MCN Columnists
Leonard Klady

By Leonard Klady

Not With ABang…

As 2005 segued into 2006 The Chronicles of Narnia and King Kong once again battled for the weekend box office crown and respectively grossed an estimated $33.3 million and $31.5 million. Activity at the nation’s multiplexes was generally brisk, just not quite as brisk as it had been in 2004 when one places the comparable 3-day spans side by side. Initial figures for the calendar year show box office revenues taking a 6% hit and admissions declining into the low double digits. The industry expectations for Kong fell short while Narnia and Fun with Dick and Jane have performed in excess of prognostications. However, the balance ultimately swung toward the negative.

The brunt of major releases held steady or experienced modest boosts from the Christmas weekend. Family pictures did just a bit better and Brokeback Mountain appears to be the major beneficiary of awards buzz this season.

The traditional log jamb of 11th hour “for your consideration” titles did not occur. Woody Allen’s highly lauded Match Point bowed on eight screens last Wednesday and drew a fast $210,000; adding another $530,000 for the filmmaker’s most impressive initial returns in more than the decade. The only other film wading into the fray was the offbeat comic thriller The Matador with a close to $90,000 gross from four venues. The second weekend of Terence Malick’s The New World at three locations had a 34% upturn and though it’s not official, its national bow next month will see the version currently in theaters trimmed by about 20 minutes.

Going right to the wire, Universal hit domestic revenues of $1 billion on December 31 to rank third in overall market share. Industry insiders were buzzing late last week on the news that Sony plans to include an additional $80 million in box office gross based on its acquisition date of MGM though that company’s distribution department continued to function through the release of Jiminy Glick.

Market share remains a sort of dining out award as opposed to providing an effective measure of profitability. However, determining what ought to be included or disregarded in a studio’s annual gross is problematic. Though specialized divisions have a fair degree of autonomy in such areas as production and acquisition, it’s often the case that marketing and distribution duties will fall to the mother entity. Warner Bros. for instance did most of the bookings for Warner Independent of March of the Penguins when it expanded nationally and Fox has handled the distribution of Searchlight’sThe Ringer. Conversely, Universal handed over distribution chores to Focus on Pride and Prejudice and similar free flow occurs with regularity at the majors and their adjuncts based on either entities ability to manage distribution and marketing chores.

Regardless of ranking, there’s not a single player that emerged unblemished in 2004. Every single one had a conspicuous failure as well as a mix of potent performers that often exceeded bean counter projections. One didn’t have to wait seven years to witness a segue from lean to fat; the peaks and troughs were visible during the calendar and most conspicuously evident at Disney. Sony and Paramount. But in all instances one could draw a sigh of relief in the knowledge that libraries and ancillaries continued to bolster the bottom line.

… and to all a happy new year.

– by Leonard Klady

Weekend Estimates – December 30, 2005 – January 2, 2006

Title Distributor Gross (average % chang Theaters Cume
The Chronicles of Narnia BV 33.3 (8,640) 5% 3853 225.3
King Kong Uni 31.5 (8,690) -5% 3627 174.3
Fun with Dick and Jane Sony 21.4 (7,010) -1% 3056 65
Cheaper by the Dozen Fox 19.3 (6,020) 26% 3211 55.2
Rumor Has It WB 11.7 (4,170) 56% 2815 26.9
The Family Stone Fox 10.3 (4,170) 3% 2464 46.3
Memoirs of a Geisha Sony 10.1 (6,540) 0% 1547 30.6
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire WB 7.9 (3,400) 23% 2316 277.3
The Ringer Fox 7.8 (4,220) 2% 1853 21.4
Munich Uni 6.2 (11,580) 2% 532 15.7
Syriana WB 5.4 (3,120) 12% 1725 39
The Producers Uni 5.3 (5,390) 59% 978 11.9
Brokeback Mountain Focus 5.1 (18,880) 72% 269 15.3
Wolf Creek Weinstein Co 4.8 (2,740) -2% 1761 13.2
Walk the Line Fox 3.5 (3,000) 41% 1160 92.6
Yours, Mine and Ours Par 1.5 (1,250) 16% 1174 51
Pride and Prejudice Focus 1.3 (3,270) 15% 407 34.1
Chicken Little BV 1.1 (1,410) 67% 803 132.3
The Polar Express Imax (reissue) WB .92 (13,940) -33% 66 172.8
Casanova BV .55 (1,490) 138% 37 1.04
Match Point DreamWorks .53 (65,980) 8 0.74
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $189.50
% Change (Last Year) -13%
% Change (Last Week) 9%
*Percentages are 3-day to 3-Day
Also Debuting/Expanding
Cache Sony Classic .1 (19,750) 22% 5 0.23
The Matador Weinstein Co 89,400 (22,350) 4 0.09
The New World New Line 77,300 (25,770) 34% 3 0.18

Top Worldwide Grosses – To December 29, 2005

Title Distributor Gross
Star Wars: Epi III – Revenge of the Sith Fox 846,418,340
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire WB 788,776,312
War of the Worlds Par/UIP 595,837,019
Madagascar DmWks 527,956,804
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory WB 472,878,902
Mr. & Mrs. Smith Fox/Regency 460,864,910
Meet the Fockers * Uni 372,804,625
Batman Begins WB 371,251,827
Hitch Sony 367,964,803
The Chronicles of Narnia BV 362,114,739
King Kong Uni 339,918,018
Fantastic Four Fox 327,461,443
Wedding Crashers New Line 284,725,663
Robots Fox 259,591,326
Constantine WB 229,853,022
Million Dollar Baby * WB/Lakeshore 216,048,335
Chicken Little BV 211,835,624
Kingdom of Heaven Fox/Pathe 211,046,553
The Pacifier BV 198,267,140
Flightplan BV 192,642,246
* does not include 2004 box office

Domestic Market Share – To December 29, 2005

Distributor (releases) Gross Percentage
Warner Bros. (32) 1486.1 16.90%
Fox (21) 1336.6 15.20%
Universal (24) 982.6 11.20%
Buena Vista (23) 903.4 10.30%
Sony (27) 903.2 10.30%
Paramount (16) 831.3 9.50%
DreamWorks (10) 503.5 5.70%
New Line (17) 425.1 4.80%
Miramax (22) 360.6 4.10%
Lions Gate (19) 284.8 3.30%
MGM (8) 182.6 2.10%
Focus (11) 157.3 1.80%
Fox Searchlight (10) 98.4 1.10%
Sony Classics (27) 62.9 0.70%
Other * (244) 266.4 3.00%
* none greater than .05% 8784.8 100.00%
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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