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David Poland

By David Poland

The Borat Release Issue

There has been speculation about whether Fox’s late decision to go out with Borat on only 800 screens was a mistake, since it is going so well. Well, stop speculating. Inside of Fox, there are defintely some who now feel that way, thrilled by the late rush on the film and mighty matinees today.
But the odd part is, this is exactly what the point of pulling back to 800 screens was… to have a huge per-screen on opening weekend in the places where Fox knew they were strong and to allow word-of-mouth to do the job that publicity and marketing didn

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40 Responses to “The Borat Release Issue”

  1. T.H. Unfassung says:

    Make ’em wait and beg for Borat.

  2. jeffmcm says:

    I can’t remember now if I said I would eat something inedible if Sacha Baron Cohen gets an Oscar nomination or if the movie grosses $150 million – they’re both ludicrous, but I don’t remember where I staked my place.

  3. T.H. Unfassung says:

    You said you were so sure one of those would be true that you’d eat your hat if it wasn’t.

  4. David Poland says:

    Neither is ludicrous. Neither is certain.

  5. jeffmcm says:

    Thanks, T.H., I think it was the Oscar nomination thing that I’m more certain won’t happen – it’s an easier call, having not yet seen the movie.

  6. jeffmcm says:

    By the way, I think it’s worth noting that even though Borat is heavily sold out at the Chinese 6 and The Grove, it is not sold out in Burbank, Pasadena, or Century City, meaning that more suburban audiences aren’t quite as enthused for it.

  7. David Poland says:

    There is notihng suburban about Burbank, Pasadena, or Century City.
    The same thing (not selling out Friday morning) is “true” when movies like Pirates of the Caribean open. I’m not saying that Borat is Pirates. But in what seems like trying to find a negative, you are overreaching.

  8. Blackcloud says:

    Generalizing from sell outs at one or two theaters is bad logic.

  9. jeffmcm says:

    What do you consider to be ‘suburban’ then, DP? Van Nuys? Ventura? Riverside?
    My point is, the sell-outs are happening in the more central/upscale parts of Los Angeles, where there’s more likely to be higher concentrations of well-educated/hipster types. What I’m saying is that I see business more like the Marie Antoinette model – big with audiences who are primed for it.

  10. jeffmcm says:

    Oh, and I’m pretty sure Burbank was selling out pretty damn fast for Pirates 2.

  11. Blackcloud says:

    Everywhere was selling out for Pirates 2.
    I saw that Fandango number, 72% of pre-sales were for Borat. Weren’t Sith and Dead Man’s Chest over 90%?

  12. Teh Awesome says:

    Borat is playing on two screens at the Paramount in Downtown Montreal, they added a last-minute midnight screening somewhere around 6:30 PM.
    Walking by myself to the theater, I could hear people also walking to the theater talking about Borat in the streets, unaware of the fact that all but the midnight Borat shows were sold-out. Sold-out shows of this magnitude at this location are kind of rare, to my knowledge. Of course, the bigger movies get four or five screens.

  13. Shrubbo says:

    It was sold out from at least the 4pm show on here in Santa Barbara. When I got out of the 5pm show the rest of the shows for the day were already sold out. Not too common for up here from my experience.

  14. At least y’all get the chance to see Borat this weekend.
    I am KamikazeCamel and I hate distributers who think people outside of America don’t deserve movies at the same time.

  15. Cadavra says:

    Pics like this always have a huge opening day. Let’s see if it goes up or down tomorrow (Saturday) before going completely off the cliff.

  16. InnerGeek says:

    Oh Please! Ever heard of holidays David?

  17. Tedward says:

    Fox’s release of this has been botched. I can understand wanting to do a platform release with this, but they shot themselves in the foot by releasing it in only 800 screens. That’s too few screens. With a film like this, they should have released it in at least 1400-1500, then maybe release it wider the next weekend (like 2500).
    The problem is, they never even saturated the ‘urban’ market with this limited release. Big mistake!

  18. Nicol D says:

    I agree with Cadavra. Still no where near enough info yet to see how this will perform.
    Obviously the cult following Cohen has will come out hard on opening weekend, after that, hard to tell.
    I will say that more people know about this than people are giving them credit for. It is not only known by ‘educated’ types.
    As I lay practically upside down yesterday morning, praying to God that my cavity was not going to turn into need for a root canal, the lovely dental assistant Anna, told me that she could hardly wait for the week-end so she could take her son to this new ‘goofy looking’ comedy called Borat.
    Most of the supporters of Borat are claiming it is only going to appeal to urban, ‘educated’, white, hipster types. She fit none of these categories, and was clearly educated for her work.
    I only say this because people do know about Borat; now it must pass or fail based on its merits. If it does not crack 100 million, saying that it was just too sophisticated will not be an excuse.

  19. EDouglas says:

    Well, early word has it possibly doing as much as $9 million on Friday, which means anywhere from $21 to 25 million opening weekend… looking to break the under 1000 per theatre average set by Fahrenheit 9/11 (I think Blair Witch was over 1000 when it expanded). Craziness.

  20. Melquiades says:

    Saw this yesterday (Friday) at 12:20 p.m. in Boca Raton, Florida. The theater was packed, with teens, young adults, senior citizens, you name it.
    Got the same report from my sister who saw it Friday eveing in Miami.

  21. Scott Mendelson says:
    Holy crap…
    $8.9 million on 800 screens, severely trouncing Santa Clause 3 which did $5.4 million. One can likely assume that front loading is huge, but even if it’s multiplier is JackAss The Movie bad, we’re talking $22 million on 800 screens at least. If it actually plays like a normal film (3x multiplier), we’re looking at a 32,000 per screen average.
    I can’t remember the last time a major studio did something this smart. I applauded Fox’s decision and was expecting a strong number 02 showing of $15 million where the story would be the per-screen average and large number of sellouts. Wow, I used to be better at this game.
    On another note, I am still surprised that Santa Clause 3 so underperformed in comparison. Regardless of the series’s popularity, you’d think having a huge mega-popular R-rated comedy would boost the official sales of its PG-rated competetitor. Just look up the weekend (first or second weekend in November of 2002) that 8-Mile opened to $52 million. Everything non-R-rated had obscenely tiny drops. I remember being stunned that no one put two and two together.
    Scott Mendelson

  22. Scott Mendelson says:

    Hmm… on second thought. With the exception of Saw III (-62%), pretty much all the holdovers had super-tiny drops (Prestige drops 20% and Departed drops 17%, Flags Of Our Fathers drops 34% and Man Of The Year drops 19%, for example). Ok, so maybe the sell outs are so pervasive that everything is getting a boost, not just the non-R-films that kids are falsely buying tickets to (whether it’s people accepting their second choice or people sneaking in and standing in the aisles, you tell me).

  23. Josh Massey says:

    “Santa Clause” will likely still win the weekend, but you’re right – Wow. I think every Atlanta resident between the ages of 20 and 30 was at the theater I was at last night. A huge number of shows, and every one was sold out. And I mean the theater was PACKED 30 minutes before the lights dimmed.
    And as a graduate of the University of Georgia, I can’t stop thanking all that is holy that those guys were from the U. of South Carolina.

  24. martin says:

    If they’d started wide they would have opened to $40 something mill. 800-screens – possibly big mistake.

  25. Joe Leydon says:

    Looks to me like Fox is looking pretty damn smart right now.

  26. EDouglas says:

    martin, they’ll still probably be #1…and now they’re #1 with the highest per theatre average for a movie under 1000 theatres (very likely)… by releasing it into 837 theatres, there wasn’t the pressure to be #1 and no matter how much it made, they would have a high per theatre average. Now, they have something to work from for next weekend when it nearly triples the theatres and it probably will at least match its opening weekend amount and likely beat the Will Ferrell comedy, which gives it even more edge to try to convert others going into Thanksgiving weekend. It’s pretty insane that it actually worked and I’m sure we’ll be seeing Fox use similar ideas with future comedies (like Reno 911).
    Now where’s David to say “I toldja so”? I’m sure we’ll be “hearing” it for the rest of the year, but I thought he’d be on here faster than a… well, I’m from New York, so we don’t do those quaint Southern analogies. Just make something up.

  27. martin says:

    Joe, I disagree. They may not have made a major mistake, but if the choice was a sold-out $22 mill open or a mostly-sold-out $40 mill open, they’d take the latter in a second.

  28. martin says:

    However, I suspect this open will get them to go even wider than 2k next weekend.

  29. Tedward says:

    The numbers prove that this is a HUGE mistake on their part, not a ‘smart’ move at all. Someone’s gonna get into a lot of shit over this at Fox. This could have made well over 15 million last night, if it was on more screens.
    Sure, they can go wider next week, but that’s a lost cause right now. The money they could have made this weekend, will never be made next weekend, no matter how many screens they add.

  30. Aladdin Sane says:

    My friend and I went to see it last night, got there mighty early and it was…
    …already sold out! For both the late shows.
    So we bought tix for tonight instead.
    Fox could have opened with more screens, but they still could only be pulling in 20 million on more – the only way people who’ve never heard of Borat are going to see this movie film, is if they hear it’s great. I think Fox looks good on this. Anyhow, can’t wait to watch it tonight.

  31. Josh Massey says:

    In 1989, this would have been a good move. In 2006, it was a mistake.

  32. Direwolf says:

    Santa Clause 2 had a first Friday of $7.5 million. This franchise and Tim Allen got some serious problems.
    Wallace and Grommitt did $4 million on its first Friday and pulled in $16 million on the weekend. Flushed Away looking better but not a huge hit. The path is clear for Happy Feet.
    Borat vs. Fahrenheit. Election Day coming up. Hmmm.

  33. martin says:

    Tedward – I agree. Fox completely over-thought their release. I wouldn’t call it a “failure”, but you’re right, money WILL be left on the table.

  34. Direwolf says:

    FWIW, I just got off the phone with my son who is a freshman at NYU studying music composition (BTW, he wants to get into film scoring so if any of you might be able to help with a tip on finding on internship, please let me know). Anyhow, he said every showing of Borat at every theatre in Manhattan was sold out. The theatre close to him at Union Square was completely sold out for the day by mid-afternoon. He and friends did find tickets for a theatre on 64th Street. NYC not representative I know but interesting.
    We will know whether the release strategy is correct in a few weeks. Of course, we may never know as if the film goes north of $100 million, qualifying as a big success, then how will be able to tell if it was the slow rollout or if a wider rollout would have ended up the same.

  35. EDouglas says:

    Tedward, no one is going to get fired over this. It’s still going to make the exact same money it would have made if it opened in 2000 theatres this weekend, it’s just going to spread out over the next two weeks rather than being made all in on weekend than crashing next week. It’s likely to be #1 where few people thought it would be #1, and that’s a HUGE win for Fox and for their recent purchase of MySpace. (I actually think the controversy over the decision to lessen the screen count actually helped generate more interest in the movie, too)

  36. Joe Leydon says:

    EDouglas: Faster than a New York minute.
    Everybody else: I still say this was a smart move. On 2,000 screens, it would be perceived as a hit. On 800 screes, it is perceived as a phenomenon. Now you tell me: What gets more ink, causes more buzz, raises more want-to-see enthusiasm — a hit or a phenomenon? Every freakin’ box-ofice story on this will include some variation of “even though it was on 70 percent fewer screens than Santa 3” (or something like that). As Dave himself notes: “[W]ill people not go see a movie they hear is the funniest movie of the year, of the decade, of all time because they had to wait another week? Of course not.”

  37. T.H. Unfassung says:

    It’s like the Columbia liftoff; this IS rocket science.
    (Inside joke to me: Let’s see if my Apple is faster than my PC.)

  38. T.H. Unfassung says:

    I know, that one blew up over Lockerbie, carry on.

  39. The Carpetmuncher says:

    It’s just platforming on steroids. They’re going to open it wide next weekend, right?
    This is still a word of mouth movie, no matter how big it is. Because lots of people still have no idea who Borat is. Giving them time to figure it out is a pretty smart idea. Even if you’re sacrificing say, $8-10 million opening weekend by not going on 2000 screens, you’re solidifying your buzz by overperforming in just 800.
    Fox’s screen-downsizing move lowered expectations for total gross while simultaneously strengthening the films per-screen position by only playing in the best theatres.
    This week Borat played to his base. Next, he takes over the world…

  40. I agree with Joe about the phenom/hit thing. It happened to (sorry for this) My Big Fat Greek Wedding and others like it. If they had an actual advertising budget and released that wide it wouldn’t have gotten anywhere near where it did.

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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?”

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