End of the New Line? The (NO LONGER) continously-updated Golden Compass box-office thread.


A primer, courtesy of The Numbers:

Biggest Budgets of all-time

Release Date Movie Distributor Budget US Gross Worldwide Gross
1 5/4/2007   Spider-Man 3 Sony $258,000,000 $336,530,303 $891,230,303
2 12/7/2007   His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass New Line $250,000,000 $69,253,101 $322,853,101

General plan for this thread: discuss/detail The Golden Compass‘ box-office performance internationally and the resulting fallout.

The 500 million figure is based on simplified Hollywood math: 2x production budget gross = break-even.

There’s a lot riding on this film. Not only will a poorly-performing TGC be the biggest financial disappointment of 2007, it will earn a place next to things like Stealth, Pluto Nash and Town & Country as one of the all-time cinematic disasters.

While the status of New Line’s current management (including founder Bob Shaye) is clearly on the line, so is the NL’s future as an independently-operated studio. Biggest non-strike story in Hollywood? Yep.


03/05/08:  Late in updating this thread (for the final time) but Shaye, Lynne and an estimated 85% of New Line’s staff are out.  Operations will be moving to the WB lot (and closing completely in NY).   Oh, and Semi-Pro made less than half of projections opening weekend.

02/09/08: When Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes tells a group of analysts that New Line Cinema is ripe for expense reductions and that “changes in the film industry leave less purpose for New Line”…you know the end is near. BusinessWeek concurs with expert analysis.

Also updated totals, the film’s international take continues to astound. I don’t have the numbers – but I’ve got to think that it’s the best multiplier EVER in terms of US vs. Foreign take.

01/22/08: Nikki Finke reports that it’s a “virtual certainty” that Shaye or Lynne’s contracts will not be renewed. More importantly, Nikki believes that New Line will likely be absorbed by Warner Brothers.

12/18/07: Updated all totals. Worldwide final (again, depending on WOM) is probably looking like 200-250 million….or roughly half of the break-even. Of course, this might change everything in terms of management’s future.

1/22/08 Dave Poland reports that “it’s virtually certain” that Warner Brothers will not be renewing Bob Shaye and Michael Lynne’s contracts and that New Line will be absorbed by Warner Brothers.

12/16/07: Updated domestic total is $40,968,000 after a $9,025,000 weekend and a 66% drop. Worldwide totals will be updated in the coming days. The drop indicates “meh” word-of-mouth, it should be interesting to see if the international markets react similarly.

12/15/07: Friday night domestic estimate is about $3,050,000 which would equal around a 10 million weekend. Final total is now probably hovering around the 70 million mark.

12/13/07: New Line kicked off their revamped marketing campaign for the US. New spots are family-friendly, upbeat and focus on the kids (little to no Kidman or Craig) while a peppy V.O. explains “Lyra’s friends have disappeared! Now it’s up to her, a magical compass and her talking polar bear to find them!”. Sure, maybe it’s a bit misleading and simplified, but it works. Heads and shoulders above the past two months of spots. I’ll toss up a YouTube link as soon as one is available.

12/10/07: Updated total in graphic.

12/9/07: Weekend estimates are in: 26.6 million US and a (not bad) 55 million international take. Postmortems from Variety, Dave Poland, Nikki Finke.

12/8/07: Early, unofficial b.o. numbers sneaking out. It appears the film made around 8 million in the US last night. That puts it on-track for a sub 25 million opening.


28 responses »

  1. I’m thinking, unless the audience hates it, that it will make just under a $100 million domestic. Biggest market for this film isn’t in the US, but the UK and Europe, where the books are much more well known. My little sister seldom goes to the movies anymore, but she was ecstatic about seeing this.

    Besides, the studios seldom count on their films earning back their budgets during their theatre runs these days.

    What are you going to do if Shaye stays?

  2. It would take VERY impressive word of mouth for the flick to hit 100. Best case is probably closer to high 80s to low 90’s. With the level of competition, they’re in for an uphill battle.

    International figures seem to be tracking a little below Eragon, which isn’t horrible…but Eragon didn’t cost 250 million, either.

    Besides, the studios seldom count on their films earning back their budgets during their theatre runs these days.

    Kinda, a film needs to (at least) itch towards profitability during its theatrical run. A -100 million gross on a 250 million dollar budgeted film is a colossal failure. Ancillary markets be damned. Remember: we’re still talking a pre-marketing 500 million break-even point.

    In terms of Shaye: his contract is up next year and he was probably out the door based on NL’s 06-07 performance anyway. The last two years have been horrific. TGC seemed like a hail mary pass, a go-for-broke attempt to salvage things. Now that it appears to have failed…he’s out.

    The biggest question is really going to be what happens with NL. Do they get absorbed by WB (and operated as some sort of genre/urban comedy shingle) or will new management be appointed to continue to run things independent of the mothership? I’m betting on the latter (for now) but anything goes at this point.

  3. Just curious, because I don’t care one way or another, but do you have a vested interesting in the failure of Bob Shaye, Lester? You seem to be salivating over it.

  4. Absolutely not. Although the number of folks who’ve been screwed over by Mr. Shaye is (as with all studio execs) a long one, I really admire the guy. What he accomplished at New Line over the past three decades is nothing short of amazing.

    This is just an endlessly fascinating story about a gamble gone very, very wrong. Nothing personal, it’s the same thing as talking about the collapse of the New York Mets in September to me.

  5. I think the lack of update in the main #2 ranking can cause confusion. If you put the numbers up to replace the “unknown” in addition to the graphic (and a US map by county showing red vs. blue) it will be clearer…

  6. Joe, good call. Once the final international figures come in, I’ll toss ’em up.

    This next weekend is really going to be an interesting one, if the international figure stays high – this story could swing the other way. It’s really going to come down to word of mouth and local marketplace competition in those territories.

  7. Irony: the series that was supposed to kill off and replace the previous succesful series ends up reviving the former and dying itself.

  8. It’s a sad turn of events, but the level of hubris on New Line’s part could only lead to disaster.

    Hopefully the next crew who decide to tackle Dark Materials (decades from now) will watch their wallet a little closer. A decent script couldn’t hurt them either…

  9. Kind of lost interest in this once the US media stopped paying attention. Deleted the original graphic so editing the graphic is a bitch, but I updated the totals.

    I have agree that the worldwide take is pretty staggering, particularly in relation to the film’s performance here in the states. At this point, they’re only looking at a 150-160 million loss, which isn’t that horrible all things considered. They’re also probably going to end up avoiding a permanent spot on the top 10.

  10. As we mentioned above: if they had just kept the costs are a reasonable level, they would be doing cartwheels over that international take.

    Granted, the US numbers would still probably put the brakes on a sequel – but the film would be a solid hit across the globe. Just poor, poor decision making.

    I’d imagine we’ll see the franchise back eventually as some Robert Halmi-ish minisesries.

  11. Rumor mill (particularly based on comments by Jeff Bewkes late last week, see above) indicates that the end is near. The next few weeks should be interesting to watch.

    It’s time for New Line to become WB’s Dimension Films…back to basics of cheap horror, comedies and urban dramas.

  12. Absolutely, New Line NEVER should have been in the mini major game.

    Besides the fluke of LOTR (which probably should have been a WB film anyway) New Line’s purpose was lost the day they greenlit The Long Kiss Goodnight.

  13. I am glad as hell that New Line made Lord of the Rings and not WB. They probably would have given it to Chris Columbus and had it cut down into two parts. And cast Macaulay Culkin as Frodo.

    I think Long Kiss Goodnight is underrated. Sure, it could have been great if Renny Harlin hadn’t gotten his hands on it, but it doesn’t deserve all the vitriol it still gets.

    You look at the films they made the years after that one, most of them hardly cost over $30-40 million. They were still making pretty medium-sized films.

    What I see is the beginning of the end for them is Little Nicky. They must have paid close to a $100 million for that film. Less than five years earlier they would have used that money to make films with the same guy.

    Somewhere along the line they started spending much more money than they ever had before. Started taking risks. Which in a way was good, since they did get Lord of the Rings. But them returning to their roots is a good thing, too.

    Of course, now we’ll have to suffer through Freddy vs Jason vs Surf Ninjas.

  14. I think Long Kiss Goodnight is underrated. Sure, it could have been great if Renny Harlin hadn’t gotten his hands on it, but it doesn’t deserve all the vitriol it still gets.

    I read the script for the first time in early 95 and loved it (Black’s ridiculous, kitchen-sink draft) and the final film isn’t horrible…it just suffers from some terrible acting and limp action.

    My point was that LKG was really New Line’s first attempt to move beyond low/mid budgeted material into full-fledged mega-$$$ blockbuster fare. It’s the point where they lost their focus and brand identity.

    No more updating this thread, btw. However, I’m going to try to create individual threads (multi-part series! Take that Pixar Retrospective!) about NL’s progress and suggestions for re-inventing the brand while taking it back to its’ roots.

  15. Yeah, maybe there’ll be a comeback! Sequels have always been a steady, profitable staple of New Line. (not to LKG, of course)

  16. Damn, sorry to hear about that. Confirmation has also come in that New Line WILL be a genre specific label (ala Dimension) at Warner Brothers.

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