...

The moral of the story: Cowboys coming out of the closet get the booty, children going into the closet get the loot.

(Disclaimer: I haven't seen either "Narnia" nor "Brokeback Mountain", and I probably never will, as I have no interest in movies involving either children's fables or love stories. Unless Angelina Jolie is somehow involved, of course; then all bets are off. ;-) )

If you look at it from a return-on-investment point of view, both of the films actually did about the same. According to your figures, "Brokeback Mountain" cost $14mil to make and grossed $33m domestic plus $35m international, or $68mil total. Divide $68mil into $14 mil, and you'll see that's a 486.7% return on investment. "Narnia" cost $180mil, and grossed $265mil domestic plus $586mil worldwide, for a total of $851mil. Divide that into $180mil, and you get a 472.7% return on investment-- almost the same as "Brokeback Mountain".

What makes things really interesting is that "Brokeback" had a number of disadvantages compared to "Narnia":

1. "Narnia" is based on a popular and well-known franchise, whereas "Brokeback" was an original IP with no pre-existing fan base.

2. "Narnia" is rated PG, while "Brokeback" is rated R. R rated movies have a smaller potential audience than PG films, and therefore don't perform as well at the box office.

3. "Narnia" had an advertising budget of $60mil. I haven't been able to track down the advertising budget for "Brokeback" yet, but it's obviously going to be much smaller than $60mil. ("Brokeback" only cost $14mil to make, so $14mil is probably an upper limit on the advertising budget. If $14mil was spent, that means that "Narnia"'s advertising budget was over 400% bigger than "Brokeback"'s. Since $14mil is just an upper limit, and the actual amount is probably much smaller, it follows that "Narnia"'s advantage was probably much higher than 400%.)

4. "Narnia" was deliberately crafted to be a blockbuster, and has that "blockbuster vibe"-- advanced effects, an "epic" soundtrack, vast battle scenes, etc. Such movies generally do better than quiet little movies like "Brokeback".

5. "Narnia" was able to ride the coattails of the "Lord Of The Rings" and "Harry Potter" movies, which reinvigorated the public's demand for epic fantasy tales. (One could argue that "The Passion Of The Christ" also offered a coattail to "Narnia" by reinvigorating the demand for movies with Christian themes. I personally don't know if I'd agree with that or not.) "Brokeback" didn't have any coattails to ride.

So, "Narnia" has all these advantages over "Brokeback", and yet "Brokeback" actually managed to beat "Narnia" (albeit by a slim margin) in the ROI game. That's like Stephen Hawking playing Michael Jordan one on one, and beating him by two points. :-)

So, the correct moral of this story is: If you're trying to decide whether to invest in a film about gay cowboys, or a film based on a Christian fairy tale, you'll have a slight advantage investing in gay cowboys, but either one will show a nice return on investment. On the other hand, if you're betting on the results of an awards show, it's gay cowboys all the way, unless you're limiting your bets to the effects category, in which case go with the Christian fairy tale. :-)

I realize it's not a very catchy moral, from a soundbite point of view. But it does have the advantage of being accurate.

(Or in case Rob drops by... 'Brokeback Mountain' proves to be a slippery slope... 'Brokeback 2' will be about a Wyoming cowboy with his horse in a cozy, nicely decorated line shack.)

Wasn't that the whole premise of "Mr. Ed"? (C'mon, you didn't buy into that whole "they're just platonic friends" lie, did you? ;-))

Steve said...

Rob,

Aha! 'Brokeback 2' would have Mr. Ed's coattails to ride on! A sure blockbuster! (I always did think that Wally Post was a little odd.)

Your use of percentages borders on 'rhetoric abuse'. Would I prefer a 100% return on $100 or a 1% return on $1,000,000?

And you did stop by!! Thanks!

Rob Berry said...

Your use of percentages borders on 'rhetoric abuse'.

I don't see how this counts as rhetoric abuse. Certainly it's no more rhetorical or abusive than anything in your original post, which I certainly wouldn't describe as rhetorically abusive.

Would I prefer a 100% return on $100 or a 1% return on $1,000,000?

Obviously the latter, but that's generally not how investment works. An investor generally has a set amount of money to invest, and tries to maximize the return on his investment. From this point of view, "Brokeback" and "Narnia" are about even. (Technically, "Brokeback" is ahead, but either one would be a decent investment.)

Don't feel bad, though. In terms of the raw amount of money earned, "Narnia" is still way ahead, and even in terms of ROI, "Narnia" is only slightly behind "Brokeback". Only in the awards department did Narnia gets crushed. That's a bummer, sure, but it's not worth whining about. (Not that you are.)

And you did stop by!! Thanks!

If you invoke my name, I will come. I'm like a demon, or Derek Smart. (But I repeat myself. :-) )

By the way, there seems to be a problem with your CAPTCHA software. It always rejects my post the first time, even though I've entered the text in correctly. Once I enter it again, it works fine. Just thought you should know.

tee bee said...

Rob, the problem may appear to be one of percentages, but I guarantee you that investers prefer a sure thing to a risky return, and they won't be impressed that Brokeback managed to outperform Narnia by (hypothetical at time of investment) 486.7% to (pretty much guaranteed) 472.7%.

Criminy, if they were sure they'd get 150% they'd be salivating.

Plus, Brokeback probably won't be raking in much merchandising dough, whereas we can bet that little lions, witches and wardrobes will be popping out of Happy Meals any day now to the tune of millions.

But you have me on one thing - Hollywood has been interested in booty over loot for decades, and the Hollywood foreign press, SAG and the Academy don't give a hoot about merchandising.

Rob Berry said...

Rob, the problem may appear to be one of percentages, but I guarantee you that investers prefer a sure thing to a risky return[...].

A legitimate point. Still, the ones who had the foresight to make the riskier investment are probably quite happy right with how things turned out. And of course, as a proponent for gay rights, I can't resist the urge to point out that the success of "Brokeback Mountain" will make the next gay-themed drama seem less risky, so we'll be seeing more such films in the future. ;-)

Plus, Brokeback probably won't be raking in much merchandising dough[...]

True; I don't see much in the way of "Brokeback" merchandise being made available for sale, aside from the soundtrack CD and maybe a novelization of the movie.

But you have me on one thing - Hollywood has been interested in booty over loot for decades[...]

That statement assumes that Hollywood is a monolithic entity, though, which it most certainly is not. I think that those on the artistic and creative side are more concerned about earning the respect and admiration of their peers (which is what awards are supposed to represent), whereas the CEOs and their accountants are more concerned about raking in as much dough as they can. And then there's Uwe Boll, who seems to be motivated solely by a desire to hurt his audience. >:-)