As Universal and Warner Bros. take hits with films from Angelina Jolie Pitt and Sandra Bullock, respectively, failing at the box office, passion projects greenlighted for big studio stars face off against the new Hollywood frugality.
Angelina Jolie Pitt’s By the Sea offers an art house-style rumination on a failing marriage. Ironically, it provides a more revealing glimpse into the perils of a different type of relationship: the so-called “favor” movie.
For years, Hollywood studios have lined up to back projects with limited commercial appeal as a way of keeping the biggest stars and directors in their fold. Call it the “One for me, one for you” principle. But with the failures of Universal’s By the Sea and Warner Bros.’ Sandra Bullock political drama Our Brand Is Crisis, many believe the major studios will be a bit more hesitant to finance and put their marketing muscle behind a passion project better suited for the specialty marketplace.
In July 2014, in a competitive situation, Universal acquired worldwide rights to By the Sea and set Jolie Pitt (who was finalizing the studio’s Unbroken) to direct and star with husband Brad Pitt, prompting Jolie Pitt to invoke the ‘R’ word. “I am very happy to continue my relationship with Donna and the entire Universal team,” she said at the time, referring to Universal chairman Donna Langley. “They have created a very special place for storytellers.”…
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