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David Poland

By David Poland

Box Office Hell – October 19

I usually don’t comment on this feature, but I feel the urge today… WHAT A MESS!
I don’t recall as much of a blurry, heaving group of guesses in the history of Box Office Hell. Maybe it’s that the trades and the LA Times seem to want to join the prediction business lately. Maybe it’s that some “box office geniuses” have stopped embarrassing themselves weekly by running hard numbers. Maybe it’s that EW isn’t tracking indies… though I have to say, their guesses on the indies are closer to my personal notions while their notion on one studio release has my head swimming.
The top new title has guesses with a range of $3.9 million or 17%. The Comebacks has an $8.1 million spread. Rendition, $3.7 million or 34%. $3.2 million or 35% on Gone Baby Gone. Only Things We Lost In The Fire seems to have relative consensus.
So what will the people who love to write, “Movie X didn’t meet industry expectations,” either higher or lower, write on Sunday afternoon?

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8 Responses to “Box Office Hell – October 19”

  1. Andrew says:

    EW in particular seems to just pluck numbers out of thin air. I still remember how about a month ago, they had the Brave One at $28m+! while everyone else had it at 16ish.
    Anyway, I’m so sick of this, when did we all become so obsessed with profit-earnings of products we have no stake in? I wish more people would discuss the actual merit of the movie instead of it’s box-office. Maybe that’s just a wish for fantasy land now…

  2. waterbucket says:

    Andrew, I agree. The only stats that we should watch for are of those independent movies in limited releases. If they’re successful, then we all can see them in theater nationwide and if not, DVD. I don’t really care if some lame vampire movie gets 22 mil instead of 18 mil this weekend.

  3. NickF says:

    If you want to take the angle of questioning Box Office receipts, I wonder if you question peoples interest in sports. After all, you or I don’t play on X sports team. I don’t have to abide by what their coach or manager says. If they win or lose, I can still go about my business, etc etc.
    The thing that many find so interesting about the Hollywood Box Office is how the amount of money that a studio will spend on a budget, promotional materials can either pay off in an opening weekend or the general run of a movie. To that point it’s like a painfree gamble. None of us lose our money or pants because we guessed, estimated, or projected the incorrect 3 day gross of a movie. I started caring about the B.O. when Titanic came out in 1997. There were less avenues to get news from back then, but I was slightly aware of the troubles that Fox and then Paramount were going through with that movies production. I remember them pushing it from the summer to the winter, and the subsequent reporting of how dim it’s prospects looked. Everyone is well aware of how incredible it’s run was after it opened and I was truly hooked at that point.
    It’s so interesting that a studio can spend $300 mil on a movie, have it open to near $160 mil, and at the end of the day finish at $330 domestic. Factor in the international sales and a profit, however slight it is, is finally seen.
    On the flipside, it’s just an interesting to see studio can spent $100 mil on a movie that flames out completely doesn’t get close to half of it’s budget. It leads to discussions of what were they thinking when they greenlit this movie? Why did they think it would perform better than it ultimately would? What must they do to recover their money…?
    There’s a lot of discussion here or on other sites about the merit of particular movies. I think it’s silly to get loopy when one of the important stories to run with over the weekend is the monetary performance of new and old movies. If you like Gone Baby Gone and want more movies like it, you should give a damn about how good or bad it does this weekend. You should care if it does well enough to hold onto or expand it’s audience in the following weeks/months. Comparatively, if you want less movies like The Comebacks taking away screens from “Jesse James” or even “Gone Baby Gone”, then hope that it does poorly. You don’t to campaign against the Comebacks, but if it tanks, the studio wont be willing to fund another similar movie. The people behind the camera will have to find something different or better to do, and then everyone will be better off because of it.
    What people will or will not decide to see with their money is always an interesting thing, so I’m sorry if you don’t feel that way.

  4. White Label says:

    Do they ever report the earnings from national sneak peeks? The last one I saw was The Kingdom, and this weekend it’s Dan in Real Life. Steve Carrell + kids + romantic comedy = success?

  5. I believe in America the numbers from sneaks are tacked onto another film by the same studio. I could be wrong though. In Australia movies in mere “sneak” mode often make the top ten. Hell, The Devil Wears Prada debuted at #2 in sneaks alone before moving up to #1 a week later when it was officially released.
    I do laugh whenever people go on those “why do we care so much about box office”. We care about box office because it effects everything in the short and long run. If Gone Baby Gone debuts with $1mil then Affleck’s career is good as dead. If it makes $7mil then that’s quite handy.
    If Rendition mades a lot of money then perhaps it means movies that deal with Iraq are getting more popular or whatever the spin is. etc.
    As NickF said, it’s just like sport.

  6. jeffmcm says:

    It’s not quite like sports – we rarely hear about sports team attendance numbers or revenues, which are clearly important to a team’s health and the players’ value. If there was some objective, financial way to determine how much people actually liked the movies they see aside from box-office, things would be different. Of course, that would only happen in some fantasyland.

  7. EDouglas says:

    Hey, David, why don’t you put your fucking money where your mouth is? It’s easy enough to sit in your armchair and yell at the baseball player who strikes out or misses a catch or gets thrown out on base, but there’s no merit in your remarks unless you’ve proven that you can hit, catch and run better than them. You mouth on everything else, so why not throw your hat in the ring and post some predictions on Friday? Or better yet, why don’t you do them on Tuesday or Wednesday when I usually have mine up?
    From your recent posts, you obviously think this is an easy thing to do week-in-week-out and as someone who has had a pretty good track record besides what’s obviously going to be an off week (way overpredicted everything), I find it deeply offensive that you would use a weekend like this one to attack me and the others who do this regularly. I can’t speak for anyone else but I know the time and care and research I put into my numbers every week and it’s far more than “guesswork” or randomly picking numbers out of my ass.
    The last few weekends, as is always the case when there are this many movies (including two I knew nothing about), have been really tough, and tracking has especially screwed with everyone because at least this week, tracking showed interest for movies like Comebacks and Rendition where obviously (from early numbers) there was none. I probably would have gone lower on both those without that info, but I never would have expected Rendition to average less than $2k per theatre, not with the amount of advertising I’ve seen.
    But to have to wake up to see how bad everything did and then see your abuse on top of it really burns my britches.
    Like I said before, if you can do better, no one is fucking stopping you.

  8. David Poland says:

    Well, Ed…
    First, who attacked you?
    Do you consider noticing that this week’s guesses were all over the place? Is there something wrong with observing that?
    Secondly, I did do guessing for years. And I was pretty good at it. Like everyone else, I f-ed up at times, but overall, my record was as good as anyone else’s. And then, I stopped, because I realized that it was all just a carny trick and what was the point?
    That said, we obviously think it is interesting enough to our audience to continue to post this feature on MCN… notably the only place that gathers prognosticators outside of our own employees. That would be something like showing you and the others respect. It is also suggesting community.
    I far prefer it to the one or two idiots who continue to claim insight because some fool at some studio gave them tracking numbers. And as I wrote, some of those people have stopped predicting hard numbers because they were embarrassed to be called out on it, simply by people reading their claims, each week.
    So I don’t know what you are so riled up about. I stopped doing it – in public – because it stopped being of interest to me. I recognize that it is interesting to others. I don’t think I was insulting to you. Sorry you didn’t see Rendition coming. I said at lunch yesterday that I would be shocked if it did 6… but I guess that number is too high too. Happens.

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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.”
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“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