The big news at Sundance last week was that über indie darling Neon and somewhat decent, but “hard-to-navigate film area” streaming service Hulu had dropped the ironic sum of $17,500,000.69 (69 cents more than the record holder, and box office bomb Birth of a Nation) for the Andy Samberg & Cristin Milioti film Palm Springs.
The film, of course, was billed as “this generation’s Groundhog Day“, which is always the way you describe a movie that’s basically stolen the concept of another movie so closely that a lawsuit would normally be forthcoming. See “this generation’s Goodfellas (a.k.a. The Irishman)”, “this generation’s Hidden Fortress (a.k.a. Star Wars)” and “this generation’s Groundhog Day” a.k.a. Before I Fall, Edge of Tomorrow, Happy Death Day, Happy Death Day 2U, 12:01, Russian Doll, and…wait for it…
But while some movies just steal the time-loop concept and add their own Die Hard on a… addition (i.e. Groundhog Day in High School, Groundhog Day but a Horror franchise, Groundhog Day with aliens and Tom Cruise, Groundhog Day at a party with Natasha Lyonne… Palm Springs went so far as to blatantly “borrow” concepts from the original screenplay for Groundhog Day and make it their in to their version…of this generation’s take on last generation’s most beloved film.
How do we know? We read the script. And so can you.
Yes. It’s true. You can read it here.
While the script is from a year or more ago, and it’s clear there were changes made between then and now, the finished product isn’t too far off from what premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, and went for the mind-numbing record-breaking sum of $17,500,000.69. Of course, the minute everyone had a moment to breath real, actual Hollywood oxygen and tally all sorts of guaranteed box office bonuses, the final tally came out to more like $22,000,000 according to the people at Deadline who either don’t know about us, or hate us completely.
Yes. You heard us correctly. Twenty-two million dollars for Palm Springs.
And having read it from cover to cover, we’d just like to tell you that there is no way in hell, that every page in the 116 page screenplay is worth one-hundred, eighty-nine thousand, six-hundred fifty-five dollars and seventeen cents.
Look at that number: $189,655.17
No, there is no way in double-hockey-sticks, E, L, L, that Palm Springs is worth twenty-two million dollars. And there is no way it’s going to generate the kind of box office revenue that will make this ground-breaking, record-shattering number make sense. Especially after reading the script. Yes, especially after committing to a worldwide theatrical release. Despite the fact that The Lonely Island is behind this project, and have their fingerprints all over it.
Yes, especially because of the script.
Say this in an old Grandpa kind of voice, please: “Do you remember when movies used to get major theatrical releases and do tons more money than they do today? Do you remember how having a major studio behind your film and your big marketing campaign a few years ago could really goose the numbers?”
You do? Good. Then stick with us here.
Do you remember Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping? That was produced by The Lonely Island. That starred Andy Samberg. That had so many cameos it wasn’t even crazy. That movie was made for $20 million (so yes, a few million less than the cost of acquiring Palm Springs) and released by mega studio Universal Pictures. Andy Samberg and the rest of The Lonely Island promoted the shit outta that movie. And do you remember what it made in the global box office when all was said and done?
$9.7 Million Dollars
Do you remember the Sundance hit Brigsby Bear? Also a Lonely Island film, produced by the trio, and starring a relative cornucopia of Saturday Night Live stars and even Mark Hamill! It was picked up by major indie film bistro company, Sony Pictures Classics, and was given a significant indie release in traditional theaters. It had significant promotion, marketing and the kind of Lonely Island viral marketing that “the kids” love to see. And do you remember what it made in the global box office when all was said and done?
Shit. This is going the wrong direction.
The point is. Palm Springs would have to be the second-coming of the film world, with ideas so unique and groundbreaking people who saw it for the first time would shit their pants due to their inability to hold their sphincter in while experiencing the pure joy of the vision before them. In order for Palm Springs to generate anywhere near the kind of goodwill and global buzz-factor necessary to make this movie live up to the hype, every person who has ever faked reaching for the “open door” elevator button in a faux-attempt to let running businesspeople make it before the doors closed, would have to buy tickets for thirteen of their friends and take them to the movie on opening night, then force each of them to pay for thirteen friends, and so on and so forth.
Palm Springs ain’t getting there. While we love Neon and they can make millions of dollars (and sometimes $30 million plus) on certain independent films, they are no Universal Pictures. And the film isn’t going to get the kind of big-studio release, either. It won’t open on 3,000+ screens and the marketing spend won’t be $30 million dollars or more. And so if Popstar can’t get there, years ago when more people watched movies in theaters and less people watched You on Netflix, then a $22 million dollar investment in Palm Springs isn’t going to get there.
And let’s be honest. Hulu doesn’t care. They’ve got Disney money now, which makes dropping $22 million dollars on a Sundance movie like dropping $4.25 on a Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf Caramel Iced Blended.
Don’t get us wrong: it’s a fine script. But it’s a concept we’ve seen before.
Andy Samberg and Cristin Milotti clearly have chemistry. Both of them together, along with the “hilarious” set pieces as they fight back against the repeating daily loop of time, a “certain” character actor with a penchant for weapons, and the ever-increasing affection they feel for each other, there’s some fun stuff there. There’s some interesting twists for this generation off of last generation’s comedy masterpiece, and there may even be enough good ideas in this generation’s Groundhog Day for someone in the next generation to make their own ode to time loop stories…
But is it worth one-hundred, eighty-nine thousand, six-hundred fifty-five dollars and seventeen cents per page?
Go ahead. Read it for yourself. Tell me you feel otherwise.
That doesn’t mean it ain’t a good purchase for Hulu, who will most likely make it available on Hulu, Disney Plus and license it in two-minute clips to Quibi a few years down the line…
But at that price per page, there’s a profit/loss statement somewhere leaning heavily on the loss portion of the Excel spreadsheet.
Trust us. We know.