There’s a new reality in Hollywood economics.
While comic book blockbusters such as “Iron Man” and “The Incredible Hulk” are cleaning up at the box office, Hollywood movie stars are losing their clout.
Superheroes themselves, and not celebs, are the ones pulling in filmgoers. Consequently, the studios are gaining the upper hand in contract negotiations.
These days a mega-star will only be paid his or her percentage after the studio gets back its costs. It’s called a “cash break” deal.
The big-name participants of “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” i.e., Harrison Ford, George Lucas, and Steven Spielberg, were persuaded to receive their percentages after the studio broke even. And Warner Bros.’ upcoming “Body of Lies,” which stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe, settled on a similar arrangement.
Fox actually shelved the film “Used Guys,” which would have starred Ben Stiller and Jim Carrey, over the talent take tussle.
Likewise, the movie version of the hit video game “Halo” was deep-sixed by Universal and Fox over a percentage of gross income to producers that the studios wouldn’t go for.
Unlike Tom Cruise’s 30 percent-of-the-gross deal for “Mission: Impossible,” J.J. Abrams will not get a percentage of gross revenue for “Mission: Impossible III.”
M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Happening,” was structured so that he will not be paid his percentage of the movie take until Fox and UTV collect the mega-millions that the movie cost to make.
For Jim Carey’s upcoming movie, “Yes Man,” the actor had to forego his usual upfront compensation of $25 million and agree to a 33 percent of gross revenue, which is to be paid only after the studio recoups its expenses.
Even those with secondary parts, who previously may have been paid over a million dollars a project, are seeing their earnings cut to the low six figures.
Looks like instead of popping corks, stars will now be unscrewing caps.
James Hirsen is a media analyst, Trinity Law School professor and teacher of mass media law at Biola University.
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