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Avatar Budget, Up in the Air Tweet Chart, Pattinson vs. Kidman, Finke Attacks, Indie Bloodbath Redux

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood November 10, 2009 at 1:26AM

James Cameron's Avatar did not cost $500 million. First of all, the thing was in R & D for years. The negative cost is $300 to 400 million, but no one knows for sure. If you add worldwide marketing to it, maybe it creeps up to $500 million, because it's a huge movie that Fox has already spent a lot to flog, with World Series spots, Avatar Day, Comic-Con and Tokyo Film Fest footage etc. Online folks went nuts over this Michael Cieply NYT story which threw out an "approaching $500 million" figure. Loved this response from @ColeAbaius: "Not what I heard. insider claims that AVATAR will end up at $29 Trillion. And it was actually shot in space."
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Thompson on Hollywood


James Cameron's Avatar did not cost $500 million. First of all, the thing was in R & D for years. The negative cost is $300 to 400 million, but no one knows for sure. If you add worldwide marketing to it, maybe it creeps up to $500 million, because it's a huge movie that Fox has already spent a lot to flog, with World Series spots, Avatar Day, Comic-Con and Tokyo Film Fest footage etc. Online folks went nuts over this Michael Cieply NYT story which threw out an "approaching $500 million" figure. Loved this response from @ColeAbaius: "Not what I heard. insider claims that AVATAR will end up at $29 Trillion. And it was actually shot in space."

Schadenfreude alert. Deadline Hollywood blogger Nikki Finke might have been better off downplaying her deal with Mail.com mogul Jay Penske (reports range from $675,000 over eight years to $14 million), as media journos continue to scrutinize her methods. Gawker has gone after her repeatedly, in a piece making light of her traffic and most recently, revealing her rewrite of a Sony This is It press release. Now Ad Age asks why Gawker's expose got no traction. The new order is: break news now, change it later. Word on the street is, Finke's not so thrilled with her new gig. While her readership is more than respectable for a single blogger in the entertainment trade space, traffic matters more than it did at LA Weekly, which misses her numbers (if not her salary) and still runs her occasional column.

Thompson on Hollywood

Up in the Air filmmaker Jason Reitman (@JasonReitman) has been tweeting his round-the-world promo tour. He's made up a pie chart of all the questions journalists ask him repeatedly. I flip-cammed him back at the start, at Telluride. He's coming to Sneak Previews next week. Now I'll have to figure out a new approach.

Those of you looking forward to the erotic pairing of Twilight star Rob Pattinson and Nicole Kidman in the Guy de Maupassant movie Bel Ami will be disappointed. He says he's doing it, but Kidman withdrew from the fray due to scheduling issues, her press agent says.

I enjoyed the Danish Oscar entry Terribly Happy. The dark, skewed noir reminded me of a David Lynch movie, with a touch of Blood Simple and Hot Fuzz: rubber boots, bog and murder. O-Scope will release it. (Happily, O-Scope founder Adam Yauch, recovered quickly from salivary gland cancer surgery, is back to work and following a vegan diet.)

Time Magazine revisits the Indie Blowout story, making many of the same points I've made--but at least they cite me. I don't buy the speculation on Focus Features. That's because the Universal unit is profitable, thanks in part to its foreign sales operation. Universal could keep the foreign sales and lose the domestic distribution arm, I suppose, but as long as Focus topper James Schamus (who has parallel careers as an academic and screenwriter to fall back on) stays the course, Focus should survive.

Way back before Toronto, LA Weekly's Scott Foundas analyzed the studio/indie crisis. Salon's Andrew O'Hehir looks at why Disney cut back Miramax. As the studio redesigns its Mouse House, new studio chairman Rich Ross is pushing out motion picture president Mark Zoradi.

Ex-Daily News critic Jack Mathews is filing box office reports for the new, expanded AOL Moviefone, which has a never-ending blog feed, Inside Movies. (They post the occasional TOH feature, too.) My old Premiere colleague Tom Roston has also joined their ranks; here he lists boring titles of great movies.

Screen reports on The Auteurs, a site that caters to cinephiles of the arcane--and hosts David Hudson's must-read daily blog. While the site is growing, its numbers are quite small. I obsessively rank movies there, as I do at flickchart, one of the great time-wasters.

Check out some great movie architecture, from Blade Runner to Metropolis.

Martin Scorsese talks The Red Shoes as well as Boardwalk Empire and casting his Sinatra biopic.

Some tweets:

@PasteMagazine: The Best Producers of the Decade (2000-2009).

@TheAuteursDaily: Julian Sancton asks, "Should Scene Recalling Ft Hood Tragedy Be Cut From THE MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS?"

@ScottKirsner: "WBUR posted video from Wed's invite-only conversation betw Google CEO Eric Schmidt and Tom Ashbrook."

@EbertCHicago: "Likes the look of the can, buys a $5.68 film on eBay, and it's an unknown early Chaplin short."

@TheGuardian: "Mathematicians find the formula for a hit film sequel."

This article is related to: Directors, Franchises, Stuck In Love, Daily Read, Media, Martin Scorsese, James Cameron, Avatar, Twilight


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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.