MCN Columnists
Leonard Klady

By Leonard Klady

Jingle All the Way

It was a gift exchange as Americans rose from Thanksgiving tables to make the turkey trot to Four Christmases, which topped holiday viewing with an estimated $46.6 million for the five-day span. Though shy of a record breaker, business was brisk; experiencing a slight boost from 2007 but falling short of earlier sessions in 2005 and 2000.

The frame was otherwise dominated by holdover titles. The much ballyhooed bow of Australiasqueaked into fifth position with $19.8 million since its Wednesday opening, and genre favoriteTransporter 3 was not far behind with an $18.1 million gross.

The other big noise was the limited start for the highly applauded biopic Milk, which had an enthusiastic $1.9 million box office from just 36 theaters. There was also a strong initial salvo of $380,000 for the family comedy Babine in Quebec, while the latest Bollywood entry Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! was a commercial fizzle with a dull theater average of $1,000 from 45 locations.

Leading up to the holiday break tracking indicated a close race between the low-brow comedy Four Christmases and the second weekend of Twilight. But the Friday results saw the seasonal shenanigans pulling ahead and the teen vampires duking it out with the animated family fare of Boltfor the consolation prize.

Further down the list, Australia was in tight contest with the other animated bestseller Madagascar: Escape to Africa. The epic historic melodrama performed to expectations, but in light of its cost it has considerable ground to maintain. Australia also opened on its native turf where it was a clear winner with a $5 million debut that galloped to top slot.

Business over the five-day period exceeded $232 million, though the three-day component was flat compared with last weekend when the debuts of Twilight and Bolt proved staggeringly expansive. It was also 2% improved from Thanksgiving 2007 when openings of Enchanted and This Christmasbowed to $49.1 million and $26.3 million respectively.

Filmmakers have struggled for more than two decades to bring the inspirational and tragic life of slain San Francisco activist-politician Harvey Milk to the screen as a drama. Critical response has been largely upbeat and initial box office certainly indicates no reticence toward its gay subject matter. In another year with no clear Oscar favorites, Milk’s awards profile shoots way up with its $38,610 theater box office average.

Another strong contender is Slumdog Millionaire, which added 17 theaters to bring its penetration to 49 locations. Its third weekend average remained sturdy at just shy of $28,000. More problematic will be the fate of Changeling, which may have peaked too soon and could face competition fromGran Torino, also directed by Clint Eastwood.

– Leonard Klady

Weekend Estimates – November 24- November 30, 2008

Title Distributor Gross (average) % change Theaters Cume
Four Christmases WB 31.5 (9,530) 3310 46.6
Bolt BV 26.6 (7,280) -2% 3654 66.8
Twilight Summit 26.4 (7,730) –62% 3419 119.9
Quantum of Solace Sony 19.6 (5,590) –27% 3501 142.2
Australia Fox 14.6 (5,530) 2642 19.8
Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa Par 14.5 (3,900) —8% 3709 159.5
Transporter 3 Lionsgate 11.8 (4,500) 2626 18.1
Role Models Uni 5.2 (2,370) –29% 2195 57.8
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas Miramax 1.6 (2,780) -2% 582 5.1
Milk Focus 1.4 (38,610) 36 1.9
Slumdog Millionaire Fox Searchlight 1.4 (27,960) 44%– 49 3.6
Changeling Uni 1.2 (1,180) -56% 1010 33.8
High School Musical 3 BV 1.1 (770) –48% 1385 88.8
The Secret Life of Bees Fox Searchlight .57 (1,160) –45% 490 36.7
Zack and Miri Make a Porno Weinstein Co. .55 (1,240) –66% 445 30.5
Rachel Getting Married Sony Classics .53 (2,350) -30% 225 8.8
Soul Men MGM .51 (1,520) –44% 335 11.7
Fireproof IDP .44 (910) -52% 486 32.3
Babine Alliance .38 (8,650) 44 0.38
The Dark Knight WB .33 (1,080) -14% 305 530.2
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $159.06
% Change (Last Year) 2%
% Change (Last Week) 0%
Also debuting/expanding
Synecdoche, NY Sony Classics .32 (2,670) 0%- 120 2
Happy-Go-Lucky Miramax .31 (1,550) -7% 202 2.7
Oyee Lucky! Lucky Oye! UTV 46,040 (1,020) 45 0.08
The Secrets Monterey 12,800 (3,200) 4 0.01

Domestic Market Share – To November 23, 2008

Distributor (releases) Gross Mrkt Share
Warner Bros. (26) 1583.7 18.40%
Paramount (16) 1485.9 17.30%
Sony (24) 1164 13.50%
Universal (20) 1054.8 12.20%
Buena Vista (17) 871,2 10.10%
Fox (21) 828.9 9.60%
Lions Gate (18) 385.7 4.50%
Fox Searchlight (8) 191.1 2.20%
Summit (5) 125.1 1.50%
Focus (6) 124.9 1.50%
MGM (16) 117.9 1.40%
Overture (6) 95.4 1.10%
Paramount Vantage (11) 86.6 1.00%
Picturehouse (7) 63.3 0.70%
Miramax (9) 62.8 0.70%
New Line (4) 61.8 0.70%
Other * (303) 313.9 3.60%
* none greater than 0.4% 8617 100.00%

Top Global Grossers – To November 27, 2008

Title Distributor Gross
The Dark Knight WB 991,478,574
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull Par 786,001,411
Kung Fu Panda Par 631,948,533
Hancock Sony 625,872,147
Iron Man Par 581,055,399
Mamma Mia! Uni 568,636,619
WALL-E BV 488.198,517
Quantum of Solace Sony 430,414,293
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian BV 420,055,729
Sex and the City WB 410,684,724
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor Uni 393,277,768
Wanted Uni 343,011,467
Horton Hears a Who Fox 296,186,426
I Am Legend* WB 270,507,723
10,000 B.C. WB 269,309,372
National Treasures: Book of Secrets BV 263,704,304
The Incredible Hulk Uni 262,356,154
Get Smart WB 228,662,183
Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis Pathe 227,000,406
Jumper Fox 220,287,702
What Happens in Vegas Fox 218,207,559
High School Musical 3: Senior Year BV 217,606,165
Journey to the Center of the Earth WB 216,805,388
Juno Fox/Mandate 202,277,218
You Don’t Mess With the Zohan Sony 201,859,863

*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