Is Brett Ratner a Hack?

by Paul William Tenny

It's not fair to say since I don't know the man personally, but I will say this of Ratner, when he snaps his fingers, studios fight each other over who will dump the most money on him and his productions. I wrote last year of how the combined expenditures for Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker for Rush Hour 3 were somewhere in the $50 million range, probably with another $15m added in for Ratner's services. Right off the bat you're talking about $65 million in budget costs just to make sure that three guys show up on the set every day. Add in another hundred for to a hundred-and-fifty for the rest of the films costs, and you're saddled with a pic costing over $200 million to make.

And yeah, it'll probably making a truck load of money, and in at the end of the day, New Line will make back their scratch and then some. But how much more could they have made, had they exercised a little discipline in contract negotiations?
I don't subscribe to "how much do you want?" as a way of squeezing greedy actors down to what they'll actually play for. There's no way that Tucker, who has never had a successful film outside of the two previous incarnations of Rush Hour is worth $50 million, even if it means dumping him, and possibly the film along with him. Think about this for a moment, and by the way I'm calling BS on New Lines quote of a $140m budget, how many other ventures could you start with just the money being paid to Tucker?

Though I don't care for the franchise myself, I love to point out how Saw and Saw II cost under $5 million to make, but brought in a combined $40 million in worldwide gross. After theaters take, those two films made back 4x what they cost. For Rush Hour 3, that'd mean having to haul in about $1 billion overall.

That'll never happen.

To give you some perspective, Rush Hour 2 grossed $347m on a budget of $90m, while the original cost $33m, while bringing home $244m. That's about 1.9 and 3.6 times cost for those two films respectively. The trend, as is apparent, is a budget that tripled, then nearly doubled again, without having a similar increase in ticket sales. Those only increased 77% between first and second tries. With a similar increase, Rush Hour 3 is only likely to pull in somewhere around $450 million on costs of (supposedly) $140m.

Again, after theaters take of about 44%, that leaves the studio with $247m, or about $107m in profit. I suppose the studio must be happy anytime a movie makes a profit, but if three in a series made between $100-110 million profit every single time out, it's probably not worth it to triple and then nearly double the damn budget.

So no, this isn't really an indictment of Ratner, unless you count his contributory greed to the equation, but he doesn't control how much the studios pay for acting talent. He is responsible for the ballooning budget, though, so my parting shot is to politely suggest that mister billion dollar movie direction invest some of his gold in a $3 dollar calculator.


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