MCN Columnists
Leonard Klady

By Leonard Klady


Records fell as Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Making Benefit Glorious of Kazakhstan posted an estimated $25.9 million to ascend to the top of the list for weekend movie going. The session also featured good openings for family fare The Santa Clause 3 and Flushed Away that ranked second and third with respective grosses of $20.1 million and $18.9 million and an excellent five screen launch of Spanish Oscar submission Volver of $187,000. Additionally, many leading holdover titles were unusually strong.

The video journal of Kazakh journalist Borat Sagdiyev proved unexpectedly potent to American viewers and once again a political documentary emerged as a commercial hit. Surpassing the $23.9 million debut of Fahrenheit 911, Borat can now claim the best debut for a non-fiction movie. Concerns that the film’s international accent would not play in the heartland pared back its initial exposure by 50% and the targeted 837 screens had few soft engagements. According to a studio spokesman, additional multiplex screens had to be added Saturday to accommodate the appeal and boosted box office by 10 percent. The very potent initial salvo now paves the way for aggressive expansion through the holiday season.

Concerns of a different stripe were apparent with the simultaneous release of Disney franchise The Santa Clause and Ardman Studio’s animated Flushed Away. Pitting two family oriented movies in direct competition suggested one might seriously falter though ultimately the erosion was minor for each entry. Spokespeople for the two distributors said that the strategic value of opening prior to Thanksgiving outweighed other factors and expressed confidence their films would continue strong through the upcoming holiday periods.

Business expanded a significant 28% from the immediate prior weekend to approximately $132 million. Ironically, it was still 2% behind the comparable 2005 span when preems of Chicken Little and Jarhead lead box office with $40 million and $27.7 million respectively.

Among the continuing films that held strong against the competition were The Departed that ascended to $102.2 million and became director Martin Scorsese’s top grossing movie; The Prestige, and surprisingly, Marie Antoinette. Also unexpectedly strong was Man of the Year that appeared to be the beneficiary of things political as Tuesday mid-term elections approached.

The Queen once again opted for cautious expansion and maintained potent returns as did Babel. The latter title will face the acid test when it steps up to about 1,200 venues next weekend. Meanwhile, the award season had its first casualty with the South Africa-set political thriller Catch a Fire failing to ignite despite critical hosannas. It sank by 46% and has barely eked out $3.7 million after 10 days in theaters.

Another critical favorite, Pedro Almodovar’s Volver, began wooing the American public with an alluring $37,400 screen average from five venues. A prize winner at Cannes, its Spain’s foreign-language submission and Penelope Cruz’s performance is viewed as a potential Oscar contender. The film has grossed a very impressive $63 million plus from engagements throughout Europe to date.

Other new limited releases barely registered a commercial pulse including acclaimed Jamaican import Shottas and the American indie Unknown. Freshman Bollywood entry Umrao Jaan was just fair with an opening weekend close to $180,000 from 65 locations.

– by Leonard Klady

Weekend Estimates – November 5, 2006

Title Distributor Gross (average) % change Theaters Cume
Borat Fox 25.9 (30,980) x 837 25.9
The Santa Clause 3 BV 20.1 (5,810) x 3458 20.1
Flushed Away Par 18.9 (5,090) x 3707 18.9
Saw III Lions Gate 15.3 (4,840) -54% 3167 59.9
The Departed WB 7.9 (2,850) -19% 2785 102.2
The Prestige BV 7.8 (3,390) -18% 2305 39.4
Flags of Our Fathers Par 4.5 (1,880) -30% 2375 26.6
Man of the Year Uni 3.8 (1,580) -20% 2388 34
Open Season Sony 3.0 (1,240) -48% 2458 81.3
The Queen Miramax 3.0 (7,830) 59% 387 10.1
Flicka Fox 2.7 (1,150) -44% 2314 17.6
Marie Antoinette Sony 2.3 (2,620) -20% 870 13
The Guardian BV 1.7 (1,340) -28% 1274 52.4
Running with Scissors Sony   1.6 (2,780) -36% 586 5.3
The Grudge 2 Sony 1.6 (1,030) -51% 1568 38.3
Catch a Fire Focus 1.1 (830) -46% 1306 3.7
One Night with the King Gener8Xion 1.1 (1,540) -31% 701 11.7
The Marine Fox 1.0 (1,030) -45% 1010 16.9
Employee of the Month Lions Gate .94 (1,170) -40% 801 27.5
Babel Par Vantage .89 (25,430) 129% 35 1.4
The Nightmare Before Christmas 3-D BV .81 (4,820) -58% 168 7.4
Facing the Giants IDP .66 (1,760) -10% 376 7.2
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $126.60 x x x
% Change (Last Year) x -2% x x x
% Change (Last Week) x 28% x x x
Also debuting/expanding
Volver Sony Classics .19 (37,440) x 5 0.19
Umrao Jaan Adlabs .18 (2,750) x 65 0.18
Shut Up & Sing Weinstein Co. 78,100 (8,680) 56% 9 0.15
Shottas Sony Rep 10,400 (2,600) x 4 0.01
Unknown IFC 4,400 (2,200) x 2 0.01
Romantico Kino 2,550 (2,550) x 1 0.01
Soap Strand 2,140 (1,070) x 2 0.01

Top Limited Releases: To October 26, 2006

Title  Distributor  Gross
An Inconvenient Truth Par Classics 23,802,206
Match Point DmWks 23,052,317
Deep Sea 3-D WB 20,168,478
Mrs. Henderson Presents Weinstein Co. 10,662,712
Scoop Focus 10,546,627
Bon Cop Bad Cop Alliance 10,206,438
Magnificent Desolation Imax 9,393,038
Transamerica Weinstein Co. 8,771,637
A Scanner Darkly WIP 5,501,616
Facing the Giants IDP 5,500,301
The World’s Fastest Indian Magnolia 5,128,124
Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada Sony Classics 4,996,040
Roving Mars BV 4,906,041
Wild Safari 3-D nWave 4,804,902
The Queen Mrmx 4,380,802
Keeping Up with the Steins Mrmx 4,354,174
The Science of Sleep WIP/Seville 4,245,872
The Nightmare Before Christmas 3-D BV 4,071,660
Cache (Hidden) Sony Class/Alliance 3,732,437
Kahbi Alvida Naa Kehna Yash Raj 3,275,443
* non greater than 565 playdates

Domestic Market Share: To October 26, 2006

Distributor Gross Mktshr
Sony (29) 1336.2 18.10%
Buena Vista (22) 1256.6 17.00%
Fox (22) 1033.9 14.00%
Paramount (14) 775.8 10.50%
Universal (18) 762.1 10.30%
Warner Bros. (18) 759.1 10.20%
Lions Gate (16) 248.4 3.40%
Weinstein Co. (13) 225.2 3.00%
New Line (11) 203.9 2.80%
Focus (11) 172.4 2.30%
Fox Searchlight (11) 158.5 2.10%
MGM (5) 88.2 1.20%
Sony Classics (20) 52.6 0.70%
FreeStyle (8) 51.6 0.70%
Other * (240) 275.1 3.70%
* none greater than 0.45% 7399.6 100.00%
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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?

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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.

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~ Hampton Fancher

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~ David Simon