MCN Columnists
Leonard Klady

By Leonard Klady

Love Letters

February 7, 2010

Romance trumped visceral thrills as the three-hanky Dear John debuted at the top of weekend viewing charts with an estimated $32.7 million. The session’s other new national premiere From Paris with Love settled into position three with $8.1 million.

Regional openers saw a solid bow of $232,000 for Les Sept jours du Talion in Quebec while the 106 theater launch of the horror yarn Frozen fizzled with a $127,000 tally. The fame also had a number of notable exclusive bows including Israel Oscar finalist Ajami with a $33,600 gross from three venues and the epic Red Riding Trilogy generating $15,500 at a Manhattan solo.

There was also copious activity among Oscar nominees with re-launches and expansions across the board. However, the only significant beneficiary in the award’s scrum was Crazy Heart.

Overall box office, despite the unexpected commercialism of the weekend leader, took a dip from both last weekend and 52 weeks ago.

Pundits had pegged Dear Heart, based on the Nicholas Sparks bestseller, as a good second to Avatar with estimates in the neighborhood of $20 million despite torrid pre-sales on the nation’s advance sellers. The romance set in the shadow of 9/11 weaved an effective mix of emotion and patriotism; pulling in an audience that was 61% under the age of 25 according to exit polls. That bodes well for the film’s second weekend with its obvious appeal to older demographics.

Tracking also over-valued the bow of the high octane action-thriller From Paris with Love. It was expected to open in the $10 – $12 million range and even factoring in inclement weather had to be viewed as an under-performer.

Crippling snowstorms had their most extreme impact in the Washington D.C. area where box office dropped close to 90% on Friday and Saturday box office. That likely cost Dear John about $2 million and $10 million in overall sales for the frame.

Weekend revenues generated roughly $118 million that translated into an 8% downturn from seven days earlier. There was a more severe 25% erosion from 2009 when the opening of He’s Just Not That Into You led with $27.8 million with new entries Coraline and The Pink Panther 2 slotting third and fourth with respective grosses of $16.million and $11.6 million.

The expansion of Academy Award best picture nominees to 10 did nothing to reverse the past decades experience of a fading Oscar bump. Admittedly the only contender (and ironically not for the top prize) positioned to benefit from the hoopla was Crazy Heart. Still, An Education, Precious, The Hurt Locker and even Up in the Air added playdates but each failed to generate new momentum or enthusiasm.

The media has largely invented a competition between Avatar and The Hurt Locker based on wish rather than evidence. Matters haven’t been helped by the latter film’s almost unerring marketing and distribution gaffes that have translated into a $13.3 million domestic gross and an even more anemic $6 million internationally. Certainly based on critical response the film should have expected comparable grosses to Crash, Monster’s Ball or current Oscar nominee Precious.

-by Leonard Klady

Weekend Estimates: February 6-7, 2010

Title Distributor Gross (average) % change * Theaters Cume
Dear John Sony 32.7 (11,020) New 2969 32.7
Avatar Fox 23.5 (7,840) -25% 3000 630
To Paris with Love Lions Gate 8.1 (2,990) New 2722 8.1
Edge of Darkness WB 6.9 (3,350) -60% 2066 29
The Tooth Fairy Fox 6.5 (2,010) -35% 3218 34.3
When in Rome BV 5.6 (2,270) -55% 2456 21
Book of Eli WB 4.8 (1,700) -46% 2820 82.1
Crazy Heart Fox Searchlight 3.7 (4,490) 59% 819 11.2
Legion Sony 3.3 (1,420) -54% 2339 34.6
Sherlock Holmes WB 2.6 (1,430) -43% 1805 201.5
The Blind Side WB 2.5 (1,450) -17% 1740 241.5
Up in the Air Par 2.4 (1,530) -15% 1547 76.7
The Lovely Bones Par 2.3 (1,000) -50% 2330 41.6
Alvin & the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel Fox 2.2 (1,110) -45% 1965 212.2
It’s Complicated Uni 2.1 (1,250) -45% 1671 107.5
The Spy Next Door Lions Gate .84 (830) -60% 1007 22.8
An Education Sony Classics .81 (1,070) 581% 760 9.7
A Single Man Weinstein Co. .61 (1,730) 10% 353 6.2
Extraordinary Measures CBS .54 (470) -79% 1153 11.9
Precious Lions Gate .45 (680) 111% 669 46
The Princess and the Frog BV .44 (1,010) -45% 436 101
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $112.00
% Change (Last Year) -25%
% Change (Last Week) -8%
Also debuting/expanding
The Last Station Sony Classics .32 (6,360) 281% 51 0.71
Les Sept jours du Talion Alliance .23 (5,580) 42 0.23
The Hurt Locker Summit .13 (1,220) 108 13.3
Frozen Anchor Bay 13 (1,200) 106 0.13
The White Ribbon Sony Classics .12 (4,740) 1% 25 0.78
Ajami Kino 33,600 (11,200) 3 0.03
Red Riding Trilogy IFC 15,400 (15,400) 1 0.02
Terribly Happy Oscilloscope 11,700 (11,700) 1 0.01
District 13 – Ultimatum Magnolia 11,300 (1,260) 9 0.01
The Shinjuku Incident Barking Dog 9,800 (540) 18 0.01

Domestic Market Share: February 4, 2010

Distributor (releases) Gross Market Share
Fox (4) 441.5 39.90%
Warner Bros. (8) 250.6 22.70%
Universal (4) 91.3 8.30%
Paramount (3) 79.7 7.20%
Lions Gate (4) 57.1 5.20%
Sony (8) 47.5 4.30%
Buena Vista (4) 42.7 3.90%
Weinstein Co. (4) 30.2 2.70%
CBS Films (1) 11.3 1.00%
Summit (3) 10 0.90%
Sony Classics (6) 9.9 0.90%
Fox Searchlight (1) 7.1 0.60%
Apparition (2) 6.7 0.60%
Other * (43) 20.2 1.80%
1105.8 100.00%
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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