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Mark Wahlberg Bluntly Explains What Really Went Wrong with The Lone Ranger

By Dustin Rowles | Think Pieces | August 8, 2013 | Comments ()


Screen Shot 2013-08-08 at 9.24.57 AM.png

The general thought running through social media right now about the failures of the summer movie season has little to do with the actual movies, and everything to do with their costs. In terms of box office, it looks like it’s going to be the biggest movie summer of all time, while the movies themselves are fairly typical of the summer: All spectacle, little substance. That spectacle costs a lot of money, and with every summer movie trying to outdo the last (see: Man of Steel vs. The Avengers), the studios are running up the costs, but they’re getting the same returns.

The Lone Ranger is the perfect example of that problem. The film has made $175 million so far worldwide (and it’s still opening in foreign territories), and yet it looks like Disney is going to lose $190 million on the film.

That’s insane. A movie that makes $200 million at the box office should not be $190 million in the red. That sounds like less a failure of the movie and more a failure of economics. Mark Wahlberg, in the Los Angeles Times, succinctly addresses the failure.

“They’re spending $250 million for two dudes on a horse?” he said incredulously. “Where’s the money going?’

Well, exactly, right? Much of Wahlberg’s success as a movie star can actually be attributed to the fact that his movies are modestly budgeted. He’s the fourth biggest movie star of all time not to make a sequel (yet; he has two in the works), and when his movie budgets are $50 to $60 million, there’s not as much pressure to have a $75 million opening weekend. 2 Guns costs $61 million; it’s made more than half of that back in the first 10 days, and once worldwide grosses are eventually accounted for, there’s no way that 2 Guns doesn’t eke out a profit.

Where’s the money going? Again, Wahlberg speaks to that:

“They are spending so much money to pull the wool over the audience’s eyes with these effects-driven movies,” he said. “It’s not like ‘Jurassic Park,’ where you saw something groundbreaking and innovative and said ‘Holy … I gotta see that. Every end-of-the-Earth movie kind of feels the same.”

That’s where we will begin to see some pull back from that. There is a brilliant interview with Damon Lindelof over on Vulture this week, where he addressed that very problem.

“Once you spend more than $100 million on a movie, you have to save the world,” explains Lindelof. “And when you start there, and basically say, I have to construct a MacGuffin based on if they shut off this, or they close this portal, or they deactivate this bomb, or they come up with this cure, it will save the world—you are very limited in terms of how you execute that. And in many ways, you can become a slave to it and, again, I make no excuses, I’m just saying you kind of have to start there. In the old days, it was just as satisfying that all Superman has to do was basically save Lois from this earthquake in California. The stakes in that movie are that the San Andreas Fault line opens up and half of California is going to fall in the ocean. That felt big enough, but there is a sense of bigger, better, faster, seen it before, done that.”

“It sounds sort of hacky and defensive to say, [but it’s] almost inescapable,” he continues. “It’s almost impossible to, for example, not have a final set piece where the fate of the free world is at stake. You basically work your way backward and say, ‘Well, the Avengers aren’t going to save Guam, they’ve got to save the world.’ Did Star Trek Into Darkness need to have a gigantic starship crashing into San ­Francisco? I’ll never know. But it sure felt like it did.”

But again, audiences may be getting weary with the scale, those stakes. That huge, massive end-of-the-world fight scene in World War Z was scrapped, for instance, and Lindelof was brought in to tone it down, give us a smaller, Ocean’s 11 kind of ending. It wasn’t entirely successful, but it did at least demonstrate that audiences aren’t insisting the the fate of the free world lie in the balance. We don’t need 28-mile runways in Fast and Furious 6. We are OK with smaller scale stories on smaller scale budgets. I’ll tell you, in fact, what a perfect example of that was: Now You See Me, the Jesse Eisenberg/Mark Ruffalo magician movie: It costs $75 million to make, and has quietly brought in $225 million worldwide, and the free world was never even at stake. It was also a lot more fun to watch than Man of Steel.

(Source: LA Times, Vulture)



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Comments Are Welcome, Douches Are Not


  • Denese

    Or maybe...in this day and age we're sick and tired of seeing an overpaid actor in yet another weird costume, in yet another weird role, run around for two hours doing the same thing over and over again in different settings? By his own admission he doesn't even watch his own movies. I think he was working on The Tourist, Lone Ranger and Dark Shadows all around the same time and getting around $20 million per role. That's stupid!

  • “They’re spending $250 million for two dudes on a horse?” he said incredulously.

    EXACTLY the words I used elsewhere. The Lone Ranger was a franchise because it was CHEAP, which was a very very good thing in the early days of television. Two guys, horses, and the sets and backgrounds were already built.

    Forget that and you fail.

  • BlackRabbit

    I shudder to think what a "Have Gun-Will Travel" movie would be after they started working on it.

  • e jerry powell

    That last paragraph presumes that we need Fast and Furious 6 at all, and I will fight to the death to say otherwise.

  • CarrotC

    I love the idea that movies can be smaller. I miss good storylines, actual plots, & character building. That being said, Man of Steel has become an instant favorite. I saw it twice in the theaters & thoroughly enjoyed every min.

  • Marky Mark explaining the stupid economics of big-budget filmmaking - a sentence nobody ever thought they'd see, and it gives me 'Good Vibrations'!

  • Ryan Ambrose

    Say what you will about The Wolverine movie, at least it knew it what was trying to tell a small-scale story through character driven study, I'd really like to see more of that instead of the disaster porn comic book superheroes have become.

  • TCH

    How did the Lone Ranger even get greenlite?

  • Slash

    RE "28-mile runways in Fast and Furious 6"
    LOL. I just saw that movie. Man, it's dumb. It's like it was written by an online action movie script generator. If I had gotten a dollar back every time someone said "Let's do this" or "You know it," I'd have made a significant profit on the 2 hours I spent watching it.

  • Long_Pig_Tailor

    Okay, this is going to bug me. Didn't he crash a starship into Starfleet Academy? That's, like, basically Sausalito, not San Francisco.

  • Cazadora

    I have a theory that the reason these budgets exist is due to the profitability at the back end market -- domestic and international television rights. And action films have a very long life on television, especially internationally (the dialog that Dustin poked fun at yesterday is easily translated) and the "splosions" makes it easier to capture viewers in a channel surfing environment.

    Additionally, the number of new networks (linear and non-linear) has driven the cost up, with action movies the most costly at all. And nets pay the price because it is still a relatively cheap and easily amortized programming option (series, both acquired and original are very risky).

  • Long_Pig_Tailor

    Ugh. I just can't decide with Lindelof. It's like, I know I'm going to have issues with anything he writes. Unavoidably, even if I might basically like it, there's going to be something kind of annoying and grating in there somewhere. There just is.

    But when he talks about literally anything else... Yeah, I kinda like him. It's weird, I imagine what it must be like to be really good friends with a creationist. I'll want to bash his head in when that comes up, but the rest of the time, basically cool dude even while I know he is ultimately a lunatic.

  • Charybdis

    Wow, how did this turn into a slam against people of different faiths?

  • Long_Pig_Tailor

    What? Oh. I think I see the problem. You see "creationist" and think I mean "Christian" or "Baptist" or something. No. No. That's... that could not be further from what I mean. When I say "creationist" I mean, "One who rejects scientific evidence and consensus to politically advocate for the teaching of his or her own religious creation mythologies as though they're scientific fact." That's not about faith, that's about being an asshole.

    ETA: And, as previously mentioned, a lunatic.

    ETA2: Though admittedly, within the United States, Christians, and among them very notably Baptists (but also others) are housed largely within the Creationist circle of the Venn diagram. But someone goes around arguing for teaching Hindu or ancient Inca creation stories as science, they can also eat me.

  • Charybdis

    Wow, I like your definition. That indeed sounds like a solid lunatic.

  • bleujayone

    If a studio still wants to sink $200 million into their production, fine. But they need to ask themselves if they can convey the same story for a fraction of the cost. If the answer is yes, then anything they do after that can be looked as enhancement. If the answer is no and the solution is to blow up a 1:1 scale of a building in an exotic location with several "A" list actors and then slap an ad of it in every subway stop TV screen and lunchbox to make up the cost- then they need to go back to the drawing board and start from scratch.

    If you have a fresh idea, a good script, actors with some ability a crew with drive, a director with feasible vision, an editor who can make it all flow and a producer who can keep it all together- then it doesn't matter so much your budget, there's a very good chance the output will still be respectable and any obvious shortcomings may be overlooked for the sum of its parts.

    On the other hand, if you have nothing new or original, if the script is flat and cliched, if the actors are only dialing it in, if big explosions are there to cover up the lacking plot- then it doesn't matter how many fistfuls of glitter you fling at this cowpie, it's still going to be a sparkly lump of shit. Money does not make bad ideas, poorly executed plans and lack of talent all better. It simply amplifies and enhances what you already have.

  • **I AM** NotTheOne

    I don't know how comfortable I am with Wahlberg making sense for even short periods of time.

  • Long_Pig_Tailor

    Did you see Awakenings? Awkward mentally tweenaged DeNiro made me uncomfortable, but it didn't last long and he eventually just went back to being kind of a vegetable, so it worked out.

    Same thing.

  • **I AM** NotTheOne

    This.

  • Arran

    Its emblematic of how out of control budgets are becoming that when I saw that the production budget of The Wolverine was $120m, I thought "Oh, that's quite cheap." $200m shouldn't be the norm. It's completely ludicrous.

  • LucyKlein

    The budget for ***ALL THREE*** Lord of the Rings movies was $281 million. Or roughly the cost of the Lone Ranger.
    Granted I don't think it covers marketing cost, but, still....

  • Arran

    Whereas the budget for The Hobbit movies is somewhere around double that (not accounting for inflation, but still). For what's supposed to be a smaller-scale story.

  • Long_Pig_Tailor

    Which is to say, about $370m in today's dollars.

  • Long_Pig_Tailor

    Huh. Now I'm wanting to see some lower budget Wolverine for some reason. It feels like stripping it down might actually end up giving it the character it's supposed to have.

  • L.O.V.E.

    To be fair, Wahlberg was also quoted as saying, "And if I was in the movie Flight 93, the movie would have just been about me getting on a plane and it landing safely, and they would have saved millions on special effects."

  • Maguita NYC

    There is no refuting Mark Wahlberg's keen business sense and how quite surprisingly he's made himself a reputation in Hollywood as a serious producer. But no matter his financial savvy in the movie and teevee business, he will always stay the douchebag macho idiot talking out of his ass.

    He just can't help himself.

  • Mrs. Julien

    I. love. you. Maguita. N.Y.C.

  • $27019454

    But that is one fine fine ass.

  • Maguita NYC

    Meh. The new moobs are throwing shade on that ass.

  • kirbyjay

    I have to give Marky Mark a pass because he is a Boston dude, because geography. Sorry, but it's the law

  • Maguita NYC

    I get you, no worries. One must always follow one's set rules in life. Or something to this sort that I'm sure Miss Manners covers.

  • Long_Pig_Tailor

    Yep, pretty much. He can talk about budgets all he wants, and even writing in an abstract kind of way, but that's about all he'll manage before you remember how the way he talks sounds remarkably like the way idiots you know in real life sound.

  • MattyBlue

    obviously, given my comments on tuesday's johnny depp story (to wit: " the problem is that hollywood thinks it's okay to spend $200 million to make ANY movie, let alone a goddamn cowboy movie"), i can't cosign this enough.

    as i said - halve the budgets and cut ticket prices by a third, and people. will. come.

    i'm an architect, and imho the most interesting projects are those that have design constraints. movies are no different.

  • frozen01

    And price food like normal damn people.
    Or better yet, offer some real food.

  • Wigamer

    He's not wrong, but he also read the script for The Happening and agreed to be in it. He must be an idiot on some level.

  • Long_Pig_Tailor

    Eh. A lot of people still had the Shyamalan wool over their eyes at the time. He might've thought, "Plant pheromones genocide humanity," (right? That was pretty much the deal, wasn't it?) would work out better because of Shyamalamamamamamamama--

    I can't stop.

  • George Tarleton

    “They are spending so much money to pull the wool over the audience’s eyes with these effects-driven movies,” he said. “It’s not like ‘Jurassic Park,’ where you saw something groundbreaking and innovative and said ‘Holy … I gotta see that. Every end-of-the-Earth movie kind of feels the same.”

    Bold god damn talk for a guy whose next movie is freaking Transformers 4.

  • van1968

    Yeah, but the other Transformers installments have made their money back. They're undeniably crap movies, but clearly on some level they've got something that audiences want to see. If the argument here is about why certain movies aren't attracting audiences, it's not fair to throw Bay's CGI monstrosities into the discussion just because they suck.

  • pajiba

    Yeah, Wahlberg addressed that in the interview, basically saying that Transformers is different because Michael Bay brings in the "human element."

    Yeah. He said that.

  • And by "the human element" he means "LOOK AT THIS HOT GIRL WITH THE BIG BOOBS." I mean, I guess she *is* human. So that's something.

  • LucyKlein

    Maybe he means the human racial stereotypes used for robots.

  • George Tarleton

    Did he really?

    O well, I never took Mark Wahlberg to be a particularly bright penny.

  • $27019454

    Right. But: Underpants.

    Wahlberg FTW!

  • Bea Pants

    It's like he has moments of clarity...then he goes back to being a bit of a lunkhead.

  • LucyKlein

    He truly is an enigma.

  • tatertot

    A riddle wrapped in an enigma and smothered in secret sauce.

  • Long_Pig_Tailor

    Wrapped in a Total Gym, inside a Mini Cooper.

    By "human element", does he mean that the world-ending thingies in question do actually speak and shit? Because I'll give him that one.

  • Scully

    You know what else Star Trek: Lens Flareier didn’t need? The Enterprise rising out of the ocean! Ugh, I hate giving credit to Lindelof but maybe he can have a little chat with his pal, JJ. Don’t make me like you, Lindelof! My rage for you is a precious resource.

  • Misomaniac

    I don't know-I would have preferred a big battle to end WWZ. Because the low-key ending was so full of stupid. I've seen cats come up with better plans than that. I would provide a specific example but the spoilers embargo is what -- 5 years?

  • John G.

    first
    ?? where I’m we will begin to see ??

    second
    there was nothing fun about watching Man Of Steel

    third
    Lone Ranger just got allowed through the Chinese Firewall that only allows a certain number of films to get through, and that market will earn Lone Ranger it's money back.

    fourth
    "Aim for the bushes?"

  • Aaron Schulz

    Except that they dont make anything from chinese markets, i think cracked had an article yesterday about the fact they only get 20% of the money made in chinese theaters, so they might be made profitable but they wont be busting any blocks.

  • The Kilted Yaksman

    "Lone Ranger just got picked allowed through"

    If you're going to criticize the article author, you shouldn't then proceed to make the same mistake.

  • vyduxawanuxe

    мy coυѕιɴ ιѕ мαĸιɴɢ $51/нoυr oɴlιɴe. υɴeмployed ғor α coυple oғ yeαrѕ αɴd prevιoυѕ yeαr ѕнe ɢoт α $1З619cнecĸ wιтн oɴlιɴe joв ғor α coυple oғ dαyѕ. ѕee мore αт...­ ­ViewMore----------------------...

    I love the idea that movies can
    be smaller. I miss good storylines, actual plots, & character
    building. That being said, Man of Steel has become an instant favorite. I
    saw it twice in the theaters & thoroughly enjoyed every min.

  • John G.

    fair point. I corrected the mistake, because simple correction need not be taken as an attack.

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