Bummer, But the Movies are a Business

A movie based on HP Lovecraft’s novella, At the Mountains of Madness, has been canceled:

The film-world was thrown into a frenzy yesterday regarding Universal’s cancellation of Guillermo del Toro’s personal passion project, a $150 million, R-rated adaptation of HP Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness. We live in an era where even the once-brave Warner Bros. has gone from the sort of studio that would roll the dice on The Matrix to the kind of studio that will likely reboot/remake The Matrix, where Pixar seems content to become a sequel factory (Cars 2, Monsters Inc 2), where studios are so terrified of big-budget originality that they seem to merely be parading an never-ending stream of unwanted sequels (Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief: The Sea Monsters), needless remakes (Total Recall), and inexplicable ‘reboots’ (Tomb Raider), the news was the film-news equivalent of us lefties hearing that President Obama had caved into GOP budget demands… again. There are plenty of reasons why executives are reluctant to spend blockbuster-dollars on original ideas. But the (temporary?) death of At the Mountain of Madness isn’t quite representative of the end of original thought in Hollywood. But it is a good time to stop and ask why every major studio genre picture needs to cost to bloody much?

Film Blogger Scott Mendelson is right. When one considers the fact that this film would have to be almost exclusively CGI, and a decent Linux based server farm for the rendering would cost well under $50,000.00, the idea that you need spend $150M to make it is ludicrous.

After all, the 6 minute long CGI extravaganza short subject The Raven cost under $5000.00.

Simply put, this film would not make money unless it shattered box office records for the R-Rated horror genre:

The highest-grossing R-rated film of all-time is The Matrix Reloaded, at $742 million worldwide. After that, you get The Passion of the Christ ($611 million), Terminator 2: Judgment Day ($519 million), Troy ($497 million), Saving Private Ryan ($481 million), The Hangover ($467 million), The Matrix and Pretty Woman ( both $463 million), Gladiator ($457 million), The Last Samurai and 300 ( both $456 million), The Exorcist ($441 million), Terminator 3: Rise of the Machine ($433 million), The Matrix Revolutions ($427 million), Sex and the City ($411 million), and The Bodyguard ($410 million – which is arguably why that one is getting remade). That’s just sixteen films in all of modern-motion picture history that have grossed $400 million or more worldwide with an R-rating. The second-highest-grossing R-rated horror film (after The Exorcist) remains Hannibal, with $351 million. I can’t even think of an insanely successful R-rated supernatural horror picture off the top of my head… can you? Point being, even with the once-surefire Tom Cruise allegedly at the helm, an R-rated $150 million supernatural horror film would basically have to become the most successful supernatural R-rated horror film of all-time just to break even.

(Emphasis mine.)

Could someone out in Hollywood explain to me why every film seems to have to cost something north of $100 million?

Even with PR and distribution costs, it seems to me that this could be a $50 million movie, and given the relative cheapness of modern CGI this is very doable, and at that cost, you might clear a profit on the initial theatrical release.

H/t (unsurprisingly) Cthulhu at the Stellar Parthenon BBS.

Leave a Reply