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Blockbuster Needed To Save Hollywood's Summer


Let's take a listen now to a movie trailer for what was supposed to be one of this summer's blockbusters.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Today, the world's elite fighting force betrayed our nation. On my orders, the G.I. Joes were terminated with extreme prejudice.

MONTAGNE: Well, just weeks before it was due to be released later this month, "G.I. Joe: Retaliation" has been terminated for the summer. The action movie won't open until March of 2013, even though Paramount has already spent millions on advertising, including an ad for the movie that was aired during the Super Bowl. That's an ominous sign for an industry already coping with big budget flops this year.

And to learn more, we're joined by Kim Masters. She's host of KCRW's The Business and editor-at-large for the Hollywood Reporter.

Good morning.

KIM MASTERS: Good morning, Renee.

MONTAGNE: So sounds pretty unusual, yanking a movie just before it's ready to be released. What happened with "G.I. Joe?"

MASTERS: Yeah, it is unusual, especially just a few weeks away from release. And what happened was - probably a number of things. Paramount looked around in a landscape in which a lot of movies - big, big budget movies - were being massacred. Warner Brothers came out with "Dark Shadows," down it went. These are movies that cost 150, $200 million or more. Universal, "Battleship" went down. And you might recall Disney "John Carter," $200 million write-down already taken by that company. So Paramount saw a very competitive landscape.

Now, as you probably know Renee, one movie, thus, so far in the summer, "The Avengers," has just mopped up all the box office. Usually when that happens, you know, a lot of other movies get, kind of, spillover business, audiences are energized. But this time it feels like audiences are just saying, you know, I don't really want to see these movies. They're not rushing to the movies in theaters, at least not in numbers that would cover the expense of these huge, big-ticket movies that the studios have been putting out into the marketplace.

MONTAGNE: So, does that mean that Paramount is without a single big summer movie to release?

MASTERS: Unless you count that Katie Perry concert movie, they are in fact a studio without a big tent pole movie in the summer and that is an unusual thing. Big studios cost a lot of money to run and Paramount doesn't have one of those movies to keep its machine oiled.

MONTAGNE: Why is this happening? What's behind a summer's worth of big bombs?

MASTERS: You know, there's a lot of fear in the industry about this. And, you know, it's been a growing thing for some time: There are a lot of entertainment choices out there. We live in a very socially wired world. By now, if a movie opens that an audiences isn't interested in seeing, they probably know it before it even starts in the theaters. And, you know, they have other choices.

And on top of that, a lot of people complain about the movie-going experience. Audiences just seemed to be saying, you know, I could wait. I can see this on DVD in a few weeks. I can wait for Netflix. They have too many options and they're getting very particular, it appears, and only going to the movies that they really want to see.

MONTAGNE: Well, there has been at least one casualty from this summer's movies that nobody wanted to go to, and that's the Disney studio has replaced its chairman.

MASTERS: Yes, Rich Ross had been brought in to run the film studio. He was an outsider from cable television. Television is not film. He was blamed for the failure of "John Carter," which was this very expensive movie. It was originally "John Carter from Mars," based on this Edgar Rice Burroughs' novel of many years ago. It just went completely out of control and became this gigantic write-down for Disney.

And so, they went to an old hand, Alan Horn, the former president of the Warner Brothers Studio and he presided over all those "Harry Potter" movies. And, of course, Renee, that's what the studios are looking for, franchises - movies can repeat and become these gigantic global phenomenons. So they feel that Alan Horn has experience in that regard. And they've gone from total inexperience to going back to a very seasoned veteran executive.

MONTAGNE: Kim Masters is host of KCRW's "Business" and editor at large for The Hollywood reporter, thanks for joining us

MASTERS: Thank you, Renee.


MONTAGNE: You are listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.