CineSource Collective Narrative
Mise En Scene Feb 11 •
Indies Get Hollywood Competition
Lions Gate Entertainment announced in February 11 that, in addition to its normal releases, it will start producing 10 movies a year in the less than $2 million price point. According to CEO Jon Feltheimer, it was a move to deal with a "motion picture environment facing head winds." Hence, they would be mostly comedies and horror movies, with an "urban" component—Hollywood-speak for 'black.'
Indeed, Lions Gate's 2004 horror outing "Saw," was one of the biggest achievers in that zone with $55 million domestic while last year's, "The Last Exorcism," garnered $41 million both at under $2 million to produce. The trick, according to Joe Drake, president of Lions Gate's motion picture group, is to target at a single demographic and spend only "low-to-mid-$20 million" for advertising much less than the industry average.
Paramount said it would try a similar tactic with the 2009 low-cost smash "Paranormal Activity." But Paramount Insurge switched horses and its 13 million "Justin Bieber: Never Say Never," opened Feb 15 to rave reviews in the teeny bopper press.
Obviously Lions Gate has to do something since it lost $6 million last quarter although that is an improvement from $65.3 million in the last quarter of 2009 although its revenue grew 24% to $422.9 million because of increases in home entertainment sales. Lions Gate sshares have declined 15% since corporate raider Carl Icahn halted his hostile takeover bid last year.
— D. Blair
Hollywood Set to Boom
According to the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation forecast in February, the film/video economy will grow this year albeit slowly. "We're looking at an economy that is poised to start to growing again in 2011," Nancy Sidhu, LAEDC's chief economist told Alana Semuels of the LA Times (2/16/11). In fact, the motion picture/TV industry added 16,500 jobs in 2010 in LA and took the title for the fastest-growing sectors.
LA County is estimated to add 24,100 total jobs in 2011 which is a drop in the bucket considering its unemployment rate, 13% in December, is well above national and California averages. Residential building will also remain slow. "California is a little bit ahead, and in 2011, we're looking to see the improvement spread," Sidhu said.
San Jose and San Diego are leading the boom due to their tech biz but the state's unemployment rate will stay around 12% and only drop to to 11.5% next year with state budget breakdowns continuing to plague job creation. Nevertheless, it is no longer dropping like a rock and entertainment is leading the way up.
— D. Blair
Monster Surf Movie Finally Heads Up
Although the mountain sized waves failed to appear this year for the Maverick Surf contest, held two miles off Pillar Point Harbor north of Half Moon Bay, the movie version may fair better. According to Wallace Baine of the Santa Cruz Sentinel (2/15/11), "The long-rumored Hollywood film about the late Santa Cruz big-wave rider Jay Moriarity and his experiences surfing the infamous break at Maverick's got its green light last week and producer/screenwriter Brandon Hooper [Walden Media] is ready to get started."
"Mavericks" is to start shooting in October, and will done entirely on location in Santa Cruz and Half Moon Bay. "300" star Gerard Butler is slated to star as Moriarity's surfing mentor Frosty Hesson but Moriarity himself is yet to be cast . He is the object of a big search by a prominent Hollywood casting director, according to Hooper. "Obviously he has to be really good surfer and if they don't find what they want in LA they are preparing to hit the road for Australia, New Zealand and South Africa."
Hooper said that there will be a casting in Santa Cruz for extras, if not for the lead role itself. "'Finding a kid who has the qualities of Jay, and is hopefully a strong surfer, is a tall order,'" Hooper, the film's co-screenwriter, admitted.
The script focuses on the year Moriarity took training to prep for Maverick's monster waves. Moriarity was only 16 in 1994 when Santa Cruz surf photographer Bob Barbour caught him wiping out off an Everest-like 25-foot wave, eventually one of surfing's most famous shots and gracing the cover of Surfer magazine and making him famous.
Moriarity died in 2001, at 23, diving alone in the Maldives. He has been remembered for his hot dog moved and meditative spirit which spawned "Live Like Jay" bumper stickers and renaming the surf contest "The Jay at Maverick's." in Moriarity's memory.
Lake Tahoe and East Bay-native Hooper first heard of Moriarity while surfing with his producing partner Jim Meenaghan who once bought a wetsuit from Jay. He went to Maverick's last winter to test cameras and lenses and crack the code of shooting monster waves. Director Curtis Hanson, "L.A. Confidential" (1997) and "8 Mile," (2002) noted he would not sign on until that trick had been solved.
"'He felt that if we're not able to create 'Mavericks' to the point in which (Maverick's veterans) Jeff Clark or Grant Washburn can turn to their significant others during the film and say, 'This is exactly what it's like to surf Maverick's,' then he didn't want any part of it,'" said Hooper who evidently was ablte to convince Hanson since he signed on recently. Hooper's ambition is to equal other important sports films like "Hoosiers," "Breaking Away" and "Chariots of Fire," because of the "relationships between the characters."
— D. Blair
States Hustling Incentives
In Santa Fe, a city grant is going to assist small businesses in New Mexico how to work with the film industry with a series of workshops. They will focus on a wide variety of industries, including construction, plant nurseries, landscapers, hair and make-up professionals, caterers, hardware and building suppliers, clothing and costumes as well as tryin get companies to commit to buying local.
This effort will keep dollars circulating in the local tax base up to four times more than buying at out-of-state chains, according to the Business Alliance that is mounting the workshop in partnership with the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 480 on March 28. The event will feature Holly Roach with Green Production Resource.
Meanwhile in Hawaii, no less a lobbyist then Bill Clinton shilled for a studio tax credit bill. Recruited by giants Relativity Media LLC and Shangri-La Industries, Clinton pushed for tax credits for studios on Maui and Oahu, even though he is being met with jeers of just helping the “the rich get richer.”
Clinton who is involved with both companies (as is old dem buddy James Carville), sent a letter on February 11 to lawmakers noting "The Shangri-La/Relativity commitment to build the most environmentally friendly stages in existence, coupled with the economic benefits of this bill and Hawaii's timeless appeal, will make Hawaii the most attractive place in the world to shoot a film."
The legislation would cost the state an estimated $46 million in lost taxes. Hawaii film production also benefits from hotel room tax exemptions, if their productions require more than one month of filming and rebates from training programs.Relativity CEO Ryan Kavanaugh claims Hawaii will get big benefits from the bill, estimating some 20 additional productions will be filmed there.
Of course this is small change for Kavanaugh's Relativity Media which made $2 billion last year, four to five times greater than in 2009. films like “The Fighter,” $320 million domestic gross thus far, and “Robin Hood,” $311 million, Clinton may become a film star himself beginning with a cameo appearance in the upcoming Relativity Media comedy “The Hangover: Part 2.”
Besides being featured on the big screen, the William Jefferson Clinton Foundation has been a beneficiary of multi-million contributions from motion picture giants, including Shangri-La founder Steve Bing, who contributed between $10 million and $25 million. Clinton serves on the Shangri-La advisory board.
Alas, Lowell Kalapa, president of the Tax Foundation of Hawaii, isn’t shocked or awed by the film giants’ proposals or celebrity players. He says many studies show that tax credits don’t pay for themselves, rather a handful of people “walk off with the bacon,” while stealing money from social service programs. While the film industry claims to provide jobs, they are just temporary ones without long term gain for the economy.
“This is not a beneficial mechanism to attract economic development,” Kalapa says. “Instead of getting ga-ga and awed because stars are involved, we need to step back and see what this proposal means for Hawaii’s resources.” The key to attracting more business is not subsidies, rather it is a stronger business climate that is more friendly for all businesses.
Kalapa thinking is favored in Michigan, where they are set to strikefilm tax breaks, and renounce their position as the US’s third busiest film center after Hollywood and New York. Governor Rick Snyder claims that the incentives are "like writing a check to the filmmakers," and "after hundreds of millions in outlays... the return is only 18 cents on the dollar," which is a low. His plans to curtail it while retaining some incentives to transition to more profitable if less filmmaking.
All very confusing but simply put: Neither Michigan nor Hawaii has the film history and broad industry trickle down of California—making it comparable to comparing apples or pineapples, as it were, to oranges.
— D. Blair