MCN Columnists
Leonard Klady

By Leonard Klady

Sub-way Stories

Hangover and Up once again dominated weekend ticket sales with respective grosses of $33.1 million and $30.7 million and that put the kibosh on new releases. The highly anticipated The Taking of Pelham 123 pulled into third spot with a just passable $24.6 million gross while the $5.6 million box office for Imagine That was too cruel to contemplate.

New movies in limited and exclusive patterns saw some torrid response including the meditative sci-fi Moon with $132,000 from eight pods and Coppola’s dramatic Tetro in near capacity mode with $38,000 from singles in Manhattan and L.A. Also torrid were a pair of non-fiction entries. The nutritional Food, Inc. tallied up $48,700 from three bites and the musical Youssou N’Dour chanted up $28,200 from a soulful trio.

Overall sales were noticeably down from both last weekend and 2008 and that heightened industry fears of stepped up erosion that had been looming for weeks. General anxieties center on concerns that fewer pictures selections at the multiplex could result in a proportional decline in admissions … but appreciable change won’t be apparent until late in the year.

The positive shock felt through the community was the 74% hold for top seller The Hangover.Minimally expectations were for a one-third drop from opening weekend for the raunchy antics and the sturdier result has industry pundits doffing their hats to the perfect timing for a significant and unserved audience segment.

The older appeal for incoming Pelham 123 is shaping up as a slow moving train. The high freight costs of the vehicle demanded a more competitive launch; especially in light of the more youthful tilt of the weekend’s top sellers. Clearly too many patrons did not have the picture as their top choice.

Conversely Imagine That was on the “don’t see” list for prospective buyers. The shift to family appeal movies for Eddie Murphy has lost steam and the performer is ripe for reinvention or a return to the hipper, bawdier humor that gained him initial recognition.

Weekend business approached $130 million and that translated into a 16% decline from the prior weekend. It was an even steeper 23% push back from 2008 when the debut of The Incredible Hulktopped the chart with $55.4 million and the other major freshman The Happening ranked third with $16.4 million.

The other big question mark of the frame is the ultimate fate of Francis Coppola’s Tetro following upbeat response since its Cannes premiere. The filmmaker decided to self distribute the operatic family drama and mapped out a strategy unseen for decades. Following this weekend’s exclusive bows in New York and Los Angeles, he’ll add additional exclusive dates in 10 additional major markets next weekend. In interviews he’s indicated that going the single screen route in the top 25 markets and letting the film play out should cover his bottom line. If he’s correct a lot of independents are apt to follow suit whether this test case is a trend or an anomaly.

– Leonard Klady

Weekend Estimates – June 12-14, 2009

Title Distributor Gross (averag % change * Theaters Cume
The Hangover WB 33.1 (9,870) -26% 3355 105.1
Up BV 30.7 (7,910) -30% 3886 187.4
The Taking of Pelham 123 Sony 24.6 (8,010) 3074 24.6
Night at the Museum 2 Fox 9.7 (2,880) -34% 3365 143.5
Land of the Lost Uni 8.9 (2,530) -53% 3534 34.8
Imagine That Par 5.6 (1,870) 3008 5.6
Star Trek Par 5.5 (2,100) -33% 2638 232
Terminator Salvation WB 4.6 (1,740) -48% 2650 113.7
Angels and Demons Sony 4.1 (1,690) -37% 2436 123.2
Drag Me to Hell Uni 3.8 (1,660) -46% 2273 35.1
My Life in Ruins Fox Searchlight 1.6 (1,400) -50% 1165 6.3
X-Men Origins: Wolverine Fox .89 (1,110) -54% 799 176.1
Dance Flick Par .72 (890) -63% 810 24.1
Away We Go Focus .54 (12,000) 315% 45 0.74
Ghosts of Girlfriends Past WB .45 (830) -52% 545 52.9
17 Again WB .39 (1,010) 84% 388 62.1
Easy Virtue Sony Class/Allia .29 (3,270) 42% 88 1
The Brothers Blum Summit .28 (1,680) -32% 166 2.5
Under the Sea 3D WB .22 (5,330) 9% 42 9.8
Race to Witch Mountain BV .18 (780) -32% 228 66.5
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $134.35
% Change (Last Year) -23%
% Change (Last Week) -16%
Also debuting/expanding
Moon Sony Classics .13 (16,500) 8 0.13
Summer Hours IFC .12 (2,550) -21% 46 0.96
Departures Regent .10 (1,630) 13% 60 0.33
Street Dreams Slow Hand 49,300 (2,240) 20 0.05
Food, Inc. Magnolia 48,700 (16,150) 3 0.05
Tetro Zoetrope 29,400 (14,700) 2 0.04
Youssou N’Dour Shadow 28,200 (9,400) 3 0.03
War Eagle, Arkansas Empire 14,700 (2,100) 7 0.01
Kal Kissne Dekha Adlabs 12,100 (670) 18 0.01
Call of the Wild Vivendi 11,800 (840) 14 0.01
Dim Sum Funeral Imagination 5,900 (2,950) 2 0.01

Domestic Market Share – January 1 – June 11, 2009

Distributor (releases) Gross Market Share
Warner. Bros (20) 802.9 17.90%
Paramount (10) 728.8 16.30%
Fox (10) 630.3 14.10%
Sony (11) 500.2 11.10%
Buena Vista (11) 463.9 10.30%
Universal (12) 421.1 9.40%
Lions Gate (7) 237.1 5.30%
Fox Searchlight (6) 190.5 4.30%
Summit (6) 145.5 3.20%
Focus (4) 95.5 2.10%
Paramount Vantage (2) 52.4 1.20%
MGM (3) 42.3 0.90%
Miramax (4) 38.7 0.90%
Weinstein Co. (6) 34.5 0.80%
Overture (3) 26.8 0.60%
Other * (138) 70.2 1.60%
* none greater than 0.35% 4480.7 100%

Top Global Grossers – January 1 – June 11, 2009

Title Distributor Gross
Angels & Demons Sony 416,977,838
Monsters vs. Aliens Par 365,317,984
Slumdog Millionaire * Fox Searchlight 354,728,739
X-Men Origins: Wolverine Fox 350,947,769
Fast & Furious Uni 348,524,044
Star Trek Par 341,583,167
Night at the Museum 2 Fox 287,023,039
Curious Case of Benjamin Button * Par/WB 275,868,156
Gran Torino * WB 265,724,572
Terminator Salvation WB/Sony 226,573,688
Watchmen WB/Par Intl 182,785,802
Paul Blart: Mall Cop Sony 182,252,438
Up BV 173,842,034
Marley and Me * Fox 167,361,576
He’s Just Not That Into You WB/New Line 167,134,178
Knowing Summit 164,501,989
Valkyrie * MGM 158,562,785
Taken * Fox 153,677,558
17 Again WB/New Line 122,674,677
Hannah Montana: The Movie BV 121,252,084
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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