Jon Favreau: Summer 2011 will be a ‘bloodbath’ for Hollywood

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LOS ANGELESJon Favreau has seen Hollywood’s future — at least as far as summer 2011 — and it looks a lot like “Saving Private Ryan.”

“It’s Omaha Beach, it’s going to be a bloodbath,”
the filmmaker said of next year’s crush of big special-effects films,
remakes and sequels. “There’s never been a summer like this next
summer. It’s going to be bloody (for filmmakers and the studios). As we
were sticking thumb tacks in a calendar we realized that this is going
to be looked back upon as Omaha Beach.”

Favreau, the director of the “Iron Man” films, is
well known to moviegoers as an on-screen funny guy in movies like
“Couples Retreat” or the sublime “Swingers” (which he also wrote), but
he wasn’t joking a bit when he said Hollywood
is going to be in “a pit fight” next summer because of a glut of
high-profile releases that will translate to some big-name
disappointments just because of the numbers game. Favreau has a sci-fi
horse in the race, of course, with July’s “Cowboys and Aliens,” which
stars Daniel Craig, Olivia Wilde, Sam Rockwell and Harrison Ford in a mash-up of an Old West tale with a space-invader story.

Favreau’s track record and the cast make “Cowboys
and Aliens” a movie to pay attention to, but Favreau knows he is going
up against some titans of the popcorn sector. “Do you know the list?
It’s pretty staggering,” Favreau said. It is a deep roster: There’s the
huge finale of the “Harry Potter” franchise, Johnny Depp’s return to his signature role with a new “Pirates of the Caribbean” installment from Disney and a third “Transformers” film, which is Michael Bay’s follow-up to the 2009 mecha-movie that pulled in more than $836 million worldwide.

Then there’s the masked-man crowd, with four major superhero films: “Green Lantern” starring Ryan Reynolds and directed by “Casino Royale’s” Martin Campbell;
“Thor” and “Captain America: The First Avenger,” two promising projects
from the ever-expanding Marvel Studios universe; and director Matthew Vaughn’s “X-Men: First Class,” which will take the prequel route to Fox’s
mutant-hero epic. Also arriving are proven animation powerhouses, such
as Pixar’s “Cars 2″ and the DreamWorks sequel to “ Kung Fu Panda,”
as well as a new “Winnie the Pooh” feature film that goes old-school
bear with hand-drawn animation. “The Smurfs 3D” will seek out the
youngest moviegoers, as will Robert Rodriguez’s return to kid fare, “Spy Kids 4: All the Time in the World.”

There are also some wild cards. “Rise of the Apes,” starring James Franco,
aspires to take the “Planet of the Apes” property in a bold new
direction, while “Super 8″ is an alien-menace tale that follows
“Cloverfield” in cinematic spirit and, with J.J. Abrams’ name in the credits, can’t be dismissed. On the comedy front, there’s “Zookeeper” with Kevin James, which might just as well be called “Paul Blart: Zoo Cop,” and “The Hangover 2,” which might end up being a bender to remember.

Favreau said it’s great for moviegoers, but it looks
like a steel-cage match for filmmakers and studio executives. “There’s
not a weekend where there won’t be teeth on the floor. The audience
wins but it’s going to be rough for people making these movies. Then
there was the big rush to 3-D, so you have all of these people fighting
for a limited number of screens and to get the 3-D done, since most of
these are hybrids or conversions, so this is a technology that is still
in the relatively early stages and there’s going to be a lot of blood
pressures going up in the months ahead.”

Why don’t studios spread the wealth? The simple
reason is that the summer months mean big box-office; young people are
out of school and willing to make repeat visits to their favorite new
silver-screen adventure. More than that, Favreau said, there is a deep
anxiety in Hollywood that home-video retail is headed for a cliff.

“Even if there is a DVD market now, there won’t be
in a few years,” Favreau said, predicting that all those expensive
boxed sets of Blu-rays and DVDs will be pushed aside for digital
delivery of movies, a far lower price point and rampant piracy. That’s
what has happened in the music industry, where the scale of economics
changed dramatically once the shiny silver disc gave way to the
mouse-click.

“People will download on a subscription basis, and
the industry model that allowed me to make independent films (such as
‘Swingers’ and ‘Made’) and approach the limited theatrical release as a
way to market the home-video products, that’s going away as home-video
dries up rapidly. Everything soon will be about what you take in at the
box office.”

That explains why filmmakers such as Martin Scorsese and Michael Mann are turning to outlets like HBO as the natural place for adult drama.
And the movie theaters — especially next summer — will be loud and
crowded with something a bit more explosive and expensive.

“In the hour-and-a-half and two-hour theater
experience, what people are looking for is something big and brash, an
event that you can communally share … that’s what people want and
everybody in Hollywood is chasing that right now. And I mean everybody.”

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