Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Something`s Fishy in Wonderland
New Tim Burton films don't excite me. He's done some good work but, to be honest, I don`t think the man is a very good filmmaker. He`s an excellent decorator but a second rate storyteller, which means his films always end up feeling like hollow exercises in special effects and set design while the emotional crux of the stories take the back seat. His approach to macabre subject matter doesn't much interest me either. I get that he is making films about outsiders cast away from society, but his satiric vision of the everyday life which he juxtaposes his characters against is, in and of itself, so over-the-top that he's not so much making a statement as making a misguided spectacle. It should be no surprise then that, whether it's good or not, I'm not really excited about Burton's upcoming live-action-with-animation take of Alice in Wonderland, which is set for release on March 5th in both 2D and 3D formats. What does interest me though is that Hollywood Reporter is saying that Disney is planning on taking an experimental approach to releasing the movie. Apparently Disney has been toying with different ideas on how to release movies and now it is time to put one into practice. So the idea is that Disney is approaching exhibitors about shortening Alice's run from roughly 16 weeks in first run theaters to around 13 or under. The reason for this is because Disney feels the film will be a big hit on DVD and ondemand services, so the quicker they can get it there the better. What's unclear at this moment is, if studio's plan on adopting this method of distribution, how they plan on compensating theaters for shortening the runs of big films like Alice in Wonderland in order to push them onto DVD quicker. For theaters, shortened runs means less actual return from the studio on the film's actual business and less physical traffic through the theater as people may be encouraged to simply wait for the DVD, which translates into less traffic to the theater's concession stands; the place where most of an operation's profits come from. Disney CEO Bob Iger has said that truncated runs could be a way to maximize the Disney's bottom line, but I don't quite buy it. Is this simply a sign that Disney has lost faith in Burton's project and doesn't believe it will perform much beyond the opening weekend? I can't imagine the studio pulling something like this with one of their big projects like a Pixar or Pirates of the Caribbean film. Or is this one last desperate attempt by studios in hard times to keep people going out to the movies before everything except tentpole pictures and arthouse fare go more or less straight to video and ondemand? It will be interesting to see how Burton, who began his career as an animator at Disney, will respond to his movie being the lab rat in such an experiment.