Universal's Ron Meyer talks COWBOYS & ALIENS, LAND OF THE LOST and WOLFMAN Flops & More

Universal is hoping to have a big weekend at the box office with Brett Ratner's Tower Heist. Not only could this film revive Eddie Murphy's career, but it could revive the bottom line of Universal. Fast Five was a huge box office success after a high number of flops.

Ron Meyer, Universal's Chief recently spoke at the Savannah Film Festival about the some of the studios more high profile box office failings such as Land of the Lost,  Wolfman, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, and most recently this summers Cowboys & Aliens. Meyer also addresses the recent Tower Heist VOD experiment in an hour long discussion at the event. 

The studios recent cancellation of the Tower Heist VOD was a failed attempt to shape the future of film distribution. Theater owners vehemently objected to the idea, but that does not mean that the concept is completely kaput. Here is what Meyer had to say about VOD:

“If someone’s going to get our movies two weeks after they’re released, then they have to pay a premium for that… We still think that’s a valid model. Obviously the theater owners didn’t want us to do it; we were led to believe that might work, but I think eventually we will get it to work in conjunction with theater owners.
I think there are a lot of people who won’t go to the theater and are happy to pay a premium price — whether $66 is the right price, or it’s more or less. I think there are people that would be willing to pay that price to not have to leave their house and be able to watch that first-run movie while it’s still in theaters, on whatever size screen you have at home. I think we have to be better about it, the studios, and the theater exhibitors have to probably be a little more accepting of what we want to do. We’ll have to find a way to do it together.”

Meyer amazed the audience with his candor on the topic of their failures. When he spoke about the massive failure of The Wolfman and other box-office bombs, here is what he had to say:

“We make a lot of shitty movies. Every one of them breaks my heart. We set out to make good ones. One of the worst movies we ever made was Wolfman [produced, coincidentally, by local Savannah resident Stratton Leopold.] Wolfmanand Babe 2 are two of the shittiest movies we put out, but by the same token we made movies we believe in. We did United 93, which is one of the movies I’m most proud of. It wasn’t a big moneymaker, but it’s a film I believe every American should see and it showed you what people can do in the worst of times and how great the human spirit is and all that, so there are moments that can make up for all the junk that you make.”

Here is what he had to say when asked why films like Scott Pilgrim, Land of the Lost, and Cowboys & Aliens failed:

“Cowboys & Aliens wasn’t good enough. Forget all the smart people involved in it, it wasn’t good enough. All those little creatures bouncing around were crappy. I think it was a mediocre movie, and we all did a mediocre job with it.”

“Land of the Lost was just crap. I mean, there was no excuse for it. The best intentions all went wrong.”

“Scott Pilgrim, I think, was actually kind of a good movie. [Addressing a small section of the audience, cheering.] But none of you guys went! And you didn’t tell your friends to go! But, you know, it happens.”

“Cowboys & Aliens didn’t deserve better. Land of the Lost didn’t deserve better. Scott Pilgrim did deserve better, but it just didn’t capture enough of the imaginations of people, and it was one of those things where it didn’t cost a lot so it wasn’t a big loss. Cowboys & Aliens was a big loss, and Land of the Lost was a huge loss. We misfired. We were wrong. We did it badly, and I think we’re all guilty of it. I have to take first responsibility because I’m part of it, but we all did a mediocre job and we paid the price for it. It happens. They’re talented people. Certainly you couldn’t have more talented people involved in Cowboys & Aliens, but it took, you know, ten smart and talented people to come up with a mediocre movie. It just happens.”

Check out MovieLine for a bunch more excerpts from the Meyer's conversation, which included his thoughts on 3D, Harry Potter Theme Parks and making Oscar-worthy films. 

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