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‘Logan’ Drew Concerns at Fox Over Dark Tone, Says Studio Chief

A tonal shift in “Logan,” the final film in the “Wolverine” franchise, drew concerns internally that it would be too dark, according to Twentieth Century Fox Film chairman Stacey Snider.

“Inside, there was real consternation about the intensity of the tone of the film,” she said in a Q&A at the Recode Media conference Tuesday in Laguna Niguel, Calif.. “It’s more of an elegy about life and death. The paradigm for it was a Western, and my colleagues were up in arms. It’s not a wise-cracking cigar-chomping mutton-sporting Wolverine, and the debate internally became, isn’t that freakin’ boring? Isn’t it exciting to imagine Wolverine as a real guy and he’s world-weary and he doesn’t want to fight anymore until a little girl needs him?”

Logan” is scheduled for release on March 3 with Hugh Jackman reprising his title role. The movie’s marketing machinery kicked into overdrive with a spot in the Super Bowl that kicked up a fresh wave of social-media chatter about the raw nature of the movie compared with its predecessors in the successful Fox franchise.

Snider also spoke out on behalf of the Fox Searchlight business, countering the conventional wisdom that the encroachment of Netflix and Amazon as buyers in the festival circuit has challenged consumers.

“What Amazon did with ‘Manchester By the Sea’ is remarkable,” she said. “But I was with my colleagues at Sundance this year also and they were able to secure two hotly pursued projects, ‘Step’ and ‘Patty Cake$’ for less money than the competition was offering because when it comes to those films and curated, hand-carried approach to market, that comes with years and years of experience. “It’s not to say it can’t be modeled but the people who have been doing it with such incredible success with ’12 Year a Slave,’ ‘Wild’ and ‘Grand Budapest Hotel’ speak an artistic language that is important to speak.”

In addition, Snider spoke out strongly in support of the exhibition business, which she sees as the most important link in the distribution chain, albeit one that needs to be balanced with the growing demand for some kind of premium VOD release in homes.

“If the supposition is that the movie business corners whatever market we have in creating huge global cinematic experiences, then then the last thing we want to do is commoditize it and make it feel interchangeable with the home entertainment experience,” she warned.

Snider went so far as to suggest her studio was even more vulnerable than some of her rivals to a weakened exhibition business.

“When I think about how Fox is situated compared to Warner Bros. or Comcast or Disney, we’re more dependent on exhibitors than any of the other companies,” she said. “It really does genuinely matter to us.”

But she stopped well short of suggesting that some kind of alteration in film distribution was inevitable. “It’s not about smashing the window, its about opening it up a little,” she said. “I don’t think its controversial to say for a business not to be able to sell what it makes for periods of time is anachronistic.”

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