9 September 2010 | eastbergholt2002
Deja Vu: Brits take on Hollywood
I caught this film by accident and found it fascinating. I've been living in the US for the last 10 years so I had never heard of Polygram and didn't know the story. I used to work in the film industry in the 1980s. The documentary seemed like a replay of what happened to Goldcrest. Goldcrest was a British company that won Oscars making films like Chariots of Fire, Gandhi and The Killing Fields. Golcrest tried making big-budget films featuring Hollywood stars and went bust.
The moral of the Goldcrest story is don't try and compete with Hollywood in the mainstream film market, but there seems to be an almost kamikaze wish amongst certain British businessmen to want to be big in America. It's like moths to a flame. They don't realize that the culture is so different.
For someone living in London it's impossible to predict what Americans will pay to see. The BBC started a TV channel, called BBC America, presumably to showcase its talent, but it now seems to just show reruns of Star Trek, Top Gear and anything featuring Gordon Ramsey.
The documentary focuses on Four Weddings and a Funeral to justify the company's strategy of U.S. Expansion, but that film only earned 21% of its gross revenues from the US market, and earned $53 million which is not a huge amount of money. There is an argument for saying that perhaps the Rest of the World should have been the focus for Polygram. Four Weddings was also in many ways a one-off, it had brilliant script from Richard Curtis who has been unable to recapture that magic with his subsequent efforts.
If you read George Lucas's book Blockbusting you notice that even seemingly successful films like Mission Impossible II end up losing money. The Dutch company that abandoned Polygram was probably making a prudent business decision.
Many British journalists and film people believe that if someone is nominated for an Oscar, they become serious players in the U.S. The Oscars are different. Oscar voters tend to be fair and generous but they also have intellectual pretensions so they reward serious Indie movies. Winning Oscars doesn't make you a star in America or guarantee box office success. Vince Vaughn, Adam Sandler and Will Ferrell will never win Oscars, but they make mainstream Hollywood hits. Foreigners should realize they will only ever be bit players in Hollywood and make the most of it.
I have heard variations of the Polygram story before, it is just the characters that are different.