MCN Columnists
Leonard Klady

By Leonard Klady


The opening shot of 2010 began with the biggest first weekend of any year ever with box office expansion of 46% from last year alone.

And with audiences in a spirited holiday mood the last few weeks of 2009 provided a tremendous closing surge. Initial estimates peg domestic revenues at just shy of $10.7 billion that translates into a 10% improvement from the prior benchmark calendar. It also appears that admissions improved by as much as 2% – an amazing feat in a recessionary environment where other entertainments have failed to tread water. Not unexpectedly the industry mood is beyond buoyant.

Avatar held top spot on the charts for the third consecutive weekend with an estimated $67.8 million and a $351.6 million cume. It will unquestionably become the second biggest grossing film of all time.

The frame provided no new national releases or significant expansions but holdovers proved remarkably resilient with the indomitable The Blind Side experiencing a slight b.o. upturn in its seventh week in theaters. Other holdovers that maintained or improved included Up in the Air, Invictus, The Young Victoria, A Single Man and Crazy Heart.

The sole new entries were both launched in exclusives. Cannes prize winner The White Ribbon opened to an impressive $61,200 from three venues and the Tennessee Williams’ adaptation The Loss of a Teardrop Diamondwas disappointing with a $20,700 tally at six screens.

Weekend revenues generated about $222 million for an 18% diminution from 2009’s last gasp. However they were 46% greater than one year ago when the top dog was appropriately Marley and Me with a $24.3 million box office and Bedtime Stories had the Miss Congeniality spot with $20.5 million.

The last spate of 2009 titles now enter awards season with just two end year titles straddling the popular/critical divide. Avatar should prove strong across all categories save for acting slots whileThe Blind Side ought to be able to secure an acting nomination for Sandra Bullock. But it looks like slim pickings on the ballot for the likes of Invictus and Nine that have failed to galvanize commercially.

The remaining question marks surround films such as A Single Man and Crazy Heart that appear likely to secure at least a couple of high profile nominations. Will either receive additional traction that could translate into sleeper success? Stay tuned.

by Leonard Klady

Weekend Estimates: January 1 – 3, 2010

Title Distributor Gross (averag % change Theaters Cume
Avatar Fox 67.8 (19,590) -10% 3461 351.6
Sherlock Holmes WB 38.2 (10,540) -39% 3626 140.5
Alvin & the Chipmunks: The Squeak Fox 35.9 (9,580) -27% 3747 157.2
It’s Complicated Uni 18.6 (6,410) -16% 2897 59
The Blind Side WB 12.2 (4,220) 7% 2897 208.8
Up in the Air Par 11.1 (5,880) -1% 1895 44.8
The Princess and the Frog BV 10.1 (3,040) 12% 3328 86.2
Did You Hear About the Morgans? Sony 5.0 (1,850) 1% 2718 25.4
Invictus WB 4.0 (1,870) 0% 2160 30.7
Nine Weinstein Co. 4.0 (2,860) -26% 1412 13.8
Twilight: New Moon Summit 3.4 (2,110) 12% 1627 287.6
3 Idiots Big Pictures 1.5 (11,590) -7% 132 5.1
Brothers Lions Gate 1.2 (1,360) -3% 858 27.4
2012 Sony 1.1 (1,360) 11% 800 163.5
The Young Victoria Apparition/Allianc .94 (5,030) 28% 187 2.9
Precious Lions Gate .84 (1,340) -3% 629 43.4
Old Dogs BV .73 (1,180) 12% 620 47.2
The Road Weinstein Co. .55 (1,800) 22% 306 6.8
A Christmas Carol BV .53 (540) -59% 981 137.4
A Single Man Weinstein Co. .51 (11,090) 44% 46 1.7
The Fantastic Mr. Fox Fox .47 (1,740) 37% 271 19.1
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $218.20
% Change (Last Year) 46%
% Change (Last Week) -18%
Also debuting/expanding
Broken Embraces Sony Classics .42 (5,490) 21% 77 2
Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus E1/Sony Classic .38 (7,790) 22% 49 0.94
Crazy Heart Fox Searchlight .22 (18,670) 40% 12 0.71
The Lonely Bones Par 64,300 (21,430) 53% 3 0.38
The White Ribbon Sony Classics 61,200 (20,400) New 3 0.09
The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond Palladin 20,700 (3,450) New 6 0.02

Domestic Market Share: To December 27, 2009

Distributor (releases) Gross (in millio Market Share
Warner Bros. (34) 2042.8 19.60%
Paramount (15) 1468.1 14.10%
Sony (24) 1453.1 13.90%
Fox (18) 1271.7 12.20%
Buena Vista (22) 1219.1 11.70%
Universal (21) 872.2 8.30%
Summit (11) 480.1 4.60%
Lions Gate (14) 406.1 3.90%
Fox Searchlight (13) 263.2 2.50%
Weinstein Co. (11) 201.1 1.90%
Focus (10) 161.6 1.50%
Overture (8) 157.6 1.50%
Paramount Vantage (4) 67.6 0.70%
MGM (4) 64.8 0.60%
Miramax (8) 62.2 0.60%
Other * (336) 248.7 2.40%
10440 100.00%

Top Domestic Releases – To December 20, 2009

Title Distributor Gross
Transformers: Revenge of the Falle Par 402,195,608
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Pri WB 301,959,197
Up BV 293,283,811
The Hangover WB 277,334,275
The Twilight Saga: New Moon Summit 274,598,319
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 Blind Side WB 164,725,525
The Proposal BV 163,958,031
2012 Sony 159,028,696
Fast & Furious Uni 155,239,768
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
Angels & Demons Sony 133,859,408
A Christmas Carol BV 130,813,354
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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