When Deadline reported that Michael Bay’s production company Platinum Dunes would be remaking Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, you have to ask yourself; why? The answer is obvious, of course. Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon want a new life brought into a dying franchise, and they knew exactly who to call to get the job done right. The original Turtles film released in 1990 did well at the box office bringing in $135,265,915 domestically, which adjusted into 2010 ticket sale dollars is $254,223,200, and a worldwide adjust gross is $320,923,200. None of the films sequels came close to reaching that original benchmark and the franchise needs new blood. Slasher films are known for being bloody, and Platinum Dunes is already known for specializing in the horror/slasher genre remakes. Created in 2001 by Andrew Form, Brad Fuller, and Michael Bay, Platinum Dunes was a way for the group to focus on the horror genre.
2003 & 2005 – The Good
The film that started the horror remake craze, putting Platinum Dunes in the forefront, was 2003’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, a remake to the 1974 original. The original The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, written by Kim Henkel and Tobe Hooper and directed by Hooper, told a story loosely based on the life of Wisconsin serial killer Ed Gein. At the time of the release, the original made $30,859,000 in domestic sales, however, adjusting for inflation over the years that total would come to $131,192,000. In comparison to the 2003, Bay and Co. version of $80,571,655 in domestic sales, and accounting for seven years of inflation, the remake is 24 million shy of the adjusted total of $106,211,300. Count in foreign ticket sales and Platinum Dunes come out ahead with $107,071,655 in total worldwide sales. In 2005, with only a production budget of $19 million, the group remade the 1979 classic, The Amityville Horror, and in seven weeks made $65,233,369 domestically and $108,047,131 worldwide. For Bay and friends, this is once again, not a bad record of accomplishment.
Platinum Dune’s latest film, A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010) still in release, so far is grossing $61,924,000 in domestic ticket sales and a grand total of $89,424,000 worldwide. With a reported budget of 35 million dollars, Platinum Dunes earned the production budget plus about a 55% profit. While Nightmare retained the letter of the original film, only adding a back-story, the film did not imbue the spirit of the original. IMDB users rated Nightmare with a 5.4 stars; Rotten Tomatoes gave the film at 13%, indicating that the users, and critics thought the film was totally rotten. In its four 1/2 weeks of release, audiences are still trickling in to see the remake. Ranked number seven on the spring movie chart for 2010, Nightmare, averaging $227,000, each day over the Memorial Day weekend (four days), and the overall weekend total was $910,910. Catching up with last years, Friday the 13th remake, another Platinum Dunes production, made $65,002,019 in domestic ticket sales and $26,377,032 in foreign markets. Overall, Friday the 13th grossed out the world with $91,379,051, about 8.6 million shy of the billion-dollar club. Rating a 5.6 with IMDB users and 25%, fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and again, Bay and Platinum Dunes added a back-story explaining Jason Vorhees to the audience. Newer fans to the genre may appreciate the new additions; however, older fans are sticking to the originals. The 1980 version of Friday the 13th brought in over 36.6 million dollars, however, adjusting to 2010 ticket prices (roughly), would total 117.5 million dollars in domestic sales. Financially, Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street’s profit and loss sheets are pretty much in the black.
2009 – The Bad
Some Michael Bay/Platinum Dunes films are strange; 2009’s The Horseman is such a movie. Not a typical Platinum Dunes slasher story; this one stars Dennis Quaid as detective investigating the murders and mutilations of a series of bodies. The only clues are references to the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. This movie was confusing and when watching this film, feelings of disorientation came over me, as throughout the film I needed to replay each scene. Ultimately, the film was a let down in the story development, as the finale had nothing to do with the biblical horsemen, and who the real killer was way too obvious as my wife (a lover of awful movies) guessed the ending well before the first act. Not finding any domestic box office totals at the time of its release or now, leads me to believe, that at least in the U.S. the film was released straight to DVD. Foreign totals add up to about $2,405,815 with the most of the audience in Italy and France. 2009 also saw the release of the Unborn, yet another strange film, not a remake but an original story by writer director David S. Goyer an executive producer of TV’s recently cancelled Flash Forward, and the Nicolas Cage film Ghost Rider (2007). Unborn, a quirky, supernatural thriller, rather than a psycho-killer roaming about, the majority of viewers of the Unborn, at least the ones that speak up, say that they were not too impressed with the film, giving it low scores overall. Financially, Goyer made back for Bay and Platinum Dunes, its production budget of $19 million in the film’s first weekend in release, and brought in $23,239,155 for the week. Overall, Unborn made $42,670,410 domestically and $76,514,050 worldwide. During the two years of frenetic filmmaking, Bay directed and released Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. The sequel to the 2007 re-imagining of the Transformer kick off brought in $836,297,228 worldwide, outdoing his original by about $8 million.
2006 & 2007 – The Ugly
Moving quickly after The Amityville Horror, in 2006 Platinum Dunes released a prequel to their Chainsaw remake, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning. I guess as humans we all struggle with the question why. What makes a killer, a killer, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning explores just that. Original writer and director Tobe Hooper and writer Kim Henkel served as co-producers of this bomb of a remake (they co-produced the 2003 remake as well). Reviews from film watchers are mixed while critics generally hated the film. Financially, however, opening on Friday, October 6, 2006, by Monday, the film made back its reported 16 million dollar production budget and by the end of its release brought in 39 million domestically, about half of the 2003 film, and in worldwide release brought in a total of $51,764,406. The Hitcher, in 2007 brought in $25,399,945 worldwide, and only about 16 million in domestic audiences. A low-budget remake with no reported production budget, my guess is that it did just fine financially.
Film as Art verses Film as Business
Everyone would like to be paid for what they like to do best. In the film world, Bay, Form, and Fuller found that by forming their own production company they can do both, and work with the people that they want. Other than Michael Bay, Platinum Dunes hires television and video directors, and give them the chance to make films. Using the company’s staff and contacts, Platinum Dunes is essentially a film factory cranking out horror remakes and the occasional original slasher film. People want to be entertained, and when they go to see a movie, they want to get their money’s worth, or they wait until the film comes out on DVD. The goal for a production company, or an investor, (all the executive producers) is that they want a return on their investment. The director is the supreme project manager, not only artistically, logistically, but also politically, as well. A director’s ability to create unique images on screen, in the film industry, is gold, and a producer – director with the backing of his own production company, can turn a product like the Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles, into something believable (within the realm of fantasy story-telling) and imaginative that will draw a new generation of fans back to the theaters. What Paramount and Nickelodeon want is Michael Bay’s creative genius overseeing the translation of their property, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, into something new and exciting just like Transformers, “but different.” American movie fans, fickle as they are, despite the fact that they hate remakes, deride re-imaginings of old favorites still watch films, either at the theater, or at home on DVD. Bottom line, Michael Bay with or without Platinum Dunes makes money, grossing $1,528,774,792 as a producer, plain and simple, its all about the money!
Box Office Mojo
A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)
Friday the 13th (1980)
Friday the 13th (2009)
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning
A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)
The Hitcher (2007)
A Nightmare on Elm Street
Friday the 13th
Friday the 13th
A Nightmare on Elm Street
Analysis – Mine