Saturday Evening Post – 03.02.11 (The Rock, The Miz, The HHH, The Eric)

Hello again, everyone, I’m Flea and everyone just needs to chill that it’s not Saturday. Wait until then to read it, if so inclined – rumor has it that I’m riding a Lawler-type wave of nostalgia. Who am I to argue?

Today we do a Top 3 of 6 – Monday Night RAW

Come on, let’s go!

NUMBER ONE

The Return of HHH

1) It’s amazing how much animosity H still carries. He did a perfect main event promo, stressing that the only has one challenge left – the defeat of the UT to end the streak. No response from UT, but we have a few weeks. They manage to slide in an almost anorexic clip of HBK; I think we know who’s side he is on. Maybe – God should not allow for jealousy, but he is HBK  – however, he says no more matches and I believe him. That means he’s on H’s side

2) H did not “bury” the locker room by saying he’s beat everyone and only has one challenge left. What’s the guy supposed to do? “Yeah, I put that little junkie Hardy over and allowed Sheamus to get heat on me; but other than that, I’m ready for YOU Deadman!” Yeah right

3) Speaking of Sheamus, how the mighty have fallen. He may have pissed off the wrong person, or just simply been a case of “we’ll push you to the moon and then see how you like the mid-card.” And it don’t get more mid-card than Bourne, who has been the victim of start and stop pushes for ages. If we were not a month away, I would say this is a plot to keep people off the WM payoff dole (Bryan got the same treatment), but it’s to early to climb out on that limb

NUMBER TWO

Rock’s Revenge

1) The Rock sucks. Are his promos energetic? Yes – he has a magic. But it’s the same dog and pony show we have seen for 10 years. It doesn’t help that Cena has bad writing to dog him, but if they would just let him go and say how he feels, he could go toe to toe with Rock. Rock-E’s one sided rant made Cena look like an amateur

2) What Rock failed to explain is that he has good agents to cherry pick his parts. And oddly enough, to make the most dough, Rock went the Disney route and kept it PG. His most recent flicks have been almost straight to video releases, so I don’t see what “Traillblazin” he’s done. If anything, he’s cost the company millions (and millions) wanting to be a film studio. That’s a legacy

3) Why suck up to Buffalo when you ain’t there? You know, the script for this was written in 1989, when Terry Funk came to the ring after the third in a series of great Flair / Steamboat matches. Flair said: “while you’ve been in Hollywood rubbing shoulders with Sylvester Stallone, I’ve been the World Champ. We have a Top 10, so get to the back of the line!” Of course, Banana Nose got his ass beat for that comment, which lead to a series of matches equal to, if not better than Steamboat. That’s probably what bothers me the most about Rock-E. He could do a 3 part series, but he has to work it around his Hollywood schedule. Because wrestling is in his blood. Phony

NUMBER THREE

1) Cole (doing his best imitation of Vince) and Lawler have a hell of a segment. We now know the stips (Swagger as corner man / trainer, but we are waiting for part II – special ref). No mind to Lawler, he just wants to get his hands on Cole

2) I expect this to be exactly like a Vince match. Smoke, mirrors, but not any real wrestling. Which is fine – Lawler wants to ass-kick and Cole ain’t no wrestler. Jackie Fargo as guest ref would be off the charts (to me anyway), but I except someone like the recently “fired” A-Ri or someone like that.

3) Who announces/ JR? Probably not – most likely Mathews and Booker (who I love)

NUMBER FOUR

The MIZ

1) Just fabulous all night. That twitter pic from the cage is up and is a hoot. He’s trying his best to get over and I hope they don’t cut the legs out from under him after WM. I mentioned this last time – we need to see a vicious MIZ and NOT some half-ass.

2) MIZ’s continued involvement made it the first time I have ever enjoyed the “escape” clause in WWE cage matches. I remember watching early 80’s Florida and also Georgia / TBS (when we got a satellite dish). The cage was the cage. Basically, last man standing. WWF? Why is that fuck trying to run away? I’ve never gotten over that. Good dynamic last night

3) What about A-Ri? He either failed a drug test or is in the plans for a different “2nd” role. That was almost a random thought. Good match, great ending and Cena being laid out is just what the doctor ordered.

NUMBER FIVE

Punk vs. Orton

1) This is another feud that I hope gets some mileage. I have no doubt their matches will be great and I hope they get more than 12 minutes. I’m in manlove with Orton; he is as smooth as silk, can have a good match with anyone and oozes charisma. It’s helping that the fans are realizing he’s a babyface; although he is a born heel, that just doesn’t seem to be in the cards at the moment

2) Of course, Punk is a great heel. I don’t think this would be working with anyone else. The idea that Orton will eliminate Nexus and have Punk One on One is good news, but it furthers my suspicion that WWE is slashing the WM payouts

3) Orton needs to work on that punt (or maybe he was just to hyper and the timing was off). That didn’t even deserve a replay. Phu-Yuck

NUMBER SIX

1) In honor of the Rock returning, I’d like to dedicate this section to an old friend if mine, Eric Szulczewski. He did this one back in the day of 1ryderfakin.com

2) “Flex” is the Rock. Eric never liked him, and I had a hard time disagreeing with his reasons. Go check the archives for more

3) This fits in to early Rock Hollywood –  Eric, if you are out there reading, give me a shout – long time

FIGURES LIE AND LIARS FIGURE

Eric Szulczewski

Okay, here’s the excuses up front for lack of contribution:  moving, exhaustion, and now I’m fighting a cold, and it’s winning.  So there you go.

Also, I was fighting for a topic.  It’s been reasonably dull out there the past month or so, with nothing that’s tickled my fancy, or any other particular part of my body, enough to scribble something reasonably coherent.  I mean, when Fleabag and I talked earlier this week, he wanted me to do five hundred words on why you shouldn’t eat local poultry in the Carolinas, knowing what I know about some of the poultry plants in that area of the country, this topic based on an incident involving Desi and some pasta dish where the chicken was, shall we say, mildly inedible.  Look, I love grossing people out as much as the next guy, but discussing the internal workings of your average poultry plant in a column as visible as this will turn people off of eating the stuff, period, and that hurts me financially in the long run (kinda like if Fleabag did a column dissecting the stock and commodities markets).  That is, unless you check out your local upscale grocery case for Smart Chicken ™.  Seriously, try it and you’ll never go back.  You can get it in about half of the US, but it might take a little look-see (if you’ve got a Publix near you, try there).  Remember, I’m the guy in charge of making sure that it tastes good and doesn’t kill you.

Considering that statement, I think I’ve just killed our sales, but no matter.

However, something better did hit me earlier this week.  A lot of people know that I’m more interested in the business of entertainment than in entertainment itself.  It’s the same sort of feeling you get when you first become a wrestling smark.  You become so interested about the background that the foreground loses focus.  There were two events recently that sort of connected together and made me think about something:  what exactly is the definition of “success” in the movie industry these
days?

Event Number One happened last week.  Pirates of the Caribbean, still in the theaters as summer fades into distant memory (although not in Lincoln, where it’s been in the 70s and 80s the past two weeks),  broke the three hundred million dollar barrier (all monetary figures mentioned here are US domestic box office gross, no insult intended to the other markets out there).  By doing so, Disney became the first studio ever to have two films break three hundred million in one calendar year
(the other being the inexplicably popular Finding Nemo).

This is very strange to think about.  Before this year, Disney only had one movie that broke the speed of light (physicists will probably get that joke).  Now they have three, and they’re very different films. The Lion King was traditional animation, Finding Nemo is a Pixar computerized effort, and Pirates (which Fleabag and I agree is a great film, and I think should earn Johnny Depp a Best Actor nomination come Academy Awards time) is live-action.  That is versatility in motion.  I may dis the Mouse a lot, but it’s mostly for the TV stuff and the fact that they can’t seem to come up with anything good and original to put on TV other than adaptations of their movies (and that’s continuing considering they’re developing a Pocahontas series).  Not so for the movies.  They know how to make a film to pull ’em in.

That diversity really comes into focus when you realize there have been only sixteen movies ever to hit the three hundred million mark.  Four are Star Wars films (The Empire Strikes Back is sitting at $290M).  There’s a Harry Potter and two Lords of the Rings.  You can kinda figure out that numbers seventeen and eighteen are going to be the third installments of those series.  So, almost half of that list are popular series.  Not much of a diversity there, huh?

Now let’s look at studios.  Fox has five of those sixteen, but only Independence Day has joined the Star Wars films from that stable.  Universal’s two entries on the list are both Spielberg films (Jurassic Park and ET).  Paramount has as many films on the list as New Line, two.  Disney not only has three, and three very different films, but sitting only seven million below the line is a fourth Disney effort that really proves the point:  The Sixth Sense.  Can you think of a more atypical Disney flick than that being at this level of success?

Disney, more than any other studio, knows how to green-light money-making projects.  They’ve got my respect for that.

Now for the second part of the discussion, and it’s based on someone who, as is well known, does not have my respect.  I’m speaking, of course, of the man I call Flex.  I came out numerous times on 411 and stated that his film The Rundown would be a bomb.  Then, it proceeded to open at #1 at the box office, and all the little Flex Flunkies came out of the closet and started sending me e-mails razzing me.  I did what I naturally would have done in this situation:  posted the most coherent missive as You’re A Moron and proceeded to explain why the film was a bomb, despite the fact that it opened at #1.

Now, given another month’s perspective on the topic, what have we learned?  That what I said at the time was absolutely correct:  The Rundown is a bomb and will be topping out at $50M.  Hey, I only go public on predictions like that if I’m firm about things.  It’s great to be the king.

But isn’t $50M a hit?  No, not these days.  It used to be, twenty years ago.  But considering the increased budgets of films, the higher ticket prices, and the tendency for studios to perform acts of carpet-bomb marketing for films like The Rundown, it’s not.  This is a film that was expected to be more successful than it was.  It wasn’t, and therefore is a failure.

Can I prove that conclusion?  Of course.  Let’s have a look at the last couple month’s worth of films that have opened at #1:

Weekend of September 12th:
Once Upon a Time in Mexico   $23,424,118

Weekend of September 19th:
Underworld   $21,753,759

Weekend of September 26th:
The Rundown   $18,533,765

Weekend of October 3rd:
School of Rock   $19,622,714

Weekend of October 10th:
Kill Bill Vol. 1   $22,089,322

Weekend of October 17th:
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre   $28,094,014

Six weeks, six different movies opening at #1.  And The Rundown has the lowest gross of any of these.  So, in a competition with its own peers, The Rundown is a loser.

So why is School of Rock, which only grossed a million more in its first week, considered a hit and The Rundown a bomb?  A number of reasons:

1) It’s a comedy.  Comedies aren’t expected to be high box office grossers like action films.  Comedies also have lower budgets than action films, which means they can make money on a lower box office.

2) It had less marketing than The Rundown. I couldn’t drive down a street in Chicago without seeing a billboard for the turd.  Not to mention that you could see Flex on every talk show in existence during opening week, but Jack Black sightings were comparatively rare.

3) School of Rock has developed legs.  Most movies, including The Rundown, typically lose half their box office in each week of release.  Not so with School of Rock.  From its first week to its second week, it dropped only 21%.  From second to third, 29%.  And this was against incredibly tough competition, not only Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Kill Bill, but also Runaway Jury, Mystic River, and even Good Boy.  I expect School of Rock to drop a little more this week considering it now has direct competition in Scary Movie 3, but it’s over the fifty million mark and will probably end up topping out at about $75M.  Under the Tuscan Sun, which opened the same week as The Rundown, also developed some legs.  It outgrossed The Rundown last weekend.

4) Great reviews, especially from reviewers who didn’t think that Jack Black had enough talent to pull this concept off.  Hell, I didn’t think that Jack Black had enough talent to pull it off.  But the reviews were better than the “gentleman Cs” that The Rundown was getting.

Considering how subjective success is in the movie industry, can we place an absolute figure on what kind of box office makes a movie a hit, or a blockbuster?  We used to be able to do that.  We had a nice, round number in one hundred million.  Eight figures to nine, a nice transition.  Fleabag still posited the hundred million figure to me as the Mendoza Line for a hit.  I told him no, but I was too drugged out on cold medication to explain why not.  A couple years ago, I would have agreed with him.  But along came a spider and destroyed that concept forever.  When Spider-Man had the first hundred-million-dollar opening weekend in history, the idea of a hundred million meaning a hit was shot to hell.  If a movie could pull in that kind of business in three days, it rendered the importance of the figure meaningless.  It had the same sort of psychological impact as Roger Bannister breaking the four-minute mile.  It might be important for a high school kid, but not for a world-class athlete.  A hundred million at the box might be important for an indie film, or a light-hearted comedy, or a non-summer or non-holiday release, but it doesn’t mean anything in the bigger scheme of things.

Just have a look at one of the year’s biggest films, The Matrix Reloaded.  If it had pulled it less than $200M, it would have been shrugged off and given a “nice try” (and the rave scene would have been blamed for it, as it should be; it stopped the movie dead).  In fact, there are some people out there who dis the film because it didn’t pull in $300M.  Expectations were incredibly high for the film, and it met them.  Finding Nemo‘s bar of success was set slightly lower.  It probably would have been regarded as a hit had it grossed only $150M.  However, thanks to some fortuitious circumstances (like there being no films other than Spy Kids 3 released over the summer that you could take your tots to), it’s now in the Top Ten all-time.  I just don’t see its potential as a date movie when its romantic protagonists are voiced by a guy who’s made his career out of playing neurotics and a lesbian.

The point here is that a movie being regarded as a success is as much psychological as anything else, including the box office gross.  One man’s bomb is another man’s reasonable success.  That’s what the Flex Freaks were trying to get at, I guess.  However, I live in a world where hard numbers predominate, and those hard numbers tell me the side of the story that those people don’t wish to see, because they’ve set their lines of demarcation at different places than I have.  To them, The Rundown was a hit.  To me, it didn’t make enough money, it didn’t develop legs, and it wasn’t creatively successful to boot.  There’s very little common ground to be found there, and because of that, quantifying success becomes almost impossible unless it’s staring you right in the face.

I think that’s a lesson that applies to a lot of things in life.

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Thanks for Reading, I’m FLEA



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