MCN Columnists
Leonard Klady

By Leonard Klady

Eyktan Kifkeyä (King of the World Na’vi-Style)

Inclement weather aside in the American Northeast, Avatarsoared to an estimated $72.5 million domestically and added an additional $232 million from international markets in its debut round. The frame’s other national newcomer was the comedy Did You Hear About the Morgans? that ranked fourth with an uninspired $6.7 million.

The session was also rife with limited and exclusive freshman, many positioning for award’s season. The musicalNine was forte with $253,000 from four soundstages while the twangier Crazy Heart had a tuneful $84,400 from a stringed quartet. Also potent was the lively history lessonThe Young Victoria with $242,000 at 44 venues. Tamil language Vettaikaran bowed on nine with a $70,300 tally. But the reminder re-issue for The Hurt Locker largely went unnoticed; generating a $630 screen average from 129 bunkers.

Anticipation was humongous for James Cameron’s science-fiction Pandora box with avids among the pundits predicting six figure grosses in North America. More tempered prognosticators expected a $75 million to $80 million and when blizzards are factored into the equation it performed right on cue. Such hefty markets as New York, Philadelphia and D.C. saw box office took weather hits ranging from 30% to 70% on Friday that eroded sales nationally by approximately 10%.

In North America Avatar’s 2,038 3-D playdates (including 179 at Imax theaters) accounted for about 70% of total box office. Internationally the film set a record opening number for a non-sequel movie. It debuted in most major markets save Japan, China and Italy.

Also on the record front, domestic box office kinda passed $10 billion on Sunday. The caveat is that box office reporting by the majors includes Canadian grosses at par. However, even with adjustments the $10 billion level will be reached during the calendar for the first time.

Weekend revenues climbed to roughly $135 million for a hefty 38% boost from the prior weekend and an even mightier 52% expansion from 52 weeks earlier. In 2008, debuts of Yes Man, Seven Pounds and The Tale of Desperaux led the charts with respective bows of $18.2 million, $14.8 million and $10.1 million.

The kudo mosh pit appears to have crushed the likes of Invictus, Brothers and The Road among others. Up in the Air has avoided the turbulence with the addition of 103 engagements and a still buoyant near $18,000 screen average. And the nichier response to The Fantastic Mr. Fox, Me and Orson Welles and The Lovely Bones will probably translate into acknowledgment in secondary categories.

The new kids on the block are Nine and Crazy Heart – both attempting to strum into the crowded field. The former based on Fellini’s 8½ has (despite a few exceptions) received some of the year’s most devastating reviews and will have huge hurdles to overcome as it expands. But audiences appear wholly engagement by the country music saga and while it may never breakout, it remains a strong candidate for steady, consistent business.

by Leonard Klady

Weekend Estimates: December 18-20, 2009

Title Distributor Gross (avg) %chg Theas Cume
Avatar Fox 72.5 (20,990) 3452 72.5
The Princess and the Frog BV 12.1 (3,490) -55% 3475 44.7
The Blind Side WB 9.8 (2,880) -35% 3407 164.5
Did You Hear About the Morga Sony 6.7 (2,460) 2718 6.7
Twilight: New Moon Summit 4.4 (1,450) -45% 3035 274.6
Invictus WB 4.2 (1,990) -51% 2125 15.9
A Christmas Carol BV 3.3 (1,610) -51% 2070 130.7
Up in the Air Par 3.1 (17,880) 31% 175 8.1
Brothers Lions Gate 2.6 (1,300) -48% 2009 22.1
Old Dogs BV 2.2 (840) -50% 2630 43.5
2012 Sony 2.1 (940) -51% 2242 158.9
Armored Sony 1.2 (800) -65% 1538 14.2
Precious Lions Gate 1.1 (1,140) -10% 1003 40
Ninja Assassin WB .89 (770) -67% 1155 36.4
Planet 51 Sony/Alliance .79 (590) -65% 1349 38.5
The Road Weinstein Co. .65 (1,640) 28% 396 4.9
The Fantastic Mr. Fox Fox .59 (1,030) -58% 575 17.4
Everybody’s Fine Miramax .58 (580) -74% 1003 8.8
The Boondock Saints II Apparition .38 (950) -52% 404 9.3
Nine Weinstein Co. .25 (63,250) 4 0.25
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $128.80
% Change (Last Year) 52%
% Change (Last Week) 38%
Also debuting/expanding
The Young Victoria Apparition/Allia .24 (5,500) 44 0.24
An Education Sony Classics .20 (890) -38% 219 7.1
The Tales of Hoffman – Live Fathom .19 (2,290) 83 0.19
Broken Embraces Sony Classics .18 (5,900) 62% 6 0.77
Me and Orson Welles FreeStyle .16 (1,190) 1% 132 0.55
A Single Man Weinstein Co. .13 (14,890) -38% 9 0.46
Crazy Heart Fox Searchlight 84,400 (21,100) 4 0.11
The Hurt Locker Summit 81,400 (630) 129 12.7
Vettaikaran Sun 70,300 (7,810) 9 0.7
The Lovely Bones Par 40,700 (13,570) -65% 3 0.2
A Town Called Panic Zeitgeist 2,700 (2,700) 1 0.01
Ricky IFC 1,600 (1,600) 1 0.01

Domestic Market Share: To December 17, 2009

Domestic Market Share (Jan. 1 – Dec. 17, 2009)
Distributor (releases) Gross (in milli Market Share
Warner Bros. (33) 1937.3 19.60%
Paramount (15) 1448.7 14.60%
Sony (22) 1428.2 14.40%
Buena Vista (22) 1174.7 11.90%
Fox (16) 981.9 9.90%
Universal (20) 849.5 8.60%
Summit (11) 468.9 4.70%
Lions Gate (14) 397.3 4.00%
Fox Searchlight (12) 262.9 2.70%
Weinstein Co. (10) 193.1 2.00%
Focus (10) 161.2 1.60%
Overture (8) 157.2 1.60%
Paramount Vantage (4) 67.6 0.70%
MGM (4) 64.8 0.70%
Miramax (8) 61.3 0.60%
Other * (319) 239.7 2.40%
* none greater than 0.4% 9894.3 100.00%

Top Global Releases – To December 17, 2009

Title Distributor Gross
Harry Potter and the Half-Bloo WB 945,712,475
Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaur Fox 883,928,079
Transformers: Revenge of the Par 835,356,221
2012 Sony 717,898,334
Up BV 697,475,686
The Twilight Saga: New Moon Summit 633,074,882
Angels & Demons Sony 486,411,857
The Hangover WB 469,553,471
Night at the Museum 2 Fox 412,854,937
Star Trek Par 385,836,656
Monsters vs. Aliens Par 381,529,652
X-Men Origins: Wolverine Fox 373,221,912
Terminator Salvation WB/Sony 371,720,523
Fast & Furious Uni 360,144,286
Slumdog Millionaire * Fox/Cellador 357,237,152
Inglourious Basterds Weinstein/UPI 318,472,691
The Proposal BV 317,178,304
G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra Par 302,266,778
G-Force BV 284,941,736
A Christmas Carol BV 278,248,013
Curious Case of Benjamin Butt Par/WB 276,124,938
Gran Torino * WB 268,537,042
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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