MCN Columnists
Leonard Klady

By Leonard Klady

Box Office Comes in for the Code

The Da Vinci Code rang up an estimated $77.2 million to lead domestic film viewing for the weekend and added close to $150 million in its international debut. The current weekend also had a strong opening of $37.3 million for the animated Over the Hedge and the combined juggernaut pretty much had a vacuum cleaner effect on everything else in the marketplace with DVC dominating adult patrons and OTH proving to be a powerful magnet for kids and families.Domestic weekend revenues spiked to more than $160 million for a 63% boost from seven days earlier. However, business experienced a 2% decline from 2005 when the final installment of Star Wars bowed to $108 million.

There was unquestionable elation at Sony as a result of the opening Da Vinci Code domestic box office and especially for foreign returns. According to a source at the studio, the highest internal estimate for the controversial picture’s first weekend was $190 million worldwide and it now appears business will exceed that number by at least 18 percent.

“We were pretty confident of a “6” in our gross and realized between the controversy and the picture’s primarily adult appeal it would be tough to expect much more,” said Sony domestic distribution president Rory Brewer. “So, this result has us over the moon.”

The one potentially unsettling element on the domestic front was a 6% decline in ticket sales from Friday to Saturday. Adult appeal films historically experience Saturday boosts because it’s an audience that isn’t prone to want to see a film on opening day. However, with the enormous popularity of the novel Da Vinci could well prove to be an anomaly. For starters, the 25 plus crowd is traditionally more likely to read reviews and the picture had at best a lukewarm response from the nation’s major critics.

The box office records set internationally were considerable but its $147 million tally easily made Da Vinci the biggest overseas debut ever (Its worldwide gross was second only to Star Wars – Episode III). The film clearly had appeal to all denominations with box office in Italy and Spain setting new box office standards and its Chinese debut proving to be the biggest for a non-local movie.

Estimates in top markets included: United Kingdom – $15.7 million; Germany – $12.3 million; France – $11.6 million; Italy – $11.5 million; Japan – $11.3 million; Spain – $11.1 million; Australia – $6.4 million; Mexico – $6.2 million; China – $5 million; and Russia – $3.7 million.

With all the noise made by The Da Vinci Code, it was easy to overlook the exceptional launch ofOver the Hedge. The animated yarn wasn’t expected to do more than $30 million and many within the industry questioned the rationale of opening against a film that was receiving almost unparalleled media scrutiny. The Hedge decision to have as much distance between next month’s Cars from Pixar and serve as an alternative for audiences wound up being quite sage.

The combined Da Vinci/Hedge pin deflated the rest of the marketplace. Films experiencing less than 50% erosion proved to be comparatively robust.

The niche arena largely decided to give a wide berth to the picture that came in with the Code. New entries that included Lemming, Twelve and Holding and The King bowed with exclusive or near-exclusive engagements that were good but not outstanding.

– by Leonard Klady

Weekend Estimates – May 19-21, 2006

Title Distributor Gross (avera % chang Theater Cume
The Da Vinci Code Sony 77.2 (20,680) 3735 77.2
Over the Hedge Par 37.3 (9,190) 4059 37.3
Mission: Impossible III Par 11.1 (3,210) -56% 3450 103.3
Poseidon WB 9.3 (2,620) -58% 3555 36.9
RV Sony 5.1 (1,730) -49% 2925 50.4
See No Evil Lions Gate 4.4 (3,520) 1257 4.4
Just My Luck Fox 3.3 (1,320) -41% 2543 10.4
An American Haunting Freestyle 1.5 (1,190) -58% 1265 13.5
United 93 Uni 1.4 (1,060) -60% 1308 28.3
Akeelah and the Bee Lions Gate 1.0 (1,300) -59% 751 15.7
Stick It BV .91 (830) -71% 1100 23.8
Ice Age: The Meltdown Fox .88 (760) -72% 1156 189.2
Goal! BV .62 (615) -68% 1007 3
Scary Movie 4 Weinstein Co. .55 (730) -72% 752 87.6
Silent Hill Sony/Alliance .53 (900) -76% 588 45.9
Thank You for Smoking Fox Searchlig .51 (1,190) -44% 427 21.9
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $155.60
% Change (Last Year) -2%
% Change (Last Week) 63%
Also debuting/expanding
Keeping Up with the Steins Miramax .41 (2,970) -37% 138 1.2
Art School Confidential Sony Classic .4 (690) -70% 575 2.2
Twelve and Holding IFC 12,300 (4,100) 3 0.01
Lemming Strand 11,200 (5,600) 2 0.01
The King Thinkfilm 8,450 (8,450) 1 0.01
Mouth to Mouth Artistic Licen 1,400 (1,4000 1 0.01

Top Domestic Grossers: January 1 – May 11, 2006

Ice Age: The Meltdown Fox 184,420,315
Failure to Launch Par 87,328,276
Inside Man Uni 86,368,485
Scary Movie 4 Weinstein Co. 84,501,768
The Pink Panther Sony 82,939,694
The Chronicles of Narnia * BV 82,270,870
Eight Below BV 81,231,885
Brokeback Mountain * Focus 70,615,735
Big Momma’s House 2 Fox 70,085,227
V for Vendetta WB 69,563,652
Medea’s Family Reunion Lions Gate 63,392,499
Underworld: Evolution Sony 62,615,442
Mission: Impossible III Par 60,091,171
King Kong * Uni 59,422,439
Curious George Uni 58,463,139
The Shaggy Dog BV 57,450,175
Fun with Dick and Jane * Sony 57,288,236
The Benchwarmers Sony 56,107,026
Final Destination 3 NLC 54,351,887
Hoodwinked Weinstein Co. 51,224,985
* does not include 2005 box office

Domestic Market Share: January 1 – May 18, 2006

Fox (12) 471.5 15.60%
Sony (15) 468.7 15.50%
Buena Vista (15) 382.3 12.70%
Universal (10) 339.5 11.30%
Warner Bros. (11) 267.2 8.90%
Paramount (7) 256.7 8.50%
Weinstein Co. (9) 188.6 6.30%
Lions Gate (9) 147.1 4.90%
New Line (7) 116.9 3.90%
Focus (7) 101.1 3.30%
Fox Searchlight (7) 91.3 3.00%
Sony Classics (12) 43.6 1.50%
DreamWorks (3) 24.7 0.80%
MGM (1) 22.1 0.70%
Other * (123) 93.6 3.10%
3014.9 100.00%
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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