"There are only two ways of telling the complete truth—anonymously and posthumously."Thomas Sowell

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Money Talks and Cruise Walks

This undated file photo, originally supplied by Paramount Pictures, shows Tom Cruise in a scene from 'Mission: Impossible III.' Sumner Redstone, whose company owns Paramount Pictures, said the studio would sever its 14-year relationship with Cruise's film production company because 'his recent conduct has not been acceptable to Paramount.' Redstone estimated that Cruise's off-screen behavior cost his latest movie, 'Mission: Impossible III,' $100 million to $150 million in ticket sales, even as he praised the film as 'the best of the three movies' in the action series. (AP Photo/Paramount Pictures, Stephen Vaughan)Tom Cruise's loss of his production agreement at Paramount Pictures has raised a good deal of comment in film-industry circles. The action itself is rather mundane. Cruise's deal at Paramount was on very good terms for him, which means it was expensive for the studio—more than $10 million a year. Cruise's representatives say that Paramount made an offer to Cruise to keep his production company on Paramount's lot, but the offer was significantly less money than the Cruise's company had been receiving, so they decided to shop around for private financing. This is not unusual: the Hollywood studios have been slashing costs recently, especially payments to big stars such as Cruise. A slowing of growth in DVD sales has certainly contributed to this trend.

Moreover, Cruise's company was primarily producing films not starring Cruise himself, which would suggest that any slip in popularity on his part would not affect their box-office prospects. These production deals, however, are realy just ways for studios to keep their most popular stars happy, giving them additional compensation by allowing them to function as producers—making them "creators" rather than just before-the-camera types.

Cruise's popularity has definitely fallen in the past year, making him a less valuable commodity as an actor at Paramount. As AP reports,

[N]egative public perception of Cruise has soared in the past six months in the closely watched Q Scores, which rate celebrity popularity. They indicate that negative perception of Cruise jumped nearly 100 percent since mid-2005, while positive perception fell about 40 percent.

"He's definitely at his low point in terms of consumer appeal, among both males and females," said Henry Schafer, executive vice president of Marketing Evaluations Inc., the Q Scores company.

Actually, contra Shafer, there is room for Cruise's rating to drop further, but that's up to him, of course. Cruise can overcome this if he behaves somewhat normally and has another hit movie, but certainly a Cruise with these Q ratings is worth a good deal less to a movie studio than the Tom Cruise of two years ago. Welcome to Microeconomics 101, Tommy Boy.

All of this confirms that this parting of the ways was really just a bottom-line, cost-cutting business decision on Paramount's part. What made the situation rather surreal and newsy was two things: public awareness of Cruise's bizarre recent history of TV rants and goofiness, and Viacom chief Sumner Redstone's statement regarding the decision to break with Cruise's company. The chief of Paramount's parent company said Cruise's recent antics—leaping about on Oprah's sofa proclaiming his undying love for wife number 3, tearing Matt Lauer a new one for not understanding the magnitude of the conspiracies surrounding us about which Cruise and other Scientologists wish to warn us, etc.—were "creative suicide" and cost the studio up to $150 million in lost ticket sales for Mission Impossible 3.

Cast photo, Mission Impossible TV seriesPossibly, but these big crash and explosion movies may well have run their course, and the fact that the John Woo-directed Mission Impossible 2 was so irrational and uninspired probably did more to tank installment three than anything Cruise could have done. (I like Woo's Hong Kong films and Broken Arrow, Face/Off, and even Paycheck, but I have to say that he was a poor fit for MI2, not that I can fully understand where it all went wrong; it really should have worked. Well, OK, one thing that was disastrously wrong was the fact that MI2 dumped the central concept of the TV series and first film, the creation of a vast illusion to thwart the villains through ingenious trickery. MI2 was at heart an ordinary action film with extraordinary absurdity in its action sequences, which is saying a lot. And it appears that this was a consequence of Cruise's ego and his desire to avert rumors of homosexuality by emphasizing physical action, such as him climbing cliff faces, etc. This overbalanced the film, further removed the film series from the essentially cheerful and optimistic nature of the TV series, and made MI2 perfectly ludicrous.)

It made sense for Paramount to try to get Cruise to sign a less expensive deal and , failing that, to let him leave. There is nothing to be ashamed of in this, and no need to pile on the hapless Scientologist goofball with harsh words. A simple "We love Tom and wish him well" would have been much better than Redstone's high and mighty rant. As in all things, Redstone and Viacom have shown themselves as entirely devoid of class, manners, and principle. A pox on them, I say.

I'll tell you more about the repugnance of Viacom and Redstone in future postings on this site.

Boy, things are getting weird when I find myself defending Tom Cruise. That's how repulsive Viacom is.

From Karnick on Culture.


tbmbuzz said...

The original Mission Impossible gets two thumbs down from me, as the script writers inexplicably made Peter Graves a traitor, completely out of character to the original TV series. Peter Graves was one of the decent, good guy heroes for the TV audience of the 1960's. I have no interest in viewing the other Cruise MI bombs.

The Classic Liberal Anonymous said...

MI2 is one of the worst movies I have ever seen. Any suspension of disbelief was lost about 5 minutes into the movie (its been a while, maybe it took 10 minutes?).

Why Redstone had to pan Cruise, who was already at a low point, is inexplicable. Is he trying to scare people who "work for him" into acting sanely? In any event, thumbs down for Viacom/Redstone.

Kathy Hutchins said...

Peter Graves was one of the decent, good guy heroes for the TV audience of the 1960's.

And the strength of this perception -- about not just Peter Graves, but the entire cast -- can be attested by the fact that when, as a teenager, I first saw North by Northwest I absolutely, positively refused to believe that Martin Landau could be playing a real bad guy. I was convinced that he would be revealed as a double agent at the end.

Maybe Viacom could turn Lassie into Cujo next.

Pastorius said...

I look forward to hearing what you have to say about Redstone and Viacom. I am not aware of why they are sleazy.

This I have heard; apparently, it is not unheard of for people who criticize Scientology to end up receiving death threats. Redstone owns media outlets throughout the world. What do you want to bet that people associated with Cruise may have been angry about the coverage Cruise received in the media for his antics?

Think about this, such a public dressing down of a celebrity is completely unheard of. And, while Cruise isn't as popular as he used to be, his last movie did gross $393 million dollars. That is a profitable movie.

So, why would Redstone choose to go nuclear on a still-profitable star?

It would be one thing to say, well, we're not sure that he is going to be consistently profitable from here on out, so let's cut the longterm contract, but it's a wholly different thing to completely destroy your relationship with one of the biggest box office grossers of all time.

My thoughts are that Cruise, or his people, must have been doing something behind the scenes that was so egregious that Redstone was concerned that it would negatively effect the bottom line of his company if it became public.

Maybe we can put two and two together, huh?

S. T. Karnick said...

Well, a good conspiracy theory is a good conspiracy theory....

James Elliott said...

"All of this confirms that this parting of the ways was really just a bottom-line, cost-cutting business decision on Paramount's part."

Except for the signing of South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone to an exclusive, multi-million dollar deal the same day, just months after Viacom was threatened with legal action and the "personal ire" of Tom Cruise for South Park's gloriously funnly anti-Scientology episode, "Tom Cruise Won't Come Out of the Closet."

Pastorius said...

Yeah, it does sound kind of like a conspiracy theory. But, here's the thing, why would Paramount go nuclear on a profitable star?

The reasonable thing would have been to get out of the relationship gracefully so that they and Cruise could still do business on projects that look like winners, right?

That's why I said, I look forward to hearing what you have to say about Redstone, because this story, as it is, doesn't make sense.

Tom Van Dyke said...

I meself winced at first on our frequent visitor Pastorius' conspiritorialicizing.

But a figure of $393 million does fly if not flaunt itself in the face of human moralities and sensibilities and has seldom if ever been shot down.

A behind-the-scenes attempt to renegotiate the contract downward, as they often do in sports, would make more sense.

Maybe Viacom could turn Lassie into Cujo next.

Hehe, Miz H. Good one.

BTW, Mrs. TVD has been invited to the Lassie movie premiere out here in LA. Lassie herself will be there, and I hope to get to shake her hand (or whatever). What this world needs right now is a collie you can count on.

Robert Champ said...

Shortly after MI1 was released, I heard Greg Morris, in no uncertain terms, pan the thing. That was enough to keep me away from it. I figured if a member of the original MI cast wouldn't make even one positive comment about the film, the producers must have ruined it.

But then again, I've never cared for Cruise.

Pastorius said...

I most certainly hope you do not shake her "whatever", and if you do, please do not tell us about it.

Oh, and by the way, don't ever wince at my conspiracy theories. They are of great import, and I usually sweat profusely whilst thinking them up.

You should see all the notes I have nailed to my walls. They're really quite beautiful when taken as a whole.