MCN Columnists
Leonard Klady

By Leonard Klady

Fang You Very Much

Twilight, the teen vampire romance sensation, bit down hard to debut with an estimated $72.7 million and command about 44% of weekend ticket buying revenues. The session also saw the bow of the animated family film Bolt, which ranked third with $26.8 million in a frame that saw the sort of expansion Wall Street dreams of returning daily.

Though one might ordinarily anticipate a calm before the storm of traditionally torrid Thanksgiving movie going, the past weekend tally of roughly $166 million exceeds 2007 turkey holiday performance. The past weekend had only one significant platform title expanding and debuts in niche and exclusive arenas was sparse. Yuvraaj on the Bollywood circuit generated a disappointing $133,000 from 77 theaters and a few indie openings including I Can’t Think Straight and Growing Up in Canada had box office of no great distinction.

Originally an MTV Films project, Twilight was quickly snapped up by Summit in turnaround and for a nascent distributor the film’s resounding success is manna from heaven. Tracking was so strong, particular among young women, that pundits downplayed predictions much in the way that caution greeted Sex and the City in the early summer.

Advance ticketing was fierce with hundreds of showtimes selling out days and weeks in advance of the Thursday midnight launch. On Fandango the film ranked third among its all-time advance sellers and it was 10th on rival The first midnight show sold roughly $7 million worth of tickets and Saturday business dipped about 28% from opening day for a less severe drop than SATC.

Bolt, the latest from Disney animation, largely got lost in the shuffle despite a strong debut. It’s effectively positioned for the holidays when families push away from the table for some not too strenuous entertainment.

Weekend revenues shot up 14% from seven days earlier when Quantum of Solace dominated the marketplace. Even stronger was the 61% boost from 2007 when the debut of Beowulf led with a $27.5 million box office with Bee Movie taking place position with $14 million.

The holocaust-set drama The Boy in Striped Pajamas expanded to the top 25 markets and moved into the top 10 list with a sturdy theater average of $4,090. Also beefing up was critical favoriteSlumdog Millionaire, which went from 10 to 32 playdates and grossed close to $1 million.

Anticipation is high for the limited launch of Milk for Thanksgiving, while nervousness surrounds the epic romance Australia from Baz Luhrmann. However, hopes that the holiday session will be buoyant largely rest on the momentum from the market’s current top sellers.

– Leonard Klady

Weekend Estimates – November 17- November 23, 2008

Title Distributor Gross (average) % change Theaters Cume
Twilight Summit 72.7 (21,250) 3419 72.7
Quantum of Solace Sony 27.2 (7,870) –60% 3458 109.3
Bolt BV 26.8 (7,330) 3651 26.8
Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa Par 15.6 (3,900) —55% 4007 137.1
Role Models Uni 7.1 (2,590) –37% 2733 47.9
Changeling Uni 2.6 (1,500) -38% 1739 31.6
High School Musical 3 BV 2.0 (850) –64% 2361 86.8
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas Miramax 1.7 (4,090) 250% 406 2.6
Zack and Miri Make a Porno Weinstein Co. 1.5 (1,210) –53% 1220 29.1
The Secret Life of Bees Fox Searchlight 1.2 (1,110) –48% 1095 35.6
Slumdog Millionaire Fox Searchlight 1.0 (30,310) 169%– 32 1.6
Fireproof IDP .89 (1,080) -29% 823 30.61
Soul Men MGM .86 (1,060) –63% 814 9.99
Rachel Getting Married Sony Classics .78 (1,930) -26% 405 7.25
Eagle Eye Par .67 (890) -54% 757 99.07
Saw V Lionsgate .46 (660) -74% 694 56.4
Beverly Hills Chihuahua BV .44 (560) -72% 788 91.6
The Haunting of Molly Hartley FreeStyle .41 (670) -72% 614 13.2
Happy-Go-Lucky Miramax .35 (1,720) -6% 202 2.2
The Dark Knight WB .34 (1,140) -32% 298 529.7
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $162.60
% Change (Last Year) 61%
% Change (Last Week) 14%
Also debuting/expanding
Synecdoche, NY Sony Classics .28 (2,790) -15%- 101 1.5
Yuvraaj Eros .13 (1,730) 77 0.13
I Can’t Think Straight Regent 15,900 (5,300) 3 0.02
Growing Up Mongrel 5,600 (1,870) 3 0.01
Special Magnolia 3,600 (3,600) 1 0.01

Domestic Market Share – To November 20, 2008

Distributor (releases) Gross Mrkt Share
Warner Bros. (26) 1582.5 18.70%
Paramount (16) 1469.5 17.40%
Sony (24) 1138.8 13.50%
Universal (20) 1044.7 12.40%
Buena Vista (16) 842,4 10.00%
Fox (21) 828.6 9.80%
Lions Gate (18) 384.9 4.50%
Fox Searchlight (8) 188.9 2.20%
Focus (6) 124.8 1.50%
MGM (16) 116.9 1.40%
Overture (6) 95.3 1.10%
Paramount Vantage (11) 86.5 1.00%
Picturehouse (7) 63.3 0.80%
New Line (4) 61.8 0.70%
Miramax (9) 60.9 0.70%
Summit (4) 55.4 0.70%
Other * (303) 308.3 3.60%
* none greater than 0.4% 8453.5 100.00%

Top Domestic Grossers – To November 20, 2008

Title Distributor Gross
The Dark Knight WB 529,325,841
Iron Man Par 318,338,993
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull Par 317,023,851
Hancock Sony 229,431,675
WALL-E BV 223.319,791
Kung Fu Panda Par 215,908,653
Horton Hears a Who Fox 154,529,439
Sex and the City WB 152,647,258
Mamma Mia! Uni 144,023,348
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian BV 141,682,713
The Incredible Hulk Uni 134,617,678
Wanted Uni 134,512,024
Get Smart WB 130,335,095
Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa Par 121,447,454
Juno* Fox Searchlight 115,568,583
Tropic Thunder Par 110,536,085
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor Uni 103,183,080
Journey to the Center of the Earth WB 101,608,407
Step Brothers Sony 101,294,165
You Don’t Mess With the Zohan Sony 100,112,110

*None greater than 755 playdates

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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