MCN Columnists
Leonard Klady

By Leonard Klady

Hostel Takeover…

The new year had the smell of blood as Hostel entered the marketplace with an estimated $19.4 million and the Narniates headed for the safety of the closet. The new calendar was less gracious to the frame’s other freshmen entries Grandma’s Boys and BloodRayne but relatively strong holdovers allowed for a modest improvement from one year earlier. And coming off a year that experienced a significant downturn in attendance, any glimmer of light is most appreciated.

The down and dirty Hostel went for the chills and iced the type of impressive first weekend numbers that more than suggest a second offering will be served. Produced for less than $5 million, it’s an instant profit generator even if the bills still have to be processed.

In a somewhat similar vein, the video game inspired BloodRayne was unleashed to a considerably less buoyant $1.1 million. It’s the maiden release of Romar Entertainment and only time will tell whether the start up will find a niche to exploit successfully in the highly competitive marketplace.

As Hostel assumed instant hit status, the sentimental comedy-drama Grandma’s Boys goes into the record books as 2006’s first commercial casualty. It grossed roughly $2.8 million from 2,015 venues with the sort of marketing campaign that implied little confidence in its prospects.

The first week of the year should generate revenues of about $127 million for a 6% boost for last year’s first round at the multiplex.

The frame also saw the national expansion of Munich that resulted in a sixth place ranking with $7.5 million. The film isn’t quite catching on and will have to tough it out for Oscar announcements. However, if it fails to get one of the coveted spots in best picture, there’s scant hope for the picture to find a second wind. The film that’s definitely getting an assist from award’s fever is Brokeback Mountain and it continues to mosey into a few more theaters each week with its major push poised to coincide with the aforementioned announcements. Academy Award prospects also look good to improve expansion and ticket sales for both Capote and Match Point.

The Year That Was

In the course of compiling the 2005 market share I was reminded of something that I had forgotten. There were no great surprises though perhaps a small blip that box office declined by 5.4% rather than 6% or 7% had the year end releases continued to underperform.

What caught my eye was the percentage increase from 2003 to 2004. Until I stared at the 0.5% increase the memory of such a marginal improvement had been wiped from my consciousness. The next thought that entered was the conspicuous spinning about the absence of The Passion of the Christ and Fahrenheit 9/11 in the 2005 lineup (though March of the Penguins came close to filling the latter movie’s record). The implication is that the two 2004 releases swelled revenues whereas the truth is that box office barely budged.

It also served to jog my immediate memory of a newspaper article about the imminent close of Rhino records and the decimation of independent record stores in the past decade. While the parallels between music and film are not in lock step just as the impact of piracy in each arena cannot be extrapolated, it does give one sufficient concern to pause and ponder. One of the recurring elements that arose at a conference I attended in London about the box office was how little the people that make and distribute movies know their audience. By implication it emerged as the primary reason fewer people are going to the multiplex. The industry is cushioned by ancillary revenues while the big losers in the equation have been theater operators that are unlikely to see economic largesse from the majors and over time it has to translate into another round of theater closings – especially those not operated by major chains.

– by Leonard Klady

Weekend Estimates – January 7-9, 2006

Title Distributor Gross (averag % change Theaters Cume
Hostel Lions Gate 19.4 (8,830) 2195 19.4
The Chronicles of Narnia BV 15.5 (4,420) -40% 3514 247.7
King Kong Uni 12.6 (3,610) -49% 3482 192.6
Fun with Dick and Jane Sony 12.2 (3,820) -26% 3182 81.3
Cheaper by the Dozen Fox 8.3 (2,680) -43% 3108 66.4
Munich Uni 7.5 (5,030) 57% 1485 25.2
Memoirs of a Geisha Sony 5.8 (3,670) -25% 1589 39.6
Rumor Has It WB 5.7 (2,070) -39% 2766 35.2
Brokeback Mountain Focus 4.8 (11,660) 32% 410 21.5
The Family Stone Fox 4.6 (2,230) -43% 2085 53.2
The Ringer Fox 4.4 (2,590) -29% 1688 27.9
Casanova BV 3.9 (3,910) 868% 1004 5.1
Grandma’s Boys Fox 2.8 (1,400) 2015 2.8
Match Point DreamWorks 2.7 (8,810) 571% 304 3.6
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire WB 2.6 (1,490) -54% 1555 281.3
The Producers Uni 2.3 (2,420) -43% 937 15.1
Syriana WB 2.1 (1,770) -48% 1202 42.1
Walk the Line Fox 2.1 (2,020) -22% 1028 95.3
Wolf Creek Weinstein Co 1.2 (790) -69% 1761 15.4
BloodRayne Romar 1.2 (1,180) 987 1.1
Pride and Prejudice Focus .8 (2,580) -22% 312 35.3
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $122.40
% Change (Last Year) * 6%
% Change (Last Week) -16%
Also Debuting/Expanding
The Matador Weinstein Co .22 (7,790) 216% 28 0.33
Fateless Thinkfilm 15,300 (15,300) 1 0.02

Top Worldwide Grosses – January 1 – December 31, 2005

Distributor (releases) Gross Percentage % Chang Rank 04
Warner Bros. (25) 1385.8 15.60% 13% 2
Fox (21) 1353.9 15.20% 46% 5
Universal (24) 1004.2 11.30% 12% 6
Buena Vista (23) 921.8 10.40% -21% 3
Sony (27) 918.9 10.30% -31% 1
Paramount (16) 832.3 9.40% 32% 7
DreamWorks (10) 503.9 5.70% -46% 4
New Line (17) 424.7 4.80% 4% 8
Miramax (22) 360.6 4.00% -7% 9
Lions Gate (19) 284.8 3.20% 2% 10
MGM (8) 182.6 2.00% -8% 11
Focus (11) 160.2 1.80% 28% 13
WIP (7) 114.6 1.30% N/A
Fox Searchlight (10) 102.1 1.20% -41% 12
Sony Classics (27) 63.3 0.70% 68% 14
Other * (254) 281 3.10% 15%
* none greater than .05% 8894.7 100.00% 5.40%

Domestic Grosses – January 1 – December 31, 2005

Title Distributor Gross
Star Wars: Epi III – Revenge of the S Fox 380,270,577
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire WB 273,281,180
War of the Worlds Par 234,292,593
The Chronicles of Narnia BV 209,440,087
Wedding Crashers NLC 209,255,921
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory WB 206,459,076
Batman Begins WB 205,362,156
Madagascar DmWks 193,595,521
Mr. & Mrs. Smith Fox 186,336,279
Hitch Sony 179,495,555
King Kong Uni 158,709,835
The Longest Yard Par 158,119,460
Fantastic Four Fox 154,696,080
Meet the Fockers * Uni 146,401,395
Chicken Little BV 131,744,998
Robots Fox 128,200,012
The Pacifier BV 113,086,868
The 40 Year-old Virgin Uni 109,516,849
Million Dollar Baby * WB 99,649,950
Walk the Line Fox 90,851,004
* does not include 2004 box office
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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