Thursday 31 March 2011

Want to make some money in films? Don't spend any! The Microbudget trend

I would not like to be the head of a film studio these days. With ever inflating budgets and ever rising marketing costs, bigger risks are being taken, while frequentation is dwindling. And while there are bigger revenues sources these days, with the 3D surcharge, dvd, blu-ray rentals etc..., I wonder if we might see the repeat of a studio destroying box office flop. I am actually predicting Green Lantern with Ryan Reynolds is going to be a massive flop this year, and Captain America will disappoint. Lack of buzz coupled with superhero fatigue from the audience and cooly received trailers...

Macro budget The green lantern

And it is easy now to forget the sleepless nights endured by Fox executives when the first trailer of mega expensive Avatar was released, after the incredulous and vitriolic reception of film fans.

CNBC has released the list of the 15 most profitable films in history (with budget adjusted for inflation and based on return to investments), and it is no surprise that while Avatar and the Lord of the rings trilogy earned their place despite their high budget (and even higher box office returns), it is all the sleeper hits that nab the highest places, usually high concept/low budget comedies such as The hangover or, sadly, the projectile vomiting inducing "hilarious" ethnic "comedy" My big fat Greek wedding that takes first place.

But now the trend of microbudget is gathering pace. Microbudget, in film studios world, are films that are made for around $1M or less, while still getting a fairly wide release. With the success of The Blair witch project and more recently Paranormal activity firmly in sight, Lionsgate is producing a serie of microbudgeted movies: Rapturepalooza (Religious/Slacker comedy?!?), Gay Dude (coming of age tale with a twist, and 6 Miranda Drive (supernatural horror). 

This week end, Insidious by James "Saw", made for under a $1m yet attracting fairly big names such as Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne, is opening to raving reviews. Check out the deliciously scary trailer:

Finally, and more interestingly, Francis Ford Coppola, whose own ruinous One from the heart pretty much brought down his own studio in the early 80's, and who seems to have found a new inspiration with low budgets such as Youth without youth and Tetro, has been filming an intriguingly sounding microbudget horror "Twixt now and sunrise", pretty much on his backyard, starring Val Kilmer and ex-wife Joanne Whaley-Kilmer. Not much is known about this film, which the director describes as part personnal, part gothic romance, part Halloween show. Now THAT's something I would like to see!

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