Track the companies that matter to you. It's FREE! Click one of these fan favorites to get started: Apple; Google; Ford.



This Filmmaker’s Dilemma Could Cost it Dearly

Watch stocks you care about

The single, easiest way to keep track of all the stocks that matter...

Your own personalized stock watchlist!

It's a 100% FREE Motley Fool service...

Click Here Now

When I walked into the press screening for Step Up Revolution, I expected 90 minutes of pleasant dance routines and the usual cookie-cutter storyline. Lions Gate (NYSE: LGF  ) division Summit Entertainment gave me that, thanks to brilliant choreography by the Emmy-winning talent of Fox's So You Think You Can Dance crew.

But they also gave me a red-hot helping of controversy.

You see, there's this scene where a pack of dancers feel let down by their maverick leader, so they stage a hip-hop assault on an important business meeting. And when the first smoke grenade landed, I started worrying about this film's future.

In a show of absolutely miserable timing, that scene features dancers in gas masks and metallic suits, trampling all over expensive presentations amid grenade-powered smoke clouds. There are no real weapons involved, and nobody gets hurt, but the scene steps dangerously close to the tragic shootings at last Thursday's Dark Knight Rises presentation in Aurora, Colorado.

It's bad luck of epic proportions. Summit obviously couldn't know that somebody was staging a real and extremely violent attack that so closely resembled that dance routine. But Nikki Finke at Deadline Hollywood Daily reports that Summit's top brass met on Wednesday to discuss what to do about the situation. Next morning, Summit yanked TV ads featuring the scene, but refused to edit the movie itself.

"Having taken these steps, Summit will open this inspirational, nonviolent film in theatres nationwide this weekend as originally edited," Summit said in an official statement.

I don't think that's good enough.

Aurora didn't scare many viewers away from The Dark Knight Rises itself: The Batman film scraped together a very respectable $169 million this weekend, for the third-richest debut in movie history. Only The Avengers and the final chapter of the Harry Potter saga did better. Producer and distributor Time Warner (NYSE: TWX  ) can breathe a sigh of relief.

That's them -- this is you
But Summit isn't Warner. The studio can't afford to look insensitive, because there's big money at stake for this relatively small studio. Low-budget movies like these can multiply your investment many times over. For a frame of reference, forerunner Step Up 3-D took a $30 million production budget, and turned it into a $160 million global ticket bonanza. In that light, I expect Summit to do whatever is necessary to keep Step Up Revolution alive.

The studio could probably have recut the offending scene without delaying the premiere. Movies aren't shipped out on 50-pound rolls of celluloid these days. Thanks to the pioneering work of Cinedigm Digital Cinema and the major theater chains, film distribution is now mostly digital. Summit could quickly cut down the offending scene -- though I'm not sure exactly how this could be done without obliterating the already shaky storyline -- and push out the new copy via satellite-powered download overnight.

You can't afford to make it all about the money
Lions Gate bought Summit to tap into its vibrant Twilight franchise. Lesser lights, like the Step Up series, may get short shrift if things get uncomfortable. Previous films in this series were produced and distributed jointly by Summit and Walt Disney (NYSE: DIS  ) , but the Twilight studio isn't sharing the risk and potential rewards this time.

And thanks to the decision to stick with the original script, there's more risk than reward on the horizon.

Summit could have handled this with more grace. Remove at least the worst elements of the nerve-rattling act; then add it back for a second run, or for a director's cut DVD. Ship the full version to Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX  ) when the movie hits that release window. Reap the rewards of doing the right thing. Save your artistic integrity with the follow-on version. Everybody wins.

We'll see how this gamble works out, and how far Summit and Lions Gate are willing to go with this controversy. Bending over backwards, like a contemporary dancer, wouldn't have been too much to ask.

Keep an eye on this tense situation by adding Lions Gate to your Foolish watchlist.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund owns shares in Cinedigm and Netflix, and has created a bull call spread on Netflix, as well, but holds no other position in any of the companies mentioned. Check out Anders' holdings and bio, or follow him on Twitter and Google+. The Motley Fool owns shares of Netflix and Disney. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Disney and Netflix. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinion, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Read/Post Comments (0) | Recommend This Article (2)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

Be the first one to comment on this article.

Compare Brokers

Fool Disclosure

Sponsored Links

Leaked: Apple's Next Smart Device
(Warning, it may shock you)
The secret is out... experts are predicting 458 million of these types of devices will be sold per year. 1 hyper-growth company stands to rake in maximum profit - and it's NOT Apple. Show me Apple's new smart gizmo!

DocumentId: 1962402, ~/Articles/ArticleHandler.aspx, 10/26/2016 3:45:24 AM

Report This Comment

Use this area to report a comment that you believe is in violation of the community guidelines. Our team will review the entry and take any appropriate action.

Sending report...

Today's Market

updated 6 hours ago Sponsored by:
DOW 18,169.27 -53.76 -0.30%
S&P 500 2,143.16 -8.17 -0.38%
NASD 5,283.40 -26.43 -0.50%

Create My Watchlist

Go to My Watchlist

You don't seem to be following any stocks yet!

Better investing starts with a watchlist. Now you can create a personalized watchlist and get immediate access to the personalized information you need to make successful investing decisions.

Data delayed up to 5 minutes

Related Tickers

10/25/2016 4:00 PM
DIS $92.75 Down -0.62 -0.66%
Walt Disney CAPS Rating: *****
LGF $20.07 Down -0.05 -0.25%
Lions Gate Enterta… CAPS Rating: ****
NFLX $126.51 Down -0.82 -0.64%
Netflix CAPS Rating: ***
TWX $87.16 Up +0.42 +0.48%
Time Warner CAPS Rating: ***