Issue: Volume 34 Issue 6: (June/July 2011)

Editor's Note

By: Karen Moltenbrey
Once again, we opened the summer with a number of highly anticipated films vying for theatergoers’ attention (and wallets).

The Good: It’s finally looking sunnier at the box office, thanks to the record-setting Memorial Day weekend, followed by another over the July 4th weekend. After a slow yearly start, the 2011 box office kicked into high gear, with moviegoers flocking to theaters across the country, spending approximately $280 million during the four-day Memorial Day holiday—$25 million more than the previous high in 2007. Undoubtedly, Hollywood breathed a collective sigh of relief on May 31, given that through late April, receipts were down nearly 17 percent from 2010. But this big holiday surge narrowed the year’s overall revenue void to just 9 percent—not an insurmountable figure considering what was to come: superhero flicks, a Transformers movie, and a Disney/Pixar film. Over the Fourth of July weekend, Transformers 3 trounced the competition, earning $97.4 million (besting the previous record-holder: 2004’s Spider-Man 2, with $88.2 million). Perhaps the best is yet to come: As of press time, audiences were anticipating the cinematic end to a decade-long adventure with the boy wizard.

Globally, there’s a greener picture emerging. According to the Motion Picture Association of America, 2010’s worldwide box-office high of $31.8 billion represented an 8 percent increase over 2009, with the largest growth in Latin America and Asia-Pacific (besting Europe, the Middle East, and Africa). Add to that merchandising and video sales, and things look even better for Hollywood. Or do they?

The Bad ... and the Ugly: Recently, Eric Roth, VES executive director, issued an open letter to VFX artists and the entertainment industry concerning the “unsettled” state of the industry. “Artists and visual effects companies are working longer hours for less income, delivering more amazing VFX under ever-diminishing schedules, and carrying larger financial burdens, while others are profiting greatly from our work,” he states. “Many feel VFX artists are being taken advantage of, and many others feel that VFX facilities are operating under unsustainable competitive restraints and profit margins. The work we do helps a lot of people make a lot of money, but it’s not being shared on an equal basis, nor is the respect that’s due us, especially considering that 44 of the top 50 films of all time are visual effects driven.” Roth pledges that the VES will bring the plight of the VFX industry to the forefront and will find solutions that will be welcome to all sides. “We want the studios to make a respectable profit. We want facilities to survive and thrive in this ever-changing fiscal environment. And we want artists to have high-quality jobs with the commensurate amount of respect for the work they do on a daily basis,” he writes. (See the full letter here.)

Back to Good: On the CG animation side, independent studios have found the box office a tough nut to crack (see the Editorial “A Taste of Independence,” October 2006). Yet, the giants that rule this segment of the industry seem to spin box-office gold—none more so than Disney/Pixar, which has raked in a total of $6.68 billion at the worldwide box office. This year, Pixar is celebrating its 25th anniversary, after leaving the Lucasfilm fold in 1986. Over the years, the studio has earned 26 Academy Awards, seven Golden Globes, and three Grammys, as well as a plethora of other accolades and acknowledgments. Last month, Disney/Pixar reached another milestone when the studio introduced its 12th CGI film: Cars 2 (see “The World Is Not Enough,” pg. 66), which is doing its part to make 2011 a happier and healthier box-office year.
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