MCN Columnists
Leonard Klady

By Leonard Klady

Turkey Trot

The Thanksgiving frame was putting on a happy face as Happy Feet once again pushed ahead of Casino Royale by a beak with the film’s grossing $38.1 million and $30.1 million respectively during the three-day portion of the holiday. The table was heavy with new sides but patrons were only enthusiastic for third-ranked Déjà Vu with a $20.8 million three-day tally.

The rest of the freshman class included OK results for the festive Deck the Halls of $12.1 million and disappointing returns of $3.6 million for the sci-fi romance The Fountain and $3.2 million for the musical-comedy Tenacious D: The Pick of Destiny. The Bollywood circuit saw buoyant returns of $760,000 for Dhoom 2 while the expansion of Bobby had indifferent response and the exclusive launch of The History Boys was just fair.

The larder was rich but far from record breaking with three-day revenues of about $165 million and a total of close to $230 million for the five days. Respectively, that’s 2% and 4% behind last year’s performance.

There was no chill despite mixed reviews for Happy Feet as the holiday span saw its second weekend dip just 8%. The animated penguin saga quickly waddled to $100 million in its 10th day of theatrical exposure and promises to be a huge international success as it rolls out at Christmas overseas.

Casino Royale pushed past $200 million worldwide and early results indicate it could well become the biggest grosser in the franchise’s history. The film has opened in the top spot in every territory where its debuted with the sole exception of the U.S. and Canada.

While the 2005 freshman Thanksgiving class – including Yours, Mine and Ours with $17.5 million and Rent at $10 million for the three-day portion – wasn’t inspired, this year’s group was on an even lower spark with the exception of Déjà Vu. The Denzel Washington thriller with a science fiction twist has benefited from strong word-of-mouth and should continue strong through Christmas.

The Fountain combined similar elements considerably less successfully. Its fractious production history and generally downbeat reviews were another debit in what could well prove on the year’s biggest misfires.

The season wouldn’t be complete without a seasonal comedy and Deck the Halls debut just managed to nose past the third weekend of Santa Clause 3. Jack Black and Kyle Gass’s cult musical anarchy remained a niche player with Tenacious D: The Pick of Destiny and despite a full bore publicity campaign, Bobby couldn’t pull a significant crowd among those who either remembered the era or a new generation that wanted to visit it. The expansion of For Your Consideration was marginally better but Christopher Guest’s parody is unlikely to expand his niche appeal.

Borat passed $100 million domestically on Friday and Bond is primed to become the 16th film to pass that mark in 2006 on Wednesday.

The Queen continued to play the award card effectively while Babel struggled to maintain its profile in a year singularly lacking in frontrunners.

– by Leonard Klady

Weekend Estimates – November 24-26, 2006

Title Distributor Gross (average) % change Theaters Cume
Happy Feet WB 38.1 (10,020) -8% 3804 100.3
Casino Royale Sony 30.9 (8,970) -24% 3443 94
Déjà vu BV 20.8 (6,680)   3108 28.9
Deck the Halls Fox 12.1 (3,780)   3205 17.1
Borat Fox 10.4 (4,070) -29% 2552 109.3
The Santa Clause 3 BV 10.2 (3,340) 23% 3043 67.4
Stranger Than Fiction Sony 6.0 (2,640) -10% 2258 32.8
Flushed Away Par 5.8 (2,220) -12% 2621 57.4
Bobby MGM 4.6 (2,740)   1667 5.8
The Fountain WB 3.6 (2,470)     5.3
Tenacious D: Pick of Destiny New Line 3.2 (1,660)   1919 5.5
The Queen Miramax 2.6 (3,950) 17% 653 21
For Your Consideration WIP 2.0 (3,180) 432% 623 3
Babel Par Vantage 1.9 (2,130) -34% 902 15.1
The Departed WB 1.8 (1,950) -38% 910 116.8
Saw III Lions Gate 1.4 (1,380) -51% 1044 77.8
Let’s Go to Prison Uni .94 (630) -58% 1495 4.1
The Prestige BV .89 (1,570) -54% 565 51.1
Dhoom 2 Yash Raj .76 (12,060)   63 0.76
Volver Sony Classics .51 (18,890) 257% 27 1.2
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $158.5
% Change (Last Year) -2%
% Change (Last Week)- 14%
Also debuting/expanding
The History Boys Fox Searchlight .10 (14,200)   7 0.1
Opal Dream Strand 2,750 (690)   4 0.01

Top Worldwide Releases: To November 16, 2006

Title Distributor Gross
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest BVI 422,687,492
Cars BVI 224,308,950
X-Men: The Last Stand Fox 234,362,462
The Da Vinci Code Sony 217,988,137
Superman Returns WB 200,166,555
Ice Age: The Meltdown Fox 195,330,621
Over the Hedge Par 155,562,848
Talladega Nights: Legend of Ricky Bobby Sony 149,007,623
Click Sony 137,791,464
Mission: Impossible III Par 133,930,344
The Devil Wears Prada Fox 124,712,625
The Break-Up Uni 118,778,358
The Departed WB 114,012,653
Borat  Fox 98,877,057
Scary Movie 4 Weinstein Co. 90,710,620
Failure to Launch Par 88,915,704
Inside Man Uni 88,593,474
Open Season Sony 83,948,077
The Pink Panther Sony 83,137,123
The Chronicles of Narnia * BV 82,270,870
* does not include 2005 box office

Domestic Market Share: To November 16, 2006

Distributor (releases) Gross Percentage
Sony (31) 1436 18.00%
Buena Vista (23) 1331.5 16.60%
Fox (24) 1145.7 14.30%
Paramount (15) 845.3 10.60%
Warner Bros. (19) 834.7 10.40%
Universal (19) 777.5 9.70%
Lions Gate (18) 327.7 4.10%
Weinstein Co. (14) 225.8 2.80%
New Line (11) 207.4 2.60%
Focus (13) 183.9 2.30%
Fox Searchlight (12) 161.4 2.00%
MGM (8) 92.1 1.20%
FreeStyle (9) 55.2 0.70%
Sony Classics (22) 53.5 0.70%
Other * (257) 318.4 4.00%
* none greater than 0.5% 7996.1 100.00%
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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