MCN Columnists
Leonard Klady

By Leonard Klady

On a Tar

Avatar continued to dominate domestic sales with a fourth weekend estimated gross of $46.5 million that most films would envy as an opening stat. The film’s $427 million now ranks it second only to Titanic as all-time domestic box office grosser.

With the holidays consummated a new spate of films debuted with the chiller Daybreakers ranking fourth on a $14.9 million tally. There were also OK results for a pair of rom-coms. Leap Year bowed to $9.1 million and Youth in Revolt was a couple of pegs back with $7 million.

The frame was considerably less receptive to incoming niche and exclusive entries. A pair of new Bollywood entries proved moribund as 3 Idiots continued to tally Titanic-sized box office on the circuit. And the limited exposure for Crazy on the Outside barely registered a pulse.

Overall box office experienced a not unanticipated post-gala dip of 30% and saw a slight 5% boost from a year back. In 2009 the platformed national bow of Gran Torino raced to $29.5 million followed by debuts of Bride Wars and The Unborn with respective box offices of $21 million and $19.8 million.

With the dust now settled on 2009, it’s fair to say that it was a year of haves and have nots. The majors (Universal notwithstanding) bucked the recession with aplomb while the independents were largely eviscerated. The studio specialized divisions are becoming a fast fading memory with but three maintaining a presence in the marketplace.

That said, Summit and Lions Gate are carving out a significant slice of the box office with the former hoping to establish a series of mainstays to solidify its position. To a lesser degree niche strategies have largely proved effective for the likes of IFC, Fathom and Magnolia. But the majority of independents are hanging by a thread and some are likely to falter permanently before (if ever) there’s a rebound in the alternative arena.

Last year saw many, many films with marquee value and high concepts unable to secure distribution; begging the big question for life outside the mainstream in 2010 and beyond. With the six studios all seemingly set to produce fewer films does this bode well or ill for the orphan productions? If the marketplace accommodates for a drop of 10% to 20% in the number of movie titles by affording them a longer and more vibrant theatrical life, it’s rough sledding.

If that scenario proves incorrect, then acquisition activity should accelerate and the prospect for new companies stepping into the fray gains root. Still, regardless of how tomorrow evolves, it should always be remembered that the film industry never proceeds in a logical fashion.

by Leonard Klady

Weekend Estimates: January 8-10, 2010

Title Distributor Gross (average) % change * Theaters Cume
Avatar Fox 46.5 (13,580) -32% 3422 427
Alvin & the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel Fox 16.5 (4,530) -53% 3641 178.4
Sherlock Holmes WB 16.4 (4,530) -55% 3626 165
Daybreakers Lions Gate 14.9 (5,920) New 2523 14.9
It’s Complicated Uni 11.0 (3,700) -42% 2955 76.3
Leap Year Uni 9.1 (3,630) New 2511 9.1
The Blind Side WB 7.5 (2,620) -37% 2880 219
Youth in Revolt Weinstein Co. 7.0 (3,720) New 1873 7
Up in the Air Par 7.0 (3,160) -35% 2218 54.7
The Princess and the Frog BV 4.6 (1,770) -53% 2620 92.5
Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus E1/Sony Classics 1.8 (2,940) 414% 601 2.9
Invictus WB 1.7 (1,260) -57% 1340 33.5
Twilight: New Moon Summit 1.6 (1,380) -57% 1167 290.6
Nine Weinstein Co. 1.6 (1,480) -60% 1060 16.8
Did You Hear About the Morgans? Sony 1.5 (840) -69% 1820 28.3
The Young Victoria Apparition/Alliance 1.2 (2,280) 16% 509 4.5
Der Rosenkavalier Live Fathom 1.2 (2,800) 423 1.2
Precious Lions Gate .45 (1,100) -51% 409 44.3
Crazy Heart Fox Searchlight .44 (13,240) 98% 33 1.2
3 Idiots Big Pictures .41 (2,730) -72% 151 5.4
Brothers Lions Gate .38 (890) -68% 428 28.2
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $151.10
% Change (Last Year) 5%
% Change (Last Week) -30%
Also debuting/expanding
A Single Man Weinstein Co. .35 (7,330) -28% 48 2.3
Broken Embraces Sony Classics .35 (3.020) -21% 115 2.5
Crazy on the Outside FreeStyle 66,500 (900) 74 0.07
The White Ribbon Sony Classics 48,100 (9,620) -20% 5 0.17
Pyaar Impossible Yash Raj 39,300 (1,360) 29 0.04
Dulha Mil Gaya Viva 34.200 (1,100) 31 0.03
Bitch Slap FreeStyle 13,700 (4,530) 3 0.01
Wonderful World Magnolia 4.400 (1,100) 4 0.01

Domestic Market Share: 2009

Distributor (releases) Gross (millions) Mkt Share % Change Rank ’09
1 Warner Bros. (34) 2099.1 19.70% 19% 1
2 Paramount (15) 1477.8 13.80% -6% 2
3 Sony (24) 1459.6 13.70% 14% 3
4 Fox (18) 1388.1 13.00% 37% 5
5 Buena Vista (22) 1233.1 11.60% 22% 6
6 Universal (21) 890.7 8.30% -20% 4
7 Summit (11) 483.9 4.50% 114% 8
8 Lions Gate (14) 407.8 3.80% -7% 7
9 Fox Searchlight (13) 263.4 2.50% 23% 9
10 Weinstein Co. (11) 205.8 1.90% 306% 17
11 Focus (10) 161.7 1.50% 16% 11
12 Overture (8) 157.8 1.50% 53% 12
13 Paramount Vantage (13) ** 67.6 0.60% -23% 13
14 MGM (17) 64.8 0.60% -60% 10
15 Miramax (8) 62.3 0.60% -24% 14
Other (316) 253.2 2.40% N/A
10676.7 100% 0%
Other Distributors
16 Sony Classics (20) 45.4 0.40% 11% 20
20 Apparition (4) * 16.2 0.15% N/A
*New Distributor
**Close distribution during 2009

Top Domestic Releases – To December 20, 2009

Title Distributor Gross
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen Par 402,195,608
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince 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