Paramount Pictures is 100 years old this year. They have celebrated by scattering their release schedule to the four winds - not that their schedule was all that exciting anyway. It was certainly no gleaming monument to a century of cinematic art.
The studio's thin summer looks like this: The Dictator was released in May, and they distributed - but did not make - Madagascar 3, which is in theaters now. Next up is Katy Perry: Part of Me, a concert film hoping to follow in the footsteps of the Bieber doc (spoiler: Perry is no Bieber). That opens July 5. And then... nothing. Nothing until October, when Paranormal Activity 4 might open (I'm not sure they've even begun shooting it). They also have Fun Size opening in October, a film from Josh Schwartz that seems - like the majority of their 2012 slate - aimed at 14 year olds. Things get better in the late fall/early winter; Flight, the new Zemeckis/Denzel movie opens in November, and they distribute (but didn't make) Rise of the Guardians at Thanksgiving and then comes Jack Reacher, the latest Tom Cruise action franchise. Followed closely by Guilt Trip, which finds Seth Rogen on a roadtrip with Barbara Streisand. I don't know who that movie is for.
Anyway, you can see the studio's paucity of product (their previous 2012 releases: the anger-inducing The Devil Inside, the dumped junker A Thousand Words and Titanic 3D) . They're making money hand over fist because of their deal with Marvel Studios - Paramount is getting a percentage of The Avengers's record-breaking gross just for doing nothing. But for a 100th anniversary year this is kind of embarrassing.
But what if Paramount had decided to do something interesting? I like to imagine a world where, realizing they had a slack year, the powers that be at Paramount opted to dig into their extraordinary catalogue and rerelease a few classics with the same marketing muscle they put behind a piece of shit like The Dictator. Paramount did do a small rerelease of the first two Godfather films this year, celebrating the film's 40th anniversary, but it felt perfunctory.
What I'm picturing is a full, 3000 theater rerelease of Raiders of the Lost Ark (which has a new, astonishing 4k print available), complete with big TV ad buys, saturation marketing on billboards and buses, a press junket - the whole deal. Take the classics and treat them like new blockbusters. Modern movie studios know how to open movies, and audiences will know they love these films. And look, I'll be realistic - while I'd love to see The Lady Eve get a major theatrical push, I know people wouldn't come out for it. But I think they could be sold on Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan or Meatballs or Charlotte's Web or Saturday Night Fever or Top Gun...
Two years ago Paramount showed some interest in these waters; they rereleased Grease into a handful of theaters in a new sing-a-long format. And Titanic 3D has earned 300 million dollars worldwide. But Disney has proven that rereleases can be big money when handled right - ie more than a dozen screens, and released as-is, not in a gimmick format (I liked the Grease sing-a-long, but that was never a mainstream idea. And the 3D conversion of Titanic is adding cost - if you just released the 4k of Raiders all you spend is marketing and basic distro). If Paramount had redirected their Gi Joe: Retaliation efforts into a Raiders of the Lost Ark mega-rerelease, I believe they could have made money hand over fist.
But we won't see that. Instead the studio is spending its hundredth anniversary doing photo ops in Vanity Fair when it could be actually showing the great movies that got them where they are.