MCN Columnists
Leonard Klady

By Leonard Klady

125 Days of Summer

The Labor Day holiday session saw a slight dip from 2008 revenues but, regardless of how one slices the pie, the final season tally experienced a box office upturn. Initial summer returns add up to approximately $4.36 billion for an improvement of 4.8%.

The last gasp of summer had a trio of new national releases that were greeted with indifference. The romantic comedy All About Steve ranked third with an estimated $13.7 million for the long weekend while the action packed Gamer bowed a slot behind with $11.4 million. Further down the list Extract with $5.2 million proved the old adage that satire is what closes on Saturday.

Debuting activity in the niches was generally light with encouraging results for the festival favorite Amreeka of $68,400 at four locales. In Quebec 1981 was respectable with $192,000 from 35 venues.

Overall ticket sales clocked in at roughly $119 million for a 25% decline from the prior weekend and a slim 2% fall from one year back. In 2008 the $11.5 million bow of Babylon A.D. couldn’t catch the third weekend $14.6 million of Tropic Thunder.

The 2009 calendar afforded the summer season one additional weekend but even when one compares comparable 17-week spans it saw a season 1% better based on revenues. The picture blears however in terms of admissions. The increasing number of mainstream films presented at premium prices in 3D and large format is on the rise and that skews ticket sales close to 10% below the 2008 level.

On the one hand the argument that movies are a recession-proof activity gets a pummeling. But considering the downturns in everything from concert tours, amusement parks and pro sports in the current economic climate, one has to surmise that movie going is holding its own against the competition.

Essentially, marked on the curve, business was flat. The roll of the dice saw Fox’s fortunes spike while Universal sank like the Titanic. The tentpoles appeared to dissipate faster than in the past but they were off set by unlikely mega successes such as The Hangover.

What kept summer 2009 from taking off was a nervousness on the distribution side that maintained a slate targeted to the avid moviegoer. Adults were mostly kept out of the loop and even the occasional Julie & Juliaproved insufficient to widen the ticket buying population.

The situation was considerably dire in the alternative universe. Pictures such as The Hurt Locker, Adam, Moon and In the Loop played well in dedicated cinemas but the opportunity to cross over into mainstream playdates has largely evaporated. There’s simply no room at the movie inn known as the multiplex. The unending onslaught of opening weekend behemoths was ferocious to a point where torrid per screens could not trump the access accorded G.I. Joe, Inglourious Basterds and The Final Destination in August where traditional toe-holds have been easier to acquire.

by Leonard Klady

Weekend Estimates: September 4-7, 2009

Title Distributor Gross (averag % change Theaters Cume
The Final Destination WB 15.3 (4,910) -55% 3121 50.5
Inglourious Basterds Weinstein Co. 14.2 (4,230) -42% 3358 94.4
All About Steve Fox 13.7 (6,090) 2251 13.7
Gamer Lionsgate 11.4 (4,450) 2502 11.4
District 9 Sony 8.8 (2,810) -34% 3139 103.1
Halloween II Weinstein Co. 7.3 (2,360) -64% 3088 27.3
G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra Par 6.6 (2,330) -34% 2846 140.4
Julie & Julia Sony 6.6 (2,620) -28% 2528 80.3
The Time Traveler’s Wife WB 5.5 (1,950) -35% 2803 55.8
Extract Miramax 5.2 (3,250) 1611 5.2
Shorts WB 3.5 (1,340) -42% 2631 17.9
G-Force BV 2.7 (1,800) -32% 1477 115.3
(500) Days of Summer Fox Searchlight 2.3 (2,440) -12% 935 28.4
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince WB 2.3 (2,140) -30% 1091 297.4
Taking Woodstock Focus 1.8 (1,270) -59% 1395 6.3
Ponyo BV 1.7 (1,950) -32% 890 13.4
The Hangover WB 1.4 (1,930) -17% 709 272.1
The Ugly Truth Sony 1.1 (1,460) -47% 773 86.44
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen Par 1.0 (1,930) 35% 507 400.6
Up BV 1.0 (2,340) 16% 418 290.9
The Proposal BV .81 (1,910) -11% 441 194.2
Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs Fox .76 (1,720) 6% 425 161.1
Aliens in the Attic Fox .63 (1,210) -10% 522 23.7
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $115.60
% Change (Last Year) -2%
% Change (Last Week) -25%
Also debuting/expanding
My One and Only FreeStyle .45 (5,790) 323% 77 0.65
The Hurt Locker Summit .31 (1,010) -12% 306 12
Adam Searchlight .29 (1,650) -34% 177 1.8
September Issue Roadside Attract. .21 (10,600) -33% 20 0.54
1981 Alliance .19 (5,540) 35 0.19
Carriers Par Vantage .92 (920) 100 0.09
Amreeka NatGeo 68,400 (14,600) 4 0.07
Jouesse Mongrol 8,100 (2,700) 3 0.01

Domestic Market Share: To September 3, 2009

Distributor (releases) Gross Mrkt Share
Warner Bros. (25) 1514.1 20.50%
Paramount (13) 1315.9 17.80%
Fox (13) 908.9 12.30%
Buena Vista (16) 886.3 12.00%
Sony (16) 879.5 11.90%
Universal (16) 679.6 9.20%
Lionsgate (7) 237.4 3.20%
Fox Searchlight (9) 227.9 3.10%
Summit (8) 164.8 2.20%
Weinstein Co. (8) 134.7 1.80%
Focus (7) 109.9 1.50%
Paramount Vantage (3) 66.6 0.90%
MGM (3) 42.3 0.60%
Miramax (5) 41.4 0.60%
Other * (211) 174.1 2.40%
* none greater than 0.4% 7383.4 100.00%

Domestic Summer Market Share: May 3- September 7, 2009

Rank Distributor (releases) Gross
(in millions)
Mrkt Share % Change 2006 Rank 2006
1 Warner Bros. 998.6 22.90% -2% 1
2 Paramount 885.2 20.30% -9% 2
3 Buena Vista 612.4 14.10% 61% 5
4 Fox 606.3 13.90% 128% 6
5 Sony 549.8 12.60% -8% 4
6 Universal 344 7.90% -52% 3
7 Weinstein Co. 121.7 2.80% N/A UR
8 Fox Searchlight 45.2 1.00% N/A UR
9 Summit 34.1 0.80% N/A UR
10 Sony Classics 18.8 0.40% 92% 12
Other 139.8 3.20%
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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