MCN Columnists
Leonard Klady

By Leonard Klady

Not with a Whimper … but a Bang!

Critics were derisive of 2012 but the new age apocalyptic disaster saga was warmly embraced by the public to an estimated debut of $63.7 million. The competition largely steered clear of the cinematic tsunami though the oft-delayed rock valentine Pirate Radio went limited wide to OK returns of $2.9 million.

The frame also saw a near capacity response to the stop-motion romp The Fantastic Mr. Fox of $253,000 from four venues and continuing potency for Precious as it expanded from 18 to 174 theaters. A couple of American independents dramas bowed to encouraging box office in exclusive release. The critically lauded war-related The Messenger posted an $11,350 average in four situations while Uncertainty grossed $14,100 from a Manhattan solo. Also good in a single exposure was the non-fiction An End to Poverty? With $10,600 while a pair of new Bollywood entries turned in dull response.

Overall the session experienced a nice bump from last weekend but saw another decline from the 2008 playbook.

Reviewers likened the combination of special effects and melodrama in 2012 to the work of bygone genre specialist Irwin Allen. Pundits were cautiously optimistic about the picture’s commercial prospects with a few expecting the worst … commercially. But the slightly retro tilt proved to be an audience magnet with opening day sweeping in with roughly $23.5 million.

However, if domestic was boffo, international was multi bene with initial estimates of $160 million from 105 countries (Japan was the only major territory not in the first vanguard). The film ranked among the biggest international debuts of all time with such heady grosses as $17.5 million in France, $15.3 in Russia and $12.3 million in Mainland China.

Pirate Radio (aka The Boat That Rocked) — inspired by the likes of illegal off-shore floating broadcaster Radio Caroline from the 1960s — has been treated like a hot potato since its debut in Europe in May. It’s Brit-centricness saw it bounce from Universal to Focus and its opening was incrementally delayed from an initial August launch. Some expected a more potent opener but insider expectations were pretty much on target.

The frame generated revenues just shy of $140 million for an upturn of 14% from seven days earlier. However, it was 6% off the 2008 pace when Quantum of Solace debuted to $67.5 million and the second weekend of Madagascar 2 added $35 million.

The second weekend of A Christmas Carol held up well with a 25% erosion while the rest of the national holdovers saw slippage generally ranging from one-third to one-half.

The Fantastic Mr. Fox put its paw in the water and found the temperate quite soothing. Its $63,350 average from four screens bodes well for its expansion in 10-days cued to the Thanksgiving holiday. Though it’s hardly been an uninterrupted strong of hits for recent platform releases, the success of everything from Paranormal Activity to Precious is likely to see more such strategies; especially during what have become non-traditional periods in the release calendar. Everything old is definitely new again.

by Leonard Klady

Weekend Estimates: November 13-15, 2009

Title Distributor Gross (avg) % change Theaters Cume
2012 Sony 63.7 (18,720) New 3404 63.7
A Christmas Carol BV 22.2 (6,040) -26% 3683 63.2
Precious Lionsgate 6.1 (35,170) 222% 174 8.9
The Men Who Stare at Goats Overture 6.0 (2,460) -52% 2453 23.2
This is It Sony 5.0 (1,640) -62% 3037 67.1
The Fouth Kind Uni 4.7 (1,850) -62% 2530 20.5
Couples Retreat Uni 4.2 (1,680) -31% 2509 102.1
Paranormal Activity Par 4.1 (1,520) -50% 2712 103.8
Law Abiding Citizen Overture 3.9 (1,870) -36% 2071 67.2
The Box WB 3.2 (1,200) -58% 2635 13.2
Pirate Radio Focus 2.9 (3,250) 882 2.9
Where the Wild Things Are WB 2.3 (1,110) -44% 2090 73.3
Astro Boy Summit 1.6 (1,200) -38% 1354 17.9
The Boondock Saints II Apparition 1.1 (4,520) 152% 239 2.5
Amelia Fox Searchlight .91 (1,100) -50% 830 13.1
The Stepfather Sony .89 (1,040) -51% 858 28.8
An Education Sony Classics .68 (5,190) 15% 131 3.2
A Serious Man Focus .62 (2,580) -28% 240 6.8
Zombieland Sony .47 (980) -64% 482 74.5
Saw VI Lionsgate .45 (580) -78% 777 27.4
Coco Before Chanel Alliance/Sony Class .37 (1,530) -32% 242 4.8
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $134.10
% Change (Last Year) -6%
% Change (Last Week) 14%
Also debuting/expanding
The Fantastic Mr. Fox Fox .25 (63,350) New 4 0.25
Heer Ranjha Eros 72,300 (3,620) New 20 0.07
AntiChrist IFC 49,200 (2,340) 29% 21 0.31
The Messenger Oscilloscope 45,400 (11,350) 4 0.05
(Untitled) IDP 36,300 (1,730) -38% 21 0.17
Love & Savagery Mongrel 18,500 (4,620) New 4 0.02
Tum Mile Viva 14,300 (890) New 16 0.01
Uncertainty IFC 14,100 (14,100) New 1 0.01
Women in Trouble Screen Media 13,400 (4,470) 3 0.01
Dare Image Ent. 12,600 (6,300) 2 0.01
The End of Poverty? Cinema Libre 10,600 (10,600) 1 0.01
Four Seasons Lodge First Run 8,700 (8,700) 1 0.01
Disturbing the Universe Arthouse 6,800 (3,400) 2 0.01
Love Hurts Lantern Lane 4,600 (2,300) 2 0.01

Domestic Market Share: To November 12, 2009

Distributor (releases) Gross Mrkt Share
Warner Bros. (30) 1723.1 19.50%
Paramount (14) 1435.7 16.20%
Sony (20) 1209.7 13.70%
Buena Vista (20) 1013.3 11.50%
Fox (15) 964.7 10.90%
Universal (20) 830.3 9.40%
Lionsgate (13) 340.7 3.90%
Fox Searchlight (12) 260.7 3.00%
Summit (10) 194.3 2.20%
Weinstein Co. (8) 187.8 2.10%
Focus (9) 150.6 1.70%
Overture (8) 133.4 1.50%
Paramount Vantage (4) 67.6 0.80%
MGM (4) 64.7 0.70%
Miramax (7) 53.1 0.60%
Other * (290) 205.3 2.30%
* none greater than 0.4% 8835 100.00%

Top Domestic Grossers – January 1 – November 12, 2009

Title Distributor (releases) Gross (millions)
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen Par 402,195,608
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince WB 301,747,148
Up BV 293,107,040
The Hangover WB 276,989,482
Star Trek Par 257,807,784
Monsters vs. Aliens Par 198,377,900
Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs Fox 196,472,300
X-Men Origins: Wolverine Fox 179,883,157
Night at the Museum 2 Fox 177,245,443
The Proposal BV 163,958,031
Fast & Furious Uni 155,239,768
G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra Par 150,290,230
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
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs Sony 121,729,787
Inglourious Basterds Weinstein Co. 120,002,132
Slumdog Millionaire * Fox Searchlight 119,092,566
* 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