My Love-Hate Conflict with Hollywood

Confession time.

I have been dragging my feet about this blog entry, because I’ve had mixed feelings since our second visit to Clearwater Marine Aquarium and visiting our old pal, Winter the Dolphin. The reason is that I was really looking forward to seeing how all of the awareness generated by the Hollywood film, “Dolphin Tale,” had helped the aquarium. But when we got there … sadly … I didn’t see much of a change in the facility.

As a result, I am wrestling with love-hate feelings for the people behind the film.

Here’s why:

“Dolphin Tale,” which was released in the fall of 2011, had this wonderful ending. A rich guy decided to save the aquarium. He bought it and threw his money behind it. Everybody cheered! Harry Connick Jr. crooned in his Frank Sinatra style, and Ashley Judd waved her big floppy hat at the pelican, and the two kids in the film hugged, and the dolphin leaped out of the water, and we in the theater clapped our hands!

Woo hoo! We were so gleeful and couldn’t wait to get down to Florida to see how this rich guy had helped everybody! What a great guy!

Except when we showed up, we found out that when you say, “based on a true story,” it doesn’t mean the whole thing is true.

There was no rich guy.

The aquarium was busting at the seams with extra people, who, like us, had traveled to see this wonderful dolphin. But the facility badly needed more than a facelift.

At the time, I blogged about it, and we posted a photo of the fundraising effort, and I hoped that the aquarium would get the help it needed.

Fast forward two years.

Now we come back, and wow, yippy skippy, it looked on the surface like things had changed. When we first pulled up, there was a sign for ticket sales at a “new” kiosk, surrounded by new chairs and tables … and it looked like a new snack bar, too. But then when we got closer …. what we were seeing were just props for the sequel film that’s coming out this fall. The old picnic tables were still under the same white tent, as were the ticket sales people. There were a few changes  … but at best, they were cosmetic.

I did a little digging, and guess what … the first film had worldwide box office profits of $96 million.

Now subtract the $37 million production budget, and we have …. what’s left over?

$59 million dollars.

Now add DVD sales … as of July 7, 2012, they’d reached $23 million.

Well, that’s a grand total of $82 million.

Huh.

I’m not a Hollywood reporter but the obvious question here is … if you’re going to make a film about a sick dolphin and the struggling operation that is supporting her and other sick animals, wouldn’t it be nice if you’d share some of the profits with that organization?

People are trying to help. There are corporate sponsors, and kids are even getting in on the act, trying to raise money for a new home for Winter. And in November, local voters approved the aquarium’s request to tear down Clearwater’s City Hall, build a new facility and lease that space for 60 years at $250,000 per year.

I have to give the folks at the aquarium credit. They have made the best of the situation. The film did increase public awareness about the environment and sea creatures, and I think that’s wonderful. But the screen writers (and producers) did a huge disservice to this facility BY TELLING EVERYBODY IN THE THEATER THAT A RICH GUY HAD BAILED IT OUT!

What the ????!!! (This blog is Rated G, so you can fill in the blanks in front of those question marks and exclamation points.)

Maybe I missed a story in which the film people gave the aquarium a big donation, and if I did, please let me know, and I’ll update the blog. But I haven’t seen any reports in that regard.

The aquarium is still raising funds. Want to help? You can see the plans and donate here: http://www.seewinter.com/get-involved/support-the-mission/future-plans

Meanwhile, “Dolphin Tale 2” will be out this fall.

Wouldn’t it be nice if some of the windfall from this second film could make its way down to a certain dolphin’s home on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico?

CMA1

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