Yes, filmmaking is a tricky business. But overseeing a movie studio is even more
complicated. Just like in front of the
camera, there is aplenty of drama going on behind the scenes in regards to the
status of pictures, producers and executives.
Now that the summer movie season is at its end, it’s always
interesting to see which studios proved the most successful and which ones
dropped the ball. While Paramount and
Universal pulled audiences into theaters thanks to a string of incredibly
successful blockbusters, Warner Bros. is the obvious winner in my eyes, due to
their success with a certain caped crusader.
But there’s a lot of action going on at the Brothers Warner. A lot more than they would want us to know.
As most of you probably know by now, Warner Bros. came into
possession of New Line’s catalogue after the company folded months ago. Understandably, the company began to worry
upon the realization that they will have to distribute a large number of pictures
under a limited amount of time before the New Year rolls around.
I know it sounds weird, but there is such a thing as having
too many pictures under one roof, so the fears of Warner executives are totally
warranted and understood. With that
sad, considering Warner now has the second highest grossing picture in history,
surely they can do whatever they want, right?
Up until a few weeks ago, that’s what I thought. Then reality set in, forcing me to look at
the studios situation from a business point of view, rather than the average
Upon hearing the news that Warner was trying to rid itself
of distributing Rock N Rolla, I was furious.
Not because the film was good (I have yet to see it), but because they
pulled the same stunt with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, a film that has deserved any
and all accolades it’s received since its abysmal release. But then the president of Warner revealed
that since the studio has such a heavy fall slate, a number of films will be
offered to other studios (with a hefty price tag, I’m sure) in order for them
to get the marketing and sufficient screens per theater upon release that the
films rightfully deserve, without having Warner back out of their contract with
the filmmakers. Another film being
optioned right now is Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire, which will have its
world premiere in two weeks at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Now maybe it’s not as bad as we think. I mean, Guy Ritchie (who directed Rock N
Rolla) just signed with Warner to direct the first film in a planned franchise
based around the character of Sherlock Holmes starring the great Robert Downey
Jr. With that in mind, one has to
wonder: are Ritchie and Warner on bad terms?
Ritchie’s still signed with Warner to direct the Holmes picture, so his
relationship with the studio doesn’t seem to have soured one bit. Perhaps, for once, a studio is acknowledging
that they cannot treat a particular film with as much tender love and care as
they would like. But then again, how do
you explain the studio’s treatment of Trick R Treat? Or Where The Wild Things Are?
At this point, we are on the receiving end of a severe case
of he said-she said. With Warner now in
complete ownership of New Line’s catalogue, executives are faced with the
unenviable task of choosing which films are worthy of a wide release, just in
time for Oscar season. This brings to
mind the fact that the filmmaking business is not a black and white world, but
one that’s bathed completely in grey scale; it’s one that thrives on the
mystery created by the films released.
Which means, whatever we hear or read about, there is the guarantee that
more is happening behind the scenes and more often than not, it is created for
the sole purpose of publicity.
Lately, Warner has been at the forefront of some major controversy. The first being their incredibly confusing
(seeing as how I’m not a lawyer) lawsuit with 20th Century Fox over
the rights and distribution of Watchmen, as well as their strange decision to
bump Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince to summer ’09. Sure, the effects of the writers strike are
still being felt today, but it will only get worse when next year rolls around,
which was the excuse Warner gave for the sudden date change. But moving the film closer to Transformers:
Revenge of the Fallen, Terminator Salvation and Star Trek appears to be a
mistake waiting to happen. Only time
will tell. But I must stress that it is
NOT because Warner is worried about the ever-growing buzz machine that is Twilight.
While the controversy inevitably continues in the coming
weeks, it’s good to know that there will be a whole slew of films coming down
the pipeline. Let’s just hope that the
studios (and Warner Bros. in particular) treat them with the respect they
deserve so that we, the audience, can make up our own mind as to the quality of
the picture. Yes, at its heart,
filmmaking is a business; but it is also a very delicate art form that thrives
on the confidence and trust of those watching the movie.