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Filmism.net Dispatch October 11, 2011

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Money's a funny thing in Hollywood. Mustangs and Maseratis line the streets and up in the hills you drive past one palatial locked gate after another while your tour guide says 'that's Kim Kardashian's house, that's Lucille Ball's house, that's Snoop Dogg's house...'

But the poor struggling film industry doesn't have any of it, if you can believe their balance sheets. A couple of stories shining a light on Hollywood economics have come to light in the past few weeks.

You probably know the infamous history of Forrest Gump, a film yet to turn an on-paper profit despite a $330m box office from a $55m budget. Cynics will tell you it's so Paramount didn't have to pay author Winston Groom for the rights, and his disgruntlement is the reason there's never been a sequel.

But you might have heard The Simpsons was in danger of being cancelled this week, with Harry Shearer offering to drop his salary 70 percent! Huh? I hear you ask. The most successful animated TV show in history? Because of the machinations of Hollywood accounting, The Simpsons was worth more dead than alive because of syndication rights.

You also would have thought a Lone Ranger movie starring Johnny Depp as Tonto would be a billion dollar bet, but Disney didn't think so. They vetoed the original budget and only agreed this week after director Gore Verbinski submitted a much cheaper one.

It's called show business, you see, and if you were in any doubt about their priorities, an affirmed Hollywood spokesman leaves us in no doubt. In August, this is what Disney CTO Andy Hendrickson had to say to the Siggraph conference. "People say 'It's all about the story. When you're making tentpole films, bullshit."

We all knew it of course, and when it comes to Disney own Alice in Wonderland I agree completely, but it's pretty confronting to hear it from the mouth of the beast itself. To those who do still think story matters, I was reading Zack Snyder news and it prompted me to revisit my old review of Watchmen, a film with a great narrative pedigree.

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