MCN Columnists
Leonard Klady

By Leonard Klady

Gee Whiz!

The rodents of G-Force proved to be mighty mites as they usurped King Potter for the box office crown with an estimated $32.2 million. Two other film debuts figured near the top of the charts. The template rom-com The Ugly Truth ranked third with $27.3 million and the generic chiller The Orphan followed in the order with $12.7 million.

The session was also rife with specialty and niche fare that included a raucous bow of $178,000 from eight venues for the black comic In the Loop. The spy spoof sequel OSS 117: Rio ne repond plusgenerated an okay $102,000 in Quebec and Shrink, another off-kilter comedy, had an encouraging $16,300 bow from two screens. However the latest Bollywood entry Luck rolled snake eyes with $78,200 from 42 exposures.

Overall sales took another dip and no one’s betting the bank that upcoming releases such as Funny People, G.I. Joe or Julie & Julia will effect a reversal of fortune for the current season.

While the 3-D family-oriented G-Force opened near its expected box office potency, pundits expected a less precipitous drop for Harry Potter and the Half-Blooded Prince. The sixth chapter of the franchise expects to slow the erosion next week when it goes wide on Imax screens (it’s currently in just four large-format venues) but it’s going to be a hard slog pushing toward a $300 million domestic gross.

Also opening to anticipated strength were The Ugly Truth and The Orphan and the prospects through Labor Day aren’t strong for a surprise or sleeper success among the lineup. Weekend box office should slightly exceed $150 million that translates into a 7% dip from seven days earlier and a 17% erosion from 2008. One year back the second weekend of The Dark Knight led with $75.1 million and the $30.9 million debut of Step Brothers followed.

The session featured a couple of notable platform entries working hard to attain a national presence. The fifth weekend of The Hurt Locker roughly doubled its exposure to 238 locations and maintained a sturdy $5,710 average. Still there’s no evidence that the film is shedding its image as a serious, specialized Iraq War meditation; or that audiences are being drawn to a potential Oscar contender and that could make its glass ceiling in the neighborhood of $10 million.

There’s better crossover potential for the dreamy romance (500) Days of Summer that expanded from 27 to 85 sites and saw its screen average dip about one-third of its opening salvo. Word-of-mouth is strong and the thirst for an upbeat, enjoyable idyll remains commercially unquenchable.

A third platformer — the satiric In the Loop — posted strong per screens but bowed simultaneously as a pay-per-view title. To date pictures that have used that strategy have optimized at about a $4 million box office level and regardless of the break-even threshold, it’s hard to imagine a movie that can break out of the current mold.

– Leonard Klady

Weekend Estimates – July 24-26, 2009

Title Distributor Gross (averag % change * Theaters Cume
G-Force BV 32.2 (8,710) 3697 32.2
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince WB 30.1 (6,960) -61% 4325 221.9
The Ugly Truth Sony 27.3 (9,460) 2882 27.3
The Orphan WB 12.7 (4,600) 2750 12.7
Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs Fox 8.0 (2,430) -54% 3300 171.1
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen Par 7.9 (2,440) -42% 3237 379
The Proposal BV 6.4 (2,290) -23% 2779 140.1
The Hangover WB 6.4 (2,810) -22% 2285 247
Public Enemies Uni 4.1 (1,780) -47% 2291 86
Bruno Uni 2.7 (1,410) -68% 1895 56.5
Up BV 1.6 (1,490) -50% 1070 283.6
(500) Days of Summer Fox Searchlight 1.6 (18,940) 93% 85 3
The Hurt Locker Summit 1.4 (5,710) 84% 238 3.9
My Sister’s Keeper WB 1.3 (1,030) -54% 1258 45
Du Pere en flic Alliance .84 (9,440) 1% 89 5.1
I Love You, Beth Cooper Fox .74 (1,010) -73% 730 13.4
Night at the Museum 2 Fox .62 (1,570) -18% 396 173
The Taking of Pelham 123 Sony .46 (1,350) -48% 342 63.8
Star Trek Par .43 (1,400) -38% 307 254
Moon Sony Classics .38 (1,850) -28% 205 3.4
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $145.80
% Change (Last Year) -17%
% Change (Last Week) -7%
Also debuting/expanding
Away We Go Focus .28 (1,340) -44% 206 8.9
Whatever Works Sony Classics .23 (1,210) -51% 191 4.4
In the Loop IFC .18 (22,250) 8 0.18
Cheri Miramax .18 (950) -36% 188 2.3
OSS 117: Rio ne repond plus TVA .10 (2,570) 40 0.1
Luck Studio 18 78,200 (1,860) 42 0.08
Humpday Magnolia 66,200 (3,310) 185% 20 0.16
Shrink Roadside At. 16,300 (8,150) 2 0.02
The Answer Man Magnolia 13,300 (2,220) 6 0.01
Paraiso Travel Peace Arch 6,400 (2,130) 3 0.01
Surviving Crooked Lake NeoClassics 3,500 (350) 10 0.01

Domestic Market Share – January 1 – July 23, 2009

Distributor (releases) Gross Market Share
Warner. Bros (22) 1233.3 20.00%
Paramount (12) 1148.7 18.70%
Fox (12) 848.7 13.80%
Buena Vista (12) 725.8 11.80%
Sony (13) 620.3 10.10%
Universal (14) 593.6 9.60%
Lionsgate (7) 237.4 3.90%
Fox Searchlight (7) 195.7 3.20%
Summit (7) 150 2.40%
Focus (5) 104.1 1.70%
Paramount Vantage (2) 52.4 0.80%
MGM (3) 42.3 0.70%
Miramax (5) 40.8 0.70%
Weinstein Co. (6) 34.5 0.60%
Other * (170) 127.6 2.00%
* none greater than 0.45% 6155.2 100%

Top Limited Releases – January 1 – July 23, 2009

Title Distributor Gross
The Wrestler * Fox Searchlight 25,068,864
Milk * Focus 17,246,974
Under the Sea 3D WB 13,271,466
Sunshine Cleaning Overture 12,062,558
Away We Go Focus 8,578,607
Du Pere en flic Alliance 4,307,814
Deep Sea 3-D WN/Imax 4,265,887
Whatever Works Sony Classics 4,136,295
Entre les murs (The Class) Sony Classics 3,766,810
The Brothers Bloom Summit 3,448,280
Two Lovers Magnolia 3,149,034
Moon Sony Classics 2,979,106
Rachel Getting Married * Sony Classics 2,696,170
The Hurt Locker Summit 2,576,715
Sin Nombre Focus 2,536,665
Easy Virtue Sony Class/Alliance 2,507,763
Food, Inc. Magnolia/Alliance 2,429,119
Magnificent Desolation * Imax 2,217,088
Waltz with Bashir * Sony Class/E1 2,174,364
Cheri Miramax 2,162,007
* 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