MCN Columnists
Leonard Klady

By Leonard Klady

Yo, Ho, Ho and a Magnum of Dough!


Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest debuted to a staggering $132.9 million and effectively rewrote the box office record book. The film’s opening day gross of $55 million surpassed Star Wars: Episode III by roughly $5 million and its weekend was about $18 million better than that of former champ Spider-Man. Overall weekend revenues of more than $215 million also set a new benchmark.

While the Pirates sequel was the only new title in national release, there were a number of platform and regional openers including the animated A Scanner Darkly and Le Secret de ma mere in Quebec that both opened well in limited exposure.

By the time industry execs arrived at their offices Friday morning, news of a $9 million gross from 12:01 a.m. screenings had everyone’s attention. The following morning’s estimated $55 million for opening day pretty much set the stage for a new individual weekend record with initial estimates (based on Friday’s performance) as high as $140 million.

Casting aside the obvious brawny statistics, the singular achievement of the new movie is that it’s the first seasonal event picture to exceed industry expectations. The folks at Disney were crossing fingers and toes in hopes that Dead Man’s Chest would creep to $100 million in its first three days.

The tacit mantra at ShoWest 2006 was that the major’s summer release schedule was going to create a box office tsunami that would reinvigorate film going. However, beginning with Mission: Impossible III, title after title had opening salvos that spawned articles and chatter of below par performance. Leading up to the current weekend, this summer was running about 6% ahead of last year, behind the record 2004 summer, and about 1% better than 2005 admissions. Pirates is certainly an upturn in fortunes and if the few remaining seasonal heavyweights mirror its opening, the season will be more than salvaged.

Internationally, the film was hearty but not foolhardy as it adopted the “let’s not compete with World Cup fever” scenario adopted for the season. Apart from the United Kingdom, Pirates kept its distance with openings in Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan, Thailand and Korea that generated an estimated $46.6 million for the six territories. Individually, Britain was projecting a $25 million frame with Korea at $9 million and Australia at $8.2 million.

The potency of the scurvy crew was reflected in hefty box office boosts of 40% from last weekend and 47% compared to 2005. A year ago the frame leader was the $56 million debut of Fantastic Four.

It’s difficult to assess Dead Man’s Chest precise impact on holdover titles but simply put declines were steeper than usual but far from devastating commercial momentum. Superman Returnsexperienced a 55% drop while The Devil Wears Prada ebbed back by 45%. The all quadrant appeal of the swashbuckler was apparent, whether assessing business for Click or An Inconvenient Truth.

The adaptation of the sci-fi tale A Scanner Darkly generated better than a $21,000 average from 17 initial engagements. Filmed traditionally and then animated provided the film with an appropriate other worldliness and very good initial box office.

The family comedy-drama Le Secret de ma mere had a good start in Quebec of $232,000 at 87 theaters and the U.S. bow of Heading South (Vers le sud) had a potent $44,200 from its initial two engagements.

– by Leonard Klady

Weekend Estimates – July 7-9, 2006

Title Distributor Gross (averag % chan Theater Cume
Pirates of Caribbean: Dead Man’s BV 132.9 (32,160) 4133 132.9
Superman Returns WB 22.4 (5,500) -57% 4065 142.2
The Devil Wears Prada Fox 15.2 (5,270) -45% 2882 63.3
Click Sony 12.0 (3,460) -40% 3458 105.9
Cars BV 9.9 (2,940) -32% 3379 205.1
Nacho Libre Par 3.4 (1,490) -49% 2262 73.9
The Lake House WB 2.9 (1,190) -40% 2420 45.6
Fast & Furious: Tokyo Drift Uni 2.5 (1,350) -44% 1868 57.4
Waist Deep Focus 1.8 (2,120) -47% 864 19.1
The Break-Up Uni 1.7 (1,410) -44% 1180 114.3
The Da Vinci Code Sony 1.4 (1,390) -42% 1012 213.3
An Inconvenient Truth Par Classics 1.1 (1,980) -34% 562 15
X-Men: The Last Stand Fox .91 (1,090) -59% 832 231.3
Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties Fox .87 (680) -60% 1288 22.4
A Prairie Home Companion Picturehouse .81 (1,130) -43% 717 15.6
Over the Hedge Par .71 (940) -44% 758 148.3
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $210.50
% Change (Last Year) 47%
% Change (Last Week) 40%
Also debuting/expanding
A Scanner Darkly WIP .37 (21,940) 17 0.37
Wordplay IFC .29 (2,340) -6% 125 1.4
Le Secret de ma mere Alliance .23 (2,680) 87 0.23
Strangers with Candy Thinkfilm .18 (8,760) 328% 21 0.28
Heading South Shadow 44,200 (22,100) 2 0.04
Once in a Lifetime Miramax 11,800 (11,800) 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