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David Poland

By David Poland

Sunday In The Park With Klady

My laptop mail is thousands of e-mails behind and not catching up quickly, so you’ll have to look at he MCN Weekend page to get the whole chart when it posts.
Short version – Wolverine, $85.5m, Ghosts, $15.4m, Battle For Terra $1m.
To find an opener this big that didn’t get to $200 million, you’re looking at $10 million less, with The Simpsons Movie opening to $74 million. After that, Fast & Furious with a $71m opening. After that, Twilight with a $69.6m launch.
But this does bring up a very interesting trend line. Two of those 3 are in the last year. Next on the unpleasant list are two clear quality disasters, The Day After Tomorrow and Burton’s Planet of the Apes. But then we’re back to the current trend; Quantum of Solace and Madagascar 2. That covers ALL of the $60m+ openers not to hit $200m. Seven films (out of fifty-four total qualifiers) in the history of the industry… four in the last year.
As can be expected, the failure to hit $200m becomes more normal in the $50m-$59.99m range. Thirty-one films… only nine made it to $200m. None since 2006…and that was the controversial – $200.08m – Superman Returns. Nine of the films failed to get to $150m. Five of those have been since Summer 2007.
Opening just isn’t the kind of guarantee is once was. More often than not, things go to form. But – and I am now feeling bad about rubbing it in – with a film opening to $55 million failing to even do 2x opening, studios have to be even more nervous. Do they do more second weekend marketing… spending more? Is that an answer? Is there an answer? The DVD window is too short, in my opinion, but has been pretty stable for a while. Why is the multiple issue still getting worse?
The only real answer is cutting the cost of the films themselves. And for all the screaming – and needless abuse of the talent unions – the studios are facing this on the higher end product, but not on the middle class of films… as in, $30 million for Ghosts of Girlfriends Past is about right, on the high end. A dollar more is asking for trouble.
I will write more on this later, bt I still think that we are looking at a 30% – 40% “correction” in this industry… and that most of the studios are still behaving like it’s a 10% – 15% shift. This means more blood will spill before it’s over, no matter what the box office revenues.
And no movie wants to be The Cleopatra or Doctor Doolittle of this shift in film history.

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27 Responses to “Sunday In The Park With Klady”

  1. jeffmcm says:

    This issue with front-loading seems like an inevitable ‘killing the goose that lays the golden eggs’ scenario.

  2. Rothchild says:

    I don’t think you can compare WATCHMEN to any other movie. I think it’s an amazing movie, but as we’ve gotten even a little bit of time to look back at the release and figure out what went wrong, it’s becoming fairly clear. 95% (obviously not an exact number or percentage) of the audience thought they were getting one movie, but they got another. This has nothing to do with whether or not the film works, is a classic etc. Most people thought they were getting a big and visceral action movie and that kind of bait and switch didn’t impress them. I know it will seem like there’s no connection between the two movies, but a similar thing happened with Superman Returns. I don’t think that movie works at all, but ignoring that, it’s really not satisfying as an exciting action movie. People really want that.
    I’m not saying they want something stupid. The Dark Knight did well because it was different and extremely entertaining.

  3. Rothchild says:

    I never got to my point. My point is Quantum, Watchmen, and Superman Returns are not movies that foretell the future of frontloaded box office. If we reach a point where a film is well regarded by the majority of the audience and still the film disappears a few weeks later, that will be a big turning point. But have we really reached that point already?

  4. Rothchild says:

    The only example I can think of is Fast & Furious.

  5. anghus says:

    Day After Tommorow
    Domestic: $186,740,799 34.3%
    + Foreign: $357,531,603 65.7%
    = Worldwide: $544,272,402
    Planet of the Apes (2001)
    Domestic: $180,011,740 49.7%
    + Foreign: $182,200,000 50.3%
    = Worldwide: $362,211,740
    Watchmen can now officially be called a disaster. Speed Racer can be called a disaster.
    Planet of the Apes was an awful, awful movie that was killed by word of mouth. Day After Tomorrow was a movie with a handful of B level talent and rode Emmerich name checking and strong visuals to over 500 million worldwide.
    2012 will beg for numbers as good. There’s a lot of films out there that cost twice as much as Day After Tomorrow and bring back in 50% less in total worldwide revenue.
    Hindsight ain’t always 20/20 my friend.

  6. berg says:

    Hindsight is 20/20 … foresight is 2012

  7. bulldog68 says:

    What would you consider as “disappear a few weeks later” Rothchild?
    X2’s opening weekend was 37.9% of its total domestic gross, and was considered legless, even though it was almost universally loved by critics and the general public, and thought to be one of the best comic book movies ever made.
    HP & PRISONER OF AZKABAN, also a favourite of the series has a 37.5% ratio, also the worst hold of the series.
    SUPERMAN RETURNS is actually an example of a movie with legs, and not frontloading, as it opened to “only” $52M and did over $200M, a ratio of 26.3%, a number that movies these days would kill for, and ironically better than THE DARK KNIGHT, which has a 29.7% ratio, all be it a vastly bigger opening.
    Sometimes the total box office shows no direct correlation between quality and level of acceptance. And even our memories of movies that everyone seemed to pan, “Superman Returns” distorts our memory of their performance.
    I also realise that no wants to admit to liking PHANTOM MENACE, ATTACK OF THE CLONES, or REVENGE OF THE SITH, but there they sit with opening weekend/ total domestic gross ratios of 15%,26.5% and 28.5% respectively.

  8. Rothchild says:

    Star Wars is Star Wars.
    HP3 was a really strange movie for casual fans of the films/books to follow. We all love it, but Harry Potter fans range from morons to geniuses, and that movie wasn’t accepted immediately. I remember being at a convention right afterwards and hearing a bunch of Harry Potter nerds complaining about how the series should have been consistent and blah blah blah.
    Warner Bros. spent an insane amount of money to get Superman to 200.
    X2 is certainly an interesting case. Even I won’t act like we can Matlock any big movie and figure out EXACTLY what happened.

  9. anghus says:

    i liked Attack of the Clones. It was enjoyable camp. Phantom Menace was too cute and Sith was too serious in the hands of a director who has no idea how to handle emotional depth.
    But Clones was stupid fun. And the lowest grossing of the prequel trilogy.

  10. David Poland says:

    Thanks for reading back in the day when I explained why those films were film financially ok… and no thanks for failing to quote what I wrote instead of what you wanted to see… “quality disasters.”. I’ll cop to the turn of phrase perhaps being inelegant, but anyone who wanted to understand probably could.

  11. David Poland says:

    That was for Anghus The Angry

  12. anghus says:

    Ah yes. It was because “i didn’t get it.”
    And there’s no anger here, brother. Just because i disagree with you doesn’t mean i have a beef.
    It’s one thing i never got. Some of you guys are terribly thin skinned. If someone has a counter opinion to yours, it must obviously stem from anger, not just the appreciation for debate.
    Maybe i should spend this time talking about my boner or how hot Estella Warren looked in Planet of the Apes. Apparently that’s the way to earn respect in these parts.

  13. Blackcloud says:

    Whether it was willful or an oversight, Anghus, you pretty clearly misinterpreted what David wrote.

  14. anghus says:

    it wasn’t willful.
    Do you really think i would have spent time getting box office figures if i was willfully trying to start some kind of argument?
    It’s odd when you post something and the initial thought is “intentionally trying to start something” rather than “incorrect”. Here’s the sentence:
    “Next on the unpleasant list are two clear quality disasters, The Day After Tomorrow and Burton’s Planet of the Apes.”
    I suppose he was trying to say that both films were critically ravaged and not seen a being good, but it’s a clunky sentence.
    I don’t think Wolverine Origins will have legs. I expect by next week Dave will have another example.
    Star Trek will have some legs, but Wolverine will end up being more profitable.

  15. IOIOIOI says:

    Insulting Attack? Oh jesus. I might have to throw something!

  16. jasonbruen says:

    It’s tough to know if throwing more marketing at a movie (as you suggest in the second weekend) would help. Some it would, others not.
    And yes, Watchmen is a disaster at that budget. However, perhaps for this version of Watchmen, the final BO is about what should have been expected. Therefore, maybe the opening is actually a success. Cause as Rothchild states, a large majority who attended opening weekend thought they were getting something else. A $50M opening with final DM of $80M is bad, but maybe it was always going to be $80M with maybe a $30M opening. Of course, this could be negated if all the fans showed up opening weekend.
    I would think Wolverine follows a more traditional X-men path and then should get to $200M; but these days, it’s the second weekend (with the first) that gives the best trajectory.

  17. Hallick says:

    “Anyone who wanted to understand probably could”.
    That’s not fair to say. The phrasing of this particular thought as “two clear quality disasters” was somewhat ambiguous and not very hard to mistake for a different feeling altogether (personally, I had to give it a second look to guess what it was supposed to mean on first reading).
    Something like, “two clear diasters, quality-wise”, or, “two clear disasters in the quality arena” would have been a lot less enigmatic. I wouldn’t fault Anghus for seeing what he saw in it.

  18. Blackcloud says:

    “I also realise that no wants to admit to liking PHANTOM MENACE, ATTACK OF THE CLONES, or REVENGE OF THE SITH . . .”
    I like them.

  19. doug r says:

    Just saw Wolverine. My wife hated it more than me, which isn’t saying much. Looked like it was made by committee. Kinda cool ending though.

  20. Hallick says:

    Would it be naive to think that maybe the ballooning of opening weekend grosses isn’t due to a bigger gain in ticket buyers overall so much as its taking a larger percentage of the pie that would have otherwise been spread out along several weeks of release? Couldn’t there be a mathematical theory that the closer your film opens near $100 million, the lower that ratio is going to be, because the profit potential is still a finite quantity?
    Were studios working on maximizing their opening weekend profits because somebody figured, “hey, if I can do three times opening on film A, then if film B does $80 million in its first weekend, I’m guaranteed to score $240 million easy!”?
    If Wolverine had opened at $40M this weekend, but still made it to $200M (5x opening), do you call it any more of a success than opening at around $80 mil and still reaching the same $200M?

  21. Nicol D says:

    Watchmen is a hard call. I love the film, but whether or not it is a success or a disaster is difficult to say.
    It openned big based on mis-leading marketing and then died off.
    But the Watchmen story is bigger than that. Much like Star Trek, the Watchmen film is a flagship for a larger industry of spin-offs that are now in the public conciousness. Multiple DVD releases, action figures, multiple comic editions, hard cover books, renewed interest in the property etc. ensure the property of Watchmen will be making coin for Time-Warner for a while.
    A runaway success…perhaps not…a disaster…not really.

  22. brack says:

    “A $50M opening with final DM of $80M is bad, but maybe it was always going to be $80M with maybe a $30M opening. Of course, this could be negated if all the fans showed up opening weekend.”
    I think you’re on the right track. Most of these movies mentioned were event films, sequels, and kid flicks, so of course you’re going to get the big opening, but unless there is any real word of mouth or outside interest than the first weekend people, a disappointingly low (but not surprising) overall b.o. is going to happen.
    I think Watchmen is an exception because it had so many things working against it form the start.

  23. bulldog68 says:

    I think it has been argued that studios really don’t give a shit about legs on their movie if it opens big. If they had a choice of a 100M opening and a freefall to 225M or a 40M and a slow build to $250M, they’d take the former because its more money in their pocket. I’m sure Dave could get all rainmanesque about the computations.
    That being said, it doesn’t seem they have much of a choice these days either, Wolverine, good, bad, or indifferent, will have no room to breathe, as Star Trek docks on the very next weekend. That first weekend has become do or die for these tentpoles, as thats all most of em will get.
    Premiere Magzine had Titanic as a summer release until it got pushed back to winter of that year, and their progostication for its box office chances was about 110m if I remember correctly. What do you guys think Titanic would make if it were released in Summer 2009?

  24. brack says:

    “What do you guys think Titanic would make if it were released in Summer 2009?”
    In this day and age, maybe $200m.

  25. IOIOIOI says:

    Titanic gets murdered. If it opened this Summer. It would be a gaffling of epic proportions. It could also be a whole 300m flick. That flick is cagey. It’s 12 years old, and it’s still cagey!
    Bulldog also makes a good point about money in the pocket compared to legs. Legs are good, but legs kill DVD. If you get a lot of people to show up on the opening weekend. I would hazard a guess, that many of those people might be interested in buying the DVD of said film. While those who skipped said film could also be interested in the DVD. Thanks to the ridiculous opening it had. Again… it’s all speculation, but most of the studios are part of conglomerates. Bad economy or not… they are still a part of HUGE MACHINES. So… it’s a wgas/wgaf situation right now for those companies.

  26. Eep, would Titanic ’09 star Zac Efron in the DiCaprio role? Who then to play Rose? Some dullard waif, no doubt.
    In regards to movies debuting in the $50mils and grossing $200mil are we discounting Monsters vs Aliens? It’s at $182.4m and made $5.8m this current weekend. Is it going to peter out just before the $200m mark or will it’s 3D engagements get it over the line before May 22 when Night at the Museum 2 all but erases it off the family market. I’d definitely say the lack of any big family feature since it’s debut has been what’s kept it going this far (it’s the oldest film in the top ten).
    And as Hallick mentioned, I have a feeling that the end gross for these sort of movies is going to be what it was always going to be, it’s just that the curve has moved so far forward that you’re already going down it by the second day or release.
    In regards to the Star Wars prequels, I remember enjoying Attack of the Clones. By far the best of the trilogy. And that’s from someone who isn’t much of a fan of the series in general.

  27. chadillac says:

    Is it possible that the real threat of the pirated copy would be the multiple? It’s circulation, paired with some average to bad reviews could really deter the initially less motivated consumer (i.e. the person that doesn’t want to deal with the crowds the first weekend).

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