This is a long, but always fascinating read. It’s the transcription of a speech by Steven Soderbergh, a State of Cinema address. He covers a lot of ground, and I could have pulled out any number of quotes, but I thought the one below was particularly interesting: an explanation of why the film industry doesn’t make more, cheaper movies, instead of all these blockbusters. The article starts with Soderbergh’s horror that a fellow passenger on a 5-hour plane flight was watching a number of movies on his iPad by skipping through all the dialogue and just watching the explosive action sequences.
You can read the full article, or listen to the audio of the speech, but the whole thing is worth a read. Snip:
So then there’s the expense of putting a movie out, which is a big problem. Point of entry for a mainstream, wide-release movie: $30 million. That’s where you start. Now you add another 30 for overseas. Now you’ve got to remember, the exhibitors pay half of the gross, so to make that 60 back you need to gross 120. So you don’t even know what your movie is yet, and you’re already looking at 120. That ended up being part of the reason why the Liberace movie didn’t happen at a studio. We only needed $5 million from a domestic partner, but when you add the cost of putting a movie out, now you’ve got to gross $75 million to get that 35 back, and the feeling amongst the studios was that this material was too “special” to gross $70 million. So the obstacle here isn’t just that special subject matter, but that nobody has figured out how to reduce the cost of putting a movie out. There have been some attempts to analyze it, but one of the mysteries is that this analysis doesn’t really reveal any kind of linear predictive behavior, it’s still mysterious the process whereby people decide if they’re either going to go to a movie or not go to a movie. Sometimes you don’t even know how you reach them. Like on Magic Mike for instance, the movie opened to $38 million, and the tracking said we were going to open to 19. So the tracking was 100% wrong. It’s really nice when the surprise goes in that direction, but it’s hard not to sit there and go how did we miss that? If this is our tracking, how do you miss by that much?
Read the rest: Overheard: Steven Soderbergh | Film Comment | Film Society of Lincoln Center.