MCN Columnists
Leonard Klady

By Leonard Klady

Seasons Greetings!

Open Season animated an estimated $23.3 million to lead weekend movie biz with the watery actioner The Guardian not far behind with $17.6 million. The combo registered sufficient muscle to provide a double-digit boost from 2005.

The session also featured an OK $8.1 million bow for the comic School for Scoundrels. Additionally limited bows for pedigree entries The Last King of Scotland and The Queen had impressive first forays.

The current frame shaped up as a grudge match between the top two ticket draws with heavy pumping on the part of both pictures. Season, the maiden entry for Sony’s animation unit, confronted a public that’s been barraged by cute critter movies the past summer and emerged with solid response, particularly in its 66 large format 3-D engagements that accounted for about $1.2 million of its box office.

Disney may have hoped The Guardian would dampen the response to Open Season but there was no palpable indication of major erosion. The muscular yarn relied on star power though it played older despite the presence of Ashton Kucher who also voiced a major character in the weekend’s top grosser.

Ticket sales were virtually identical to the prior weekend at slightly less than $100 million. Final numbers are likely to show no more than a 2% variance while comparisons with 2005 provided a 10% increase. Last year’s scoreboard had the second weekend of Flightplan grossing $14.8 million with newcomers Serenity and A History of Violence bowing respectively to $10.1 million and $8.1 million.

Based on a 1960 British comedy, School for Scoundrels registered passable results though some out-sized expectations had suggested more bountiful returns. The picture draped itself as a low-brow teen appeal outing and wasn’t able to sell itself in that fashion.

On the holdover front, the toll on last weekend’s wide release freshman crop was extreme with all entries experiencing greater than 50% hits. Nonetheless the potent opening of Jackass: Number Two will see that title out-grossing the original while the poor debut of All the King’s Men sees that film likely to wind up with less than a $10 million final gross.

The inspirational high school football yarn Facing the Giants grossed a middling $1.3 million in regional release. It’s received a small publicity boost from a film rating controversy. The Science of Sleep held well with a $1.2 million b.o. as it expanded from 18 to 225 theaters.

Two films propelled by Oscar acting hopes generated strong reviews and grosses. The Last King of Scotland with Forrest Whitaker as General Idi Amin opened Wednesday and netted $30,000 prior to the weekend. It added an additional $142,000 from four screens. Another historic figure, Elizabeth II, provided Helen Mirren with a showcase role in The Queen. It bowed on three Manhatten screens Saturday followed a New York Film Festival launch and is expected to return $132,000 in its first two days of release.

Also positive was the opening of A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints that generated roughly $93,000 from eight engagements. Toronto fest curtain raiser The Journals of Knud Rasmussen struggled to $45,000 from 43 screens in Canada. The Inuit saga from the makers of The Fast Runner received tepid reviews and unfavorable comparison to the prior effort.

– by Leonard Klady

Weekend Estimates – October 1, 2006

Title Distributor Gross (avg) % change Theaters Cume
Open Season Sony 23.3 (6,090) x 3833 23.3
The Guardian BV 17.6 (5,440) x 3241 17.6
Jackass: Number Two Par 13.8 (4,500) -53% 3063 51.2
School for Scoundrels MGM 8.1 (2,710) x 3004 8.1
Fearless Focus 4.7 (2,600) -56% 1810 17.8
The Gridiron Gang  Sony 4.4 (1,460) -53% 3033 33.1
The Illusionist YF/FS/Odeon 2.7 (2,080) -18% 1319 31.4
Flyboys MGM 2.3 (1,120) -62% 2033 9.9
The Black Dahlia Uni 2.1 (1,020) -54% 2009 20.7
Little Miss Sunshine Fox Searchlight 2.0 (1,910) -28% 1065 53.2
All the King’s Men Sony 1.5 (1,010) -58% 1520 6.2
The Covenant Sony 1.3 (750) -60% 1700 22.2
The Last Kiss Par 1.3 (1,140) -49% 1116 10.5
Facing the Giants IDP 1.3 (2,860)   441 1.3
The Science of Sleep WIP/Seville 1.2 (5,420) 344% 225 1.8
Everyone’s Hero Fox 1.1 (510) -76% 2201 13.2
Invincible BV 1.0 (750) -60% 1357 56.3
Hollywoodland Focus .58 (1,100) -61% 529 14
Talladega Nights Sony .52 (780) -56% 669 147.5
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $91.97 x x x
% Change (Last Year) x 10% x x x
% Change (Last Week) x -1% x x x
Also debuting/expanding
The Last King of Scotland Fox Searchlight .14 (35,250) x 4 0.17
The Queen (two day) Miramax .13 (43,670) x 3 0.13
A Guide to Recognizing Yours Saints First Look .09 (11,650) x 8 0.09
The Journals of Knud Rasmussen Odeon 45,000 (1,050) x 43 0.05
Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde Rocky Mtn 20,200 (6,730) x 30 0.02
Broken Sky Strand 4,900(4,900) x 1 0.01

Top Grossing Limited Releases: To September 28, 2006

Title  Distributor Gross
An Inconvenient Truth Par Classics 23,640,909
Match Point DmWks 23,052,317
Deep Sea 3-D WB 19,193,539
Mrs. Henderson Presents Weinstein Co. 10,662,712
Scoop Focus 10,525,717
Bon Cop Bad Cop Alliance 9,434,359
Magnificent Desolation Imax 8,950,690
Transamerica Weinstein Co. 8,771,637
A Scanner Darkly WIP 5,474,760
The World’s Fastest Indian Magnolia 5,128,124
Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada Sony Classics 4,996,040
Roving Mars BV 4,694,527
Wild Safari 3-D nWave 4,665,224
Keeping Up with the Steins Mrmx 4,354,174
Cache (Hidden) Sony Class/Alliance 3,732,437
Kahbi Alvida Naa Kehna Yash Raj 3,275,443
Water Fox Searchlight 3,224,424
Wordplay IFC 3,090,942
Tsotsi Mrmx 2,912,606
La Mujer de Mi Hermano Lions Gate 2,808,241
* non greater than 565 playdates

Domestic Market Share: To September 28, 2006

Distributor (releases) Gross Percentage
Sony (25) 1206.1 17.60%
Buena Vista (19) 1180.6 17.20%
Fox (20) 1008.1 14.70%
Universal (17) 732.8 10.70%
Paramount (13) 723.5 10.60%
Warner Bros. (17) 674.1 9.90%
Weinstein Co. (12) 223.8 3.30%
Lions Gate (15) 222.1 3.20%
New Line (9) 165.9 2.40%
Focus (11) 160.1 2.30%
Fox Searchlight (10) 150.1 2.20%
MGM (4) 65.6 1.00%
Sony Classics (18) 51.9 0.80%
FreeStyle (8) 43.5 0.60%
Other * (212) 237.1 3.50%
* none greater than 0.05% 6845.3 100.00%
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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