MCN Columnists
Leonard Klady

By Leonard Klady

More Bang For The Bucks

The Departed left the station with an estimated $26.5 million to claim weekend bragging rights as the session’s top attraction. There were also upbeat returns for freshmen entries The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning that ranked second with $19.1 million and a fourth place finish for Employee of the Month of $11.7 million.

Additionally Trailer Park Boys had a potent bow of $1.2 million in Canada for its Thanksgiving holiday frame and exclusive bows for both Little Children and ShortBus drew strong response.

Overall business spiked noticeably from both last weekend and the comparable 2005 frame.

Based on a Hong Kong police thriller that spawned two sequels, The Departed arrived in the marketplace with high hopes both commercially and artistically. It didn’t disappoint on either level with many citing it as a return to form and roots for director Martin Scorsese. Dan Fellman, Warner Bros. distribution president, said box office was slightly better than anticipated but surprises came elsewhere. Anticipated to skew older and male, exit polls showed a near equal gender split as well as a 50/50 balance for over and under 25s.

The significant youth appeal of The Departed did not appear to drain business from either TCM: The Beginning or Employee of the Month. The umpteenth incarnation of the power tool saga sliced through the marketplace with abandon while the high concept comedy easily out-performed expectations that pegged box office at decidedly less than $10 million.

Weekend ticket sales will be in the vicinity of $112 million for a 13% boost from seven days earlier. It also represents an 8% increase from 2005 when the debut of the Wallace & Gromit movie took top spot with a $16 million gross and three other freshmen entries failed to crack an individual gross of $10 million.

The majority of holdover titles took hard hits with the exception of family fare such as Open Season and upscale outings that include The Illusionist.

Trailer Park Boys, a raucous comedy from Ivan Reitman’s company, proved muscular with a $1.2 million gross. Yet to secure U.S. distribution, its performance should tip the balance in its favor.

The first wave of Oscar hopefuls were all playing like contenders. The Queen was most regal with just shy of $400,000 from 11 engagements while the rise and fall of Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland garnered $293,000 from 30 locations. New to the mix was Little Children with theater averages of $20,640 from five play pens.

Also demonstrating considerable heft was the sexually explicit ShortBus with a $77,300 gross from four outings. Less inspirational was Love’s Abiding Joy with roughly $130,000 from 185 pulpits and the teenage spy yarn Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker eking out $100,000 in Canadian release prior to next week’s U.S. launch.

There was also no better than fair response to a pair of documentaries in exclusive release. The Tony Kushner portrait Wrestling with Angels generated $5,840 from a single Manhattan screen and the political So Goes the Nation drew $1,940 from two venues.

– by Leonard Klady

Weekend Estimates – October 8, 2006

Title Distrib Gross (avg) % Chg Thea Cume
The Departed WB 26.5 (8,790) x 3017 26.5
Texas Chainsaw: The Beginning New Line 19.1 (6,780) x 2820 19.1
Open Season Sony 15.9 (4,140) -33% 3833 44
Employee of the Month Lions Gate 11.7 (4,550) x 2579 11.7
The Guardian BV 9.7 (3,000) -46% 3241 32.5
Jackass: Number Two Par 6.4 (2,120) -56% 3007 62.7
School for Scoundrels MGM 3.5 (1,170) -59% 3007 14.1
The Gridiron Gang  Sony 2.4 (1,060) -48% 2228 36.7
Fearless Focus 2.3 (1,400) -55% 1617 21.7
The Illusionist YF/FS/Odeon 1.8 (1,600) -33% 1149 34.1
Little Miss Sunshine Fox Searchlight 1.3 (1,540) -36% 824 55
Trailer Park Boys Alliance 1.2 (6,680)   181 1.2
Flyboys MGM 1.1 (730) -55% 1471 11.9
Facing the Giants IDP 1.0 (2,250) -27% 435 2.7
The Science of Sleep WIP/Seville .74 (3,290) -34% 225 2.8
The Black Dahlia Uni .56 (600) -74% 931 22
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) x $105.20 x x x
% Change (Last Year) x 8% x x x
% Change (Last Week) x 13% x x x
Also debuting/expanding
The Queen Miramax .39 (35,270) 132% 11 0.62
The Last King of Scotland Fox Searchlight .29 (9,770) 105% 30 0.53
Love’s Abiding Joy Bigger Pics .13 (720) x 185 0.13
Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker Alliance .10 (900) x 115 0.1
Little Children New Line .10 (20,640) x 5 0.1
ShortBus Thinkfilm 77,300 (19,330) x 4 0.08
Cheech Alliance 53,600 (1,790) x 30 0.05
49 Up First Run 49,500 (2,480) x 20 0.05
Kettle of Fish Aloha 5,900 (1,950) x 3 0.01
Wrestling with Angels Balcony 5,840 (5,840) x 1 0.01
So Goes the Nation IFC 1,940 (970) x 2 0.01

Top Worldwide Releases: To October 5, 2006

Title  Distributor Gross
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest BVI 1,052,988,514
The Da Vinci Code Sony 754,716,173
Ice Age: The Meltdown Fox 643,632,908
X-Men: The Last Stand Fox 454,810,466
Cars BVI 449,117,700
Mission: Impossible III Par 396,110,014
Superman Returns WB 389,211,658
Over the Hedge Par/UIP 320,380,013
The Chronicles of Narnia * BV 287,636,880
The Break-Up Uni 200,626,088
Click Sony 200,273,999
Inside Man Uni 184,030,941
Scary Movie 4 Weinstein/BVI 177,972,649
Brokeback Mountain * Focus 169,023,817
Poseidon WB 167,243,651
The Pink Panther Sony/Fox 159,660,454
Talladega Nights: Legend of Ricky Bobby Sony 157,801,193
The Fast & the Furious: Tokyo Drift Uni 156,229,348
Miami Vice Uni 152,465,641
The Devil Wears Prada Fox 147,833,013
* does not include 2005 box office


Domestic Market Share: To September 28, 2006

Distributor (releases) Gross Percentage
Sony (26) 1245.1 17.80%
Buena Vista (20) 1205.9 17.30%
Fox (20) 1009.9 14.50%
Paramount (13) 744.8 10.70%
Universal (17) 736.4 10.60%
Warner Bros. (17) 675.5 9.70%
Weinstein Co. (12) 224.2 3.20%
Lions Gate (15) 223.1 3.20%
Focus (11) 167.2 2.40%
New Line (9) 166.2 2.40%
Fox Searchlight (11) 152.9 2.20%
MGM (5) 79.4 1.10%
Sony Classics (19) 52.2 0.70%
FreeStyle (8) 46.7 0.70%
Other * (220) 243.7 3.50%
* none greater than 0.05% 6973.2 100.00%
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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