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Thread: This year's superstar flops

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    Elite Member celeb_2006's Avatar
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    Default This year's superstar flops

    Forbes.com Reports - This Year's Superstar Flops

    This Year's Superstar Flops


    by Lacey Rose    December 9, 2008


    A-list stars can guarantee a Tinseltown project plenty of attention. Money? That's another story. Top-shelf funnyman Will Ferrell kicked off the year with box-office bomb "Semi-Pro" ($33.5 million US box office). Mere weeks later, Hollywood heavyweight George Clooney followed suit with a flop of his own, "Leatherheads" ($41 million global box office). And then the summer arrived and with it came A-lister Nicolas Cage's big-screen disappointment, "Bangkok Dangerous" ($39 million globally).
    The weak performances of these and other star-vehicles may be bombshells for some studio executives, but they come as no surprise to a growing cadre of academics studying the economics of film making and, more specifically, the bankability of stars. Their conclusion: Big stars don't guarantee big success, and their big salaries are seldom justified.

    S. Abraham Ravid, a professor of finance at Rutgers University and a visiting professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, looked at nearly 200 films exhibited between late 1991 and early 1993 and concluded that a film's star had no impact on the flick's rate of return.

    Nine years and several studies later, he says definitively: "Star participation has no statistical correlation with the success of a movie, no matter how you define 'a star' or how you define 'success.'"

    While top-shelf stars like Ferrell and Cage often sell more tickets, he says their movies are often that much more expensive to produce and, as a result, rarely turn a sizable profit for their studios. Put another way, stars do well for themselves and their agent and management teams, but they fail to deliver for the studios that employ them.

    Jehoshua Eliashberg, who has been studying the topic for the better part of two decades as a professor of marketing, operations and information management at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, is of the same opinion: "A movie star does not guarantee the commercial success of a movie," he says, "but a commercially successful movie will often make its actor a star."

    Consider Summit Entertainment's latest flick "Twilight," which has quickly become a must-see film despite its unknown cast. Without any A-listers, the low-budget flick has already generated $159.9 million at the global box office. The film's star, Robert Pattinson, little known before "Twilight" debuted, has already scored legions of fans, lots of press and a spot on several year-end media lists of breakout stars (including Forbes').

    Often what does positively impact a flick's bottom line is a film's rating. According to Ravid's research, PG- and G-rated flicks tend to earn more money, all other variables -- including release dates and budgets -- being equal. Sequels and heavily reviewed flicks (the sentiment of the review matters less) similarly generate above-average returns.

    So why do studio executives continue to hire big-name -- and big-budget -- talent?

    One explanation, which is true in both film and television, is that talent's ability to market and open a project. Stars like Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy and Christian Slater offer studios and networks alike recognizable names to include in expensive advertising campaigns and the potential to lure audiences to sample the project as it debuts. Both are increasingly important as the film and television landscapes grow more crowded.

    Of course, neither guarantees a project's success. In this case, let 2008 flops "The Love Guru" (starring Myers -- $32 million US box office), "Meet Dave" (starring Murphy -- $12 million domestically) and "My Own Worst Enemy" (starring Slater -- cancelled in November) serve as examples.

    Another explanation: risk-adverse studio executives.
    Stars offer something of a safe bet in an otherwise unpredictable industry, according to Arthur De Vany, a professor emeritus of economics at the University of California, Irvine. If the studio head's star casting misfires at the box office, he or she has an excuse. "An executive will say, 'Hey, it's not my fault the film bombed, I got you Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise,'" he says.

    Abraham agrees, arguing that A-list stars serve as a kind of insurance policy for nervous executives simply looking to maintain their jobs. The way he sees it, if studio heads hire a star like Kidman and the film flops, they can just shrug and say, "Well, who knew?" But if they hire an unknown and the film flops, they're quickly shown the door with others scoffing, "What were they thinking?"

    Stars, on the other hand, are often able to skirt the blame for the flops they appear in. The way Eliashberg sees it, stars are much like the CEOs of companies today. "When everything goes well, the star will take the credit for it," he says. "But when it flops, they're not accountable, blaming everything else from the marketing of the movie to the movie's release date."

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    Elite Member Grimmlok's Avatar
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    since when is nicolas cage still an A- lister?
    I am from the American CIA and I have a radio in my head. I am going to kill you.

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    Elite Member AllieCat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Grimmlok View Post
    since when is nicolas cage still an A- lister?

    I noticed that, and wondered the same thing.

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    Elite Member southernbelle's Avatar
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    I don't think Mike Meyers is A-List either. Maybe in his own mind he is.

    To me, he's a guy who had a successful role (Wayne's World) that made him a solidly mid-tier B lister, and another successful franchise years later that elevated him to B+ with A-list name recognition for a few years.

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    Elite Member kingcap72's Avatar
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    Studios keep making shit movies with no plot or substance, and then try to package it around a big name star. And that used to work for years, but with the popularity of independent movies the public is starting to demand better movies from Hollywood, the studios just haven't gotten a clue yet.

    Plus, since studios have stock holders who want to see profits they churn out a bunch of crap movies like an assembly line hoping to stay in the black each quarter.

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