MCN Columnists
Leonard Klady

By Leonard Klady

The Pinkwell…

It’s an odyssey with a decided happy ending. The Pink Panther squeaked ahead of the competition with an estimated $21.4 million to emerge as the weekend’s top grossing movie. Three other films also made national debuts and took the next three positions. The horror sequel Final Destination 3grossed $19.9 million while the animated Curious George arrived with $15.4 million and theHarrison Ford thriller Firewall followed with $13.7 million.

Instigated during a period when the studio previously known as MGM was raiding its own library,The Pink Panther went through a series of producers, directors and actors before arriving at its current incarnation. It was then handed off to Sony where it underwent re-shoots and was reinvented as a family friendly offering and its arrival in theaters was set and delayed on at least three occasions. So, while the character and the movie retained a high awareness, it was also perceived as a looming catastrophe. Reviewers in general responded with pleasant surprise, and if the Steve Martin vehicle clicks with overseas audience, a franchise will definitely be reborn.

Also on the franchise front, the third installment of Final Destination was the anticipated front runner entering the weekend and won the day on Friday. However, its box office improved by 7% on Saturday while the Panther’s stock expanded about 55%. The first destination bowed just shy of $10 million and its follow up climbed to $16 million. Still the second outing grossed less than the original and the industry will be watching closely to see if “3” has an even faster burn out.

Another project that took years to reach the screen was Curious George, a favorite of children and a daunting proposition for producers. It also was well received and faired well against the crimson feline. The frame certainly ranked as the most competitive since the holiday period and the individual grosses of the four freshmen were all better than respectable with some of the titles getting bruised but not crushed in the process. Perhaps realizing the worst case scenario, the traditionally press shy Ford blitzed the talk show circuit in a fashion that likely spared Firewall from sinking to a gross of less than $10 million.

Weekend revenues shot up about 18% to roughly $125 million from seven days earlier and had a modest 4% increase on the comparable period of 2005. With the industry now inured to the slow, steady erosion of its theatrical audience, any glimmer is received as a four-alarm blaze.

The wave of new product generally translated into 50% and greater declines for continuing titles in the marketplace. Brokeback Mountain was comparatively resilient with its box office off by one-third but other Oscar contenders aren’t demonstrating comparable stamina and that’s been particularly distressing for theater owners accustomed to the commercial benefits of past award’s fever.

The session’s niche bows were largely uninspired with the exception of the Neil Young concert filmHeart of Gold. Response has been rapturous for the music and film craft and that translated into its four exclusive runs posting better than $14,000 per venue. It expands to seven more centers next weekend and will continue a steady expansion.

Among the other commercially tepid new offerings the sport documentary Through the Firegrossed $14,200 through eight hoops and the indie actioner London tallied $12,800 from seven theaters. The 1948 classic The Fallen Idol received an appropriately reverential $9,700 from a single Manhattan screen.

– by Leonard Klady

Weekend Estimates – February 10-12, 2006

Title Distributor Gross (average) % change Theaters Cume
The Pink Panther Sony 21.4 (6,150) o 3477 21.4
Final Destination 3 New Line 19.9 (6,900) o 2880 19.9
Curious George Uni 15.4 (5,990) o 2566 15.4
Firewall WB 13.7 (4,820) o 2840 13.7
When a Stranger Calls Sony 9.9 (3,290) -54% 3004 34.7
Big Momma’s House 2 Fox 6.8 (2,480) -50% 2733 54.8
Nanny McPhee Uni 5.1 (2,360) -48% 2148 33.1
Brokeback Mountain Focus 4.1 (2,070) -32% 1963 66.5
Underworld: Evolution Sony 2.5 (1,350) -53% 1835 57.2
Hoodwinked Weinstein Co. 2.3 (1,120) -56% 2085 47.2
Something New Focus 2.2 (1,740) -55% 1265 8.2
The Chronicles of Narnia BV 2.1 (1,600) -32% 1302 284.8
Walk the Line Fox 2.0 (1,630) -38% 1248 113.7
Capote Sony Classics 1.4 (1,300) -40% 1055 20.2
Match Point DreamWorks 1.3 (2,600) -28% 512 18.4
Annapolis BV 1.3 (1,020) -63% 1250 15.2
The Matador Weinstein Co. 1.2 (1,630) -49% 712 10.5
Glory Road BV 1.1 (840) -60% 1351 40.7
Good Night, and Good Luck WIP .83 (1,210) -45% 685 28.2
Munich Uni .78 (1,430) -53% 546 44.3
Last Holiday Par .74 (780) -72% 949 37.7
Mrs. Henderson Presents Weinstein Co. .73 (2,820) -30% 259 4.4
The New World New Line .64 (970) -55% 660 11.3
King Kong Uni .54 (1,220) -55% 441 215.7
End of the Spear Rocky Mtn .53 (1,300) -55% 407 10.7
Fun with Dick and Jane Sony .51 (950) 67% 536 109.2
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) o $119.00 o o o
% Change (Last Year) o 4% o o o
% Change (Last Week) o 18% o o o
Also debuting/expanding
TransAmerica Weinstein Co. .43 (3,430 -20% 126 2.8
The World’s Fastest Indian Magnolia .21 (2,260) -47% 93 0.77
Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada Sony Classics .17 (3,890) -17% 44 0.48
Heart of Gold Par Classics 56,500 (14,120) o 4 0.06
Through the Fire Cinema Libre 14,200 (1,780) o 8 0.01
London IDP 12,800 (1,820) o 7 0.01
The Fallen Idol (reissue) Rialto 9,700 (9,700) o 1 0.01
Cowboy del Amor Emerging 5,400 (2,700) o 2 0.01

Domestic Market Share: January 1 – February 9, 2006

Distributor (releases) Gross Percentage
Sony (7) 168.7 18.20%
Buena Vista (9) 142.2 15.30%
Fox (7) 140.8 15.20%
Universal (5) 125.9 13.60%
Weinstein Co. (6) 65.4 7.00%
Focus (4) 60.7 6.50%
Warner Bros. (5) 48.6 5.20%
Lions Gate (3) 47.9 5.20%
Paramount (4) 41.1 4.20%
DreamWorks (3) 18.2 2.00%
Fox Searchlight (2) 17.9 1.90%
New Line (3) 12.1 1.30%
Sony Classics (7) 10.5 1.10%
Rocky Mountain (1) 10.2 1.10%
Other * (39) 19.1 2.10%
* none greater than 0.5% 929.3 100.00%
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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