It’s official: THE LONE RANGER, the latest Gore Verbinski/Johnny Depp period piece film, is a big flop with awful reviews, and an anemic $48.9 million in a five-day holiday opening, which might not be so bad if it hadn’t cost $250 million to make and $175 million to market. And that’s AFTER it got shut down for a while during production because Disney knew it was costing too much.
“It’s very disappointing,” said Disney executive vp worldwide distribution Dave Hollis. “Everything was perfect on paper, so today was incredibly frustrating.”
Perfect on paper you say? Over at Vulture, Gilbert Cruz analyzes the flop in a piece called “The Lone Ranger Represents Everything That’s Wrong With Hollywood Blockbusters”:
The Lone Ranger — a.k.a. Pirates of the Caribbean 4.5: Sparrow Goes West — is looking like it might be a huge tentpole movie (it reportedly cost $215-250 million) that goes down this weekend. It also happens to be a perfect example of almost everything that’s wrong with the current Hollywood blockbuster system. In addition to being massively expensive, The Lone Ranger demonstrates the industry’s franchise obsession, origin-story laziness, over-reliance on bloodless violence, and inability to prevent running-time bloat. These are not small problems, and there is no sign that they will be riding off into the sunset anytime soon.
Accurate enough, and something we noted all the way back in 2006 after seeing PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN 2, an alarmingly bloated, plotless, and chaotic vid game of a movie that nonetheless was one of the biggest openings ever at the time.
Thus, even as Hollywood wonders more and more why people just don’t want to go to the movies anymore, they get more and more frantic. More and more action must be the answer. Where the real danger lies is that even intelligent movie-goers can no longer tell the difference between videogame action and good movies.
While it’s been entertaining to watch Johnny Depp turn into Mickey Rourke, someone has to just take the megaphone out of Verbinski’s hands. Aside from the freak hit POTC 1, he’s an awful director with no sense of pacing or drama. Producer Jerry Bruckheimer, who has a long series of misfires to match his hits, also needs to do a gut check. (Sorcerer’s Apprentice, anyone?)
In a much linked to—and breathlessly written—excerpt from her book, Sleepless in Hollywood, producer Lynda Obst goes on a vision quest to ask Hollywood players why things are so bad in Hollywood these days, and they definitely need a shot or two of ca phe hoa tan:
“They’re completely broke,” said a studio head, when asked by me (of course) about how different things were these days. He spoke about famous players who regularly came to him begging for favors—a picture, a handout, anything.
“Why?” his very East Coast guest asked incredulously. I recalled his exact words as I sat in bumper-to-bumper traffic.
“They have extremely high overheads,” he said to his guest with me listening in. “They have multiple houses, wives, and families to support. They’ve made movies for years, they were on top of the world and had no reason to think it would end. And then suddenly it did. They’ve gone through whatever savings they had. They can’t sell their real estate. Their overhead is as astronomical as their fees used to be. They’ve taken out loans, so they’re highly leveraged. It’s a tragedy.”
While tragic overleverage is one thing, other elements of current Hollywood anxiety: the collapse of the DVD market and increasing reliance on foreign markets to earn back these giant $250 million budgets that seem to be required for anything resembling a hit. It’s also why Hollywood is so obsessed with remaking everything in sight.
Of course, as I’ve often written about the comics industry, people who say the movies are dying really mean whatever their job was in Hollywood is dying or no longer needed. Nobody knows anything, the maxim first coined by screenwriter William “The Princess Bride” Goldman, has never seemed so accurate.