MCN Columnists
Leonard Klady

By Leonard Klady

Alive and Kicking…

The Bucket List scooped up an estimated $19.4 million to take charge of the weekend box office in what proved to be a hotly contested frame. Among new entries there were also excellent results for the African American comedy First Sunday of $18.4 million to rank it second overall but blah returns for the animated The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything of $4.3 million and the Dark Ages revenge saga In the Name of the King of $2.8 million.

Overall box office experienced a slight bump up from 2007. However, the increase was palpable in light of the industry leaders skewing older and the hot titles tilting toward upscale fare.

Largely vilified by critics, The Bucket List’s sophomoric rendering of two dying men’s last fling didn’t quite have the abandon of last year’s Wild Hogs. Most pundits felt it wouldn’t muster more than $15 million because of its miniscule appeal to frequent movie goers. It ultimately didn’t matter as the plus 35s who comprised about 70% of the crowd according to exit polls came out in force.

First Sunday obviously had ethnic appeal and targeted a younger demographic quite successfully. It too exceeded expectations though looks likely to loose traction more quickly than the weekend leader.

Juno was also holding well as it expanded its run by more than 500 engagements. It posted in the third spot with $13.7 million and with the prospect of Oscar attention has evolved as both a popular and critical darling that to everyone’s surprise will wind up grossing more than $100 million domestically and now has much greater appeal internationally.

Weekend box office should generate slightly better than $130 million in ticket sales for a 7% fall back from seven days earlier and a 2% bump from 2007. A year ago Stomp the Yard bowed to $21.8 million and Night at the Museum was holding on in second with a $17.2 million weekend.

The uplifting The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything with the Veggie Tales characters waited too long to follow up on 2002’s Jonah. The earlier film pulled in a surprising $6 million debut while the new entry simply couldn’t compete with Alvin and his freres.

In the Name of the King simply looked like a pale imitation of Eragon by a touring company. Its initial thrust suggested only the most indiscriminate viewer was buying tickets.

The session most brisk business was centered on expansions of prestige fare with the likes ofAtonement, There Will Be Blood, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, The Kite Runner andPersepolis all cautiously adding theaters in the run up to Oscar announcements. The first three now appear to have the utz to wind up on the ballot’s top tier categories and despite recent experience of award’s attention not providing quite the bounce of decades past, the hope runs high that this year will be an exception. After all without hope what do we have to prod us to continue?

– Leonard Klady

Weekend Estimates – January 11-13, 2008

Title Distributor Gross (averag % chang Theate Cume
The Bucket List WB 19.4 (6,670) 2911 20.8
First Sunday Sony 18.4 (8,330) 2213 18.4
Juno Fox Searchlight 13.7 (5,600) -13% 2448 71
National Treasure: Book of Secrets BV 11.4 (3,370) -43% 3377 187.2
Alvin and the Chipmunks Fox 8.5 (2,500) -47% 3384 187.1
I Am Legend WB 8.2 (2,450) -48% 3353 240.3
One Missed Call WB 6.2 (2,780) -50% 2240 20.7
P.S. I Love You WB 4.9 (2,120) -37% 2323 46.9
The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything Uni 4.3 (3,230) 1337 4.3
Charlie Wilson’s War Uni 4.2 (1,750) -48% 2408 59.4
Atonement Focus 4.2 (4,410) -17% 950 25.1
Sweeney Todd Par 3.3 (2,510) -40% 1323 44
The Water Horse Sony 3.2 (1,260) -49% 2506 35
In the Name of the King FreeStyle 2.8 (1,740) 1631 2.8
The Great Debators MGM 2.4 (1,840) -44% 1290 25.7
The Orphanage Picture/Christal 2.0 (3,090) 293% 638 3.1
There Will Be Blood Par Vantage 1.9 (14,990) 46% 129 4.3
Enchanted BV 1.7 (1,400) -56% 1201 122.3
The Kite Runner Par Vantage 1.6 (2,250) -2% 715 10.9
Alien vs. Predator: Requiem Fox 1.4 (1,000) -69% 1378 40
No Country for Old Men Miramax 1.2 (1,870) -32% 657 46.8
The Golden Compass New Line 1.1 (1,400) -60% 816 67.5
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $126.00
% Change (Last Year) 2%
% Change (Last Week) -7%
Also debuting/expanding
Diving Bell and the Butterfly Miramax .37 (4,950) 7% 75 2
The Savages Fox Searchlight .31 (3,360) -32% 93 3
Persepolis Sony Classics .15 (9,500) 98% 16 0.5
The Business of Being Born Red Envelope 10,300 (10,300) 1 0.01

Domestic Market Share – 2007 Calendar Year

Rank Distributor (releases) Gross (millions) Mkt Share % Change Rank ‘0
1 Paramount (21) 1500.9 15.50% 58% 5
2 Warner Bros. (32) 1417.9 14.60% 33% 4
3 Buena Vista (20) 1350.8 14.00% -8% 2
4 Sony (30) 1261 13.00% -27% 1
5 Universal (20) 1098.7 11.40% 35% 6
6 Fox (23) 1007.9 10.40% -28% 3
7 New Line (14) 490.1 5.10% 94% 8
8 Lions Gate (20) 369.5 3.80% 11% 7
9 MGM (26) 365.9 3.80% 119% 11
10 Fox Searchlight (14) 132.7 1.40% -20% 12
11 Miramax (10) 126.1 1.30% 175% 16
12 Focus (9) 120.3 1.20% -15% 10
13 Par Vantage (9) 60.5 0.60% 30% 15
14 Picturehouse (8) 57.2 0.60% 139% 23
15 Other (309) 323.2 3.30% N/A
9682.7 100% 4.90%
Other Distributors
16 Sony Classics (19) 39.2 0.40% -34% 13
17 Weinstein Co. (11) 37.1 0.40% -84% 9
18 FreeStyle (15) 32.4 0.30% -42% 14
22 Warner Independent (7) 15.7 0.20% -43% 18
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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