MCN Columnists
Leonard Klady

By Leonard Klady

Hug Your Huskies…

There was no chill in weekend movie going as the Arctic adventure Eight Below led the frame with an estimated $25.2 million. Close behind was the teen spoof Date Movie with $22.3 million and the remarkably resilient The Pink Panther at $21.5 million. The session’s other national debut Freedomland posted an unimpressive $6.9 million to rank seventh. Among the new niche entries, the Russian blockbuster Night Watch posted a dizzying $36,100 average from three venues.

Business during the four-day President Day holiday was marginally ahead of box office from last year and for the comparable three-day period from the prior weekend.

In the Olympic tradition, the two new entries proved to be fierce competitors with Date Movie the early leader with an opening day gross of $6.9 million to Eight Below’s $5.2 million bow. However, in subsequent days the sub-zero survival tale’s family appeal boosted matinee business and proceeded to overtake the bawdy parody. Both films emerged as winners, particularly the spoof that was produced for less than $20 million.

Among sophomore titles, the family friendly Panther and Curious George benefited from holiday business with respective drops of 14% and 21%. Final Destination 3 and Firewall had more typical erosions of 48% and 35%.

Weekend revenues clocked in at slightly better than $155 million to exceed last year’s holiday by about 6%. The three-day portion bettered last weekend’s business by 4%. The slight box office boosts are encouraging but adjusted for small bumps in ticket prices translate into status quo as far as admissions are concerned. Nonetheless it should provide sufficient juice to put a happy face on next month’s exhibition convention ShoWest.

Easily the most controversial entry in the marketplace, Freedomland received mixed marks from critics that translated into disappointing returns. The combination of child endangerment and racial tension added up to roughly $6.9 million and averages of not quite $3,000.

On the Oscar beat, Brokeback Mountain, Capote, Munich and Goodnight, and Good Luck all held fast against the competition. There was also good news for pictures with nominations in secondary categories such as TransAmerica and Match Point. Still, in most instances the performing bars had been set at modest levels and the slate’s overall performance is dwarfed by the robust entries of recent weeks.

The religious-themed The Second Chance received a limited opening and just fair returns of $270,000 from 87 pulpits. One imagines the picture was acquired on the wings of last year’s Gospel but previews resulted in an adjustment to prior expectations.

Russia’s sci-fi horror opus Night Watch finally arrived on these shores with a three screen showcase that grossed about $110,000. Fox Searchlight acquired worldwide rights for the film shortly after its record-breaking performance at home and made a deal for its sequel and a third part that will be shot in English. The original has grossed about $15.5 million outside Russia and the sequel has topped the original at home with a $33 million tally since its debut in December.

The session also saw good initial business for other foreign imports including Germany’s Oscar-nominated Sophie Scholl that rang up $22,100 from a single Manhattan screen. Mexico’s Cannes entry Battle in Heaven grossed $25,700 from two screens. Other debuts included Winter Passing with $36,500 from seven locations and the Quebec comedy Que Dieu benisse l’Amerique with modest results of $49,300 from 16 venues.

The redoubtable Neil Young crooned about $220,000 from 30 stages for his Heart of Gold in its second weekend.

– by Leonard Klady

Weekend Estimates – February 17-20, 2006

Title Distributor Gross (average) % change Theaters Cume
Eight Below BV 25.2 (8,230) 0 3066 25.2
Date Movie Fox 22.3 (7,710) 0 2896 22.3
The Pink Panther Sony 21.5 (6,180) -14% 3477 47.2
Curious George Uni 15.3 (5,950) -21% 2572 33.5
Final Destination 3 New Line 11.9 (4,140) -48% 2880 37.6
Firewall WB 10.3 (3,620) -35% 2840 28.6
Freedomland Sony 6.9 (2,940) 0 2361 6.9
When a Stranger Calls Sony 5.9 (2,250) -44% 2629 42.2
Big Momma’s House 2 Fox 5.5 (2,710) -38% 2039 62.4
Nanny McPhee Uni 5.0 (2,520) -23% 2001 39.2
Brokeback Mountain Focus 3.9 (2,460) -21% 1600 72.2
Walk the Line Fox 1.8 (2,080) -21% 883 116.4
The Chronicles of Narnia BV 1.7 (1,760) -36% 955 287.1
Underworld: Evolution Sony 1.7 (1,770) -44% 972 60.3
Hoodwinked Weinstein Co. 1.6 (1,300) -49% 1265 49.5
Match Point DreamWorks 1.5 (3,090) -7% 495 20.4
Something New Focus 1.5 (2,300) -46% 639 10.7
Capote Sony Classics 1.3 (2,530) -16% 522 22
Mrs. Henderson Presents Weinstein Co. 1.1 (2,640) 36% 431 5.8
Munich Uni .83 (2,180) 0% 380 45.4
Good Night, and Good Luck WIP .81 (2,570) -17% 315 29.4
The Matador Weinstein Co. .75 (1,700) -46% 441 11.7
TransAmerica Weinstein Co. .71 (4,490) -20% 158 3.8
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire WB .66 (1,490) 119% 441 287.9
Annapolis BV .61 (1,280) -63% 478 16.5
Glory Road BV .53 (1,000) -62% 532 41.6
* percentage change is 3-day to 3-day
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) 0 $150.10 0% 0 0
% Change (Last Year) 0 4% 0 0 0
% Change (Last Week) 0 6% 0 0 0
Also debuting/expanding 0 0 0 0 0
World’s Fastest Indian Magnolia .33 (2,540) -14% 130 1.3
Second Chance Sony .27 (3,080) 0 87 0.27
Heart of Gold Par Classics .22 (7,250) 215% 30 0.29
Night Watch Fox Searchlight .11 (36,170) 0 3 0.11
Que Dieu benisse l’Amerique Christal 49,300 (3,080) 0 16 0.05
Winter Passing Yari/Innovation 36,500 (5,210) 0 7 0.04
Battle in Heaven Tartan 25,700 (12,850) 0 2 0.03
Sophie Scholl Zeitgeist 22,100 (22,100) 0 1 0.02

Domestic Market Share: January 1 – February 9, 2006

Distributor (releases) Gross Percentage
Sony (8) 210.9 19.40%
Buena Vista (9) 154.6 14.20%
Universal (6) 152.1 14.00%
Fox (7) 147.8 13.60%
Weinstein Co. (6) 71.8 6.60%
Focus (4) 69.9 6.40%
Warner Bros. (6) 67.9 6.20%
Lions Gate (3) 48.1 4.40%
Paramount (4) 42.2 3.90%
New Line (4) 38.8 3.50%
DreamWorks (3) 20.1 1.80%
Fox Searchlight (2) 18.2 1.70%
Sony Classics (7) 13.1 1.20%
Rocky Mountain (1) 10.9 1.00%
Warner Independent (3) 6.2 0.60%
Other * (42) 16.1 1.50%
* none greater than 0.4% 1088.7 100.00%
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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