MCN Columnists
Leonard Klady

By Leonard Klady

Ring in the New…

The connection was strong for the debut of the cellular thriller One Missed Call but the strongest signal at the weekend box office remained National Treasure: Book of Secrets that generated an estimated $20.5 million in its third weekend in theaters. There was another close call as Juno and I Am Legend battled for the place position with their respective distributors both claiming victory.

Though the frame sported but a single new national premiere, holdovers and expansions proved unusually vigorous. Overall business set a new box office record for a January non-holiday weekend as revenues rose 7% from the opening weekend of 2007 with business eyeing about $141 million in ticket sales. .

In addition to Juno, both Atonement and There Will Be Blood experienced sizeable boosts on cautious expansions. The trio of films has been mounting strategic release plans all aimed at Oscar announcements and have yet to falter in the area of marketing acumen. Also fairing well toward that end are The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, The Savages and The Kite Runner while it appears that Sweeney Todd has lost traction and even No Country for Old Men may find itself absent in some key categories without a considerable reminder surge.

A Few Last Notes on 2007

The year at the box office crossed the finish line with a calendar tally of $9.68 billion that translated into a revenue increase of 4.9%. It wasn’t the double digit growth that had been predicted early in the year prior to the summer onslaught of sequels, remakes and adaptations of popular fare.

Ticket sales are only by the most liberal interpretation ahead of 2007. The spectacle of being able to see such films as I Am Legend, Spider-Man 3 and 300 in large format and/or 3-D versions at a higher admission price has made the special engagements disproportionately potent. A recent press release noted that Beowulf’s special presentations accounted for less than 20% of the playdates but more than one-third of its box office and the rule of thumb has evolved an expectation that those key screens will perform twice as well as conventional projections.

The reliance on retreads has proved repeatedly to be a bankrupt policy and the current box office surge is occurring in an environment that tilts toward originals.

And just for the record, all six majors recorded annually domestic grosses of more than $1 billion for the first time. However, collectively they’re claiming (and there’s no reason to doubt their veracity) that profit margins are shrinking in the current round of negotiations with the talent unions and guilds.

– Leonard Klady

Weekend Estimates – January 4-6, 2008

Title Distributor Gross (averag % chng Theas Cume
National Treasure: Book of Secrets BV 20.5 (5,450) -43% 3762 171.1
I Am Legend WB 16.2 (4,440) -41% 3648 228.5
Juno Fox Searchlight 16.1 (8,360) 51% 1925 51.9
Alvin and the Chipmunks Fox 15.4 (4,450) -47% 3462 176.1
One Missed Call WB 13.6 (6,060) 2240 13.6
Charlie Wilson’s War Uni 8.1 (3,170) -33% 2555 52.5
P.S. I Love You WB 7.7 (3,110) -17% 2471 39.1
The Water Horse Sony 6.2 (3,300) -33% 1874 30.8
Sweeney Todd Par 5.4 (4,310) -34% 1249 38.5
Atonement Focus 5.0 (8,540) 59% 583 20.5
Alien vs. Predator: Requiem Fox 4.3 (1,640) -58% 2617 36.9
The Great Debators MGM 4.2 (3,240) -30% 1299 22
Enchanted BV 3.7 (1,920) -42% 1932 119.7
The Golden Compass New Line 2.6 (1,600) -44% 1611 65.4
Walk Hard Sony 1.8 (860) -54% 2041 17.2
No Country for Old Men Miramax 1.7 (2,110) -22% 819 44.7
The Kite Runner Par Vantage 1.6 (4,220) -12% 384 8.6
There Will Be Blood Par Vantage 1.4 (26,860) 617% 51 1.9
The Orphanage Picture/Christal .52 (7,540) 123% 69 0.9
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $136.00
% Change (Last Year) 7%
% Change (Last Week) -25%
Also debuting/expanding
The Savages Fox Searchlight .45 (4,130) -13% 110 2.5
Diving Bell and the Butterfly Miramax .34 (6,020) 26% 57 1.5
The Bucket List WB .32 (20,010) -5% 16 1.3
Persepolis Sony Classics 88,400 (12,630) -1% 7 0.32
The Killing of John Lennon IFC 2,620 (2,620) 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