Blood Diamond | How the film marked a turning point for Warner Bros

Blood Diamond
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Director Ed Zwick has been talking about making the film Blood Diamond in his new memoir – and it marked a sad turning point for Warner Bros.

Director Ed Zwick has recently published his memoir of sorts, going by the name Hits, Flops And Other Illusions: My Fortysomething Years In Hollywood. It’s a really entertaining and also quite candid account of a directing career that’s seen him steer films such as Glory, About Last Night, The Last Samurai and – relevant specifically to this story – Blood Diamond.

You might remember that one. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Djimon Hounsou, it was released in 2006 to reasonable success. Costing around $100m of Warner Bros’ money to make, it grossed $171m worldwide, earning five Academy Award nominations in the process.

Yet as Zwick reveals in his book, the film was not just a turning point in his own career, but that of Warner Bros too.  

The person responsible for overseeing movies at the studio at the time was Alan Horn, who would eventually retire, be lured out of retirement by Disney, and then oversee that studio’s wildly successful theatrical output of the 2010s.

Zwick relates a conversation in his book that he and Horn had after the release of Blood Diamond, noting that whilst it didn’t set the box office alight, it did solid business. The pair shared a lunch, where Horn told the director that “I’m proud of it and I’m going to hang the poster in my office. But it’s the last one of its kind we’ll ever make.”

The ’we’ll’ in this instance referring to the studio.

Zwick questioned this, and was told that the movie had cost $100m to make and that Warner Bros would only be banking a $40m profit from it. As Horn explained, “Our corporate bosses expect us to meet a P and L [profit and loss] projection every quarter. It’s more profitable for us to lose 75 million on one release and then make 350 million on the next. Those are the multiples we’re working in these days. A big movie just for adults can’t do that anymore. And 40 million doesn’t move the needle on our stock price.”

This was the turning point for what Zwick describes as studio-backed ‘grown-up’ movies, which were about to become an endangered species. And even though Blood Diamond has gone on to keep generating revenue for Warner Bros, it ultimately didn’t look good enough in the three month accounts for studios – not just Warner Bros – to keep pursuing material of its ilk.

Zwick’s book, and it’s well worth a read, can be found here.

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