MCN Columnists
Leonard Klady

By Leonard Klady

Khazakh on Fire!

Something Borat but definitely not blue was elevated to an estimated $28.6 million to lead weekend movie options. Freshman entries however were on the soft side with the off center comedy Stranger Than Fiction proving best in show with a $14.2 million debut that ranked fourth overall. The genre entry The Return had no better than fair response of $4.7 million, A Good Year generated a less than vintage $3.8 million and Harsh Times had a prophetic $1.8 million tally.

Limited releases were also unremarkable with a 3-D version of Night of the Living Dead receiving chilling returns that translated in not much better than a $1,000 screen average.

Overall movie going was consistent with 2005 and a couple of points off last weekend’s attendance level.

The exploits of Khazkh journalist Borat Sardiyev in America continued to amuse its target audience as it expanded aggressively in the domestic marketplace and retained a vigorous $11,000 plus engagement average. While it’s generated a very impressive $67.4 million gross after 10 days in theaters, the debate continues whether the 11th hour decision to scale back on its opening was economically and strategically effective. From this vantage point, it appears to have cost its distributor several million dollars that likely won’t materialize on the back end.

Duking it out again for second spot were family fare titles The Santa Clause 3 and Flushed Away with the former a winner by a frigid nose. Both films held well and took significant chunks out of the box office for similar appeal movies. Next week’s bow of Happy Feet is likely to take the wind out of the two film’s commercial sails heading into the Thanksgiving holiday session.

Revenues for the frame should be in the vicinity of $127 million or about 3% off of last weekend’s pace. The result is a virtual carbon copy result from 2005 when the $31.6 million second weekend return of Chicken Little clucked loudest and tepid debuts of Zathara, Derailed and Get Rich or Die Tryin’ clustered between $12 million and $14 million.

None of the frame’s national debuts were expected to be potent performers and their respective results elicited no shock response of a positive or negative kind. Stranger Than Fiction with Will Farrell in an odd Charlie Kaufman-style existential comedy benefited from star power and appears to be the sole freshman capable of sustaining itsel in the marketplace with good word-of-mouth.

Conversely, A Good Year was not the Russell Crowe movie the public was ready to embrace. The light comic effort of a businessman that inherits a vineyard failed to ignite audience passion or mirth.

The supernatural thriller The Return had at best passable results and the gritty social thriller Harsh Times could at least lay claim to receiving commercial exposure following more than a year of delays in the theatrical maelstrom.

The moribund results for the newly reconceived Night of the Living Dead in 3-D indicate it arrived too late in the horror cycle or too far from Halloween on the calendar. Both the period drama Copying Beethoven and the American indie Come Early Morning could claim no better than OK commercial response in limited exposure while the truly bizarre biopic of photographer Diane Arbus – Fur – and the documentary F*ck had exclusive results that do not bode well for more than modest expansion.

– by Leonard Klady

Weekend Estimates – November 12, 2006

Title Distributor Gross (average) % change Theaters Cume
Borat Fox 28.6 (11,130) 8% 2566 67.4
The Santa Clause 3 BV 16.9 (4,890) -13% 3458 41.1
Flushed Away Par 16.7 (4,510) -11% 3707 39.9
Stranger Than Fiction Sony 14.2 (6,280) 2264 14.2
Saw III Lions Gate 6.5 (2,170) -56% 3013 69.8
Babel Par Vantage 5.5 (4,420) 502% 1251 7.4
The Departed WB 5.1 (2,310) -34% 2210 109.6
The Prestige BV 4.7 (2,090) -38% 2236 46
The Return Focus 4.7 (2,360) 1986 4.7
A Good Year Fox 3.8 (1,850) 2066 3.8
Flags of Our Fathers Par 2.8 (1,440) -36% 1963 31
The Queen Miramax 2.6 (5,430) -10% 484 13.8
Harsh Times MGM 1.8 (1,910) 956 1.8
Man of the Year Uni 1.6 (1,000) -57% 1568 36.5
Open Season Sony 1.3 (1,180) -55% 1122 83.4
Flicka Fox 1.2 (990) -55% 1235 19.5
Marie Antoinette Sony 1.2 (1,670) -47% 705 14.9
The Guardian BV .75 (1,200) -54% 626 53.5
Facing the Giants IDP .67 (1,850) -4% 363 8.2
Running with Scissors Sony   .61 (1,230) -58% 497 6.4
One Night with the King Gener8Xion .57 (1,290) -47% 440 12.7
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $121.80
% Change (Last Year) 0%
% Change (Last Week) -3%
Also debuting/expanding
Night of the Living Dead 3D Midnight .21 (1,060) 200 0.21
Volver Sony Classics .17 (33,340) -16% 5 0.46
Copying Beethoven MGM 73,600 (2,830) 26 0.07
Shut Up & Sing Weinstein Co. 67,300 (6,120) -11% 11 0.24
Come Early Morning IDP 49,400 (2,250) 22 0.05
Fur Picturehouse 31,200 (7,800) 4 0.03
Iraq in Fragments Typecast 23,400 (3,610) 7 0.02
F*ck Thinkfilm 5,600 (2,800) 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?

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