MCN Columnists
Leonard Klady

By Leonard Klady

Dis and Dat

Michael Jackson’s This Is It led weekend ticket sales with an estimated $21.1 million. It was the only wide release for the frame and as it fell short of out-sized predictions, business experienced a sharp downturn from seven days earlier.

The limited release of The Boondock Saints II proved unexpectedly strong while neither of the new Bollywood entries — London Calling and Aladin — displayed a great deal of commercial heft. The critically acclaimed genre entry The House of the Devil emerged as the most potent of the weekend exclusives and other new toe-testers including the South African set Skin had passable bows.

Traditionally business takes a hit on Halloween and with the holiday falling on Saturday industry mavens girded for the worst. Ghoul night had a definite effect on business though the spate of horror-themed movies was less spooked than movies of other genres.

The big noise was unquestionably This Is It, culled from hours of rehearsal footage preparing for the concert tour Michael Jackson never gave. The drumbeat from the studio as well as formidable advance ticket sales spawned predictions as high as $250 million worldwide for its first five days in release.

The weekend estimate got trimmed to $101 million and as expected international response was more torrid than domestic. One studio source cited Halloween as a factor for its muted performance but it’s clear from exit surveys that the missed hurdle was attracting crowds outside the late performer’s fan base. Nonetheless the spin machine was working hard, tub-thumping the film as the biggest opening for a concert film (not a huge well to draw from) and that its gross far exceeded the price of acquisition, suggesting a profitability it’s yet to attain when one factors in print and advertising costs.

Session ticket sales should record revenues of about $85 million for a 29% decline from last weekend. It was a more modest 4% off the pace of 2008 when the second weekend of High School Musical 3 led with $15.3 million and freshmen releases Zack and Mira Make a Porno and Changeling enter with respective grosses of $10.1 million and $9.7 million.

While there was an overall sense of a time out in the marketplace there was one notable exception. The Boondock Saints II derives from a latter day Mean Streets yarn that had a classic film maudit production history and a tortured limited theatrical experience. Nonetheless it achieved a cult following and impressive video sales that proved sufficiently alluring to investors. Its near $9,000 theater average should pave the way for a more respectable and realized theatrical experience second time around.

by Leonard Klady

Weekend Estimates: October 30 – November 1, 2009

Title Distributor Gross (avg) % change Theaters Cume
This is It Sony 21.1 (6,064) New 3481 32.3
Paranormal Activity Par 16.6 (6,890) -22% 2404 84.4
Law Abiding Citizen Overture 6.9 (2,510) -44% 2764 51
Couples Retreat Uni 6.0 (1,990) -43% 3026 86.6
Where the Wild Things Are WB 5.1 (1,410) -63% 3645 61.9
Saw VI Lionsgate 5.1 (1,680) -64% 3036 22.4
The Stepfather Sony 3.2 (1,350) -49% 2346 24.5
Astro Boy Summit 3.0 (1,000) -55% 3020 10.9
Amelia Fox Searchlight 2.9 (2,730) -25% 1070 8.2
Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant Uni 2.8 (1,000) -56% 2754 10.5
Zombieland Sony 2.6 (1,250) -39% 2056 71.1
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs Sony 2.6 (1,110) -51% 2322 118.4
A Serious Man Focus 1.0 (4,120) -10% 238 4.5
The Boondock Saints II Apparition .60 (8,870) New 68 0.6
An Education Sony Classics .44 (9,610) 20% 46 1.5
Halloween II Weinstein Co. .43 (400) 1337% 1083 33.1
The Invention of Lying WB .40 (880) -53% 452 17.6
Good Hair Roadside Attraction .38 (930) -58% 411 3.4
Capitalism: A Love Story Overture .36 (730) -50% 492 13.6
Coco Before Chanel Alliance/Sony Class .34 (3,320) -2% 102 3.3
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $111.55
% Change (Last Year) -4%
% Change (Last Week) -29%
Also debuting/expanding
Tosca Live Fathom .22 (3,450) New 63 0.22
London Dreams Studio 18 .16 (2,390) New 66 0.16
Aladin Eros 54,300 (970) New 56 0.05
The Maid Elephant Eye 52,600 (4,050) 24% 13 0.14
AntiChrist IFC 40,500 (3,380) -43% 12 0.15
The House of the Devil Magnolia 25,100 (8,370) New 3 0.03
Skin JDF 22,600 (5,650) New 4 0.02
Gentlemen Broncos Searchlight 8,900 (4,450) New 2 0.01
Storm Film Movement 8,800 (4,400) New 2 0.01
Looking for Palladin Wildcat 2,700 (2,700) New 1 0.01

Domestic Market Share: To October 22, 2009

Distributor (releases) Gross Mrkt Share
Warner Bros. (29) 1695.9 19.80%
Paramount (14) 1404.1 16.40%
Sony (20) 1140.3 13.30%
Buena Vista (19) 970.6 11.40%
Fox (15) 964.2 11.30%
Universal (19) 792.1 9.30%
Lionsgate (12) 327.9 3.80%
Fox Searchlight (11) 253.1 3.00%
Weinstein Co. (8) 186.6 2.20%
Summit (10) 185.9 2.20%
Focus (9) 147.8 1.70%
Overture (7) 95.9 1.10%
Paramount Vantage (4) 67.6 0.80%
MGM (4) 64.6 0.80%
Miramax (7) 52.9 0.60%
Other * (267) 192.6 2.30%
* none greater than 0.4% 8542.1 100.00%
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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