Veteran movie producer Lynda Obst explains it all in an excerpt from her book 'Sleepless in Hollywood'
We all know that DVD sales have dropped drastically since the heyday of the mid-2000s, and Blu-ray hasn't come close to making up the difference. Streaming media and VOD has cut into disc rentals and thousands of rental stores have shuttered in the last eight years, resulting in huge drop in disc sales for rental libraries. Digital copies are challenging individual sales. It's changed the way we collect and watch movies at home.
It also changed the way Hollywood makes movies, and the kinds of movies that get made, says Lynda Obst, a veteran Hollywood producer with such credits as "The Fisher King," "Sleepless in Seattle," and "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days" (okay, so they weren't all classics).
In an excerpt from her new book "Sleepless in Hollywood: Tales from the New Abnormal in the Movie Business" featured at Salon, she lays out the economics of Hollywood and the business model shaken by the loss of disc sale revenues, in a conversation with producer Peter Chermin:
This was, literally, a Great Contraction. Something drastic had happened to our industry, and this was it. Surely there were other factors: Young males were disappearing into video games; there were hundreds of home entertainment choices available for nesting families; the Net. But slicing a huge chunk of reliable profits right out of the bottom line forever?
This was mind-boggling to me, and I’ve been in the business for thirty years. Peter continued as I absorbed the depths and roots of what I was starting to think of as the Great Contraction. “Which means if nothing else changed, they would all be losing money. That’s how serious the DVD downturn is. At best, it could cut their profit in half for new movies.”
Which brings up a question: what was the business model before disc? Or even before glory days of VHS home video rentals?
I guess you'll have to buy the book for that. In the meantime, I can now justify my disc purchases as my contribution to saving Hollywood.
"Sleepless in Hollywood: Tales from the New Abnormal in the Movie Business" by Lynda Obst is published by Simon & Schuster, Inc.
Plus 'The Loving Story,' 'Mumia,' American poets, and more
These are all DVD and VOD only, unless otherwise noted.
"Brooklyn Castle" (Millennium), which won the Audience Award at the 2012 SXSW Film Festival, profiles the championship-caliber inner-city chess program in New York as it was on the verge of even greater glory when the program budget was suddenly slashed. "There is no cinematic way to show a chess game," confesses Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert. "But you can photograph eyes and smiles, and the pride on parents’ faces. And Rochelle’s glow as she’s presented with the title of master, and the four-year college scholarship awarded by the same tournament." More reviews here. Also available on Netflix.
"The Loving Story" (Docurama) recounts the landmark civil rights case surrounding the marriage of Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial union that was ruled illegal by a Virginia judge in 1958, a case that they spent nine years fighting all the way to the Supreme Court. "But there are other reasons to watch this film besides feel-good expediency," writes New York Times TV critic Alessandra Stanley. "The improbably named Lovings, Mildred and Richard, make a compelling couple, and not just because she is half-black, half-Native American and he is good ol’ boy white. In a rich collection of 16-millimeter film, old news clips and still photographs, the Lovings don’t look like two people caught up in a cause, they seem like two people caught up in each other." The film debuted on HBO in 2012. More reviews here.
"Mumia: Long Distance Revolutionary" (First Run), a portrait of the Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamam jailed for the shooting of a Philadelphia police officer, is "More a deification than a documentary," writes Philadelphia Inquirer film critic Steven Rea. "[Director} Vittoria offers lots of context - about the Black Panthers (Abu-Jamal was a member), MOVE (Abu-Jamal, a Philadelphia radio reporter, covered the group and its combative history with police and city officials), George Wallace, and Frank Rizzo - the events of Dec. 9, 1981, are barely examined." Includes the short film "Manufacturing Guilt."
"As Goes Janesville" (Facets) looks at the economic state of the heartland from the ground zero of Janesville, Wisconsin, after the closing of GM factory threw much of the town out of work. The disc includes both the theatrical version of the film and the shorter cut that played on the PBS documentary showcase "Independent Lens." Mike Hale reviews the latter for The New York Times.
Molly Green and James Leffler’s quirky road-trip movie features winning performances by Noël Wells and Matt Mider
One of the most enjoyable parts of attending film festivals is getting the chance to see small indie films made by promising first-time directors and featuring talented actors who are not yet household names. The 19th Annual Los Angeles Film Festival (presented by Film Independent) started this week and I’ve already seen several very original films that completely won me over. One of these is an odd little romantic comedy (of sorts) called “Forev,” written and directed by Molly Green and James Leffler. The film stars Noël Wells and Matt Mider as two slightly damaged souls who get engaged on their first date…sorta.
Sophie (Noël Wells) and Pete (Matt Mider) are kind of friends. Mostly they're just neighbors in a crummy East Hollywood apartment building. When Pete has to drive six hours to pick up his little sister Jess (Amanda Bauer) from college, Sophie invites herself along. Somewhere on the drive through the desert, a joke about getting married escalates, and by the time they arrive at Jess’s sorority house in Phoenix, they are officially engaged. If their lives felt stalled before, then this is the perfect fix. They can split rent, buy milk by the gallon—and, if Sophie marries Pete, he never has to worry about getting up the courage to ask her out. They expect everyone to be as excited as they are by their news but Jess, who just broke up with her long-term boyfriend, is horrified. When their Jeep breaks down on the way home, they find themselves stranded at a seedy motel in the middle of the desert. And, after a night at a local bar, Jess disappears with a bearded drifter. Lost and suddenly dependent on each other, Sophie and Pete’s scramble to find his sister and get back to L.A. exposes the cracks in their budding relationship. By the time they find Jess and her one-night stand, they’ve started to realize that falling in love can be a lot scarier than getting married. “Forev” is a romantic comedy about how far you can go without saying what you mean. It will also make you never want to eat a hot dog again.
I sat down with Molly Green, James Leffler, Noël Wells, and Matt Mider the day before the film’s world premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival.
MSN Movies: How long have you been working on this film?
James Leffler: A little more than two years from the moment we sat down with these guys and said “Let’s make a movie!” to when we finished editing the film a week ago.
Sophie and Pete are such great characters. Did you have to work hard to make them as quirky as they are but still keep us rooting for them?
James: Our thought was that if you knew where they were coming from, you’d still be with them. Most of those moments of humanity came from working with these guys as we were writing the script.
Molly Green: But we did spend a lot of time reining it in so they always seemed real.
Matt Mider: I come from sketch comedy so wacky and silly is what I think is funniest. My first instinct when we were making the film was always to do something really stupid. I feel like they had to do a lot of, “Okay, that was funny but now let’s try it another way!”
Molly: But some of that stuff stayed in. It was good to have those moments, too! Matt’s character is a guy whose only way to express emotion is through weird physical contact. He can only honk on someone or give them a giant hug or noogie. He can’t actually be real with people.
Noël Wells: He treats everyone he knows, even Sophie who he’s interested in, like a younger sibling.
Did you do a lot of improvising on set?
Molly: We mostly improvised the scenes beforehand, and then we incorporated the best stuff into the script.
James: Yeah, we had the structure down but some great lines still came as we were shooting. And a few times we relied on Noël and Matt. One time we weren’t sure how to describe something so we just wrote into the script, “Noël will make this work!”
Molly: Noël will always kill physical comedy!
Noël, so you also came from improv comedy?
Noël: Yeah, that’s how Matt and I met each other. I was in his sketch magic show in Austin. I was a magician’s assistant—and I also played Britney Spears.
Is there a difference?
Only in the boobs.
'I knew "If I don't make this film, someone else will ..."'
Smiling, tanned, and appropriately muscled under a white t-shirt, director Zack Snyder is modestly self-effacing about his work on "Man of Steel"; ask him if he'd like to tackle a sequel (before, of course, said sequel was in fact fast-tracked even before release) and he actually knocks on the wooden arm of his chair for luck before stating that it's all up to fortune. We spoke with Snyder in Burbank about taking rthe job, doing the job, and how deconstructing superheroics in "Watchmen" may have helped him re-construct them for "Man of Steel" ...
MSN Movies: I'm incredibly curious, when Christopher Nolan and Warner Brothers who own DC Comics come to you and say, "By the way, we think we'd like you to reinterpret a 20th century icon in the 21st century," do you kind of look over your shoulder and go, "What? Me?"
Zach Snyder: Yeah, I absolutely do that. And I not only do I do that, I go like, when I realize they're serious I'm like, "Woah. Wow. Okay. Are you sure?" (Laughs) No, but I think that, and also I'm a fan. So that's the other big problem. It's not just an icon; it's an icon that I am a huge fan of. So the responsibility is even two-fold. It's massive.
The terrifying responsibility of making a movie that you would've actually liked to see?
100 percent. That's exactly what it is. And more than that it's like, you know, if I don't do it someone else will, and then I have myself to blame again.
Right, and all you're going to be is mad.
Like, "Ooh, I could've done this."
Like, "Why didn't I? What's the matter with me?"
I'm not going to be specific because part of the pleasure of this film is in the changes, but I can think of at least three big pieces of Superman canon that you kind of throw out the window for the purposes of making a better film. Was it good to know that you could do that? That the movie came first and not adherence to the past?
"It's a heartfelt story with important lessons in it ... and it also has some epic action."
Wearing an entirely appropriate shade of blue, Henry Cavil's somehow both excited and exhausted as he talks about plying Superman in Zack Snyder's "Man of Steel"; the British-born actor's in almost every scene of Snyder's film, and while Superman's cape has more than a little cultural weight, he seems to bear that burden with no small amount of enthusiasm. we spoke with Cavill in Burbank about playing an icon, what his new role means for his nephews, and more ...
MSN Movies: I guess my first question would have two parts. You are not from these parts, much like Superman; what's it like for you as a British actor to, a) to be asked to play such an American but global icon, and b) what's it like to actually get to the nitty-gritty of playing all of that?
Henry Cavill: To answer the first part, it's not necessarily an issue for me. I never thought, "Oh my goodness. Because this person's from here they can't play this." And I don’t think that's ... I mean it could be anyone. It could be an Irishman playing James Bond, you know? And it never even crossed my mind that that was an issue because actors are actors. We pretend to be someone else. Superman is an invulnerable alien from the planet Krypton so...
It's very hard to apply your own life to that.
Exactly. And it doesn't matter, I mean if we can find a lad from Krypton who happens to be invulnerable then I think he should play the role. Yeah, he might have a greater insight to the character.
Better qualified for the part.
Yes. I also like the idea of 'a lad from Krypton.' It sounds so charming. It sounds like a musical.
(Laughs) "The Lad From Krypton."
Roger Corman launches a subscription service on YouTube at a drive-in price
Roger Corman, the last man standing to claim the title of King of the Bs, is also one of the most business savvy producers to build a film library. For decades, Corman has leased his library of over 400 movies to various cable, VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, and streaming services.
Now he's launched his own streaming service. On Thursday, June 13, Corman's Drive-In debuted as a subscription channel on YouTube. The channel debuts with 30 initial offerings, with plans to add 30 more each month, at a bargain price of $3.99 a month. You can try it out with a 14-day free trial
Among the first wave of Corman productions are "Cry Baby Killer" (1958), which gave Jack Nicholson his first leading role; "Piranha" (1978), directed by Joe Dante from a John Sayles script; the goofy headtrip "Brain Dead" (1990) from Adam Simon; the low-budget "Star Wars" rip-off "Star Crash" (1978) and the "Alien" knock-off "Forbidden World" (1982).
Lynn Shelton's latest comes with an ironic twist
'This is a movie that says that love is the most powerful thing there is ...'
Russell Crowe is smiling and happy as he meets the press to talk about his role as Super-dad Jor-El in "Man of Steel." Compliment his suit and he makes the international sign for Euro-sophistication, upturned hand with the fingers meeting above it, as he intones "Giorgio Aaaaarmani." We spoke with Crowe in Burbank about what made him come on board, Jor-El's ultimate fate and what his kids most enjoyed about the film ...
MSN Movies: You play Jor-El, the father of Kal-El who becomes Superman. We were just talking about the suit you're wearing today, which is a Giorgio Armani. But when you're playing Superman's dad, how much do the clothes make the Kryptonian? You have some great costumes in this; does it help?
Russell Crowe: The council chamber costume was probably the biggest battle I had in the whole movie -- me versus that costume. It was very difficult to even walk around in, that thing, and it's so heavy. And so when you have a fight sequence with it as well and the choreography, one of the moves is like a kick so you're trying to lift up your leg under that, all those layers of material. But the bottom line thing, the essential spandex, four layers of spandex thing, that definitely made you feel powerful.
And the other thing is, you do get to get your fight on a little bit in this. Normally when we see Superman's dad, he's intoning to preside over the launch of the rocket. Was it nice to be slightly more proactive version of that?
Well, I don’t know those; I've never seen those other films, so I don’t really know what the references are. But certainly I was a little surprised at the size of the character when it first came to me, but I think it's cool. I mean I did have to explain to my kids, that, unfortunately I will die multiple times before their eyes. (Laughs)
A little bit grim.
A little bit.