MCN Columnists
Leonard Klady

By Leonard Klady

Planes, T-r-a-i-n-s and RVsy

Better than anticipated debuts for RV and United 93 once again translated into improved box off ice results with the former comedic hijinx grossing an estimated $16.3 million to rank as the weekend’s top attraction. The frame also saw disappointing bows for the familycentric Stick It and Akeelah and the Bee and good response for limited openers The Lost City and Water.

Tracking had indicated that the Robin Williams family comedy RV would be the weekend’s top ticket but it was perceived initially as having primarily youth appeal. Its appeal to families proved to be even better than anticipated and the initial boost will be an asset as such juggernauts asMission: Impossible 3, Poseidon and The DaVinci Code enter the marketplace in May.

Far more scrutiny was accorded United 93 that was expected to rank third behind Stick It with pundits wondering whether it would gross $10 million in its bow. Initial estimates put the masterful recreation of events on 9/11 slightly ahead with an estimated $11.5 million to the inspirational family movie’s $11.3 million.

United 93 certainly benefited from press attention and a media tour that included real life family members of victims. Universal has designated that 10% of the opening weekend box office will go to the flight’s memorial and one can only hope that exhibitors will follow suit.

Weekend business should exceed roughly $102 million that translates into a boost of 14% from 2005. Ticket sales were down by approximately 6% from the immediate prior weekend.

With the exception of adult appeal fare, most holdover titles experienced erosions between 45% and 55% that once again underlined the brutal, quick burn tendency of modern movie going.

The generally well-reviewed Akeelah and the Bee ranked eighth overall in its premiere round with a $5.7 million. The saga of a African-American girl whose keen literacy takes her to the finals of the National Spelling Bee was strongest in black communities and is the type of audience pleaser that would have benefited from sneak previews to spread word-of-mouth prior to its bow.

Limited openers stepped up in an effort to get a toehold in theaters that will become increasingly difficult as the summer season swings into top gear. Andy Garcia’s long-cherished dream projectThe Lost City posted good initial response. The tale of Havana in the politically turbulent 1950s garnered roughly $163,000 from 18 locations.

There was also a positive result for Deepa Mehta’s Indian drama Water that grossed $57,500 in five initial outings. The film previously rang up about $2.1 million in Canada where it was co-produced.

The rest of the field lacked standouts including fest favorite Clean with $15,200 in two exposures, the Korean import Lady Vengeance grossing $11,100 from two playdates and Hungarian Oscar submission The Death of Mr. Lazarescu with a box office of $5,770 from a single outing.

– by Leonard Klady

Weekend Estimates – April 28-30, 2006

Title Distributor Gross (avera % change Theaters Cume
RV Sony 16.3 (4,490) 3639 16.3
United 93 Uni 11.5 (6,420) 1795 11.5
Stick It BV 11.3 (5,550) 2038 11.3
Silent Hill Sony/Alliance 9.1 (3,100) -55% 2932 34
Scary Movie 4 Weinstein Co. 7.7 (2,260) -54% 3418 78.1
The Sentinel Fox 7.6 (2,660) -47% 2851 24.5
Ice Age: The Meltdown Fox 7.0 (2,250) -47% 3122 177.7
Akeelah and the Bee Lions Gate 5.7 (3,540) 2195 5.7
The Wild BV 4.7 (1,800) -44% 2605 28.4
The Benchwarmers Sony 4.4 (1,620) -40% 2695 52.7
Friends with Money Sony Classics 2.1 (2,090) -34% 1010 8.1
Inside Man Uni 2.1 (1,610) -45% 1294 84.5
Take the Lead New Line 2.0 (1,160) -53% 1708 32.6
Thank You for Smoking Fox Searchlight 1.7 (2,360) -38% 734 18.3
American Dreamz Uni 1.6 (1,080) -56% 1500 6.2
Lucky Number Slevin MGM 1.1 (1,490) -56% 724 20.7
Failure to Launch Par .58 (870) -59% 664 86.6
V for Vendetta WB .52 (1,440) -50% 362 68.9
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $97.00
% Change (Last Year) 14%
% Change (Last Week) -6%
Also debuting/expanding
La Mujer de Mi Hermano Lions Gate .28 (1,850) -50% 152 2.4
The Lost City Magnolia .16 (9,060) 18 0.16
Water Fox Searchlight 57,500 (11,500) 5 2.9
Killer Diller Innovation 17,600 (550) 32 0.02
Three Times IFC 17,400 (4,350) 4 0.02
Clean Palm 15,200 (7,600) 2 0.02
Lady Vengeance Tartan 11,100 (5,550) 2 0.01
Guys and Balls Regent 7,300 (2,430) 3 0.01
Death of Mr. Lazarescu Tartan 5,770 (5,770) 1 0.01
Mistress of Spices Rainbow 5,500 (500) 11 0.01

Top Worldwide Releases: January 1 – April 27, 2006

Ice Age: The Meltdown Fox 514,823,178
The Chronicles of Narnia * BV 303,378,281
King Kong * Uni 168,074,505
Brokeback Mountain * Focus 164,043,404
The Pink Panther Sony 156,102,674
Inside Man Uni 150,592,419
Fun with Dick and Jane * Sony 144,428,248
Big Momma’s House 2 Fox 130,595,873
Memoirs of a Geisha * Sony/Spyglass 126,629,963
Munich * Uni 118,657,446
Failure to Launch Par 115,742,768
V for Vendetta WB 108,296,110
Scary Movie 4 Weinstein/BVI 108,088,882
Underworld: Evolution Sony/Lakeshore 108,059,884
Final Destination 3 NLC 104,583,432
Eight Below BV 98,643,462
Walk the Line * Fox 91,948,635
Nanny McPhee * Uni/Working Title 89,962,816
Chicken Little * BV 88,708,490
Les Bronzes Amis pour la vie TF1 Intl 85,427,884
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire * WB 81,124,703

Domestic Market Share: January 1 – April 27, 2006

Fox (11) 430.2 16.40%
Sony (14) 395.7 15.10%
Buena Vista (13) 344.5 13.20%
Universal (9) 304.6 11.60%
Warner Bros. (10) 235.6 9.00%
Weinstein Co. (9) 171.6 6.70%
Paramount (6) 162.4 6.20%
Lions Gate (8) 130.5 5.00%
New Line (6) 105.9 4.00%
Focus (7) 100.5 3.80%
Fox Searchlight (6) 84.7 3.20%
Sony Classics (11) 35.8 1.40%
DreamWorks (3) 24.7 0.90%
MGM (1) 19.6 0.80%
Other * (107) 71.2 2.70%
* none greater than 0.5% 2617.5 100.00%
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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