July 16, 2013

SHOWBUZZDAILY’s State of the Studio: Paramount


Our summertime look at the health of Hollywood’s studios continues.  We’ve already examined Disney and Warner Bros, and today Paramount is in our viewfinder.

Since getting out of both the Marvel and the DreamWorks Animation business, Paramount has been sedate, even sedentary, with the quietest summer of any studio.  Management has been fairly stable, and this week, in the midst of the financier escapades affecting Warners, 20th and Universal, Paramount announced that its co-financing deal with Skydance Productions has been extended for 4 more years.  Skydance invested in both of Paramount’s summer releases, and it provides the studio with hundreds of millions in welcome yearly capital.




Estimated Cost (including Worldwide Marketing):  $350M

US Box Office Thru 7/14:  $224M

Overseas Box Office Thru 7/14:  $223M

Box Office Total Thru 7/14:  $447,000,000

The plan half-worked.  Paramount put huge effort into improving the overseas performance of Star Trek, a franchise that’s never had the same popularity outside the US that it’s enjoyed here, and indeed, Into Darkness made $95M more overseas than the 2009 Star Trek reboot did, raising the international proportion of total box office from one-third to half.  Unfortunately, these steps forward were canceled out by the fact that Into Darkness cost $50M more to produce than Star Trek because of its beefed-up action sequences, required probably $25M in extra overseas marketing expenses, and unexpectedly slumped at the US box office (despite 3D and Imax ticket prices this time around) by $35M.  The result was a movie that sold a lot of tickets worldwide, but probably ended up as a modest loss.  There will certainly be additional installments in the series, but this time it’s doubtful JJ Abrams will be behind the camera, since he’s the new Lord of the Sith (although his Bad Robot company will still produce).  Whatever changes are made, next time Paramount needs the series to boldly go into profit.


Estimated Cost (inc Worldwide Marketing):  $350M

US Box Office Thru 7/14:  $178M

Overseas Box Office Thru 7/14:  $246M

Box Office Total Thru 7/14:  $424,000,000

A different route to a similar destination.  World War Z carried some of the worst advance buzz of recent years, and it’s a tribute to Paramount Marketing that it managed to defuse all the stories about reshoots and massive budget overruns and spin the ultimate result as an epic adventure, and one that pulled in plenty of ticketbuyers worldwide.  Nonetheless, the studio still has a gigantically expensive movie that may not even reach breakeven.  There’s a word moneymen have for a moral victory.  It’s called “failure.”


Absolutely nothing.  Incredible as it may seem, Paramount is done for the summer.


Paramount will be busier in the 4th quarter, with half a dozen releases evenly divided between Oscar bait and franchise (or would-be franchise) entries.  PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 5 (10/25) will hope to reverse the sharp decline that hit last year’s installment, although with its tiny cost, it’s sure to turn a profit in any case.  ANCHORMAN: THE LEGEND CONTINUES (12/20) brings back one of Will Ferrell’s most beloved characters, and it’s odd that Ferrell and producer Judd Apatow practically had to beg the studio to make it.  The big questions on this one will be how big its budget turned out to be, and whether the original Anchorman‘s fans, 9 years later, will turn up or wait for homevideo.  The studio’s bigger risk is JACK RYAN (12/25), which will try the tricky feat of rebooting Tom Clancy’s Cold War character as a contemporary action hero played by Chris Pine, with Kevin Costner as his mentor and Keira Knightley (?!?) as his girlfriend.

On the prestige front, Martin Scorsese’s THE WOLF OF WALL STREET (11/15), with Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill, is one that the studio dearly hopes can cross over into popular success–and it needs to, because Scorsese doesn’t do low-budget, and Hugo lost a fortune.  Much smaller is the black-and-white NEBRASKA (11/22) from The Descendants director Alexander Payne, which screened at the Cannes Film Festival, and Jason Reitman’s LABOR DAY (12/25) an odd amalgam of romance, nostalgia and suspense with Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."