MCN Columnists
Leonard Klady

By Leonard Klady

Silent Hill… Holy Moly

Silent Hill scared up an estimated $20.3 million to rank as the top attraction at the weekend box office. The frames other debuting fare rated good returns of $14.4 million for the thriller The Sentineland a less than euphoric $3.8 million for the satiric American Dreamz. Overall business dipped modestly from the prior weekend but against a double-digit upturn from 2005 business.

Screen Gems continued its enviable record for acquiring horror programmers and selling them to the public with Silent Hill. The image of a teenage school girl with an erased mouth provided sufficient intrigue to draw in the core young adult market and the numbers once again underlined why studios like the sort of genre fare that used to be the staple of independent distribution companies.

Last week’s leader Scary Movie 4 fell into second spot with $16.7 million and attested to the fact that there’s big made to be made from sending up the genre that has provided a big part of the movie industry’s fast food diet.

The Sentinel provided nourishment for devotees of the paranoia thriller with a plot about political chicanery and assassination. According to Friday exit polling that crowd was comprised of an audience more than 70% above the age of 30 while Silent Hill was luring a younger sect that preferred more visceral thrills.

Weekend business approached roughly $108 million that translated into an 11% erosion from seven days earlier. It was nonetheless a 16% improvement from last year when another political thriller -The Interpreter – was the higher scorer with a $22.8 million opening.

The parallels between American Dreamz and The Sentinel provided little benefit for the former film. Both yarns are driven by political assassination but whereas the Michael Douglas vehicle plays it straight, Dreamz weighs heavily on irony and humor and Americanz, based on theater tickets, have yet to appreciate the funny side of terrorism. It’s also fair to say that the comedy has a better defined political sensibility.

Holdover titles were largely experiencing fast commercial burns with the exception of family films and especially animated movies. Though its opening weekend was a disappointment, The Wild ebbed just 18% in its second exposure. But commercial fare is currently a very thin field headed for the exit as the May onslaught of commercial behemoths looms.

The Sundance-preemed Friends with Money capitalized on the momentart marketplace lull and expanded to about 1,000 theaters and fair returns of $3 million. However, it’s unlikely to equal the commercial record of Thank You for Smoking that is currently at $15.6 million and a $20 million theatrical finale.

Activity in the niches was generally tepid with Mexican import La Mujer de Mi Hermano folding in half from it opener and the expansion of The Notorious Bettie Page expanding to no better than modest results. Debuting titles that included the Australian drama Somersault and the American indie Standing Still failed to spark significant interest. In Canada, NFL playoffs prompted an English-Canadian launch for the biopic of legendary Habs iceman Maurice Richard. Its $200,000 box office was a good result but pales in comparison to the $5 million it grossed in Quebec late in 2005.

– by Leonard Klady

Weekend Estimates – April 21-23, 2006

Title Distributor Gross (avera % change Theaters Cume
Silent Hill Sony 20.3 (6,930) 2926 20.3
Scary Movie 4 Weinstein Co. 16.7 (4,550) -58% 3674 67.4
The Sentinel Fox 14.4 (5,100) 2819 14.4
Ice Age: The Meltdown Fox 12.7 (3,590) -37% 3540 167.8
The Wild BV 7.9 (2,780) -18% 2854 21.9
The Benchwarmers Sony 7.3 (2,350) -27% 3094 47.1
Take the Lead New Line 4.2 (1,730) -39% 2413 29.6
American Dreamz Uni 3.8 (2,520) 1500 3.8
Inside Man Uni 3.7 (1,830) -42% 2021 81.3
Friends with Money Sony Classics 3.0 (2,990) 300% 991 4.7
Thank You for Smoking Fox Searchlight 2.6 (2,570) -42% 1020 15.6
Lucky Number Slevin MGM 2.3 (1,340) -51% 1735 18.5
Failure to Launch Par 1.5 (1,140) -44% 1295 85.7
V for Vendetta WB .97 (1,020) -56% 855 67.9
Phat Girlz Fox Serachlight .52 (1,170) -61% 444 6.4
La Mujer de Mi Hermano Lions Gate .51 (2,350) -50% 217 1.8
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $101.90
% Change (Last Year) 16%
% Change (Last Week) -11%
Also debuting/expanding
The Notorious Bettie Page Picturehouse .19 (3,620) 31% 52 0.39
Sommersault Magnolia 21,500 (4,300) 5 0.02
Standing Still Innovation 16,200 (1,080) 15 0.02
Stolen Intl Film Circuit 6,900 (6,900) 1 0.01
Our Italian Husband Echo Bridge 3,400 (850) 4 0.01

Top Domestic Releases: January 1 – April 20, 2006

Ice Age: The Meltdown Fox 155,063,727
Failure to Launch Par 84,193,661
The Pink Panther Sony 82,331,172
The Chronicles of Narnia BV 82,211,477
Eight Below BV 80,282,969
Inside Man Uni 77,564,555
Brokeback Mountain Focus 70,602,075
Big Momma’s House 2 Fox 69,813,761
V for Vendetta WB 66,952,829
Medea’s Family Reunion Lions Gate 63,142,537
Underworld: Evolution Sony 62,615,442
King Kong Uni 59,422,439
Curious George Uni 58,083,035
Fun with Dick and Jane Sony 57,288,236
The Shaggy Dog BV 56,977,022
Final Destination 3 NLC 54,135,664
Hoodwinked Weinstein Co. 51,140,846
Scary Movie 4 Weinstein Co. 50,663,239
Firewall WB 48,421,467
When a Stranger Calls Sony 48,376,198

Domestic Market Share: January 1 – April 20, 2006

Fox (10) 396.3 16.00%
Sony (13) 364.1 14.70%
Buena Vista (13) 333.6 13.40%
Universal (8) 294.8 11.90%
Warner Bros. (10) 232.6 9.40%
Paramount (6) 160.1 6.40%
Weinstein Co. (9) 151.7 6.10%
Lions Gate (8) 129.2 5.20%
New Line (6) 100.6 4.10%
Focus (7) 100.2 4.00%
Fox Searchlight (6) 80.2 3.20%
Sony Classics (11) 31.3 1.30%
DreamWorks (3) 24.7 1.00%
MGM (1) 16.2 0.60%
Other * (102) 66 2.70%
* none greater than 0.5% 2481.6 100.00%
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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