MCN Columnists
Leonard Klady

By Leonard Klady

Christmas Caroling with Marley

The other Marley — Marley and Me — proved no Scrooge at the box office with an estimated $51.5 million gross that barked to the top of the box office charts for the four-day seasonal span. In what was technically a box office record-breaking frame, four other films bowed on Christmas day to primarily upbeat returns.

A close race for second place pitted the family-pitched Bedtime Stories against the epic romanceThe Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Bedtime appeared to have a $500,000 edge over the three-day weekend with roughly $27.7 million, but Button was unspooling at about 700 fewer theaters with a running time more than an hour longer than its competitor.

Also off to a good start was the Second World War conspiracy thriller Valkyrie with $21.9 million for the weekend, but the adaptation of comic book classic The Spirit saw interest quickly evaporate to $6.6 million.

Overall box office revenues exceeded $205 million for the three-day portion and strictly speaking that’s a record. The caveat or asterix to be applied relates to where the holiday falls on the calendar and how that reflects in holiday days that can run to five-day spans.

The session also saw a handful of films debut in limited or niche fashion, including Bollywood thunderbolt Ghajini with Aamir Khan in the title role, which grossed $770,000 and appears headed for an opening week record in India. Among exclusives, the star-driven Revolutionary Road racked up a sturdy $64,000 average from three screens; there was more tepid response for Last Chance Harvey of a $15,720 average at six locations, and $6,650 for the award-winning Israeli animated documentary Waltz with Bashir from 11 venues.

Following two weeks of box office declines, recent holdover movies buttressed the incoming artillery quite well with erosion levels generally in the range of 10% to 20%. The slew of toe-dippers hoping to be award contenders continued to expand their expansions, including Gran Torino, Frost/Nixon,The Wrestler and The Reader. Doubt was the only one of the group to step up nationally with the addition of 1,228 plydates and a $5.5 million box office.

The concentration of new, commercial titles opening Christmas day ballooned ticket sales with revenues going skyward by 137% from last weekend. Compared with 2007 it was 11% improved, but there were no new national releases that premiered during that frame.

Bedtime Stories had been pegged by trackers to rank at the top of the holiday list but gauging buying preferences for under-15s has been notoriously lackluster in Hollywood. Marley, the cute dog movie, proved to be warmer and fuzzier and should emerge as one of the year’s most successful entries on a cost-to-return basis.

More problematic are the fates of Benjamin Button and Valkyrie, which opened well but need to sustain and perform considerably above domestic levels to sustain production and marketing costs approaching $200 million. The promotional campaign for Valkyrie has been oft-noted as vigorous and its opening salvo was several notches above expectations.

– Leonard Klady

Weekend Estimates – December 26-28, 2008

Title Distributor Gross (averag % chan Theate Cume
Marley and Me Fox 36.8 (10,570) 3480 51.5
Bedtime Stories BV 27.7 (7,520) 3681 38.3
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button Par 27.2 (9.110) 2988 38.9
Valkyrie MGM 21.9 (8,080) 2711 30
Yes Man WB 16.4 (4,790) -10% 3434 49.6
Seven Pounds Sony 13.6 (4.940) -8% 2758 39.2
The Tale of Despereaux Uni 9.3 (2,990) -8% 3107 27.9
The Day the Earth Stood Still Fox 7.8 (3,260) -21% 2402 63.5
The Spirit Lionsgate 6.6 (2,640) 2509 10.4
Doubt Miramax 5.5 (4,330) 705% 1267 8.6
Four Christmases WB 5.0 (1,980) -35% 2510 111.8
Twilight Summit 4.4 (2,360) -16% 1849 167
Slumdog Millionaire Fox Searchlight 4.4 (7,210) 45% 614 19.4
Bolt BV 3.5 (1,800) -16% 1923 102.7
Gran Torino WB 2.3 (26,900) 66% 84 4.1
Milk Focus 1.8 (5,880) 6% 311 13.6
Frost/Nixon Uni 1.5 (7,090) 284% 205 3.6
Quantum of Solace Sony 1.4 (1,580) -31% 891 164.3
Australia Fox 1.1 (1,500) -51% 711 44.3
Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa Par .91 (1,130) -42% 808 174.9
Ghajini Adlabs .77 (9,280) 83 1.4
The Reader Weinstein Co. .62 (5,340) -33%- 116 1.2
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $200.50
% Change (Last Year) 11%
% Change (Last Week) 137%
Also debuting/expanding
The Wrestler Fox Searchlight .38 (21,330) 89% 18 0.9
Le Grand Depart Alliance .29 (3,710) 55% 78 0.6
Revolutionary Road Par Vantage .19 (64,000) 3 0.19
Last Chance Harvey Overture 0.09 (15,720) 6 0.13
Waltz with Bashir Sony Classics 74,100 (6,650) 11 0.08

Domestic Market Share – To December 21, 2008

Distributor (releases) Gross Mrkt Share
Warner Bros. (29) 1706.4 18.50%
Paramount (16) 1522.3 16.50%
Sony (26) 1241 13.40%
Universal (22) 1087.7 11.80%
Buena Vista (17) 943.9 10.20%
Fox (23) 919.5 9.90%
Lions Gate (20) 425.7 4.60%
Summit (5) 214.1 2.30%
Fox Searchlight (9) 203.5 2.20%
Focus (7) 135.6 1.50%
MGM (16) 119.5 1.30%
Overture (7) 101.6 1.10%
Paramount Vantage (11) 86.8 0.90%
Miramax (10) 70.9 0.80%
Picturehouse (7) 63.3 0.70%
New Line (4) 61.8 0.70%
Other * (318) 331 3.60%
* none greater than 0.5% 9234.6 100.00%

Top Global Grossers – To December 21, 2008

Title Distributor Gross
The Dark Knight WB 992,583,849
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull Par 786,558,759
Kung Fu Panda Par 632,367,299
Hancock Sony 625,872,147
Iron Man Par 582,178,590
Mamma Mia! Uni 572,523,780
Quantum of Solace Sony 534,032,111
WALL-E BV 506.407,681
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 394,291,012
Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa Par 394,091,713
Wanted Uni 343,414,966
Horton Hears a Who Fox 295,162,019
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 262,559,844
High School Musical 3: Senior Year BV 237,591,939
Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis Pathe 232,616,489
Twilight Summit 232,558,981
Get Smart WB 228,847,674
Journey to the Center of the Earth WB 221,798,714
Jumper Fox 220,287,702
What Happens in Vegas Fox 218,207,559
Be Sociable, Share!

Comments are closed.


Quote Unquotesee all »

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