By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Hey, Big Spenders...
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End is slated to open May 25 around the world. But there’s a problem: It’s still not completely finished. “It’s a race to the wire for all the special effects. But, in its current state, it’s quite spectacular,” a source tells me. Disney still plans to play P3 in every territory by Memorial Day (although still not confirmed is mainland China, where censors were viewing a print hand-delivered by Disney execs so as to avoid piracy). But finishing fast and late always adds to a pic’s cost, which for P3 I’m told is already north of $300 million. And that’s just what Disney is admitting privately, so add at least another $50 mil to approach the real figure.
“It’s the summer of the high rollers,” one Disney insider says. “At least we’ve got an opportunity to make that back, and then some.”
Jeez, I remember when any movie budget over $100 mil used to make Hollywood faint. Then $150 mil induced a cold sweat. But this summer, the moguls aren’t even blinking at figures above $200 mil. Sony admits Spider-Man 3’s cost is $250 mil, but I’m told the true figure is more like $300 mil–plus. Universal acknowledges the budget for Evan Almighty, the sequel to Bruce Almighty, is up to $175 mil, but I’m told it’s really $200 mil–plus. And that’s without $70 million–plus in marketing costs tacked onto any of these pics.
Meanwhile, the first round of tracking for Spider-Man 3before its May 4 domestic release was “through the roof,” I’m told, better than any for either S-M1 or S-M2.And that duo had a combined worldwide theatrical gross of $1.6 billion. Director Sam Raimi’s dark and disturbing “Black Spidey” iconography seems to be geeking the comic-book geeks. With insanely aggressive promotion, and a storyline that completes the other two films, Spider-Man 3 should open to $100 million–plus its first weekend.
Though Wall Street film-financing experts are calling S-M3 the most expensive film ever made, that’s only because they don’t know the extent yet of P3’s soaring cost or the pic’s excessive running time. “It’s at least as long as Pirates 2, and probably longer,” an insider tells me. (Not only does that limit the number of times per day the pic is shown in theaters, it’s also an audience buzz kill.) Despite making $1 bil worldwide, P2was badmouthed by both critics and moviegoers for being such an in-betweener. So Disney execs went back and read every review of Dead Man’s Chest to “isolate what we thought people didn’t like about the movie,” an insider says. “The vast majority of the negative remarks were that it felt like it was setting up the third one, which in fact it was.” Now, P3 is the “payoff,” a source explains. “All the storylines come together, all the loose ends get tied up, all the mysteries become clear to you.” So Disney will market At World’s End as the final installment in a trilogy.
Of course, Disney and Sony know that their franchises, P3 and S-M3, are going to be megahits. But so do other studios who okayed hefty price tags for Shrek the Third, Transformers, Ocean’s Thirteen, Fantastic Four 2, Live Free or Die Hard, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and The Simpsons. Notice how they’re all sequels or remakes or film versions of TV shows: Hollywood doesn’t get sticker shock so long as the pic has a ready-made audience. For instance, the exclusive-to-Yahoo trailer for Live Free or Die Hard has tested higher than for any action movie in Fox history. Amazing, since this isn’t even starring a Bruce married to Demi (yeah, the last Die Hard installment was that long ago) but instead a Bruce post–16 Blocks(and remember how creaky he looked in that). So get ready for Minoxidil jokes when DH4 opens June 27.
Suddenly, the media is waxing nostalgic for the Harvey Weinstein of old, pining for the erstwhile brilliant bully of Miramax over the current Weinstein Co. whiny bleater we’re now just getting to know. Not me. I revel in the knowledge that moguls rarely have second acts. (One of the many reasons Hollywood celebrated Harv’s Grindhousebomb.)
Nah, my enmity will last because I’m proud that Harvey used to spit my name, not say it. After all, I spent years reporting his despicable Oscar marketing behavior, detailing how he and his flacks-for-hire used to badmouth the competition, boink the Academy’s rules and just generally behave like thugs. And he’d try to lie his way out of every accusation. But not before lobbying whoever was my editor at the time to have me fired, pronto.
Yet, here was Weinstein inconceivably making like my best friend on the phone the Monday after his Quentin Tarantino–Robert Rodriguez homage to gross-out B movies tanked on opening weekend. Even though I’d predicted that the film wouldn’t live up to The Weinstein Co.’s hype. Even though I’d also explained how New Harv had foolishly given the two directors a pass when it came to Grindhouse’s extreme indulgence, whereas Old Harv would have pounded both filmmakers into submission — all because he and his brother Bob had made their relationship with bankable Tarantino and Rodriguez the bedrock of their fledgling company’s financing.