MCN Columnists
Leonard Klady

By Leonard Klady

V R The World…

V for Vendetta arrived with close to commercial vengeance with a domestic gross estimated at $24.7 million and an additional $8.5 million from openings in 16 international territories. The frame also featured okay results of $10.9 million for the gender-bending comedy She’s the Man and a disappointing return of $520,000 for the crime saga Find Me Guilty. Additionally, the limited 5-screen launch of Thank You for Smoking had eye- popping screen averages of more than $50,000.

Heavily promoted to emphasize its artistic connection to The Matrix, tracking suggested a buoyant domestic opening between $25 million and $30 million for V for Vendetta that proved accurate. The adaptation of the graphic comic book had a troublesome production history and received mixed critical response but that didn’t appear to deter its core audience. The engagement included 56 large format engagements that accounted for about $1.5 million of the gross with averages of three and a half times those of regular playdates.

“The picture had even better exit polls than the first Matrix,” noted producer Joel Silver. “We were also surprised to see that the audience was on average pretty much split between those older and younger than 25 years old. Those are both good signs that it will continue to play well.”

The British-set Vendetta grossed slightly more than $2 million in England to rank second in that territory and $1.3 million in South Korea. It had $1 million plus entries in Italy and Germany and ranked first in such territories as Taiwan, Sweden and the Philippines.

Counter-programming worked sufficiently well for She’s the Man, the first DreamWorks’ title to be released since the company was acquired by Paramount. It ranked fourth overall and coupled with a very good hold for the studio’s Failure to Launch dominated female viewing across all ages.

The remake of The Shaggy Dog displayed exceptional stamina following its somewhat disappointing opening, so movie goers across all ages and genders were well repped in the session’s top commercial releases.

Nonetheless revenues still flagged behind last weekend and last year’s levels. Box office slipped 5% from the prior frame and was 11% off the 2005 level when the premiere of The Ring Two bowed to $35 million.

Despite generally positive reviews and an uncluttered field for films with older appeal, Find Me Guilty sputtered at the starting gate. The Vin Diesel vehicle generated screen averages just shy of $1,200 that bode ill for future prospects.

Activity in the niches continued on the soft side with the notable exception of Thank You for Smoking that opened on five screens in Los Angeles, New York and D.C. The politically incorrect comedy arrived on the heels of festival plaudits and hit a major commercial funny bone of more than $250,000.

Foreign-language Oscar winner Tsotsi was another bright spot, expanding to 57 venues and a gross of $311,000 and the family friendly Church Ball played well to the choir with a $188,000 gross at 41 Utah locations.

Returns for other specialized freshman ranged from fair to poor including the Steve Harvey concert outing Don’t Trip … He Ain’t Through with Me Yet that grossed about $180,000 from 60 sites; comparable on a reduced level to recent ticket sales for the Dave Chappelle movie. Wim Wenders’ Don’t Come Knocking – a quasi-sequel to Paris, Texas – grossed a tepid $30,000 in six exposures and Italian Oscar nominee Don’t Tell eked out $13,500 from five venues.

– by Leonard Klady

Weekend Estimates – March 16-19, 2006

Title Distributor Gross (average) % change Theaters Cume
V for Vendetta WB 24.7 (7,350) 0 3365 24.7
Failure to Launch Par 15.6 (5,000) -36% 3117 48.3
The Shaggy Dog BV 13.5 (3,860) -17% 3501 35.8
She’s the Man Par 10.9 (4,150) 0 2623 10.9
The Hills Have Eyes Fox Searchlight 7.5 (2,850) -52% 2621 28.2
16 Blocks WB 4.6 (1,740) -38% 2666 30.1
Eight Below BV 4.2 (1,600) -25% 2603 73.1
Medea’s Family Reunion Lions Gate 3.0 (2,110) -49% 1403 60.1
The Pink Panther Sony 2.5 (1,370) -30% 1852 78.6
Aquamarine Fox 2.0 (1,080) -48% 1869 15.7
Curious George Uni 1.7 (1,200) -27% 1390 55.4
Ultraviolet Sony 1.3 (760) -64% 1746 17.5
Date Movie Fox 1.3 (1,070) -49% 1196 46.4
Firewall WB 1.0 (1,150) -45% 850 47
The Libertine Weinstein Co. .82 (1,000) -63% 819 3.8
Dave Chappelle’s Block Party Focus .63 (650) -69% 971 11.1
Brokeback Mountain Focus .61 (870) -49% 698 82.1
Deep Sea 3-D WB .57 (12,950) -20% 44 2.6
Final Destination 3 New Line .55 (940) -57% 583 52.8
Find Me Guilty Innovation .52 (1,180) 0 439 0.52
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) 0 $97.50 0 0 0
% Change (Last Year) 0 -11% 0 0 0
% Change (Last Week) 0 -5% 0 0 0
Also debuting/expanding
Tsotsi Miramax .31 (5,470) 20% 57 0.87
Thank You for Smoking Fox Searchlight .25 (50,400) 0 5 0.25
Ask the Dust Par Classics .19 (2,440) 272% 77 0.28
Church Ball HaleStone .19 (4,580) 0 41 0.19
Don’t Trip … Innovation .18 (2,970) 0 60 0.18
Don’t Come Knocking Sony Classics 29,700 (4,950) 0 6 0.03
The Zodiac Thinkfilm 17,300 (1,730) 0 10 0.02
Don’t Tell Lions Gate 13,500 (2,690) 0 5 0.01

Domestic Market Share: January 1 – March 16, 2006

Distributor (releases) Gross Percentage
Sony (11) 307.9 18.10%
Buena Vista (11) 247.4 14.50%
Fox (9) 230.7 13.50%
Universal (6) 203.4 11.90%
Warner Bros. (8) 126.8 7.40%
Lions Gate (5) 105.9 6.20%
Focus (5) 96.4 5.70%
Weinstein Co. (8) 96.3 5.70%
Paramont (5) 75.9 4.40%
New Line (5) 73.2 4.30%
Fox Searchlight (4) 40.8 2.40%
Sony Classics (7) 25.3 1.50%
DreamWorks (3) 24.1 1.40%
Rocky Mountain (1) 11.8 0.70%
Warner Independent (3) 9.4 0.60%
Other * (71) 28.4 1.70%
* none greater than 0.4% 1703.7 100.00%
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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