Warner Bros. puts up their “Dukes”; we ask, “What’s ‘a hit,’ exactly?”

Today’s piece by Claudia Eller, usually one of the finest and most aggressive journalists covering this sordid business of show, makes us a tad crazy, only because we don’t think the word “hit” should be thrown around so loosely.

“Looking for new, less risky ways to boost profit, Warner Bros. is launching a direct-to-DVD business that will release 10 to 15 low-budget movies a year.”

Ok, fair enough.

“First up will be a sequel to the studio’s 2005 hit “The Dukes of Hazzard,” scheduled to go on sale at the end of this year or in early 2007.”

Excuse me? Hit? The movie was a disaster in the States, and largely, thanks to Warner Bros.’ own sloppiness in securing the rights to make it. In addition to a production budget of $55 million, the studio had to pony up another $17.5 million to the show’s creator in a confidential settlement last year to avoid federal marshals from impounding the film.

So, do the math: $55 million budget + $17.5 million settlement = $72.5 million total production cost. The movie only grossed $80 million in the States, and another $30 million overseas. If Warner Bros. split half of its $110 million worldwide gross with the theater owners, as is usually the case, it’s hardly “a hit.” With the DVD dough, “Dukes” at best was a bullet dodged.

We also doubt that this is something that the president of production would willingly want to do. It sounds far more likely that home entertainment presidnet Kevin Tsujihara simply got tired of spending $82.5 million just to break even, then let the home video save the day.

Again, the LA Times:

“Robinov said the division would produce live-action DVD prequels and sequels to existing Warner Bros. movies such as “Dukes,” which grossed $80.3 million domestically but was not the kind of hit that would justify spending the large sums required to make and market a theatrical release.”

Not the kind of hit that would justify large sums? There’s only one kind of hit that doesn’t justify spending large sums on a theatrical release: The kind that was never a hit at all.


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