MCN Columnists
Leonard Klady

By Leonard Klady

Four Leaf Cloverfield…

The trepidation that monster mash up Cloverfield might resonate with Snakes on a Planedisappointment proved unfounded as it lapped the competition and emerged the holiday weekend favorite with an estimated $47.1 million. The session also featured upbeat returns of $26.3 million and a second ranking for the romantic comedy 27 Dresses but Overture’s maiden voyage caper comedy Mad Money was no better than tepid as it cleared the four-days with $8.7 million.

The session was also rife with limited entries including Woody Allen’s Cassandra Crossing that generated an OK $4,000 theater average from 107 engagements. Additionally the American indieTeeth bit down on a sizeable $37,100 in four theaters and the documentary Taxi to the Dark Sidelit up $16,400 in its initial three outings.

Overall business set records for the frame and the month with the four day span of the Martin Luther King holiday eyeing roughly $185 million. Revenues bumped up 18% for the comparative three-day portions of the weekend and were 19% better than the 2007 edition. A year ago Stomp the Yarddebuted to $25.9 million to earn holiday bragging rights.

Long shrouded in secrecy and speculation Cloverfield mounted an effective buzz campaign across the media spectrum. Tracking was strong but pundits were rightly skittish having been recently bruised by the Snakes premiere. Critical response was icy but the film prevailed as a latter day water cooler phenomenon that posted a record box office gross for a January premiere.

The twice sneaked 27 Dresses also managed to build word-of-mouth into ticket sales for the “always a bridesmaid” vehicle. It also had unfortunate consequences for Mad Money, the first outing for startup Overture Films. The new distributor found itself locked into ad and campaign commitments it could not shirk when Dresses _ appealing to a comparable demographic _ moved up its release date and the money migrated.

If platform strategies reflect tomorrow morning’s announcement of the Oscar ballot, the slate for best picture shapes up as Atonement, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Juno, No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood. The upside of such a scenario is that all but No Country are likely to reap a considerable domestic theatrical upside in the coming weeks. Overseas the picture is even brighter with three of the films just beginning to enter the international arena and Diving Bell only played out in France while Atonement has ended runs in the U.K. and Germany.

At the moment only Juno sizes up as a $100 million domestic grosser but the march to the Kodak could see a radical commercial momentum for Atonement and There Will Be Blood.

– Leonard Klady

Weekend Estimates – January 18-21, 2008 [4 days]

Title Distributor Gross (average) % change Theaters Cume
Cloverfield Par 47.1 (13,820) 3411 47.1
27 Dresses Fox 26.3 (8,590) 3057 26.3
The Bucket List WB 16.3 (5,590) -28% 2915 43.8
Juno Fox Searchlight 11.9 (4,700) -25% 2534 87
National Treasure: Book of Secrets BV 9.5 (2,820) -27% 3377 199.4
First Sunday Sony 9.5 (4,310) -56% 2213 30.2
Alvin and the Chipmunks Fox 9.1 (3,070) -26% 2962 198.5
Mad Money Overture 8.7 (3,530) 2470 8.7
I Am Legend WB 6.0 (2,570) -37% 2525 248.6
Atonement Focus 5.7 (4,450) 8% 1291 32.9
The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything Uni 3.7 (2,780) -36% 1340 8.6
There Will Be Blood Par Vantage 3.5 (9,070) 57% 389 8.6
Sweeney Todd Par 3.3 (2,220) -20% 1507 48.8
One Missed Call WB 3.2 (1,680) -53% 1915 24.8
Charlie Wilson’s War Uni 2.5 (1,880) -48% 1340 63.4
P.S. I Love You WB 2.3 (1,430) -60% 1626 50.8
The Water Horse Sony 2.1 (1,250) -50% 1661 37.9
The Great Debators MGM 1.7 (1,680) -40% 1021 28.2
No Country for Old Men Miramax 1.4 (1,760) -4% 818 48.8
The Orphanage Picture/Christal 1.4 (1,950) -42% 702 5.2
The Kite Runner Par Vantage 1.3 (2,160) -33% 606 12.9
Enchanted BV 1.3 (1,640) -44% 767 124.1
In the Name of the King FreeStyle .82 (610) -76% 1338 4.4
The Savages Fox Searchlight .55 (3,140) 47% 175 3.7
The Golden Compass New Line .53 (1,560) -63% 340 68.3
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $179.70
% Change (Last Year) 19%
% Change (Last Week) 18%
Also debuting/expanding
Diving Bell and the Butterfly Miramax .47 (4,390) 12% 107 2.6
Cassandra’s Dream Weinstein Co. .43 (4,010) 107 0.43
Persepolis Sony Classics .26 (10,480) 10% 25 0.89
Teeth Roadside At. 37,100 (9,270) 4 0.04
Little Chenier Slow Hand 32,500 (1,910) 17 0.03
Taxi to the Dark Side Thinkfilm 16,400 (5,470) 3 0.02
Still Life New Yorker 16,200 (16,200) 1 0.02
Summer Palace Palm 11,200 (11,200) 1 0.01
Beaufort Kino 6,100 (6,100) 1 0.01
* percentage changes are 3-day to 3-day

Domestic Market Share – To January 20, 2008

Distributor (titles) Gross* Market Share
Warner Bros. (10) 116.9 26.20%
Buena Vista (5) 68.5 15.40%
Fox (4) 55.8 12.50%
Fox Searchlight (3) 48.6 10.90%
Sony (7) 43.5 9.80%
Universal (3) 27.8 6.20%
Par (3) 19.1 4.30%
Focus (2) 15.9 3.60%
MGM (4) 11.8 2.60%
Par Vantage (4) 11.1 2.50%
New Line (1) 7.8 1.80%
Miramax (2) 6.9 1.50%
FreeStyle (2) 3.9 0.90%
Picturehouse (1) 3.6 0.80%
Other * (18) 4.4 1.00%
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