Even as a "Pacific Rim" detractor, it's hard not to be impressed with the film's opening weekend. Guillermo Del Toro's blockbuster creature feature grossed $38.3 million over the three-day weekend, about $1 million more than "Oblivion" managed back in April -- and that one had Tom Cruise's name above the title and little relevant competition. "Pacific Rim" is already at over $90 million worldwide, and should easily surpass $200 million in global ticket sales when all is said and done (it might even crest above $250 million). For a movie with no stars and no pre-sold brand, that's really good.
The issue, of course, is that Del Toro spent a reported $190 million to make "Pacific Rim" -- not counting the untold millions forked over by Warner Bros. for marketing -- meaning the film needed to do a lot better than place third during its opening weekend in North America.
For all the talk about how Hollywood is afraid to take chances, this summer has featured tons of expensive Hail Mary passes. Few have been completed. "Pacific Rim" comes on the heels of Disney's flop "The Lone Ranger" and Sony's two flops, "White House Down" and "After Earth." All four films cost a ton of money; all four films were off-beat risks for the studios involved.
"The bigger the budget, the cleaner the concept needs to be," Adam Fogelson, chairman of Universal Pictures, said to The New Yorker last year. "Because you need to appeal not just to all four quadrants, but to people who speak every language under the sun. So ambiguity and darkness are tough."
More recently, Steven Spielberg, one of the founding fathers of summer blockbusters, predicted that the industry was coming to a breaking point. "That's the big danger, and there's eventually going to be an implosion -- or a big meltdown," Spielberg said during a discussion at USC's School of Cinematic Arts back in June. "There's going to be an implosion where three or four or maybe even a half-dozen megabudget movies are going to go crashing into the ground, and that's going to change the paradigm."
According to Spielberg, that would mean tiered pricing for blockbusters. "You're gonna have to pay $25 for the next 'Iron Man,'" Spielberg said. "You're probably only going to have to pay $7 to see 'Lincoln.'" Except what it really means is that Hollywood is actually going to take even fewer chances.
Earlier in July, Deadline.com's Nikki Finke wrote a piece about the comeback at Universal Pictures, following a string of high-profile flops like "The Wolfman," "Cowboys & Aliens," "Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World," "The Five-Year Engagement" and "Battleship." How did the studio manage to get out of blockbuster jail in the matter of a year? By making movies similar to "Pacific Rim" at a fraction of the cost.
"I've learned this short and stunning turnaround actually was the result of a plan by Universal execs to target overseas audiences who make up 70 percent of theatrical box office and intentionally create international franchises," Finke wrote.
That should have been "Pacific Rim," a movie with a diverse cast of non-stars and a global storyline. (Americans still save the day in "Pacific Rim," but Del Toro's film does at least acknowledge the existence of other cultures.) Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures, the production company behind "Pacific Rim" and other Warner Bros. hits like "Man of Steel" and Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy, had the right idea here, it's just that the budget was off. If "Pacific Rim" cost $90 million, the sequel would already have a green light.
That's how Universal has righted itself. "If you look at their next two years, it is filled with sequels (10 in their 25 next pics) which should lead to terrific profits plus lower volatility. And they have event pictures and several brands such as 'Fifty Shades Of Grey' and 'Wicked' (touring in 40+ countries). It's an amazing run," an unnamed source told Finke. "I never expected this. To be honest, I'm not their biggest fan." (The irony here is that Legendary Pictures just signed a deal with Universal, a studio that has put hard brakes on films that cost as much as "Pacific Rim." As Jay-Z might say, it's time for new rules.)
All of which illustrates why movies like "Pacific Rim" often don't exist at that price point, and probably shouldn't at all: the reward is just too unattainable. (Don't even ask about the crumbled DVD market.) "Our owners don't need us to swing for the fences at all costs in hopes we can justify our existence," an anonymous studio executive told The New Yorker last year. "If we don't make smart decisions, they'll just reduce the number of films we make." The more movies like "Pacific Rim" that fail because of high budgets, the worse things will become for the consumer who wants more original blockbusters like "Pacific Rim."
"Today, we are canceling the apocalypse," Idris Elba's Stacker Pentecost says during a high point in "Pacific Rim." Except maybe the opposite of that? This is how the blockbuster era ends: not with a whimper, but with a kaiju roar.
Lady Gaga rocked some 80's style while leaving her apartment building in New York City on June 6.
Eva Longoria and Felicity Huffman had a little "Desperate Housewives" reunion at the AFI Life Achievement Award: A Tribute To Jane Fonda at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, California on June 5.
Lindsay Lohan was seen at Chiltern Firehouse in London on June 5.
Scott Disick attended the 2014 FIFA World Cup McDonald's launch party at Pillars 38 on June 5 in New York City.
Lena Dunham was seen rocking a "No Comment" sweater while out and about in New York City on June 5.
Hilary Duff was all smiles as she ran errands on June 5 in Beverly Hills, California.
Channing Tatum has some fun at the "22 Jump Street" premiere at AMC Lincoln Square Theater on June 4 in New York City.
Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban attended the 2014 CMT Music Awards at the Bridgestone Arena on June 4 in Nashville, Tennessee.
Carrie Underwood attended the 2014 CMT Music Awards at the Bridgestone Arena on June 4 in Nashville, Tennessee.
Kendall and Kylie Jenner were seen stepping out in New York City on June 4.
Bradley Cooper got whipped into shape by military personnel while filming scenes for his upcoming movie "American Sniper" in Los Angeles, California on June 4.
Sarah Jessica Parker went for a walk on June 4 in New York City.
Emma Roberts and Evan Peters enjoyed a romantic stroll on the beach together while vacationing in Maui, Hawaii on June 3.
Kim Kardashian stopped by Craig's in West Hollywood, California to have lunch with her mom Kris Jenner on June 3.
Taylor Schilling attended the Glamour Women of the Year Awards at Berkeley Square Gardens on June 3 in London, England.
Miranda Lambert stopped by ABC studios for an appearance on "Good Morning America" in New York Cit on June 3.
Angelina Jolie attended the "Maleficent" photo call at The Bund on June 3 in Shanghai, China.
John Mayer enjoyed dinner out at Madeo Restaurant on June 2 in West Hollywood, California.
Blake Lively left her hotel with designer Michael Kors and headed to the 2014 CDFA Awards on June 2 in New York City.
Gwen Stefani spotted leaving a skin care clinic while out and about in Beverly Hills, California on June 2.
Katie Holmes spotted picking up Jergens Natural Glow Daily Moisturizer in New York City on June 2.
Pete Wentz took a test drive of the new Mario Kart 8 for Wii U in Los Angeles, California on June 2.
Halle Berry attended the Huading Film Awards on June 1 at Ricardo Montalban Theatre in Los Angeles, California.
Kim Kardashian was seen at LAX on June 1 in Los Angeles, California.
Shailene Woodley was seen leaving the Bowery Hotel in New York City on June 1.
Marion Cotillard spotted out and about with a friend in New York City on June 1.
Khloe Kardashian chatted away on her cell phone as she arrived on a red eye flight at JFK airport in New York on May 31.
Naomi Watts headed to the gym for a morning workout on May 30 in Brentwood, California
Jane Lynch signed copies of her book "Marlene, Marlene, Queen of Mean" at the 2014 Bookexpo America at The Jacob K. Javits Convention Center on May 29 in New York City.
Taylor Schilling, Jason Biggs and Laura Prepon attended a photo call to launch season 2 of Netflix exclusive series "Orange Is The New Black" on May 29 in London.
Peter Facinelli and Jaimie Alexander shared a kiss after their work out at a gym in West Hollywood, California on May 29.
Mariah Carey at the 2014 Fresh Air Fund Honoring Our American Hero at Pier Sixty in New York City on May 29.
Farrah Abraham spotted posing for cameras in New York City on May 29.
Prince William and Kate Middleton visited Strathearn Community Campus in Crieff, Scotland on May 29.
"The Bachelorette" Season 1 couple Trista and Ryan Sutter stopped to pose for the cameras while out and about in New York City on May 29.
Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt at the Los Angeles premiere of "Maleficent" at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood, California on May 28.
Chris Martin and his band Coldplay perform live at the Casino de Paris on May 28 in Paris.
Hilary Duff stopped by a nail salon in Los Angeles, California on May 28.
Scott Disick spotted out and about with a friend in New York City on May 28.
Emily Blunt attended the premiere of "Edge Of Tomorrow" on May 28 in London.
Nina Dobrev wowed at the World Music Awards 2014 at Sporting Monte-Carlo on May 27.
Kristen Stewart departed on a flight at LAX airport in Los Angeles, California with her bodyguard on May 27.
Amanda Seyfried, Charlize Theron and Seth MacFarlane attended a photo call to promote "A Million Ways To Die In The West" on May 27 in London, England.
Jennifer Garner met a friend for lunch at Larchmont Bungalow in Los Angeles, California on May 27.
Tom Cruise attended "Edge Of Tomorrow" photocall at Terrazza Civita on May 27 in Rome, Italy.
Kaley Cuoco and her husband Ryan Sweeting attended Joel Silver's Annual Memorial Day Party at his home in Malibu, California on May 26.
Kris Jenner and baby North West left Florence Airport after Kim Kardashian And Kanye West's wedding on May 25 in Florence, Italy.
Emma Watson, in a cap and gown, attending Brown University’s 2014 Graduation Ceremony in Providence, Rhode Island on May 25.
Eva Longoria had a busy morning in Los Angeles, California on May 25.
Iggy Azalea arrived at The Bank nightclub at the Bellagio on May 24 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Supermodel Hilary Rhoda and her fiance former "DWTS" contestant Sean Avery celebrated Memorial Day with Tequila Don Julio cocktails from the Airstream speakeasy in the Hampton's on May 24.
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