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3 Big Hollywood Directors Crash & Burn

By | Sunday July 23, 2006 @ 8:45am PDT

Box Office Update

It’s surprising but not exactly unexpected: three big film directors crashed and burned at the box office this weekend. M. Night Shyamalan’s Lady in the Water, Ivan Reitman’s My Super Ex-Girlfriend, and Kevin Smith’s Clerks 2, all bombed badly with moviegoers. (It’s not that the budgets were necessarily outsized — in fact, Clerks 2 was cheap — but by the time insanely high marketing costs on average $36 mil are factored in, the movies should have gone straight to video.) So, why? In my opinion, blame it on the arrogance that unfortunately follows Hollywood success. All three directors — Shyamalan, Reitman and Smith — have experienced the best of the box office in their past: great reviews, great grosses, great wealth. That’s when the disconnect comes in. Even though ousted Disney exec Nina Jacobson told Shyamalan that his Lady script had problems and that’s why she wouldn’t greenlight it, he refused to listen and even trashed her. Even though Reitman is one of the richest directors around and has little in common with the young guys who are his target audience, he keeps making one bad movie after another. Even though Smith was once lauded as the rebel, he is so much the insider these days he does shtick on Leno. (And Kevin sank … Read More »

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EXCLUSIVE: Jake Gyllenhaal Wants To Play Lance Armstrong in Sony Bio-Pic

By | Saturday July 22, 2006 @ 1:08pm PDT

A Socialite's Life Image ViewerYes it’s true — I’m told Jake Gyllenhaal and Lance Armstrong are hanging at the Tour De France together because the actor is the leading contender to play the cyclist in a Sony bio pic being quietly developed. On Sunday, the two sat in a Paris hotel together with friends as American Floyd Landis stood on the podium after winning the 2006 Tour de France. Needless to say, the European press went into a speculation frenzy when the Lance and Jake first showed up together . As Saturday’s all-important Individual Time Trial began, Jake joined the seven-time TdF winner in the Discovery team car for a ride-along as Lance protégé Yaroslav Popovych pedalled away. (Lance’s Discovery team faltered without him this TdF, but Landis of Phonak took the yellow jersey and eventually won the overall race). Earlier in the day, Lance met with the Tour de France organizers to lessen the tension. Armstrong, his agent Bill Stapleton, Discovery sports manager Johan Bruyneel, and Tour de France Directors Jean Marie Blanc and Christian Prudhomme had what insiders called “a heart-to-heart discussion” aboard the Discovery bus. “The meeting went well,” Bill Stapleton said later. “Everyone left with a feeling of mutual respect.” Obviously the Tour’s assistance, while not required, would be helpful to the bio-pic. Gyllenhaal and Armstrong have become pals during Jake’s method process to get to know the sports legend. The actor of Brokeback Mountain and Jarhead fame is even a long-time cyclist and has begun … Read More »

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‘Monster House’ Scares Away ‘Lady In The Water’ For #2; #1 ‘Pirates’ Past $321 Mil; ‘Super Ex’ & ‘Clerks 2′ Bomb Big

By | Friday July 21, 2006 @ 7:35pm PDT

SUNDAY: This box office weekend was notable more for which opening movies bombed than which succeeded. Warner’s Lady in the Water from M. Night Shyamalan, Fox’s My Super Ex-Girlfriend from Ivan Reitman, and MGM / Weinstein’s Clerks 2 from Kevin Smith all did disastrous in U.S. theaters. That left it up to Sony’s Monster House from Zemeckis/Spielberg and Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean 2: Dead Man’s Chest to scare away the competition. I’m told Monster House gross was up 18% Saturday compared to Friday to finish its debut weekend #2 with a surprisingly good $22.5 million, while Lady in the Water fell 5% for #3 with just $17.5 million. Shyamalan’s latest had been expected to perform much, much better, up a spot in the mid-$20s, whereas Monster House had been expected to end down a spot with only mid-teens. But the buzz on the movie, marketed as a horror flick when it’s not, has been bad for weeks prior to Friday’s opening. Meanwhile, film critics wondered in print whether Monster House was suitable for rug rats, but that didn’t seem to matter. Pirates 2 pulled in $35.5 mil to safely occupy #1, hauling in more than $321.7 mil after just 17 days and passing the total take of the first installment. Universal’s Me You and Dupree was #4 with $13 mil and Sony’s Little Man #5 with $11 mil. Clerks 2 dropped 20% Saturday compared to Friday so it may not even … Read More »

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Isn’t This Jumping The 007 Gun?

By | Thursday July 20, 2006 @ 3:32pm PDT

“Culver City, CA – July 20, 2006. It was announced today by producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. and Sony Pictures Entertainment, that the 22nd James Bond adventure will be released by Columbia Pictures on May 2, 2008 with Daniel Craig reprising the role of the legendary British secret agent. The story for the latest James Bond film produced by the franchise holders, EON Productions, has yet to be announced. “As we wrap production on Casino Royale, we couldn’t be more excited about the direction the franchise is heading with Daniel Craig. Daniel has taken the origins of Ian Fleming’s James Bond portraying, with emotional complexity, a darker and edgier 007,” said Wilson and Broccoli. EON Productions is owned by the Broccoli family.”

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Mo’ Reasons Why TV Critics’ Assoc Blows

By | Wednesday July 19, 2006 @ 11:34am PDT

I love Hollywood Reporter TV bloggist Ray Richmond’s “10 Iron-Clad Unwritten Rules” of those dreadful TV critics’ dog-and-pony shows put on by broadcasters for them. For newbies, the Television Critics Association represents more than 220 journalists writing about television for print and online outlets in the United States and Canada. Personally, I consider being a buttboy like that no way to report the beat, but I recognize that podunk papers have a harder time getting to the big guys. (What’s amusing is that RR’s rules also apply to those derelict types who attend those equally dreadful movie junkets.) In my opinion, the best summary of everything that’s wrong with the TCA was done by Sharon Waxman for the American Journalism Review back in 1998 –  Spoon-Fed News. (Interesting factoid: knowing that Waxman was writing this piece, the TCA cracked down on their rules regarding gifts.) Actually it’s telling to look at my (typically) loud-mouthed quotes from back then and see that I, and my opinions, haven’t changed:

tcalogo1.JPG“But eliminating the freebies does not address the bigger problem: Worse than eating what the networks serve for lunch (and breakfast and dinner) is swallowing their spoon-fed news. “It’s ludicrous,” says Nikki Finke, [then] New York magazine’s West Coast editor … Read More »

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Nina… And Then There Will Be None

By | Wednesday July 19, 2006 @ 12:25am PDT

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Not since Dawn Steel learned she was ousted as president of production while on maternity leave from Paramount has a top woman movie executive found out this brutally she’d been axed in Hollywood. Even years later, when I sat down to interview her, Dawn still acknowledged that moment was like an open wound. According to news reports, Nina Jacobson heard about her Disney firing at the hospital, just after her partner had given birth to their third child. When she called studio boss Dick Cook to share her great joy, then asked him what was going on, he broke the awful news. (See my Nina Jacobson Out). I’m told she was “devastated,” and understandably so. The timing took everyone by surprise, especially since she’d recently renegotiated her contract. Ironically, it was 15 months ago that The New York Times was trumpeting “Hollywood’s New Old Girls’ Network” on the cover of the Sunday Arts and Leisure Section, pegged to Brad Grey’s naming Gail Berman to lead Paramount pics’ creative team. “He did something that has become almost routine in Hollywood: he put a woman in charge of the show….Four of the six major film studios have women in the top creative decision-making roles … these women … have finally buried the notion that Hollywood is a man’s world. So striking is the change that some now see Hollywood as a gender-based model for the rest of corporate America.”

But that was … Read More »

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DISNEY SHOCKER! Nina Jacobson Out; Oren Aviv In; Hollywood Left Puzzled

By | Tuesday July 18, 2006 @ 3:21pm PDT

UPDATE: And Then There Will Be None…

Hollywood is agog over Disney movie move: Nina Jacobson out. Oren Aviv in. I’m told that Jacobson, prez of the Buena Vista Motion Pictures Group, was under big pressure from corporate as part of the so-called “Iger strategy” to slash and burn the movie division. ”The studio is undergoing a major reorganization, and there simply isn’t room for everyone in the new structure,” Jacobson, who’s liked and respected around Hollywood, said in a statement. Of course, Jacobson’s axing is buried in the official Disney press release, which leads off with Dick Cook, the chairman of Walt Disney Studios, announcing today “a strategic shift toward more Disney branded movies. The studio will produce and distribute approximately 10 Disney live-action and animated films a year and two to three Touchstone films a year.” But Hollywood is shocked — not to mention puzzled — that Disney made this major personnel change on the heels of the huge success of Pirates 2 and Narnia.

Aviv will now be president of production for Walt Disney Pictures, his second promotion in 15 months: in April 2005, he was upped to president of marketing and chief creative officer of Walt Disney Studios. (I’m told that the uber-ambitious Aviv, a previous president of marketing for Buena Vista Pictures Marketing, helped set the stage for his ascent by telling Disney a while ago that Paramount’s Brad Grey had offered him a big position.) Touted as a key player in “redefining and growing” the Disney, Touchstone and Miramax … Read More »

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HuffPo Seeks $5 Million in New Funding

By | Tuesday July 18, 2006 @ 1:51pm PDT

Back when The Huffington Post first began in May 2005, I reported in LA Weekly that, during conversations with potential investors, Arianna spoke of her ambition to raise $5 million to underwrite her new venture. Now, she’s more intent than ever on fulfilling that goal. As whispers wafted to me in recent weeks that HuffPo was on the $$$ prowl, Private Equity Week confirms today that The Huffington Post is indeed aiming to raise $5 million in venture capital — its first institutional funding round. Both Arianna Huffington and Ken Lerer won’t spill. But HuffPo has been talking to VCs and hopes to close the round by the end of summer. Bootstrapped with $2 million, HuffPo might want the capital to scale its operations and grow ancillary properties. (It has already spun out Contagious Festival and Eat The Press.) But the weekly asks, “Why it needs $5 million in outside capital to fulfill its vision is another question. Clearly, its founders aren’t hurting for money. Moreover, two weeks ago, Huffington inked an agreement with IAC/Interactive Corp., in which IAC’s Advertising Solutions sales group will exclusively sell advertising for the site.” That’s Barry Diller’s company, for those not in the know. The weekly speculated that “Huffington’s efforts to raise outside capital may suggest that it plans to sell itself to a larger media property down the road.”

Now back to my earlier reporting. From the start, Huffington stressed the profit potential of her venture to potential investors – likening it to getting in Read More »

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Bernie Pisses On Pellicano Et Al

By | Tuesday July 18, 2006 @ 11:48am PDT

Bernie Weinraub, one of Pellicano’s victims, rants wryly on The Huffington Post today about Ken Aulleta’s New Yorker article about the P.I., Fields and Ovitz. (That story is not online. See my New Yorker’s Auletta On Pellicano Probe: Interviews Bert Fields & Mike Ovitz.) “The article is really funny,” Weinraub gripes. “Fields and Ovitz are such pussycats here. They are shocked, shocked, that their friend Anthony would have done all those terrible things that the prosecutors said he did … And we are supposed to believe this bullshit?” Since Sunday, I’ve been hearing from Hollywood types who were very disappointed by Auletta’s tepid piece. They expected him to advance the Pellicano probe; he didn’t at all. They were especially shocked that he let Ovitz off the hook.

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LAT’s Amy Wallace Jumps to Portfolio

By | Monday July 17, 2006 @ 4:21pm PDT

I’m told Amy Wallace’s August departure as Deputy Business Editor in charge of entertainment coverage for the Los Angeles Times has caught her bosses completely by surprise. But her forthcoming jump to Conde Nast’s new biz mag, Portfolio, certainly makes sense for her personally if not professionally: it’s a high-profile writing gig that doesn’t require too much heavy lifting. I defer to Kevin Roderick’s LAObserved.com which has the story and memo. (I was out all day, so he got this way first.) But there’s no decision yet whether to go outside or stay inside to replace Amy. I’d ask Jim Bates to do it: he’s a heckuva guy, very knowledgeable, and extremely respected.

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New Yorker’s Auletta On Pellicano Probe: Interviews Bert Fields & Mike Ovitz

By | Sunday July 16, 2006 @ 8:51am PDT

It’s not online, but The New Yorker‘s Ken Auletta looks at the Pellicano probe with a long 12-page story featuring interviews with Bert Fields and Michael Ovitz. But do they really say anything? No. (Hey, they can’t, given the circumstances.) This is mostly written as a primer for people who don’t know a pelican from a Pellicano. So there’s not much juice for Hollywood folk who’ve been keeping up with the scandal. I’d say the most surprising bit is that Fields now gets $900-an-hour. (His pals have pointed out to me that Bert went on his annual summer vacation to his French chateau. Him worry? Nah!) Plus, more confirmation that Ovitz is going through a dressing-down, long-hair, phase. And he plays the victim yet again, though it’s strange that Auletta didn’t press Ovitz about hiring Pellicano to investigate a long list of Nixonian “enemies.” Key parts:

BertF.jpgFIELDS

…”When I suggested to Fields that even his friends were puzzled by his association with the detective (I used the word ‘thug’), Fields replied slowly, saying, “I never knew him as a thug. I never saw an instance of Anthony hurting anybody or really threatening anybody.” It is also known that no oneused Pellicano more frequently thanFields and his law firm, and that puzzles even friends and former clients, like Jeffrey Katzenberg, who told me, “I cannot reconcile the Bert I know having anything to … Read More »

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Camp Allen Photo Album: #3

By | Saturday July 15, 2006 @ 6:14pm PDT

“Ron Meyer was here a whole eight hours, and he didn’t kiss my ring?”

Terry Semel, CEO and chairman of Yahoo!, Inc., heads toward a morning session, Thursday.

“I’m ignoring you, Mike. I’m not looking at you, Mike. Move along, Mike.

Harvey Weinstein, left, of The Weinstein Company, walks with Michael Ovitz as they head to a morning session, Thursday.

“My main qualification to run Sony? They’re short like you and I can squash them all like bugs.”

Martin Sorrell, left, group chief executive of WPP Group, walks with Howard Stringer, chairman and CEO of Sony Corp., on the way to a morning session, Thursday.

“Yes, it’s true: I’m that cheap.”

Rupert Murdoch, chairman of News Corp., leaves with computer equipment given away at the morning session, Wednesday.

“Now that I’m the part-owner of Univision, I’m dressing like Erik Estrada.”

Haim Saban, left, chairman and CEO of Saban Capital Group, Inc., arrives with wife Cheryl, Wednesday.

“So, Sydney, how gay is Tom Cruise anyway?”

Jack Valenti, left, former chairman and CEO of the Motional Picture Association of America, Inc., arrives with producer/director Sydney Pollack, Wednesday.

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Camp Allen Photo Album: #2

By | Saturday July 15, 2006 @ 5:51pm PDT

“Swing by my condo tonight, Tom. We’re watching all the X-rated movies my MPAA wouldn’t let anyone see.”

Tom Brokaw, right, former anchor of NBC News, throws an arm around Jack Valenti, former chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America, Inc., Friday.Photo

“I’m outta here. These mogul morons can’t even remember my name.”

Actor Tom Hanks leaves a session, Thursday.

“Hey, I’m standing next to Jackie Chan. Wait, wait, it’s I.M. Pei. Wait, wait, it’s Kim Il-Sung…”

Rupert Murdoch, left, chairman of News Corp., chats on a phone as Ngima Lama walks past with floral arrangements, Thursday.

“I said ‘AOL is gonna be free,’ not ‘Cable is gonna be free.’ We’re still gonna gouge you for that.’”

Dick Parsons, chairman and CEO of Time Warner Inc., chats with a reporter, Thursday.

“Les, you’re putting me in an awkward position here. I don’t think enough people want The Moonves Channel featuring all your upfront films.”

Steve Burke, left, president and CEO of Comcast Corp., chats with Leslie Moonves, president and CEO of CBS Corp., Thursday.

“Die already, Rupert! Before your idiot sons get old enough to run News Corp.”

Peter Chernin, president of News Corp., heads to the morning session, Thursday.

“Can’t you tell? I’m doing my best David Schwimmer impression. Howard said this was dress-as-your-favorite-star night.”

Rob Wiesenthal, executive vice president and CFO of Sony Corp. of America, walks to the morning session, Thursday.

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Camp Allen Photo Album: #1

By | Saturday July 15, 2006 @ 5:46pm PDT

“Brad, I’ll vouch that you never knew Pellicano. Hell, I’ll vouch that you never knew Brillstein…”

Jim Wiatt, left, CEO of William Morris Agency Inc, hugs Brad Grey, chairman and CEO of Paramount, Friday.

“Is there anything in my teeth? I just ate my young.”

Richard Lovett, president of Creative Artists Agency, arrives, Friday.

“Herbert requested I leave the leather chaps back in my room.”

Barry Diller, chairman and CEO of InterActive Corp., returns by bicycle after changing into shorts, Friday.

“I may be retired, but at exactly 3 p.m. today, I’m gonna fire Mike Ovitz all over again – just for the hell of it.”

Michael Eisner, left, former chairman and CEO of the Walt Disney Co., checks his watch as he heads to a morning session with wife Jane, Friday.

“See, I am qualified to run Disney. I’ve got Keira Knightley as the screensaver on my cell phone.”

Bob Iger, president and CEO of the Walt Disney Co., gives a wave as he arrives, Friday.

“Jeffrey, I can’t sell Paramount for you. You don’t own it. It owns you.”

Herbert Allen, of Allen & Co., left, walks with Jeffrey Katzenberg, head of DreamWorks Animation, Friday.

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Hot Hollywood Box Office Cools 5%: Pirates Sequel Still Warm At Box Office; Disappointing You Me & Dupree Loses #2 To Little Man; Superman Only #4

By | Friday July 14, 2006 @ 5:52pm PDT

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SUNDAY: Hollywood’s hot, hot, hot box office cooled this weekend, slumping for the first time in 9 weeks: down around 5% compared to last year’s disastrous summer. I’m told Pirates of the Caribbean 2: Dead Man’s Chest took in $64 million (one rival studio, though, put it at $60.5 mil) for the 3-day weekend, or down -52% from its phenomenal opening a week ago. With total gross already $260 mil, the Disney sequel will have no trouble surging past $300 mil next weekend. Still, rival studios had expected the Johnny Depp starrer to make in the mid-$70s mil this weekend, so, even though that’s a lot o’ loot, box office gurus tell me the downturn may be due to watercooler talk: how the sequel doesn’t live up to expectations generated by the first Pirates installment. UPDATE: So is this glass half full or half empty? Disney sources note that, given P2‘s $55.5 million opening day with $9.0 million in midnight screenings, there was bound to be a large drop. They say the sequel came back nicely Saturday and Sunday and posted only a 54% drop from last weekend. “If you back out the midnight revenue, we dropped only 50% which is by far the lowest slide of huge movies this summer. Take a look at Da Vinci and X Men 3‘s drop and you will see it is much greater. Our 10-day number shattered Revenge of the Sith‘s by over … Read More »

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DHD Update: 2 Million Page Views!

By | Thursday July 13, 2006 @ 10:47pm PDT

Today, DHD passed 2,000,000 page views.
With so many Internet choices these days, I’m thrilled anyone even bothers with DHD. Since I started it on March 3rd, there have been weeks I was out of town, or on assignment, or not feeling well, or working on a project, or too lazy to post. Still your tips, comments, advice and information kept coming.
My immense thanks.

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Answer To The Question: What’s Ex-NYT H’wooder Bernie Weinraub Been Doing?

By | Thursday July 13, 2006 @ 12:37am PDT

Only his closest friends and family knew what he was doing, and dreaming, in retirement, and he swore them to secrecy. But he stuck to it, day after day, week after week, month after month, even taking courses for it at UCLA. He entered this contest along with 200 other hopefuls, and the entries were kept anonymous and judged just on their merits. It’s the classic story of the wannabe who suddenly becomes a player. Or, in this case, a playwright. You see, retired New York Times Hollywood correspondent Bernie Weinraub this week won the NYC Stellar Network’s competition, 2006 PLAYS IN PROGRESS, an opportunity for emerging playwrights to gain exposure among top theater industry professionals. So Bernie will have a reading of what is described as his “compelling and beautifully written” work, Accomplices, at NYC’s Atlantic Theater on July 31st produced by the Stellar Network, and cast with professional actors, and directed by Ian Morgan of The New Group. After the reading, leading industry panelists will analyze the business, commercial and artistic aspects of the play; discuss the work’s artistic merits, commercial viability, and design issues; and finally advise what steps the writer can take to further his career as a playwright. Last year’s Play in Progress (Nicola Behrman’s Wasps In Bed) is becoming a fully produced Off-Broadway production this fall. Bernie’s play — based on research, documents, books, interviews and, of course, his own imagination — is the true story of a group of men who came to the United States in 1940 to … Read More »

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Snakes in Hollywood: A Video Clip

By | Tuesday July 11, 2006 @ 5:45pm PDT

While cleaning out my email “in” box, I found this video clip sent by a pal. Pardon me if you’ve already seen it (though people are telling me they haven’t). I find it hysterically accurate about The Biz: Snakes on a Plane: How Hollywood Really Works. Meanwhile, New Line’s PR/marketing department is working overtime on this movie. I’ve rarely read so much incessant blog chatter, and so early, about what is essentially just another over-hyped horror movie. I couldn’t care less if the flick’s good or bad. What interests me is that so many fine actors — Samuel Jackson, Naomi Watts, Jennifer Connolly, Nicole Kidman (albeit hers was a classy one) — have lined up to do this genre. Especially when Steve McQueen spent his career running away from The Blob. I’ve been hearing from agents that everyone wants to make anything horror. My best guess as to why? They think they’ll make a connection with the younger audiences who turn out for these kind of films so that, when these stars do their normally serious films, maybe the new fans will follow. Fat chance.

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P2: Why Does Wall Street Not Even Care?

By | Monday July 10, 2006 @ 12:12pm PDT

If Hollywood were Vegas, then the average Joe could put his money on Disney prior to the weekend and watch his number come up Monday morning when Pirates of the Caribbean 2: Dead Man’s Chest collected its record-breaking box office booty. The closest to that is Wall Street. True, Disney’s stock price spiked 41 cents at one point in trading today, but then it settled down to its normal range. Which just goes to show that, no matter the Hollywood grand slam, the Street is awfully hard to impress. So I contacted a lot of people much smarter than me and asked: Why is it that Wall Street ignores when a studio movie soars? The answer is pretty interesting. I’m told it’s because Wall Street understands that filmed entertainment has become just a small part of a major media company’s overall portfolio of businesses. (One educated guess is that Disney’s entire film/tv unit accounts for about 16% of the company’s market value: that’s only about $4.80 out of the $30.) So an individual film just doesn’t move the dial very much at these huge companies. What’s more, since stocks are typically priced on multiples of the expected value of discounted cash flows, for a film to have an impact, it would not have to do well — it would have to be a shocker. In other words, generate far more profit than investors expected, without something else pulling down the total. (As people who … Read More »

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