MCN Columnists
Leonard Klady

By Leonard Klady

Bo or No…

George S. Kaufman observed that “Satire is what closes on Saturday night.” And whether audiences perceived Meet the Spartans and the resurrection of Rambo as film parodies or simply intuited the two movies as send ups, each struggled for bragging rights in the weekend box office derby.

Spartans, the more obviously humorous assault, appeared to have a slight edge with an estimated $18.7 million debut to Stallone’s vigilante warrior with $17.8 million. The frame also sported national bows for the cop meller Untraceable in fifth position with a languid $11.1 million and a disappointing $4 million for the teen dance romance How She Move.

Additionally, the large format U2 3D had a tuneful $923,000 launch at 61 sites and the U.S. launch of Cannes top prized 4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days was just a few admissions away from $50,000 from two venues. A clutch of other limited releases including The Air I Breath and the non-fictionShoot Down barely registered a blip on the viewer meter.

The sheer volume of incoming product abetted a general absence of opening gusto to pump up overall revenues by 17% from 2007. A year ago the Spartan crew’s debut of Epic Movie led the session with an $18.6 million box office followed by the $14.6 million bow of Smokin’ Aces.

The weekend was anticipated as a fierce competition between the eventual leaders and the second weekend of fleeting phenom Cloverfield. Last weekend’s leader was expected to take a hard 50% to 60% decline but dipped closer to 70% and found itself slipping to fourth in the lineup.

The post Oscar-announcement frame saw Juno rock solid while a re-release of Michael Clayton generated a modest $1.9 million gross from a tad more than 1,100 theaters. The other best picture contenders also added playdates with There Will Be Blood and No Country for Old Men (winner of last night’s Directors Guild honor) experiencing sizeable revenue boosts but Atonement slipping back slightly. Other nominees including The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Persepolis and The Savages benefited for Academy Award recognition while Sweeney Todd and Charlie Wilson’s War continued to erode rapidly.

Sweeney’s international launch doesn’t appear to be affected by its paucity of Oscar nods. The film opened at the top of the charts in England with roughly $4.5 million and also France where No Country was biting at its heels. Its Australian debut ranked second overall.

The absence of Oscar didn’t appear to impede the American opening of the highly lauded Romanian film 4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days (it’s grossed about $200,000 in Canada).

– Leonard Klady

Weekend Estimates – January 25-27, 2008

Title Distributor Gross (averag % change Theater Cume
Meet the Spartans Fox 18.7 (7,180) 2605 18.7
Rambo Lions Gate 17.8 (6,480) 2751 17.8
27 Dresses Fox 13.4 (4,260) -42% 3074 45.2
Cloverfield Par 12.6 (3,700) -68% 3411 64.2
Untraceable Sony 11.1 (4,690) 2368 11.1
The Bucket List WB 9.9 (3,410) -29% 2915 57.4
Juno Fox Searchlight 9.7 (3,990) -3% 2426 99.5
National Treasure: Book of Secrets BV 4.6 (2,140) -39% 2154 205.4
Alvin and the Chipmunks Fox 4.5 (1,840) -36% 2430 204.1
There Will Be Blood Par Vantage 4.5 (5,120) 54% 885 14.4
Mad Money Overture 4.2 (1,690) -46% 2470 14.9
How She Move Par Vantage 4.0 (2,590) 1531 4
Atonement Focus 3.6 (2,590) -21% 1400 37.6
First Sunday Sony 3.2 (2,110) -59% 1503 34.3
No Country for Old Men Miramax 2.3 (2,060) 87% 1107 51.8
I Am Legend WB 2.1 (1,500) -57% 1405 251.6
Michael Clayton WB 1.9 (1,750) 1102 41.4
Sweeney Todd Par 1.2 (1,300) -55% 936 50.6
The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything Uni 1.2 (1,160) -55% 1016 10.2
U2 3D nWave .92 (15,130) 61 1.1
Charlie Wilson’s War Uni .83 (1,370) -58% 605 64.6
One Missed Call WB .73 (910) -74% 803 26.1
The Water Horse Sony .63 (930) -65% 677 39.4
P.S. I Love You WB .61 (1,060) -69% 577 52
The Kite Runner Par Vantage .57 (1,700) -48% 335 13.8
The Great Debators MGM .51 (1,310) -61% 390 29.1
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $135.30
% Change (Last Year) 17%
% Change (Last Week) -10%
Also debuting/expanding
The Orphanage Picture/Christal .45 (1,890) -62% 238 6
The Savages Fox Searchlight .39 (2,370) -10% 166 4.2
Diving Bell and the Butterfly Miramax .39 (3,150) 0% 123 3.1
Persepolis Sony Classics .29 (5,460) 21% 54 1.3
Cassandra’s Dream Weinstein Co. .18 (1,650) -51% 107 0.7
4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days IFC 49,600 (24,900) 2 0.05
Shoot Down Magnolia 42,200 (2,344) 18 0.04
Sunday Eros 40,100 (2,670) 15 0.04
The Air I Breath Thinkfilm 20,500 (2,930) 7 0.02
Alice’s House Vitagraph 14,300 (2,860) 5 0.01

Domestic Market Share – To January 24, 2008

Distributor (titles) Gross* Market Share
Warner Bros. (10) 150.9 22.70%
Fox (5) 97.9 14.70%
Buena Vista (5) 81.4 12.20%
Paramount (4) 75.3 11.30%
Fox Searchlight (3) 64.1 9.60%
Sony (7) 59.9 9.00%
Universal (3) 35.1 5.30%
Focus (2) 22.8 3.40%
Par Vantage (4) 17.8 2.70%
MGM (5) 14.3 2.10%
Overture (1) 10.7 1.60%
Miramax (2) 9.7 1.50%
New Line (1) 8.5 1.30%
Picturehouse (1) 4.7 0.70%
FreeStyle (2) 4.6 0.70%
Other * (21) 7.9 1.20%
445.6 100.00%
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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