MCN Columnists
Leonard Klady

By Leonard Klady

On the Dole

The Dark Knight remained top dog in the marketplace with an estimated $25.8 million weekend gross. However, the competition was torrid as the bow of stoner comedy Pineapple Express nipped at its cape with an opening weekend salvo of $22.2 million. Also bowing nationally was the female bonding sequel Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 with $10.6 million to rank fourth overall.

Additionally there was fierce competition in debuts in the niches and limited bows. On the Bollywood circuit Singh is Kinng had the strongest opening in that sector this year with a $1.07 gross at 112 theaters. Bottle Shock, the droll saga of California wines back in the 1970s posted an impressive $230,000 and Elegy, adapted from Philip Roth’s The Dying Animal, generated a potent $16,200 average at six locations. Conversely the regional bow of Beer for My Horses was just fair with a $208,000 tally at 91 corrals and biker opus Hell Ride ran out of gas with an $86,200 gross at 82 truck stops.

Overall box office trailed off by double digits in contrast to 2007’s August surge. This year’s summer revenues are currently 4.5% better than last year but admissions are flat and if the final weeks leading up to Labor Day continue the trend there will be no cheering in Mudville come September.

Tracking for the offbeat action-comedy Pineapple Express was sufficiently strong to suggest it might knock Batman off his perch. But bragging rights aside, the decision was made to open the film on Wednesday for a couple more days of summer revenue. Its jaw dropping $12 million plus opening day certainly justified the move but nonetheless bowdlerized its full weekend potential.

The Sisterhood sequel also bowed Wednesday (and Tropic Thunder will take that head start this week); entering the weekend with $8.9 million. Its weekend performance was pretty much on track with pundit prognostications.

Weekend box office pushed to roughly $116 million to ebb back 24% from both the prior weekend as well as the comparable 2007 session. Last year the debut of Rush Hour 3 was head of the class with $49.1 million while counter-programmed Stardust opened in position four with $9.2 million.

The lead up to Singh is Kinng was as closely watched in the Bollywood arena as any U.S. summer blockbuster. The maiden producing effort of box office superstar Akshay Kumar was eyed with some skepticism as it appeared to be tipped toward a minority Punjabi crowd. But initial sales everywhere indicate it could be the year’s top grosser in its circuit.

Aside from the new entries, alternative fare continued to play strong with Tell No One andBrideshead Revisited slotting in the top 20 with small ripples in their box office potency. Non-fiction entry Man on Wire expanded forcefully but one could see the strain of new playdates on American Teen. One could also see Quebec family drama Un Ete sans point ni coup sur showing solid staying power in its second weekend.

– Leonard Klady

Weekend Estimates – August 8-10, 2008

Title Distributor Gross (average) % chan Theaters Cume
The Dark Knight WB 25.8 (6,420) -39% 4025 441.3
Pinapple Express Sony 22.2 (7,240) 3072 40.3
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Empire Uni 16.2 (4,290) -60% 3778 70.8
Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 WB 10.6 (3,930) 2707 19.6
Step Brothers Sony 8.8 (2,760) -47% 3182 80.8
Mamma Mia! Uni 8.0 (2,490) -37% 3194 103.9
Journey to the Center of the Earth WB 4.7 (2,380) -30% 1970 81.6
Hancock Sony 3.2 (1,420) -37% 2258 221.6
Swing Vote BV 3.1 (1,400) -50% 2213 12
Wall-E BV 3.0 (1,390) -35% 2144 210
Space Chimps Fox 1.6 (990) -40% 1631 25.4
Hellboy II: The Golden Army Uni 1.2 (1,210) -51% 1015 73.5
X-Files: I Want to Believe Fox 1.1 (650) -67% 1695 19.6
Singh is Kinng Studio 18 1.1 (9,550) 112 1.1
Brideshead Reisited Miramax 1.0 (2,920) -12% 349 3.3
Wanted Uni .69 (1,070) -44% 642 132.6
Get Smart WB .51 (1,180) -49% 432 127.5
Kung Fu Panda Par .44 (1,080) -30% 408 211.3
Iron Man Par .39 (1,130) -33% 345 316.1
Tell No One Music Box .33 (3,270) -28% 101 2.8
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $112.80
% Change (Last Year) -24%
% Change (Last Week) -24%
Also debuting/expanding
Man on Wire Magnolia .26 (4,460) 448% 59 0.42
Bottle Shock FreeStyle .23 (4,640) 50 0.3
Beer for My Horses Roadside At. .21 (2,290) 91 0.21
Un Ete sans point ni coup sur Alliance .17 (2,850) -34% 61 0.6
American Teen Par Ventage .13 (1,740) -21% 76 0.46
Elegy IDP .10 (16,200) 6 0.1
Hell Ride Weinstein C 86,200 (1,050) 82 0.09
Amal Seville 26,700 (8,900) 3 0.03
What We Do in Secret Peace Arch 6,600 (6,600) 1 0.01
Red Magnolia 2,900 (1,450) 2 0.01

Domestic Market Share – To August 7, 2008

Distributor (releases) Gross Market Share
Warner Bros. (19) 1247.5 20.00%
Paramount (12) 1114.9 18.40%
Universal (15) 820.1 13.20%
Sony (18) 793.2 12.70%
Fox (16) 711.3 11.40%
Buena Vista (11) 632.3 10.10%
Lions Gate (9) 204.3 3.20%
Fox Searchlight (5) 150.9 2.40%
Paramount Vantage (10) 72.3 1.10%
New Line (4) 61.8 1.00%
Focus (5) 60.1 1.00%
Miramax (6) 50.4 0.80%
MGM (9) 46.5 0.70%
Picturehouse (6) 35.1 0.50%
Summit (2) 34.9 0.50%
Other * (205) 190.7 3.00%
* none greater than 0.45% 6226.3 100.00%

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