MCN Columnists
Leonard Klady

By Leonard Klady

Healthy, Wealthy and Vice

The box office pundits were on the money as the debut of Miami Vice emerged the weekend’s top draw with an estimated $25.1 million. The frame also included a passable $14.1 million bow for the teen comedy John Tucker Must Die and a very potent limited launch for the Sundance favoriteLittle Miss Sunshine. However, it was once again Casey at the Bat time for Warners as the animated entry Ant Bully fell way below expectations with an opening of $8.2 million.

While hardly a powerhouse, Miami Vice’s initial volley was precisely where studio and industry estimates had it pegged. Filmmaker Michael Mann has a history of soft openings and, perhaps ironically, this is his biggest weekend bow. Universal is crossing its fingers that the cool, brooding thriller will replicate the slow, steady business of his prior film Collateral that eventually grossed more than $100 million.

The Pirates of the Caribbean sequel dropped 42% and that was one of the frame’s better holds. It ranked second overall with $20.4 million and its cume of $358.3 million is a new all-time record for Disney movies. It currently ranks 11 th among domestic box office grosser.

Business at the multiplex rang up close to $135 million for a 15% dip from seven days earlier. It was however 4% higher than the comparable weekend of 2005 when the third frame of Wedding Crashers led with $20 million and the top new release was Sky High at $14.6 million.

Peer pressure gone ballistic was the allure of John Tucker Must Die that ranked third overall. Its performance met no better than industry low end expectations and was far below any possibility of becoming either a genre or seasonal breakout success. Nonetheless it proved more commercially potent than Ant Bully that was perceived to be right behind Vice and Pirates in the lineup at the multiplex.

Industry mavens questioned the wisdom of releasing yet another kid appeal movie in an already crowded market (and next week add Barnyard to the crush). So, Ant Bully was expected to disappoint with an opening round in the mid teens. Studio reps could barely disguise shock and felt it unnecessary to segment its gross from its 53 Imax engagements. The film split screens withSuperman Returns in most Imax locales as well as in regular engagements. While it’s unusual but not unprecedented to split engagements during the first week of a commercial run, a Warner Bros. spokesman said it was only down on second or third screens of multiplex playdates.

An audience favorite at Sundance, Little Miss Sunshine departed the event with an eye-popping paycheck from Fox Searchlight. The hilarious saga of an ultra dysfunctional family got a jump on the weekend with a Wednesday opener that netted $128,000 from seven playdates. It added about $360,000 during the weekend that translated into a potent $51,000 per engagement. Minimally it has the earmarks of replicating such company acquisitions as Napoleon Dynamite and Thank You for Smoking.

Though unfavorably compared to Match Point, Woody Allen’s Scoop had a solid initial foray of $2.9 million from 538 locations. A more apt comparison would be Small Time Crooks or Hollywood Ending and by that measure the new comedy appears to be headed for an above par engagement.

Other niche activity was largely unexceptional including the latest Bollywood circuit entry Omkarawith a $230,000 tally from 47 engagements that trailed recent successes Faana and Krrish. The political doc America: Freedom to Facism had an initial jolt of $64,200 from 10 bully pulpits and the somewhat tongue-in-cheek Another Gay Movie scored just shy of $30,000 from two outings. Single screen engagements for Brother of the Head and I Like Killing Flies were undistinguished.

– by Leonard Klady

Weekend Estimates – July 28-30, 2006

Title Distributor Gross (avera % change Theaters Cume
Miami Vice Uni 25.1 (8,300) 3021 25.1
Pirates of Caribbean: Dead Man’ BV 20.4 (5,330) -42% 3834 358.3
John Tucker Must Die Fox 14.1 (5,500) 2560 14.1
Monster House Sony 11.4 (3,220) -49% 3553 43.8
Ant Bully WB 8.2 (2,690) 3050 8.2
You, Me and Dupree Uni 6.9 (2,460) -46% 2820 58.9
Lady in the Water WB 6.9 (2,130) -62% 3235 31.9
Little Man Sony 5.2 (2,370) -53% 2175 50.2
The Devil Wears Prada Fox 4.8 (2,690) -35% 1778 106.7
My Super Ex-Girlfriend Fox 3.8 (1,410) -56% 2702 16.5
Superman Returns WB 3.7 (1,830) -50% 2005 185.7
Clerks II MGM 3.6 (1,660) -64% 2150 18.1
Scoop Focus 2.9 (5,360) 538 2.9
Cars BV 2.3 (1,480) -53% 1556 234.5
Click Sony 2.0 (1,500) -51% 1326 132.5
An Inconvenient Truth Par Classic .79 (2,280) -21% 346 20.2
A Scanner Darkly WIP .51 (1,940) -25% 263 4.1
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $122.60
% Change (Last Year) 4%
% Change (Last Week) -15%
Also debuting/expanding
Little Miss Sunshine Fox Searchl .36 (51,040) 7 0.48
Omkara Eros .23 (4,950) 47 0.23
America: Freedom to Facism Cinema Libr 64,200 (6,420) 10 0.06
Another Gay Movie TLA 29,400 (14,700) 2 0.03
13 Tzameti Palm 11,600 (11,600) 1 0.01
Brothers of the Head IFC 5,600 (5,600) 1 0.01
I Like Killing Flies Thinkfilm 5,500 (5,500) 1 0.01

Top Limited Releases: January 1 – July 27, 2006

Match Point DmWks 23,052,317
An Inconvenient Truth Par Classics 19,407,112
Deep Sea 3-D WB 15,185,979
Mrs. Henderson Presents Weinstein Co. 10,662,712
Transamerica Weinstein Co. 8,771,637
Good Night, and Good Luck WIP 8,203,593
Magnificent Desolation Imax 7,729,825
The World’s Fastest Indian Magnolia 5,128,124
Three Burials of Melquiades Estra Sony Classics 4,996,040
The Libertine Weinstein Co. 4,773,768
Keeping Up with the Steins Mrmx 4,307,112
Roving Mars BV 4,200,612
Cache (Hidden) Sony Class/Allian 3,732,437
A Scanner Darkly WIP 3,618,318
Wild Safari 3-D nWave 3,533,634
Water Fox Searchlight 3,085,357
Tsotsi Mrmx 2,912,606
La Mujer de Mi Hermano Lions Gate 2,808,241
The Lost City Magnolia/Alliance 2,459,876
Wordplay IFC 2,399,606
* none greater than 545 theaters

Domestic Market Share: January 1 – July 27, 2006

Buena Vista (17) 966.1 17.70%
Sony (19) 922.1 16.90%
Fox (17) 920.2 16.80%
Universal (13) 576.3 10.50%
Warner Bros. (14) 565.4 10.30%
Paramount (9) 531.1 9.70%
Weinstein Co. (9) 192.3 3.50%
Lions Gate (12) 168.2 3.10%
Focus (8) 122.9 2.30%
New Line (7) 119.3 2.20%
Fox Searchlight (8) 96.9 1.80%
Sony Classics (14) 48.5 0.90%
MGM (2) 37.1 0.70%
Other * (175) 199.4 3.60%
* none greater than 0.45% 5465.8 100.00%
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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