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DVDTalk review of "Serenity"

Old 12-13-05, 10:06 AM
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http://www.dvdtalk.com/reviews/read.php?ID=19247
Review by das Monkey

I know this review seems aimed at people other than Browncoats, so I realize this may be obvious coming from someone with a signature like mine, but that was a wonderful review! It almost brings a tear to my eye. *sniff*

Awesome (amusing) news about the Easter Egg.. can't wait to see it!
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Old 12-13-05, 12:48 PM
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Yeah, another great review by Monkey.

He's the best, most thorough reviewer on this site (or any other) by far.
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Old 12-13-05, 01:03 PM
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I had a problem with the opening quote...

"Firefly went on the air a few years ago and was instantly hailed by critics as one of the most cancelled shows of the year. It was ignored and abandoned, and the story should end there ... but it doesn't."

one of the most cancelled shows of the year? Story should end there? Some confusion in that paragraph.
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Old 12-13-05, 01:08 PM
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Originally Posted by indiephantom
I had a problem with the opening quote...

"Firefly went on the air a few years ago and was instantly hailed by critics as one of the most cancelled shows of the year. It was ignored and abandoned, and the story should end there ... but it doesn't."

one of the most cancelled shows of the year? Story should end there? Some confusion in that paragraph.


I'll save das the trouble on this one, since I sent him an e-mail with the same question. Apparently, it's a quote from Joss Whedon---very tongue-in-cheek, of course, so it doesn't read as well as it sounds.
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Old 12-13-05, 01:22 PM
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Originally Posted by indiephantom
one of the most cancelled shows of the year? Story should end there? Some confusion in that paragraph.
I guess you missed out on the fan screenings earlier this year, but Joss' intro is one of the extras on the DVD. Here's the original quote:

"Hi, I’m Joss Whedon. Before we begin this special screening, I have a little story I want to tell you. It’s about a TV show called Firefly. Firefly went on the air a few years ago and was instantly hailed by critics as one of the most cancelled shows of the year. It was ignored and abandoned, and the story should end there. But it doesn’t, because the people who made the show and the people who saw the show—which is roughly the same number of people—fell in love with it a little bit too much to let it go, too much to lay down arms when the battle looked pretty much lost."
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Old 12-13-05, 04:32 PM
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Great review. The only thing i really disagreed with was the part about the Chinese expletives. I always thought it worked well in the show and the movie.
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Old 12-13-05, 07:11 PM
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It's a good review, but I think das overpraises the movie a little too much, as other fans have. It was entertaining and provided a satisfying sense of closure for the series, but certainly was not an inspirational achievement that will forever change the face of science fiction storytelling.

The review is candid about the fact that the series was a flop, but curiously glosses over the fact that the movie was as well. Even by the modest expectations set for it, the movie was a tremendous disappointment for the studio.
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Old 12-13-05, 07:48 PM
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"Curiously glosses over" something that is completely immaterial to the content of the DVD? How it performed at the box office is irrelevant to whether or not the film is good and the DVD worth buying. Analyzing box office returns is something better left to message boards.

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Old 12-13-05, 09:03 PM
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I agree, very good review.

Thumbs up, das!
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Old 12-14-05, 12:18 AM
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Originally Posted by slop101
He's the best, most thorough reviewer on this site (or any other) by far.
*cough* Savant *cough*
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Old 12-14-05, 01:21 AM
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Originally Posted by illennium
*cough* Savant *cough*
Savant has few peers when it comes to disecting a film's content and it's proper context, but his technical reviewing (audio/video/extras) leave a little to be desired.

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Old 12-14-05, 06:51 AM
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Originally Posted by das Monkey
"Curiously glosses over" something that is completely immaterial to the content of the DVD? How it performed at the box office is irrelevant to whether or not the film is good and the DVD worth buying. Analyzing box office returns is something better left to message boards.
I both agree and disagree. While I certainly do not equate box office dollars with quality, when telling the history of the movie it's a little disingenuous to imply that the unwatched TV series was somehow redeemed or vindicated by the feature film that also went largely unseen and lost a lot of money for the studio.

I'm not disagreeing with anything specific you said in the review, per se, but personally what I find most interesting about Firefly and Serenity is the reason why they were such failures. They were both good, so why didn't anyone want to watch them? Especially Serenity, which was frankly a dismal box office flop despite the best efforts of the studio to drum up fan support and promote the hell out of it. Yet, nonetheless, when I saw the movie on opening weekend at a popular local multiplex the theater was barely 1/4 full.
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Old 12-14-05, 08:46 AM
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Originally Posted by Josh Z
I both agree and disagree. While I certainly do not equate box office dollars with quality, when telling the history of the movie it's a little disingenuous to imply that the unwatched TV series was somehow redeemed or vindicated by the feature film that also went largely unseen and lost a lot of money for the studio.
I don't think that's the implication, though. The point is that this is a movie based on a practically-stillborn TV show, and regardless of its box office receipts, that Serenity even exists is remarkable.
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Old 12-14-05, 12:28 PM
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Originally Posted by Puzznic
Great review. The only thing i really disagreed with was the part about the Chinese expletives. I always thought it worked well in the show and the movie.
Agreed. I actually think there wasn't enough of the colorful language in the film! (though I've only seen it twice, so maybe I missed a few)
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Old 12-15-05, 08:54 AM
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Well the TV bombed because Fox (at the time) didn't know how to put the same show in the same timeslot two weeks in a row. That and they showed the series in the dumbest order I've ever heard of (see Greg the Bunny and Andy Richter for similar stupidity in scheduling).

The Movie while great solo really depends on the viewer having seen the series to get the most out of it. I didn't think the previews did a good job of conveying the feeling it had and almost made me NOT want to see it. I liked the movie and will probably be picking it up.
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Old 12-15-05, 11:42 AM
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Originally Posted by Judremy
Well the TV bombed because Fox (at the time) didn't know how to put the same show in the same timeslot two weeks in a row.
Fox certainly screwed the pooch with regard to airing the second episode first, but "The Train Job" is a decent enough introduction to the series (as it was designed to be, having been written after Fox told Whedon they needed a new pilot ep). What order or on what night Fox aired the remaining episodes is largely irrelevant, given that nobody was watching them anyway.

While I like Firefly, I can certainly understand why it didn't succeed on network television, and it isn't all the network's fault. When it was on the air, I wasn't particularly impressed with it either and didn't bother to watch many episodes. It wasn't until DVD that the show "clicked".

Quite frankly, the real reason Firefly bombed was because of the Joss Whedon theme song. You open a show like that and people turn the channel. Yes, it grew on me eventually, but I was in a more forgiving mood when watching the DVDs (plus, you can chapter skip past the opening credits). TV viewers are fickle and don't put up with that crap, unless the show has "Star Trek" in the title.
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Old 12-15-05, 05:39 PM
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Originally Posted by Josh Z
The review is candid about the fact that the series was a flop, but curiously glosses over the fact that the movie was as well. Even by the modest expectations set for it, the movie was a tremendous disappointment for the studio.
I would not call the movie as a flop. Underpreformed? Yes. But "tremendous disappointment?" No fucking way. It made over $25 million on a $40 million budget here in the States, but for the type of film Serenity is, it's a "decent" amount. Universal took a gamble on this picture, everyone knew this. They were in dire need for a franchise picture and they wanted to test the waters with this film. Nobody knew how the film was going to perform. Most people thought this film wouldn't make more than $10 million during it's theatrical run, but oddly enough, it made $10 million on it's opening weekend.

You simply don't make films based off a cancelled television show that has a cult audience of only a few million people and that is unheard of by the mainstream. Star Trek already had a huge following behind it before the first film was made, and not only that, the film really didn't continue on what was established in the series. It was an entirely new story with the original cast of characters. The Naked Gun was also easily accesible by the mainstream due as it just took the show's main character and went from there. Serenity? Not so much. Whedon not only had to appeal to the fans (who were the film's #1 source of income), but also "newcomers" who have never stepped into the Firefly universe before. There was already continuity and a story established from the series and he wen't from there. While audience and critical response was pretty good, you really cannot market a film that's continuing a story from a previous source that nobody has any idea on (and this is going to be a problem when Universal tries to market Richard Kelly's Southernland Tales, because I don't think most people are going to read his graphic novels).

Serenity would be a "tremendous disappointment" if it only made around $10 million in it's theatrical run here, but it didn't. It was lucky enough to make a little bit more than $25 million and has pretty much broken even due to it's overseas take. There's also DVD sales to look at and I'm pretty sure it's going to sell more copies than the Firefly DVDs (which are still selling pretty well despite being released over two years ago). It underpreformed, but calling it a "tremendous disappointment" is a vast overstatement.
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Old 12-15-05, 06:52 PM
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Originally Posted by Matthew Chmiel
I would not call the movie as a flop. Underpreformed? Yes. But "tremendous disappointment?" No fucking way. It made over $25 million on a $40 million budget here in the States, but for the type of film Serenity is, it's a "decent" amount.
Let's take off our rose-colored glasses for a minute, shall we? The movie was budgeted at $40 million for production and an additional $20 for promotion. Neither of these figures take into account distribution expenses involved with actually putting film prints into theater projectors, which usually adds another $5 million to the total for the number of screens this ran on. The movie's $25.3 million box office take barely covered its promotion and distribution expenses, and didn't even begin to recoup the original $40 million investment. There's no two ways around it. That's a flop.

Universal took a gamble on this picture, everyone knew this. They were in dire need for a franchise picture and they wanted to test the waters with this film. Nobody knew how the film was going to perform. Most people thought this film wouldn't make more than $10 million during it's theatrical run, but oddly enough, it made $10 million on it's opening weekend.
Where do you get this stuff from? Most people expected it to gross no more than $10 million? Who are these "most people"? The studio spent $60+ million on the movie. They wanted it to do a damn share better than $10 million box office.

And a $10 million opening weekend is really poor for any wide release movie. Intial box office analysis pegged Serenity to open with ~$17 million and top out its run around $50 million. It underperformed even those modest expectations.

It opened in a dismal 4th place on a weekend with little competition. Apologists for the picture claimed, "But it will have legs. Just wait and see. The fans will come back again and again." Unfortunately, that wasn't the case at all. By the second week it dropped 50% (really bad for this type of movie) and fell totally out of the Top 10. It was removed from most theaters after that and subsequent weeks made a negligible impact before it was gone entirely.

Then the apologists claimed, "But it will do great overseas. Americans are too stupid. Foreign audiences will love it. Wait and see." Well, that didn't turn out to be the case either. The foreign box office was even worse than the domestic box office. It was not a success in any country it was released in. Its total worldwide box office barely made a ripple.

You simply don't make films based off a cancelled television show that has a cult audience of only a few million people and that is unheard of by the mainstream.
Not after this one they certainly won't.

Serenity would be a "tremendous disappointment" if it only made around $10 million in it's theatrical run here, but it didn't.
You don't seem to have much concept of the large sums of money involved in the motion picture industry. A movie must make 2 1/2 times its production budget just to "break even" by the investors' expectations. And no investor is looking to put their money into a project that just barely makes back what they spent on it. They want a hit. That Serenity didn't gross $100 million means it's a disappointment. That it didn't gross $50 million means it was a flop and a waste of their money. That it didn't even gross $30 million makes it a tax write-off.

It was lucky enough to make a little bit more than $25 million and has pretty much broken even due to it's overseas take. There's also DVD sales to look at and I'm pretty sure it's going to sell more copies than the Firefly DVDs (which are still selling pretty well despite being released over two years ago).
I'm sure that after DVD the movie may indeed break even. But again, investors don't want to break even. They want to make money, and with this one they certainly did not.

For the record, I actually liked Serenity. But I'm a realist, and understand that from the perspective of the money people who financed it the whole project was a huge mistake, one that they will not repeat with a sequel or TV spin-off, as much as the movie's small number of fans might wish for one.

Last edited by Josh Z; 12-15-05 at 06:55 PM.
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Old 12-15-05, 08:13 PM
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Originally Posted by Josh Z
Let's take off our rose-colored glasses for a minute, shall we? The movie was budgeted at $40 million for production and an additional $20 for promotion. Neither of these figures take into account distribution expenses involved with actually putting film prints into theater projectors, which usually adds another $5 million to the total for the number of screens this ran on. The movie's $25.3 million box office take barely covered its promotion and distribution expenses, and didn't even begin to recoup the original $40 million investment. There's no two ways around it. That's a flop.
Considering the budget for distribution is usually always included with the advertising budget, Universal probably only spent $60 million for everything. Hell, probably even less considering a lot of the commercials were ran on channels owned by Universal (the only times I saw commercials for the flick were on Monday Night Football). Not only that, but Universal only had to pay a little bit over two-million for the rerun rights of Firefly (and that's not included in the advertising budget) and that let Universal have unlimited advertising on Sci-Fi starting since July. Let's also not mention all the free press they got by just having three early screenings (which pretty much paid for themselves).

Where do you get this stuff from? Most people expected it to gross no more than $10 million? Who are these "most people"? The studio spent $60+ million on the movie. They wanted it to do a damn share better than $10 million box office.
I don't know if you know this yet, but theatrical releases of most films are basically advertisments for DVD sales. The theatrical release of Serenity was pretty much a big advertisment for the DVD that will come out less than three months since the film debuted in theaters. A lot of us had the film pegged as being a failure even before the film was released. The "weekend box office" thread in the Movies forum is a great thread (most of the time) for predictions regarding upcoming films as a lot of us already know the trends on how films will do.

And a $10 million opening weekend is really poor for any wide release movie. Intial box office analysis pegged Serenity to open with ~$17 million and top out its run around $50 million. It underperformed even those modest expectations.
Most box office analysis had the film pegged at $12-15 million, not $17 million. But close.

It opened in a dismal 4th place on a weekend with little competition. Apologists for the picture claimed, "But it will have legs. Just wait and see. The fans will come back again and again." Unfortunately, that wasn't the case at all. By the second week it dropped 50% (really bad for this type of movie) and fell totally out of the Top 10. It was removed from most theaters after that and subsequent weeks made a negligible impact before it was gone entirely.
Where the fuck did you get your information from? It opened second place whereas Fightplan remained number one from the week before. Now as I mentioned, if you read the "Weekend Box Office" threads, you would notice that 95% of genre films that are released have huge second weekend drops. It doesn't help much that Serenity is not only a sci-fi film, but a western. Two genres that pretty much alienate current-day audiences.

Then the apologists claimed, "But it will do great overseas. Americans are too stupid. Foreign audiences will love it. Wait and see." Well, that didn't turn out to be the case either. The foreign box office was even worse than the domestic box office. It was not a success in any country it was released in. Its total worldwide box office barely made a ripple.
The film did decent in the UK and Australia, the two overseas countries it was pushed the most. There's Browncoats (and lots of them) there. Anywhere else? Hell if I know.

I'm sure that after DVD the movie may indeed break even. But again, investors don't want to break even. They want to make money, and with this one they certainly did not.
I don't know if you know the movie industry, but most studio executives would rather have a film break even then be a flop. When a film breaks even, a studio considers that a "success" compared to most films that are released that do poor box office and don't break even until after home video and the film is on television. Yes, studio executives are mostly in the industry of making money, but they'd also rather lose nothing than lose a lot.

For the record, I actually liked Serenity. But I'm a realist, and understand that from the perspective of the money people who financed it the whole project was a huge mistake, one tht they will not repeat with a sequel or TV spin-off, as much as the movie's small number of fans might wish for one.
Yeah, but you also hate most of Whedon's other work. I can always see a direct-to-video sequel (where the sales for Firefly have strived and I'm sure the same will be said for Serenity), but a theatrical sequel? No. Well, probably not unless the DVDs sell like hotcakes, which is possible since Universal is releasing it on one of the biggest shopping weeks of the year. Universal saw this with solid sales of Shaun of the Dead last year (and Fox saw it with over 1.3 million copies of Napoleon Dynamite sold in one day last year as well -- a film that only made $40 million at the domestic box office, but was a success for the few million Searchlight spent on the film).
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Old 12-15-05, 11:12 PM
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Yes, I too wish some people would be more accurate with thier terms here, or at least not throw certain terms around so carelessly. "Underperfomer" is the way to go - but definitely not "Flop". To give you some examples of what would be consaidered a "Flop"...

The Island Cost to make = $122 Million, Domestic Box office gross = $36 Million


Kingdom Of Heaven Cost to make = $130 Million, Domestic Box office gross = $47.4 Million


Stealth Cost to make = $130 Million, Domestic Box office gross = $31.7 Million

Now you could call ALL of these "flops", but Serenity doesn't even come close by the same standards.

And just to put it in perspective....

Cinderella Man Cost to make = 88 Million, Domestic Box office gross = 61.6 Million

...now since it still didn't make back the amount of money it cost to make (and I'm not even talking about promotional costs - but I saw a hell of a lot more promotion for this film, so it's advertising budget must have been substantially more) do you also consider this a flop? I'm curious to know, because I don't think too many other people would - but going by the way you're skewing things, it must be.

Last edited by Rocketdog2000; 12-15-05 at 11:18 PM.
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Old 12-16-05, 06:55 AM
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Originally Posted by Matthew Chmiel
I don't know if you know this yet, but theatrical releases of most films are basically advertisments for DVD sales.
While it's true that DVD sales are becoming a greater source of revenue than theatrical releases, the entire industry still judges success or failure by theatrical box office.

Where the fuck did you get your information from? It opened second place whereas Fightplan remained number one from the week before.
Ooh, excuse me, second place. It still had a terrible $10 million opening.

Now as I mentioned, if you read the "Weekend Box Office" threads, you would notice that 95% of genre films that are released have huge second weekend drops.
Most of those genre films also have large openings, so the second week drop off in relative terms is still a lot of money. Serenity opened small and just shrank after that. Half of next-to-nothing is even closer to nothing.

It doesn't help much that Serenity is not only a sci-fi film, but a western.
No, it really doesn't help, does it? Which makes the decision to greenlight this project even more perplexing.

I don't know if you know the movie industry, but most studio executives would rather have a film break even then be a flop.
Studio executives would rather not waste their money in the first place than produce something that just breaks even.

When a film breaks even, a studio considers that a "success" compared to most films that are released that do poor box office and don't break even until after home video and the film is on television. Yes, studio executives are mostly in the industry of making money, but they'd also rather lose nothing than lose a lot.
Your attitude here seems to be that the studio expected to lose money, so breaking even is a great success for them. It doesn't work that way. The studios don't make movies expecting failure. They don't greenlight projects unless they expect a hit. Anything less is a waste of time and money.

Yeah, but you also hate most of Whedon's other work.
WHAT??!!

Matthew, seriously, take off those rose colored glasses. I'm not saying it was a bad movie, but as a financial investment it was a big failure. So it goes. Accept and deal with it.

Consider this: In 2005, Serenity performed almost exactly the same as "Dune" did in 1984. $40 million budget, $25 million gross, poor international showings, moderate success on home video. In 1984, Dune was considered one of the biggest bombs of all time. The only reason Serenity doesn't have that reputation is because movie budgets have spiralled out of control in the meantime, and in relative terms its failure isn't as big as other more costly failures (like The Island, for example). But that certainly doesn't make it a suceess.

Many good movies lose money. It's not something to take personally, unless you're the filmmaker and are put out of work by it.

Last edited by Josh Z; 12-16-05 at 07:02 AM.
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Old 12-16-05, 09:43 AM
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Not to stick my foot into something here, but aside from hopes for more down the line, when did enjoying movies go to worrying about how much they make compared to budget, to worrying about how much they make compared to budget + marketing costs?

Serenity was a rare feat. We got our big damn movie. We got some finality. We can hope for more, but that's totally out of our hands. Show Firefly to friends and more-than-likely they'll at least like it, if not love it. What more matters from our non-producer, consumer stance?

(btw, from that DVDTalk interview with Joss, it does sound like there's at least another three issue mini-series of comics on the way in the future! )
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Old 12-16-05, 10:34 AM
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Reasonable assumptions that employ no bias (feel free to adjust these numbers if you have better info, but we cannot discuss this without making some reasonable guesses):

Studio Costs: ~$60 million
Box Office Gross: > $40 million
Box Office Take: If I'm not mistaken, take is based on weeks, opening week is the highest and slowly decreasing from there. From what I've heard, typically this is somewhere between 65% and 85%. With no major stars and almost certainly no back-end deals (e.g. Nathan Fillion gets 20% of the take because he's so famous), this likely skews high, but I'll split the difference and go with 75% or ~$30 million.
Broadcast Rights: I've read that USA/Sci-Fi (Universal) paid about $3 million for first and second network broadcast rights, and HBO paid $5 million for overall first dibs. Most analysts would separate Universal Production from Universal Television, so the $3 million should count towards the film, but there's a lot of ad sharing and teamwork going on, so I'll be conservative and just go with $5 million.

It therefore seems reasonable to me that of the $60 million the studio spent in toto on this project, they have somewhere in the neighborhood of $35 million back before DVD sales. I don't know how much of a single DVD's sales the studio makes, but one would assume it's in the ballpark with what they make from a peak time theater ticket (~$7.00). I'm guessing here. I really have no idea. It could be a lot more or a lot less, but it sounds reasonable to me that from a DVD with a $20 MSRP that's being sold to vendors at a reduced rate, the net profit would be in that area. If that's the case, then essentially if the DVD is more successful than the theatrical showing (i.e. more people buy the DVD than saw it in a theater), the film will turn a profit. Considering that a bulk of the audience is fans, a large percentage of people who saw it in the theater are going to buy it. However, there are many families mixed in there, and they'll probably only buy one copy for the family.

Looking at Amazon.com, currently Serenity is the #3 DVD title behind March of the Penguins and Episode III, and shockingly, Firefly is #10. Now, these are just Internet numbers and skew in favor of genre programming, but it's nonetheless a good sign to be sure, especially to see that Firefly still has legs over 2 years after its release.

These are all speculative figures based on half-information, and the way studios cook their books and share money across the board, the figures can be manipulated in countless ways, but based on this information, I don't think it's at all unreasonable to assume that after a reason DVD sales period, the film will almost certainly come close to breaking even and very likely turn a modest profit. Considering that this is a mixed-genre film based on a TV series almost no one saw (and most people never even heard of) with no marketable stars and a complicated premise that came across stupid during the trailers ... if this thing breaks even, I cannot see how anyone could logically call it a "flop". There is a large middle ground between "flop" and "hit", and it seems likely that Serenity will exist somewhere in that space.

This movie exists because a few key people at Universal loved the show, loved the premise, and believed in it with their hearts instead of their wallets. They certainly hoped it would become a breakout mega-franchise, but unless they were complete fools, their expectations had to be decidedly more reasonable. I think breaking even is "reasonable", and the film has a fair chance of hitting or even exceeding that goal.

An interesting comparison is Hellboy: $66 million production, $30 marketing, $99 million box office gross. They're making a sequel. Serenity's numbers are shy of that at a factor of about 2/3, and I'm not at all implying that a sequel is on the way, but I mention Hellboy to point out that box office returns are just the beginning of the story. You don't have to shatter the production budget at the box office to end up being successful. DVD sales play a huge role, and the story of Serenity is still in process.

I don't know what the final result will be, but I see it as a glass is half-empty/half-full scenario at this point. Some people, however, seem convinced the glass is empty and shattered on the floor. I don't believe we're anywhere near that point yet.

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Old 12-16-05, 04:09 PM
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I'm a fan of the series and liked the movie when I went to see it, to the point that I'll vote for it in the upcoming top DVDs of the year list. Das makes many reasonable comments (as usual) but keep in mind that studio accounting practices suggested one of the top movies of all time, Coming To America, lost money (at trial, Art Buchwald had to spank them to get his cut).

Further, if you take a look at the history of movies, while they "hope" to make a huge profit off the box office, they realize that they lose money far more often than not (especially after cooking the books as they do-like investment banking, Universal took a huge chunk out of the production budget for all the licensing, set use, technicians, etc.). In terms of ROI (return on investment), Serenity will certainly provide a positive cash flow when all factors are considered. Even as a "cult" film (I don't like the term since it's typically used to marginalize a movie as somehow lame), it will sell in various formats (like HD-DVD) for years, play on PPV, premium cable, regular cable, syndication, and help keep sales of Firefly going strong years after the fact.

Do I have hopes that there'll be a sequel? Well, one can always hope but at least we weren't left hanging as with most other series in the history of the medium. According the Whedon, the series was cancelled before a single episode aired in it's lame, unadvertised, Friday night time slot so just getting a movie made was pretty cool. Oh Josh, do you happen to have that link to your review of Firefly handy? As I recall, you weren't too enthusiastic about the series on DVD when it came out but I think it might help a few of the folks here understand your mindset about the series premise better than arguing with them on the forum.
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Old 12-16-05, 04:19 PM
  #25  
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Originally Posted by reverie
Not to stick my foot into something here, but aside from hopes for more down the line, when did enjoying movies go to worrying about how much they make compared to budget, to worrying about how much they make compared to budget + marketing costs?
You have a valid point. It really doesn't mean anything from the viewer's perspective. But, as I said above, I think digging into the reasons why the movie flopped are interesting. It had good reviews and word of mouth, and traditionally even crappy sci-fi movies do reasonably well at the box office. But this one just utterly died. People simply did not want to see this movie. So why did that happen?

Was it the Western elements? I doubt it. Maybe that affected the TV series, but the movie's ads played down that aspect. People complain that the ads didn't sell the movie well enough, but frankly they weren't any worse than the ads for countless other sci-fi movies that have been more successful.

So what was it?
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