Paramount aims to reduce costs in nod towards mid-budget films

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You’ve got to spend money to make money – except, according to Paramount’s latest earnings call, when you’re making movies…

In an earnings call yesterday afternoon, Paramount CEO Bob Bakish explained how an “experiment” during the recent writers and actors strikes has changed the direction the company is heading moving forwards.

“As we move into 2024, we’re focused on producing content more efficiently and magnifying the impact of our slate,” Bakish said. On the TV side, primarily through their Paramount Plus streaming service and terrestrial network CBS, this means shorter seasons and a move away from local programming in favour of global entertainment.

For films, though, the cost cutting could get much more interesting.

“We’re improving ROI by lowering the average cost per title,” Bakish said. “This is by balancing high budget tentpoles with more modest-cost titles like Mean Girls and Bob Marley: One Love, improving the financial return on the overall slate. And we’re off to an excellent start on this.”

It seems that, long after its reported demise, Paramount might just have rediscovered the mid-budget movie. With the $36m budget Mean Girls shooting past the $100m mark at the box office, and One Love beating Sony’s super-powered Madame Web on their shared opening weekend, it seems that huge and micro budgets aren’t the only way to make money in tinsel town.

In recent years, the skyrocketing cost of Hollywood movies has gotten a lot of attention. With the decrease in residuals caused by streaming increasing up-front costs, on top of increasingly trigger happy deployment of special effects and difficulties caused by the pandemic, something like Paramount’s own Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning reportedly had to make something in the region of $700m to break even. When a film which makes $567.5m in cinemas is considered a flop, it makes sense that someone in the industry is starting to rethink their strategy.

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