Today's NY Times chronicles the "classic Hollywood tale" (keywords: hubris, quick rise, sudden demise) of First Look Studios' Henry Winterstern, who arrived in town a couple of years ago with nothing but a crazy dream about making it in the showbiz and one of those huge bags of hedge-fund cash that's so popular with the kids these days, dumped the contents of that bag on the floor of a fancy office in the new CAA building, then proceeded to light it on fire, a business plan that earned him a"voluntary" resignation from his job on Friday. And now, the Telling Anecdote indicating that Winterstern's priorities might have been in the wrong place:
But Mr. Winterstern's first movie choices didn't register with the public. Despite some good reviews, "The Dead Girl," about a mysterious corpse, took in a paltry $19,000. "Wassup Rockers," about a group of skater boys, written and directed by Larry Clark ("Kids"), took in just $620,000. The box office returns didn't deter First Look from moving into the gleaming new building that was erected as headquarters for the Creative Artists Agency. Furnished at a cost of $4 million, the headquarters are "excellent, really fantastic, but you kind of go, 'Wait, this isn't Paramount, where you're expecting to do a $70 million movie,' " said Gavin Polone, a producer who had meetings there recently and admired the cavernous entryway and zebra-stripe woodwork.
"They're an independent, and they'll come back and say, 'Make it for less.' And we'll say, 'The amount less you want us to spend to make the movie is what you spent on the receptionist station,' " he added.
Senior executives, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of losing their jobs, said the company had $50 million in losses last year. Mr. Winterstern said the loss was not nearly that high but declined to be more specific.
Indeed, the executive's effectiveness in getting producers to work on the cheap may have been somewhat undermined by the excessive opulence of their surroundings, as Polone would go on to recount how an argument over the costs of a proposed low-budget feature was frequently interrupted by one of Winterstern's malfunctioning, diamond-encrusted robot butlers, which kept entering the office every thirty or so seconds to ask his boss if he needed his caviar plate freshened up.