MCN Columnists
Leonard Klady

By Leonard Klady

Soar Winners…

Failure to Launch surprised pundits with an unexpectedly potent estimate of $24.7 million to emerge the weekend’s top viewed movie. Also stronger than anticipated was the horror remake ofThe Hills Have Eyes that ranked third overall with $15.6 million while the recycled The Shaggy Dog barked up a Disneypointing $16.1 million. Best of the limited openers was Ask the Dust in a session that again wasn’t quite up to 2004 levels.

Expectations for the romantic comedy teaming of Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew McConaughey in Failure to Launch were modest and some trackers expected its furry canine competitor to have a better opening gross. To no one’s great surprise the picture’s core audience was older and female; it’s just that the sector came out in greater numbers than usual. There are encouraging signs the film might catch on with a younger crowd and prove to have very good commercial stamina.

More inspiration than remake of the very popular bygone films starring Fred MacMurray, The Shaggy Dog was tailored to the physical low-brow humor of its star Tim Allen. The film proved more satisfying than earlier efforts at transformative comedy in 1976’s The Shaggy D.A. but unless it has legs, or paws aplenty, it’s a franchise that won’t be unleashed on the public for at least a generation.

Cult horror favorite The Hills Have Eyes that launched director Wes Craven’s career in 1977 looked like a much too arcane chiller for a redo. The new version went for the viscera and targeted an audience largely unfamiliar with its origins to great effect. It’s $15.6 million now ranks the biggest opener for the Fox Searchlight label.

Weekend revenues rang up about $107 million to record a modest 4% increase from last weekend’s Oscar frame. However, they still lagged behind the prior year’s performance by 8% when Robotsentered the marketplace with a $36 million gross. The slow, consistent erosion of box office and admissions that’s continued for three years is apt to be topic A when the nation’s exhibitors descend on Las Vegas tomorrow for its annual ShoWest convention.

The weekend also saw the flaccid national bow of Johnny Depp in the period costume drama The Libertine. Its $2.2 million gross suggest audiences prefer the actor’s costumes include an eye patch.

There was nothing of particular note or stamina among the crowd of holdover releases with virtually all titles experiencing drops of at least 40%. Last weekend’s Oscar contenders and winners failed to catch a second wind though most were already consigned back to an art house niche. Brokeback Mountain advanced past $80 million but hopes of reaching 9-figures have been dashed. Oscar kudos continued to be an asset for Capote but come up empty translated into a steep drop forTransamerica. And while Lionsgate opted not to put its contender Crash back into theaters during award season, it decided it deserved a token reissue following its best picture win that generated a modest $280,000 gross from 130 theaters. Foreign-language winner Tsotsi expanded to 30 venues for a good but not exceptional $7,700 plus location average.

Most potent among limited bows was writer-director Robert Towne’s long cherished desire to bring author John Fante’s novel Ask the Dust to the screen. Arriving without fanfare or promotional heft it still managed to generate a $10,000 plus average from its seven exposures. Rave reviews failed to launch the Mexican import Duck Season that grossed $23,200 in six venues and Sundance-preemed Game 6 was hoopless with $9,200 from four sites and Asia Argento’s The Heart is Deceitful proved marginally more encouraging with a $9,700 gross from two screens.

In Canada the Viking legend Beowulf & Grendel that was co-produced with England and Iceland bowed to an okay $110,000 from 32 playdates but the acclaimed French import Anthony Zimmerfailed to translate in Quebec where it tallied about $68,000 from 29 exposures.

– by Leonard Klady

Weekend Estimates – March 9-12, 2006

Title Distributor Gross (average) % change Theaters Cume
Failure to Launch Par 24.7 (8,070) 0 3057 24.7
The Shaggy Dog BV 16.1 (4,600) 0 3501 16.1
The Hills Have Eyes Fox Searchlight 15.6 (5,970) 0 2620 15.6
16 Blocks WB 7.3 (2,690) -39% 2706 22.7
Medea’s Family Reunion Lions Gate 5.6 (3,080) -56% 1812 55.5
Eight Below BV 5.3 (1,790) -47% 2970 66.3
The Pink Panther Sony 3.7 (1,600) -46% 2302 74.7
Aquamarine Fox 3.5 (1,390) -53% 2538 12
Ultraviolet Sony 3.5 (1,380) -61% 2558 14.7
Date Movie Fox 2.4 (1,340) -53% 1812 44.2
The Libertine Weinstein Co. 2.2 (2,670) 0 815 2.2
Curious George Uni 2.1 (1,070) -54% 1942 52.4
Dave Chappelle’s Block Party Focus 1.8 (1,510) -71% 1200 9.4
Firewall WB 1.7 (1,230) -52% 1410 45.3
Final Destination 3 New Line 1.4 (1,090) -56% 1253 51.9
Brokeback Mountain Focus 1.2 (1,330) -53% 877 81
Capote Sony Classics 1.1 (1,510) -33% 710 27.1
Deep Sea 3-D WB .63 (14,650) -9% 43 1.6
TransAmerica Weinstein Co. .57 (1,100) -61% 516 7.6
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films $100.40 0 0 0
% Change (Last Year) 0 -8% 0 0 0
% Change (Last Week) 0 4% 0 0 0
Also debuting/expanding
Crash Lions Gate .28 (2,180) 0 130 53.8
Tsotsi Miramax .23 (7,730) 257% 30 0.44
Beowulf & Grendel Equinoxe .11 (3,560) 0 32 0.11
Ask the Dust Par Classics 74,300 (10,610) 0 7 0.07
Anthony Zimmer Christal 68,200 (2,350) 0 29 0.07
Duck Season WIP 23,200 (3,870) 0% 6 0.02
The Heart is Deceitful … Films) Palm 9,700 (4,850) 0 2 0.01
Game 6 Kindred 9,200 (2,300) 0 4 0.01

Domestic Market Share: January 1 – March 2, 2006

Distributor (releases) Gross Percentage
Sony (11) 296.5 19.10%
Fox (9) 220.8 14.20%
Buena Vista (10) 216.3 13.90%
Universal (6) 198.5 12.80%
Warner Bros. (8) 112.5 7.20%
Lions Gate (4) 98.4 6.30%
Focus (5) 91.7 5.90%
Weinstein Co. (7) 91.1 5.90%
New Line (5) 71.1 4.60%
Paramount (4) 43.1 2.80%
DreamWorks (3) 23.8 1.50%
Sony Classics (7) 22.8 1.50%
Fox Searchlight (3) 19.7 1.30%
Rocky Mountain (1) 11.7 0.80%
Warner Independent (3) 9.1 0.60%
Other * (62) 25.4 1.60%
* none greater than 0.4% 1552.5 100.00%
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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