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Film:Will the Sequels be Greenlit?

Hasdi March 31, 2011 User blog:Hasdi

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This blogpost contains frequently answered questions related to greenlighting the sequels to M. Night Shyamalan's Film:The Last Airbender. It was originally on Film:The Last Airbender 2 page.

1) Didn't the first movie "lost" money?

Thanks to Hollywood accounting, nobody really knows how much was spent on the first movie. As such, the $280 million figure[1] reportedly for the combined production and marketing expenses is a sunk cost. Frank Marshall, one of the film producers, also had dismissed that figure as a rumor[2]. However, Paramount had stated that the film exceeded its expectations after the 5-day opening[3]: it earned $53.2 million for the four-day period, $70.5 million including Thursday sales, distributor Paramount Pictures said. The Viacom Inc. unit had hoped for a $50 million-plus opening over the five days. Whatever was actually spent on the first movie, Paramount wouldn't hope for a "losing" figure, would they?

2) Suppose the movie did lose money - why would Paramount greenlight the sequel?

Only prospective (future) costs are relevant to an investment decision; Paramount will look at the available funds, and decide on which movies to greenlight based on how much revenue each movie is projected to bring in (estimated from worldwide gross, DVD sales, etc., etc,. with appropriate risk factors), versus how much money the producer for a movie say it would cost to produce.
A good example with a similar Paramount franchise (for live-action adaptation of an animated series) is G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009). The movie grossed $302,139,942 worldwide, less than its $325 million combined budget[4], the same news outlet that the $280 million figure for The Last Airbender (TLA) originated:
  • G.I. Joe MOVIE was released on August 7, 2009. (TLA MOVIE was released July 1, 2010)
  • G.I. Joe DVD was released on November 3, 2009. (TLA DVD was released November 16, 2010)
  • G.I. Joe SEQUEL was greenlit on January 6, 2010.
Since TLA has already grossed $319,123,021 worldwide, its sequel may be greenlit in January 2011 or later if Paramount feels it is worth the investment. It is common for corporations to commit to large capital expenditures at the beginning of the tax year, right after the previous year balance sheet is finalized. This is within the time-frame Shyamalan indicated that "In the next few months we’ll be able to know whether we have that opportunity or not" in response to when will we know the sequel is happening[5].

3) Why would Paramount greenlight a sequel to "bad" movie?

Good or bad, Film: The Last Airbender made money for Paramount, and M. Night Shyamalan is the 'devil' they know who can deliver, should Paramount decide investing in the sequels have merit. A built-in fanbase for Avatar: The Last Airbender is no guarantee the movie will be a financial success. For example, the Punisher has arguably more established and wider built-in fanbase; it was made 3 times with 3 different directors and 3 different set of cast, but sadly, all box office failures[6][7][8]. A similar argument can be made for Serenity (2005) with its strong Firefly TV-series fanbase, noted to have the same director (Joss Whedon) and cast as the TV series, with superb acting and dialogue, but only grossed $38,869,464 worldwide [9].

4) But The Last Airbender was nominated NINE times for the Razzies! And won FIVE of the possible EIGHT awards!!!

Twilight: Eclipse was nominated nine times too, and the Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen was nominated seven times the year prior (and won Worst Picture). A bad rep for Twilight won't stop Summit Entertainment, and neither will Paramount for The Last Airbender (and Transformers). If Jackass: The Movie and its sequels made money for Paramount, you can be sure that there will be more Jackass movies down the pipeline, regardless of how distasteful those movies were to the general population.

References

  1. Claudia Eller, 'Last Airbender' carries Shyamalan into new territory, Los Angeles Times, June 25, 2010
  2. http://twitter.com/LeDoctor/status/22714429492 1 September 2010 14:59:53 (GMT)
  3. Dean Goodman, 'Twilight' sequel eclipsed by earlier installment, "Last Airbender" Outperforms, Reuters, Mon Jul 5, 2010 12:46pm EDT
  4. Ben Fritz, 'G.I. Joe' opens to $100 million worldwide, but will it hold?, Los Angeles Times, August 9, 2009 | 11:14 am
  5. Lane Brown, Vulture Breaks the News to M. Night Shyamalan About The Last Airbender’s Reviews, New York Magazine; Vulture, 7/1/10 at 4:30 PM EDT
  6. Dolph: The Ultimate Guide, The Punisher (1989)
  7. Box Office Mojo, The Punisher (2004)
  8. Box Office Mojo, Punisher: War Zone (2008)
  9. Box Office Mojo, Serenity (2005)

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