I completely agree, this could be a bad example of where things are leading. WB couldn't give 5 million to make a movie? If this make 20 million on a 3 million dollar budget, that's 15 million in profits. Would we get a sequel paid for by the studio? Or would we have to go through this again and then the studio makes all the moneyfor doing very little.
Still. I don't care, I just hope this doesn't tun out to be as horrible as the Dead Like Me movie.
I think the key thing in this discussion is that it is Warner Bros. Warners doesn't like to pay for anything. Whatever they put out is "testing the waters" and they will fight tooth and nail to avoid paying a cent they don't have to.
Example - Babylon 5. To get each subsequent season greenlit, the previous season had to have been paid for. PTEN (and, later, TNT) had to cover the entire cost of the season before another would go forward. Following that logic, season 1 (at least) broke even, which is the reason we got season 2, etc.
WB was not convinced that there was enough market to justify DVD release of the series, so they put out a "tester" DVD, with the pilot movie and a second, In the Beginning. It sold well enough that they decided to release a single season of the show on DVD. Even as they did that, they did not decide to do a season 2 until they got the sales figures for season 1. And on and on.
There were 110 episodes. Per JMS
, in 1999, the budget for each episode was roughly 920,000 dollars. That means the budget for the series - not counting the movies - was $101,200,000. And that cost was entirely paid for by sales of the show to the network and tv stations.
As far back as 2004 - 9 years ago - the sales of the DVDs alone had generated half a BILLION dollars. But even today, WB claims that Babylon 5 still hasn't recouped its cost, so the cast/crew who had back end deals haven't seen a dime of it. Hollywood accounting. Don't you love it?
They then decided to do another "test" with The Lost Tales, a direct-to-dvd series. They ponied up about the amount two episodes of the original series would have cost, and the crew had to start from scratch with the movie, recreating everything. Though it made money, it didn't make enough profit.
It's something I've thought for years ... If someone approaches WB and says they will self-finance a project in a WB universe, WB will be more than happy to let them, as long as WB keeps 100% of the profits. Fans could come up with a hundred million bucks to finance a B5 movie, sure. The people who actually made it wouldn't see any of the money though.