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Jackson's 'KING KONG' - 3 hours long (reviews merged)

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Jackson's 'KING KONG' - 3 hours long (reviews merged)

Old 10-27-05, 12:29 AM
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Jackson's 'KING KONG' - 3 hours long

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/27/mo...gewanted=print
October 27, 2005
A Big Gorilla Weighs In
By SHARON WAXMAN
LOS ANGELES, Oct. 26 - In hiring Peter Jackson, the Oscar-winning director of the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, to remake the monster classic "King Kong," Universal Pictures took a daring leap, paying him $20 million to direct, produce and be the co-writer of the film.

With seven weeks to go before the movie's release, the risks are becoming clearer. After seeing a version of the film in late September at Mr. Jackson's studio in New Zealand, Universal executives agreed to release "King Kong" at a length of three hours.

The film is substantially longer than Universal had anticipated and presents dual obstacles: the extra length has helped increase the budget by a third, to $207 million, while requiring the studio, owned by General Electric, to reach for the kind of long-term audience interest that made hits out of three-hour movies like "Titanic" and the films in Mr. Jackson's "Rings" trilogy.

Hollywood blockbusters have increasingly relied on big releases that bring in as much as half of their ticket sales on the first weekend. But long films receive far fewer showings per day, and the most successful ones, like "Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring" (2001) by Mr. Jackson, which took in $315 million at the domestic box office for New Line Cinema, have remained in theaters for well over half a year.

The film industry and Universal could use a big seller.

Hollywood has been struggling this year at the box office, with overall revenue down more than half a billion dollars, about 8 percent, from last year's total, according to Box Office Mojo, an online tracking service. Industry experts attribute the decline to a migration of audiences to other forms of electronic entertainment, whether television, DVD's, video games or the Internet. Universal has had a mediocre year at the box office. The studio had a hit in the summer with the comedy "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," but has endured disappointments, like the drama "Cinderella Man," and has had lackluster results with films like "The Perfect Man," "Kicking and Screaming" and "Doom," which opened last week to a tepid $15 million.

Asked about the length of "King Kong," Universal executives said they saw it as an advantage in an era when jaded moviegoers are hungering for something extraordinary.

"This is a three-hour feast of an event," said Marc Shmuger, vice chairman of Universal Pictures, who described the film as a tragic love story between the ape and Naomi Watts, who plays Ann Darrow, an actress. "I've never come close to seeing an artist working at this level."

Set for release on Dec. 14, "King Kong" retells the classic beauty-and-the-beast tale first filmed in 1933, with its lasting image of Kong atop the Empire State Building, and remade in 1976. Along with Ms. Watts, it stars Jack Black, Adrien Brody and a 25-foot, computer-animated gorilla.

This time around, the picture depends upon another oversize talent in the person of Mr. Jackson, who was granted an unusual degree of control at a time when studios are trimming costs and tightening their grips on most productions. Not only did Mr. Jackson produce and direct, and also write with his longtime partner, Fran Walsh, and Philippa Boyens, but his companies Weta Digital and Weta Workshop also created the physical and computer special effects in the film at Mr. Jackson's studio in New Zealand.

Twentieth Century Fox and Paramount took a risk in granting the director James Cameron a similar degree of control over his famously overbudget 1997 film "Titanic," and eventually came up winners. In that case, Mr. Cameron's three-hour epic, a love story set in the midst of the ship's sinking, went on to break box-office records and win 11 Oscars. With "King Kong," Universal executives say they are convinced that they have an epic of comparable worth, even though they were surprised by the length.

"I anticipated it would be long, but not this long," the Universal chairwoman, Stacey Snider, said. As recently as late September, she expected about two hours and 40 minutes, she said. But on Wednesday she expressed delight with the picture she's got: "This is a masterpiece. I can't wait to unveil it."

The increased length, Ms. Snider said, means that the movie will cost $32 million more than planned, adding to expenses that had already gone up $25 million from an original $150 million production budget.

Who will pay for these budget overruns has been the subject of intense negotiations over the last two weeks, with representatives of the studio and the director haggling over who was responsible, according to those involved in the negotiations.

Ms. Snider said that as of Wednesday, all had been resolved, with the studio more or less splitting the $32 million expense with Mr. Jackson.

In an e-mail message, Mr. Jackson appeared to disagree, saying instead that he would be paying for those expenditures, which were mainly associated with extra digital-effects shots. Referring to his partner, Ms. Walsh, Mr. Jackson wrote: "Since Fran and I believed in the three-hour cut and wanted to take responsibility for the extra length, we offered to pay for these extra shots ourselves. That's what we're doing." He did not say how much that would be, but said the extra effects shot would cost "considerably below $32 million."

A spokesman for Universal responded, "We are working together to cover overages."

In granting Mr. Jackson immense latitude, Universal relied not just on his skills, but also a huge fan base, much of which has followed the production through the director's frequent communications on a Web site, www.kongisking.net.

But few elements of the film have been seen by the larger public, and even Universal executives saw a finished version of King Kong's face - with its expressive eyes, broadly fierce nose and mane of computer-generated hair - only in recent days.

Universal lost an opportunity to capitalize on a "Kong" revenue stream when an anticipated deal to release the film on Imax screens in December, at the same time the movie would appear in regular theaters, failed to materialize, and Imax chose to show Warner Brothers' new "Harry Potter" film, "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire."

"We think 'King Kong' will be a big movie," Richard L. Gelfond, co-chairman of Imax, said, "but unfortunately we could not agree on deal terms, including the box-office split."

Ms. Snider said Imax could not guarantee space in its theaters at the time of Kong's release, and acknowledged that both the studio and Mr. Jackson were disappointed.

A spokeswoman for NBC Universal said Bob Wright, the chairman, has been told of the rising cost and length of "King Kong." "Bob is more than aware of what is going on with this production and other major productions, and he has enormous confidence in the leadership team at Universal Studios," said the spokeswoman, Anna Perez.

Ms. Snider said she did not think the three-hour length would be an obstacle for moviegoers. Three-hour epics, she said, are Mr. Jackson's "brand."

Exhibitors have long complained that very long films make it harder to draw audiences, though in this difficult year at the box office, they have complained louder about not having enough good films to show. Paul Dergarabedian, president of Exhibitor Relations, which tracks the box office for theater owners, agreed that long movies posed problems. "But if it's a really fine film, it won't be a detriment to its success," he said.
Old 10-27-05, 12:40 AM
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Awesome news; the longer the better, I say. Thanks for the link.
Old 10-27-05, 12:44 AM
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That 3 hours better have extra cgi-monkey footage in it and not just human scenes. People aren't going to want to go to King Kong to see long stretches of people taking. They want to see a giant ape go, well...apeshit on everything. That was the main problem of Hulk. The movie tried to be some serious drama when everyone just wanted to see a big green guy smash stuff. Lets hope this doesn't happen with Kong.
Old 10-27-05, 12:47 AM
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THanks for the story, I'm glad that some companies aren't afraid to make epic epics now and then.
Old 10-27-05, 12:55 AM
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I agree FinkPish. Frankly, these days I feel ripped off if a movie is less than 2 hours long. I'm also confident that Jackson will put out a good King Kong movie so I'm sure the movie won't feel like 3 hours.
Old 10-27-05, 12:58 AM
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Time will tell. I would be surprised to see this movie have the broad appeal of Titanic though...but then again, I would have never guessed that his Lord of the Rings films would have been so successful.

His extended cuts of all 3 Lord of the Rings movies are near masterpieces in my book so I trust him.

I would rather him deliver it to the theater on the big screen as his vision than get some executive's butcher cut & have to wait a year on the director's cut on dvd. Looking forward to it.
Old 10-27-05, 02:35 AM
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Kick ass
Old 10-27-05, 02:52 AM
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We shall see.
Old 10-27-05, 04:07 AM
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Originally Posted by resinrats
That was the main problem of Hulk. The movie tried to be some serious drama when everyone just wanted to see a big green guy smash stuff.
To me, the problem was that it was trying to be both. I was fascinated by the story but somewhat disappointed by the "obligatory" third act.
Old 10-27-05, 04:09 AM
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3 hours? I was hoping for something a bit longer.
Old 10-27-05, 04:17 AM
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I'm interested in this comparison to Hulk, since that is a movie which I enjoyed that many others apparently did not. To me, there is only so much smashing and trashing you can have a "monster" do before it just gets repetitive and dull. There needs to be some understanding of what is behind the anger/aggression, especially if the "monster" is the main character in the movie. I thought Hulk did a good job of balancing back story, character development and general mayhem; though I will admit there were definitely some slower character scenes that needed some energizing. If King Kong can pull it off with better results (and I'm fairly certain Peter Jackson is the man who can do it), then I know I won't be disappointed.
Old 10-27-05, 04:33 AM
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Originally Posted by FinkPish
I'm interested in this comparison to Hulk, since that is a movie which I enjoyed that many others apparently did not. To me, there is only so much smashing and trashing you can have a "monster" do before it just gets repetitive and dull. There needs to be some understanding of what is behind the anger/aggression, especially if the "monster" is the main character in the movie. I thought Hulk did a good job of balancing back story, character development and general mayhem; though I will admit there were definitely some slower character scenes that needed some energizing. If King Kong can pull it off with better results (and I'm fairly certain Peter Jackson is the man who can do it), then I know I won't be disappointed.

I agree again. But you know how people are...If there had been more "Hulk smash" and less "Daddy you're fucked up" they'd be bitching about the "lack of character development".

It never fuckin' fails.....
Old 10-27-05, 04:42 AM
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Originally Posted by Giantrobo
I agree again. But you know how people are...If there had been more "Hulk smash" and less "Daddy you're fucked up" they'd be bitching about the "lack of character development".

It never fuckin' fails.....
Exactly, and that is the exact argument I usually end up making when discussing Hulk. I would personally rather have a director err of the side of less action and more character development (provided the characters are worth developing). This was a problem I had with Kingdom of Heaven; the character development sections felt really rushed and hammered together so we could get on to the action.
Old 10-27-05, 06:27 AM
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On the flip side, it is the Hulk. You know - the big, green, angry fella from the comics who smashes a lot of stuff. I love the film but there was an audience expectation built in that I can see the movie failed to live up to.
Old 10-27-05, 08:18 AM
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oh boy.... that can be good or bad.... the story better just keep up
Old 10-27-05, 09:23 AM
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Hopefully this will launch a franchise:

KING KONG RETURNS
KING KONG FOREVER
and Joel Shumacher's KING KONG & ROBIN

I've got a bright shiny nickel, though, that says we don't see Kong until about the one-hour mark.
Old 10-27-05, 09:31 AM
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Still will see it.
Old 10-27-05, 09:35 AM
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A 3hr Kong should make the ticket price worth it. My numb ass will not be very happy though.
Old 10-27-05, 09:58 AM
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Originally Posted by Toben
A 3hr Kong should make the ticket price worth it. My numb ass will not be very happy though.
Did you know you can pay for movie tickets with cash instead of sexual favours?
Old 10-27-05, 10:03 AM
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Originally Posted by Fincher Fan
Did you know you can pay for movie tickets with cash instead of sexual favours?
I wish somebody would have told me that sooner
Old 10-27-05, 10:03 AM
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Originally Posted by Shannon Nutt
I've got a bright shiny nickel, though, that says we don't see Kong until about the one-hour mark.
We won't see Kong in the first half.
Old 10-27-05, 10:05 AM
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I am glad to hear that Universal isn't making PJ trim it to deliver a shorter film. I know PJ has a lot of clout now, but a move like that wouldn't surprise me. I have already been freaking out with anticipation of all things KONG (man, the next 2 months are going to RULE) but this just helps drive it to a fever pitch... I hope Jackson delivers!!!!!

MATT
Old 10-27-05, 10:24 AM
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I too hope PJ delivers, but three hours and a budget of $200+ millon for a movie about a giant ape seems kind of pretentous. I could have sworn that PJ said after LOTR his next movie would be around two hours or two and a half at the most. I guess my concern is that we get another Hulk movie, which overall I liked but got tired of the whole subplot about family relations. My understanding is that Kong is not Oscar caliber in quality and that critics are gushing over Munich. Then again, I don't know when they had screenings for either for them to draw those conclusions.
Old 10-27-05, 11:23 AM
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King Kong: The FellowShip of the Kong
King Kong: The Two Trees
King Kong: The Return of the Kong
Old 10-27-05, 11:29 AM
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Originally Posted by raven56706
King Kong: The FellowShip of the Kong
King Kong: The Two Trees
King Kong: The Return of the Kong
prequel - King Kong Vs. The Hobbits (done in pencil animation)

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