MCN Columnists
Leonard Klady

By Leonard Klady

Daze of the Dead

Zombieland sprung to life to lead weekend ticket sales with an estimated $24.8 million. The session also saw good results of $12.6 million for a 3-D combo of the Toy Story films but there were lesser signs of stamina for the comic The Invention of Lying of $7.3 million and a $4.8 million tally for the roller derby yarn Whip It.

Sales improved from last weekend but lagged behind the comparable 2008 frame. The weekend also saw an effect expansion for Capitalism: A Love Story that grossed $4.6 million and a sturdy $42,330 theater average for A Serious Man from six initial playdates. The debut of the basketball odyssey More Than a Game looked like a contender with $201,000 from 14 courts and on the Bollywood circuit Wake Up Sid was upbeat while Do Not Disturb lived up to its title.

Getting a jump on Halloween, Zombieland hit a bullseye with the young male audience that’s largely been ignored in the past month. A deft combination of spoof and thrills, the low budget romp had been expected to lead in the charts with at minimum a $20 million gross. Strong exit polls hold out the promise for a better than average second weekend drop.

The lack of precedent had pundits guesstimating anywhere from an $8 million to a $15 million launch for the 3-D pairing of the two Toy Story films. Obviously benefitting from the stereoscopic addition, the double bill also served as an advance reminder for the third Toy Story scheduled for next summer. But some mavens felt that part of the equation would have been better accomplished with a first quarter 2010 release date.

Ricky Gervais continued to plot his transition from the small to big screen with The Invention of Lying. And though critical response was tepid, he does appear to be making at least baby steps in that direction. Reviewers were kinder to Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut Whip It but the idiosyncratic realm of female roller skaters proved to be not terribly intriguing to the masses.

Weekend sales rang in with roughly $108 million that translated into a 12% boost from seven days past. However, it lagged behind 2008 by 7%. A year ago the debut of Beverly Hills Chihuahua led with $29.3 million and another freshman — Nick and Nora’s Ultimate Playlist — ranked third with $11.3 million.

With the awards season in sight, one can see the beginnings of strategic calendar placement. The acclaimed Bright Star continues to expand but already one can see the sort of limited crossover appeal that plagued The Hurt Locker during the summer. One senses that other esteemed early entries including the Coen Brothers’ A Serious Man could suffer the same fate as well as The Boys Are Back and Capitalism: A Love Story from provocateur Michael Moore.

The one left field surprise in recent weeks is the chiller Paranormal Activity, an ultra low budget acquisition that Paramount has been effectively exploiting with midnight screening. Plans are for expansion to regular runs next weekend and early buzz and tweets suggest the slow and unconventional roll out strategy will translate commercially.

by Leonard Klady

Weekend Estimates: October 2 – 4, 2009

Title Distributor Gross (avg) % change Theaters Cume
Zombieland Sony 24.8 (8,160) New 3036 24.8
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs Sony 16.6 (5,590) -34% 2977 82.3
Toy Story 1 & 2 (BV) BV 12.6 (7,200) New 1745 12.6
The Invention of Lying WB 7.3 (4,290) New 1707 7.3
Surrogates BV 7.3 (2,460) -51% 2951 26.3
Fame MGM 4.8 (1,540) -52% 3103 16.7
Whip It Fox Searchlight 4.8 (2,770) New 1720 4.8
Capitalism: A Love Story Overture 4.6 (4,760) 1874% 962 5
The Informant! WB 3.8 (1,550) -43% 2425 26.5
Love Happens Uni 2.8 (1,440) -36% 1922 18.9
I Can Do Bad All By Myself Lionsgate 2.6 (1,650) -46% 1569 48.3
Pandorum Overture 1.9 (750) -57% 2506 7.8
Inglourious Basterds Weinstein Co. 1.4 (1,060) -48% 1331 116.9
9 Focus 1.3 (840) -55% 1592 29.4
Jennifer’s Body Fox 1.2 (720) -68% 1642 14.7
All About Steve Fox 1.1 (800) -50% 1427 31.7
Bright Star Apparition .71 (2,250) 6% 317 1.9
Julie & Julia Sony .68 (870) -46% 782 91.8
Trailer Park Boys 2 Alliance .57 (2,860) -55% 199 2.3
The Hangover WB .54 (1,040) -2% 517 275.2
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $101.40
% Change (Last Year) -7%
% Change (Last Week) 12%
Also debuting/expanding
Coco Before Chanel Alliance/Sony Class .46 (7,790) 22% 59 1
Paranormal Activity Par .43 (13,030) 452% 33 0.67
I Hope They Serve Beer in Heaven FreeStyle .32 (1,520) -13% 210 0.86
A Serious Man Focus .25 (42,330) New 6 0.25
Wake Up Sid UTV .25 (4,120) New 60 0.25
More Than a Game Lionsgate .20 (14,360) New 14 0.2
Do Not Disturb Big Picture .10 (1,822) New 57 0.1
The Boys Are Back Miramax 55,800 (3,490) 13% 16 0.12
The Horse Boy Zeitgeist 6,900 (2,300) New 3 0.01
Chelsea on the Rocks Empire 4,100 (4,100) New 1 0.01
Afterschool IFC 2,700 (2,700) New 1 0.01

Domestic Market Share: To October 1, 2009

Distributor (releases) Gross Mrkt Share
Warner Bros. (27) 1605.5 20.30%
Paramount (14) 1332.9 16.80%
Sony (17) 984.8 12.40%
Fox (15) 957.4 12.10%
Buena Vista (16) 918.4 11.60%
Universal (17) 697.1 8.80%
Lionsgate (10) 303.4 3.80%
Fox Searchlight (9) 234.9 3.00%
Weinstein Co. (8) 182.1 2.30%
Summit (9) 176.9 2.20%
Focus (8) 140.9 1.80%
Paramount Vantage (4) 67.6 0.90%
MGM (3) 54.2 0.70%
Miramax (6) 52.2 0.70%
Other * (248) 201.4 2.40%
* none greater than 0.4% 7784.1 100.00%

Top Global Grossers – January 1 – October 1, 2009

Title Distributor (releases) Gross (millions)
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince WB 939,170,821
Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs Fox 874,475,356
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen Par 832,853,278
Up BV 506,756,659
Angels & Demons Sony 486,350,865
The Hangover WB 460,777,025
Night at the Museum 2 Fox 412,152,472
Star Trek Par 384,953,618
Monsters vs. Aliens Par 381,132,686
X-Men Origins: Wolverine Fox 371,840,331
Terminator Salvation WB/Sony 371,719,162
Slumdog Millionaire * Fox Searchlight 357,237,152
Fast & Furious Uni 349,491,760
The Proposal BV 303,711,993
G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra Par 297,673,977
Curious Case of Benjamin Button * Par/WB 276,124,938
Gran Torino * WB 268,526,915
Inglourious Basterds Weinstein/Uni 248,791,398
G-Force BV 210,760,707
Public Enemies Uni 196,364,789
Knowing Summit 185,845,792
* 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