MCN Columnists
Leonard Klady

By Leonard Klady

A Shock to the System…

Underworld: Evolution sent a chill through the domestic marketplace with a potent debut estimated at $27.1 million. The vampire yarn far out-distanced all competition including no better than fair launches of the family values End of the Spear and the national bow of The New World.Nonetheless, it was a sufficient lead to send grosses soaring above 2005 levels and bear out the old industry saw about it being a “product driven” marketplace.

Sony’s Screen Gems division has been a consistent profit center mining horror fare that’s includedAnaconda and The Exorcism of Emily Rose. The sequel to 2003’s Underworld arrived about 25% stronger than its inspiration and once again underlined the on-going commercial appeal of the horror genre and its profitability when it hits an audience nerve. The sheer shock value has sustained such venerable titles as Halloween, Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street well beyond the norm.

The frame was largely dominated by holdover fare with new entries carving up a very small niche. The independently produced and distributed End of the Spear grossed roughly $4.4 million from 1,163 locations for a result that might be encouraging for the nascent Rocky Mountain Pictures to make further inspirational tales.

Weekend box office clocked in with close to $122 million to register a slight 4% decline from the 3-day portion of last weekend’s holiday span. However, its 25% boost from one year ago when the opening of Are We There Yet? Led with $18.6 million put a great big smile across all industry sectors.

Following into Oscar qualifying run in December, The New World stepped out in an abbreviated version that grossed $3.9 million and theater averages just shy of $5,000. The historical saga will have to tough out another weekend before the Jan. 31 announcement of Oscar nominees.

In a year in which there’s a paucity of certainties and front runners only by process of elimination, niche pictures including Brokeback Mountain and Capote are reaping the benefit. Brokeback added about 500 playdates and moved up to fifth position and a gross of more than $41 million. As with last year’s Million Dollar Baby, the cowboy yarn is on track to gross $100 million should it wind up with the Academy’s top prize.

Capote added more than 200 screens and saw it’s gross better than double with its box office potential in sync with such past indie contenders as Monster’s Ball and better than Monster. The two films and Walk the Line (that also saw revenues increase and pass $100 million) appear to be likely best picture nominees with the rest of the short list culled from such prospects as Munich, Syriana, Good Night, and Good Luck and possibly King Kong. The shorter Oscar schedule will nonetheless benefit the first two films that have yet to open overseas and Good Night expand from it’s current exposure in seven overseas territories.

In limited and regional exposure, Albert Brooks’ droll Looking for Comedy in the Arab Worldelicited no better than a commercial chuckle with $440,000 from 161 venues. In Canada, the controversial portrait of serial killer Karla generated a tepid $260,000 from 89 locations and the documentary The Real Dirt on Farmer John sullied almost $14,000 from three theaters.

The liveliest alternative title proved to be another non-fiction entry Why We Fight. It received primarily positive reviews though some critics griped that the subject demanded a longer film. It grossed about $60,000 at six sites.

– by Leonard Klady

Weekend Estimates – January 21-23, 2006

Title Distributor Gross (average % change Theaters Cume
Underworld: Evolution Sony 27.1 (8,460) 3207 27.1
Hoodwinked Weinstein Co 16.7 (6,960) 2394 16.6
Glory Road BV 16.4 (7,400) 2222 16.4
Last Holiday Par 14.9 (5,940) 2514 14.9
The Chronicles of Narnia BV 13.1 (4,050) -35% 3224 264.3
Hostel Lions Gate 11.7 (5,010) -40% 2337 36.9
Fun with Dick and Jane Sony 10.4 (3,220) -27% 3239 94.3
King Kong Uni 9.2 (3,280) -40% 2814 204.7
Tristan & Isolde Fox 7.9 (4,260) 1845 7.9
Brokeback Mountain Focus 7.1 (10,380) 3% 683 32.1
Cheaper by the Dozen Fox 6.8 (2,450) -40% 2773 74.7
Munich Uni 6.1 (4,080) -33% 1498 34
Memoirs of a Geisha Sony 5.4 (3,250) -30% 1654 47.6
The Ringer Fox 3.3 (2,360) -35% 1388 32
Rumor Has It WB 3.2 (1,650) -53% 1955 40.1
Casanova BV 2.8 (2,780) -38% 1011 9.1
The Family Stone Fox 2.8 (1,920) -50% 1441 57.3
Match Point DreamWorks 2.5 (7.950) -25% 312 6.9
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire WB 2.4 (2,360) -39% 1003 284.6
Walk the Line Fox 2.2 (2,530) -14% 864 98.4
The Producers Uni 1.6 (2,000) -43% 785 17.5
Grandma’s Boys Fox 1.5 (730) -60% 2016 5.6
Syriana WB 1.4 (2,010) -45% 706 44.2
Pride and Prejudice Focus .67 (1,790) -34% 375 26.2
The Matador Weinstein Co .53 (9,460) 91% 56 1
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $150.50

% Change (Last Year) *
% Change (Last Week) -10%
Also Debuting/Expanding

Echo Bridge 15,500 (2,210) 7 0.02
When the Sea Rises New Yorker 10,400 (5,200) 2 0.01
Henri Cartier-Bresson Palm 8,100 (8,100) 1 0.01

Domestic Market Share: January 1 – 19, 2006

Distributor (releases) Gross Percentage
Buena Vista (7) 85.9 17.70%
Universal (4) 78.4 16.10%
Sony (5) 68.3 14.00%
Fox (5) 68.2 14.00%
Warner Bros. (5) 40.4 8.30%
Lions Gate (2) 38.7 8.00%
Weinstein Co. (6) 25.9 5.30%
Focus (3) 25.1 5.20%
Paramount (4) 20.2 4.20%
Fox Searchlight (1) 15 3.10%
DreamWorks (3) 8 1.60%
Sony Classics (5) 2.8 0.60%
Other * (23) 9.4 1.90%
* none greater than 0.4% 486.3 100.00%
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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon