What We Learned This Week: June 17-30

LESSON #1: PRODUCER KEVIN FEIGE KNOWS WHAT HE’S DOING AND TALKING ABOUT— Marvel film producer czar Kevin Feige has been a busy man with the soundbites this summer, three of which I’ll feature this week.  Success has put him in a powerful place, but a man doesn’t get to that level without smarts and savvy.  First, I loved his sentiments on whether or not Marvel films should no longer be overlooked as Oscar contenders saying “I would much rather be in a room full of engaged fans.”  He knows that’s the true victory and how awards aren’t everything.  Second, he explained the new three-movies-per-year quota that Marvel is churning out, where he’s not sweating saturation and relishes the chance to expand on the multiple franchise that have been started.  His logic on the matter is solid.  Finally, he’s gained and earned wisdom through his work.  When he was asked about what the DCEU can do to improve their product, he respectfully pointed to Richard Donner’s Superman: The Movie and called that the “paradigm by which we should all still follow.”  I love that use of “we” where he sees everyone striving for the same endearment.  Over and over, Kevin Feige is a guy who flat out “gets it.”  More studio heads should follow his mentality and steady patience.

LESSON #2: UNDER-PERFORMING MIGHT FINALLY HAVE CONSEQUENCES— I know I have long shouted from the soapbox that these blockbusters we see come and go are “too big to fail.”  They may not meet inflated financial expectations that studio execs shoot for on some wish list spreadsheet, but they always, always, always make money.  And because they never lose money, I never think a big studio is really going to dramatically change their ways.  We’ll see little course corrections, but never wholesale change.  As mentioned last time here on WWLTW, we’re teetering on that point with Warner Bros. on their third DCEU head with Walter Hamada bumping Geoff Johns after he replaced Zack Snyder.  That’s the DC mess.  I never fathomed big changes would happen at the juggernaut that is Disney controlling LucasFilm no matter the perception of backlash that makes little click bait headlines and social media rants, but it’s happening.  The spinoff Solo won’t really lose money, but its disappointing haul has slowed plans for more A Star Wars Story anthology films, which presses the pause button on upcoming Obi-Wan Kenobi and Boba Fett films.  Mistakes were made with that film and its marketing and timing, but the surprising derailment is real.  Add to that the likely “firing” or “stepping down” (pick one) of Kathleen Kennedy at LucasFilm and you have real changes afoot.  What looked untouchable and unstoppable is reeling in its own way.  By the way, Kevin Feige is not going to take over LucasFilm, so calm those heart palpitations.

LESSON #3: MOVIEPASS MAY BE FAILING, BUT THEATER OWNERS STILL WANT YOUR BUSINESS— The caveat to that lesson title is that the theater owners want all of the business.  They don’t want to share the dimes you’re spending with with a middle-man service.  With MoviePass plugging more leaky holes in its business boat than it has dollar bills or hands, other companies want to fill that void.  Here comes AMC Theaters and their launch of their new “A-List” service.  Their pitch is up to three movies per week including any and all premium options including Dolby, IMAX, and 3D for $19.95/month.  No matter the provider or perks, price point is still the ultimate motivator.  $20 for as many as 12 premium movies a month sounds outstanding to me.  We’ll see if AMC can handle the financial gambles.


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson and also on Medium.com where he is one of the 50 “Top Writers” in the Movies category.  As an elementary educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical.  He is a proud director and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends while chipping in with guest spots and co-hosting duties on a podcast every now and then  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on FacebookTwitter, and Medium.

 

 

What We Learned This Week: July 16-22

LESSON #1:  WALT DISNEY DISNEY STUDIOS IS GOING TO MAKE A LOT OF MONEY— I’ve mentioned in this column in the past about how Disney’s multibillion dollar purchases of Marvel Comics and LucasFilm look like bargains.  Throw in their cushy partnership of Pixar and Disney is stocked like Tom Brady’s mansion.  Their 2017-2019 release calendar (see image below) is absolutely loaded with popular content and a wealth of merchandising tie-ins.  Just move Fort Knox to Orlando or Anaheim already.

LESSON #2: DISNEY IS MISSING OUT ON ORIGINAL CONTENT— Looking at that slate of future cash cows, there is one “BUT” or one orange flag.  Where is the original content that used to make Disney great?  Where are the live-action works like Queen of Katwe?  Seventeen of the 21 films on that list are sequels, reboots, or parts of existing franchises.  That number goes up to 18-of-22 you include Guy Ritchie’s Aladdin.   I get that they sell, but sequels can bomb and even the perfection that is Pixar has been burned by them.  Other than Coco and A Wrinkle in Time, I don’t see Disney learning that lesson.

LESSON #3: DISNEY’S D23 FAN CLUB CONVENTION WILL REPLACE THEIR SAN DIEGO COMIC-CON PARTICIPATION— Speaking of making waves and making money, this lesson is more a prediction of something I think will come to pass very soon.  With their annual D23 convention, Disney has their own stage to showcase their own products without the competition or sharing that comes from Hall H in San Diego.  They also have full control and get every dime that comes from that event.  To quote Field of Dreams, “if you build it, he will come.”  Disney has the products people want to see and, thanks to their theme parks, they know people will pay to travel across the country to interact with them.  They have their own thing with 100% profit.  They don’t need San Diego anymore.

LESSON #4: REMOVE THE RACE LABELS FROM MOVIES— A film with predominantly black performers isn’t a “black film.”  It’s “a film” the same way you, I, or we would say for a film with white performers.  The caveat is when the film is in another language than English.  Then you can use the adjective “foreign” or “foreign language” film.  To use a race label in 2017 is embarrassing and more than borderline cultural segregation.  For a side-by-side comparison on this point, look at this summer’s earlier Rough Night and the new Girls Trip opening this weekend and how they are perceived and ultimately marketed.  My favorite line from the linked article from The Outline is “if it feels unfairly reductive to categorize movies as ‘white’ or ‘black,’ that’s because it is.”  Start removing these labels from your vernacular.


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson.  He is also one of the founders and the current directors of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle.  As an elementary educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, Medium, and Creators Media.