MCN Columnists
Leonard Klady

By Leonard Klady

Mummy Dearest

Pundits predicted that The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor would unseat The Dark Knight as the top ticket seller in the domestic market place this weekend. Tracking studies suggested the third edition of The Mummy franchise would open to between $45 million and $50 million and that the ebony Bat would once again experience a 50% drop at the box office.

Instead the swathed nightmare grossed 90% to 95% of expectation and the Knight’s estimated decline was 41%. It’s all within statistical margin of error with estimated results favoring The Dark Knight with $44.1 million and The Mummy 3debuting to $42.6 million.

The session’s other national debut was the political satire Swing Vote that ranked sixth with $6.2 million. In Quebec there was warm response of $180,000 for the family drama Un Ete sans point ni coup sur while the regional bow of horror entry Midnight Meat Train got the deep freeze treatment with less than a $300 average at 102 lockers. Best of the limited releases was the $69,000 debut of Sundance-prized Frozen River from seven sites and a single screen gross of $3,100 for The Exiles, the rediscovered independent social drama from the 1960s.

Overall business was down from last year and hopes of a repeat of the 2007 August surge now appear remote.

While the Mummy didn’t quite hit its anticipated number domestically, its international bow was formidable with close to a $60 million salvo in 28 countries including Russia and Korea but not China where it will open following the Beijing Olympics. The film will emerge as the weekend’s top global grosser and with major foreign openings next week should hold onto the claim for at least two weeks.

Like countless real life presidential campaigns of the past year, Swing Vote shaped up as a commercial long shot and failed to build up the momentum to get close to a $10 million opening. The mixed critical response didn’t help but far worse was the fact that its scenario was considerably less interesting, inspired or dramatic than the actual events that have led up to the current political fracas for the Commander in Chief election looming in the fall.

Weekend box office inched toward $157 million (53% generated by the top two movies) to ebb back 14% from seven days earlier. It was 14% off the 2007 frame when The Bourne Ultimatum debuted to $69.3 million and Underdog bow-unwowed in third place with $11.6 million.

Aficionados of graphic horror have been screaming for months of plans to send Midnight Meat Train directly to disc with definite intent to pass the theatrical Go window. It hasn’t literally come to pass due to contractual obligations but might as well with low end exposure in secondary markets that leave one to ponder whether something of this stripe might have been a viable commercial alternative this time of year.

Strong reviews translated well for bows of American independents Frozen River and In Search of a Midnight Kiss as well as non-fiction holdovers American Teen and Man on Wire. The potency of alternative fare this summer has yet to be writ but anecdotal success holds out hope for a conclusion that cannot be dismissed as mere anomaly.

– Leonard Klady

Estimates – August 1-3, 2008

Title Distributor Gross (average % chang Theater Cume
The Dark Knight WB 44.1 (10,340) -41% 4266 395.2
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Em Uni 42.6 (11,330) 3760 42.6
Step Brothers Sony 16.1 (5,210) -48% 3094 62.8
Mamma Mia! Uni 13.0 (4,250) -27% 3062 87.9
Journey to the Center of the Earth WB 6.8 (2,980) -30% 2285 73.1
Swing Vote BV 6.2 (2,790) 2213 6.2
Hancock Sony 5.0 (1,790) -40% 2782 215.8
Wall-E BV 4.7 (1,840) -27% 2555 204.2
X-Files: I Want to Believe Fox 3.3 (1,040) -67% 3185 16.9
Space Chimps Fox 2.8 (1,300) -39% 2134 22
Hellboy II: The Golden Army Uni 2.4 (1,240) -53% 1959 71.2
Wanted Uni 1.2 (1,310) -57% 895 131.3
Brideshead Reisited Miramax 1.1 (5,870) 227% 189 1.6
Get Smart WB .92 (1,260) -60% 728 126.4
Kung Fu Panda Par .61 (1,170) -42% 520 210.5
Iron Man Par .57 (1,400) 84% 407 315.7
The Incredible Hulk Uni .44 (1,090) -38% 403 132.9
Kit Kittredge: An American Girl Picturehouse .41 (910) -35% 450 16.2
Tell No One Music Box .39 (4,760) -8% 82 2.2
Indiana Jones: Kingdom of Crystal Sk Par .36 (1,080) -40% 332 314.3
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $151.40
% Change (Last Year) -12%
% Change (Last Week) -14%
Also debuting/expanding
Un Ete sans point ni coup sur Alliance .18 (3,210) 55 0.18
The Wackness Sony Classics .19 (1,410) -19% 133 1.4
Bienvenue Chez les Ch’tis Link .17 (3,890) -21% 45 0.6
American Teen Par Ventage .16 (4,180) 257% 39 0.24
Frozen River Sony Classics .07 (9,930) 7 0.07
Midnight Meat Train Lions Gate 29,200 (290) 102 0.03
In Search of a Midnight Kiss IFC 14,400 (7,200) 2 0.01
Man on Wire Magnolia 51,200 (12,800) -1% 4 0.14
Sixty Six Sky 8,700 (4,350) 2 0.01
The Exiles Milestone 3,100 (3,100) 1 0.01

Domestic Market Share – To July 31, 2008

Distributor (releases) Gross Market Share
Warner Bros. (18) 1161.5 19.50%
Paramount (12) 1112.5 18.60%
Sony (17) 741.7 12.40%
Universal (14) 738.6 12.40%
Fox (16) 701.3 11.80%
Buena Vista (10) 615.3 10.30%
Lions Gate (8) 204.2 3.40%
Fox Searchlight (5) 150.9 2.50%
Paramount Vantage (10) 72.1 1.20%
New Line (4) 61.8 1.00%
Focus (5) 60.1 1.00%
Miramax (6) 48.7 0.80%
MGM (9) 46.5 0.80%
Summit (2) 34.9 0.60%
Picturehouse (6) 34.1 0.60%
Other * (199) 185.3 3.10%
* none greater than 0.5% 5969.5 100.00%

Top Domestic Releases – To July 31, 2008

Title * Distributor Gross
The Dark Knight WB 351,086,846
Iron Man Par 315,107,589
Indiana Jones & Kingdom of the Cryst Par 313,972,312
Hancock Sony 210,795,466
Kung Fu Panda Par 209,854,538
Wall-E BV 199,474,897
Horton Hears a Who Fox 154,423,552
Sex and the City WB 151,169,251
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Casp BV 140,415,913
The Incredible Hulk Uni 132,805,330
Wanted Uni 130,080,115
Get Smart WB 125,506,819
Juno * Fox Searchlight 115,568,583
You Don’t Mess with the Zohan Sony 98,440,404
10,000 B.C. WB 94,819,450
The Bucket List * WB 92,781,554
National Treasure: Book of Secrets * BV 86,700,433
21 Sony 82,823,812
Jumper Fox 80,172,128
Cloverfield Par 80,048,433
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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