MCN Columnists
Leonard Klady

By Leonard Klady

Would You Like to Ride on My Beautiful Balloon?

Up was away up as it entered the marketplace with an estimated $67.8 million to command weekend ticket sales. The session also saw the national bow of the horror parable Drag Me to Hell,which ranked third with $16.7 million. Revenues overall were essentially flat from 2008 (to be rigorous; -0.5%).

Regionally there was a strong bow for the Swedish thriller Millenium, which grossed $312,000 from 42 screens in Quebec. Limited openers were few with the debut of this year’s foreign-language winner Departures from Japan off to good start of $53,700 from eight venues.

For months there’s been a drumbeat in the press that Up would be the long awaited stumble in the unerring success streak that been experienced by Pixar. Largely based upon the film’s storyline, the reckoning boiled down to a public indifference to an octogenarian hero and, one suspects, the inevitably that the company has to eventually experience failure. After all, apart from Toy Story, it’s been adverse to bowdlerizing past success with umpteen sequels and retreads.

Some pundits let their gut get the best of them with “dire” predictions of $50 million as the sign of vulnerability. The biggest surprise turned out to be the film’s PG rating, which a Disney exec guessed was based upon the terror (but not anything bloody or lethal) of an attack by guard dogs. And not surprisingly the film’s 3D engagements (roughly half of the total) out-paced conventional playdates by more than three times.

The frame’s counter-programmer — the enthusiastically reviewed Drag Me to Hell — performed with predictable potency. The upbeat reviews and word-of-mouth are likely to extend the film’s theatrical life though fall short of crossing over to a significantly larger crowd.

Weekend box office revenues should settle at about $175 million for a 4% decline from the three-day portion of last weekend’s Memorial holiday. It was ever so slightly down from last year when the launch of Sex and the City generated $56.8 million and counter-programmer The Strangersentered in third spot with a $21 million gross.

There were relatively consistent post-holiday drop offs of 50% to 60% for holdover titles with Star Trek holding a bit better than the rest of the albeit thin list of titles in wide release. The equally slender agenda of alternative niche movies that includes The Brothers Bloom, Easy Virtue andSummer Hours were doing well, maintaining the real estate value of that limited geography.

Though it’s yet to secure U.S. distribution, Swedish nail-biter Millenium (aka The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) had an impressive debut in Quebec. The film’s been enormously successful in its limited international exposure in Scandinavia, France, Belgium and Switzerland with a $45 million gross to date. Still it’s tough for this type of mainstream foreign film to crack the domestic marketplace as evidenced in recent years by the likes of District 13 and Crimson Rivers.

– Leonard Klady

Weekend Estimates – May 29-31, 2009

Title Distributor Gross (avera % change Theaters Cume
Up BV 67.8 (18,010) 3766 67.8
Night at the Museum 2 Fox 25.6 (6,250) -53% 4096 105.4
Drag Me to Hell Uni 16.7 (6,630) 2508 16.7
Terminator Salvation WB 16.2 (4,500) -62% 3602 90.7
Star Trek Par 12.8 (3,640) -44% 3507 209.5
Angels and Demons Sony 11.3 (3,270) -48% 3464 104.9
Dance Flick Par 4.8 (1,960) -55% 2459 19.2
X-Men Origins: Wolverine Fox 3.9 (1,710) -52% 2263 170.8
Ghosts of Girlfriends Past WB 1.9 (1,300) -51% 1450 50
Obsessed Sony .66 (970) -67% 679 67.5
The Brothers Bloom Summit .63 (4,260) 64% 148 1.4
The Soloist Par .51 (1,240) -40% 412 30.3
Hannah Montana: The Movie BV .41 (1,320) -11% 310 77.5
Race to Witch Mountain BV .35 (1,230) -8% 283 65.8
17 Again WB .33 (810) -67% 405 61.2
Millenium Alliance .31 (7,450) 44 0.31
Monsters vs. Aliens Par .30 (530) -79% 566 194.4
Earth BV .29 (930) -38% 315 31.1
Under the Sea 3D WB .24 (5,780) -14% 41 8.8
Fast & Furious Uni .22 (730) -38% 299 153.9
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $169.81
% Change (Last Year) -1%
% Change (Last Week) -4%
Also debuting/expanding
Summer Hours IFC .18 (5,200) -26% 34 0.55
Easy Virtue Sony Classics .17 (6,610) 20% 26 0.34
The Girlfriend Experience Magnolia .09 (2,790) -55% 33 0.34
Departures Regent 53,700 (6,710) 10 0.05
Pressure Cooker Bev Pictures 8,200 (8,200) 1 0.01
Rashomon (reissue) Janus 5,100 (5,100) 1 0.01
What Goes Up 3K 4,500 (380) 12 0.01

Domestic Market Share – January 1 – May 28, 2009

Distributor (releases) Gross (millions) Mrkt Share
Warner Bros. (19) 689.7 17.20%
Paramount (10) 687.6 17.20%
Fox (10) 567.8 14.20%
Sony (11) 473.1 11.80%
Universal (10) 362.1 9.00%
Buena Vista (10) 304.9 7.60%
Lionsgate (7) 236.5 5.90%
Fox Searchlight (5) 185.9 4.60%
Summit (6) 143.3 3.60%
Focus (4) 95.1 2.40%
Paramount Vantage (2) 52.4 1.30%
MGM (3) 42.3 1.00%
Miramax (4) 38.6 1.00%
Weinstein Co. (6) 34.5 0.90%
Overture (3)


Other * (130) 64.1 1.60%
* none greater than 0.4% 4004.5 100.00%
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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