Daily Archives: October 3, 2018

Change of Leadership at Blizzard

You don’t want to do that either. You think you do, but you don’t.

-J. Allen Brack, BlizzCon 2013

The word is out via a Blizzard press release that Mike Morhaime is stepping down as the president of Blizzard Entertainment.  He will be replaced by J. Allen Brack, senior vice president and executive producer for World of Warcraft.

Mike Morhaime will remain with Blizzard in a strategic advisory role, but a statement from him published by Blizzard doesn’t go into detail as to why he chose to step down at this time.

In addition Ray Gresko, a ten year Blizzard veteran who was involved with both Diablo III and Overwatch is stepping up to be chief development officer, while Blizzard founder Allen Adham, who rejoined the company about two years back, will also be joining the executive team to oversee the development of “several new games.”

What does all this mean?

When a long time leader like Mike Morhaime steps down after 27 years, it is generally because somebody is tired.  He is either tired of the position or somebody else is tired of his style.  And an advisory role can be many things; a thank you for years of service, a route to keep him from moving to or creating a competitor, or a way to keep a warm backup handy if the new leadership messes up.

And what does J. Allen Brack’s ascension mean?  Blizzard is a big organization, and is part of an even bigger one, so this won’t have the impact of somebody like Smed leaving Daybreak.  But it may mean change is in the wind.

You can make up all sorts of theories if you set your mind to it.  What does it mean when the executive producer of WoW steps up to run the company?  And what are these “several new games?”

Anyway, I expect we will get some additional info at BlizzCon in a month.

Addendum: A Venture Beat interview with Mike Morhainme at Blizzard’s 25 year mark, if you want some history.

Other Coverage:

Fall Movie League – Smallfoot, Small Gap

Week four of our fall Fantasy Movie League is over and it was a near run thing.

The lineup of options for week four looked like this:

Night School            $616
Smallfoot               $363
The House with a Clock  $318
A Simple Favor          $148
Hellfest                $128
The Nun                 $102
Crazy Rich Asians       $85
The Predator            $83
White Boy Rick          $55
Peppermint              $41
Little Women            $33
Fahrenheit 11/9         $30
Searching               $25
The Meg                 $24
Life Itself             $20

As I noted last week before things locked, the pricing for the top three items looked out of whack given even the early estimates that were floating around.  It seemed unlikely that Night School would nearly double Smallfoot‘s box office, nor did it look like A House with a Clock would bring in nearly as much.

The main thing arguing against Smallfoot was the fact that it came from Warner Animation Group, which has had some hits and misses.  The LEGO Movie and The LEGO Batman Movie both did well, but Storks and The LEGO Ninjago movie were not so hot at the box office.  It was east to see Smallfoot as another Storks.

If you were not confident in the top three, there was always A Simple Favor, which I bet on for my Monday Hot Takes picks.

However, as the week went on and more forecasts and predictions came out, it became clear to me that FML had fumbled the pricing ball and that the way things stood you pretty much had to anchor on two screens of Smallfoot.  The real question of the week was what filler should back it up.

I was all over the map on that, and went into Friday morning with four different lineups.  I decided that, since Little Women wasn’t doing Thursday night previews that I would dump the lineup with that.  A good call, as Little Women only managed 16th place overall, falling behind The Wife, which was dropped for week four.  The only filler behind it was Life Itself, which was in 17th spot for the week, though it was better than Little Women in price versus box office.

In the end I went with 2x Smallfoot, 1x The Nun, 1x White Boy Rick, 1x Peppermint, 3x Searching.

The end scores were so close that it wasn’t until every last film was reported that the perfect pick was certain.  That went to 2x Smallfoot, 1x The Nun, 3x Peppermint, 2x The Meg.

Nobody in the TAGN League got the perfect pick, but the scores were still very close in the top ten, ending up like this:

  1. Vigo Grimborne’s Medieval Screening Complex – $62,686,328
  2. Wilhelm’s Kul Tiras Kino – $62,555,574
  3. Paks’ Pancakes & Pics – $62,554,907
  4. Po Huit’s Sweet Movie Suite – $62,119,154
  5. Corr’s Carefully Curated Cineplex – $62,119,154
  6. Goat Water Picture Palace – $62,119,154
  7. I HAS BAD TASTE – $61,744,693
  8. Miniature Giant Space Hamsterplex – $61,635,230
  9. Cyanbane’s Neuticles Viewing Party – $61,563,031
  10. grannanj’s Cineplex – $59,045,460

There was a $3.6 million gap between first and tenth place.  Everybody on that list. plus SynCaine in 11th place, anchored on two screens of Littlefoot, which got the best price performance bonus of $2 million per screen.  Those who anchored on one screen fell back a ways, and those who went with other anchors fell further behind, with Night School being the worst anchor choice of the week.

That left the top ten scores for the season so far as:

  1. Wilhelm’s Kul Tiras Kino – $268,098,379
  2. Corr’s Carefully Curated Cineplex – $263,853,316
  3. Too Orangey For Crows – $254,276,019
  4. Cyanbane’s Neuticles Viewing Party – $253,773,735
  5. Goat Water Picture Palace – $253,118,233
  6. Po Huit’s Sweet Movie Suite – $240,251,940
  7. I HAS BAD TASTE – $236,521,271
  8. Vigo Grimborne’s Medieval Screening Complex – $235,827,408
  9. Darren’s Unwatched Cineplex – $234,010,586
  10. SynCaine’s Dark Room of Delights – $229,195,406

There was some movement on the list, most noticeably Darren dropping five places due to anchoring on Hellfest, but the inertia of past box offices is already starting to settle in.

In the alternate scoring however every week, big or small, adds 55 points to the overall total of scores.

  1. Corr’s Carefully Curated Cineplex – 27
  2. Wilhelm’s Kul Tiras Kino – 24
  3. Too Orangey For Crows – 24
  4. Goat Water Picture Palace – 23
  5. Vigo Grimborne’s Medieval Screening Complex – 20
  6. I HAS BAD TASTE – 17
  7. Cyanbane’s Neuticles Viewing Party – 17
  8. Po Huit’s Sweet Movie Suite – 16
  9. Darren’s Unwatched Cineplex – 13
  10. SynCaine’s Dark Room of Delights – 8
  11. Joanie’s Joint – 8
  12. Paks’ Pancakes & Pics – 8

As with week two we have a three way tie for 10th spot, so I put all three on the list.  Corr managed to take the lead this week while I am tied up with Bhagpuss for second now.  Not bad considering I was one of those tied for tenth in week two.  That is some volatility.  And nobody is so far back that a couple first place wins wouldn’t put them in contention.

That is how it stands at the end of week four, so it is time to look forward to week five, which features this lineup:

Venom                    $799
A Star is Born           $546
Smallfoot                $190
Night School             $170
The House with a Clock   $92
A Simple Favor           $46
The Nun                  $34
Crazy Rich Asians        $30
Hellfest                 $26
The Predator             $20
White Boy Rick           $15
Peppermint               $10
The Hate U Give          $8
Free Solo                $7
The Meg                  $6

We lose Searching, Fahrenheit 11/9, Little Women and Life Itself from the list this week.

Replacing them are Venom, A Star is Born, The Hate U Give, and Free Solo.

At the top of the list is Venom, featuring yet another Marvel comic book character in a major movie release.  However, this isn’t the Marvel Cinematic Universe where Deadpool and The Avengers live.  No, this is the Sony side of Marvel where the X-Men reside and Spider-Man comes and goes.  Welcome to Hollywood film rights.  Venom himself was part of Spider-Man 3, back when Toby Maguire was in that role, or about two Spider-Mans… Spiders-Men… Spider-Men… ago.  I think.  I don’t really care enough to look it up.

Anyway, superhero film, likely dominate the box office with estimates in the $65 million range.

Next up we have A Star is Born starring Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper, a remake of the 1976 A Star is Born starring Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson, which itself was a remake of the  1954 A Star is Born starring Judy Garland and James Mason, which was, in turn, a remake of the 1937 A Star is Born starring Janet Gaynor and Fredric March.

While it hasn’t been remade as often as The Wizard of Oz or Little Women, it looks like we’re getting a version of this every generation.

And while it is adulting about on a week when a superhero film is launching, it does star Lady Gaga and is being called at around $45 million.

After two new films dominating the box office, the other two are down in the cheap seats.

The Hate U Give, based on the novel of the same name, is the story of a girl who is torn between her life in a poor black neighborhood and her life in the rich, mostly white prep school she attends and how events in her community affect her and draw her into activism.  It is in limited release, showing in under 40 theaters.

Finally, there is Free Solo which is not, as I first feared, another Star Wars Story.  Instead it is the story of Alex Honnold’s attempt to free solo climb (no ropes or other such equipment) El Capitan in Yosemite.  It is also in limited release, expected to show up in about 20 venues.

Given that these two films are down with The Meg, which did just over $1 million last week, they aren’t looking to burn up the box office.  On the other hand, low expectations and low estimates leave room for surprises.

As for my picks, for the Monday league I went for 1x Venom, 6x CRA, and 1x The Predator, which seemed like a safe pick.  But for the TAGN league pick I am still torn between Venom and A Star is Born as an anchor.  I need more data.