2009 Box Office Review - North America - Part 3
Warner’s intends to have a couple fewer films in 2010 than they did in ’09 but with the next “Harry Potter” release, the seventh installment, as well as four other sequels, “Sex and the City,” “Dark Knight,” “Cats and Dogs: Revenge of Kitty Galore” and “Happy Feet,” their release schedule looks like it should put them in a top position for the year. They also have a remake of “Clash of the Titans” and comic book adaptations “The Losers” and “Jonah Hex.”
Fox has a couple of adaptations—one from comic book “Marmaduke” and the other from the 1980’s TV series “The A Team” starring Liam Neeson, as well as a remake of “Predators” starring Adrian Brody and Laurence Fishburne to count on. Kid literature adaptations “Gulliver’s Travels” and a new “Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader” also starring Neeson will be released by the studio. Tom Cruise comedy “Knight and Day” and Tony Scott action film “Unstoppable” are also on the slate.
Comic book adaptation “The Green Hornet” is due from Sony along with remakes of “Karate Kid” and “Death at a Funeral,” a sequel to “Resident Evil,” a Kenny Chesney 3D movie and an adaptation of the “Smurfs” 1980s television series. They also have a handful of comedies including one from Jennifer Aniston and Gerard Butler called “The Bounty Hunter.”
Paramount’s new slate consists of two sequels—“Iron Man 2” and “Shrek 3,” and a remake of “Footloose.” They expect to have another dozen films this year, which will include Dreamworks Animation’s 3D “How to Train Your Dragon.” Paramount also set up a new, small division for micro-budgeted films to try and produce more films like “Paranormal Activity” for themselves.
Disney also went to the kid literature world and has Tim Burton’s 3D “Alice in Wonderland” and adventure film “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” with Nicolas Cage on the slate for the year, as well as a remake of 1980s videogame “Tron” called “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time”.
Universal’s remake of the 1941 Lon Chaney “Wolfman,” with Benecio Del Toro starring, will be released in the first quarter. A Ridley Scott reimagined “Robin Hood” and sequel to “The Fockers” should boost the Universal slate this year. “Green Zone” with Matt Damon and an animated “Despicable Me” are also forthcoming.
Lionsgate has a Jackie Chan family comedy with “The Spy Next Door” and two sequels from their most successful franchises—one from Tyler Perry called “Why Did I Get Married Too” and a 3D version of “Saw VII.” Comic book adaptation “Kick Ass” starring Nicolas Cage is another title that the studio has high hopes for.
Summit’s “Twilight” franchise gets its new installment this year and they’ve selected its male star Robert Pattinson to lead “Remember Me” for the studio.
Audience expectations will continue to grow and so producers, distributors and exhibitors are constantly looking for innovative ways to provide a communal experience that cannot be replicated at home. Full sensory immersion of a viewer with physical effects as well as 3D and surround sound are changing the entertainment experience. Innovation remains essential and directors like James Cameron who combined IMAX technology and stereoscopic digital 3D with his own 3D HD cameras is pushing the static cinematic experience.
There are approximately 39,800 screens in the U.S., 7500 of which are digital, and about half of which are 3D equipped. It costs approximately $70,000 to install digital equipment in a theater today. With the rapid expansion of production of 3D films over the past year and the unparalleled success of a film like “Avatar” or “Up” competing for these limited number of screens, theater operators have finally been able to secure credit that will hopefully support the conversion of more screens to 3D in the coming year. The studios plan to release about 20 films in 3D in 2010 including “Clash of the Titans,” “How To Train Your Dragon,” “Alice in Wonderland” and “Resident Evil.” A consortium of the nation’s largest exhibitors hope to use this newfound access to capital to install 20,00 digital screens in the U.S. and Canada.
In conjunction with high-speed technology and storage devices, theaters will be able to request and receive "virtual prints" within minutes. Studios have pledged to financially support the 3D screen conversion with the savings they will reap as a result of these “virtual print fees.” The new opportunity with this kind of release also increases an exhibitor’s programming flexibility, helps prevent the threat of piracy and saves on transportation fees without the risk of damage.
In addition to the rapid growth of 3-D, IMAX growth has also been phenomenal. “The Polar Express” grossed $121 million on 3,500 2-D screens while the IMAX 3-D experience grossed $40 million on just 68 screens. This summer “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” will also be released in IMAX.
Premium cinemas with 3D LCD screens plus bars and upscale restaurants will become more commonplace. National Amusements, a world leader in cinema with over 1,500 screens in the U.S., U.K., Latin America and Russia, is one theater group focused on this approach. Australia has been at the forefront of this luxury cinema trend.
Only three of the top ten movies this year performed better domestically than they did overseas. Expect more day and date worldwide releases with video-on-demand and other distribution channels opening the same day as a film’s theatrical release because of the cost savings for the marketing spent and in an effort to curtail piracy as studios look to cut costs and maximize profits.
Ellen Pittleman, http://hybridentus.com, is a veteran studio executive based in Los Angeles. Most recently, she served as SVP, International Co-Productions and Worldwide Acquisitions for Paramount Pictures. She also launched the DVD Premiere group there, with films including Jonathan Demme’s “Neil Young: Heart of Gold” and the sequel to the $100MM+ “Save the Last Dance.” Working from a marketing and distribution perspective, she consults on strategic planning, deal negotiation, acquisitions, film library valuation and feature development with clients from Rio to London to Beijing. She’s also currently developing a feature on George Foreman’s comeback years, among other projects.