MCN Columnists
Leonard Klady

By Leonard Klady

Beat of the Tom-Tom

I’ve got good news and I’ve got bad news. The good news is that Mission: Impossible III debuted with an estimated $46.8 million to lead the domestic box office and added an additional $70 million from 57 international territories. The bad news amounts to the same thing. Additionally, there was an impressive $5.4 million bow for the chiller An American Haunting, a disappointing $3.3 million launch of the family friendly Hoot, several solid niche debuts including Art School Confidential andThe Proposition and improved domestic ticket sales.

Weekend movie going emerged as a true mixed bag. While it’s difficult to quibble with any film that opens to more than $40 million, the prior Mission: Impossible outing had a first weekend gross of $58 million with an additional $21 million generated from Wednesday and Thursday box office. Clearly, with generally positive reviews and full-bore promotion the expectation was that the new outing would exceed the second film’s performance. International box office was better and mot simply as a result of its much wider release.

The recurring mantra was that Tom Cruise’s recent public antics had alienated a significant part of his fan base. While the observation may have some credence, exit polling wasn’t particularly helpful in identifying the perceived problem. The film generated an A- rating according to Cinemascore and Paramount exit polling indicated an opening day audience composed 56% of men and 64% overall by people 25 years and older. Those statistics were a virtual carbon copy of opening weekends for the two prior editions.

The more troubling conclusion could well be the much-discussed cultural shift in the way we see movies. The 20% theatrical decline may find itself shifting into ancillary revenue arenas and if that’s the case what can be expected for upcoming summer releases and future production plans by the majors.

Internationally, Mission: Impossible III launched in virtually every major territory with the exception of Japan. Its best outing was Korea with an estimated $10.6 million and in the United Kingdom where it grossed about $10.1 million. Most territories experienced double-digit improvements from chapter two but records primarily came from developing markets such as Russia, the Middle East and in Asia. Among its top-grossing venues were France with $6.1 million, Taiwan grossing $3.1 million, Mexico at $3 million and Australia with $2.9 million.

Although box office improved by 25% from 2005, part of the boost could be attributed to the disappointing $19.6 million debut of last year’s Kingdom of Heaven. There was also little evidence that Mission’s appearance had any palpable effect on expanding the marketplace with most holdover titles experiencing 50% to 60% box office declines. Weekend results were particularly chilling forUnited 93 that dropped 57%. Industry wisdom and history has been that upscale films experience smaller buffeting from blockbusters as they play to a different audience, but the 9/11 chronicle reflected a pattern of first weekend zeal that’s associated with genre movies. Conversely, RV had a better than anticipated hold of $11.1 million and ranked second overall. It appears to be filling the needs of family film viewing.

The frame’s other national freshmen targeted horror and family fans to varying effect. An American Haunting, based on the historic Blair Witch incident, ranked fourth with good response that should pave the way for very good ancillary exploitation. However, Hoot registered barely a peep and will be lighting a candle for brisk DVD sales in its future.

There were a clutch of new titles and several small expansions that were largely unaffected by mainstream competition. China’s Oscar submission The Promise (aka Master of the Crimson Armor) had indifferent returns of $250,000 from 213 locations. The film hit a stumbling block earlier when the Weinstein Company backed out of handling the movie and it bounced around before finding a home at Warner Independent. The most potent new entries were the black comic Art School Confidential that grossed $131,000 from 12 screens and the violent Australian western The Proposition with close to $30,000 from three corrals.

There was also a passable grade for Down in the Valley of $20,300 from three theaters but One Last Things … was moribund with a $9,000 gross from 21 playdates. Both The Lost City and Water added screens and maintained promising averages that bode well for continuing expansion throughout the summer.

– by Leonard Klady

Weekend Estimates – May 5-7, 2006

Title Distributor Gross (averag % change Theaters Cume
Mission: Impossible III Par 46.8 (11,530) 4054 46.8
RV Sony 11.1 (3,030) -33% 3651 31
Stick It BV 5.6 (2,470) -48% 2044 18
An American Haunting Freestyle 5.4 (3,220) 1667 5.4
United 93 Uni 5.0 (2,740) -57% 1819 19.9
Ice Age: The Meltdown Fox 3.9 (1,600) -46% 2426 183.2
Silent Hill Sony/Alliance 3.9 (1,510) -59% 2556 40.8
Scary Movie 4 Weinstein Co. 3.4 (1,350) -56% 2537 83.4
Akeelah and the Bee Lions Gate 3.4 (1,560) -43% 2195 10.7
Hoot New Line 3.3 (1,100) 3018 3.3
The Sentinel Fox 2.9 (1,250) -62% 2343 30.8
The Wild BV 2.6 (1,350) -46% 1930 32
The Benchwarmers Sony 2.0 (1,110) -54% 1835 55.6
Friends with Money Sony Classics 1.0 (1,300) -51% 785 9.8
Thank You for Smoking Fox Searchlight .97 (1,730) -45% 561 18.95
Inside Man Uni .85 (1,130) -59% 750 86
Take the Lead New Line .58 (910) -69% 640 33.7
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $97.73
% Change (Last Year) 25%
% Change (Last Week) 5%
Also debuting/expanding
The Promise WIP .25 (1,180) 213 0.25
The Lost City Magnolia .20 (5,510) 6% 37 0.45
Water Fox Searchlight .18 (5,080) 227% 36 2.1
Art School Confidential Sony Classics .13 (10,920) 12 0.13
The Proposition First Look 29,700 (9,900) 3 0.03
Down in the Valley Thinkfilm 20,300 (6,780) 3 0.02
One Last Thing … Magnolia 9,000 (430) 21 0.01
Crazy Like a Fox Delphi 4,300 (1,430) 3 0.01

Top Limited Releases: January 1 – May 4, 2006

Match Point DmWks 23,052,317
Mrs. Henderson Presents Weinstein Co. 10,567,726
Transamerica Weinstein Co. 8,665,807
Good Night, and Good Luck WIP 8,203,593
Deep Sea 3-D WB 7,566,094
The World’s Fastest Indian Magnolia 4,897,786
Magnificent Desolation Imax 4,882,884
Three Burials of Melquiades E Sony Classics 4,875,154
The Libertine Weinstein Co. 4,773,768
Cache (Hidden) Sony Class/Alliance 3,732,437
Roving Mars BV 3,070,725
Tsotsi Miramax 2,699,544
Wild Safari 3-D nWave 2,597,242
La Mujer de Mi Hermano Lions Gate 2,421,628
The Squid and the Whale IDP 2,324,489
Rang De Basanti UTV 2,197,694
Neil Young: Heart of Gold Par Classics 1,714,612
Maurice Richard Alliance 1,623,535
The White Countess Sony Classics 1,499,670
Night Watch Fox Searchlight 1,489,470
* none greater than 522 theaters/ does not include 2005 box office

Domestic Market Share: January 1 – May 4, 2006

Fox (11) 448.9 16.40%
Sony (15) 431.9 15.70%
Buena Vista (14) 363.3 13.20%
Universal (10) 324.5 11.80%
Warner Bros. (10) 237.4 8.60%
Weinstein Co. (9) 181.3 6.60%
Paramount (6) 163.4 6.00%
Lions Gate (9) 138.7 5.00%
New Line (6) 108.5 4.00%
Focus (7) 100.7 3.70%
Fox Searchlight (7) 87.5 3.20%
Sony Classics (11) 38.8 1.40%
DreamWorks (3) 24.7 0.90%
MGM (1) 21.2 0.80%
Other * (108) 74.8 2.70%
* none greater than 0.5% 2745.6 100.00%
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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

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~ David Simon