Sunday, June 6, 2010

Don't blame the stars, blame the studios? Are Kutcher, Heigl, and/or Seyfried risking their careers by making vehicles with underperforming studios?

We all know that Heigl and Kutcher are going to get ripped in the media because Killers 'only' opened with $16 million. And there are those that believe that Letters to Juliet surely could have pulled in $60 million, and that the failure to do so was a sign of Amanda Seyfried's lacking starpower. Yet both of those films are perfect examples of the weaknesses inherent in the studios that released them. Letters to Juliet and Killers had no chance to opening to $20 million+, because (for whatever reason) the studios that released them don't generally open films at that level of business. If you take away the fluke of Fahrenheit 9/11 and the Tyler Perry pictures, Lionsgate has had three $20 million+ openings in their history (Haunting in Connecticut, The Forbidden Kingdom, and My Bloody Valentine 3D). Same thing with Summit. Take away the Twilight franchise, and they'd have one $20 million+ opener (Knowing) and nothing else above $14 million in the last three or four years.

I would argue that the fact that something as poorly marketed and off-putting as Killers opened to $16 million is very much a testament to the star power of Kutcher and Heigl, and that Seyfried is a star because Letters to Juliet made any money at all, let alone over $43 million thus far (and I'd argue that in a film industry where movies could hold onto screens longer, Letters to Juliet would have made more). But that's not the way most entertainment media reads the tea leaves. So, I guess the question is, should Amanda Seyfried have had the foresight to choose a different studio, if possible, to launch what could have been viewed as her breakout movie? Should media-targets Heigl and Kutcher have thought twice before making an expensive movie with a studio that generally can't open stuff to over $19 million (and have a comparatively anemic foreign department to boot)? And are these young stars being blamed for the inability of their studios to play the 'game' as well as the bigger distribution houses?

Scott Mendelson

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