MCN Columnists
Leonard Klady

By Leonard Klady

I Heart Presidents

February 15, 2010

It was candy and roses for Valentine’s Day as it ascended to the top of long weekend viewing with an estimated four-day box office of $66.2 million. In a bountiful frame two other freshmen entries followed. The youth targeted Percy Jackson and the Olympians bowed to $38.9 million and the revived The Wolfman chewed up $36.4 million.

Also excellent was Fox’s first Bollywood foray My Name is Khan, which grossed $2.2 million in its opening session.

Overall it added up to a record haul for President’s holiday weekend as well as an all-time individual crown for the frame for the top ranked picture.

Valentine’s Day had been tracking strong with little doubt that it would top the charts. But not even partisans were expecting more than a $50 million debut. Bucking recent trends, the ensemble love fest reversed a Saturday downturn with a significant 25% bounce and proceeded to add another 28% on Sunday. Despite fair to poor critical reaction, hearts trumped all naysayers.

Kid-lit favorite Percy Jackson entered the marketplace with fingers crossed that it could command sufficient interest to consider franchise prospects. And at least initially the prospects are positive and will obviously improve if good holds and international box office buttress the domestic tally.

The Wolfman also suffered the slings and arrows of reviewers (particular those versed in the 1941 original) but nonetheless performed as expected based on tests and surveys. Still it’s doubtful he’ll be howling at the moon any time soon.

Weekend revenues even with Olympic distraction rose to the top of the medal stand with about $243 million banked. Current weekend box office (on a comparative three-day basis) exploded by 82% from the immediate prior session. Additionally it was an impressive 11% better than in 2009 when the launch of a re-invented Friday the 13th led with $43.6 million followed by holdover biz of $22.3 million for He’s Just Not That Into You and $21.8 million for Taken.

The old Hollywood expression states that “If you can’t beat ‘em … buy ‘em.” And Bollywood’s been largely resistant to American movies or adapting their home grown movies to international tastes. My Name is Khan works just fine on its own terms; recording a North American debut second only to all-time champion 3 Idiots.

On the awards trail Crazy Heart continued to expand effectively while Up in the Air and The Blind Side are performing on a steady basis. The sub rosa re-issue of The Hurt Locker also appears to be OK but truly the real benefit will come from ancillaries.

But last weekend’s expansions of Precious and An Education took a fast fade. Meanwhile interest for foreign-language nominees The White Room and Ajami is solid and nicely pave the way for the imminent release of A Prophet.

-by Leonard Klady

Weekend Estimates: February 12-14, 2010

Title Distributor Gross (average) % change * Theaters Cume
Valentine’s Day WB 66.2 (18,070 New 3665 66.2
Percy Jackson & the Olympians Fox 38.9 (11,610) New 3356 38.9
The Wolfman Uni 36.4 (11,290) New 3222 36.4
Avatar Fox 28.2 (10,520) 2% 2685 665.9
Dear John Sony 18.7 (6,290) -48% 2975 56.6
The Tooth Fairy Fox 7.7 (2,790) -11% 2748 43.6
From Paris with Love Lionsgate 6.3 (2,310) -34% 2722 17.4
Edge of Darkness WB 5.5 (2,110) -30% 2615 37
Crazy Heart Fox Searchlight 5.0 (4,940) 18% 1005 17.5
When in Rome BV 4.2 (1,960) -34% 2125 26.8
Book of Eli WB 4.1 (2,260) -26% 1825 88.1
The Blind Side WB 2.6 (2,200) -7% 1175 247.3
My Name is Khan Fox 2.2 (18,580) New 120 2.2
Up in the Air Par 2.0 (2,190) -25% 925 79.5
Legion Sony 2.0 (1,430) -53% 1424 38.1
Sherlock Holmes WB 1.8 (1,910) -37% 950 204.3
Alvin & the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel Fox 1.7 (1,580) -43% 1057 214.3
It’s Complicated Uni 1.4 (1,740) -43% 787 109.7
The Lovely Bones Par .81 (970) -71% 833 43
The Princess and the Frog BV .72 (1,630) 27% 441 101.9
Twilight: New Moon Summit .71 (1,780) 85% 398 295.1
The Last Station Sony Classics .61 (7,180) 52% 85 1.5
An Education Sony Classics .59 (1,720) -50% 343 10.6
A Single Man Weinstein Co. .56 (1,790) -26% 313 7
* comparisons are 3-day to 3-day
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $108.87
% Change (Last Year) 11%
% Change (Last Week) 82%
Also debuting/expanding
The Hurt Locker Summit .24 (1,940) 45% 125 13.6
The White Ribbon Sony Classics .20 (4,520) 21% 45 1.05
Ajami Kino 46,500 (15,500) 5% 3 0.1
October Country Intl Film Circ 8,650 (8,650) New 1 0.01
Order of Chaos Cinema Epoch 3,520 (3,520) New 1 0.01

Domestic Market Share: January 1 – February 11, 2010

Distributor (releases) Gross Market Share
Fox (4) 483.4 38.40%
Warner Bros. (9) 274.2 21.80%
Universal (4) 94.6 7.50%
Sony (9) 87.6 7.00%
Paramount (3) 85.7 6.80%
Lionsgate (5) 70.5 5.60%
Buena Vista (4) 50.5 4.00%
Weinstein Co. (4) 31.5 2.50%
Sony Classics (6) 12.2 1.00%
CBS Films (1) 12.1 1.00%
Fox Searchlight (1) 12 1.00%
Summit (3) 10.5 0.80%
Apparition (2) 7.4 0.60%
Other * (51) 25.9 2.00%
1258.1 100.00%
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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