Narnia sequel not so spectacular

by Paul William Tenny

Not that anybody really cares, but the Narnia sequel that came out this weekend was a disappointment at the box office. If you can call $56 million disappointing that is. That's enough money to make like ten more Saw sequels if you wanted -- a franchise that is enormously profitable given how cheap they are -- but it's not good enough for a flick that cost nearly a quarter of a billion dollars to produce. Can't say as that I feel very sorry Disney, spending that kind of money is just begging to be put in the hurt locker. There's only so much money you can reasonably expect to make and yet these mega-studios spend it like they're made out of it, as if spending $200 million on a film is going to give you a film worth $200 million, but it just doesn't work that way.
And I'm not really sold on the quality excuse either. They might say that you can't make Narnia without a couple of hundred million in special effects, but that's not true. One of my favorite childhood movies was the first story as an animated feature -- traditional hand animation is what we're talking about here -- and it sure as hell didn't cost hundreds of millions to produce. So really that excuse disappears when you correct them by saying "no, you can't make that Narnia on a limited budget" but that doesn't mean you can't make a Narnia on a limited budget.

You can, and probably should have. And maybe I'd feel differently if I was pulling the strings instead of writing about this as a pundit of sorts, but I think there is some pride to be had in making a sequel for precisely the same amount that the first film cost, and still succeeding. There's nothing else in the world where success means spending a ton more while still expecting similar results. If a new car model turns out to be popular, auto makers don't go out and make the follow-up for twice the cost -- not if they want to stay solvent anyway. That just seems like business management 101. But no, if the first movie made a profit, then double the cost because...well, just because. And that's what it amounts to really, they spend lots of money because they can, because there's not a person with a brain at the other end of the phone that says "you're not getting $200 million unless you can show me with some level of confidence that you'll make $400."

This weekend, I believe Disney expected $75-80 million for the 3-day, and only got a little over $55m. Yet there won't be any price to pay for this in the short term. Directors don't pay the price for bombing, some other studio will give them a clean slate and they'll keep on ticking like nothing happened. I doubt any suits at Disney or their subsidiary that put this flick together are going to get fired over this, even though somebody ought to at least get demoted for placing expectations so far out of reach, while also spending an obscene amount of money on a risky venture. And yeah, compared to other franchises like Pirates or Spider-Man, Narnia is not exactly a sure thing.

And it's all really quite destructive to the film industry as a whole. Remember Saw? Even if you've never seen it, there sits a franchise that is probably averaging under $10 million per film for budget, but overall is taking in $50+ million each time out. Do the math, and tell me that you don't have a better shot at making five $10 million dollar films and making small profits on all of them than you do making one huge $200m flick that you then absolutely need to burn down the house, or you're dead. Studios take the latter route trying to survive entirely on manufactured block busters while they could be making 10-20 smaller films with that money and laughing all the way to the bank if they play their cards right.

Probably easier said than done, but these houses aren't going to set themselves apart from the pack by continuing business as usual -- overspending and losing money.
in Film


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