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Posted: 6/17/2001 1:04:35 PM EDT
=============================================================== LA Times http://www.latimes.com/news/front/20010617/t000050402.html Sunday, June 17, 2001 Hit Status Elusive Target for 'Pearl Harbor' Film: Disney's hopes for its own 'Titanic' have been sunk. By CLAUDIA ELLER, RICHARD NATALE, Special to The Times Before the Memorial Day weekend debut of "Pearl Harbor," an exuberant Walt Disney Co. Chairman Michael Eisner sent an internal e-mail to "fellow cast members"--117,000 company employees worldwide. "There are no sure things in the entertainment industry, but this comes close," Eisner wrote. "It better, because I've already predicted this in the annual report letter I wrote in December. And, I've been on CNBC and CNN in the last two weeks proclaiming it a smash. I've been telling anybody who would listen that this will be our biggest live-action film ever." Eisner went so far as to predict on CNBC that the World War II romance epic would be the "biggest movie of the summer." The Disney chief was wrong on both counts. "Pearl Harbor," which has been sinking fast at the box office since its May 25 opening, will not be the summer's highest-grossing movie. Its domestic ticket sales of $153 million through Friday already have been surpassed by DreamWorks' animated hit "Shrek" ($188 million) and Universal's "The Mummy Returns" ($191 million). And other potential hits loom this summer, including Steven Spielberg's "A.I. Artificial Intelligence." Nor will the movie rank as Disney's most successful live-action film. That distinction is held by the 1999 supernatural thriller "The Sixth Sense," which earned $660 million worldwide. "Pearl Harbor" is by no means a box-office bomb, even though it is now widely viewed within the industry as a disappointment. The bottom line, Disney officials say, is that the film, which cost $140 million to produce and nearly that much to market worldwide, will turn a profit. Some industry experts suggest that is not a foregone conclusion, and at least one Wall Street analyst predicted that the film will make only a "modest profit." The huge expectations surrounding "Pearl Harbor" demonstrate just how treacherous and tricky the business of promoting movies can be. Studio executives are acutely aware that there is no magic formula for delivering hits that connect with a mass audience. Indeed, Eisner got it right when he suggested there is no such thing as a sure bet in Hollywood. As has been proved time and again, blockbusters are determined by the moviegoing public, not marketing departments. After cranking up the hype machine for "Pearl Harbor," Disney officials now are in full spin mode, trying to persuade the industry they are "thrilled" with the results. "Disney no doubt contributed to the overblown hype of the film, as did analysts and the news media," said Paul Dergarabedian, whose Exhibitor Relations Co. tracks box office. "It puts the studio in the awkward position of having to defend a film that's going to do a couple hundred million dollars. Most would kill to have [such] a film." Disney clearly was counting on "Pearl Harbor" as a huge moneymaker.
Link Posted: 6/17/2001 1:06:20 PM EDT
After all, it is the cornerstone live-action film of the company's 2001 release schedule and featured the successful producer-director team of Jerry Bruckheimer and Michael Bay. The same duo was responsible for "Armageddon" and "The Rock," two of Disney's big live-action hits. Since Eisner cut the number of Disney annual releases from more than 20 to 15 this year, the studio has no other event-style, live-action movies comparable to DreamWorks' "Gladiator" or Warner Bros.' "The Perfect Storm." Promotion Starts at the Top Certainly Eisner is not alone in stumping his studio's movies. It is common practice throughout the entertainment industry for media moguls to tout releases the way parents brag about their children. Eisner declined to be interviewed for this story. When asked about his boss' overzealous predictions for "Pearl Harbor," Disney Motion Picture Group Chairman Dick Cook said, "Ask Sumner Redstone what he thinks '[Lara Croft:] Tomb Raider' is going to do." Redstone, chairman of Paramount Pictures parent Viacom Inc., boasted last week to KPCC-FM (89.3) radio: "Everyone should go see 'Tomb Raider,' which will be a blockbuster for Paramount!" Friday's opening-night figures indicate that the video-game-based film, starring Angelina Jolie, should be the No. 1 movie this weekend with more than $40 million in ticket sales. Based on domestic performance and debuts in several key overseas markets, Disney executives and media analysts estimate that "Pearl Harbor" will collect worldwide theatrical revenues of $400 million to $450 million. Cook said he is confident that Disney is "going to meet every benchmark we set out for ourselves in domestic and foreign theatrical revenues." Disney officials predict the movie will gross more than $200 million domestically and at least $250 million internationally. Given the film's huge production, marketing and distribution costs, it could take years before the movie earns a profit and will do so only if worldwide home video, DVD, TV and other sales reach Disney estimates. "Pearl Harbor" was hampered by overwhelmingly negative reviews, a daunting running time of three hours and a love story that failed to entice young moviegoers to see the film more than once. Repeat business was a key factor that made "Titanic," also a three-hour romance set against a historic disaster, the highest-grossing movie in history with $1.8 billion in worldwide box-office receipts. "None of us ever said we'll try to re-create 'Titanic,' " Cook said. "We were trying to make the best movie we could. . . . Do we wish it was more? You bet. But there's not a movie we've ever released that we didn't want to do more."
Link Posted: 6/17/2001 1:09:01 PM EDT
To date, the movie has racked up strong showings in key foreign markets such as Germany, Australia, Italy and Korea. But a major variable in determining the global success of "Pearl Harbor" will be its reception in Japan--the top foreign market for American movies--on July 14. Disney is staging its Japanese premiere Thursday at the Tokyo Dome stadium before an expected crowd of 25,000. Because the film is based on the Dec. 7, 1941, surprise attack of Pearl Harbor by Japanese bombers, Disney's international chief Mark Zoradi acknowledges that "Japan is clearly a challenging market for us." Disney has made minor dialogue changes in the film and customized its marketing campaign to show "the human drama of how war affects everyday lives and a love story," while "not trying to hide the fact that the obvious centerpiece is the bombing," Zoradi said. Zoradi predicted that "Pearl Harbor" will be "very, very successful in Japan" with a potential to pull in at least $70 million. Although no one at Disney is willing to admit that the studio contributed to overinflated expectations, the public chest-pounding began before a single frame was shot. Executives at the studio and the filmmakers bragged that at $135 million (which grew to $140 million), "Pearl Harbor" was the most expensive film ever approved for production. They flaunted the price tag as a badge of honor; the original budget was closer to $200 million and nearly derailed the movie. To secure Eisner's approval, Bay and Bruckheimer agreed to waive their salaries in lieu of a sizable chunk of profits (reportedly a combined 15% to 17%) after the film breaks even. They also promised to pay for cost overruns. Ben Affleck reportedly did the film for only $250,000 in exchange for 7% of profits. Other cast and crew members also agreed to deferments. By openly parading details of the budget, Disney was able to shield "Pearl Harbor" from the adverse publicity that dogged movies such as "Waterworld" when production costs spiraled out of control. When it came time to promote and market "Pearl Harbor," Disney was equally bold, earning the admiration of its competitors. "It was a brilliant campaign, incredibly smart," said Tom Sherak, a distribution veteran of 20th Century Fox who is now a partner at Revolution Studios. Disney's approach to its marketing materials was "extremely reverential and not exploitative," Cook said. The posters were modeled after vintage 1940s recruiting placards, featuring each of the film's stars selling war bonds. An early teaser that appeared in theaters last summer showed Rockwell-esque images of a woman hanging laundry on a clothesline, a man sitting outside reading a newspaper and a boy playing baseball as Japanese planes flew overhead. In late November, Disney debuted its full-length trailer to show off the film's sensational special effects, which included a bird's-eye view of a bomb dropping from a plane and exploding through the deck of the doomed Arizona.
Link Posted: 6/17/2001 1:12:04 PM EDT
Disney Brings Out the Heavy Artillery The centerpiece of Disney's marketing blitz was a lavish media junket and premiere aboard the aircraft carrier John C. Stennis in the waters near the Pearl Harbor Memorial off the Hawaiian island of Oahu. Cook said the bash cost $5 million, but industry sources claim it was much higher. Disney flew in about 500 journalists from around the world to cover the film's unveiling to 2,000 guests on a specially built screen aboard the carrier. A week before the film's May 21 premiere, reporters from local TV stations such as KTLA and programs like "Entertainment Tonight" and "Access Hollywood" breathlessly covered the festivities during live broadcasts from the ship's deck. Taking advantage of the 60-year anniversary of an infamous moment in American history, Disney worked closely with a number of broadcasters to generate extensive free publicity for the film. Disney provided movie clips and full access to its cast and filmmakers, and survivors of the actual event. The result was an extraordinary blitz of Pearl Harbor TV specials. On May 26, a day after the film's debut in theaters, Disney's ABC TV network ran a one-hour special hosted by David Brinkley. The next day, rival NBC aired a two-hour National Geographic special narrated by Tom Brokaw. National Geographic officials originally planned to run a Pearl Harbor 60th anniversary special in December to launch a new channel. But, to accommodate the release of the movie, "they moved the program to May for us," Cook said. "It was a great thing." The History Channel ran an hourlong "History vs. Hollywood" special on back-to-back nights that focused on the film as well as a Pearl Harbor-themed night with three specials hosted by Roger Mudd. American Movie Classics aired an all-star salute, mixing clips from World War II movies with interviews of stars from the Disney film. Beginning May 31, MSNBC repeatedly aired a one-hour special about the making of "Pearl Harbor," which featured interviews from the media junket in Hawaii along with film clips. MSNBC also scheduled a two-hour special narrated by Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf on Pearl Harbor survivors. Disney also worked with Black Entertainment Television in helping put together a special honoring late war veteran Dorie Miller, the first African American awarded the Navy Star. Cuba Gooding Jr., who portrayed Miller in the movie, was prominently featured in the special. With the film's built-in awareness and free publicity, Disney didn't even bother to run an expensive "Pearl Harbor" spot in January during the Super Bowl as most big summer movies do. Disney spent slightly less (under $20 million) on TV advertising for "Pearl Harbor" than for other big movies like "Sixth Sense," Cook said. Still, Disney spared no expense in marketing the film, confirming it spent in the neighborhood of $65 million to $70 million for the domestic campaign. An additional $60 million is targeted for overseas, according to Disney sources.
Link Posted: 6/17/2001 1:13:08 PM EDT
"Pearl Harbor" was greeted by overwhelmingly negative reviews, with the actual attack midway through the three-hour film generating the few kind words it received. The film was so roundly criticized that Disney used praise by only one reviewer--Kevin Thomas of The Times--in ads that ran after the film's release. In the past, movies by Bay and Bruckheimer have shrugged off negative reviews, in part because neither "The Rock" nor "Armageddon" pretended to be anything but wham-bam action films. In trying to broaden the audience for "Pearl Harbor," the filmmakers may have stepped on a critical land mine. "Pearl Harbor" was "generally perceived to be critic-proof, but now one wonders whether it was," said Newsweek reviewer David Ansen. The reviews broke just as the film launched over the Memorial Day weekend, one of the year's attendance high points. Tracking reports from private marketing sources, which measure audience interest in coming movies, were so strong that every studio backed away from opening a film against "Pearl Harbor." The movie generated such a pre-release buzz that predictions of a record $100 million on the opening weekend were everywhere. The estimates exceeded the 1997 Memorial Day weekend take for "The Lost World," the "Jurassic Park" sequel, which debuted at $92.7 million. Disney executives were quick to point out that even on 6,000 screens "Pearl Harbor" would have trouble selling so many tickets because of its running time. Thus, when the film grossed $75.1 million, there was disappointment, even though it had the biggest opening weekend ever for a film that wasn't a sequel to a blockbuster. The second weekend decline of 50% was less than for "Mission: Impossible 2," which opened over Memorial Day last year. But the third weekend was down another 50%. Suddenly, initial predictions that the movie could gross $300 million domestically fell to $200 million or less. Asked to comment about his overly hyped and harshly attacked film, the soft-spoken Bruckheimer merely said, "It's a successful movie. It's going to make money." * * * Eller is a Times staff writer. Natale is a regular contributor to The Times. That Sinking Feeling Disney chief Michael Eisner went out on a limb predicting big business for 'Pearl Harbor'. . "There are no sure things in the entertainment industry, but this comes close. It better, because I've already predicted this in the annual report letter I wrote in December. And, I've been on CNBC and CNN in the last two weeks proclaiming it a smash. I've been telling anybody who would listen that this will be our biggest live-action film. . . . I believe it will be profitable by Labor Day." --Michael Eisner in an internal e-mail sent to employees on the eve of the film's release. * * * . . .but the World War II romance epic opened to overwhelmingly scathing reviews. * "Snore-a! Snore-a! Snore-a!" -- Headline in the Wall Street Journal. * "Perhaps they should have called this 'Bore-a, Bore-a, Bore-a,' " Desson Howe of the Washington Post. * " 'Pearl Harbor' is a two-hour movie squeezed into three hours. Its centerpiece is 40 minutes of redundant special effects, surrounded by a love story of stunning banality," wrote Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun Times. Copyright 2001 Los Angeles Times
Link Posted: 6/17/2001 1:31:40 PM EDT
heres what i thought of pearl harbor Wake me up when the bombing starts zZzZZzZ then oh ok the bobmings over wake me up when the credits roll zZzZzZ
Link Posted: 6/17/2001 10:08:52 PM EDT
I agree, too much crap, not enough zap!! My wife liked it though.
Link Posted: 6/17/2001 11:39:22 PM EDT
yea, they should have bombed pearl in the first five min. then they could have showed more "on ship- inner ship" stuff.
Link Posted: 6/18/2001 8:24:10 AM EDT
i wish they would have ended with the atom bomb and hte dirty japs surrendering
Link Posted: 6/18/2001 8:43:26 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 6/18/2001 8:42:20 AM EDT by B27]
Pearl Harbor is to Tora!Tora!Tora! what Gladiator was to Spartacus. IMHO, a sad effort at a modern film on the same basic theme that tries to use a lot of computer generated special effects to compensate for bad writing, bad acting and ludicrous storylines. When I heard that chant ripped off from the soundtack of Zulu in the first few minutes of Gladiator I knew this was going to be another disappointment, as was Pearl Harbor.
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