Wednesday, November 29, 2006

It Doesn't Take X-Ray Vision to See Through This Marketing Ploy

In case you've been living under a rock the past few weeks, you might've missed that Singerman was released on DVD yesterday along with a slew of other DVD's that actually relate to the character we know as Superman. Like any other big budget film, ads were all over the place for that one last grab at revenue from the rather lucrative home video market.What really caught our attention was not the volume of ads for the Singerman DVD, but one particularly egregious piece that WB tried to pass off as something charitable, but came off looking about as disingenuous and sleazy as you can possibly get.

On Monday's edition of the Hollywood gossip show "Access Hollywood," sandwiched in between advertisements for the Singerman DVD aired the following piece featuring Singerman star Brandon Routh at a children's hospital.

On the surface you may be thinking, "what's wrong with that? He's visiting sick children." Which any other time, it may have been just that. But given the timing of this segment (the day before the Singerman DVD goes on sale) and the way it's presented by the AH hosts, it's rather obvious that this was solely done for the sake of selling DVD's, which if you ask us pretty damn exploitive and in very poor taste. Where's the evidence for that, you ask? Well consider this?
  • C'mon let's be real, it's aired the evening before the DVD release, it's screaming marketing ploy.
  • After the teaser for the segment aired and before the segment itself, there's a Singerman DVD commercial. (you can see these in beginning of the clip)
  • the female host shills the "2 disc Special Edition DVD" coming out before they introduce the segment.
  • When the hosts introduce the segment, there's a picture of the DVD on the 20 ft tall video screen behind them.
  • Billy Bush makes sure to tell us that "they asked him to do this months ago" so we're not to think this just came up out of the blue, which might've meant it was ya know, spontaneous and somewhat sincere. Of course they asked him months ago, when they planned the rest of the DVD marketing. Duh.
  • look at the huge team of people that are there with Routh to film the segment. If he was just coming to cheer these kids up, why did the cameras need to be there in the first place?
  • the kids in the hospital are WATCHING THE DVD's!!! And Routh makes sure to point that out for us.
Look, and we'll make this really clear, this isn't a shot at Brandon Routh. From all accounts he seems to be a nice guy, though he's been known to have his moments. He's obviously got to go along with this sort of thing to fulfill his PR requirements, and he seemed to actually care about the kids. Who should be taken to task are the marketing people at WB who were trying to pass this "gesture" off as being something genuine on the studio's behalf.

You want to do something meaningful? Do this 6 months from now, or in the months in between the theatrical release and the video game/DVD when you're not peddling anything, and don't do it with the camera crew. Hell if you REALLY want to make a difference in those kids lives, instead of giving them posters and crappy DVD's, why don't you donate some of your precious revenue from those DVD sales to the hospital to ease the burden of paying for the care of those kids?

Last time I checked, Superman didn't seek recognition or attention for his good deeds. He just went about his business happy to know he was making the world a better place. Then again, its not like these guys seem to know much about Superman anyway so maybe I shouldn't be surprised.

Friday, November 24, 2006

The Verdict on the Singerman Game

<-- Don't jump Singerman! We know the movie sucked, but life's still worth living!!! Previously on the blog we talked about the Singerman video game, and wondered why it was being released almost 5 months after the film? Then we found out that it looked like the game was almost intentionally differentiated from the shortcomings of the film. Well with the game now on store shelves, we were interested to hear what the response was from some of the more well-known gaming sites around the web. And from the looks of things, it seems like the game may be almost as disappointing as the film that spawned it.

From Xboxic:
"EA has barely scratched the surface as to the potential of a Superman game. Perhaps, if they had spent more time working on story mode rather than focusing a majority of their time and expenses on flight and the size of Metropolis. Yea, there’s an incredible, lush environment for Superman to engage in, but it is completely barren when it comes to crime for him to face off against. In Superman Returns, Kal-El’s greatest villain is boredom. The curse lives on." - Final Score: 4/10 - Poor

From Gamespot:
"After the thrill of flying around Metropolis wears off, Superman Returns is nothing more than a below-average, repetitive movie tie-in that doesn't even do the movie tie-in part well...
It's hard to shake the feeling that EA viewed the movie's DVD release as the last chance to capitalize on the movie license and was going to ship this game finished or unfinished, good or bad. It looks as though they finally settled on unfinished and bad. Superman Returns doesn't have much to do with the movie of the same name; the plot is a bunch of nonsense; and the game just doesn't capture the essence of what has made Superman such an enduring icon." - Score:4.5/10 - Poor

From IGN:
"The final boss in Superman Returns: The Videogame is a tornado. Not Lex Luthor. Not General Zod, not that nuclear guy -- not even Richard Pryor. A tornado!

That alone sums up the wrong direction EA is flying in Superman Returns, an unfinished game that suffers from a poor narrative, monotonous and brainless enemies, and a questionable take on the Superman universe. It should be said that flying and using superpowers are generally fun, but not enough to overcome the average graphics, sound and suspect game design." - Score 5.5/10 - Mediocre

From Eurogamer:
"Superman Returns is so criminally lacking in any inspiration, though, and is such a dismal waste of the licence that you'll want to curl up and rock yourself into a trance. At least then your mind can entertain you with thoughts of what a good Superman game might be like." - Score: 3/10 - Poor

From TeamXBOX:
"There are fun moments to be had when playing Superman Returns: The Videogame, but I never really felt that I was playing a complete game during my time with it. I’m guessing the team ran under some time constraints and had to push Superman Returns: The Videogame out the door before it was fully optimized." - Score: 6.7/10 - Average

Those bolded parts were all taking about the game right? Not the movie? Because I wasn't sure there for a second... Seems like Singerman just can't catch a break. I was hoping to get at least a rental out of this one.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Brandon Routh Clings to Fleeting Career with Super Strength

Our Canadian friends over at have a humorous look at some recent comments made by Singerman star Brandon Routh at the recent Singerman videogame/DVD (i.e. "Hope and Pray") launch party. It's good to know he's still around.

"With plans for a sequel to Superman Returns in the works, and with director Bryan Singer reportedly on board, Brandon Routh wants everyone to know he’s still around and will, like, totally play Superman again.

Routh told website E! Online, “They've publicized that Bryan had finalized his deal, which was the lynchpin in the whole talk about a sequel. So, everything looks to be heading that way.”

The actor, who made his much-publicized film debut in Superman Returns, also revealed some details of the sequel — tentatively titled The Man of Steel — including its possible villain

“There’s a lot of talk about Braniac; everyone wants to see [him]. But in the Superman Returns video game, you get to play as Bizzaro [the imperfect Superman clone], and Bizzaro’s pretty fun — you could have some fun with that [too],” says the actor. “So, I’m leaning towards one of those.'”

You tell em Brandon! Your ideas already sound more original than anything Singer's coughed up.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Film Threat's Frigid 50

Based on their initial review that described Singerman as both "creepy" and "sinister," it's apparent that, like many people, wasn't all that impressed with the film when it opened either. We here at SSS feel their pain. But Film Threat is still poking fun at Singerman as evidence by their latest 2006 list identifying the 50 Coldest People in Hollywood. They explain...
Unlike those other lists aimed at browning the most nose, the Frigid 50 is a written declaration of who or what in Hollywood needs a reality check, detailing the least-powerful, least-inspiring, least-intriguing people in all of Tinseltown. Before celebrities fall off the face of the Earth, they get one warning, and the Frigid 50 is it.

Throw up a big middle-finger to the Hollywood "Power" lists and enjoy Film Threat's Frigid 50: The Coldest People in Hollywood 2006!
Here's numbers 27 & 28...
27. Bryan Singer
You left the "X-Men" franchise to collapse under the weight of its own failed expectations (and Brett Ratner), and you brought a "Superman" film to the multiplexes that re-imagined the Man of Steel as a peeping Tom obsessed with Lois Lane (and little else). Whatever comic book credibility you had disappeared the second Lex Luthor threw the first crystal into the water.
Anti-Freeze: Quit the "Superman" franchise too, show you're nothing if not randomly insubordinate.

28. Brandon Routh
Look, up there in the sky! It's a bird! It's a plane! It's - a flash in the pan? The new Superman didn't quite leap the A-list in a single bound. The lack of public enthusiasm for Routh might suggest the Curse of the Red Cape struck a bit early in his career.
Anti-Freeze: Show an emotion. Smile, frown, something so we know that you're real.
At this point, to say we agree is probably superfluous.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

That's Some Funny Math There, WB

Just wanted to bring to your attention a great article put up on Dave Poland's always entertaining Hot Blog that takes a look at the financials for Singerman and just how WB may fudge the numbers in their favor in order to avoid the rath of their shareholders. That's the magic of accounting. If you know what you're doing you can make profits appear and disappear when it's convenient for you.

I was reading a Merrill Lynch study on equity funding of movies. And it finally occurred to me how Warner Bros could claim profitabilityfor Superman Returns without getting sued by Time-Warnerstockholders.
Superman Returns grosses $392 million worldwide. That’s
roughly $210 million in rentals.
WB takes roughly $130 million in worldwide
P&A and another $55 million in distribution off the top. That leaves $25
million for distribution toward participations and production.Ancillaries on
this movie look to be (generously) about $175 million net. That’s $200 million
WB takes half of that, $100 million… plus roughly $55 million in distribution
equals $155 million. Why, that would be a $5 million profit! And if you
accept WB’s acknowledged cost on the picture of $210 million, you’d be looking
at… taa dah!!!... a $50 million profit, as they claimed in the NY

Of course, you have to overlook the $60 million in failed development costs… also acknowledged by WB. And the $30 million or $40 million in additional production costs that are generally acknowledged inside the non-publicity side of the studio as real. And my figure of $130 for worldwide publicity is generous, especially considering the long push to crack $200 million domestic (it happened last week) and the big money spent on weeks two and three and four of the domestic run. And any participants who might have gotten paid (did Bryan Singer have gross points?) are not offered here. But studios are good at hiding costs when they so wish, just as they are good at hiding profits when they so wish.

Interesting. When you look at a film like that and add back things like distribution fees you can really enhance the look of the film's bottomline. But how much of that money does the studio actually ever really see?

Best of all, by this accounting method, Legendary Pictures took an
only-in-for-$105- million hit of $5 million and an it’s-really-$150-million hit
of $50 million.
In looking towards a second Singer Superman, there is the
obvious advantage of not carrying the load of failed development costs. And
keeping Singer to a $150 million budget is possible. But
story on the idea of this sequel
says that a financing partner is key for WB
to movie forward. Why, if the first film was allegedly profitable?

Yeah, I've been asking the same thing. If the film would've been profitable whether or not WB split the $200 million in revenue ($25M from theaters plus $175M in ancillaries) with those distribution fees added back, why DOES the financing partner matter???

Well, as you see, WB gets to triple dip, while an equity partner has only one
shot at breaking even or profiting. Recovered marketing costs also pay for
permanent WB staff on the picture. Distribution returns are mostly profit
. So if
Superman Returns Again did 20% less at the box office ($400 million is nothing
to sneeze at), the dollar flow looks like...
Production cost: $150 million

Total net: $310 million (on $315 million worldwide gross)
WB P&A - $120 million
WB Distribution – $40 million
WB Production - $75 million
Partner Production - $75 million

In other words, a breakeven movie, with $40 million in profit for WB, using this year’s SR calculation. And nothing for a partner. (Again, this is without profit participation.)

Yeah, I know that's enough to make your head spin, and there's even more figures on the blog page that details other scenarios for a sequel, but the point is pretty clear how you can make it look a lot better than it actually was.

The betting is that Superman Returns gets more love on DVD than it did in
theaters and that it is stronger going into another film, plus the idea that
Singer makes the movie that people really wanted to see the last time.
That said, Batman Returns was down 10% from Batman and Spider-Man II was off 7% from
Realistically, what will make the “deal with Singer” into an actual movie? It could be DVD revenues. Everyone involved will be waiting to see how SR sells on DVD. The margin for financial safety on another film in the series is that thin. And of course, this all becomes moot if the next film soars. And so it goes…

So like we said last week, even though Singer is "signed" to some form of a contract to do a sequel, just how and in what form that materializes will be dependent on what happens in the home video market and just what kind of profit margin goes on the books after that.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Will Work For Food

Found on page 2 of the Sunday, Nov 5th issue of Parade Magazine:

Question: Why has Superman Returns' Brandon Routh fallen off the media radar since being favorably compared to Chris Reeve?
- Geri Smith, Fort Walton Beach, Fla.

Answer: Routh, 27, filled Reeve's tights but failed to put his own stamp on the role. Our advice: Choose a serious acting challenge for your next role and raise your asking price. His paltry Superman salary (reportedly $1 million or less) led some to dub Routh "the Man of Steal."
Superstitious people might want to blame Routh's disturbing disappearing act from public view as portends of the infamous Superman Curse, but we here at SSS tend to think it has more earthly causes. Too bad Singer didn't give him something better to work with.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Singer and the Sequel: What Could be Changing?

We're back after being away on a business for a few days, and unless you've been living under a rock (or throwing a giant one that contains a material that should kill you) you've heard the news that WB and Singer have a preliminary agreement for him to direct a sequel to Singerman.

At first I thought to myself, "great! he just got done raping Superman's corpse, and will now be coming back for seconds." Upon further reflection however, I think there's a few interesting tidbits to be gleened from the article that show things are still from rosey.

"Pic is tentatively intended for release in summer 2009, although the studio stressed that there's not even a script or budget yet.

Sequel is apparently at the very beginning of the development process and, as with any other project, there are any number of factors that must be addressed before it is greenlit."

Even though Singer is signed to some form of an agreement, there still appears to be a WAYS to go before this thing moves forward. Once the final take for Singerman can be determined, they'll set a budget for a proposed sequel, which will most likely be less since Singerman performed far below expectations. A script will then be submitted and then pruned to fit that budget.

"Insiders say Warners and Legendary are sure to insist that the sequel's production budget comes in under $200 million.

"Superman Returns" fell under endless scrutiny for its production budget, which the studio puts at $209 million after tax rebates and incentives. The number is much higher when factoring in more than $40 million in development costs -- "Superman Returns" was in the works for years --even though those costs were previously absorbed.

Critically, "Superman Returns" was disparaged for lacking in action. Singer has said he would address this concern in the follow-up."

And here's where things get a bit iffy. Singer's production budget is going to be cut to somewhere in the $140 - $175 million range we'd assume. Assuming it's the high end for argument's sake that's a minimum of $35 million minimum less he's got at his disposal. He's also claiming to remedy the action deficiency of the first film. Everyone knows that more action = more special effects work = more budget. Now granted some sets are already built and some of the CGI modeling is already done from the first go around, but we'd assume (hope) there will still need to be various new set pieces built and the CG work will have to be done extensively again, unless of course Singer plans on reusing his few action sequences from the first film. On top of all that, you have these rumors floating around about Singer introducing a super villain (please NOT Zod) this time. What effect do you think something like that has for the FX budget?
Granted I'm a bit shocked that the action criticism is actually being addressed, but how is it going to get done for less? And how many big budget sequels do you know that cost LESS than thier predecessors to produce? And how many of those were actually successful? None that I can think of. Sequels up the ante, which means you need to up the investment. Singer had free reign with over $200 million to play with and couldn't deliver the goods. Why should anyone assume he'll put out a better film for less?

"In terms of casting, Warners has an option on "Superman Returns" star Brandon Routh."

Interesting note there. We've said before we didn't think Routh was really a problem in this film, although his exposure seemed to be limited, and he didn't have the greatest PR at times. But is it still possible WB may want to tweak the casting of the franchise? (If they should scrap anyone it should be Bosworth!) However, how happy can they be to see things like this on the website of a magazine they own? And don't get all pissy on us, we wouldn't have liked this movie any better with Welling or Christopher Reeve in the lead role. We just thought that result was a tad shocking since one of them hasn't even thought about the suit yet.

"Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris penned the script for "Superman Returns" based on a story they created with Singer. It's not clear whether Dougherty and Harris will return for the sequel."

One can only hope WB forces Singer out of his "comfort zone" and hires some decent writers that have a decent knowledge of who Superman is. However I'm not sure what difference that's going to make since the issues with the first film are so far engrained into the universe that was created that to ignore them now would be an even bigger joke than the first film.