MCN Columnists
Leonard Klady

By Leonard Klady


Cars got its motor running as it shifted up to an estimated $60.3 million and crossed the finish line way ahead of the pack in the weekend movie going rally. The frame also saw debuts for the new incarnation of The Omen and an aggressive premiere for The Prairie Home Companion that had tuneful dividends.Cars, the latest animated offering for Pixar, got off to a fast start of $19 million plus on Friday. It bumped up 16% on Saturday indicating that as with past Pixar efforts its appeal skews to an older audience than traditional Disney efforts. According to a studio spokesman, initial tracking shows markedly different audience composition between early, matinee and evening showings.

The film was the animation company’s last studio commitment in its initial contract with the studio and fractious negotiations with former studio chief Michael Eisner fueled speculation about where the company would be parked in future. That abruptly changed when new Disney management acquired the firm earlier this year.

The animated vehicle also dipped its toe in international waters with engagements in Australia and several Asian territories where World Cup fever isn’t expected to siphon off movie attendance. Carstopped Australian marquees with an estimated $3.3 million ahead of the debut of The Break-Up(also in its first overseas exposure) at $2.3 million.

The Break-Up ranked second domestically with $20.8 million and surprised industry pundits that anticipated a steep drop for the darkly comic tale. Its performance on the tail of last year’s The Wedding Crashers and The 40 Year Old Virgin bodes well for several upcoming adult comedies.

Weekend revenues surpassed $150 million for a 13% upturn from the prior three-day span. The box office was also ahead of the 2005 span – when Mr. & Mrs. Smith bowed to $50 million – by 5%. Attendance, however, was flat with last year and as the season presses on, greater pressure is being placed on event pictures to provide sizeable boosts on seasonal movie going.

The first weekend of The Omen added $15.1 million to the $20.3 million the film generated since its Tuesday debut. Its clever marketing ploy to bow on 6-6-06 translated into far better commercial returns than had been anticipated. It was nosed out by X-Men: The Last Stand with a gross of $15.5 million that pushed its cume to more than $200 million – the first film to reach that level this year.

The Prairie Home Companion, based on the niche Public Radio favorite, went boldly into the marketplace with an initial run of 760 theaters. The gamble translated into upbeat returns of $4.5 million that placed it seventh in the weekend lineup. According to Bob Berney of Picturehouse, the expectation aficionados would show up was evident across the board with strong urban response as well as suburban dates and engagements in smaller markets in Alaska and Montana.

“We’re attracting primarily an older audience,” said Berney. “But the response is so good, I have to believe that we’ll see more teens and twenties in the coming weeks. It’s the type of film that could generate very good repeat business.”

The globe warming doc An Inconvenient Truth also continued strong in limited expansion with a $1.5 million gross at 122 this past weekend.

New entries in the niches were few and inconsequential. Among limited releases, the fest fave basketball doc The Heart of the Game tallied almost $12,000 from three courts while the music-themed import Crossing the Bridge garnered about $11,000 from two venues.

– by Leonard Klady

Weekend Estimates – June 9-11, 2006

Title Distributor Gross (average) % change Theaters Cume
Cars BV 60.3 (15,130) 3985 60.3
The Break-Up Uni 20.8 (6,770) -47% 3073 74.4
X-Men: The Last Stand Fox 15.5 (4,210) -54% 3680 201.7
The Omen Fox 15.1 (5,540) 2723 35.4
The Da Vinci Code Sony 10.4 (3,140) -44% 3319 189.1
Over the Hedge Par 10.2 (2,880) -51% 3527 130.2
A Prairie Home Companion Picturehouse 4.5 (5,950) 760 4.5
Mission: Impossible III Par 3.1 (1,630) -34% 1908 127.6
RV Sony 1.9 (1,160) -41% 1622 64.9
Poseidon WB 1.8 (1,060) -48% 1724 54.9
An Inconvenient Truth Par Classics 1.5 (12,210) 74% 122 4
See No Evil Lions Gate .81 (900) -60% 900 13.9
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $145.90
% Change (Last Year) 5%
% Change (Last Week) 13%
Also debuting/expanding
The Heart of the Game Miramax 11,700 (3,890) 3 0.01
Crossing the Bridge Strand 11,100 (5,550) 2 0.01
Autumn Truly Indie 4,900 (2,450) 2 0.01
The Long Weekend Gold Circle 1,450 (380) 3 0.01

Worldwide Grosses: January 1 – June 8, 2006

Ice Age: The Meltdown Fox 628,366,730
The Da Vinci Code Sony 598,054,542
X-Men: The Last Stand Fox 330,282,494
Mission: Impossible III Par 322,077,361
The Chronicles of Narnia * BV 287,636,880
Inside Man Uni 176,281,100
Brokeback Mountain * Focus 166,482,757
The Pink Panther Sony/Fox 159,406,812
Scary Movie 4 Weinstein/BVI 155,292,083
Fun with Dick and Jane * Sony 145,722,604
King Kong * Uni 143,818,190
Big Momma’s House 2 Fox 132,415,776
V for Vendetta WB 130,153,339
Over the Hedge Par 129,818,841
Memoirs of a Geisha * Sony/Spyglass 126,646,967
Failure to Launch Par 125,291,480
Eight Below BV 118,662,948
Munich * Uni 118,657,446
Final Destination 3 NLC 111,774,925
Underworld: Evolution Sony/Lakeshor 110,901,489

* does not include 2005 box office

Domestic Market Share: January 1 – June 8, 2006

Fox (14) 692 18.60%
Sony (16) 667.9 17.90%
Paramount (8) 410.2 11.00%
Universal (11) 398.2 10.70%
Buena Vista (15) 388.1 10.40%
Warner Bros. (11) 295.3 7.90%
Weinstein Co. (9) 190.5 5.10%
Lions Gate (10) 163.9 4.40%
New Line (7) 118.6 3.20%
Focus (7) 101.4 2.70%
Fox Searchlight (7) 94.6 2.50%
Sony Classics (13) 46.8 1.30%
DreamWorks (3) 24.7 0.70%
MGM (1) 22.4 0.60%
Other * (138) 111.1 3.00%
* none greater than 0.5% 3725.7 100.00%
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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