MCN Columnists
Leonard Klady

By Leonard Klady

Up… Up… and Oy Vey!

Superman Returns flexed its pecs with an estimated $52.3 million to lead weekend movie going. The frame also saw the bow of The Devil Wears Prada with a steelier than expected $26.8 million in an overall session with slight box office improvement from 2005.

Though the Independence Day holiday is officially on Tuesday, much of the nation will be taking a 5-day vacation with government agencies the major exception to the rule with a business as usual Monday.

The highly anticipated Superman redux got a jump start on the holiday period with a Wednesday launch that set an opening day box office record. It entered its first weekend with slightly more than $32 million banked and initial industry expectations it would soar past $100 million by Sunday. However, a steep second day drop indicated the film would fall short of its target and initial reports peg its five day domestic performance at slightly better than $84 million. Critical response has run the gamut from raves to stinging barbs.

Fifty-four weeks ago Warner Bros. dusted off another comic book hero in Batman Begins with comparable three and five-days results of $48.7 million and $72.9 million. It went on to gross a bit better than $200 million in North America and another $175 million internationally. With media speculation that the film has to gross in excess of $600 million theatrically to reach break even, its commercial take off is a dose of Kryptonite for the Man of Steel.

The picture nonetheless set a record for its Imax dates of about $5 million on 76 screens. It was formerly held by the Batman reinvention with $3.1 million.

Overseas, Superman sidestepped the kryptonic World Cup with initial dates in 11 territories in Southeast Asia and Australia with sturdy opening day debuts in all territories including a $650,000 gross in Korea, $919,000 in Australia, $408,000 in the Philippines and $256,000 in Thailand. Its four-day tally in Australia was slightly less than $4 million and Korea was best in show at %5 million. The weekend generated $19.8 million from 1,750 playdates.

The adaptation of The Devil Wears Prada proved an apt piece of counter programming with studio projections of a $20 million debut smashed to the positive side. A contemporary spin on All About Eveset in the milieu of a fashion magazine, its opening day gross of $9.3 million anticipated a $30 million weekend but its box office experienced a 2% drop on Saturday that was a surprise. A Fox spokesman couldn’t explain why the film was playing like a picture aimed at teenage boys when Friday exit polls showed 61% of its audience was older than 25 years of age.

Weekend revenues were shaping up at roughly $155 million for a 6% boost from the prior weekend and 5% improved from 2005. Last year’s holiday offering was The War of the Worlds that grossed $65 million for the three-day span. While summer seasonal box office has generally been better than last year’s record, admissions are no better than status quo. The international picture is murkier with fingers crossed for a major surge following on the heels of football’s imminent finale.

Holdover business saw a sharp second weekend drop of 52% for the prior frame’s leader Click.Exhibitors are noticing that half way through the season the top titles appear to be experiencing declines that are sharper than usual with new event pictures sapping rather than expanding the marketplace.

Activity in the niches continued to be dominated by A Prairie Home Companion and An Inconvenient Truth with Wordplay maintaining a nice toehold several rungs down the ladder in 95 theaters. Its current weekend is estimated at $273,000.

The best of the alternative debuts was the black comic Strangers with Candy with a $41,200 gross from two engagements. The non-fiction whodunit Who Killed the Electric Car? puttered just past $39,000 at eight garages.

– by Leonard Klady

Weekend Estimates – June 30 – July 2, 2006

Title Distributor Gross (average) % change Theaters Cume
Superman Returns WB 52.3 (12,860) 4065 84.3
The Devil Wears Prada Fox 26.8 (9,400) 2847 26.8
Click Sony 19.3 (5,130) -52% 3764 77.8
Cars BV 13.9 (3,750) -40% 3706 181.9
Nacho Libre Par 5.8 (1,880) -54% 3082 64.6
The Lake House WB 4.6 (1,730) -48% 2645 38.8
Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drifr Uni 4.3 (1,620) -56% 2670 51.6
Waist Deep Focus 3.3 (3,250) -65% 1006 15.1
The Break-Up Uni 2.8 (1,470) -57% 1912 110.1
The Da Vinci Code Sony 2.3 (1,650) -44% 1384 209.8
X-Men: The Last Stand Fox 2.1 (1,330) -57% 1558 228.6
Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties Fox 2.0 (930) -61% 2150 21.5
An Inconvenient Truth Par Classics 1.6 (2,670) -22% 587 12.3
A Prairie Home Companion Picturehouse 1.3 (1,830) -43% 717 14.8
Over the Hedge Par 1.1 (930) -61% 1208 147.6
The Omen Fox .52 (830) -77% 625 53.5
Mission: Impossible III Par .51 (1,010) -29% 507 132.3
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $144.50
% Change (Last Year) 6%
% Change (Last Week) 7%
Also debuting/expanding
Wordplay IFC .27 (2,870) -16% 95 0.8
Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man Lions Gate 44,700 (3,730) 160% 12 0.08
Strangers with Candy Thinkfilm 41,200 (20,600) 2 0.04
Who Killed the Electric Car? Sony Classics 39,300 (4,910) 8 0.04
The Motel Palm 8,070 (8,070) 1 0.01
The Blood of My Brother Lifesize 1,620 (1,620) 1 0.01

Top Domestic Grosses: January 1 – June 29, 2006

X-Men: The Last Stand Fox 226,483,394
The Da Vinci Code Sony 207,492,832
Ice Age: The Meltdown Fox 193,640,718
Cars BV 168,021,783
Over the Hedge Par 146,438,334
Mission: Impossible III Par 131,830,760
The Break-Up Uni 107,239,150
Scary Movie 4 Weinstein Co. 89,873,819
Failure to Launch Par 88,822,973
Inside Man Uni 88,469,545
The Pink Panther Sony 83,137,123
The Chronicles of Narnia * BV 82,270,870
Eight Below BV 81,612,565
Brokeback Mountain * Focus 70,615,735
V for Vendetta WB 70,503,491
Big Momma’s House 2 Fox 70,165,972
RV Sony 67,416,072
Medea’s Family Reunion Lions Gate 63,445,832
Underworld: Evolution Sony 62,615,442
The Shaggy Dog BV 60,662,059

Domestic Market Share: January 1 – June 29, 2006

Fox (15) 788 17.90%
Sony (17) 760.9 17.30%
Buena Vista (16) 561.1 12.70%
Paramount (9) 503.4 11.40%
Universal (12) 500.1 11.30%
Warner Bros. (13) 367.9 8.40%
Weinstein Co. (9) 191.5 4.30%
Lions Gate (11) 166.5 3.80%
New Line (7) 119.2 2.70%
Focus (8) 113.4 2.60%
Fox Searchlight (7) 96.1 2.20%
Sony Classics (13) 47.5 1.10%
DreamWorks (3) 24.7 0.60%
MGM (1) 22.5 0.50%
Other * (153) 142.4 3.20%
4405.2 100.00%
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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