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Thursday, June 29, 2017

Business Decisions About the Movie's Music

The book Risky Business: Rock in Film, written by R. Serge Denisoff and William D. Romanowski, includes a chapter called "Dirty Dancing All the Way to the Bank".

Denisoff founded the Journal of Popular Music and Society and wrote many books, including Inside MTV, Sing a Song of Social Significance, and Solid Gold: The Popular Record Industry.

Romanowski is a professor of Communication Arts and Sciences and has written the books Reforming Hollywood and Eyes Wide Open.


The Amazon page's summary:
The role of motion pictures in the popularity of rock music became increasingly significant in the latter twentieth century. Rock music and its interaction with film is the subject of this significant book that re-examines and extends Serge Denisoff's pioneering observations of this relationship.

Prior to Saturday Night Fever, rock music had a limited role in the motion picture business. That movie's success, and the success of its soundtrack, began to change the silver screen. In 1983, with Flashdance, the situation drastically evolved and by 1984, ten soundtracks, many in the pop/rock genre, were certified platinum.

Choosing which rock scores to discuss in this book was a challenging task. The authors made selections from seminal films such as The Graduate, Easy Rider, American Graffiti, Saturday Night Fever, Help!, and Dirty Dancing. However, many productions of the period are significant not because of their success, but because of their box office and record store failures.

Risky Business chronicles the interaction of two major mediums of mass culture in the latter twentieth century. This book is essential for those interested in communications, popular culture, and social change.

Before we continue about the book Risky Business, read the following passage from the Wikipedia article about the Vestron Video company:
Vestron was founded in 1981 by Austin Owen Furst, Jr., an executive at HBO, who was hired to dismantle the assets of Time-Life Films. Furst bought the video rights of the film library for himself and decided to form a home entertainment company with these assets. ....

The company held on to its Time-Life Video library, and was also responsible for releases on VHS videocassette as well as CED Videodisc of mostly B movies and films from Cannon Films' library. They also distributed films under The Movie Store banner.

The most notable titles Vestron released were Dirty Dancing, Monster Squad and An American Werewolf in London. ... Vestron was the first company to release National Geographic and PBS' Nova videos in the late 1980s ... and was the first to market with a pro wrestling video ... They also released a three-volume series called "How to Beat Home Video Games", which contains strategies for video games of the time. ...

The company enjoyed success for several years, at one point exceeding 10% of the US video movie market. At its high point sales approximated $350 million annually, and the company sold video movies in over 30 countries either directly or through sub licensing agreements. This was basically a rights business, built by some insightful people who appreciated the video (VCR) rights to films before the major studios did. Eventually the major studios smartened up, and film product became increasingly harder for Vestron to acquire. Also, independent producers increased the price of those available.

The company started to make its own films (Dirty Dancing, Earth Girls Are Easy, Blue Steel), but when the market's preferences matured and shifted from watching almost any film to just watching "A" titles, for which the majors had a stronghold, the company was committed already with a pipeline of about 20 "B" to low "A" projects. Financing for the company fell through and it eventually filed for bankruptcy ... and was bought out on January 11, 1991 by ... LIVE Entertainment, a home video and music company ...

The book Risky Business introduces its Dirty Dancing chapter with the following passages.
Dirty Dancing was the first national theatrical release for Veston Pictures, the film-production arm of Vestron, Incl, the nation's largest independent video retailer. Anticipating a shrinking supply of videos, Veston raised $185 million over two years and established its own television and film production company in January 1986. The company's strategy was to produce featues with a $6-million ceiling on productions costs. ...

In 1986, the company's earnings dropped 64%, and employment cutbacks accompanied a first-half loss of $8.6 million. To make matters worse, Veston was tied up in a prolonged lawsuit .... Revenue declines were blamed on a "a flattening of the video explosion and increased taste for "A" titles at the expense of ... made-for-video fare." ....

Dirty Dancing was produced for under $6 millon. As Vestron's vice president for production Michael Cannold explained, "At Vestron we've been fighting the understandable skepticism that we could make a studio-quality picture, get theaters and market a film. ...

Then the chapter provides the perspective of screenwriter Eleanor Bergstein.
The differing styles of music in the movie anticipated the cultural differences emerging in the US. Bergstein, who maintained an unusual amount of control over the production, divided musical selections into three groups: Latin mambo for Kellerman's [resort] dance floor, clean teen pop for the Houseman cabin, and erotic rock and soul for the resort's staff quarters.

"I tried to choose the harshest music I could find, the music that would be most sexually shocking to a young woman who'd never heard it before," Bergstein explained. "Because I imagined that in Baby's bedroom at home there'd be early Joan Baez, the Weavers, maybe Harry Belafonte." ...

[Director Emile] Ardolino said: "The script for Dirty Dancing contained drama, comedy, music, and dance. It was a script in which the dance was used to move the plot along, to reveal character, and the story didn't stop [because of the music]. ... I saw a subtext of body language throughout. So I relate to all that immediately. I also related to the music. The music and the dances were the lifeblood of the script. It was the music I grew up with. I was like 19 [years old] in 1963."

Then Risky Business characterizes the movie's music producer, Jimmy Ienner.
The story behind the making of the Dirty Dancing soundtrack was described as "one of wheeling and dealing and trading on old friendships. It centers around Jimmy Jenner, a producer and musical consultant of Vestron who liked "to walk the tightrope between the creative process and the guys with suits and cigars." ... A shrewd producer, Ienner observed the increasing use of rock music tied to movie scripts before coming up with a model for a successful musical.
Jimmy Ienner
Jimmy Ienner
Ienner looked forward to selling the movie's soundtrack albums and expressed the following perspective:
The movie Back to the Future ... had a #1 single with Huey Lewis. The soundtrack album only sold 600,000 copies. That's because the music was "wallpapered" into movie, and the songs were not an essential part of the emotional experience. For a soundtrack to be really successful -- like Top Gun or The Big Chill -- you have to hear what you see. And to make that happen, the director usually has to shoot scenes using either the acutal music in the film or something that's very similar.
Vestron hired Ienner because of his success in selling soundtrack albums.
Ienner established a reputation with the industry through his involvement in several soundtracks, including Fellini's The Clowns, Amarcord, and You Gotta Walk It Like You Talk It. He signed with Veston as a music consultant when the company launched its film-production division in 1986.

Normal budgets for soundtracks range from $300,000 to $800,000. Vestron budgeted $350,000 for new material and music rights, with another $250,000 for the movie's score.

Danny Goldberg, who managed rock artists ... was hired by Vestron to find new material and acquire rights from record companies for use of songs in the movie and soundtrack. Goldberg was largely unsuccessful and eventually left the project ....

When Ienner inherited the project, less than $200,000 was left in the budget, not one song pleased the producers, and three important scenes, including an almost-seven-minute  finale, needed music.He began a frantic search for material.

"It was not an easy sell," he later explained. "It was a dance movie with a silly name and a small budget. That did not encourage people to rush out and write songs."
Ienner turned to musicians and producers with whom he had worked earlier in his career. Friends at RCA provided a cash advance on future sales of the soundtrack album.
Ienner asked Franke Previte, who was once the frontman for The Knockouts, who had a Top 10 hit in 1981 on Ienner's former Millennium Records label, to submit material for the movie. The songwriter collaborated with friends John DeNicola and Donald Markowitz to write the movie's theme song, "(I've Had) The Time of My Life. Ienner chose the Previte composition from almost 100 songs submitted for that sequence in the film.

Previte and DeNicola also wrote "Hungry Eyes", which was performed by Eric Carmen, another artist Ienner produced at Arista Records.

Ienner bought out a deal Goldberg had struck with Motown Records and began shopping around for a record contract. ... Ienner turned to friends at RCA Records. A talent scout and consultant at RCA, Bob Feiden, immediately recognized the potential for music in the Dirty Dancing script. ... Feiden recommended tje script to RCA president Bob Busiak, who was a longtime friend of both Vestron president Jon Peisinger and Ienner. The RCA deal gave Inner another $210,000 to work with.
Ienner had to use his new-song budget frugally.
The six new songs were expensive because they needed two versions of each. "(I've Had) The Time of My Life" cost cost to $70,000; the others cost between $20,000 and 30,000 apiece.

"We needed different mixes for the film and record," Ienner recalled. "For example, the guitars were dropped way down for the film because guitars weren't a dominant instrument back then [in 1963] -- saxophones were. We took out out of the synthesized stuff and replaced it with organ in the film versions. In some cases we used completely different solos to accommodate dialogue and some of the dancing." ...
He also had to use his old-song budget frugally.
When Ienner began negotiating for rights to oldies for the project, he was working with a "used-Schwinn budget -- which was a problem, because lots of these guys had gotten used to getting paid Rolls-Royce prices for their songs," he said.

Producer Bergstein demanded Ienner get permission for three songs: "Big Girls Don't Cry", "Be My Baby", and "Will You Love Me Tomorrow?". Jenner begged, called in favors and made promises in order to get the rights to fourteen old songs, along with the production of six new ones for $400,000. "I did a lot of horse-trading," he recalled. ....

The movie used a 80 to 20 percent balance of oldies and new material. For the soundtrack album, six new songs were recorded and combined with an equal number of oldies.
Ienner's planning for the soundtrack album paid off.
When Dirty Dancing reached theaters in late August [1987], album sales began to soar; withing five weeks the sountrack had sold one million copies. RCA had hoped for sales of 300,000 to 500,000. ... The album reached #1 the week ending November 14.

"People would see the movie and come straight in for the soundtrack album without going home," observed one buyer for a record store chain. ... "There are grandmothers and little kids buying Dirty Dancing," said a Chicago retailer. ...

The success of the Dirty Dancing soundtrack surprised everyone. The album topped the charts for nine weeks during the Christmas season.
The book Risky Business goes on to provide details about how money was earned from additional albums, videocassettes, sponsorship by the Nestle's candy company, a concert tour and a television series.
The entire Dirty Dancing enterprise -- the film, soundtrack albums, videocassette, touring company, and television series -- grossed about $350 by August 1988. ...

RCA's share of the multimedia success ... earned $105 by June 1988. The soundtrack albums accounted for about one-quarter of the record label's domestic revenues.

The Vestron picture grossed for then $100 million; $25 million in domestic rentals.

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