legendsofoz-conspiracy legendsofoz-conspiracy

‘Legends of Oz’ Investors, Who Each Paid $100,000, Believe Hollywood Conspiracy Destroyed Film [UPDATED]

Although Greg Centineo, the producer and chief fundraiser of Summertime Entertainment’s Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return, had hoped for a big second weekend, the film plummeted 48% and ended its sophomore frame with $1.9 million. The movie has struggled to find a fan following, except for the film’s Facebook page which is filled with a curiously large number of middle-aged and elderly people who absolutely adore the film.

It’s increasingly becoming clear that these Facebook fans are among the film’s investors, some of whom can also be seen in this photo album of the film’s investor events. These are the people who gave Centineo a reported $60-70 million to produce Legends of Oz. If that figure holds accurate, it would be the most expensive CGI film ever produced at India’s Prana Studios.

According to one of the investors, Joe Occhiogrosso, the minimum required investment in the film was $100,000 per person. Here’s what he wrote on Facebook last February:

With an estimated one thousand investors in the project, that means that Centineo raised over $100 million to produce the film and its followups. And now that the film has tanked at the box office, the disappointed investors are pushing a new theory: that there was a conspiracy in Hollywood to destroy the film. If you recall, Centineo has subtly suggested the same scenario in interviews.

David Yancey, one of the film’s investors, wrote a rant on Facebook that he encouraged people to reprint. It spells out how the investors of the film believe that there was a concerted smear campaign coordinated between Hollywood studios and movie critics to bury their film’s chances. Here’s Yancey’s take:

The new animated movie Legends of Oz (NOW in theaters) is not owned by one of the big Hollywood studios, and the film needs your support. When you go to see this film, you are supporting over 1000 regular people just like you and me, who worked together for over a decade, through some of the worst economic times in history, to bring this project to the big screen for your enjoyment. Over 1000 regular people worked together on this massive project because they love and believe in the story of Oz — the original American fairytale. When everyone in Hollywood said it could never be done, it took a while but we all made it happen.

The big Hollywood studios do not want this effort to succeed because they don’t want any serious new competition. Maybe we got their attention because they amassed their army of top paid critics who wielded their poison pens in a smear campaign against this wonderful family picture. These seemingly aren’t just reviews of an average film not liked by critics, they are propaganda written expressly to dissuade everyone from seeing the film.

And yet over 90 percent of viewers (young and old) absolutely love the film. It looks like over 1000 regular folks just like us are in the classic battle of David and Goliath against the gigantic power of the Hollywood mega-studios.

Please see and support this film today. Tell your friends about #legendsofoz Share this post publically on Facebook to help spread the word about a good thing — about a film with love, adventure, teamwork and family values.

The following interview offers a good idea of Centineo’s future plans for the franchise, and presumably the pitch that was heard by the investors of the film. It’s a convincing story if you don’t know anything about how the film business works:

If you are an investor in Legends of Oz and have more details about how the investment was structured, please contact Cartoon Brew.

UPDATE: A Cartoon Brew commenter “R.I.” posted a link in one of our earlier posts to this massive 17-page comment thread in which people are discussing the histories of the people involved in the fundraising, providing links to SEC filings, and alleging deceptive practices in how the money was raised and spent.

  • megadrivesonic

    So they cant accept that the film just isn’t good? If they really wanted to tell a classic story of OZ why not base the film on an actual wizard of oz book not written by the grandson of the original author. Ozma of OZ ring any bells?

    • Stranger

      Oooooh, I would love to see an adaptation of Ozma! There was a dozen or so sequels written by the original author, why is it that filmmakers never tap into that rich source material?

      • megadrivesonic

        I bet its for the simple fact that Dorothy isn’t the star of all of them, or some other really stupid reason. Oz has such an imaginative world ripe for expansion so someone tap into these( Public Domain stories).

        • XSiRenfieldX

          Dorothy Gale, the Ash Ketchum of Oz

        • Honest_Miss

          Wicked does fairly well without Dorothy. I know it’s not exactly the same as what you’re suggesting, what with it being more of an alternative story, but I think it still stands as a good example.

    • Adzl33t

      That’s how executives think

      Supergirl and Elektra film bombed = General Audience don’t like Female Superheroes

      John Carter and Mars needs Mom bombed = No one likes movies on Mars now

      It’s never that the film sucks why the movie bombed for these people

  • Pedro Nakama

    What’s going to happen when the new DreamWorks movies that are being made in China and India fail at the box office?

  • Jack Rabbit

    What studio in Hollywood that doesn’t specialize in animation would care to join a conspiracy about this film? This looks like at mid-late 90’s CG quality production at best, and I can see why MGM would give Judy Garland a complex about getting too fat. This and others things are what make the film a dud.

  • animatorunite

    And once again Cartoon Brew completely misrepresents someones quote. He wasn’t saying there was some secret conspiracy, he was just saying that the film industry is a competitive place and that if you’re not one of the big studios you’re looked down upon by Hollywood and that you’re already set back because you’re from a smaller studio.

    • AmidAmidi

      Read before writing. The author of the Facebook post specifically says there was a smear campaign. I’ll reprint it since you missed it the first time:

      “The big Hollywood studios do not want this effort to succeed because they don’t want any serious new competition. Maybe we got their attention because they amassed their army of top paid critics who wielded their poison pens in a smear campaign against this wonderful family picture. These seemingly aren’t just reviews of an average film not liked by critics, they are propaganda written expressly to dissuade everyone from seeing the film.”

      • animatorunite

        A smear campaign, not some sort of conspiracy… We both know the connotations of some sort of crazy paranoid person when we use the word conspiracy

        • May1979

          Dude, what part of that paragraph don’t you understand? He thinks the big studios paid film critics to deliberately bash their movie. Deliberately. Collectively. Secretly. Sounds to me like a conspiracy by any definition.

          Personaly, I think his argument is an insult to all true conspiracy theorists. No amount of reviews could help a movie this bad.

        • mick

          I think it might be worth noting that the word ‘conspiracy’ is now wrongly associated strictly with crazy paranoid people which serves those ‘behind the curtain’ very well. The connotations ‘we all know’ have been associated with the word only very recently

          When people conspire, it is a conspiracy. The fella here is suggesting that a number of people have conspired to bring him down. He alludes to a conspiracy

  • Mike Scott

    I haven’t seen the film, but that February Facebook post – yoh. With Hubris like that I’m kind of not surprised Nemesis wasn’t far behind.

  • cartoonkirk

    Maybe a couple of smaller budget films before this big undertaking. ?. Ah the Pr budget?what buzz? And focus groups … releasing of snipets and voice overs making the daytime tv shows …. never happened

    yet this was far from indie and doing it on the cheap
    non existent
    If you trust face book to get your buzz out you will die on the click through train

  • DangerMaus

    I don’t get these people. Sophisticated or unsophisticated, these people had to know they were investing in a high-risk project with the possibility of never seeing a return on their money. I don’t know a thing about the movie industry but it only takes five minutes of thought to realize that whether a movie makes money or not has nothing to do with qualitative issues. There are plenty of good movies that fail miserably at the box office while plenty of bad movies make a shit ton of money. There is no rhyme or reason as to why a film, song, book or TV show strikes it with people. Who can explain why a decent show like “Firefly” got cancelled after a few episodes, while shit like “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” succeeded? There is no rational explanation for something like that.

    This film could have been a bloody masterpiece and still had better than even odds of failing, so how the “investors” can figure there was some sort of Hollywood conspiracy is beyond me. Frankly, all of this conspiracy talk is just the principals involved in this fiasco trying to deflect attention, from their own actions and failures, onto a bogeyman.

  • Bob Harper

    Well they are obviously right. Look what the Hollywood cabal did to Free Birds and The Nut Job with bribing critics to help tank a non-Hollywood release.. Although something went wrong with that plan for the Laika Films, Despicable Me, and Pirates Band of Misfits.

    • Lucy Six Morris

      Despicable Me has Minions, which are hilarious. Free Birds and Nut Job were reasonable at best. And that doesn’t bring big box office

  • paranoid much?

    It’s boxoffice failure couldnt have *anything* to do with the piss-poor character designs, and 2nd rate outsourced Indian animation.. No… Must be a Hollywood conspiracy.

    • Caline Colleen Sharpe

      Plus dont you think the broader public only wants to hear about a new OZ movie every 20 yr or so? We just saw Oz the Great and Powerful, people will be full up with Oz on that & it’s DVD release for years to come. . Oz isn’t like the vampire genre,it has limited mass appeal as a topic and that’s before the quality of animation and character design

    • HBOX

      Completely agree. Nothing about the characters made me want to see this film.

  • Tony

    I hardly think there’s a conspiracy between the big studios and movie reviewers against indie films. If there were, all Hollywood blockbusters would have five star reviews across the board and indies would get two to zero stars, when in fact it’s almost always the opposite.

  • tizzle

    I went and saw the movie with my 4 year old son, as he expressed interest in seeing it from some of the previews on TV. Personally, it wasnt my thing, but my son really enjoyed it, and actually wanted to go see it again. I thought the animation was pretty good, the story did feel too much like the original. Overall, it seemed like s good kids’ movie. With all of the other crap that’s out there, I felt more comfortable taking my kid to this movie. I say good luck to the group that invested in it. Maybe it will do better in DVD/blueray sales than at the box office. Ive found myself watching more movies st home than at the theater lately, just due to my work schedule

  • Marie

    This reminds me of the film Foodfight, although not as awful. What I’m taking away from both situations is that the people involved aren’t truly interested in telling a great story. Instead, their greed sees the huge success of Pixar and they think they can replicate it by farting out any ol’ piece of CGI-animated crap. They neither care nor respect storytelling and animation. They’re in it solely for the money and they have the audacity to blame everyone except themselves for the failure of what is clearly a third-rate film. With their misplaced priorities, the project was doomed from conception.

  • Joey Gallagher

    This is the exact same sort of denial the makers of Delgo and Sir Billi had about how terrible their products were.

  • Caelb

    3 Words: Return To Oz.

    • Jimbo2K7

      Awesome film!
      Very dark and frightening. One of Wil Vinton’s later projects.

  • “It’s a convincing story if you don’t know anything about how the film business works.”

    Just because everyone else does things a certain way doesn’t mean it’s the only way. Unless we all just accept it and never strive for anything better.

  • Caline Colleen Sharpe

    What is brilliant to me is the guy’s name, Occhiogrosso which means big eyes in Italian. So you might say about his profit his eyes were bigger then his stomach.

  • blahblah

    I have a good friend, who has nothing to do with animation (I’ve been working in the field since 1998), who invested in the low 5 figures about 5 years ago. I tried to warn him about such an investment based on a promise of a voice cast with no information on studio or distribution, but it was too late, the money was given. So as I understand it, there is a much larger number of investors, like my friend, who invested anywhere from 5 g’s to 50 g’s and are regular folk trying to save for a retirement. Again I don’t know how much my friend was able to afford, take these numbers with a grain of salt. I just know he would never be in the 100 grand club mentioned here.

  • Caline Colleen Sharpe

    It’s not entirely a unique story – trying to finance and distribute indie animation, as this additional article points out: http://www.cartoonbrew.com/interviews/uli-meyers-quest-to-produce-an-independent-animated-feature-84982.html

  • Sick Manny

    Regardless of what happens with Legends of Oz, Greg’ll still be hitting the gym.

  • DangerMaus

    Aside from all of the drama surrounding the making of this film, I have to say that I do have some sympathy for the investors of this film. The fact is that this film could have been Shakespearean in its storytelling and it still would have been crushed at the B.O. I mean, for pity’s sake, they basically put this in the same release window as Godzilla. Who, in their wisdom, thought that was a good idea?

    • Anyone who remembers the Roland Emmerich “masterpiece”, for starters…

  • Truth

    I don’t think ALL of the investors are pushing the conspiracy theory, just the big fish at the top of the pyramid. I think the little guys realize they were duped by Centineo and his prophets who sold ‘shares’ to their family and friends. Why they bought in without spending a little time with Mr. Google…I have no idea. But it is great to see the issue finally hitting daylight, hopefully saving future investors.

  • Art

    There is one good reason it did so poorly. The marketing was horrible/non-existent. I saw no advertising whatsoever… I was interested in seeing this on release and somehow it slipped by me.

    • I agree completely. The lack of marketing was at ridiculous levels. Don’t know where that $70 million budget went, but it sure didn’t leave any room for advertising, which is a real shame because I think some kids would have enjoyed this one. Maybe few others, but some bright eyed kids looking for a kids movie.

  • Over the Rainboe Dash

    Considering a certain colt following (bad pun intended) of pastel colored equines, I wouldn’t be surprised. Though I’d pick the latter since the movie doesn’t have any redeeming values whatsoever.

  • zoe

    Hmmm, that 800notes thread certainly makes it look like the movie was little more than a scam to cheat the investors out of money. Too bad for the innocent people who got involved in this production.

  • Paulo
    • kuzronk

      It hasn’t even came out in the UK yet anyway. The facebook page says “Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return” NOW PLAYING in US Theaters and will be released in the UK exclusively at Vue Cinemas beginning THIS FRIDAY (23rd May)!

    • megadrivesonic

      … wow you’ve got to be kidding me, its the complete opposite of what they say

  • Rufus

    I didn’t see it, but personally I’d never get involved with this because there just isn’t enough to support that people care about the land of Oz. I mean yeah, there’s a niche market but it lacks mainstream appeal. And although the recent movie with James Franco would disprove this theory, you need to really follow trends to understand what people care about and what they don’t.

    • otterhead

      Yeah, because nobody saw that James Franco movie, and who ever saw the classic MGM movie? Nobody!

      • SarahJesness

        I think the real issue is that Legends of Oz didn’t appear to offer anything different. Reboots of popular, public domain fantasy stories are common, but they usually try to do something different. Maybe a modern take, or a sci-fi version, or trying to go “darker and edgier”. The Wiz was a box office flop, but it still has a following because it tried to go for a different aesthetic and feel. The Franco movie was trying to sell itself with gorgeous graphics and a new story and characters, and I guess that worked. What does Legends of Oz do different? If I’m judging by the trailers, not much.

        • otterhead

          Very much agreed– they tried to make it look as close as possible to the MGM movie without getting into lawsuit territory, and ended up with something really blah looking. I don’t think it has anything to do with the idea of Oz only having a “niche market”. That’s just silly.

        • Agreed. They played it much too safe to really get any audience invested. Which, in my opinion, is an issue with many 3D animated films. So much “middle of the road” out there. So much mediocrity and lack of creative attempts. Of course, I suppose in many ways 2D was like that as well. I guess it’s because of the medium: Animation is so, so difficult that taking a risk is extremely risky indeed. At least we’ll always have small studios striving in this way!

  • Dream Team

    Maybe Greg Centineo could partner with John Textor to make the sequels… Since it sounds like they’ve still got Millions of Dollars from investors laying around.

  • MRKid

    Too bad. Love Will Finn! I’m sure he did the best he could…

  • I’m guessing a lot of that 86% is comprised of people involved with the production in some capacity. When the first review of the film popped up on the Village Voice (a negative one), there were defensive “fans” posting positive remarks about the movie that hadn’t even debuted yet as the majority of the comments.

    It seems to me that this company has some secretaries and interns busily scouring the web to try to turn things positive in the only ways they can (web feedback) since they certainly can’t go out and buy tickets or change critics minds.

    • The same could be said on the opposite side. How many people here bashing it have seen it? I myself will be going to the theater today, so I can get a better idea of the quality of this film with my own eyes.

    • R. I.

      RT and IMDb (and similar sites) have more than their share of shills (paid by or associated with the parties criticized).

      (Oh, and thanks for the shout-out, Amid.)

  • Bob Harper

    Exactly my point is which is why I named those movies specifically.

  • TheDisbeliever

    “Mom’s Might Out” has an identical 14/86 scoring on RT. Just to add that this isn’t a complete abnormality.

  • TheDisbeliever

    Agreed. I have a hard time believing that all that money was spent on actual production costs.

  • ccohen322

    I know someone personally who invested in this film. Middle aged white guy, conservative as can be (hates Obama and “the gays”, loves the Free Market and Reagan etc.), always looking for that next “killer investment”. (The guy has such undeniably shitty politics, yet I still feel kinda bad that he got suckered into this – he’s one of those 100K people.) Even as it tanked, he was sending out emails to people trying to promote its family values and holistic qualities.

    This was a scam as old as time, dressed up in a glamorous Hollywood “investment opportunity” that he, and many others fell for hook, line, and sinker. I think part of the appeal was this libertarian usurping of the perceived “Hollywood Establishment”, and eschewing the dreaded unions as much as possible. Lesson learned amigo ;)

    • ramapith

      The heartless exploit the brainless. You had enough courage to stay away.

      • Just because someone has a particular set of beliefs does not make them brainless. Just because someone wants to be part of something bigger (that they believe in) does not make them stupid. Such judgement does not benefit anyone.

        There is very little chance that everyone involved in this film did not believe in the project. Some might have been attempting a scam (though I’m not sure I think that’s true either) but after seeing the film there was an essence of soul to it that was NOT phoned in. You could tell somewhere behind the scenes, someone was truly trying their hardest. And for that I applaud their efforts, even if it wasn’t quite enough.

  • David DeGrand

    I wish I was just a “regular person” with an extra $100,000 to throw away on garbage like this.

  • Aaron R.R.R. Nance

    I’d like to hear from people that have seen this movie. Anyone here seen it and care to offer your impression?

    Whatever happened to the talk-backs?

    • I’ll chime in!

      First of all, I had never heard of this film before this “conspiracy” stuff started flying. I make it a point to do my best to see all animated films released in theaters, so off I went on a sunny Tuesday afternoon. There was a grandmother and granddaughter in the theater besides me, and that was it.

      The film itself was not horrific. Now it was in no way “good” but I’ve seen not only worse films, but worse films that have done BETTER at the box office. So in that regard, I’m not sure I can totally discount this crazy “smear campaign” concept. I don’t think that’s what HAPPENED, but truthfully the numbers being this low are indeed puzzling.

      I think it may have actually stemmed from a total lack of advertising/promotion. I’m an animator. If anyone should know a new film is coming, it would be an animator who follows the industry. And yet, this was a surprise to me. I’d not heard of it before (or only heard of it here and there, not that it was suddenly released). That’s a problem. That means you probably didn’t do your job promoting your very expensive film.

      As far as price tag goes, there is no way in God’s Green Earth this should have cost $70 million. No. Way. It just wasn’t high enough quality. I don’t know where that budget went, but if you look at Despicable Me (and how it cost $10 million less to make) the difference in quality is staggering. Something is off there too. Someone didn’t do a good job with the budget, in my opinion. However I don’t know what, I’m not privies to that information.

      The movie wasn’t great, as I mentioned, but it had some shining moments. Moments where, if the whole film had been like that, I think we’d have seen a very different opinion from critics. As it stands, it was average at best, and poor at worst. Again, not abysmal (as some are making it out to be) but just mediocre almost through and through. It was a decidedly “kids movie” that didn’t capture the magic and “Everyone-ness” of the original Wizard of Oz. Yet, again, kids movies often of questionable quality still usually manage halfway decent numbers in theaters. So that’s rather confusing.

      Also I want to mention that the Grandma/daughter pair in the theater were there because their other family was going to see Godzilla, and the girl was too young for that film. I talked to them briefly after the credits to gleam some insight into why they bothered to see the film, if they liked it, etc. The only reason they were there, it turns out, was because it played at the same time as Godzilla and was the only kid-option on the list. So take that for what you may.

      • Aaron R.R.R. Nance

        I appreciate the thoughtful response. You’ve confirmed several of my suspicions and I agree that the marketing for this film was likely a huge factor in its poor performance.

    • Gumby Dammit

      It was not as bad as I expected, which I thought was mediocre/middle-of-the-yellow-brick-road (pun intended) with few good moments such as the opening credits with the names written on objects in the tornado, and the fireflies, which turned out to be the Jester’s trap. The animation was bland, which the Candy Land wasn’t as visually appealing as “Wreck-It Ralph” and the songs were forgettable.

  • Lucy Six Morris

    the LEGO movie only cost $60million, but stormed the box office. because it looked fantastic and was genuinely funny and original. every year we see big budget movies bomb regardless of studio or distributor. each one is a risk. big studios can spread that risk with multiple productions. these people have put all their eggs into one basket and its fallen hard.

  • ikas

    1. Cannot say this is a scam bcz the movie did finally get made released.
    2. Some say they have seen ads often and some they haven’t at all. But such low box office numbers for an animated film is a causs of concern.
    3. Does it even remotely suggest decline in interest for animated films from the audience ?

  • perplexed

    Was just looking for some insight as to why, of the three theaters located within 20 miles of me, only one is showing this film. And only two showtimes at that–seems to me that could affect box-office results…

  • Washheightsboy3

    Investing in a single film is a HUGE gamble. The fact that this one failed is just the way it goes. If you want to invest in movies, you need to spread the risk over a portfolio.

  • filmmaker

    I will chime in very briefly. I make films. First screenplay was bought and distributed by a large established company. Just directed my first feature film. Now raising money for a slate of films. Here is the thing…there is no absolute formula for determining how much money a film can be made for, but all movies can be profitable if made for the right price. As a filmmaker raising funds, please do not totally run if approached by a reputable filmmaker, as independent filmmakers we must rely on people outside of the Hollywood system. But take a close look at the numbers. Ask to see the budget and if more than 5-10% of the budget is set aside for producers, red flag. If there are no marketing dollars, red flag. If they are raising more than 2 million dollars for a first film in a franchise or a drama, red flag. If success depends on a theatrical run, red flag. These guys were sitting on a potentially successful and profitable product…but instead of populating it many famous names, pick one or two as their face will never be seen. DO NOT pay more than 10% of a finder’s fee collectively (5% is industry standard). Release it on Video On Demand and keep the budget under 10 million (animated films do cost a little more) with a large back-end split. There is money to be made in film, and you never hear about the ones making the steady return (i.e. Steven Segal, Stone Cold Steve Austin movies, etc). So in the end, your best bet to get involved is with a genre movie (thriller, horror, action), small budget (less than a million), with a filmmaker who understands casting and has ways to make that small budgets go a long way!