MCN Columnists
Leonard Klady

By Leonard Klady

Whether Report

Kid-lit fave Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs claimed bragging rights in the weekend box office race with an estimated $30.3 million debut. The frame was rife with new entries including three other national releases that bowed to tepid commercial response. The black comic The Informant!ranked second with $10.5 million trailed by the darkly romantic Love Happens at $8.4 million and the femme empowered chiller Jennifer’s Body with $6.7 million.

There were more than a dozen freshman titles that premiered in a broad spectrum of niches. The live broadcast of the Merryweather/Marquez title bout knocked out $254,000 from 171 open circuits while the mentoring saga The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry gathered in $261,000 from 117 amen corners. A trio of Indian movies bowed with only Dil Bole Hadippa! showing commercial potency though Unnaipol Oruvun spread its bets with simultaneous releases in both Tamil and Telegu versions.

Easily best of the limited newcomers was the maiden release of Apparition Film’s critically acclaimed period drama Bright Star with a per screen average of almost $10,000 from 19 exposures. Another debuting company, Paladin, did OK with the Australian drama Disgrace that grossed $11,800 at three venues. There was good response for French imports Paris and 35 Shots of Rum but little applause for local entry Detour in Quebec.

Volume generally trumped all other factors in providing a double-digit boost in box office revenues as audiences waded into the new Fall season.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs was the anticipated champ heading into the weekend though pundits pegged its bow in the mid-$20 million range. The animated yarn went out with roughly 59% of its dates in 3-D including 127 in large format. Those 1,828 stereoscopic venues generated about two-thirds of the gross according to the studio and finals might easily bump that percentage slightly upward. Regardless one has to wrestle with whether the split is a triumph of substance over gimmickry or a sign that audiences won’t automatically shell out for just any 3-D experience.

The other lower budgeted new entries targeted narrower audiences and the studio spin is that each hit or slightly exceeded their bottom line expectations. However, as the box office sage often observed, studios aren’t in the business to break. Only The Informant! displayed signs of a second weekend hold that might translate into profits among the group.

Weekend revenues were headed toward a $100 million overall total that translated into a 9% improvement from seven days prior that was also 13% better than the 2008 comparable frame. A year ago the premiere of Lakeview Terrace led with a $15 million box office with other debs My Best Friend’s Girl and Igor adding respectively to the till with $8.3 million and $7.8 million.

The Saturday livecast of the Merryweather/Marquez fight is another instant hit for Fathom Productions that has effectively employed the one-time only strategy for everything from opera broadcasts to the upcoming anniversary screening of The Wizard of Oz. Digital projection blue skiers have talked about the switch from celluloid providing a more diverse slate at the multiplex but to date this is the only company that has effectively zeroed in on very specific niches. Whether there’s room in the auditorium for competition will be determined in time but one has to hope in light of the otherwise risk averse in the mainstream production environment.

by Leonard Klady

Weekend Estimates: September 18-20, 2009

Title Distributor Gross (avg) % change Theaters Cume
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs Sony 30.3 (9,720) New 3119 30.3
The Informant! WB 10.5 (4,190) New 2505 10.5
I Can Do Bad All By Myself Lionsgate 10.0 (4,450) -57% 2255 37.9
Love Happens Uni 8.4 (4,420) New 1898 8.4
Jennifer’s Body Fox 6.7 (2,490) New 2702 6.7
9 Focus 5.3 (2,560) -51% 2060 22.6
Inglourious Basterds Weinstein Co. 3.8 (1,510) -38% 2519 110.1
All About Steve Fox 3.3 (1,530) -41% 2159 26.6
Sorority Row Summit 2.4 (920) -53% 2591 8.8
The Final Destination WB 2.4 (1,310) -57% 1805 62.4
Whiteout WB 2.0 (730) -59% 2745 8.4
Julie & Julia Sony 1.9 (930) -41% 2003 88.4
District 9 Sony 1.8 (1,160) -49% 1558 111.6
Gamer Lionsgate 1.3 (830) -59% 1605 18.9
G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra Par 1.2 (850) -53% 1361 146
The Time Traveler’s Wife WB 1.0 (740) -56% 1372 60.8
Halloween II Weinstein Co. .74 (710) -65% 1038 31.5
Extract Miramax .64 (680) -70% 937 10.1
(500) Days of Summer Fox Searchlight .62 (1,020) -47% 608 31
The Proposal BVI .46 (980) 22% 468 162.2
The Hangover WB .44 (1,100) -38% 401 273.8
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $94.30
% Change (Last Year) 13%
% Change (Last Week) 9%
Also debuting/expanding
My One and Only FreeStyle .27 (1,350) -22% 202 1.5
Secrets of Jonathan Sperry 5 x 2 .26 (2,190) New 117 0.26
Mayweather vs.Marquez Fathom .25 (1,470) New 171 0.25
Dil Bole Hadippa! Yash Raj .25 (4,380) New 57 0.25
Bright Star Apparition .19 (9,890) New 19 0.21
Unnaipol Oruvun UTV .10 (3,910) New 26 0.1
Wanted Eros 93,800 (1,320) New 71 0.09
The Burning Plain Magnolia 59,300 (2,820) New 21 0.06
Paris IFC 45,400 (7,570) New 6 0.05
Detour Seville 36,500 (1,520) New 24 0.04
Disgrace Paladin 11,800 (3,930) New 3 0.01
Fuel Greenlight 10,200 (2,550) New 4 0.01
35 Shots of Rum Cinema Guild 9,600 (9,600) New 1 0.01

Domestic Market Share: To September 17, 2009

Distributor (releases) Gross Mrkt Share
Warner Bros. (26) 1568.6 20.50%
Paramount (13) 1329.3 17.40%
Fox (14) 935.1 12.20%
Sony (16) 909.9 11.90%
Buena Vista (16) 896.4 11.70%
Universal (16) 680.6 8.90%
Lionsgate (10) 282.9 3.70%
Fox Searchlight (9) 233.3 3.10%
Summit (9) 172.1 2.20%
Weinstein Co. (8) 171.5 2.20%
Focus (8) 130.1 1.70%
Paramount Vantage (4) 67.5 0.90%
Miramax (6) 50.8 0.70%
MGM (3) 42.3 0.50%
Other * (221) 182.2 2.40%
* none greater than 0.4% 7652.6 100.00%
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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