Thursday, February 24, 2005

Miramax AE (After Eisner)

The LA Times had (2/22) an OK article on the impending Weinstein-Disney breakup. The Weinstein brothers founded Miramax and generated several huge hits & cult faves including Clerks, sex, lies, & videotape (from the then-fledgling Steven Soderburg of Ocean's 11, Traffic, & Erin Brockovich fame), & Pulp Fiction. As an indie studio they were undercapitalized, so when Disner offered creative automony on a $12.5M budget leash, the Weinsteins jumped. This cap was lifted after The English Patient:

In the mid-1990s, when Anthony Minghella's $27-million epic, "The English Patient," exceeded the mandated cap, the Weinsteins got approval from then-Disney Studios chief Joe Roth to press ahead. After the film grossed around $80 million domestically and landed an Oscar, Disney raised Miramax's budget limit to $20 million.

On a tangent: That project, based on a 1992 bestseller, was dumped by Fox who was toying with the idea of Demi Moore as the lead actress and Danny DeVito or John Goodman as supporting actors (the name game) and was picked up by Miramax.

Since all major studios now have a "specialty film" division, competition grew fierce & Miramax had both huge hits (Chicago, Kill Bill v. 1 & 2) and financial flops (Cold Mountain, Duplex, All the Pretty Horses, Gangs of New York). The formula of leveraging creative risks and limiting financial ones is good on paper but it's not always cut-and-dried. Some say Disney dropped the ball reigning in the financial risks of some of the bigger budget flops, which isn't surprising given Disney's hit & miss record of late.

Tangent 2: Miramax sat on a marginal film, Prozac Nation (2001), for years, since it was likely to be a box-office flop, despite its relatively low $9M pricetag. Starring cult-fave Christina Ricci (below) and based on a bestselling memoir by Elizabeth Wurtzel (in my opinion, think of a whiny, untalented, and narcissistic Plath), the Skjoldbjærg (directed the original 1997 Insomnia) project was shelved and will be going on pay cable in March 2005. There were probably better ways to deal with this but fear of failure can stifle creative solutions.

I'm awaiting my copy of DisneyWars from Amazon to get more insight into the Eisner-Weinstein battles, alluded to on Charlie Rose last week.

JetBlue & Bob Hope Airport

JetBlue is looking to take over defunct Aloha's gates at Burbank (Bob Hope) in order to provide a new transcon route from the Valley, according to the LA Times. I'm looking forward to the promotional fare of $99, which will also be good for the LGB-JFK route. The regular one-way fares will range from $124 to $299, usually depending on advance booking and supply/demand. The competition may find that hard to match:

"By comparison, the one-way fare on a Delta flight for May 24 from Burbank to New York's LaGuardia Airport, with a stop in Atlanta, was $159, a check of Delta's website showed Wednesday. A United flight the same day from Burbank to LaGuardia, with a stop in Denver, was $270."

They have a favorable cost structure (non-union & newer AirBus fleet), cult-like loyalty, & great customer service (2004), although they still have worries as the airline industry is a tough one. I'm a big fan of JetBlue, as I get my TV fix (I found I miss DirecTV on my last Alaska Air flight), on my trips between LGB-OAK or JFK. A friend of mine has family that really likes the Burlington (VT)-JFK service. They have a "virtual" views (QuickTime) of interiors & exteriors, but don't allow you to make the plane nosedive on the exterior view.

Now, as sidenote, I just wonder how many more airports will be named after iconic B-movie actors. Ronald Reagan, Bob Hope, John Wayne...What will the future have in store? I'm holding out for Keanu Reeves International Skyport, personally.

image::  Morro Bay aerial shot from FLT 247 OAK-LGB.  

Thursday, February 17, 2005

under the milky way tonight

Last autumn, the writer/director of Donnie Darko (Richard Kelly) got Newmarket to re-release his cult fave Donnie Darko. (Salon article/interview). Word around town was that he was having a tough time getting another deal for a new picture, so he wanted to generate buzz through a re-release of a film that suffered poor box office since it was a strange film with plane parts falling from the sky right after 9-11. It cost $4.5M but only brought in $517K in 2001. The re-release brought in over $700K and globally it has brought in $4.1M. After DVD sales are factored in, it just might make money but more importantly for Kelly, it might get him another project greenlighted. Getting the Gyllenhaals (albeit in 2001 before they had a name), Barrymore, Wyle, & Swayze all to work on a low budget film is impressive.

I thought it was an interesting film (script & visually) & can see how it became a cult movie, given the cast & script. The music, including the Church's "Under the Milky Way," did a good job of temporally setting the movie without having lyrics serve as narrative.

Run Lola Run-Oakland Version

Day: Monday in February 2005
Time: 10:53am
Oakland-Long Beach flight: 12:15pm
Location: Grand Lake/Piedmont
Boarding Pass: Printed

25 minute walk to Macarthur BART
Must get there by 11:09am for a Richmond-Fremont train
Does that happen?
Time: 11:15
Next Fremont train to airport at 11:32am
Tick-tock, tick-tock.
Cab? That would admit defeat!
No, must get to West Oakland station-betting on either SF-Fremont or SF-Pleasanton train to Oakland Airport.
Time: 11:17 am San Francisco Train
Time: 11:20am West Oakland station-cross platforms
Time: 11:29am Fremont train
Time: 11:45am Coliseum (Airport station)
Are we there yet?
No. Need 12 minute AirBART shuttle to airport.
Is a shuttle at the station or do I have to wait 15 minutes?
At the station-whew.
Crisp bills for $2 AirBart fare?
Yes...for a change.
Call Jet Blue?
No, crappy reception all morning on crappy Samsung phone.
Time: 11:48am, mental note one: get new cell phone. Mental note two: admit defeat more often & take a cab.
Time: 11:50am, thought to self, "hey driver, that light doesn't get any greener, let's go?"
Time: 12:01pm, Terminal One, Jet Blue, Oakland Airport.
How long to get through the sigmoidscope known as Oakland Airport security?
Time: 12:o2-no line at security--for a change.
Laptop-out of case in separate tray
Cell, wallet, keys, belt, & the bins.
Note to reader: fancy art-store Xacto got though in laptop case.
Note to self: Take that OUT.
Off to Gate 9.
12:04pm: Jet Blue employee, "This isn't you...this is going to Long Beach." "I'm on this." JBE: "Go, go, go."
Seat 6C, aisle. Made it.
12:10pm: door closes.
12:17pm: take-off.