MCN Columnists
Leonard Klady

By Leonard Klady

Gobbling to (Ex)Success

It was the biggest Thanksgiving box office ever with last weekend’s leaders continuing to lead the way. Twilight: New Moon added an estimated $43.1 million to its burgeoning larder and The Blind Side was close behind with a $40.2 million tally for the three-day portion of the holiday carving.

The five-day frame generated revenues of close to $270 million that exceeded the prior record holder back in 2000 by 11%.

The session also had a couple of new national releases that did well but not bountiful biz. The family comedy Old Dogs ranked fourth with $16.8 million and the genre actioner Ninja Assassin was two notches behind with $13.2 million.

Platformers were also well in evidence with the two screen bow of the animated The Princess and the Frog croaking loud with $710,000, the apocalyptic The Road generating a heady $13,400 from 111 thruways and the bittersweet Me and Orson Welles raising Kane of $64,100 from four screens. There were also good returns of $330,000 for Bollywood freshman De Dana Dan.

Overall the weekend portion pushed to roughly $186 million that dipped 28% from last weekend record-setting frame. However it was 15% better than last year’s box office when the $31.1 million debut of Four Christmas topped the tree and second weekend’s of Bolt and Twilight fought it out with respective grosses of $26.6 million and $26.3 million.

New Moon continued to delightfully surprise as the film passed $200 million (and Twilight’s total domestic box office) in its eighth day in theaters. Pundits are frantically changing estimates for its eventual total and it now appears headed toward $325 million.

The Blind Side (along with several other family targeted movies) saw its weekend gross improve and finished the weekend with a $100 million plus cume. If New Moon is a surprise the race-themed film’s enthusiastic response lived up to its title for industry pundits.

With the first wave of awards giving just weeks away, expansions were much in evidence. Though Precious saw a slight box office decline, it remained a contender with theater averages still in the five-figure range. The prospects aren’t as bright for Fantastic Mr. Fox, which expanded to a national presence and a just OK $3,410 per engagement return.

Indies Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans and The Messenger also added screens and each held their own. Still, the two films truly need ultimate critical validation to push to the next level in the New Year. A similar scenario applies to An Education but the surprisingly resilient Boondock Saints II continues to earn each new screen strictly on an approving fan base.
by Leonard Klady

Weekend Estimates: November 27-29, 2009

Title Distributor Gross (avg) % change Theaters Cume
Twilight: New Moon Summit 43.1 (10,660) -63% 4042 231.3
The Blind Side WB 40.2 (12,790) 18% 3140 100.3
2012 Sony 17.5 (5,090) -34% 3444 138.3
Old Dogs BV 16.8 (4,910) New 3425 24.1
A Christmas Carol BV 16.3 (5,410) 33% 3013 105.6
Ninja Assassin WB 13.2 (5,280) New 2503 21.1
Planet 51 Sony 10.2 (3,370) -17% 3035 28.5
Precious Lionsgate 7.0 (10,600) -35% 663 32.4
Fantastic Mr. Fox Fox 6.9 (3,410) New 2033 10
The Men Who Stare at Goats Overture 1.5 (1,350) -47% 1119 30.5
The Road Weinstein Co. 1.5 (13,240) New 111 1.9
The Boondock Saints II Apparition 1.2 (3,240) 102% 373 5.4
Pirate Radio Focus 1.0 (2,150) -30% 478 6.8
An Education Sony Classics 1.0 (3,330) 26% 312 5.4
Couples Retreat Uni 1.0 (1,110) -51% 862 106.7
This is It Sony .80 (1,390) -51% 576 71.8
Law Abiding Citizen Overture .77 (1,320) -52% 584 71.5
The Princess and the Frog BV .71 (35,500) New 2 1.1
The Fouth Kind Uni .61 (1,100) -63% 552 24.5
Paranormal Activity Par .51 (700) -67% 725 107.1
A Serious Man Focus .48 (2,800) 9% 173 8.2
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $181.80
% Change (Last Year) 15%
% Change (Last Week) -28%
Also debuting/expanding
De Dana Dan Eros .33 (4,720) New 69 0.33
Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans First Look .28 (4,960) 15% 57 0.69
The Messenger Oscilloscope .14 (3,290) 25% 42 0.34
Broken Embraces Sony Classics .12 (58,500) 9% 2 0.31
Red Cliff Magnolia 84,500 (4,020) 545% 21 0.13
The Private Lives of Pippa Lee Screen Media 87,300 (7,270) New 12 0.09
Me and Orson Welles FreeStyle 64,100 (16,020) New 4 0.09

Domestic Market Share: To November 19, 2009

Distributor (releases) Gross Mrkt Share
Warner Bros. (31) 1766.6 19.10%
Paramount (14) 1442.1 15.60%
Sony (22) 1339.7 14.40%
Buena Vista (20) 1052.6 11.40%
Fox (16) 965.6 10.40%
Universal (20) 844.9 9.10%
Lionsgate (13) 360.1 3.90%
Summit (11) 341.1 3.70%
Fox Searchlight (12) 262.4 2.80%
Weinstein Co. (8) 188.2 2.00%
Focus (10) 157.2 1.70%
Overture (8) 150.6 1.60%
Paramount Vantage (4) 67.6 0.70%
MGM (4) 64.7 0.70%
Miramax (7) 53.1 0.60%
Other * (296) 216.5 2.30%
* none greater than 0.4% 9273 100.00%

Top Limited Releases – January 1 – November 22, 2009

Title Distributor (releases) Gross (millions)
The Wrestler * Fox Searchlight 25,068,864
Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” … Lionsgate 21,286,129
Under the Sea 3D WB 18,760,505
Milk * Focus 17,246,974
The Hurt Locker Summit 12,671,105
Sunshine Cleaning Overture 12,062,558
Away We Go Focus 9,552,776
Du Pere en flic Alliance 9,163,026
A Serious Man Focus 7,476,004
Deep Sea 3-D WB/Imax 5,435,581
Whatever Works Sony Classics 5,306,706
Coco Before Chanel Alliance/Sony Class 5,288,153
Moon Sony Classics 5,010,163
Food, Inc. Magnolia/Alliance 4,417,124
Bright Star Apparition 4,390,226
An Education Sony Classics 4,268,905
Entre les murs (The Class) Sony Classics 3,766,810
The September Issue Roadside Attractions 3,765,677
The Boondock Saints II Apparition 3,552,730
The Brothers Bloom Summit 3,531,756
Magnificent Desolation * Imax 3,291,109
* 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