MCN Columnists
Leonard Klady

By Leonard Klady

Who’s That Knocking…

The remake of When a Stranger Calls definitely rang the bell for audiences with an estimated $22.2 million. The frame’s only other national bow was the inter-racial romance Something Newthat aroused little passion with a $4.9 million gross to rank seventh in the lineup. Otherwise the weekend was marked by expansions of movies that figured prominently in last week’s Oscar announcements.

Distributors buckled down for movie going erosion as the Super Bowl weekend arrived. Weekend business was arcing toward roughly $108 million or a 16% decline from the prior weekend. However, it also represented a 6% boost from 2005.

For those with long memories, the original When a Stranger Calls with Carol Kane and Charles Durning opened in 1979 and scared up great business and a totally forgettable sequel. Contemporary audiences know it primarily from small screen rotation and the decision to green light a new interpretation marks another shrewd move for the profitable grindhouse fare representative of Screen Gems.

Despite generally positive reviews Something New failed to draw black or white and appears destined for red (ink). Audiences have historically been cool to inter-racial tales with exceptions such as The Bodyguard emphasizing other elements of their stories. The new offering wasn’t helped by the absence of stars or its cool, levelheaded approach to the issue.

The Academy Award best picture slate pumped new energy into most of the nominees. Though favorite Brokeback Mountain took a small hit, the film remains on track to gross more than $100 million if it takes top honors next month. Munich staved off commercial extinction with its major award nominations and both Capote and Good Night, and Good Luck were afforded the opportunity for major national exposure in theaters though none of the latter trio generated potent screen averages. Lions Gate is mounting a more aggressive than anticipated campaign for Crashwith full page ads noting its DVD availability. Industry pundits are surprised the company hasn’t four-walled courtesy theatrical engagements in Los Angeles and New York and scuttlebutt is that financier Bob Yari is on the hook for ads but not new bookings. Ironically, if the film proves to be a spoiler, Yari isn’t one of the designated accepting producers per a guild ruling.

Other films riding Oscar mania include Walk the Line, TransAmerica and Mrs. Henderson Presents.

The session also featured the first significant exposure of the Oscar M.I.A. Three Burials of Meliquades Estrada (following an Oscar qualifying run) that showed good initial response with about $250,000 from 35 engagements. Still it’s difficult to gauge whether its strength tilts toward the art house or appeal to Hispanic crowds.

Other debuting fare in the niches generated modest to poor returns. The oft-delayed A Good Woman surfaced at 35 theaters with an indifferent $100,000 and the latest from Utah-based HaleStone – Suits on the Loose – demonstrated little expansion potential with $33,500 from 26 sites. Slightly more potent was the indie production Tamara with $32,600 from 14 venues.

– by Leonard Klady

Weekend Estimates – February 3-5, 2006

Title Distributor Gross (average) % change Theaters Cume
When a Stranger Calls Sony 22.2 (7,400) 2999 22.2
Big Momma’s House 2 Fox 13.1 (4,030) -53% 3261 45.2
Nanny McPhee Uni 9.9 (4,610) -32% 2145 26.6
Brokeback Mountain Focus 6.3 (3,030) -3% 2089 60.4
Hoodwinked Weinstein Co. 5.2 (1,800) -30% 2907 44
Underworld: Evolution Sony 5.1 (1,770) -55% 2870 52.7
Something New Focus 4.9 (1,680) 2907 4.9
Annapolis BV 3.5 (2,170) -55% 1607 12.9
Walk the Line Fox 3.4 (2,140) 11% 1577 110.7
Glory Road BV 3.0 (1,420) -43% 2141 39
The Chronicles of Narnia BV 2.9 (1,710) -35% 1716 281.8
Last Holiday Par 2.6 (1,340) -46% 1920 36.3
The Matador Weinstein Co. 2.3 (2,570) -36% 905 8.6
Capote Sony Classics 2.2 (1,810) 219% 1225 17.9
Match Point DreamWorks 2.0 (3,870) -28% 509 16.6
Munich Uni 1.9 (1,650) 13% 1140 43.16
Good Night, and Good Luck WIP 1.7 (1,800) 823% 929 26.9
Fun with Dick and Jane Sony 1.6 (1,190) -54% 1361 108.7
The New World New Line 1.4 (1,780) -42% 803 10.2
King Kong Uni 1.3 (1,470) -46% 869 215
End of the Spear Rocky Mountain 1.2 (1,520) -51% 817 9.9
Mrs. Henderson Presents Weinstein Co. 1.0 (3,880) 234% 260 3.2
Memoirs of a Geisha Sony .87 (1,140) -44% 765 55.3
Syriana WB .71 (1,010) -47% 705 48.3
Hostel Lions Gate .59 (1,050) -67% 564 47
TransAmerica Weinstein Co. .53 (5,250) 12% 101 1.68
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $117.00
% Change (Last Year) 6%
% Change (Last Week) -16%
Also debuting/expanding
Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada Sony Classics .25 (7,090) 35 0.29
Roving Mars BV .24 (8,960) -41% 27 0.76
Imagine Me and You Fox Searchlight .12 (2,180) 135% 56 0.19
A Good Woman UTV .10 (2,950) 35 0.1
Suits on the Loose HaleStone 33,500 (1,290) 26 0.03
Tamara Intl Film Exchange 32,600 (2,330) 14 0.03
Who Gets to Call It Art Palm 7,800 (3,900) 2 0.01

Domestic Market Share: January 1 – February 2, 2006

Distributor (releases) Gross Percentage
Sony (6) 133.4 16.70%
Buena Vista (9) 128.3 16.10%
Fox (7) 120.6 15.10%
Universal (5) 110.7 13.90%
Weinstein Co. (6) 54.1 6.80%
Warner Bros. (5) 47.1 5.90%
Lions Gate (2) 46.9 5.90%
Focus (3) 46.1 5.80%
Paramount (4) 37.3 4.60%
Fox Searchlight (2) 17.5 2.60%
DreamWorks (3) 15.7 2.20%
New Line (3) 10.1 1.30%
Rocky Mountain (1) 8.6 1.10%
Sony Classics (6) 6.5 0.80%
Other * (37) 14.7 1.80%
* none greater than 0.4% 639.8 100.00%
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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