MCN Columnists
Leonard Klady

By Leonard Klady

HE-dge of Darkness

January 31, 2010

Avatar continued to steam along with a sixth weekend estimated gross of $30.1 million. Its incoming competition (combined) grossed roughly the same amount. The Mel Gibson thriller (his first screen role in seven years) Edge of Darkness struggled to $17 million while the programmer romantic comedy When in Rome did a passable $12.1 million.

The blahs also infected niche and exclusive debuts including two new offerings on the Bollywood circuit. The regional release of the inspirational Preacher’s Kid marked the second straight weekend of lack of faith and sales for this fare and there weren’t a lot of scares for the fourth edition of the omnibus Horrorfest. Only a couple of exclusive premieres registered a pulse. The German import North Face grossed $21,800 from four venues and the American independent comedy Saint John of Las Vegas had a comparable $21,400 box office at two sites.

Overall that translated into viewing downturns from both last weekend and from the comparable frame in 2009.

There was a big question mark hovering over the screen return of Mel Gibson in the adaptation of the acclaimed British mini-series Edge of Darkness. Though he’s directed two successful films in the interim and popped up in the news in primarily unflattering fashion, he was a member of the elite box office dependables. Trackers predicted his return picture would gross around $20 million and the actual box office appeared to refute the old saw about absence making the heart grow fonder.

Pundits pretty much were on target about the commercial prospects of When in Rome.

Weekend revenues should clock in at about $123 million that translates into a 16% dip from seven days earlier. It was also 4% diminished from 2009 when the debut of Taken launched with $24.7 million followed by Paul Blart with $13.9 million and The Uninvited at $10.3 million.

Avatar continued to maintain holds that mirrored the sort of stamina Titanic demonstrated more than a decade ago. Last week it surpassed the earlier pictures global record and next weekend will move ahead to position one among box office grossers in the North American marketplace.

The film also figures to receive considerable love when Oscar nominations are announced Tuesday. While in no way a hard and fast rule, the best picture winner has generally gone to the biggest grosser among nominees on the slate. So, Avatar’s logical competition would be The Blind Side, which is pushing toward $240 million, and not The Hurt Locker, which has sputtered out at $13 million and may earn a spot in Oscar record books as the lowest grossing (adjusted for ticket prices) best picture candidate of all time.

-by Leonard Klady

Weekend Estimates: January 29-31, 2010

Title Distributor Gross (average) % change * Theaters Cume
Avatar Fox 30.1 (9,790) -14% 3074 594.8
Edge of Darkness WB 17.0 (5,530) New 3066 17
When in Rome BV 12.1 (4,920) New 2456 12.1
The Tooth Fairy Fox 9.8 (2,930) -30% 3345 25.9
Book of Eli WB 8.4 (2,740) -46% 3075 74
Legion Sony 6.5 (2,620) -63% 2476 28.3
The Lovely Bones Par 4.6 (1,750) -45% 2638 37.9
Sherlock Holmes WB 4.5 (1,760) -32% 2250 197.6
Alvin & the Chipmunks: The Squeakqueluel Fox 3.8 (1,520) -40% 2526 209.1
It’s Complicated Uni 3.7 (1,750) -37% 2096 104
The Blind Side WB 2.9 (1,670) -30% 1751 237.8
Up in the Air Par 2.6 (1,830) -33% 1430 73.1
Extraordinary Measures CBS 2.5 (990) -58% 2549 10.4
Crazy Heart Fox Searchlight 2.2 (9,250) 63% 239 6.6
The Spy Next Door Lions Gate 2.0 (1,080) -56% 1851 21.5
Leap Year Uni 1.0 (850) -66% 1135 24.7
Bold & Fresh – O’Reilly and Beck Fathom 1.0 (3,610) New 277 1
The Princess and the Frog BV .77 (1,060) -40% 728 100.3
Daybreakers Lions Gate .66 (910) -57% 725 29.4
To Save a Life IDP .64 (1,450) -14% 440 2
The Young Victoria Apparition/Alliance .62 (1,380) -24% 449 9.2
A Single Man Weinstein Co. .51 (2,360) -29% 216 5.2
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $117.90
% Change (Last Year) -4%
% Change (Last Week) -16%
Also debuting/expanding
Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus E1/Sony Classics .31 (1,530) -23% 201 6.4
Preacher’s Kid Gener8xion .20 (1,810) 109 0.2
Rann Studio 18 .14 (2,320) 62 0.14
The White Ribbon Sony Classics .11 (5,040) -3% 22 0.61
Creation Newmrkt/D Film 60,300 (2,320) -29% 26 0.17
Ishqiya Viva 52,100 (4,340) 12 0.05
Horrorfest 4 After Dark 43,000 (1,100) 39 0.04
Lucky Luke TVA 25,500 (1,820) 14 0.03
Saint John of Las Vegas IndieVest 21,400 (10,700) 2 0.02
North Face Music Box 21,800 (5,450) 4 0.02
Off and Running First Run 7,600 (7,600) 1 0.01
Still Bill B-Side 4,100 (4,100) 1 0.01
For My Father Film Movement 3,200 (3,200) 1 0.01

Domestic Market Share: January 1-28, 2010

Distributor (releases) Gross (millions) Mkt Share
Fox (3) 382.8 40.80%
Warner Bros. (7) 206.2 22.00%
Universal (4) 84.6 9.00%
Paramount (3) 69.9 7.40%
Lionsgate (4) 53.3 5.70%
Sony (8) 35.9 3.80%
Weinstein Co. (4) 28.6 3.10%
Buena Vista (3) 26.1 2.80%
Summit (3) 9.3 1.00%
Sony Classics (6) 8.8 0.90%
CBS Films (1) 7.8 0.80%
Apparition (2) 5.7 0.60%
Other (36)* 19.3 2.10%
938.3 100.00%
* none greater than 0.4%
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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