Inglourious ROI

With their “media empire” on the verge of collapse, the Weinstein brothers were pulling out all the stops to promote the opening of Inglourious Basterds last week. They’ve even played the contrition card in explaining to the NYTimes that they lost their focus after leaving Disney and starting their own company, using investor money to buy a fashion line, invest in a TV channel and a social networking site, and other activities that don’t qualify as making movies people would pay to see. (Here’s a fun takedown of that article, at the AV Club.)

So it must be gratifying to them that the new Tarantino movie was #1 at the box office this weekend, with nearly $38 million in tickets sold. The marketing is a bit misleading, since the Basterds — a squad of Jewish-American soldiers who ambush and scalp Nazis in occupied France — don’t actually get much screen time. But that’s a minor quibble. I still enjoyed the heck out of the film; it just wasn’t the movie it was marketed as. (I’m assuming the 4-hour DVD version will have plenty more carnage.)

Which leads me to this WSJ article about the movie’s performance and its marketing. It highlights the problems the Weinstein Co. still faces, but the article also seems to have buried the lede:

Part of the success of “Inglourious Basterds,” which was directed by Quentin Tarantino, comes from its $35 million marketing campaign, which Weinstein Co. executives say Harvey Weinstein approached with a renewed focus after missing the mark of previous campaigns. Last year for example, the company used stick figure drawings to sell Kevin Smith’s “Zack and Miri Make a Porno,” which underperformed at the box office.

Let me see if I have this correct: the film grossed $38 million domestically and the marketing cost $35 million? With another $27 million in overseas sales, the movie made $65 million last weekend.

If that $35 mil. covers worldwide marketing, then they spent 54 cents for every dollar in ticket sales. If it was only for the domestic campaign, then it was almost 1 dollar spent for 1 dollar in sales (which are shared with the movie theaters).

Between this marketing campaign and the movie’s production cost of $65-70 million, that means this big success is still $35-40 million behind the 8-ball. Sure, there a lot of other revenue streams to help them close the gap, but this is probably not a good model for running a business.

What It Is: 8/17/09

What I’m reading: Moby Dick, The Jew of New York, The Nobody, and Everybody is Stupid Except for Me.

What I’m listening to: Arular, by M.I.A., Yes by Pet Shop Boys, and Welcome to the Pleasuredome by Frankie Goes to Hollywood (thanks to their roof-raising performance in that Trevor Horn tribute concert we watched last week).

What I’m watching: Old episodes of The State, to commemorate the cancellation of Reno 911!, Anchorman and Pulp Fiction. Our current Netflix discs are The Man Who Would Be King and Bubba Ho-Tep.

What I’m drinking: Juniper Green & Q Tonic, and Red Stripe lager.

What Rufus is up to: Staying out of the heat. We skipped another Sunday greyhound hike because we had a bunch of Amy’s friends coming over for lunch that day, and needed to get the house clean(ish).

Where I’m going: Connecticut next weekend, to visit my cousins and let Rufus meet the Golden Retriever side of the family.

What I’m happy about: That someone made a movie for the 9-year-old me who was serenaded daily on the school bus with taunts of “Heil Hitler!”

What I’m sad about: This whole aging process.

What I’m worried about: The dietary habits of yuppies, and whether it stunts their ability to have intelligent conversation. (Good job, Agitator!)

What I’m pondering: Whether Smokey Bear is a gay icon.