Streaming Power on the Rise in Production Finance
Last November, legendary filmmaker Martin Scorsese made his debut into the world of streaming with “The Irishman.” After ViacomCBS deemed the project too costly, Paramount withdrew support from the movie and Netflix picked it up, willing to give Scorsese the creative freedom (and $159 million budget) he needed to see his vision come alive.
Now, it looks as if that recent history already about to repeat itself. Scorsese’s next big project, titled “Killers Of The Flower Moon,” has been in development under Paramount since early 2019. However, its budget has been perpetually increasing, now requiring an estimated $200 million. This is a tall price for any studio to pay for a film, but ViacomCBS in particular is already in a precarious financial situation as it struggles to keep up with conglomerate competitors like Disney, WarnerMedia, and Universal.
Furthermore, Paramount (like all other studios) is currently dealing with the COVID-19 setbacks and economic crashes. Now is not a safe time for anyone to take extravagant risks in the entertainment industry, and a $200 million Scorsese project is far from a conservative investment.
While Paramount has not officially detached itself from the film yet, Scorsese has already started eyeing other production companies, most notably his old pals at Netflix and some new faces at Apple. Last year’s “The Irishman” was one of Netflix’s biggest selling points, especially as the streaming wars started taking off in mid-November. The film set a new standard for Netflix as a company that supports creative and prestigious filmmakers. During awards season, “The Irishman” earned the streaming site an unprecedented 10 Oscar nominations. Sadly, it took home none.
Apple is the New Kid on the Block but with Very Deep Pockets
Apple, on the other hand, would be new territory for Scorsese. The tech company’s new streaming site, Apple TV+, launched just last November, and has focused more on creating quality television series than films. However, the platform recently released its first original movie—“The Banker” starring Samuel L. Jackson—and is allegedly spending big money on a Will Farrel-Ryan Reynolds musical adaptation of “A Christmas Carol” for an upcoming holiday season. Adding the new Scorsese project to the platform’s budding filmography would likely benefit Apple’s rising studio image.
Scorsese reportedly talked with executives at Universal and MGM as well, so there remains a possibility that the film will not end up on a streaming site at all.
Of course, whatever studio or website “Killers Of The Flower Moon” ends up on, the adopting company will have to go through ViacomCBS first. Paramount is not required to sell the film, and it will definitely want compensation for all of the money it has already invested. The way things are going, though, selling will probably be in Paramount’s best interest, for the film is becoming far too expensive to hold on to.
In addition to Paramount, a smaller, independent company called Imperative Entertainment is also attached to the film. Unlike Paramount, though, Imperative will likely continue its attachment, for it bares far less of the financial burden.
“Killers Of The Flower Moon” is meant to come out sometime next year, but with the coronavirus affecting schedules across the board as well as the current studio mix-ups, it very well might take longer to finish.
Book Origin is Intriguing as a Backdrop to a A-List Team Effort
The film is an adaptation of the 2017 book, “Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI,” by bestselling author David Grann. The book follows the federal investigation into the murders of Osage County Native Americans in 1920s Oklahoma. It’s a slow burning true story that will lend itself well to Scorsese’s hardboiled, historical take on narrative film.
Scorsese veterans Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro are meant to star in the movie. Di Niro starred in last year’s “The Irishman” and has appeared in nine Scorsese features since they first collaborated in 1973’s “Mean Streets.” The much younger DiCaprio last worked with Scorsese in 2013’s “The Wolf Of Wall Street” and has done a total of five movies with the auteur since 2002’s “Gangs Of New York.” He is also expected to star in a Theodore Roosevelt biopic, which Scorsese has been developing and hopes to start directing after finishing “Killers of the Flower Moon.”
This project will be the twenty-sixth feature in Martin Scorsese illustrious directorial career, which has lasted over half a century now. Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro are two of his most loyal collaborators, and their creative relationships with the director have been quite fruitful from artistic and financial perspectives. Both actors are Oscar winning leads, yet “Killers Of The Flower Moon” will be the first time they share the screen in a feature since 1996’s “Marvin’s Room.”
Regardless of where it ends up studio-wise, “Killers Of The Flower Moon” is bound to be a cinematic spectacle and a much talked about movie in the coming years. Whoever ends up getting their hands on the film will be lucky. That being said, it comes at a hefty ($200+ million) price, which is a sizable gamble even in the most normal of circumstances.
For such a figure, the luck better run deep.
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