Random posts on all sorts of things designed to inform and provoke.
Johnny Depp’s new big budget extravaganza The Long Ranger is collapsing at the US box office. Made at a budget of over $250 million, this revisionist take on a one-popular television show that no one remembers, is projected to make less than $50 million in its first week of release. Compare that to the over $100 million that the lower budgeted Despicable Me 2 is forecast to gross and its clear that the Ranger’s goose is cooked.
Generally when an event movie underperforms at the US box office – and there have plenty these past few years – supporters generally claim that the loss will be limited due to the international box office. The Lone Ranger, however, will likely face a daunting task overseas since western movies don’t make a lot of money outside the US and the stench of domestic failure is hard to wipe off once a film begins its international rollout.
Consequently, its clear that this latest Depp movie is done – and I realize that sounds harsh given that the thing has only been out for the past two days. I also realize that I have not focused on the quality of the movie or its content.
Unfortunately, the fact is that when a studio spends as much money on a movie as has been spent on this one, story or structure doesn’t mean anything. All that matters is spectacle and perception and while Ranger may have the former, it lost on the latter and as anyone will attest, perception is everything.
The impact of this failure could be significant. Jerry Bruckheimer, the films producer, will likely find his autonomy further curtailed at Disney and his budgets will come under even greater scrutiny. Even though his deal isn’t up for renewal anytime soon, the fact is that these days he is much more successful in the television business and Disney doesn’t see any money from that pot. Consequently, Bruckheimer’s value to Disney is decreasing and negotiations for his future services will be tough and stingy.
Johnny Depp is already deep in his next movie, Transcendence (something akin to Inception), has signed up for Into The Woods and a new Pirates movie. This means that he’s making his regular paydays and if one of the first two movies works out – Transcendence is supposed to have a good chance of doing that – he will be just fine.
Gore Verbinski, Ranger’s director, will find himself in movie jail for a little while. The guy is supremely talented but he needs a strong producer who isn’t Bruckheimer and a smaller movie and he should be fine as well.
Armie Hammer, the young actor who plays The Long Ranger, will be hurt by the movie’s failure. True, he has The Man from UNCLE in his kitty but that is far from a sure thing. The fact is the guy always had a tough road ahead since he is almost 7 feet tall and not a particularly good actor. We shouldn’t feel too bad for him though; he is a millionaire in real life after all.
The film’s studio, Disney, will lose a bucket load of money on this movie and shareholders won’t be happy with this second debacle – John Carter last year was the first. The studio’s current leadership is unlikely to change though since everyone who approved this movie and John Carter were fired earlier.
Speaking of Disney, Depp and Bruckheimer, their next Pirates movie is under development and, despite the success of this series, if I was a Disney executive, I would renegotiate the budget and the salaries of all involved. The Depp brand has been tainted by Ranger and Dark Shadows and while people may still clamor for another Pirates, the frenzy will be much less.
Finally, the entire US film community needs to cool it with these massive budgeted movies. True, when they hit, they make titanic amounts of profits but even one miss can wipe out those profits. Just this year, we have had Jack the Giant Slayer, After Earth and White House Down and that has only been in the past four months!
This high-budget model simply isn’t sustainable and it seems that people in this business with all their Ivy League education have no idea how to run long-term businesses. This dream factory seems to be all dreams and no factory.