MCN Columnists
Leonard Klady

By Leonard Klady

Breaking Up Is Easy To Do

The Break-Up surprised pundits with a potent estimated bow of $38.9 million to rank at the top of the box-office chart. The frame also featured strong response for the eco warning An Inconvenient Truth and a passable bow for the French action thriller District B-13. And while business registered a slight increase from 2005, it was a very shallow field with just four films accounting for about 84% of weekend revenues.Entering the weekend, trackers predicted a 55%-60% drop for X-Men: The Last Stand that made it an easy winner against The Break-Up – the sole new national release. The very dark romantic comedy was expected to gross about $25 million with internal studio estimates no higher than $28 million. The tracking skewed heavily female with little indication the pairing of Jennifer Aniston andVince Vaughn had better than modest appeal. War of the Roses notwithstanding, its grim perspective was also viewed as a detriment.

Exit polls confirmed a female preference of 65% and the picture’s draw was abetted by both the paucity of comedies in the marketplace and the absence of new titles. Meanwhile, X3 took a harder than expected 67% hit. For decades the industry has griped about the accuracy of predictive tracking that’s dominated by one company – NRG – but remains apprehensive about more sophisticated market research that would cut down on weekend surprises both good and ill.

Weekend ticket sales should approach about $135 million and that translates into a 33% decline for the 3-day portion of last weekend’s Memorial holiday frame. It was 1% ahead of last year’s comparable span when Madagascar led with $28.1 million and The Cinderella Man was the top new entry with $18.3 million. The good news for distribution is that while current summer admissions are on par with 2005, it’s been achieved with a smaller number of national releases.

An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore’s cautionary tour of global warming, added 73 locations that heated up theater averages of $17,400 and a weekend gross of slightly more than $1.3 million. Albeit on a smaller level, its appeal is a reminder of an earlier summer documentary release – Fahrenheit 911. Another politically sensitive non-fiction entry, The War Tapes, rang up an impressive $13,300 from a single playdate and the Oscar short-listed doc Favela Rising had a good initial gross of $7,300 from a solo exposure.

The session also had an interesting sidebar in the limited releases of District B-13 from France and the Korean Typhoon. Unlike the majority of foreign imports, both films were popular releases produced as local competition for American blockbusters. However, the long tradition of sub-titled movies having first appeal to mature audiences continues to limit their domestic impact, as witnessed recently by Night Watch. Both films would have benefited from dubbed versions, with the kinetic District B-13 and the effects laden Typhoon winding up with respective theater averages of $2,540 and $2,060.

The dramatic Peaceful Warrior had OK returns of $70,340 from 10 venues.

– by Leonard Klady

Weekend Estimates – June 2-4, 2006

Title Distributor Gross (aver % change Theat Cume
The Break-Up Uni 38.9 (12,660) x 3070 38.9
X-Men: The Last Stand Fox 34.4 (9,260) -67% 3714 175.7
Over the Hedge Par 20.9 (5,230) -23% 3993 112.6
The Da Vinci Code Sony 18.7 (4,990) -45% 3757 172.1
Mission: Impossible III Par 4.6 (1,730) -34% 2667 122.6
Poseidon WB 3.4 (1,240) -40% 2720 51.6
RV Sony 3.3 (1,520) -20% 2181 61.8
See No Evil Lions Gate 1.9 (1,520) -28% 1270 12.3
An Inconvenient Truth Par Classics 1.3 (17,400) 377% 77 1.9
Just My Luck Fox .81 (850) -59% 958 15.6
Keeping Up with the Steins Miramax .43 (2,640) -23% 163 2.6
Akeelah and the Bee Lions Gate .43 (1,060) -34% 405 17.8
An American Haunting Freestyle .42 (790) -43% 528 15.6
United 93 Uni .41 (630) -49% 654 30.5
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $128.20 x x x
% Change (Last Year) x 1% x x x
% Change (Last Week) x -33% x x x
Also debuting/expanding
District B-13 Magnolia .37 (2,540) x 145 0.37
Peaceful Warrior Lions Gate 70,340 (7,030) x 10 0.07
Typhoon Par Classics 49,410 (2,060) x 24 0.05
The Puffy Chair IFC 23,150 (3,860) x 6 0.02
The War Tapes SenArt 13,300 (13,300) x 1 0.01
Favela Rising Mochary 7,300 (7,3000 x 1 0.01

Domestic Market Share: January 1 – June 1, 2006

Fox (13) 637.4 18.10%
Sony (16) 624.5 17.70%
Buena Vista (15) 387.1 11.00%
Paramount (8) 375.1 10.70%
Universal (10) 343.6 9.80%
Warner Bros. (11) 289.7 8.20%
Weinstein Co. (9) 190.2 5.40%
Lions Gate (10) 160.3 4.50%
New Line (7) 118.3 3.40%
Focus (7) 101.3 2.90%
Fox Searchlight (7) 93.9 2.70%
Sony Classics (13) 46.2 1.30%
DreamWorks (3) 24.7 0.70%
MGM (1) 22.4 0.60%
Other * (130) 105.1 3.00%
* none greater than 0.5% 3232 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