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Studios Rethink Tentpole Strategy Amid Reshoots and Postponements, from 'World War Z' to '47 Ronin'

Thompson on Hollywood By Anne Thompson and Beth Hanna | Thompson on Hollywood August 15, 2012 at 4:27PM

Is Hollywood ready to change its tentpole strategy? I'm hearing that yes, studio heads are realizing that placing too many big bets on too few potential tentpoles--which when they work, do return the most money--is a foolish strategy. The conventional wisdom was always that you spread your risk over a diverse slate of projects, from low-budget comedies and genre fare to high-cost holiday sequels and potential blockbusters. The studios are returning to that approach.

The films above fit the "multiple weeks" description, which is a worry for projects that started off with huge budgets in the $100-$200 million range. One reason for the reshoot trend is studios' unwillingness to contend with finicky and expensive directors with experience (think David Fincher or Michael Mann); they prefer to bring on relatively inexperienced (cheaper) directors who they can control. For "Ronin," Universal selected first-time director Carl Rinsch, a choice that is now leading to an extensive reshooting of the film's final battle scene, which Rinsch closely supervised. Universal knows that a franchise can be saved via reshoots--as long as it's a savvy producer like Frank Marshall, who helped to turn Doug Liman's "The Bourne Identity" into a lucrative winner.

Of course seasoned veterans can have problems, too. For Marc Forster's "World War Z," writers Damon Lindelof and Drew Goddard were pulled in to re-work the film's third act. Forster helmed 2008 Bond installment "Quantum of Solace," so he has the wherewithall to pull off a big production, but a major seven-week reshoot is in the works for "World War." And a major star's career is at stake: Brad Pitt may be willing to take a flyer on a small indie film he does for cred--but not a big-studio movie intended to burnish his marquee value. The other question is whether Pitt is even speaking  to Forster. 

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This article is related to: World War Z, Universal, 47 Ronin, News

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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.