“Though profitable for the last nine years, Universal has been noticeably short on blockbusters to call its own,” N.Y. Times reporters Michael Ciepley and Brooks Barnes observe in the 7.16 issue.
“That is largely by design. In a strategy that is starkly different from other top film studios, [studio chief] Ron Meyer has determined that Universal should stay well behind the leaders, allowing the flashiest and most expensive projects — and typically the biggest payoffs — to go elsewhere.
”We gauge ourselves to be in the middle,’ Meyer said. Universal currently ranks last among major studios at the domestic box office and hasn’t placed higher than third in the last seven years.”
How does Meyer’s “stay in the middle” strategy square with the $175 million spent on Uni’s Evan Almighty, which every box-office handicapper considers a flat-out flop in relation to cost? Evan “will lose money for both Universal and its financing partner, Gun Hill II,” Ciepley and Barnes report, “though not a large amount,” says Meyer.
So goes a noteworthy piece about a mild-mannered studio honcho pursuing a prudent, mild-mannered filmmaking policy. Apologies to Ciepley and Barnes, but it nearly put me to sleep. I had to repeatedly stab myself with a push pin in order to stay awake.