MCN Columnists
Leonard Klady

By Leonard Klady

Exhibitionists Rivet Robots

It was a trip to the Smithsonian rather than a date with doomsday that prevailed with American audiences at the multiplex. Night at the Museum 2 posted an estimated $53.4 million while Terminator Salvation brought in $43.3 million during the first three days of the Memorial weekend holiday. The impressive showdown nonetheless fell slightly short of last year’s tally.

The session also saw an OK result of $10.9 million for the teen Terpsichore’s spoof Dance Flick,which ranked fifth overall. Among incoming alternative fare the best in show was the stylish Easy Virtue, which grossed $102,400 from 10 screens. Also displaying niche appeal was The Girlfriend Experience with a shade under $150,000 from 30 exposures.

As in recent weekends expectations proved greater than reality with industry pundits and insiders projecting a tight race between the two highly anticipated franchises with final four-day figures between $70 million and $80 million. Night at the Museum 2 appears headed toward a $65 million-plus holiday gross while Terminator Salvation should generate $50 million (plus an additional $13.4 million from Thursday box office). Recent history forces one to conclude that early holiday starts spread out box office rather than creating a snowball effect.

Total weekend box office should generate roughly $215 million but fall short of the 2008 gross by about 3%. Last year Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull had the field to itself and exploded with a $126.9 million debut.

A month into the summer movie season it’s been nothing but retreads and reinventions of past movie stalwarts and while that’s generated record lucre it’s also a cause for some upcoming queasiness. Historically the greatest seasonal box office boosts have derived from playlists where the tilt is toward new franchises and original fare. The last time summer was front-loaded with sequels and their ilk the season got off to its fastest start and then sputtered along as it approached Labor Day.

The summer film season was once described to me by a studio executive as a trip to an amusement park with a lot of nifty thrill rides. He somewhat disdainfully painted the major’s strategy as rooted in the belief that filmgoers will buy tickets for every last attraction on the midway (excuse the mixed metaphor). The reality is closer to a burn out no doubt exacerbated by too many corn dogs and cotton candy.

– Leonard Klady

Weekend Estimates – May 22-24, 2009

Title Distributor Gross (avera % change Theaters Cume
Night at the Museum 2 Fox 53.4 (13,030) 4096 53.3
Terminator Salvation WB 43.3 (12,270) 3530 59.7*
Star Trek Par 21.8 (5,380) -49% 4053 177.1
Angels and Demons Sony 21.2 (6,020) -54% 3527 81.3
Dance Flick Par 10.9 (4,470) 2450 10.9
X-Men Origins: Wolverine Fox 7.5 (2,360) -49% 3183 162.8
Ghosts of Girlfriends Past WB 3.6 (1,610) -45% 2255 45.8
Obsessed Sony 1.9 (1,200) -58% 1603 65.8
Monsters vs. Aliens Par 1.3 (910) -59% 1434 192.9
17 Again WB 1.0 (890) -71% 1107 60.3
The Soloist Par .83 (1,260) -65% 654 29.2
Next Day Air Summit .57 (1,050) -75% 542 8.9
Hannah Montana: The Movie BV .46 (730) -71% 628 76.8
Earth BV .43 (690) -75% 619 30.4
The Brothers Bloom Summit .38 (7,400) 309% 52 0.5
State of Play Uni .33 (1,190) -66% 278 36.2
Fast & Furious Uni .31 (820) -61% 378 153.5
Under the Sea 3D WB .28 (6,950) 0% 40 8.3
Race to Witch Mountain BV .27 (880) 82% 310 65.3
Rudo y Cursi Sony Classics .26 (1,760) -41% 149 1.1
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $167.20
% Change (Last Year) -3%
% Change (Last Week) 26%
Also debuting/expanding
The Girlfriend Experience Magnolia .15 (4,910) 30 0.15
Management IDP .13 (1,240) -65% 106 0.64
Easy Virtue Sony Classics .10 (10,240) 10 0.1
Limits of Control Focus 39,800 (1,990) -14% 21 0.26
O’Horten Sony Classics 22,400 (2,800) 8 0.02
The Boys: Sherman Brothers BV 12,600 (6,300) 5 0.01
Burma VJ Oscilloscope 4,800 (4,800) 1 0.01
*Cume reflects Thursday opening

Top Limited Releases – January 1 – May 21, 2009

Title Distributor (releases) Gross (millions)
The Wrestler * Fox Searchlight 25,068,864
Milk * Focus 17,246,974
Sunshine Cleaning Overture 11,313,290
Under the Sea 3D WB 8,058,136
Entre les murs (The Class) Sony Classics 3,748,977
Two Lovers Magnolia 3,099,149
Rachel Getting Married * Sony Classics 2,696,170
Waltz with Bashir * Sony Class/E1 2,174,364
Sin Nombre Focus 2,174,123
Che * IFC/E1 2,027,381
Gomorrah IFC/E1 1,780,341
Magnificent Desolation * Imax 1,617,058
Dede a travers les brumes Seville 1,502,220
Space Station * Imax 1,461,004
Polytechnique Alliance 1,436,053
Is Anybody There? Story Island 1,319,161
La Sonnambula Fathom 1,265,196
Sea Monsters – Prehistoric Adventure * nWave 1,216,910
One Week Mongrel 1,106,425
Madama Butterfly Fathom 1,088,022
* does not include 2008 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