We flew too close to the sun, fellow production design-loving Icarii, for the dream of Nancy Meyers returning to direct a new film, featuring, we may presume, new glorious kitchens, is no more. Netflix has dropped Meyers’ prospective new film, called Paris Paramount, over budget disagreements. Meyers wanted a budget of $150 million, Netflix wouldn’t go above $130 million, they could not agree, and Netflix passed. The project could still revive with another studio/streamer, but given the general air of belt-tightening around Hollywood, and the eye-watering budget Meyers wants, you have to wonder if it will happen at all.
So, why IS Nancy Meyers asking for such a huge budget? Those are superhero numbers! Surely, filming in beautiful kitchens doesn’t cost THAT much? Well, as someone who renovated a kitchen recently, yes, beautiful kitchens cost a lot. But also, Meyers’ films tend to run on the high end for romantic comedies. Her first feature film was Lindsay Lohan’s The Parent Trap, which cost $15 million in 1998, which is about $28 million today. Her second feature, What Women Want, jumped to $70 million in 2003. Not for nothing, that film stars Mel Gibson, at the time one of the highest paid stars in Hollywood, and Helen Hunt, also higher profile at the time. The budget leap is significantly due to paying the salaries of some of the most in-demand actors of the time.
Which is a consistent pattern with Meyers. We talk a lot about her production design, but she regularly works with HUGE stars. Something’s Gotta Give had a budget of $80 million, which in part accounts for the salaries of Diane Keaton, THE Jack Nicholson, and Keanu Reeves, in the midst of The Matrix franchise, when he was at his most expensive. The Holiday, similarly, caught Cameron Diaz, Jude Law, and Jack Black at the height of their 2000s popularity, plus had to pay for romantic movie queen Kate Winslet. The price tag for The Intern, released in 2015, came down a bit, to a more normal $35 million, but that film only had two big stars, Anne Hathaway and Robert DeNiro. Neither come cheap, but it speaks to the changing economics of the industry that from the 2000s to 2015, studios would no longer pay massive upfront salaries as a matter of course.
But a streamer like Netflix is in a different boat. As I’ve mentioned before, streamers don’t have backend revenue like traditional theatrical movies do. There are no bonuses for ticket sales, or residuals for home video/on demand sales and rentals, or royalties for television broadcasts. Netflix only pays talent once, up front, which is why their deals with A-listers are so enormous, they’re covering for the loss of backend revenue sharing. On the production side, Nancy Meyers doesn’t need $150 million to make a movie set in gorgeous kitchens.
But she does need a lot of money for the talent spend, if the movie is to be made with a streamer, because all those A-list names, like Scarlett Johansson—one of the highest paid actresses right now—Owen Wilson, and Penelope Cruz don’t come cheap. Plus, getting Michael Fassbender out of “retirement” will require some bread, too. He now has scarcity economics working in his favor. Is Nancy Meyers’ new movie totally dead? Maybe not, but she’ll have to find a studio that can afford her stars.