MCN Columnists
Leonard Klady

By Leonard Klady

Slow and Sure

A quartet of new films failed to topple Tropic Thunder from its seat at the top of the heap of weekend movie going. The psycho-comedy edged out freshman entries The House Bunny and Death Race with an estimated $16.1 million. Bunny ranked second with $14.8 million and the bronze went to the road rage action with $12.2 million.

The other newcomers failed to click with the human comedy The Longshots living up to its moniker with a $4.2 million gross and the antic musical comedy The Rocker finishing with a grim $2.6 million. More encouraging was the limited bow of fest fave Hamlet 2 with a $4,400 average and $450,000 box office.

In niche and exclusive play a couple of debuting non-fiction films played well including the debt related I.O.U.S.A. coining $69,200 at 18 sites and the flood relief-themed Trouble the Water grossing $28,100 at three venues. The inspirational The Errand of Angels had a fair $37,300 from 16 regional openings and the Manhattan exclusive of critically acclaimed Momma’s Man had a potent $13,400 bow.

Audiences continued to ebb as the season waned and one has to wonder whether the upcoming Labor Day glut of new movies will end summer with a bang or a whimper.

Most industry trackers were predicting a significantly stronger debut for both The House Bunny and Death Race with the former expected to lead the field with an $18 million to $20 million opening salvo. Reviews of the lark of a Playmate turned sorority den mother were upbeat and the picture, as anticipated, drew largely from a young female crowd … just not as many as had been perceived.

The very loose remake of Death Race was roundly dismissed by critics and response from avids turned out to be tepid. There was similar soft response for The Longshots while The Rocker arrived commercially D.O.A.

Weekend box office barely managed to exceed five figures with an overall three-day pushing close to $102 million. That translated into a 19% dip from last weekend as well as a 6% decline from 2007. Last year the second weekend of Superbad led with an $18 million box office and debuts of Mr. Bean’s Holiday and War ranked fourth and fifth with respective b.o. of $9.9 million and $9.8 million.

The August erosion now has summer 2008 ahead of last year at this point of the season by 0.1%. The next eight days aren’t likely to generate a demonstrably change from last year’s $4.17 billion tally. However, with an increasing number of premium priced large format and 3-D movies in the current season, attendance has experienced a significant drop and one can expect aggressive industry spinning about the May-August commercial record in the coming weeks.

Summer’s other major fatality has been alternative fare and while there have been a number of successes, even the most resilient have been pushed off screen by the vigorous flow of mainstream and niche movies. The few and the sturdy have truly had to earn expansion playdates and maintaining potent per screens has hobbled virtually every picture that’s found itself desperately to build a national audience.

– Leonard Klady

Estimates – August 22-24, 2008

Title Distributor Gross (averag % chang Theaters Cume
Tropic Thunder Par 16.1 (4,790) -38% 3352 65.6
The House Bunny Sony 14.8 (5,460) 2714 14.8
Death Race Uni 12.2 (4,830) 2532 12.2
The Dark Knight WB 10.3 (3,250) -37% 3163 489.2
Star Wars: The Clone Wars WB 5.5 (1,600) -62% 3452 24.9
Pinapple Express Sony 5.2 (1,990) -47% 2620 73.6
Mirrors Fox 4.8 (1,800) -57% 2664 20
Mamma Mia! Uni 4.2 (1,810) -31% 2326 124.4
The Longshots MGM 4.2 (2,010) 2089 4.2
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon E Uni 4.0 (1,650) -51% 2422 93.7
Vicky Christina Barcelona MGM 2.8 (4,020) -26% 692 8.4
Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 WB 2.7 (1,250) -53% 2170 38.2
The Rocker Fox 2.6 (930) 2784 3.6
Journey to the Center of the Earth WB 2.2 (2,080) -35% 1051 91.9
Step Brothers Sony 2.2 (1,370) -53% 1639 95.6
Fly Me to the Moon Summit 1.3 (2,420) -31% 540 4.1
Wall-E BV .89 (1,130) -52% 785 216.2
Bottle Shock FreeStyle .63 (1,940) 61% 324 1.65
Hancock Sony .58 (990) -66% 588 226.3
Hamlet 2 Focus .45 (4,400) 103 0.45
Elegy IDP .45 (5,440) 722% 83 0.7
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $97.20
% Change (Last Year) -6%
% Change (Last Week) -19%
Also debuting/expanding
Brideshead Reisited Miramax .42 (950) -43% 444 5.5
Man on Wire Magnolia .16 (2,530) -24% 64 0.95
I.O.U.S.A. Roadside At. 69,200 (3,840) 18 0.07
The Errand of Angels Excel 37,300 (2,330) 16 0.04
Trouble the Water Zeitgeist 28,100 (9,370) 3 0.03
Mumbai Meri Jaan UTV 13,500 (1,690) 8 0.01
Momma’s Man Kino 13,400 (13,400) 1 0.01

Domestic Market Share – To August 21, 2008

Distributor (releases) Gross Market Share
Warner Bros. (20) 1371.5 20.70%
Paramount (13) 1167.8 17.70%
Universal (15) 884.5 13.40%
Sony (18) 872.7 13.20%
Fox (18) 734.6 11.10%
Buena Vista (11) 647.5 9.80%
Lions Gate (9) 204.3 3.10%
Fox Searchlight (5) 150.9 2.30%
Paramount Vantage (10) 72.7 1.10%
New Line (4) 61.8 0.90%
Focus (5) 60.1 0.90%
Miramax (6) 53.2 0.80%
MGM (10) 52.1 0.80%
Summit (3) 37.6 0.60%
Picturehouse (6) 35.9 0.50%
Other * (221) 204.5 3.10%
* none greater than 0.45% 6611.7 100.00%

Top Limited Releases – To August 21, 2008

Title Distributor Gross
Under the Same Moon Weinstein Co. 12,590,147
Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day Focus 12,413,165
Sea Monsters: A Prehistoric Adventure nWave 12,347,255
U2 3D nWave 9,339,861
The Visitor Overture 9,288,593
In Bruges Focus 7,800,824
The Orphanage Picture/Christal 6,894,612
Mongol Picturehouse 5,644,686
Vicky Christina Barcelona MGM 5,566,474
The Counterfeiters Sony Classics 5,484,365
Shine a Light Par Vantage 5,421,098
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly Mrmx 5,064,793
Brideshead Reisited Mrmx 5,058,765
The Savages Fox Searchlight 4,795,616
Persepolis Sony Classics 4,266,064
Dolphins and Whales 3D 3D Entertainment 4,227,773
Young@Heart Fox Searchlight 3,921,678
Then She Found Me Thinkfilm 3,731,212
Jodhaa Akbar UTV 3,440,718
Tell No One Music Box 3,432,807
Cruising Bar 2 Alliance 3,253,833
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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