MCN Columnists
Leonard Klady

By Leonard Klady

Slithering on the Vine

The box office was stirred not snakin’ as Snakes on a Plane nudged its way to top weekend viewing choice with an estimated $15.3 million gross. Overall box office dipped for the frame with good to fair response for national debuts of teen oriented pics Accepted and Material Girls. The action was more intense in specialized sectors where The Illusionist had a potent limited platform and Factotum played well in exclusives and Little Miss Sunshine continued to have impressive response as it expanded nationally.

The anticipation of rich rewards was fierce as the bow of Snakes on a Plane crept closer last week. Unquestionably one of the most clever and innovative marketing campaigns of recent note, its buzz level was off the charts in terms of internet activity. While the novel approach suggested conventional industry tracking would provide lowball estimates, it proved to be uncharacteristically accurate with reports that estimated a $20 million top end.

The film received a mild head start with 10 p.m. Thursday showings estimated at between $1 million and $1.5 million that were incorporated into Friday figures. So, charitably, the film experienced a 6% box office dip on Saturday. However, dreams of a $30 million debut quickly evaporated and translating effort vs. gross on an unprecedented web push will be intensely dissected and analyzed for at least several weeks.

The incoming alternatives were curious as they targeted a similar audience but offered a less restrictive rating. Accepted, a latter-day Animal House, hit close to its crunch number a $9.7 million opener that ranked it fifth in the lineup. Belying the rule of women making the viewing choices, Material Girl was four titles behind with a $4.4 million gross that will rely on subsequent ancillary activity to cover investment.

Overall box office receipts were approaching close to $110 million and slipped by 17% from the prior weekend. It also lagged behind 2005 by 7% freshmen entries The 40 Year Old Virgin and Red Eye led the field with respective tallies of $21.4 million and $16.2 million.

Talladega Nights nipped at the “heels” of Snakes as it entered the frame with a $100 million cume on Thursday. Last weekend’s leader Step Up experienced a not untypical 52% decline and World Trade Center had a less intense but not quite sturdy 43% erosion.

Receiving a major critical assist, The Illusionist rang up an impressive $910,000 from 51 locations. The period drama bowed at Sundance to mixed response that ultimately fell short of a significant bidding war. There’s little question it’s connected in niche play and now has earn additional theatrical interest.

Following close to a year in release internationally, Factotum generated very good initial response in six theaters of $56,600. Based on stories by Charles Bukowski it still has a long road to equal Barfly also based on his life and writing. Other limited bows of American independents included an OK launch of Trust the Man of $181,000 from 38 screens and a passable $18,300 gross for 10th & Wolf from six engagements.

Little Miss Sunshine upped the ante from 153 to 691 playdates and finally ranked in the top 10 with a $5.4 million tally while maintaining a sturdy overall theater average close to $8,000. Plans are for significant expansions in the next two weekends.

The bilingual thriller Bon Cop Bad Cop added English Canadian theaters following two weeks of record business in Quebec. The result was definitely upbeat with the new locations providing about 40% of its $1.1 million weekend gross.

– by Leonard Klady

Weekend Estimates – August 18-20, 2006

Title Distributor Gross (average) % change Theaters Cume
Snakes on a Plane New Line 15.3 (4,290) x 3555 15.3
Talladega Nights Sony 13.5 (3,620) -39% 3741 114.1
World Trade Center Par 10.8 (3,590) -43% 2998 45
Step Up BV 9.8 (3,730) -52% 2639 39.4
Accepted Uni 9.7 (3,340) x 2914 9.7
Barnyard Par 7.7 (2,310) -23% 3227 46
Little Miss Sunshine Fox Searchlight 5.4 (7,790) 107% 691 12.5
Pirates of Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest BV 5.0 (2,180) -31% 2277 401
Material Girls MGM 4.4 (2,900) x 1509 4.2
Pulse Weinstein Co. 3.5 (1,510) -57% 2323 14.7
The Descent Lions Gate 2.4 (1,410) -48% 1720 22.2
Miami Vice Uni 2.4 (1,420) -49% 1680 59.8
Zoom Sony 2.3 (930) -48% 2501 8.9
Monster House Sony 1.9 (1,130) -43% 1673 67.3
The Devil Wears Prada Fox 1.3 (1,570) -31% 824 119
Bon Cop Bad Cop Alliance 1.1 (4,200) 8% 257 5.2
John Tucker Must Die Fox 1.0 (830) -66% 1218 38.5
You, Me and Dupree Uni 1.0 (1,300) -48% 760 72.9
Ant Bully WB .96 (1,130) -49% 850 24.5
The Illusionist FreeStyle .91 (17,840) x 51 0.91
Superman Returns WB .85 (2,220) -32% 383 194.2
Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna Yash Raj .63 (9,840) -53% 64 2.4
Scoop Focus .55 (1,500) -46% 367 9.1
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) x $102.20 x x x
% Change (Last Year) x -6% x x x
% Change (Last Week) x -17% x x x
Also debuting/expanding
Trust the Man Fox Searchlight .18 (4,760) x 38 0.18
Factotum IFC 56,600 (9,440) x 6 0.06
Half Nelson Thinkfilm 55,500 (18,510) 3% 3 0.15
10th & Wolf Thinkfilm 18,300 (3,050) x 6 0.02
King Leopold’s Ghost Aloha 3,100 (3,100) x 1 0.01
Pusher (Trilogy) Magnolia 2,200 (2,200) x 1 0.01


Domestic Market Share: January 1 – July 27, 2006

Sony (21) 1082.8 17.80%
Buena Vista (18) 1061.6 17.50%
Fox (18) 984.6 16.20%
Universal (14) 655.6 10.80%
Warner Bros. (15) 619.4 10.20%
Paramount (11) 606.7 10.00%
Weinstein Co. (10) 203.5 3.30%
Lions Gate (13) 188.7 3.10%
Focus (9) 131.5 2.20%
New Line (7) 119.3 2.00%
Fox Searchlight (8) 104.2 1.70%
Sony Classics (15) 49.5 0.80%
MGM (2) 46.2 0.70%
Other * (192) 226.2 3.70%
6079.8 100.00%
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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