Coming Soon to a Taxi Near You: Nikki Finke's Voice

Plus: What a fourth 'Paradise Lost' documentary would look like

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Today in the film set: HBO documentary head hints at a fourth Paradise Lost film, Nikki Finke's voice is coming soon to an elevator near you, and the writer of the Conan the Barbarian reboot describes what it's like to have your name on a big fat box office flop.

  • HBO's third Paradise Lost documentary about the West Memphis Three doesn't air until January, but HBO Films documentary division president Sheila Nevins tells The Hollywood Reporter that the circumstances surrounding the trio's release from prison last week--and their current legal status--could be the basis for another installment in the acclaimed series. Says Nevins, who oversaw the first two documentaries that helped to raise doubts about the guilt of the three Jonesboro, Arkansas men convicted in the 1993 slayings of three local boys: "Under the law," explains Nevins, "they’re now 'innocent but guilty'. Guilty but innocent? What the hell is that all about? Don’t tell [Paradise Lost director] Joe [Berlinger] but maybe there’s another film there. I think we’re ready for Paradise Lost 4." [The Hollywood Reporter]
  • Nikki Finke speaks! Or at least she's supposed to, as part of a partnership between Jay Penske, whose Penske Media Corp owns Finke's Hollywood news hub Deadline, and ION Television to offer up short ("Between one and two minutes," says The Wall Street Journal) entertainment news updates in non-traditional spaces, like screens in elevators and in the back of cabs. Finke is contributing to the venture, though predictably she's not appearing on camera. Instead, she'll be providing voiceovers. So finally, the world will know where Finke places the emphasis in TOLDJA, the exclamation of rightness Finke trademarked back in 2009. We've always imagined it as having a long, rolling 'L' sound. [The Wall Street Journal via Poynter]
  • For the first five days of Fox's new strategy of waiting eight days to post new shows to Hulu, illegal downloads of new episodes of Hell's Kitchen and MasterChef on BitTorrent were up 114% and 184% from previous weeks, according to data collected by Torrent Freak. (The study picked the Fox cooking shows because they were airing new episodes.) Those numbers seem high, but as Robert Seidman at TV by the Numbers points out, ""189% of a small number is still a small number." Weidman suggests that the only sure way to tell if the policy emboldens people to access the network's shows illegally will come "if Glee's TV audience shrinks by half and piracy is up 3000%" [Torrent Freak and TV by the Numbers]
  • What does it feel like to be the screenwriter of a box office clunker? Sort of like running for office when you're trailing by 20 points in the polls, says Conan the Barbarian 3D scribe Sean Hood. In a blog post, he explains the stages of flopdom that preceded the film's anemic $10 million opening last weekend. 

"A few months before release, "tracking numbers" play the role in movies that polls play in politics. It's easy to get caught up in this excitement, like a college volunteer handing out fliers for Howard Dean. ...As the release date approaches and the the tracking numbers start to fall, you start adjusting expectations, but always with a kind of desperate optimism. "I don't believe the polls,' say the smiling candidates."

"You hope that advertising and word of mouth will improve the numbers...You stay optimistic. You begin selectively ignoring bad news and highlighting the good. You make the best of it. You believe."

"In the days before the release, you get all sorts of enthusiastic congratulations from friends and family. Everyone seems to believe it will go well, and everyone has something positive to say, so you allow yourself to get swept up in it. You tell yourself to just enjoy the process....You pretend to be Zen. You adopt detachment, and ironic humor, while secretly praying for a miracle."

"The Friday night of the release is like the Tuesday night of an election...You are glued to your computer, clicking wildly over websites, chatting nonstop with peers, and calling anyone and everyone to find out what they've heard. Have any numbers come back yet? That's when your stomach starts to drop."


"You make light of it, of course. You joke and shrug. But the blow to your ego and reputation can't be brushed off. Reviewers, even when they were positive, mocked Conan The Barbarian for its lack of story, lack of characterization, and lack of wit. This doesn't speak well of the screenwriting - and any filmmaker who tells you s/he "doesn't read reviews" just doesn't want to admit how much they sting."

This actually makes writing a box office bomb sound more like a particularly protracted breakup, carried out in full view of the public and in 3D. [Quora]

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.