Movie moguls usually have to grit their teeth during the media company quarterly earnings season as they begrudgingly acknowledge the bombs they had to write off. But the 3Q reports that will begin to come out in two weeks could be different, RBC Capital Markets analyst David Bank says this morning. Only one film from the quarter — DreamWorks’ Cowboys & Aliens – “looks likely to be a write-down.” And the outlook for 4Q is encouraging due to “the strong existing slate, combined with the likelihood of surprise ‘tentpoles’ and … relatively easy comps” vs 4Q 2010. He’s particularly impressed by the soaring returns from overseas, where the number of movie theaters is growing. He notes that this year major films are generating more than 1.65 as much from international box offices as they do from domestic, up from 1.45 last year. Bank says that Hollywood is zeroing in on the right investment formula: Spend big on “culturally neutral action/adventure movies” that play well abroad — and slash budgets for comedies that often don’t travel well.
NBC’s broadcast network is reviving faster than Comcast expected and represents “our biggest upside in the near term,” NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke told an investment conference this morning. Since Comcast bought a 51% stake in NBCU in January, “most of the things that have changed have changed for the better.” He says that the national ad business remains “very strong” — with spots for the 2012 Super Bowl nearly sold out. Although there are growing signs that the economy may weaken or stagnate, Burke told the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Media, Communications and Entertainment Conference that NBC can improve once it gets the respect he says the network deserves from advertisers. He says unit prices for NBC’s ads “are discounted heavily, up to 25%” vs. ABC, CBS, and Fox. If NBC develops more must-see shows then the gap should narrow and “you can imagine hundreds of millions (of dollars) in EBITDA coming in.” Burke adds that NBC-owned stations also are “significantly less profitable than we need to be” and that “there’s no reason” that Spanish-language network Telemundo can’t reach a bigger audience. Burke also is upbeat about revenues from the networks’ and stations retransmission consent deals with cable and satellite distributors — including Comcast. The exec says that some of that cash will go back into programming. The network’s previous owner, General Electric, “had not been as enthusiastic about the business and had not been as willing to invest as we are.”
Deadline Comic-Con Movie Contributor Luke Y Thompson reports:
It’s the story every media outlet is dying to tell every year: “Comic-Con just ain’t what it used to be.” This year, however, the event — set for July 21-24 at the San Diego Convention Center — comes with some alarmist (and circumstantial) evidence: Warner Bros won’t be doing a movie presentation. Marvel Studios won’t be either, even though the tiniest teaser for The Avengers last year made for the most memorable panel. Disney initially appeared absent too. So what’s going on? Did the failure of Scott Pilgrim to triumph at the box office following a massive Con promotion last year leave studios leery?
Well, you’d think if that were the case, Universal would feel the most burned — yet they’re doubling down by holding the premiere of Cowboys and Aliens there, inviting many of the fans to attend; one would imagine the big names like Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig will at least attend.
Disney, which now owns the Muppets and Marvel Studios, is likely saving those properties for its own D23 Expo in Anaheim toward the end of August. They are, however, bringing the DreamWorks pickup Fright Night to Comic-Con (in presentation and screening form) — notably, this is a movie that will open Aug. 19, the same day the D23 Expo begins, so it makes sense to hype it sooner. Colin Farrell, Anton Yelchin and Christopher Mintz-Plasse are the big names attending; curiously, the publicity has consistently downplayed the presence of former Doctor Who star David Tenant, and he has not been mentioned as attending, though he’d be given a hero’s welcome if he did.
Warner Bros’ lack of a movie panel may largely be due to the fact that the next Superman and Batman movies aren’t ready to show much yet — Man of Steel star Henry Cavill will be there, but on behalf of Relativity’s Immortals (also Luke Evans, Kellan Lutz and Mickey Rourke; director Tarsem Singh is not currently expected). Certainly WB is showing a ton of TV previews, but I’ll leave that to my colleague Gary Hodges to discuss. The biggest question mark in my mind is what Time Warner-owned Entertainment Weekly will put on the cover of their Comic-Con issue now: traditionally, it’s been a big reveal from a Warners movie.
The biggest name being batted about right now as a possibility is Steven Spielberg, to present footage from his The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn. Certainly, a Tintin presentation would be wise, as the teaser has left many (myself included) highly skeptical. The fanbase needs persuading, and since it’s Spielberg, there’s probably at least one kickass scene that can get people hyped. But Paramount’s still playing things close to the vest — when I asked a publicist there about Comic-Con plans, I was told “It’s uncertain what or if we’re bringing anything.” That’s not a denial. And there has been talk of a Captain America screening — whether that translates into an actual panel is uncertain, as the regular press junkets and such will already be in full swing for the movie, opening that week.
Just as I hit the ground at the Nice airport today I ran smack into Jude Law, one of the main competition jury members of the 64th edition of the Cannes Film Festival (under President Robert De Niro), and he looked rarin’ to go as he arrived for all the hoopla and non-stop filmgoing over the next 11 days. We’ll see what he feels like after plowing through the 20 competition films as well as those out of competition such as Wednesday night’s opener, Woody Allen’s Midnight In Paris, and the closer, on May 22, Christophe Honore’s 2-hour and 25-minute Les Bien-Aimes (Beloved), the longest of any film in the official competition — competing or not.
Workers were busily attaching huge billboards up on the big Croisette hotels when I cruised the tony neighborhood earlier today, but the world’s second-most-famous red carpet won’t be laid out until midday tomorrow just before Woody, Marion Cotillard, Owen Wilson and the cast of the director’s first French-set film make their way up those famous Palais steps for his love letter to Paree. It was hoped that co-star Carla Bruni, aka Mrs. Nicolas Sarkozy, First Lady of France, would be coming too, but I heard she’s not making the trip after all and neither is her husband. C’est La Vie.
Up and down the Croisette you are bombarded as usual by Hollywood product being hyped on any available space. The new Transformers film from that auteur (NOT) Michael Bay got the hot spot at the Carlton entrance right next to a display for Disney/Pixar’s Cars 2 on one side and Cowboys and Aliens on the other. Lording over them, though, are The Smurfs and all of those Pirates of the Caribbean, which plans to make a huge splash here Saturday as the prime-time film on one of the key nights of the fest. Star power will be in force, of course, with Johnny Depp and Penelope Cruz driving the paparazzi wild, which is just what Disney wants for its global launch of the film that premiered last week at Disneyland and makes another stop in Moscow before hitting the Cote d’Azur. Cannes, though a serious-minded haven for cineastes, doesn’t mind the attention either.