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David Poland

By David Poland

The Summer To Date

I am going to do a summer column later this week, but here are a couple quick numbers that I think are interesting…
Even though 2004 ended up being the biggest box office year ever, it is not the best early summer ever. That honor belongs to 2002, which rode the original Spider-Man and Star Wars: Episode Two – Attack of The Clones to $527 million in the first 17 days, starting with the first Friday launch on, that year, May 3.
This year, in spite of two of three top openings of all time, the same stat… first 17 days from the first opening Friday, has generated “only” $508 million.
If you took only the May weekend numbers so far, 2007 is only about $12 million ahead of 2002. (About $75 million ahead of the mistouted 2004.) In other words, weekdays are running behind so far.
In order for 2007 to be the biggest May ever, the box office needs to generate about $265 million in the 8 days that started yesterday (Monday) and end on Memorial Day Monday (May 28).
Spider-Man 3 is already behind both the first two films by a couple of million. Heck, Shrek The Third is even behind Shrek 2 at the end of the first weekend (Shrek 2 opened on a Wed).
Pirates 3 has decided to have 8p shows, so current record holders will surely hold the film to 5-day opening standards – a 3-day record is very unlikely while opening on a long weekend… things stretch – which means the record breaking by-end-of-business-Monday number would be $172.9 million.
Even if P3 doesn’t hit that insane number, this May is likely to end up the biggest ever. And we’ll see in a few weeks whether the films will match or surpass past year’s May releases overall. But don’t get lost in the weekend hype. The ability to create massive openings is intriguing. But the real news may well be elsewhere… the information is still coming in…

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30 Responses to “The Summer To Date”

  1. I hope Pirates 3 is good. There needs to be one good wide release this month doesn’t there?
    Dave, what are your thoughts on the summer as a whole? Can it be the biggest ever by pure default of mass product? Or after this months three plus Harry Potter, is there not enough there?

  2. Eric says:

    I have pretty high hopes for Pirates too. I just hope it’s fun. I’m really delighted that Geoffrey Rush is back.
    I don’t remember if we’ve discussed this here, but does anyone else wonder if it was a mistake to open Pirates 3 in May? I’m feeling big-summer-movie fatigue already after Spider-Man and Shrek. Both previous movies felt right in July.

  3. Sandy says:

    I don’t think there’s any sign of fatigue at all…and at my AMC theater in Century City, there will be 6 screenings of P3 on Thursday night.

  4. mysteryperfecta says:

    From articles I’ve read, your opinion of Pirates 2 may inform your opinion of Pirates 3. This latest pic is supposed as plot-heavy (and confusing? and convoluted?) as Dead Man’s Chest.

  5. jeffmcm says:

    Quality-wise this is not the biggest May ever.

  6. Me says:

    You can limit this to May, but what was the best (quality-wise) summer? I’m having a hard time remembering a summer when I was really satisfied with a bunch of pure entertaining flicks.

  7. jesse says:

    I’m pretty sure there was a thread like this ages ago so I don’t mean to revive it, but Me asked, so, at least in my moviegoing lifetime I would submit the summers of 1997 (Con Air, Face/Off, Contact, Men in Black, and the somewhat underrated Lost World), the late-peaking 1999 (I actually love Episode I but the real meat of that summer was with Blair Witch, Sixth Sense, Mystery Men, Iron Giant, Deep Blue Sea, and Bowfinger), and 2002 (Spiderman, Episode II, Minority Report, Lilo & Stitch, Signs).
    As with evaluating a film critic, trying to give one the seal of approval by the fewest “misses” will leave you dissatisfied and missing the point. There’s never a summer where every major picture hits it out of the park, but those I mention had a pretty decent batting average. (Despite Speed 2, Batman & Robin, Men in Black II, etc.)
    (See my column from awhile ago, at the link, for more summer-movie memories based more on quality and/or moviegoing than, ya know, pre-June weekday box office.)

  8. David Poland says:

    It’s a long summer and there are many more interetsing films a’comin’.
    Not saying it will be the best mainstream quality summer ever (indies are a very different conversation and the Sicko wave is coming), but it willl look a lot better as time moves along.

  9. jeffmcm says:

    Too bad so many movies won’t be seen because 2/3 of the screens in the country will be taken by 3 movies after this Thursday night. Right?

  10. RudyV says:

    Considering inflation, and just how many ticket price jumps there have been since 2002, I don’t take much interest at all in the numbers. Anything ever come of the effort to count ticket sales instead? I thought even Spielberg was pushing for that one. But then maybe folks don’t want to feel eternally humiliated by GONE WITH THE WIND.

  11. David Poland says:

    They don’t budget movies based on ticket counts, Rudy… so why count the income based on that?
    And there is nothing humiliating about GWTW… there was this little invention called the TV that made its numbers pretty much irrelevant to any current discussion.

  12. David Poland says:

    And no, J-Mc… the vast majority of the screens will continue to be filled with the films deemed most commercial… as in every summer… and the question of quality will be answered by each film… just as it was in whatever May or summer you think of as “best.”
    SM3 and Shrek3 could have been better. They weren’t. That is not a function of the way screens are doled out.
    This does not make a few films dominating the vast majority of screens a good thing. But they are seperate issues.

  13. jeffmcm says:

    DP: “the vast majority of the screens will continue to be filled with the films deemed most commercial… as in every summer”
    But front-loading has changed this, hasn’t it? So now there are fewer films on more screens, is this not something you yourself have stated?

  14. RudyV says:

    Right you are, David. Just to gratuitously bring Bruce Campbell back into the discussion, he once stated that he thought he had a pretty big fanbase going as a result of the EVIL DEAD films…and then he starred in BRISCO COUNTY JR. He said that even the lowest-rated episode of BRISCO drew far more viewers than all the EVIL DEAD movies combined, which the enormous spike in his fanmail proved.

  15. movielocke says:

    In terms of ticket sales, the current decade is set to break 40, 50, 60 year old records.
    In the 1980s 11.2 billion theater admissions were sold (the most for a decade since the 1950s), that number went up to nearly 13 billion for the 1990s, and through 2006, this decade has sold 10.3 billion tickets with three years to go. By the end of this decade, as many as 15 billion theater admission could be sold.
    Here are the films that have sold at least fifty million ticket admissions (the numbers are number of tickets sold):
    “Gone with the Wind” 206.4 million (1939)
    “Star Wars” 197 million (1977)
    “The Sound of Music” 153.5 million (1965)
    “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial” 150.4 million (1982)
    “The Ten Commandments” 131.7 million (1956)
    “The Jungle Book” 125.3 million (1967)
    “Titanic” 123.2 million (1997)
    “Jaws” 122.3 million (1975)
    “Dr. Zhivago” 121.8 million (1965)
    “101 Dalmatians” 119.7 million (1961)
    “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” 118.6 million (1937)
    “Ben-Hur” 111.1 million (1959)
    “Return of the Jedi” 102.2 million (1983)
    “The Exorcist” 101.8 million (1973)
    “The Empire Strikes Back” 101.7 million (1980)
    “Raiders of the Lost Ark” 94.9 million (1981)
    “Mary Poppins” 93.1 million (1964)
    “The Sting” 89.9 million (1973)
    “The Lion King” 88.8 million (1994)
    “Star Wars: Episode I- The Phantom Menace” 88.3 million (1999)
    “Fantasia” 86.3 million (1940)
    “The Graduate” 81.8 million (1967)
    “Jurassic Park” 81.1 million (1993)
    “Sleeping Beauty” 79.1 million (1959)
    “Bambi” 76.6 million (1942)
    “Shrek 2” 74.6 million (2004)
    “The Godfather” 74.5 million (1972)
    “Forrest Gump” 74.1 million (1994)
    “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” 73 million (1977)
    “Grease” 70.7 million (1978)
    “Ghostbusters” 70.3 million (1984)
    “Home Alone” 70.2 million (1990)
    “Spider-Man” 69.6 million (2002)
    “Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid” 69.2 million (1969)
    “Love Story” 68.7 million (1970)
    “Cleopatra” 67.3 million (1963)
    “Pinocchio” 66.7 million (1940)
    “Thunderball” 65.9 million (1965)
    “Beverly Hills Cop” 65.7 million (1984)
    “Independence Day” 65.3 million (1996)
    “The Robe” 64.8 million (1953)
    “American Graffiti” 64.7 million (1973)
    “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” 64.3 million (2006)
    “Around the World in 80 Days” 63.4 million (1956)
    “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” 62.5 million (2003)
    “Aladdin” 62.2 million (1992)
    “Cinderella” 61.8 million (1950)
    “Airport” 61.6 million (1970)
    “The Bells of St. Mary” 61.5 million (1945)
    “The Towering Inferno” 61.4 million (1974)
    “Lady & the Tramp” 60.6 million (1955)
    “Spider-Man 2” 60.2 million (2004)
    “Blazing Saddles” 60.1 million (1974)
    “West Side Story” 60 million (1961)
    “The Passion of the Christ” 59.7 million (2004)
    “Batman” 59.7 million (1989)
    “Tootsie” 59.6 million (1982)
    “The Greatest Show on Earth” 59.4 million (1952)
    “My Fair Lady” 59.3 million (1964)
    “Star Wars: Episode III- Revenge of the Sith” 59.2 million (2005)
    “Finding Nemo” 59.2 million (2003)
    “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” 58.9 million (2002)
    “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” 58.9 million (2001)
    “Billy Jack” 58.8 million (1971)
    “Back to the Future” 58.7 million (1985)
    “Let’s Make Love” 58.6 million (1960)
    “This is the Army” 58.5 million (1943)
    “The Best Years of Our Lives” 58.4 million (1946)
    “National Lampoon’s Animal House” 56.9 million (1978)
    “Superman: The Movie” 56.7 million (1978)
    “Smokey and the Bandit” 56.2 million (1977)
    “Saturday Night Fever” 56 million (1977)
    “Quo Vadis” 56 million (1951)
    “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” 55.6 million (2001)
    “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” 55.6 million (1984)
    “Toy Story 2” 55.2 million (1999)
    “From Here to Eternity” 54.9 million (1953)
    “Rocky” 54.5 million (1976)
    “The Sixth Sense” 54.4 million (1999)
    “Goldfinger” 54.4 million (1964)
    “The Poseidon Adventure” 54.3 million (1972)
    “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” 53.9 million (1963)
    “Star Wars: Episode II- Attack of the Clones” 53.5 million (2002)
    “For Whom the Bell Tolls” 53.4 million (1943)
    “The Bridge on the River Kwai” 53.4 million (1957)
    “Swiss Family Robinson” 52.8 million (1960)
    “M*A*S*H” 52.7 million (1970)
    “Mrs. Doubtfire” 52.4 million (1993)
    “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” 52.1 million (1975)
    “Twister” 51.6 million (1996)
    “Samson and Delilah” 51.4 million (1949)
    “The Longest Day” 51.4 million (1962)
    “Men in Black” 51.3 million (1997)
    “Song of the South” 51 million (1946)
    “Ghost” 50.9 million (1990)
    “Lawrence of Arabia” 50.8 million (1962)
    “White Christmas” 50.8 million (1954)
    “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” 50.6 million (2003)
    “Duel in the Sun” 50.5 million (1946)
    “South Pacific” 50.4 million (1958)
    “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas” 50.3 million (2000)
    “Toy Story” 50.2 million (1995)

  16. Tofu says:

    Reading the six reviews up for Pirates… They conform to one of my suspicions. That critics are becoming impatient, and possibly dumber.
    Not even being able to decipher the plot to a Pirates movie for God’s sake, but also asking for features to be lean at 90 minutes is a trend I’ve seen even David become apart of the past two years. If your run time is over two hours, many critics just can’t seem accept it, and start becoming Edward Scissorhands to the plot and script.
    There are a number of indulgent projects, true, but audiences by and large enjoy having an extended amount of bang for their buck.

  17. jesse says:

    Tofu, can you explain to me why the Pirates movies in particular need to exceed 90 minutes, let alone exceed the two-hour mark? They don’t say anything or do anything with that length; they just add extra trips around the track. And I enjoy the damn things (or at least, I enjoyed most one the first one and about half of the second one). I just know how much more entertaining they’d be at 100 minutes.
    There are certainly “fun” movies where exceeding two hours is a good idea — many of my problems with X-Men 3 could’ve been alleviated by an extra half-hour of running time (of course, Ratner would still have plenty of his stupid-and-even-sometimes-racist touches, but at least the *story* wouldn’t seem so stupid). Batman Begins over two hours? Awesome. Spiderman over two hours? Fine by me. Matrix over two hours? Whatever you think of the sequels, the Wachowskis created an interesting world worth exploring. But Pirates of the Caribbean taking an extra 40 or 50 minutes to show us several additional nonsensical double-crosses? Sweet jesus, why? Even the first movie was too damn long and it’s dispiriting when the filmmakers’ sense of fine-tuning is that they really needed some more convoluted triple-reversals. And convoluted is *not* the same as complex.
    I don’t know that it’s even true about critics, since Zodiac and Grindhouse (my two favorite movies of the year) both got largely positive reviews despite hefty running times. There is probably a prejudice against longer “blockbuster” type movies, but those overlong Lord of the Rings slogs got good reviews so I wouldn’t say it’s epidemic.

  18. David Poland says:

    Movies have natural lengths and they are all different. It completely depends on the material.
    The Pirates films have all been a bit too long. Not an hour plus too long, which they would have to be to conform to some crazy 90 minute idea. But I would roughly say that each of the films could be improved by 20-30 minutes being cut out.

  19. Eric says:

    DP is right about a “natural length.” I think it’s largely determined by the structure of the screenplay– as they say, the movie is over when the problem is solved. So the first Pirates, for example, should have ended when the curse was lifted and Barbossa was killed– no need for another ten-minute escape scene.

  20. Me says:

    On the first Pirates, the movie had so much good will going for it, for actually delivering a fun time, that I didn’t really mind the 10 minute escape scene.
    Then again, I really liked the LOTR series, but there was not enough good will to go on for the half an hour of endings.

  21. Cadavra says:

    One of my college film professors had a saying: “It’s not how good is it long, but how long is it good?” It’s an odd turn of phrase, but it makes sense. ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA at 227 minutes is too short. Any trailer for a Michael Bay movie at 2 1/2 minutes is too long.

  22. Skyblade says:

    I always felt a big part of the second one that could be removed was Jonathan Pryce’s character. There had to be plenty of other ways for Beckett to obtain power on the islands, and the tension with him and Elizabeth over the choice of her husband was rather moot if there was also going to be a quasi love triangle with Sparrow.
    Any trailer for a Michael Bay movie at 2 1/2 minutes is too long
    You know, it’s funny that people forget that Pirates is a Jerry Bruckeheimer production, and I think the movies have the same virtues and vices as a lot of his other stuff. (Would King Arthur be such a sour experience if it had a Johnny Depp performance and the movie took itself less seriously?) The Pirates series have a fanbase that I swear would be absolutely snobby about them if they featured turnpike crashes instead of swordfighting in fancy costumes.

  23. Dr Wally says:

    “The Pirates films have all been a bit too long. Not an hour plus too long, which they would have to be to conform to some crazy 90 minute idea. But I would roughly say that each of the films could be improved by 20-30 minutes being cut out.”
    I’m sure that Gore Verbinski agrees with you, but, especially with the first movie, there was simply NO TIME to cut the movie down. Pirates 1 was still in principal photography in April and in theatres in July, so is it any wonder that it needed a bit of fine-tuning? It’s a shame that the demands of the Summer schedule have had such an adverse effect on the post-production and editing process. Scorsese and Peter Weir, for example, can take over a year in the edit suite. Spielberg and Clint Eastwood take the time to plan their projects to within an inch before principal photography begins (yes, i know Spielberg had insanely short windows to get War of the Worlds and Munich made. But they were in development for YEARS before he was able to pull the trigger on them). So is it any wonder that their movies seem to be much leaner and fat-free?

  24. Crow T Robot says:

    Running time should follow The Sugar Law: The more disposable energy a film is built on, the shorter it should be. If the plot is an excuse for heaps of comedy or action, two hours is about right. A movie simply can’t function beyond that without some deeper meaning built it.
    And yes, Spielberg’s lean, mean approach to blockbusters is noteworthy. The new Transformers trailer is on a James Cameron level of wow. It could be a knockout 1 hour and 50 minute effects yarn (like the Amblin produced Twister). Let’s hope Michael Bay’s over-plotted under-storied tendencies are kept in check.
    We got a running time yet, Don?

  25. Tofu says:

    From Casino Royale, to Batman Begins, to yes, Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, a few to many reviews can be found to despise the length.
    It isn’t the length that is turning them into positive or negative reviews, so numbers mean nothing. It is just a trend that is on the upswing, becoming more prevalent in modern reviews to see a long running time as a negative trait.
    And honestly, what self-respected critic would actually write that they didn’t understand the plot? Quite a few. The last movie I didn’t understand the plot to was the original Mission:Impossible, and even Roger Ebert admitted to having the same problem. However, this is the second trend I was speaking of, which is that critics almost gleefully tell us they couldn’t follow along, even if it is there job to do so, going as far to keep notes and such.
    The state of movie reviews is becoming sorrier and sorrier, but I don’t blame all the online critics coming in. These are print critics in the majority making these errors.
    To repeat, it has nothing to do with the final positive or negative rating. Find a few reviews that praise a recent movie for being over the two hour mark. I haven’t any myself. The amount of reviews going on about long running time as negative? Oh boy.
    It is a double-standard. It’s always less is more, and never finding the aspect that people like longer stories as well to be valid to critics.
    Barely anyone would remember Pirates if it had been edited down to 100 minutes. The chance of keeping in all those quirky character moments compared to the million dollar special effect? Not good.

  26. Me says:

    Tofu, I totally hate it when reviewers say they couldn’t follow the plot, as though the occassional movie that demands a viewer to pay attention is really something filmmakers should be faulted for in the current market of movies.
    I have yet to see a movie, from Syriana to Primer to Brick, that I couldn’t at least follow the basic plot to it, if I tried. Reviewers are paid to follow along, and yet when they say they couldn’t understand the plot, it comes across as “I couldn’t be bothered to try to follow along, because this movie was beneath me.” It just seems so lazy and pathetic for someone who is paid to pay attention.

  27. Clycking says:

    In mild defense of the critics: I suspect the idea behind critics’ cries of “I couldn’t follow the plot” is that part of their job involves telling regular audiences whether they will like a movie. And regular audiences are deemed to enter cinemas for casual leisure, not to be forced to keep up with a movie’s entanglements (especially with plot-knots as Gordian as those that POTC3 has).

  28. crazycris says:

    I think where the Pirates films sometimes go too long are in the fight scenes… they could all be trimmed down significantly, still remain amusing and wowing, and bring the films closer to the 2h mark than the 2 1/2h mark.
    Unfortunately the 3rd Pirates has this same problem… fights which needed to be solved sooner rather than later! sigh!

  29. RudyV says:

    I thought the problem with “Black Pearl” was that the movie seemed to lose its way the moment the characters left Port Royal. It was great up to that point, but started to meander and become tedious afterward–even the bit with Cap’n Jack and Elizabeth trapped on the island felt longish. “Dead Man’s Chest,” on the other hand, seemed like an series of quick bits slapped together–can’t lose the attention of the ADD crowd!–and none of them had none of the depth or meaning of the first movie. The rather pointless cannibal sequence seemed brilliant by comparison, perhaps because they actually focused on that task until it was done rather than jump back and forth to see who was up to what right now.

  30. crazycris says:

    The “wheel” fight in the second was also ridiculously long… argh!!!

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