This week is Avatar week, all aboard for a December 18th theatrical release–and B.O. bonanza? In fact, all eyes will be turned to Avatar to see how well this behemoth-sized movie will do at the box office beyond this week. Did you know that the studio, Twentieth Century Fox, will have spent close to half a billion dollar on this film? It’s no secret that Hollywood has become risk-adverse in recent history, but it has, on occasion, bet the house.
As producer Peter Guber once said, “Inside every disaster is a hit film and inside every hit film are the seeds of a disaster.”The 3-D Avatar, which stars Zoe Saldana, is a CG animation epic featuring giant-sized creatures and the kind of extravagant attention to detail that only someone as demanding as James Cameron could pull off. In case the name does not sound familiar, Cameron is behind that other budget monster named Titanic.
That film’s budget grew disproportionately in tandem with Cameron’s ego and towards the end, the smell of disaster was hanging heavy over the production according to people on the set. Studios like Fox prefer by far putting low-budget, no-star films through their production pipeline while hoping for a hit. They take a financial beating throughout the year, and overhead costs (of not just producing big-budget movies but of keeping their offices open) are the reasons why studios go into joint partnerships with others (ie, NBC Universal).
Another established survival tactic is to put a minimum amount of movies through the production pipeline per year. Not all films will do well, obviously, but hits will pay for misses. The hits are what keeps the studios afloat. After scanning industry news reports this morning, I’m getting the sense that everyone’s betting TCF will come out on top with Avatar.But B.O. revenues will be but a small portion of the studio’s return on investment. Among the different ancillary revenue options studios have at their disposal (all the non-exhibition revenue streams) merchandising will obviously play a huge part in Avatar’s success.
Can you imagine the myriad-variations of toys, figurines, etc. that Avatar will generate? And, finally, Avatar is also a potential milestone (at least according to a small group of idealist filmmakers) for 3-D. Some in the industry are betting that Avatar, which was meant to be shown in 3-D, will change the fact of filmmaking forever by making 3-D exhibition more commonplace. “Avatar” is slated to open in about 2,100 3-D locations in the US and another 1,200 conventional theaters. That is almost double the number of theaters that were equipped for 3-D at the start of the year, when the Lionsgate horror flick “My Bloody Valentine” came out.I think that that’s perhaps the one bet that might be unrealistic, unimaginative, even.
3-D exhibition (showing a film in a movie theatre) has never gained traction. Maybe it’s too much of an novelty, maybe the overall costs are too prohibitive to both the public and movie theatre owners (exhibitors) or maybe the idea of 3-D is weighed down by its passéd connotations. What do you think of when you think 3-D? You’re thinking, Columbia’s Man in the Dark and Warner Brothers’ House of Wax which came out during the golden years of 3-D in the 1950s. If you’re like me, you’re also thinking B-movie. Will Avatar put 3-D on the map? It’s hard to tell, but I’m guessing it won’t. But putting this aside, what wonderful Christmas entertainment we’ll have this year. Yes, Avatar will be a massive success, I can smell it already.