MCN Columnists
Leonard Klady

By Leonard Klady

Laff Track

The battle of the clowns proved lopsided as the debut of the big screen Get Smart easily out performed the opening of The Love Guru. Get Smart topped weekend viewing choices with an estimated $38.3 million while the Mike Myers untranscendental amusement ranked fourth with a $14.1 million bow.

The session was light on new limited openers with Kit Kittredge: An American Girl registering a boisterous $232,000 gross from a mere five venues. The British multicultural drama Brick Lane had good returns of $47,700 on seven screens and American independent Expired ticked down to $5,240 in a Manhattan solo. There was also a hearty expansion for Mongol that generated $750,000 from 94 sites.

Overall business remained comparably better than 2007 moviegoing while it ebbed back from the immediate prior frame.

While critics savaged both of the new national debuts, tracking indicated there was still strong interest in the antics of Agent 86, Maxwell Smart. Friday exits showed ticket sales skewing 60% toward plus 25s with a relatively even gender split. The film slightly out-performed industry expectations of $35 million but even with a general paucity of comedies in the marketplace there’s not a lot of hope for on-going sustainability.

If Smart reaction was lukewarm, The Love Guru response verged on the virulent. Industry trepidation had been growing since a teaser preview was shown at ShoWest in March and a lot of ink had been split about the sagacity of two comedies facing off on the same date. Some industry pundits speculated Guru was being blown off in the summer heat rather than repositioned in a possibly more favorable late summer/early fall play slot.

Paramount may have been licking its wounds on The Love Guru but it got a hefty consolation prize as its release schedule accumulated to $1 billion on Sunday. In addition to 2008 bragging rights, it enters the record books as the fastest to that benchmark; lopping off more than a month from Sony’s prior pace setter. Reaction was however tempered in light of last week’s announcement of independent investment in DreamWorks that has stoked reports of the company’s exit from the studio before the end of the year.

Weekend business inched toward $160 million that represented a 22% decline from seven days earlier. However it was 7% improved from 2007 when the debut of another Steve Carell vehicle, Evan Almighty, led box office sales with a $31.2 million debut followed by the unexpectedly potent $20.6 million bow of 1408.

The American Girl industry of books, clothing, et al came to the screen with Kit Kittredge and peeked industry eyebrows with its $46,800 screen average. The film’s limited exposure and planned slow roll out surprised observers in light of the franchise’s built-in appeal and whispering ensued that the approaching October absorption of distributor Picturehouse into big WB may have curtailed close scrutiny on the release. The evaporating company was also active with Mongol that added 89 playdates and maintained close to an $8,000 per engagement average.

– Leonard Klady

Weekend Estimates – June 20-22, 2008

Title Distributor Gross (averag % change Theaters Cume
Get Smart WB 38.3 (9,790) 3911 38.3
The Incredible Hulk Uni 21.7 (6,190) -61% 3508 96.6
Kung Fu Panda Par 21.5 (5,300) -36% 4053 155.4
The Love Guru Par 14.1 (4,680) 3012 14.1
The Happening Fox 10.0 (3,340) -67% 2986 50.3
Indian Jones & Kingdom of Crystal S Par 8.3 (2,620) -44% 3171 290.7
Don’t Mess with the Zohan Sony 7.0 (2,130) -57% 3278 83.8
Sex and the City WB 6.4 (2,630) -34% 2442 132.3
Iron Man Par 4.0 (2,110) -28% 1912 304.8
The Strangers Uni/Alliance 1.9 (1,190) -53% 1578 49.5
Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian BV 1.7 (1,140) -48% 1462 135.4
What Happens in Vegas Fox .75 (1,060) -55% 708 77.5
Mongol Picturehouse .75 (7,980) 570% 94 1.1
The Visitor Overture .38 (1,700) -9% 224 7.2
Baby Mama Uni .24 (800) -45% 302 59.3
Kit Kittredge: An American Girl Picturehouse .23 (46,800) 5 0.23
Forgetting Sarah Marshall Uni .19 (760) -34% 253 62.4
Forbidden Kingdom Lions Gate .14 (930) 112% 155 52.2
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $136.40
% Change (Last Year) 7%
% Change (Last Week) -22%
Also debuting/expanding
The Fall Roadside Attract .12 (1,880) -20% 65 1.6
Young People F*cking Maple Pics .08 (2,410) -26% 34 0.27
Brick Lane Sony Classics 47,700 (6,810) 7 0.05
Expired IFC 5,240 (5,240) 1 0.01

Domestic Market Share – To June 12, 2008

Distributor (releases) Gross Market Share
Paramount (11) 879.3 21.80%
Fox (12) 584.5 14.50%
Warner Bros. (15) 574.4 14.20%
Sony (15) 435.5 10.80%
Buena Vista (9) 402.9 10.00%
Universal (10) 317.9 7.90%
Lions Gate (8) 203.1 5.00%
Fox Searchlight (5) 150.1 3.70%
Par Vantage (8) 71.5 1.80%
New Line (4) 61.8 1.50%
Focus (4) 59.9 1.50%
Miramax (5) 47.9 1.20%
MGM (9) 46.3 1.20%
Summit (2) 34.9 0.90%
Overture (3) 27.1 0.70%
Other * (154) 135 3.30%
* none greater than 0.45% 4032.1 100.00%

Top Global Grossers – To June 19, 2008

Title Distributor Gross
Iron Man Par 300,785,869
Indiana Jones & Kingdom of the Cry Par 282,420,731
Horton Hears a Who Fox 153,493,503
Kung Fu Panda Par 133,896,159
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Ca BV 133,758,371
Sex and the City WB 125,920,375
Juno * Fox Searchlight 115,568,583
10,000 B.C. WB 94,784,201
The Bucket List * WB 92,781,554
National Treasure: Book of Secrets * BV 86,700,433
21 Sony 82,629,719
Cloverfield Par 80,048,433
Jumper Fox 79,914,335
You Don’t Mess with the Zohan Sony 76,855,203
27 Dresses Fox 76,808,654
What Happens in Vegas Fox 76,751,534
The Incredible Hulk Uni 74,919,370
Vantage Point Sony 73,083,080
The Spiderwick Chronicles Par 71,748,431
Fool’s Gold WB 70,321,498
* does not include 2007 box office
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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