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Movie Producers Feeling More Pressure: ‘Winners, Losers Are Bigger Than Ever’

Variety logo Variety 6/10/2017 Dave McNary
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Box office hits and misses carry more importance than ever, veteran Hollywood exec-turned-producer Doug Belgrad asserted Saturday to his producing brothers and sisters.

“Quality matters more than ever … Winners and losers are bigger than ever before,” Belgrad said during the “Financing Your Film” panel at the Fox lot as part of the Producers Guild of America’s ninth annual Produced By conference.

Belgrad joined PGA President Gary Lucchesi, Carla Hacken (“Hell or High Water”), Kevin Turen (“The Birth of a Nation”), and Rena Ronson, head of UTA Independent Film Group, for a panel that painted a picture of a movie industry that’s facing increased pressure to succeed amid fast-changing circumstances as it scrambles to retain its customer base. Belgrad, who departed Sony last year after eight years as head of its motion picture group, is developing “Peter Rabbit” and “Bad Boys 3.”

The conference comes with Universal having seen Tom Cruise’s “The Mummy” fizzling in the U.S. with a projected $30 million opening weekend while the international total will be $140 million. The reboot carries a $125 million price tag and has been selected as the launch title for the studio’s Dark Universe as a multi-movie franchise based on classic horror films.

Asked by moderator Lucchesi what the Monday morning meeting of Universal execs would be like, Belgrad responded simply, “It won’t be fun.”

At the same time, Warner Bros.’ “Wonder Woman” has continued to dazzle audiences as it dominates with a $53 million second weekend domestically, with prospects of hitting a 10-day total of $200 million — along with erasing the memory of recent flops like “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword.”

“The success of ‘Wonder Woman’ is more important to Warner Bros. than the failure of ‘King Arthur,'” Belgrad noted.

Panelists found cause for optimism in the success of mid-budget studio releases such as Lionsgate’s “La La Land,” Fox’s “Hidden Figures,” Warner’s “Sully,” and Paramount’s “Arrival.” Ronson said she’s particularly bullish on the upcoming Amy Schumer comedy “I Feel Pretty” and Kumail Nanjiani’s romantic comedy “The Big Sick,” which was made for $7.5 million and sold to Amazon Studios for $12 million. “The Big Sick” opens June 23.

“I think it’s going to be a big hit,” she added.

The panelists also noted the increasing role played by streaming service Netflix in producing and acquiring titles. Belgrad noted that there’s decreasing differentiation between film and TV.

“You have to be platform agnostic,” Turen noted. “But I don’t know if ‘Get Out’ would have become part of the cultural conversation if it had gone out on Netflix.”

Jordan Peele’s “Get Out,” which had a $4.5 million price tag, has been massively profitable for Universal with nearly $250 million in worldwide box office.

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