MCN Columnists
Leonard Klady

By Leonard Klady

Hot & Cold… and Hot

Despite a sharp 50% decline, Ice Age: The Meltdown remained the top draw in the marketplace with an estimated $34.2 million. Still there was unexpected heat from debuting fare including a potent second place finish for The Benchwarmers and a strong limited launch for Friends with Money. Overall it translated into a significant viewing increase from 2005.

New entries were prominent among viewing choices while last week’s entries experienced precipitous drops. The Benchwarmers more than quenched the audience’s taste for Lowbrow comedy with sales that had to make cable guy Larry envious. It debuted to approximately $20.1 million and a theater average of more than $6,000.

The heat was less intense for the dance marathon Take the Lead That ranked third with $12.4 million. The twisty ensemble thriller Lucky Number Slevin marked the umpteenth reincarnation of MGM and rendered just fair returns of $6.8 million. It appears that all the new offerings will experience rapid burns with even Ice Age 2 and The Inside Man taking sizeable weekly erosion that might be mistaken for stamina marked on the curve.

Weekend sales approached $115 million and couldn’t compete with last weekend’s animated Ice Age arrival. Grosses fell 19% but also had a considerable 34% boost from 2005 when the debut ofSahara let the frame with $18.1 million.

Ice Age: The Meltdown has provided an early taste for what’s anticipated as a May box office bonanza. The film propelled Fox to the top of the market share chart and became the first $100 million grosser in its ninth day in theaters. However, it also underscores a fickle movie going climate in which the likes of ATL, Slither and Basic Instinct 2 barely register during their opening frame and then barely register.

A similar fate appears to be imminent for Phat Girlz that bowed to $2.9 million from 1,056 playdates.

Niche activity was enlivened by a socko bow for Friends with Money. It’s hard to identify why the ensemble tale of Californians with rich people problems generated better than a $20,000 average from its initial exposure at 28 locations. But it nonetheless tapped into the zeitgeist. Easier to comprehend is how well Thank You for Smoking has sustained its slow roll out with box office up 41% with an average of about $7,500 from 300 clinics. Smoking is a clear alternative and an outrageous delight for upscale crowds.

There was also an upbeat expansion for the teen comic thriller Brick but it’s still much too soon to gauge its ultimate appeal. Debuting limited releases were otherwise unimpressive with the Passover comedy When Do We Eat? generating about $130,000 from 48 seders and the tender adult romance On a Clear Day posting $18,600 at five venues. Festival favorite I Am a Sex Addict finally got some theatrical exposure as a result of a new initiative from IFC but immediately fell foul of Landmark’s decision to pull a San Francisco engagement because its day-and-date strategy with pay-cable and DVD windows hit too close to home. Its two reporting theaters should finish the frame with slightly better than $11,000.

– by Leonard Klady

Weekend Estimates – April 7-9, 2006

Title Distributor Gross (avera % change Theaters Cume
Ice Age: The Meltdown Fox 34.2 (8,610) -50% 3969 116.1
The Benchwarmers Sony 20.1 (6,130) 3274 20.1
Take the Lead New Line 12.4 (4,120) 3009 12.4
Inside Man Uni 9.3 (3,240) -40% 2867 66.2
Lucky Number Slevin MGM 6.8 (3,410) 1984 6.8
Failure to Launch Par 4.0 (1,540) -38% 2616 79
ATL WB 3.7 (2,330) -68% 1602 17.3
V for Vendetta WB 3.3 (1,660) -47% 2003 62.2
Phat Girlz Searchlight 2.9 (2,720) 1056 2.9
Thank You for Smoking Searchlight 2.3 (7,570) 41% 300 6.2
Stay Alive BV 2.2 (1,180) -52% 1845 20.5
She’s the Man Par 2.1 (1,050) -52% 2026 29.8
Slither Uni/TVA 1.5 (760) -55% 1946 6.4
Larry the Cable Guy: Health I Lions Gate 1.4 (950) -56% 1452 13.6
The Shaggy Dog BV 1.1 (660) -65% 1701 55.6
Basic Instinct 2 Sony 1.0 (690) -68% 1453 5.2
The Hills Have Eyes Searchlight .63 (910) -67% 693 40.3
Friends with Money Sony Classic .57 (20,460) 28 0.57
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films)- $109.50
% Change (Last Year) 34%
% Change (Last Week) -19%
Also debuting/expanding
Brick Focus .19 (9,140) 128% 21 0.31
When Do We Eat? Thinkfilm .13 (2,730) 48 0.13
Kalamazoo Reel 28,700 (5,730) 5 0.03
On a Clear Day Focus 18,600 (3,720) 5 0.02
I Am a Sex Addict IFC 11,100 (5,550) 2 0.01

Top Limited Releases: January 1 – April 6, 2006

Match Point DmWks 22,950,527
Mrs. Henderson Presents Weinstein Co 10,304,821
Transamerica Weinstein Co 8,504,425
Good Night, and Good Luck WIP 8,203,593
Deep Sea 3-D WB 4,786,059
The Libertine Weinstein Co 4,725,992
Three Burials of Melquiade Sony Classic 4,598,069
The World’s Fastest Indian Magnolia 4,196,529
Thank You for Smoking Fox Searchli 3,883,977
Magnificent Desolation Imax 3,621,301
Cache (Hidden) Sony Class/ 3,525,586
Roving Mars BV 2,569,612
The Squid and the Whale IDP 2,324,489
Rang De Basanti UTV 2,197,694
Wild Safari 3-D nWave 2,001,938
Tsotsi Miramax 1,749,899
Night Watch Fox Searchli 1,458,707
The White Countess Sony Classic 1,455,056
Neil Young: Heart of Gold Par Classics 1,447,792
Why We Fight Sony Classic 1,248,700
* none greater than 522 theaters

Domestic Market Share: January 1 – April 6, 2006

Distributor (releases) Gross Percentage
Fox (10) 321.8 14.90%
Sony (12) 321.6 14.90%
Buena Vista (12) 311.4 14.40%
Universal (8) 270.7 12.50%
Warner Bros. (10) 215.4 9.90%
Paramount (6) 146.2 6.80%
Lions Gate (6) 124.8 5.80%
Weinstein Co. (8) 100.6 4.60%
Focus (6) 99.3 4.60%
New Line (5) 75.1 3.50%
Fox Searchlight (5) 63.8 2.90%
Sony Classics (9) 28.4 1.30%
DreamWorks (3) 24.6 1.10%
Rocky Mountain (1) 11.9 0.60%
Other * (88) 48.4 2.20%
* none greater than 0.5% 2164 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