Man Without Qualities

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

The Fall Of The House Of Eisner XVII: The Worst Movie Ever?

Disney's chief executive officer Michael Eisner has lavished his personal attention on The Alamo, which now stars Dennis Quaid, Billy Bob Thornton and Jason Patric and was directed by John Lee Hancock - although it was originally slated to be directed by Ron Howard and star Russell Crowe. According to the New York Times those changes were but a few of the results of Mr. Eisner's direct micro-management of the film. This movie is really Mr. Eisner's movie in many, many ways - often astounding ways, considering that Mr. Eisner is supposed to be running Disney - not fussing over and second-guessing a single movie as he did with The Alamo.

So it's not too surprising that when, as noted in the prior post in this series, Michael Eisner said the Disney movie studio group "is on fire," he specifically referred to The Alamo. "A lot is riding on the Alamo," said Paul Degarabedian, head of movie-tracking service Exhibitor Relations. "This is a movie that they have a lot invested in. They've really been pushing it on the marketing side." Eisner also said expected reviews for "Alamo" looked good.

Well, if the reviews for The Alamo are any indication of how Mr. Eisner and the Disney movie studio group are "on fire," it appears they have achieved that state by lighting their own farts: The Alamo has been awarded an almost unprecedented ZERO PERCENT positive reviews rating from "Rotten Tomatoes." Reviewers nationally are unanimous in proclaiming that this is one of the biggest stinkers ever made:

"Cartoonishly awful! Remember the Alamo but forget this movie."

"A few dollars lighter, a few hours closer to death, get a chance to glimpse your own mortality reflected in the dead, shark-eyed glare of another big-budget prestige picture."

And on and on. Every single review is a disastrous pan. Yet Mr. Eisner told investors that expected reviews for "Alamo" looked good. Is that a material fact to the Securities and Exchange Commission?

Mr. Eisner's personal achievement of a ZERO PER CENT rating for this movie is an accomplishment one really has to put in perspective. Other movies widely considered to be "The Worst Movie Ever Made" fare far better. For example, the notorious Plan Nine From Outer Space receives a 57% rating. And the classically awful no-budget Attack of the Killer Tomatoes garnered a full 33%! The biggest Hollywood financial disasters in history pale in comparision: Ishtar (19%), Heaven's Gate (44%), and even Gigli (7%) are all made to look like blow-out reviewer successes by The Alamo!

Yes, The Alamo gets a perfect ZERO! And with the production and distribution budgets involved here, Disney is looking down the barrel of a cool TWO HUNDRED MILLION DOLLAR WRITE OFF.

Faced with this kind of truly amazing performance, one can only gape in awe. Michael Eisner, you are truly an amazing man! This is not ordinary failure - this is failure in a Biblical scale, a failure that requires a kind of genius to accomplish. Ah, the perfect zero - the perfect circle! "What is eternal is circular and what is circular is eternal." - Aristotle.

Go with GOD!

And keep chanting your mantra: Reviews aren't box office gross! There is still a kind of hope.

UPDATE: Now cruising at 26% on Rotten Tomatoes, The Alamo denies Mr. Eisner his dubious niche in eternity even as his film pulls slightly ahead of Ishtar while mischevieously trailing Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. At least with that perfect zero Mr. Eisner would have been remembered - he could have been a contender. Sad. Sad. So briefly an immortal! There is no perfection so absoulute, that some impurity doth not pollute.


Although The Alamo has recovered a bit with the critics - and there have been a few genuinely "good" reviews - it is doing much worse with the public than one might have imagined:

"The Alamo" opened weakly with $9.2 million, tying for No. 3 with Cedric the Entertainer's comedy "Johnson Family Vacation," according to studio estimates Sunday. Other studios actually were tracking "Johnson Family Vacation" slightly ahead of "The Alamo," which could finish in fourth place when final numbers come out Monday. Making comparisons worse, "Johnson Family Vacation" put up the same numbers while playing in only half as many theaters as "The Alamo."

While Home On The Range may yet bring foreign revenue through performances and Hildago has grossed about a dreadful but not-historically-catestrophic $60 Million, the Wall Street Journal notes:

"The Alamo" ... is a clear loser that may struggle to take in even $25 million or $30 million in U.S. theaters at this pace. Its prospects overseas are thought to be dim, because the historical event it is based on is of little interest outside the U.S.

Nine million dollars and change is it? Worse than Johnson Family Vacation and Hildago? That's looking like a write-off of way, way north of $150 Million for a movie for which Michael Eisener held out special hopes. And although he said that he didn't want to "disappoint" with this movie - he did. A lot. Yes, indeed, quite the bit of explaining for Mr. Eisner to do at the board meeting.

Crisis? Crisis? Is Disney in crisis?

ANOTHER UPDATE: A broader understanding that The Alamo may represent, well, a kind of Alamo for Michael Eisner. Maybe even provoke a deal with Comcast.

[Thanks to astute reader BH for the link.]