MCN Columnists
Leonard Klady

By Leonard Klady

Old Croaks at Home

Following two weeks of exclusive engagements The Princess and the Frog migrated to the big pond and led weekend ticket sales with an estimated $24.8 million. The session’s sole national newcomer was the upscale Invictus that ranked third overall with an OK $9 million.

In limited wide release Larger Than Life 3D failed to live up to its moniker with a $252,000 tally from 509 locations and Bollywood entry Rocket Singh – Salesman of the Year felt the recession with $141,000 at 63 venues. In Quebec, Noemie: Le Secret was under wraps with $49,200 from 56 screens.

Exclusives with award potential fared better with the Christopher Isherwood adaptation A Single Man close to a home run with $211,000 from nine locations. The harrowing The Lovely Bonesrattled the faithful with $113,000 from just three theaters.

Overall business was relatively steady with box office of close to $100 million for the frame that represented slipping of 1% from last weekend and a modest 6% increase from the 2008 frame. Domestic box office surpassed the 2008 total last Wednesday and is running roughly 8% faster than last year with 18 days left on the calendar.

While not what one would characterize as a classic platform, The Princess and the Frog hopped to the top with princely charm. The contemporized take on the children’s favorite with a racial twist added seemed ideally suited to the Obama era. Americans appear to have cleared the color barrier whether cloaked in a fairy tale or told from the vantage point of Precious’s mean streets.

But despite critical hosannas, Invictus on the historic election of Nelson Mandela to the presidency of post-Apartheid South Africa and his efforts to unite the nation via a historic rugby match started slowly. Granted that’s not uncharacteristic for films directed by Clint Eastwood. Internal tracking had pegged the opening between $10 million and $12 million so its future could take a page from another children’s staple – The Tortoise and the Hare.

The session also featured a number of notable expansions. The award touted Up in the Air expanded from 15 to 72 playdates and maintained a vigorous $33,610 screen average. Me and Orson Welles also chugged along with the addition of 58 venues and doubled its gross to date. Tripling its exposure (albeit from two to six sites), Broken Embraces held with a $17,920 average.

by Leonard Klady

Weekend Estimates: November 11-13, 2009

Title Distributor Gross (average) % change Theaters Cume
The Princess and the Frog BV 24.8 (7,220) 3214% 3434 37.7
The Blind Side WB 15.2 (4,490) -24% 3388 150
Invictus WB 9.0 (4,230) 2125 9
Twilight: New Moon Summit 7.8 (2,160) -49% 3635 267.2
A Christmas Carol BV 6.8 (2,850) -12% 2402 124.4
Brothers Lions Gate 5.1 (2,460) -46% 2088 17.5
2012 Sony 4.3 (1,530) -36% 2838 155.3
Old Dogs BV 4.3 (1,400) -37% 3090 39.9
Armored Sony 3.5 (1,820) -47% 1919 11.7
Ninja Assassin WB 2.6 (1,250) -48% 2100 34.2
Up in the Air Par 2.4 (33,610) 105% 72 4
Everybody’s Fine Miramax 2.2 (1,010) -44% 2141 7.3
Planet 51 Sony/Alliance 2.2 (840) -51% 2570 37
The Fantastic Mr. Fox Fox 1.4 (1,090) -52% 1268 16.2
Precious Lions Gate 1.2 (1,850) -46% 664 38.2
The Boondock Saints II Apparition .77 (1,420) -17% 542 8.4
The Road Weinstein Co. .53 (3,930) -29% 135 4
An Education Sony Classics .31 (1,290) -35% 241 6.8
Larger Than Life 3D Cinedgm .25 (490) New 509 0.25
Couples Retreat Uni .25 (680) -19% 371 107.6
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $94.20
% Change (Last Year) 6%
% Change (Last Week) -1%
Also debuting/expanding
A Single Man Weinstein Co. .21 (23,470) 9 0.21
Me and Orson Welles FreeStyle .16 (2,620) 317% 63 0.33
Rocket Singh – Salesman of the Year Yash Raj .14 (2,244) 63 0.14
Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orlea First Look .14 (1,480) -5% 96 1.15
The Lovely Bones Par .11 (37,730) 3 0.11
Broken Embraces Sony Classics .11 (17,920) 21% 6 0.59
Noemie: Le Secret Seville 49,200 (880) 56 0.05
The Slammin’ Salmon Anchor Bay 26,300 (2,400) 11 0.03
My Son My Son What Have Ye Done Absurda 14,700 (14,700) 1 0.01

Domestic Market Share: To December 10, 2009

Distributor (releases) Gross (in million Market Share
Warner Bros. (32) 1901.1 19.50%
Paramount (14) 1445.1 14.80%
Sony (22) 1414.7 14.50%
Buena Vista (22) 1129.5 11.60%
Fox (16) 979.9 10.00%
Universal (20) 848.9 8.70%
Summit (11) 458.1 4.70%
Lions Gate (13) 388.3 4.00%
Fox Searchlight (12) 262.8 2.70%
Weinstein Co. (9) 191.9 2.00%
Focus (10) 160.7 1.60%
Overture (8) 156.6 1.60%
Paramount Vantage (4) 67.6 0.70%
MGM (4) 64.8 0.70%
Miramax (8) 58.2 0.60%
Other * (310) 235 2.40%
* none greater than 0.4% 9763.2 100.00%

Top Domestic Releases – To December 10, 2009

Title Distributor Gross
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen Par 402,195,608
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince WB 301,905,204
Up BV 293,283,811
The Hangover WB 277,294,415
The Twilight Saga: New Moon Summit 259,360,583
Star Trek Par 257,807,784
Monsters vs. Aliens Par 198,377,900
Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs Fox 196,624,037
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
2012 Sony 150,936,840
G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra Par 150,329,089
Paul Blart: Mall Cop Sony 146,777,505
Taken Fox 145,000,989
Gran Torino * WB 142,251,852
The Blind Side WB 134,761,539
Angels & Demons Sony 133,859,408
Terminator Salvation WB 125,322,459
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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