Home Celebrity Sony’s “Elysium” Release Could Be Strike Three for Embattled Execs

“Elysium” is here. The Neill Blomkamp sci-fi release premiered last night in New York. If you love sci-fi, you’re going to love this intensely stylized movie starring Matt Damon in his most physical role yet. Will it do well? The jury is out. But if “Elysium” is considered a failure, this may spell serious trouble for Sony Pictures chiefs Amy Pascal and Michael Lynton. They’ve had a bad summer with “After Earth” and “White House Down.”

Normally, it wouldn’t matter. But two days ago rebel stockholder Daniel Loeb of Third Point investors issued another one of his veiled threats against Pascal and Lynton. He wrote: “We find it perplexing that [Sony CEO] Mr. Hirai does not worry about a division that has just released 2013’s versions of Waterworld and Ishtar back  to back, instead giving free passes to Sony Pictures Entertainment Co  CEO’s Michael Lynton and Amy Pascal, the executives responsible for these debacles…”

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Loeb is short sighted, and all these pot-shots aren’t going to help. Studio chiefs don’t grow on trees. Pascal and Lynton have had a momentary lapse, but they will be back. Studio success is about the big picture and long term planning, not one bad season. It was less than a year ago that Sony proudly had “Skyfall” and “Zero Dark Thirty” as major hits. And maybe what Loeb doesn’t realize is: it’s all a crap shoot.

Sony/Columbia have big hits coming, like Tom Hanks in “Captain Phillips,” George Clooney directing “Monuments Men,” and David O. Russell’s “American Hustle” all heading to box office gold and Oscar nominations. Plus, “Amazing Spider Man 2” comes next spring. When Loeb is sitting in the Dolby Theater next March, seeing Sony nominees on the stage, he may be singing a different tune. Patience.

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Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.
60 replies to this post
  1. If the film is a Socialist propaganda as “SOME” people say, it will be DOA.

    You don’t insult half the country/world and expect to make millions.

  2. After listening to Damon (who was once among my favorite actors) spew hypocritical theology, and then decide to send his own kids to private school while denying that same right to poor and underprivileged minority kids, I will never see another one of his movies. Many in my family and among my friends feel exactly the same way. Sorry Matt. Act and do well. Share your inner idiocy and piss off half or more of your audience.

  3. Are you tired of paying for illegals, education, healtcare, Food stamps, crime investigation.. etc ?
    Go to this website and register. Google this: NUMBERSUSA .
    Once you are registered (join us), go to the “action board”to send free faxes to your state representative.
    They are all typed up and ready to go,

  4. They should cast fresh talent. Not old shriveled up men. I do not want to see Tom Cruise shirtless, Brad Pitts wrinkles, and Grandpa Tonto. Bring back SEXY.

  5. On what basis does Friedman think that Hanks and Clooney are “box office gold”, when SO MANY of their recent releases have been Box Office Ghost Towns?

  6. It’s the piracy effect. Six years ago (if the CG and digital cameras were extant) Elysium would have been an automatic $80 million open. To the nascent generation such a movie is less of a cultural event than an overstuffed trinket, as socially significant as some Russian oligarch’s 500-ft yacht or a pro athlete’s tax-shelter side business marketing designer socks. The (huge) loss of the casual customer has somewhat improved the music industry, but for cinema it’s going to be a mixed bag. I sense desperation on the part of Sony’s publicists if they had to palm off the “politically controversial” grenade to the trades–that’s last-ditch PR voodoo

  7. Hollywood makes movies that are either stupid or filled with leftist propaganda and thinks the witless public will buy it. Sony needs a flush, along with a few other studio’s execs and a whole bunch of talentless writers. Denzel and Wahlberg are gold because they work their craft flawlessly and respect the ticket buyers. Compare that to Damon.

  8. It’s clear that Sony & Columbia have been taken over by freaks.

    For me to go to one of their movies – it’ll have to be good the other direction.

    How about a movie about the “Glorious Revolution” – the daring and successful Dutch invasion of England bringing a bloodless revolution and democracy to England? Or a movie on William Tell – the Swiss Patriot. Or about the bold and amazing pioneers of the free church. I have a title “Meteors In The Night” – since their lives were pitifully short – their being centuries ahead of their time. Michael Statler and his talented and wonderful wife would be good. Or Conrad Grebal – former street brawler turned radical reformer. Or the amazing pioneer of modern tolerance and freedom – William I of the Netherlands – with his commitment to tolerance and tragic death by assassination – which just preceded the amazing triumph of his cause.

    Or go American and cover Roger Williams – whose compelling and amazing story starts in a favorite haunt for lefties – Salem, Massachusetts – and proceeds to the founding of the first tolerant colony – Rhode Island – and do a climatic conclusion in the events of the horrendously bloody “King Phillips War”.

    Y’all never heard of these guys????
    Maybe us hayseed hicks aren’t as dumb as you thought.

    A movie, with great drama and effects, could just bring the long buried history of freedom into the light of day.

  9. I am done with movies. I may still rent them on redbox, or on VUDU, but I am done with the theaters.

    I am done with ever increasing prices.
    I am done with the liberal propaganda pieces.
    I am done with paying to see the same story I saw a week ago, just told by different characters, and under a different title.
    I am done with actors lecturing me on my politics when they didn’t even graduate from high school or dropped out of college.
    I am done with watching half hour long final battle scenes that are 30 minutes of crunching metal, and breaking glass (I am looking at you transformers 3, and man of steel).

  10. Elysium is here? Whoopdeedoo. No thank you. Yet one more uninteresting looking movie I’ll avoid. Gonna be slim pickings at Redbox later in the year I’m afraid.

  11. I think if the studios keep releasing movies that only liberals want to see they will keep losing money. Free country…they can lose money if they want…but alienating half the population…the half with the money is kind of a poor business model.

  12. I wonder if we will ever see something like the sound of music or wizard of Oz or any of the great family oriented movies of days gone by being produced by the moral infants in the movie industry? It is a fact that G rated and childrens movies consistently outperform the dark and gritty and moral ambiguous crap that Hollywood calls art these days. I submit that it’s not about making money any more, but it’s really about reshaping the values of the viewers. That agenda has deep funding apparently.

  13. I really liked District 9 when it came out. If there was a political message there, it was overshadowed by a good script and good special effects.

    I don’t think a politically-charged movie like this one, however, will convince very many people beyond those already drinking the Kool-Aid. Many Americans are suffering from 0bama’s Marxist policies, and his ignoring the black-on-white crimes (which are growing in number and ferocity) is quite obvious. I understand that many in Hollywood have been brain-washed for several decades by the left, but it is becoming so bad in our Constitutional Republic that even they are waking up,

  14. Today’s films are usually a bloated mess with more attention to the CG tan to the story – summer movies even worse. And studio execs act as if they are using Monopoly money wasting it on stars who do not draw ticket buyers to theaters. Really well written, well directed films with believable casts are very hard to find. No wonder people stay home. This summer is not an aberration – consumers refusing to pay for the junk Hollywood is handing them is the new normal.

  15. Where did you get that promo image for Elysium? Because it’s got a major typo and looks home-made (“aware winning director”). Someone should be fired for THAT!

  16. Surely I will receive harsh remarks from those on the left. It would be nice to have a thoughtful discussion rather than attacks! Thanks, and lets open our minds.

  17. These and the next upcoming movies don’t even sound worth seeing in the dollar theater matinee. Don’t get your hopes up too high.

  18. For years, Hollywood elites have been sticking their nose in politics. Morons like Sean Penn have been spouting off telling conservatives how stupid they are. It is now catching up with them. David Letterman is getting killed. Sean Penn, a fabulous actor, can’t draw anyone. Oprah Winfrey is yesterday’s star. Jim Carrey can’t buy an audience. Matthew Perry gets cancelled every other week. Matt Damon is the next ultra liberal lunatic that will crash and burn. With fewer and fewer people going to movies and half the country being conservative, why would the “stars” want to piss off half of their potential crowd? Consider also that the price of tickets today, you need to have a little extra discretionary income. Funny, that would seem to make those evil rich conservatives prime targets for movies.

  19. The political theme in these movies is what’s turning off the paying customers more than you think. Damon is a flaming progressive leftist. Jamie Foxx spouts racism with every thought that comes out. Tom Hanks narrated the propoganda bio on Obama last year. Clooney is a delusional socialist. Then there was the Scientology advertisment in “After Earth.”

    And you wonder why movies are flopping? Look at these obvious and important factors to customers as hard as you look into the inside-the-business excuses. Spider Man 2 will flop, too, because its simply a vehicle to throw in big names and feed their egos.

    I know I’m not alone in not wanting to support movies that continue to promote agendas and stars that just can’t quit telling us how to live our lives.

  20. I think it will be a dismal political failure!! From all I ahve seen, it smacks of socialist, one world intentions! Not something the masses prescribe to.

    Matt Damen, on the other hand is attempting his legacy, by playing up the dissimination of mis-information with his fracking failure, funded mostly by Arad Oil Shieks, in attempts to “preserve” the Kingdom (read current events).

    I once had high regard for these guys, but their full faced attempts to press agenda that is not only UNAMERICAN but purely devoid of any shred of substance the agerave person can associate with.

  21. The problem is that Americans have simply gotten tired of spending our money on films that speak neither to nor for us, but only against us. Since Hollywood is so filled with hatred toward America and Americans that they would rather go broke than celebrate us, I say good riddance.

  22. The movie viewing public is fed-up with the Hollywood studios and elite stars pushing their political agenda. Movies should be fun and not a political media.

  23. Elysium is a crock of socialist propaganda starring a Hollywood hypocrite who claims to be a big advocate of public schools while sending his own children to expensive private schools. Boycott. Boycott. Boycott. We’ve heard enough from wealthy socialists.

  24. Tom Hanks hasn’t had a hit since 2006. Clooney movies are lower budget, usually slightly profitable and well made Oscar quality productions. But, he has not had a “blockbuster” since the Ocean movies. David O Russell, very well done films, bringing quality, not big income.

    Amazing Spiderman 2 will be huge as it seems comic and action characters are the only big blockbusters these days. Hopefully the profits will make up for the rest, as Skyfall did last year (sorry but Zero Dark Thirty only had $108M worldwide, not a blockbuster).

    Loeb cares about profits and all those Oscar noms are not the bottom line kind of pictures.

  25. Claiming that it is all a crap shoot is a bit… naive. When you make overtly political films, you necessarily alienate half of your potential audience. When there is no substance to them, you further alienate the remaining portion that would prefer to see a “good” (an admittedly subjective term) movie. With the economy in the toilet thanks to the policies that these films are pushing, there are only a few million people left, and the cinema doesn’t always accept food stamps.

    There is a lesson here. The question is… will Sony learn it?

  26. Stop all the political, comic book, sci-fi crap. it al starts with a good story and good acting. Even great actors can’t salvage a bad story. Give us real people doing real things in a good story.

  27. “CEO’s Michael Lynton and Amy Pascal, the executives responsible for these debacles…” the reason these movies are flops is because they believe the majority of movie goers have deep ultral-liberal thoughts and views as theirs; when they come to the reality that most movie goers, especially Americans DO NOT hold those same ultra-liberal beliefs.

  28. in “Captain Phillips,” George Clooney directing “Monuments Men,” and David O. Russell’s “American Hustle” all heading to box office gold and Oscar nominations.”
    Sure, they may get some Oscar nods, but those three movies are much less certain to achieve box office gold than Elysium.

  29. Here’s a tip hollywood. There are more, and more of us unwilling to wade into your progressive sewage. Try releasing some good old fashioned wholesome family entertainment that is Christian themed, and your fortunes will turn around. Keep moving into progressive filth, and your business will decline. I no longer watch any secular filth either on tv or in the theaters. I am done with you, and your putrid message.

  30. [Pascal and Lynton] “…just released 2013’s versions of Waterworld and Ishtar back to back…”

    That burn is going to raise blisters…

    If Elysium is yet another stinker, I would look for these two to be out the door in short order, and Elysium already has that “John Carter” kind of reek about it.

  31. Elysium is also a pro-illegal immigration movie. Are these producers so wealthy and detached from the average American that they think supporting illegal immigration is going to help at the box office?

    If they were smart, they’d have Elysium collapse at the end, illustrating that open borders and socialism destroy societies.

  32. I won’t be watching it. Funny how they make these political message movies and think people won’t notice. White house Down, lets see,a skinny black president who learns how to be a hero and kill bad guys. Of course he needed a gun to do it. And elysium, about the have and have nots and the revolution to make everything equal. After earth, lets talk about the environment. I won’t waste my money on any of the three, I even cancelled HBO because of its politics and Bill Not A good comedian Maher.

  33. Someday Hollywood will wake up and realize that the American public utterly rejects their liberal brainwashing. By then it might be too late for them though.

  34. I think it’s hysterical that with all money they spend on these movies they can’t even proof read their own promo advertisements. Check out the poster above the article. “aware winnning producer” – spell check must’ve missed that one.

  35. If Sony would stick to making entertaining movies instead of poilitical statements no one wants they might have some success instead of major flops! America is tired of the entertainment industry propaganda!

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