MCN Columnists
Leonard Klady

By Leonard Klady

Manled to the Max

Paul Blart: Mall Cop was intent to serve and protect and delivered an estimated $32.9 million during the three-day portion of the Martin Luther King holiday frame. Blart out-performed expectations as did another freshman release, the musical biography Notorious that ranked third with a $22.2 million gross. There were also solid returns for the two other new entries – the shockerMy Bloody Valentine 3D rang up $20.7 million and family targeted Hotel for Dogs grossed $17.1 million.

Overall box office for the four-day span should reach about $240 million to easily set a box office record for the MLK span.

Mall Cop and Notorious had been tracking competitively but in the end low brow comedy prevailed. With distractions from the run up to the Inauguration as well as football playoffs and clearances including the Circuit City close out pundits expected top performers to generate grosses of $20 million to $25 million. The substantial bounce likely could be attributed to the broad selection of new entries, a surge of interest in Oscar contenders and an escape for much of the country that had been experiencing cabin fever from recent snow storms.

The viewer magnet that 3D promises was clearly evident in My Bloody Valentine grosses. Slightly more than 41% of its engagements were in 3D while those engagements generated 79% of its box office. 3D has been heralded as commercial manna from heaven but the cost of retro-fitting screens in these dire financial times has slowed conversion to a crawl. About 1,500 screens can currently project in the process and industry hopes for 4,000 venues by 2010 will just have to be pushed back.

Inauguration fever already reared its head with the Motion Picture Academy wisely moving its award announcements from Tuesday to Thursday. However, that’s apt to put the kibosh on last minute bookings for unexpected nominees. A 250 playdate surge for The Dark Knight with the emphasis on large-format engagements (it’s already a DVD sensation) was set weeks ago but while the momentum surged for several perceived Oscar pictures, the glut of new movies invariably eroded their visibility.

A couple of Oscar long shots widened and generated good results. Defiance and Last Chance Harvey stepped up to national exposure and both could see significant drops if they’re absent at Thursday’s envelope opening.

The biggest award beneficiary is probably Slumdog Millionaire that’s maintained a limited theatrical exposure domestically and has only opened in three countries internationally. The film premiered in India Thursday and went into limited release while another film, Chandni Chowk to China – financed by Warner Bros. – went wide to spectacular results. In North America it had a sizeable $660,000 bow at 130 theaters.

High profile Oscar nods are vital to re-energize the likes of Milk, Doubt, The Reader, Revolutionary Road and Frost/Nixon.

– Leonard Klady

Weekend Estimates – January 16-18, 2009

Title Distributor Gross (avg) % chg* Theas Cume
Paul Bart: Mall Cop Sony 32.9 (10,210) 3144 32.9
Gran Torino WB 22.9 (7,710) -22% 2972 73.9
Notorious Fox Searchlight 22.2 (13,570) 1637 20.7
My Blood Valentine 2D Lions Gate 20.7 (8,160) 2534 20.7
Hotel for Dogs Par 17.1 (5,230) 3271 17.1
Bride Wars Fox 11.5 (3,570) -45% 3228 37.3
The Unborn Uni 9.8 (4,130) -51% 2359 33
Defiance Par Vantage 9.2 (5,140) 1789 9.5
Marley and Me Fox 6.2 (2,110) -45% 2952 132.6
Slumdog Millionaires Fox Searchlight 5.9 (10,200) 57% 582 42.8
Curious Case of Benjamin Button Par 5.4 (2,450) -41% 2223 102.5
Bedtime Stories BV 4.9 (1,860) -45% 2619 103.8
Last Chance Harvey Overture 4.4 (4,200) 1054 5
Valkyrie MGM 3.7 (1,820) -45% 2007 77.4
Yes Man WB 2.6 (1,510) -57% 1704 93.5
Not Easily Broken Sony 2.1 (2,910) -60% 725 8.2
Revolutionary Road Par Vantage 1.8 (10,430) 25% 171 5.7
The Wrestler Fox Searchlight 1.8 (12,270) 109% 144 5.1
Twilight Summit 1.7 (1,890) -40% 904 184.2
The Reader Weinstein Co. 1.3 (3,150) -3% 417 7.6
Doubt Miramax 1.3 (1,730) -50% 725 25.3
Seven Pounds Sony 1.2 (1,090) -68% 1121 69.2
Milk Focus .81 (3,630) -38% 223 20.4
The Tale of Despereaux Uni .72 (830) -74% 870 48.9
Frost/Nixon Uni .71 (4,640) -20% 153 8.7
Chandni Chowk to China WB .66 (5,070) 130 0.66
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $193.40
% Change (Last Year) 21%
% Change (Last Week) 35%
Also debuting/expanding
Che IFC .14 (9,010) 283% 16 0.46
Waltz with Bashir Sony Class/E1 83,400 (6,950) 18% 12 0.51
Owl and the Sparrow Wave 6,300 (2,100) 3 0.01
The Sublet No Logik 3,600 (3,600) 1 0.01

Domestic Market Share – January 1 – December 31, 2008

Distributor (releases) Gross Mrkt Share % Change Rank
1 Warner Bros. (29) 1768.2 18.30% 25% 2
2 Paramount (17) 1578.9 16.30% 5% 1
3 Sony (26) 1277.2 13.20% 1% 4
4 Universal (22) 1115.4 11.50% 2% 5
5 Fox (24) 1014.4 10.50% 1% 6
6 Buena Vista (18) 1012.3 10.50% -25% 3
7 Lions Gate (21) 439.7 4.50% 19% 8
8 Summit (5)** 226.4 2.30% N/A
9 Fox Searchlight (9) 214.7 2.20% 62% 10
10 MGM (17) 160.5 1.70% -56% 9
11 Focus (7) 139.8 1.40% 16% 12
12 Overture (8)* 103.1 1.10% N/A
13 Paramount Vantage (13) 87.2 0.90% 44% 13
14 Miramax (10) 81.7 0.80% -35% 11
15 Picturehouse (7)* 63.3 0.70% 11% 14
16 New Line (4) 61.8 0.60% -87% 7
Other * (326) 339.9 3.50% N/A
* none greater than 0.5% 9654.5 100.00% N/A
Other Distributors

17 Weinstein Co (12) 50.7 0.50% 37% 16
18 Sony Classics (20) 40.7 0.40% 4% 15
20 Freestyle (8) 23.8 0.25% -27% 17
*New distributor
**Close distributor during 2008
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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