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Friday, May 12, 2006

Ballooning effects cinema in division for William Morris

- The Wall Street Journal has a front-page piece today headlined, `With Special Effects the Star, Hollywood Faces New Reality.' The gist of it is that visual effects costs are driving movie budgets up past the $200 million mark, for films such as `King Kong,' `X-Men: The Last Stand,' and `Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest.' (That's Davy Jones from `Pirates' at right.) Merissa Marr and Kate Kelly write:

    The price tags underscore that effects, not stars, sell big movies these days. Of the top 10 U.S. all-time box-office hits, all but "The Passion of the Christ" were visual-effects vehicles. Just one of last year's domestic top 10 -- the slapstick romantic comedy "Wedding Crashers" -- had actors, rather than effects as its star.

    To keep drawing people to theaters, studios feel pressure to keep pushing computer-generated realism to new levels. In 1985, "Back to the Future" featured more than 100 special-effects "shots" -- short sequences of about five seconds -- depicting state-of-the art fantasies such as a flying sports car and fading body parts. Two decades later, movies can include 2,000-plus effects shots.

    For "King Kong," made by General Electric Co.'s Universal Pictures, director Peter Jackson accumulated close to 3,500 effects shots, as he navigated armies of dinosaurs and tinkered with the finer features of the giant ape. According to executives at Mr. Jackson's digital-effects company, 500 shots were started and not finished and another 350 hit the cutting-room floor.

    Around the time of the film's release in December, Universal publicly pegged the tab at $207 million, after originally budgeting around $150 million. Two people involved with the movie say the final cost was closer to $250 million.

I think a more interesting story would've focused on the intense bidding between special effects studios that increasingly makes it hard to make a profit producing special effects...something I frequently hear people at Digital Domain, ILM, Sony Pictures ImageWorks, and Rhythm + Hues complaining about.

- BizWorld reports that the first digital movie, `Prime,' is being shown in Ireland. That comes more than a year after Avica annnounced that it was planning to digitize every theater on the Emerald Isle.

- Finally, the 108-year-old William Morris Agency is launching a division to focus on digital media, according to the LA Times. Claire Hoffman writes:

    "...[T]he new division [will] work with its long roster of clients in film, television, music, publishing, corporate consulting, theater and sports to secure work in digital media areas such as video-on-demand, broadband and mobile.

    The division plans to take on technology companies as clients and help them make media and entertainment connections.


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