MCN Columnists
Leonard Klady

By Leonard Klady

Advance to the Rear

Comedy ruled as the debut of Couples Retreat shattered expectations with an estimates $35.2 million opening to lead weekend ticket sales. The film had the unusual good fortune of being the only new national release in a session that includes holiday Mondays in Canada for its Thanksgiving as well as some Eastern states that celebrate Columbus Day.

Conversely, activity in the niches was torrid with a flood of new titles hoping to claim a toe-hold in the marketplace. There was an unexpectedly potent $1.1 million launch for the non-fiction Good Hairfeaturing Chris Rock. However, other mid-range releases that included Britain’s St. Trinian’s, the motorcross themed Free Style and the Latino-targeted From Mexico with Love were moribund with the theater average that barely registered a pulse.

In Canada a couple of local titles capitalized on the long weekend with Toronto prize winner Cairo Timegrossing $56,700 from 12 depots and in Quebec 5150, rue des Ormes tallying up $269,000 from 51 venues. There was also a wave of Brit pics in exclusive release including a dynamic $161,000 bow forAn Education at four locales. Also good from the U.K. were the soccer saga The Damned United and the crime bio Bronson.

And to cap it off expansions of A Serious Man and Paranormal Activity were fierce. The latter, a no-budget thriller rang up per screens that recalled the Blair Witch Project of a decade back.

All combined the weekend added up to an 3% improvement from last weekend and a 8% boost from last year. In 2008, the second weekend of Beverly Hills Chihuahua led with a $17.5 million box office; followed by bows of Quarantine and Body of Lies with respective openers of $14.2 million and $12.9 million.

The ensemble Couples Retreat was expected to lead the session but predictions pegged its bow in the range of $25 million to $28 million. Its appeal to women of all ages pumped up the volume. It also broke the string of disappointments Universal has experienced for the past five months as that studio had a changing of the guard and prepares for further re-structuring.

Good reviews and buzz provided Zombieland with a sturdy hold that placed it second on the chart with $15.1 million while most holdover titles experienced 40% to 50% hits.

by Leonard Klady

Weekend Estimates: October 2 – 4, 2009

Title Distributor Gross (averag % change Theas Cume
Couples Retreat Uni 35.2 (11,760) 3000 35.2
Zombieland Sony 15.1 (4,960) -39% 3038 47.9
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs Sony 11.6 (3,890) -26% 2992 95.9
Toy Story 1 & 2 (BV) BV 7.6 (4,320) -39% 1752 22.6
Paranormal Activity Par 7.1 (44,190) 1229% 160 8.3
Surrogates BV 4.1 (1,360) -44% 2992 32.5
The Invention of Lying WB 3.3 (1,880) -53% 1743 12.2
Whip It Fox Searchlight 2.7 (1,570) -41% 1738 8.7
Capitalism: A Love Story Overture 2.5 (2,540) -43% 995 8.9
Fame MGM 2.4 (780) -47% 3110 19.9
The Informant! WB 2.2 (990) -41% 2202 29.8
I Can Do Bad By Myself Lions Gate 1.5 (1,120) -43% 1313 50.3
Love Happens Uni 1.4 (760) -48% 1894 21.2
Good Hair Roadside Attractio 1.1 (5,880) 186 1.1
Tosca Live Fathom 1.0 (2,700) 375 1
Inglourious Basterds Weinstein Co. .81 (840) -43% 968 118.3
9 Focus .78 (640) -44% 1216 30.6
Pandorum Overture .76 (510) -62% 1479 9.5
All About Steve Fox .63 (530) -45% 1200 32.7
Bright Star Apparition .61 (1,610) -15% 380 2.8
Jennifer’s Body Fox .51 (510) -59% 1005 15.7
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $102.90
% Change (Last Year) 8%
% Change (Last Week) 3%
Also debuting/expanding
Coco Before Chanel Alliance/Sony Cla .46 (4,860) 17% 95 1.7
A Serious Man Focus .44 (21,050) 76% 21 0.79
From Mexico with Love Roadside Attractio .32 (1,140) 279 0.32
5150, rue des Ormes Allliance .27 (5,270) 51 0.27
The Boys Are Back Miramax .19 (2,480) 238% 75 0.33
I Hope They Serve Beer in Heaven FreeStyle .18 (680) -41% 266 1.2
An Education Sony Classics .16 (40,250) 4 0.16
More Than a Game Lions Gate .12 (2,800) -33% 44 0.34
Free Style IDP .10 (370) 261 0.1
Je l’amais Seville 59,800 (3,740) 16 0.06
Cairo Time Mongrel 56,700 (4,720) 12 0.06
Passport to Love In Focus 38,200 (6,370) 6 0.04
The Damned United Sony Classics 35,300 (5,880) 6 0.04
St. Trinian’s Neo Classics 14,400 (190) 76 0.01
The Yes Men Fix the World Shadow 10,500 (10,500) 1 0.01
Bronson Magnolia 9,800 (9,800) 1 0.01
Peter and Vandy Strand 7,700 (2,570) 3 0.01
Adventures of Power Variance 5,400 (5,400) 1 0.01
Visual Accoustics Arthouse 3,500 (3,500) 1 0.01

Domestic Market Share: To October 8, 2009

Distributor (releases) Gross (in millions Market Share
Warner Bros. (28) 1621.7 20.20%
Paramount (14) 1334.9 16.60%
Sony (18) 1038.1 12.90%
Fox (15) 961.1 11.90%
Buena Vista (18) 943.7 11.70%
Universal (17) 700.7 8.70%
Lions Gate (11) 307.1 3.80%
Fox Searchlight (10) 241.1 3.00%
Weinstein Co. (8) 184.3 2.30%
Summit (9) 177.5 2.20%
Focus (8) 143.1 1.80%
Paramount Vantage (4) 67.6 0.80%
MGM (4) 59.8 0.70%
Miramax (7) 52.3 0.70%
Overture (6) 43.4 0.50%
Other * (246) 172.2 2.20%
* none greater than 0.4% 8048.6 100.00%

Top Domestic Grossers – January 1 – October 8, 2009

Title Distributor Gross
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen Par 401,997,617
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Princ WB 300,290,780
Up BV 292,495,781
The Hangover WB 275,386,118
Star Trek Par 257,774,097
Monsters vs. Aliens Par 198,377,900
Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs Fox 195,757,564
X-Men Origins: Wolverine Fox 179,883,157
Night at the Museum 2 Fox 177,180,513
The Proposal BV 163,385,063
Fast & Furious Uni 155,239,768
G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra Par 148,281,637
Paul Blart: Mall Cop Sony 146,777,505
Taken Fox 145,000,989
Gran Torino * WB 142,251,852
Angels & Demons Sony 133,859,408
Terminator Salvation WB 125,322,459
Slumdog Millionaire * Fox Searchlight 119,092,566
G-Force BV 117,672,433
Inglourious Basterds Weinstein Co. 117,448,699
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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