MCN Columnists
Leonard Klady

By Leonard Klady

Dancing on the Parade

While the debate entering the weekend focused on how competitive the debut of World Trade Center would be with Talladega Nights: The Legend of Ricky Bobby, the innocuous teen dance drama Step Up took to the floor to complicate the picture. When the dust settled the order was clear: Talladega led with an estimated $22.6 million with Step Up close behind with $20.9 million and WTC trailing at $18.8 million.

The frame also featured an OK bow for the horror remake Pulse and a misfire for the kid adventureZoom. There was also a potent bow for the Bollywood entry Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna and strong response for the Sundance grad Half Nelson in limited release.

Following its huge premiere last weekend, Talladega Nights geared down by 52% and that was just enough to cross the finish line ahead of a very competitive pack. The race was so tight that had the Will Ferrell comedy dipped by 60% it would have ranked third for the current session. It’s grossed close to $91 million in 10 days of release with the century mark looming on Wednesday.

The appeal of Step Up wasn’t completely unnoticed. Universal, for instance, moved its teen comedyAccepted off the current weekend and into Snakes on a Plane’s departure date. It was the first choice Friday with an $8.5 million gross but saw Saturday’s business dip by 20 percent. TheFlashdance spawn and a carbon copy of Save the Last Dance’s story, the new film effectively tapped into a niche and mined it for gold … or at least silver.

World Trade Center got in ahead of the pack with a Wednesday opening that was just 2% behind Talladega. However, the early debut likely squandered the picture’s bragging rights as weekend leader. Nonetheless, considering both its intrinsic appeal and the resistance to the material by a sliver of the audience, it performed very well. Tracking that had suggested a sizeable youth appeal didn’t translate initially with exit polls revealing opening weekend crowds composed 65% of over 25s and not surprisingly a 55%/45% male/female split.

Already generating considerable buzz in advance of next weekend is Snakes on a Plane. While tracking remains soft, industry pundits are savvy to the fact that interest methodology is likely not picking up on the picture’s core audience. There was also surprise that Friday’s trade screening to exhibitors generated very positive response to a crowd not expected to connect strongly to the material.

Weekend business was expected to tally close to $145 million in sales for a 9% drop from last weekend. However, it was 7% better than 2005 when new releases Four Brothers and Skeleton Key led with respective grosses of $21.2 million and $16.1 million.

The year to date saw Disney exceed $1 billion at the box office on August 3 with Sony hitting that mark five days later and moving to the top of the market share chart on Friday. Fox is poised to join the club this month and 2006 could well become the first time all major studios see domestic revenues of 10 figures.

The Weinstein Co. decided not to press screen its Americanized version of the Japanese cult horror favorite Pulse. With or without critical support its $8.3 million opening swath reflected the base appeal that last weekend generated an $8.9 million preem for The Descent. The latter film saw its second weekend ebb by 52%.

While not precisely the straw that broke the camel’s back, Zoom found no room in the family friendly arena. It scraped together $4.5 million and joins a list of recent casualities that include The Ant Bully and, despite a good second weekend hold, Barnyard.

Expected to be a strong opener Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna opened to record domestic business for a Bollywood movie. Its 95 screens is also a new record and it marks the first time a picture on the circuit grossed in excess of $1 million in its first weekend. Also scoring in its niche is Bon Cop Bad Cop that held strong in its second weekend in Quebec with a $1 million gross that was 87% of its opening salvo.

The new specialized hero is definitely Little Miss Sunshine that roughly tripled its playdates and still had screen averages close to $17,000. The crucial test of its crossover appeal occurs next weekend when it expands from 153 to roughly 600 theaters. There’s definitely a positive industry consensus. A notch down but still impressive was the second round of Quinceanera that saw a 33% boost as it climbed from eight to 26 engagements.

Newbies in specialized saw a potent bow for Sundance-prized drama Half Nelson with a $53,700 gross from two screens. Results were just fair for Conversations with Other Women of $52,200 from 11 chat rooms and a $31,500 for The House of Sand (but no Fog) of $31,500 in five situations.

– by Leonard Klady

Weekend Estimates – August 11-13, 2006

Title Distributor Gross (avg) % chang Theater Cume
Talladega Nights Sony 22.6 (5,800) -52% 3897 90.8
Step Up BV 20.9 (8,490) 2467 20.9
World Trade Center Par 18.8 (6,360) 2957 26.6
Barnyard Par 10.2 (3,070) -36% 3311 34.2
Pulse Weinstein Co. 8.3 (3,580) 2323 8.3
Pirates of Caribbean: Dead Ma BV 7.2 (2,440) -35% 2941 392.4
Zoom Sony 4.5 (1,810) 2501 4.5
Miami Vice Uni 4.5 (1,680) -56% 2659 55
The Descent Lions Gate 4.2 (2,020) -52% 2095 17.2
Monster House Sony 3.3 (1,370) -45% 2434 63.7
John Tucker Must Die Fox 3.0 (1,370) -51% 2213 35.8
Little Miss Sunshine Fox Searchligh 2.6 (16,860) 74% 153 5.6
The Devil Wears Prada Fox 1.9 (1,660) -38% 1135 116.5
You, Me and Dupree Uni 1.8 (1,350) -50% 1352 70.7
Ant Bully WB 1.7 (860) -56% 2005 22.3
The Night Listener Miramax 1.4 (1,030) -60% 1370 6.2
Superman Returns WB 1.2 (1,570) -45% 750 192.5
Little Man Sony 1.1 (1,210) -57% 892 57.2
Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna Yash Raj 1.1 (11,140) 95 1.1
Bon Cop Bad Cop Alliance 1.0 (7,420) -17% 132 3.3
Scoop Focus 1.0 (2.000) -47% 486 8
Lady in the Water WB .84 (730) -69% 1155 40.8
Cars BV .56 (1,100) -48% 509 238.8
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $136.16
% Change (Last Year) 7%
% Change (Last Week) -9%
Also debuting/expanding
Quinceanera Sony Classics .13 (4,870) 33% 26 0.26
Half Nelson Thinkfilm 53,700 (26,850) 2 0.05
Conversations With Other Wom Fabrication 52,200 (4,750) 11 0.05
The House of Sand Sony Classics 31,500 (6,300) 5 0.03
Waltzing Anna Kindred 6,240 (2,080) 3 0.01

Domestic Market Share: January 1 – August 10, 2006

Sony (20) 1035.2 17.60%
Buena Vista (17) 1020.1 17.30%
Fox (18) 975.6 16.60%
Universal (14) 645.2 11.00%
Warner Bros. (15) 612.3 10.40%
Paramount (11) 565.2 9.60%
Weinstein Co. (9) 192.3 3.30%
Lions Gate (13) 181.6 3.10%
Focus (9) 130.1 2.20%
New Line (7) 119.3 2.00%
Fox Searchlight (8) 100.1 1.70%
Sony Classics (15) 49.1 0.80%
MGM (2) 45.5 0.80%
Other * (187) 216.7 3.70%
* none greater than 0.45% 5888.3 100.00%
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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