Blu-Ray Releases for September 20, 2016
Free State Of Jones is a long in the works passion project for director Gary Ross and was fast tracked to production by the up and coming mini-major STX Entertainment. This was STX’s first greenlit production and their fifth distributed film. Free State Of Jones was budgeted at $65 million and according to Gary Ross, the budget after tax rebates came in at $49 million. STX’s exposure to the production costs were under $10 million and IM Global co-financed and the China based Huayi Brothers also contributed coin. In March 2015, Huayi Brothers Media formed a minimum 18 picture co-financing pact with STX and Free State Of Jones was the first film to go in front of the cameras from the arrangement. Christopher Woodrow’s (the fired CEO of the troubled Worldview Entertainment) newly formed Vendian Entertainment also contributed capital to the film. Route One Entertainment was also a financing partner and had a two picture investment agreement with STX, the other film was The Secret In Their Eyes. Korea based Union Investment Partners rounded out the financing. The remaining capital was from strong pre-sales to distributors, which IM Global handled at the American Film Market in 2014. STX originally dated the pic for March 11, then shifted it to May 13 and finally moved it to June 24 as counter-programming for adults, opening against Independence Day: Resurgence, The Shallows and the semi-wide release of The Neon Demon — which Vendian Entertainment was also a financier on. STX invested in a pricey P&A spend that is reported to be north of $30 million for the domestic release. Free State Of Jones received mixed notices from critics and was tracking for a modest $12 million up to its release, but came in far below expectations with $7,572,206. It placed #6 for the weekend led by Finding Dory in its second frame. Part of STX’s release change strategy was to hopefully capitalize on the patriotic theme over its second weekend — the July 4th holiday weekend, but it showed weak legs, declining 45.3% to $4,140,510. Free State Of Jones tumbled a huge 67.4% in its third frame to $1,350,103 and closed its run after five weeks with $20,810,036. Major studios on average command 55% of the theatrical gross and smaller distributors can fetch as low as 34% (Regal pays out just 34% to smaller labels, for example), so STX would see returned less than $10 million.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows was financed by Paramount for $135 million and in April 2016, two Chinese companies invested in the sequel — China Movie Media Group, which is a subsidiary of Wanda and Alibaba Pictures. In addition to an expensive marketing blitz by Paramount, the sequel to the 2014 global hit landed tons of corporate promotional partners and even PSA ads from the Ad Council about anti-bullying. Going into release, Paramount spent $28.73 million on national TV ads (as per iSpotTV), plus millions more on print, online, radio, poster, etc. Paramount also made the decision to market the film directly at kids and families, instead of trying to court older auds looking for something nostalgic, which the studio successfully pulled off with the first installment. Apparently kids responded positively to the first reboot and older auds did not. The pic was dated for June 3rd against Me Before You andPopstar: Never Stop Never Stopping. It was tracking softer than its predecessor, which launched with $65.5 million and Out Of The Shadows opened within its reduced expectations at $35,316,382 — placing #1 for the weekend. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows had terrible legs at the box office and sank 59.3% the following weekend to $14,386,565 and then 63.5% in its third frame to $5,251,531. It closed its domestic run with a disappointing $82,051,601.
The 2014 Ninja Turtles had a huge overseas haul of $302.1 million and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows saw its global audience shrink. China posted the strongest gross with $58.9 million and the offshore total stalled at $163 million. The worldwide total was $245.1 million and about $134 million would be returned after theaters take their percentage of the gross. The worldwide P&A expenses would be covered, but most of the budget would be in the red.
In a quarterly investor report, Paramount’s parent company Viacom said the studio posted an operating loss of $26 million, mostly attributed to the expensive Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out Of The Shadows. The film’s poor theatrical run and resulting loss added more fire to the Viacom board drama between Chief Executive Philippe Dauman and Viacom head Sumner Redstone. After a string of expensive misfires including 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, Zoolander 2 and Whiskey Tango Foxtrot and an overall reduction in Paramount’s worth, Dauman wanted to sell 49% of the studio to Ninja Turtles investor Wanda. Redstone did not want to give up any ownership of the studio and a very public and messy battle played out, resulting in the departure of Dauman — who received an exit package estimated at $85 million. Not too bad for losing a fight with your boss.
Adding to the fallout of this sequel were two lawsuits. The first was from Nataki Williams, the vice president for financial planning and analysis at Viacom. She became a whistleblower against Viacom, claiming that the company was creating a tax-dodging scheme for Ninja Turtles. Viacom setup an entity in Netherlands and transferred the Ninja Turtles licensing over to that company, but all business was done in New York. The second lawsuit was from a group of production assistants that sued Paramount over poor working conditions, including not being given bathroom breaks and according to court documents, were “forced to urinate and defecate into bottles and buckets in their vehicles.” Sometimes show business sucks.