Beauty and the Beast: The Challenges of Adapting a Classic

On The Business, Kim Masters sits down to talk with the Bill Condon, director of the 2017 remake of the classic Disney film Beauty and the Beast. One of the many interesting things that Masters and Condon discuss through the thirty minute podcast is how much freedom Disney gave to Condon during the production. Masters questions Condon about whether the “giant [Disney] machine” pressured him to keep the film within a certain form or the characters portrayed in a certain way due to Disney’s need to reproduce them for theme parks and merchandising. Surprisingly, Condon is adamant throughout the interview that Disney was very open to his ideas and did not pressure him throughout the entire production, even in the controversial depiction of Disney’s first gay character; moreover, Condon states that in some ways he was even more protective of the film staying true to the original in many ways as he was apart of the generation that was able to see it in theaters. One thing that Condon made clear throughout the interview was that even though he felt this connection to the animated film, he believed that as few things should be CG as possible, so that they could further differentiate themselves from the original animated film and keep this film feeling more grounded in reality. Not surprisingly, this led to some huge sets being constructed with Condon claiming some could take up to five minutes to walk across. This interview felt similar to Masters interview of the Zootopia directors a few weeks ago as both films were given tremendous  financial and creative support by Disney of their filmmakers and the rewards that these relationships between studio and filmmaker can have as Zootopia grossed over $1 billion and Beauty and the Beast grossed over $175 million in its opening weekend.

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Netflix vs. The Film Industry

The argument that streaming services are killing the movie theater industry has been a popular theory for years as many believe that millennials would rather stay home and watch Netflix than go out to the theater; however, in an article by The Hollywood Reporter, John Fithian , President and CEO of the National Association of Theater Owners, seems to lay these concerns to rest when he said, “there has been disruption in this industry, just not in the movie theater industry.” Fithian made this statement during a presentation at CinemaCon while discussing the growth of the movie theater industry and how movies benefit from a global perspective. Many would still argue with Fithian about the health of the industry, but he was able to back up his statement with a study which stated that worldwide revenue hit an all time high of $38.6 billion dollars in 2016, which includes a 40.2 percent increase in income for domestic movie theaters. From there, Fithian told the audience that the study also found that “Open and diverse societies drive movie attendance,” which was exemplified by the United States as it saw a jump in African American movie goers by forty seven percent from 2015-2016. While there is a lot of debate about the effect streaming services are having on the film industry, this seems to make it clear that movie theaters are still doing very well and aren’t going to be usurped by Netflix anytime soon.

James Mangold and the Proliferation of Film Franchises

On The Business, KCRW’s film industry podcast, Kim Masters sits down with James Mangold, the director of the new X-Men film Logan, to talk about the film’s R rating, the explosion of film franchises, and Mangold’s twitter activity in relation to the film. Mangold makes it clear in this interview that he was willing to leave Logan at any point if the studio was trying to take control of his movie; moreover, this idea of control in the filmmakers hand becomes a major talking point in the interview, as Masters and Mangold how Logan was in a way a reaction against the standard film franchise. The two individuals agree that these films have grown monotonous and can be extremely damaging to young filmmakers as they are plucked from obscurity after one film to direct a major blockbuster, are given little creative control of the film, and lastly if the film does poorly then they will often be stuck with most of the blame. This is one of the many reasons that Mangold lists as why he detests franchise films and was oney willing to come on board for Logan if it was going to be different, which it was successful in as it has been praised outside of the realm of superhero films by critics. Lastly, an interesting point made by Masters and Mangold in regard to creative control was the reversal in film and television in recent years. Until recently, it was TV that was more franchise based with little control being given to the directors, while in film, the director was in charge and the structure was more of a one off epic tale.

Disney’s Zootopia Lawsuit

Gary Goldman, credited as a screenwriter on films such as Total Recall and Next, has filed a lawsuit against Disney’s Zooptopia, which won the Best Animated Feature at the 2017 Oscars. The Hollywood Reporter writes that Goldman claims he went to Disney twice in 2000 and 2009 to pitch the idea of Zootopia; moreover,  the lawsuit claims that Goldman provided a summary of the film, as well as depictions of the characters and descriptions, but the two most interesting things that Goldman states he provided during these meetings is the title for the film and dialogue, which he claims was at times nearly identical to his original script.

Zootopia grossed over $1 billion dollars in theaters, which could mean a significant damages payment to; however, a Disney spokesperson responded to Mr. Goldman’s lawsuit claiming he was simply trying to “claim a successful film he didn’t create.” While both sides are engaged in this dispute and it is unclear whether or not Goldman’s work was ripped off by Disney, the lawsuit does sough doubt into the readers mind about the purity of Disney’s past films. They claim that films such as The Lion KingToy StoryInside Out and several other films were also films that Disney ripped off. The article makes no attempt to back up the claims made by the lawsuit, so it will be interesting if they can prove that Disney has ripped off these films in the past and if this years best animated feature winner was actually created by Gary Goldman.

Disney’s First Gay Character Causes Problems with Some Theaters

A film’s performance at the box office can be affected for numerous reasons from the time of year it is released to its rating, as well as numerous other causes. The Hollywood Reporter stated in a recent article that Beauty and the Beast is likely to underperform in Russia due to a restriction where the audience must be sixteen or older in order to view the film. This strict rating was given to the film due to a recent revelation that one of the characters played by Josh Gad is gay, which is the first gay character to appear in a Disney film. This caused uncertainty as to whether or not the film would be able to screen in Russia at all, as a law penned in recent years prohibits “gay propaganda against minors.” While this might seem isolated to Russia and its “crackdown on the local gay community,” the films inclusion of a gay character has also led to an Alabama drive-in theater removing Beauty and the Beast from their lineup of films. The owner stated on the theater that “when companies continually force their views on us we need to take a stand. We all make choices and I am making mine.” While these incidents of distaste for the film’s choice are still limited, it has yet to be seen whether or not it will affect the film’s overall box office performance.

On The Business Podcast with Kim Masters and her guest Matt Belloni, the editorial director of The Hollywood Reporter, they discuss the ousting of Paramount CEO Brad Grey and the overall change in studio climate.

After 12 years as the head of Paramount, Brad Grey is now relieved of his duty as the head of the studio. While Masters briefly defends Grey by saying the studio did have a few films nominated for Oscars this year, she also makes the point that it suffered $450 million in losses, so the ousting of Grey was inevitable.  A few years ago, this job might have had people lining up to take the position; however, according to Belloni and Masters, the role is no longer defined by visionaries, but instead is seen as more a position where the head if the studio is “managing up” and ensuring the longevity of the studio.

From here, Masters and Belloni shift their focus from Paramount to the overall studio climate where Belloni says there is an increasing divide between the have and have not studios of Hollywood. Belloni and Masters name Disney as the studio that has access to a vast amount of intellectual property through the purchases of Lucasfilm and Marvel, as well as larger investments into films that other studios such as Sony and Paramount cannot compete with. With these concerns noted, the two agree that they see the studio herd thinning as a few studios, such as Disney, will dominate the market more than they already do.

Hollywood vs. Trump

President Trump’s controversial policies are felt everywhere, including Hollywood, which is concerned over the future work that is outsourced to Canada and Mexico. One of the policy changes that Hollywood is most concerned with is his changes to NAFTA.

In normal Trump fashion, he has been extremely vague on what exactly the policy change will mean for NAFTA. Early in his campaign, Trump frequently mentioned completely renegotiating the trade agreement; however, after recent talks with the Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, Trump says that he plans to “tweak” the plan. The Hollywood Reporter examines how tweaks or a renegotiation of NAFTA could be damaging to the three entertainment sectors, stating that it would not only hurt Hollywood, but also Canada as they benefit from numerous productions being shot there due to tax breaks and incentives. The other major concern that the article discusses is the free movement of labor, mainly focusing on Canada and the U.S. Lots of Hollywood soundstage and VFX work is outsourced to Canada and people are afraid that the TN visa, a temporary work visa that many in Hollywood take advantage of, will no longer be granted.

I can see how these effects could cause drastic changes in Hollywood. In my brief two months in Los Angeles I worked under or with people from the US, Mexico, and Europe, while also seeing many of the people that I worked for travel for business. While most of the people I was surrounded by would not be effected by a NAFTA renegotiation, I can see how other companies and individuals in the industry could be effected negatively.