MCN Columnists
Leonard Klady

By Leonard Klady

All Shook Up

The weekend film going landscape wasn’t quite what had been predicted by pundits. Industry tracking was ready for a heated competition between the third weekend of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest and the debut of the spooky M. Night Shyamalan thriller Lady in the Water. However, as Friday matinee figures trickled in, one could see an unexpected strength for the animated entry Monster House.

Today’s estimates show Pirates decidedly ahead with $35.2 million, followed by Monster House at $22.9 million and Lady in the Water trailing with $18.2 million. Additionally, Clerks II ranked sixth with a passable $9.8 million and My Super-Ex Girlfriend faced commercial kryptonite with a dull $8.4 million.

Pirates advanced to $322 million domestically and exceeded $500 million worldwide in 17 days of release. It still has many major territories to open internationally and barring floods and fires internal estimates of a $1 billion global box office appear well founded.

Monster House’s potent arrival comes with the added irony that it was an orphaned DreamWorks project that timed nicely with Sony’s hopes to develop its animation unit. Well reviewed, the film played to the core family audience with nonetheless a significant non-parent adult crowd that was the difference between struggling to $20 million and exceeding studio projections by 20%. The film went out to 163 theaters in 3-D and accounted for roughly $2.6 million of the gross and a $16,000 per location average.

Lady in the Water arrived with a copious amount of media attention and wound up challenging the old axiom that there’s no such thing as bad publicity. The filmmaker’s divorce from Disney was scrupulously examined in the press along with opening reviews and the mix of on-and-off screen provided more confusion than benefit. Similarly, the simultaneous publication of a book on Shyamalan obscured the primary focus.

The lack of publicity for My Super Ex-Girlfriend posed a more self-fulfilling commercial conclusion. It arrived in the marketplace with a taint but positive word-of-mouth translated into a 23% Saturday boost while the Clerks II sequel dipped by 19% and Lady in the Water ebbed by 5%. It’s worth noting that the same company that conducted preview testing for the romantic-comedy spoof predicted a $30 million plus debut for Shyamalan’s movie.

The session benefited from volume rather than strength with a weekend tally of about $165 million that translated into a 6% drop from the immediate prior frame. It was however 8% improved from 2005 when premieres of The Island and The Bad News Bears bowed to disappointing business. Anticipation of a commercial dynamo is high for next weekend’s launch of Miami Vice.

Holdover titles generally experienced drops of 33% to 45%. The Devil Wears Prada – one of the season’s few genuine upbeat surprises – added $7.3 million to its cume and should cross the $100 million bar on Wednesday.

New entries in niche arenas were scarce and most such as the compilation Boys Shorts 4 opted for exclusive engagements. The idiosyncratic thriller Shadowboxer ventured out with 22 engagements and returned an OK gross of $94,500. Otherwise it was the usual suspects including An Inconvenient Truth, Wordplay and Strangers with Candy.

– by Leonard Klady

Weekend Estimates – July 21-23, 2006

Title Distributor Gross (averag % change Theaters Cume
Pirates of Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest BV 35.2 (8,510) -44% 4133 321.9
Monster House Sony 22.9 (6,460) 3553 22.9
Lady in the Water WB 18.2 (5,630) 3235 18.2
You, Me and Dupree Uni 12.7 (4,060) -41% 3134 45.3
Little Man Sony 10.9 (4,280) -50% 2537 40.5
Clerks II MGM 9.8 (4,570) 2150 9.8
My Super Ex-Girlfriend Fox 8.4 (3,100) 2702 8.4
Superman Returns WB 7.4 (2,620) -40% 2826 178.4
The Devil Wears Prada Fox 7.3 (3,260) -29% 2248 97.5
Cars BV 4.9 (2,020) -38% 2410 229.4
Click Sony 4.0 (1,710) -45% 2312 128.2
An Inconvenient Truth Par Classic 1.0 (2,230) -16% 440 18.8
A Scanner Darkly WIP .67 (3,060) -47% 219 3.2
The Lake House WB .63 (1,040) -62% 603 50.7
The Da Vinci Code Sony .59 (1,140) -34% 515 216
Nacho Libre Par .51 (1,010) -68% 505 78.7
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $155.00
% Change (Last Year) 8%
% Change (Last Week) -6%
Also debuting/expanding
Wordplay IFC .25 (1,560) -29% 162 2.2
Shadowboxer FreeStyle 94,500 (4,290) 22 0.09
Been Rich All My Life First Run 7,450 (7,450) 1 0.01
Boys Briefs 4 Strand 5,870 (5,870) 1 0.01

Domestic Market Share: January 1 – July 20, 2006

The Da Vinci Code Sony 737,785,585
Ice Age: The Meltdown Fox 643,356,997
X-Men: The Last Stand Fox 439,144,965
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Ch BV 434,195,035
Mission: Impossible III Par 367,395,232
The Chronicles of Narnia * BV 287,636,880
Superman Returns WB 259,441,109
Over the Hedge Par 248,970,063
Cars BV 224,626,447
Inside Man Uni 182,816,434
Scary Movie 4 Weinstein/BVI 174,949,373
The Pink Panther Sony/Fox 159,660,454
Brokeback Mountain * Focus 168,734,738
Poseidon WB 166,613,580
Fun with Dick and Jane * Sony 145,722,604
King Kong * Uni 143,818,190
The Break-Up Uni 142,235,608
Click Sony 135,434,185
Big Momma’s House 2 Fox 134,617,267
V for Vendetta WB 130,961,095
* does not include 2005 box office

Domestic Market Share: January 1 – July 20, 2006

Buena Vista (17) 906.6 17.30%
Fox (16) 894.4 17.10%
Sony (18) 866.7 16.50%
Universal (13) 555.5 10.60%
Paramount (9) 529.5 10.10%
Warner Bros. (13) 527.4 10.10%
Weinstein Co. (9) 192.3 3.70%
Lions Gate (12) 167.8 3.20%
Focus (8) 122.6 2.30%
New Line (7) 119.3 2.30%
Fox Searchlight (7) 96.8 1.80%
Sony Classics (14) 48.2 0.90%
DreamWorks (3) 24.7 0.50%
Other * (169) 190.2 3.60%
* none greater than 0.45% 5002.7 100.00%
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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