Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Money well spent? How exactly Universal spent an extra 14 months and $60 million on The Wolfman and why it was likely a waste of both.

There is a nice article in Time Out London concerning the cause and effect of the years of delays, expensive reshoots, and countless re-edits that proceeded the actual release of The Wolfman over the weekend. As I mentioned yesterday, the film's budget ballooned from $90 million to $150 million as a result of the various behind the scenes turmoils, yet it ended up opening with the same $31 million that it likely would have opened with back in November 2008.  

If you read between the lines in the article, it becomes clear that the costly reshoots were merely to shoot sequences that were in the original script but were cut for budgetary reasons. And the reshot ending was an ending that was discussed right from the get-go. So, for two years of hassle and $60 million in extra expense, you end up with the film as it was more-or-less originally intended and an ending that was one of those discussed right at the start. To top that off, original director Mark Romanek was replaced at least partially due to his failed requests for more time and more money. Yet as soon as Joe Johnston came aboard, the script was rewritten, which required (natch) more time and more money.

I have no idea how Romanek was to work with on set, and I'm generally a pretty big Joe Jonhston fan.  But, does anyone else see the sheer insanity of this? In all likelihood, had Universal just given Romanek a little more time and a little more money, he would have delivered a film not completely unlike the one that opened last weekend. And the studio could have had it 1.5 years ago at probably two-thirds of the cost. And that picture, opening in a relatively quiet December 2008 season, would have likely opened to the same $30 million+ weekend (remember, opening weekends are generally about marketing and not quality) and likely grossed the same $80-100 million final domestic haul. But those numbers would have looked a lot better if Universal was dealing with a $100 million version of The Wolfman and not a $150 million version. Sometimes, it just pays to go with what you got and hope for the best.
Scott Mendelson

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