MCN Columnists
Leonard Klady

By Leonard Klady

Where There’s A Will

The Pursuit of Happyness emerged as the top box office draw in a closer than expected race with the sword and fantasy outing Eragon. The Will Smith human comedy grossed an estimated $26.8 million to Eragon’s $23.1 million tally. The fierce rivalry at the top left the latest screen adaptation of Charlotte’s Web a distant third with $11.8 million.

The frame was also highlighted by a dynamic $342,000 box office for Dreamgirls from just three screens and an OK bow of $78,500 for The Good German at five venues. Additionally there were good results of $410,000 for local hero Romeo et Juliette in Quebec.

Overall the frame experienced a significant 25% boost from last weekend but still lagged behind 2005 by 8% when King Kong bowed to $50.1 million and Narnia followed at $31.8 million. Box office for the year stands at approximately at $8.66 billion or a slim 3% gross improvement with admissions roughly consistent.

The session also pushed Sony’s box office past $1.6 billion to set a new domestic industry record with 14 days left in the calendar. Its global tally now exceeds $3 billion for the year.

The true life tale of a man that beat the odds, Pursuit of Happyness fits nicely into the sub-genre of hopyness movies with Will Smith bringing charisma and dignity to his role. Smith’s appeal and record had pundits predicting a $30 million debut but significant competition pared it back by about 10%.

Eragon entered the marketplace with the trappings of a Ring clone that no one was entirely convinced audiences would buy. The potent results and exit polls indicate that at least the Ring bearer’s young male quotient was ready for Middle Earth redux. The challenge remains to expand that core or quickly confront the perils of the box office abyss.

Industry trackers were bullish on Charlotte’s Web with projections of $15 million to $20 million from a family crowd that’s very strong during the season. However, its first hoof was unsteady with some blaming its similarity in style to Babe worked against it. Favorable word-of-mouth will be crucial as the holidays close in next week.

Holdover titles progressed in not unexpected fashion with last week’s leader Apocalypto taking close to a 50% hit and The Holiday off a more encouraging 38%. The films showing surprising strength were Blood Diamond that held at a 72% level and The Nativity Story benefiting from yuletide ardor with a slim 19% decline.

The Dreamgirls gamble of a high-ticket pre-holiday roadshow run payed off handsomely with high capacity response that generated better than a $112,000 average from three screens. Though early critic’s honors have largely singled out the performances of Jennifer Hudson and Eddie Murphy, reviews have been giddy and awards prognosticators have pegged the picture as an Oscar frontrunner.

Critical response has been more savage toward The Good German, a stylized thriller that nonetheless had a better than respectable gross in five initial forays. The jury’s still out about just how wide and accessible the picture can be pushed. Also peeking out at three locations was the saga of war on the homefront in Home of the Brave. Its $5,900 gross at three outposts proved commercially moribund.

In Quebec the season kicked off with a contemporary Shakespearian spin of Romeo et Juliette that posted good but not stellar response. Strong opening day numbers fell by 18% on Saturday, quashing hopes of a $500,000 weekend

– Leonard Klady

Weekend Estimates – December 15-17, 2006

Title Distributor Gross (average) % change Theaters Cume
The Pursuit of Happyness Sony 26.8 (9,410) 2852 26.8
Eragon Fox 23.1 (7,660) 3020 23.1
Charlotte’s Web Par 11.8 (3,320) 3566 11.8
Happy Feet WB 8.5 (2,540) -34% 3335 149.4
The Holiday Sony 8.0 (3,050) -38% 2614 25.1
Apocalypto BV 7.6 (3,100) -49% 2465 27.8
Blood Diamond WB 6.2 (3,270) -28% 1910 18.4
Casino Royale Sony 5.5 (2,270) -38% 2437 137.4
The Nativity Story New Line 4.6 (1,790) -19% 2574 23
Unaccompanied Minors WB 3.5 (1,250) -40% 2775 10
Déjà vu BV 3.0 (1,500) -51% 1985 57.7
Deck the Halls Fox 1.9 (1,040) -52% 1851 32.8
The Santa Clause 3 BV 1.8 (1,200) -44% 1535 79.8
Borat Fox 1.5 (1,610) -41% 951 122.8
The Queen Miramax .65 (1,350) -26% 483 25.6
Stranger Than Fiction Sony .54 (1,020) -62% 532 40.2
Babel Par Vantage .51 (2,320) 12% 220 18.3
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $115.0
% Change (Last Year) -8%
% Change (Last Week) 25%
Also debuting/expanding
Romeo et Juliette Alliance .41 (5,640) 73 0.41
Dreamgirls Par .34 (112.670) 3 0.34
Volver Sony Classics .29 (6,040) -22% 48 2.8
The History Boys Fox Searchlight .22 (2,990) 12% 76 0.8
The Good German WB .08 (15,660) 5 0.08
Home of the Brave MGM 5,930 (1,980) 3 0.01
The Secret Life of Words Strand 5,140 (5,140) 1 0.06

Top Releases: To December 14, 2006

Title Distributor Gross
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest BVI 1,065,499,692
The Da Vinci Code Sony 757,118,984
Ice Age: The Meltdown Fox 644,456,930
X-Men: The Last Stand Fox 456,393,399
Cars BVI 442,027,990
Mission: Impossible III Par 396,604,217
Superman Returns WB 390,522,817
Casino Royale Sony 389,202,456
Over the Hedge Par/UIP 336,313,193
The Devil Wears Prada Fox 315,504,847
The Chronicles of Narnia * BVI 287,636,880
Click Sony 232,596,796
The Departed WB/Initial 227,361,930
Borat  Fox 227,171,328
The Break-Up Uni 203,204,561
Happy Feet WB 187,280,098
Inside Man Uni 184,040,165
Scary Movie 4 Weinstein/BVI 177,972,649
Open Season Sony 172,800,336
Brokeback Mountain * Focus 169,317,841

Domestic Market Share: To December 14, 2006

Distributor (releases) Gross Percentage
Sony (32) 1562.7 18.30%
Buena Vista (25) 1437.5 16.80%
Fox (26) 1217.1 14.30%
Warner Bros. (22) 969.2 11.40%
Paramount (15) 859.5 10.10%
Universal (19) 780.3 9.10%
Lions Gate (18) 333.1 3.90%
New Line (13) 226.3 2.70%
Weinstein Co. (14) 234.6 2.60%
Focus (13) 184.8 2.20%
Fox Searchlight (13) 163.3 1.90%
MGM (9) 107.4 1.30%
FreeStyle (9) 55.9 0.70%
Sony Classics (22) 55.5 0.70%
Other * (266) 344.9 4.00%
= 8532.1 100.00%
Be Sociable, Share!

Comments are closed.


Quote Unquotesee all »

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