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David Poland

By David Poland

Box Office Hell – August 4


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31 Responses to “Box Office Hell – August 4”

  1. jeffmcm says:

    Most of those Talladega numbers seem too high.

  2. montrealkid says:

    I don’t think the Talladega numbers are high enough. It will easily break 40 mil. It will steal a good number from Barnyard crowd tired of the same old animated antics.
    I think Pirates will end up on top of Miami Vice.
    And The Descent may very well end up a surprise #2. They’ve done a great job with marketing and the press for it has been very positive.

  3. anghus says:

    Talladega breaks 40.

  4. Tofu says:

    Ferrell has never had an opening above $31 million. Dukes opened this time last year to $30 million.

  5. Wrecktum says:

    Talladega is 35-40m. Can’t understand why anyone would think otherwise.

  6. jeffmcm says:

    Uh, well there is what Tofu said. Why do you think it’ll be so high?

  7. Sandy says:

    Pirates will move up into the all time Top Ten…passing Passion, Spidey 2, Return of the King and most likely Revenge of the Sith. Pretty awesome.

  8. machiav says:

    Pirates should beat the first Spidey picture too(#6 all time).

  9. Wrecktum says:

    “Uh, well there is what Tofu said. Why do you think it’ll be so high?”
    Because it’s tracking higher.

  10. jeffmcm says:

    How do you know that?

  11. Wrecktum says:

    Because I’m smart.

  12. jeffmcm says:

    Fair enough.
    So what’s the point of Box Office Hell if those with access to tracking are always going to have more info than those who don’t?

  13. Direwolf says:

    From Mojo, similar movies to Talledega Nights:
    Dukes, Anchorman, Dogeball, Elf averaged about $30. My sense is that Talledega has an open playing field and has been well marketed. Seems likely to go above $30 so I don;t find the Hell numbers out of line.
    Pretty wide variation for Descent. LGF knows what it is doing. They got over 2000 screens. Hostel opened at $19 million on similar screens. I’ve heard that Descent has good buzz in horror circles. And there hasn’t been a horror film in awhile. Does it have a shot at Hostel type numbers?

  14. Direwolf says:

    Forgot to mention…Not that it really matters but I’ve been surprised by favorable reviews for Talledega and Descent.

  15. Lota says:

    Well I can’t say Talla…whatever but it looks like I will dragged to go see it. One of my cousins was a professional race car driver so the gags should have resonance. Don’t remember him thanking baby Jesus though, just Penzoil.
    Maybe it could crack 40…there’s really not much else to see if you’ve already seen Vice.
    Chill, Jeff.
    Wrectum just said he was smarter, not that he access to more information. Still bummin’ that Dave wouldn;t reveal his worst reviewed bad movie of the last year? Bet it was Freedomland.

  16. Jeremy Smith says:

    I still think it’s ALL THE KING’S MEN, which would explain the non-reveal.

  17. jeffmcm says:

    Now that would make sense.
    Let’s assume that was it and DP’s non-denial can stand as a confirmation.

  18. Jimmy the Gent says:

    If it was All the King’s Men, wouldn’t Poland have talked about it by now? I mean, it’s going to show in a couple of weeks. You’re probably right, though. I just can’t believe the movie being that bad. I can see it being a disappointment, but that cast should guarantee that it’ll be at least interesting.
    Anyone know what the private fight between Tom Cruise and Mrs. Spielberg was about that Poland alluded to a few threads ago? Poland made it sound like people in the know what he was talking about, but I guess I’m not up to date on my Gawker and/or Defamer reading.

  19. Lota says:

    Speaking of “Kings”
    did D-Po ever Review The King?

  20. EDouglas says:

    Tracking really isn’t that much help if you don’t know how to interpret it… i.e. what to take seriously and what to ignore.
    Here’s an article from Variety on the reliablity of tracking this summer (usually I’d post a link but I couldn’t find it):
    Midway through the summer, the studios have become keenly aware of cracks in their crystal ball.
    Tracking, the polling data which forecasts what film audiences are most likely to see, has become the key source of studio expectations over B.O. prospects. But the information, once closely guarded, has gone public at the exact moment that serious questions are being raised over its reliability.
    Therefore, with the tracking data, studios have mistargeted ad budgets and have been pummeled in the media. Two weeks before its release, Universal’s “The Break Up” posted such dismal tracking numbers that some Internet bloggers had all but dismissed the picture’s prospects. More recently, tracking addicts were caught off-guard by the success of “The Devil Wears Prada,” which managed a strong opening despite the bow of “Superman Returns” on the same weekend.
    Studios are raising a handful of issues over the process, including:
    * Methodology. Since traditional tracking relies on phone polls, it cannot reach the younger, tech-savvier types who have abandoned their land lines. Other methods, including online surveys meant to get around that problem, are being tried but the newer techniques raise their own reliability issues.
    * Demographics. With more movies depending on niche audiences, the old technique of breaking the movie audience into quadrants (male/female, over/under age 25) may be too imprecise a measurement. Studios also complain that movies that appeal to, for instance, ethnic minorities don’t track as well as other pics.
    * Genre. Romantic comedies and kidpics are notoriously difficult to measure in tracking. Pics like “The Devil Wears Prada” may not win many male fans in tracking polls, but can go on to cross over gender lines.
    * Personnel. The audience research firms are going through something of a generational shift since NRG founder Joseph Farrell segued to a production deal at Disney in 2002. Tracking now is in the hands of a new group of execs.
    Recently, as the media has begun reporting on tracking data as if it were news, films targeted at femmes, minorities (“Diary of a Mad Black Woman”) and horror pics (“Saw,” “Hostel”) have proven similarly unreliable. It raises the question whether tracking only works on tentpoles.
    “You want tracking to be a needle pointing in a direction for you to guide your strategic decision making,” says U Pictures chairman Marc Shmuger. “But NRG, MarketCast and OTX were in complete disagreement on how (“The Break-Up”) was going to perform along every step of the way. When your information is in such disagreement, you’re in complete confusion. It was a classic case where tracking was significantly off from where the performance was. It was the most frustrated I’ve ever been in my many, many years at a studio.”
    When research firm NRG began its “Confidential Industry Wide Tracking Program” in the 1980s, it was envisioned primarily as a tool for movie marketers to gauge whether their advertising materials were connecting with auds. Though methods have changed since then, tracking is still a periodic poll that asks people whether they’ve heard of the movies opening soon and if they want to see them.
    “You have to keep in mind what tracking was meant for,” says Revolution Studios’ Tom Sherak. “It was to determine whether the materials were working.”
    For instance, if the tracking found that women under 25 aren’t cottoning to a certain pic, the studio could cut a new TV spot that highlighted elements to appeal to that demographic “quadrant” and buy air time on shows with a lot of young female viewers.
    Early on, exhibitors started to consult the research when they were negotiating film rental terms: If tracking said a picture was going to bomb, they’d press studios to let them keep a bigger share of ticket sales.
    Over the years, as startup firms MarketCast and OTX entered the fray, studios found other uses for tracking, including prediction of a film’s opening weekend. When media wicket watchers (including Variety) refer to “industry expectations” for how a certain film should open, they’re referring to how studio execs think the tracking should translate into ticket sales.
    The research firms resist the notion that tracking is primarily a tool for box office forecast. But each Thursday, the companies run a film’s current ratings in a tracking poll through an algorithm that produces dollar amounts.
    When a movie doesn’t hit the number projected by tracking, the studio feels it’s blamed for doing something wrong. So, now the studios are starting to ask whether there’s something wrong with the tracking.
    Sources at the tracking firms say when they go back to check their projections, they come within 15% of the actual opening about 70% of the time.
    When tracking is weak, as with Warner Bros.’ “Poseidon,” studios are forced to do damage control to prevent a film from being labeled a bomb even before it opens. When it’s strong, they try to tamp down expectations of shattering records.
    In advance of the July 7 bow of “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest,” tracking showed that the pic was the “first choice” of 60% of those surveyed. That was a huge number: Last year’s “Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith” scored a “first choice” number of 45%.
    On the day before release, Disney distrib prexy Chuck Viane demurred when asked how big he thought the picture would go. “No matter how you answer that question, it can come back to hurt you.” (The pic, of course, hit a record-setting $135.6 million in its bow.)
    Just as political polls have come under closer scrutiny, so too have the tracking polls. There are perennial questions about whether the sample size (typically 300 to 400 per poll) adequately reflect the interest of African-Americans and Hispanics. Family films are also notoriously hard to read because the tracking doesn’t include kids (most insiders use older females, i.e. moms, as a proxy).
    But there are also newer concerns. For instance, both NRG and MarketCast still largely rely on home telephone surveys. That means they can’t reach people who only have a cell phone. That’s one of the reasons that OTX chooses to do its surveys online.
    What particularly bothers some studio heads is that they don’t believe tracking is giving them as accurate a picture of the marketplace as it did before. Already the summer season has been littered with tracking surprises.
    The most extreme case recently was “The Break-Up.” A month before its bow, a blogger for got ahold of the raw numbers in the latest tracking polls. Noting that 30% of people polled had a “definite interest” in seeing the film, and only 5% said it was their “first choice” to see that weekend, the blogger asserted “the game is pretty much over” for the pic.
    A few days later, the New York Post’s Page Six picked up on the blog and predicted that Aniston would have serious career problems after the weak opening. And the impression that “The Break-Up” was “in trouble” quickly spread.
    When the pic opened June 2, it earned $39 million, well above the mid-20s range the tracking firms were predicting. Since then, it has taken in more than $112 million domestically.
    Part of the problem stems from the fact that as widespread as tracking has become, few people know how it works. That’s largely because the actual research is kept under seal. At the bottom of every page of research issued by NRG is a CIA-worthy warning that “Providing tracking to persons who are not authorized studio executives is ill-advised and illegal … Tracking in the wrong hands could be dangerous and damaging.”
    The polls are not all that different from presidential approval surveys. NRG and MarketCast each call several hundred people, while OTX’s online survey uses recruited respondents. (MarketCast is owned by Variety parent Reed Business Information).
    In the surveys, people are first asked, unprompted, to name the films they’re aware of. Then they’re asked if they’ve heard of films they couldn’t name off the top of their head. The percentage of people who know about a film, unprompted or not, is respectively called “unaided awareness” and “total awareness.”
    The pollsters then find out whether the people are interested in seeing a film, which they then translate to a percentage of people who have “definite interest” or who are “definitely not interested.”
    The final question they ask in the poll is a bit more complicated. People are asked to pick the one film among all films currently in release or opening soon (titles tend to go on tracking about three weeks before release) that is their “first choice” to see.
    While this “first choice” score is the most closely followed, it is also where interpretation of the numbers goes a bit haywire.
    The polls set as many as 15 films against each other, not simply movies opening on a particular weekend.
    When pollsters found that only 5% chose “The Break Up” as their first choice, that was two weeks before its release. At that point, “Da Vinci” and “X-Men: The Last Stand” had yet to open, and carried a 32% and 23% first choice rating, respectively. That means that more than half of the audience was more interested in seeing movies that were scheduled to open before “Break-Up.” But they were tentpoles, and through their dominance in the tracking surveys, they were in effect making nearly everything else a second-choice.
    In fact, once “Da Vinci” and “X Men” opened and audiences had had a chance to see them, “The Break-Up’s” tracking numbers picked way up, rising to a 17% rating in the last NRG survey before it opened on June 2.
    As for the methodology, “this is something that everyone needs to improve,” says Vincent Bruzzese, OTX’s senior veep for motion pictures. “It’s something that the next generation of movie research will go towards.” To that end, OTX is developing a tracking service that defines consumers by what they call “behaviorgraphically” (that is by consumer preferences) rather than the traditional demographic quadrants.
    For instance, “Nacho Libre” and “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift” both opened successfully on the same weekend even though both targeted males under 25.
    “The media consumer has changed so dramatically that to track people just based on demographics misses a large spread of what’s going on,” Bruzzese says. “You can look at two males under 25 and they’ll be completely different. One is into sports and the other is a high school senior into literary things.”
    In the end, though, tracking audiences will be more art than science. “There’s no exact science to any of this,” Sherak says. “At one time it may have been more right, but times change.”

  21. anghus says:

    6 sold out shows tonight at my local theater for Talladega.

  22. David Poland says:

    Talledega will be over $15m in the morning…
    The Spielberg/Cruise thing ended up in Ken Auletta piece in The New Yorker a couple of weeks ago, in the detail I chose not to write about. Ritalin, picketing, Scientology & Mrs. Spielberg. (The quote they didn’t have was her saying, “You will not be working with him again as long as you are married to me.”)

  23. jeffmcm says:

    Thanks EDouglas, but all of that is kind of moot if you don’t have access to the original tracking figures in the first place.
    Thanks for your non-commentary, DP.

  24. jeffmcm says:

    Oh yeah, good for Ms. Capshaw.

  25. EDouglas says:

    Well, one of the important points is that this tracking information was never meant for public consumption. It’s information paid for by the studios (and they pay a lot for it) and irresponsible journalists who post this information willy nilly without knowing the real purpose of its existence (to find out if commercials/marketing is working) is making it seem more important for predicting box office than it actually is.
    The information tells you how much awareness and interest is out there (among those that are polled)… but doesn’t tell you who will actually go and shell out $7 to 10 to go see it opening weekend. (Only box office estimates will do taht.) Lots of people are aware of a movie and are interested in seeing it, but are fine waiting the four months for DVD, something that current tracking doesn’t account for (whereas online polls like the ones at BOM do).

  26. Spacesheik says:

    Kudos to Capshaw – all is forgiven for her hysterical performance in TEMPLE OF DOOM.

  27. KamikazeCamelV2.0 says:

    “I’ve heard that Descent has good buzz in horror circles. And there hasn’t been a horror film in awhile. Does it have a shot at Hostel type numbers?”
    Actually, I’d think twice about this good buzz (which it had). Have you heard that they tacked on a happier ending to the US release? Plus, this movie has been out for a year in the UK now and quite a lot of people have purchased it on DVD. It’s probably not that many, but I know that over at JoBlo they mentioned that they’re not gonna bother and are instead gonna buy it from the UK.
    The Will Ferrel movie (i 1) can’t remember how it’s spelt and 2) can’t be bothered writing the whole freakin’ awful title) I predict will do about $35mil. There’s been no comedy for teen boys since Pirates. I sorta hope it does numbers similar to that Jack Black movie recently. I honest to god cannot remember the name of it. Completely gone from my memory.

  28. KamikazeCamelV2.0 says:

    I should’ve followed that up with:
    …because I hate him and wish he would disappear plz (same for Jamie Foxx)

  29. MASON says:

    High 40’s opening for TN.

  30. Cadavra says:

    TALLADEGA opened to roughly 18. It’ll do 35 by tonight.
    Sandler never had a $40m opening until WATERBOY. If people wanna see something, previous openings are moot.

  31. jeffmcm says:

    A very, very tiny percentage of The Descent’s American audience is going to buy British DVDs. I wouldn’t worry too much about those numbers.

Quote Unquotesee all »

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