MCN Columnists
Leonard Klady

By Leonard Klady

Jonas and the Wail

Despite a 60% drop in business and anticipated fierce competition, Madea Goes to Jail retained its position as top ticket seller with an estimated $16.4 million gross. The presumed champ – Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience – got off to a fast start but quickly faltered and finished second overall with a $12.6 million tally.

Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li, the frame’s other wide release, slotted eighth with a tepid $4.5 million while the thriller Echelon Conspiracy generated a tame $500,000 from 400 theaters.

Debuting niche and limited releases were also generally listless though the nine screen launch of the immigration drama Crossing Over had a promising $8,820 screen average. Otherwise results were fair to poor including family targeted The Velveteen Rabbit with box office of $78,000 at 101 venues and Finn on the Fly grossing $24,600 at 38 Canadian venues. Le Bonheur de Pierre had a disappointing $92,800 box office in 40 Quebec sites but there was a strong single screen gross of $11,500 for the documentary Examined Life.

Oscar winners Slumdog Millionaire and Milk added playdates and had sizeable box office boosts and overall revenues again shot up by double digits from 2008.

Leading up to the bow of the Jonas Brothers concert film expectations within the industry were in the range of $25 million to $30 million, or slightly less than the similarly targeted Miley Cyrus/Hannah Montana concert film that created industry buzz when it was initially released as a one-week locked multiplex event two years ago. Reports from ticket vendors announced 700 sold out first day screenings and Fandango had a press release that noted the film was selling more than 50% of all advance sales.

The film indeed was the top seller Friday but its $4.9 million gross immediately lowered the bar to less than $20 million and when Saturday box office dropped by 6%, projections dipped down below $15 million. But before one reads the epitaph on the singing trio or the 3D concert movie, one has to keep in mind that the film finished with close to a per engagement average of a not too shabby $10,000. What truly requires more scrutiny are tracking studies and how one translates advance ticket sales into box office. Jonas Brothers was hyped toward fans seeing it opening weekend and that ramped up anticipation had the die hards buying for opening day.

Following its Oscar glory, Slumdog Millionaire saw its domestic box office pass $100 million and theater owners adding almost 700 engagements. Grosses popped 44% this weekend and the film had its best ever weekend gross. Similarly Milk virtually doubled its screen count and box office improve 24% and The Reader’s best actress Oscar kept that picture’s gross on par but others saw no appreciable change and apart from the best picture winner its likely the other contenders will experience only a temporary box office surge.

Weekend revenues rang up about $105 million to ease up about 26% from last weekend but bumped up 12% from 2008. Last year Semi-Pro led ticket sales with a $15.1 million opening salvo and Oscar winners were nowhere near the top of the charts.

The current movie year continues to buck general consumer buying trends to the positive with more than a handful of films drawing in audience way beyond expectations. And the frosting is that most, including Paul Blart, Taken, Gran Torino and Slumdog Millionaire were, relatively speaking, modestly budget with below-average talent profit participation. Maybe tough economic times will be at least a temporary salvation for the movie going experience with or without a 3D flourish.

– Leonard Klady

Weekend Estimates: February 27 – March 1, 2009

Title Distributor Gross (avera % chang Theaters Cume
Medea Goes to Jail Lions Gate 16.4 (7,980) -60% 2052 64.7
Jonas Brothers Concert BV 12.6 (9,940) 1271 12.6
Slumdog Millionaire Fox Searchlight 12.0 (4,090) 44% 2943 115
Taken Fox 9.7 (3,150) -14% 3089 107.6
He’s Just Not That Into You WB 5.8 (2,040) -32% 2858 78.5
Paul Bart: Mall Cop Sony 5.5 (2,050) -19% 2698 128
Coraline Focus 5.2 (2,510) -55% 2063 61
Street Fighter: Legend of Chun-Li Fox 4.5 (3,970) 1136 4.5
Confessions of a Shopaholic BV 4.4 (1,740) -34% 2534 33.6
Fired Up Sony 3.7 (2,060) -32% 1811 10.1
Friday the 13th WB 3.6 (1,300) -55% 2760 60.6
Gran Torino WB 2.9 (1,660) -21% 1750 138.5
The International Sony 2.7 (1,320) -40% 2031 21.2
The Reader Weinstein Co. 2.6 (2,190) -1% 1203 26.7
Push Summit 2.1 (1,100) -34% 1882 27.7
The Pink Panther 2 Sony 1.9 (990) -51% 1879 32
Hotel for Dogs Par 1.6 (1,160) -31% 1381 67.6
Milk Focus 1.3 (1,590) 24% 828 29.8
The Wrestler Fox Searchlight 1.3 (1,700) -29% 776 23.4
Curious Case of Benjamin Button Par .75 (1,340) -39% 558 125.3
The Uninvited Par .74 (1,010) -43% 735 27
Under the Sea WB .51 (10,000) -7% 51 2.4
Echalon Conspiracy After Dark .50 (1,250) 400 0.5
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $102.30
% Change (Last Year) 12%
% Change (Last Week) -26%
Also debuting/expanding
Doubt Miramax .48 (1,200) -33% 400 31.8
Two Lovers Magnolia .35 (5,820) 531% 60 0.57
The Class Sony Class/E1 .26 (4,010) -4% 65 1.6
Waltz with Bashir Sony Class/E1 .15 (940) 31% 161 1.8
Gomorrah IFC .14 (7241) 140% 20 .38
Le Bonheur de Pierre Alliance .09 (2,320) 40 0.09
Crossing Over Weinstein Co, .08 (8,820) 9 0.08
The Velveteen Rabbit Family Films .08 (770) 101 0.08
Play the Game Slow Hand 39,600 (2,200) 13 0.04
Finn on the Fly E1 24,600 (650) 24 0.02
Examined Life Zeitgeist 11,500 (11,500) 1 0.01
An American Affair Screen Media 11,400 (5,700) 2 0.01
Scott Walker: 30 Century Man Oscilloscope 6,900 (3,450) 2 0.01
The Trouble with Romance Girls’ Club 2,700 (2,700) 1 0.01

Domestic Market Share – January 1 – February 26, 2009

Distributor (releases) Gross Market Shar
Warner Bros. (14) 324.3 19.00%
Sony (9) 262.5 15.40%
Fox (5) 240.9 14.10%
Paramount (5) 168.9 9.90%
Fox Searchlight (4) 138.8 8.10%
Lions Gate (5) 122.7 7.20%
Buena Vista (6) 92.8 5.40%
Universal (5) 73.7 4.30%
Focus (2) 69.8 4.10%
Paramount Vantage (2) 48.6 2.90%
Summit (3) 45.2 2.70%
MGM (3) 41.7 2.40%
Weinstein (5) 23.6 1.40%
Miramax (3) 20.5 1.20%
Overture (2) 13.9 0.80%
Other * (44) 18.8 1.10%
* none greater than 0.35% 1706.7 100.00%
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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