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David Poland

By David Poland

Friday Estimates

You’ll have to find the chart on the MCN front page, as I am sending this from the phone, but Kick-Ass is looking a lot like Snakes On A Plane, the last fun movie insanely overhyped as an inevitable phenom by geeks and a media looking to ride that wave. That film was at $6.4m by the end of it’s opening Friday,almost 4 years ago.
I expect Kick Ass to hold a lot better than Snakes,but that’s not the point. Fools who bought into the hype, without considering the real challenges to this film finding a bigger audience, are always susceptible to non-starters, from The Twitter Effect to ComicCom as anything but a niche play that needs to be as cost efficient as any other marketing choice.
Same, by the way, with Death At A Funeral… a movie that’s been marketing as a “black movie” and now looks to do “black movie” grosses. Nothing wrong with that… at a price.
But oh, how the flights of fancy crash.
And yes, this is hindsight. Hindsight I had before today, but it’s safe to decry overhype now… less so yesterday. Because on the end, you never know. Shit happens, for better and for worse. So those who see past the hype fear calling bs becuase… it could happen. And as a result, all we get is the hype.
Kick-Ass will probably do $60m domestic… lionsgate will make a tiny profit, and the sequels will be much less likely. Lionsgate is still Icahn’s toy today, as it was yesterday. No big win here and lots to be nervous about with the pricey Kilers to come. And Mr Vaughn will make more and better films without 4 lettering pre-teens.
And Death At A Funeral will make a tiny amount of money – no foreign and light DVD – and the talented folks involved with it will also march on.
And so it goes…

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42 Responses to “Friday Estimates”

  1. Tofu says:

    While Book 1 for Kick Ass just ended, that publication had taken two full years to simply publish eight comics. Book 2 won’t begin anytime soon. All of this talk of a sequel has been fanciful in the first place.
    Reminds me of the talk about how Clash of the Titans won’t be given a sequel. Uh. Yeah?

  2. EthanG says:

    Sony and Lionsgate have had very similar years so far..

  3. NickF says:

    Once again, Internet hype fails to make the crossover into the public consciousness. You just can’t depend on red band trailers and insular conventions to save your ass. Sadly, for terms of further discussion, we wont know what effect “Hit Girl” did or didn’t have on this movie’s box office appeal.

  4. MDOC says:

    I don’t know what could have helped Kick Ass, I just didn’t see more than 2 quadrants interested. Was Lion’s gate at fault here? Could a major have bought a bigger opening?

  5. marychan says:

    Internet marketing can definitely help the films…. if the films themselves are commercial enough. (ie. “300”, “Paranormal Activity”)
    The biggest problem of “Kick-Ass” may be the film itself isn’t very marketable. Afterall, it is a R-rated violent film that features a little girl using foul languages and killing people. (In fact, “Kick-Ass” only gets B grade at Cinemascore)
    “City of Your Final Destination” opens surprisly well – good result for homevideo-driven distributor Screen Media.
    “The Secret in Their Eyes” also opens well, if not excellently. Along with the successes of “The Last Station”, “The White Ribbon”, “A Prophet” and even “Chloe”, looks like 2010 would be another solid year for Sony Pictures Classics.
    By the way, Klady’s chart has a little mistake: “The Perfect Game” opened in about 417 theaters, not 192 theaters.

  6. a_loco says:

    I would say Kick Ass has a good chance at legs considering how awesomely entertaining it was, but apparently it only got a B from Cinemascore. not a good sign.
    I wonder if people were put off by how “over-the-top” the ending was (whatever that means), what with the jetpack and all.

  7. jeffmcm says:

    I look forward to many more posts in the future decrying ‘fools’. Maybe this could even be expanded to include ‘rubes’.

  8. Hallick says:

    “Same, by the way, with Death At A Funeral… a movie that’s been marketing as a ‘black movie’ and now looks to do ‘black movie’ grosses. Nothing wrong with that… at a price.”
    The problem with Death at a Funeral’s marketing is that the ads made it look like the umpteenth big wacky black family driving each other crazy movie. I would bet there are tons of casual viewers who think its just another Tyler Perry flick.

  9. Jeffrey Boam's Doctor says:

    Rubes Mcm. Rubes.

  10. Foamy Squirrel says:

    I’m not sure if “quadrants” is the right tool to analyze these kind of things. Look at New Moon, which was unabashedly one quadrant (arguably two, with older females) and the marketing almost actively discouraged males from attending, yet its opening broke records.
    My sense is that they focused too much on the core fanbase rather than positioning them as a vehicle for WOM and group behaviour. Contrast with “Avatar”, where they openly referred to preview attendees as “ambassadors” – the events were designed with the intent that this core spread the word to other people. I didn’t get that sense with Kick Ass – the preview material was always targeted squarely at the faithful. No matter how clever and subversive the material was, it made it difficult for people not already in-the-loop to get enthusiastic – all they saw was a pottymouth tweenager.
    Compare with entire genres which have a similar problem – devotees of anime can talk about characterization and emotional impact, but most people can’t get past the googly eyes and outrageous outfits (or subtitles). Pro-wrestling may have quirky storylines and tongue-in-cheek performances, but the majority can’t get over the fact it’s overmuscled, half-dressed men pretending to fight each other.
    New Moon got over this problem by encouraging devotees to bring their friends – make a party out of it, girls-only (or close to it). Kick Ass… just seemed to assume that the enthusiasm would rub off on other people. Apparently it didn’t. With the benefit of hindsight and all it’s a shame, but oh well… :-/

  11. gradystiles says:

    “The problem with Death at a Funeral’s marketing is that the ads made it look like the umpteenth big wacky black family driving each other crazy movie.”
    Well, that’s what the movie itself is, so marketing for the movie was back into a corner from the word ‘go.’ It really is just a movie about a wacky family at a funeral. Nothing more, nothing less.

  12. gradystiles says:

    backed, not back…

  13. brack says:

    I’m not surprised by Kick-Ass’ number at all. This felt like it was going for a comedic Watchmen angle…thus the opening.

  14. RudyV says:

    Did you ever see “Saturday Morning Watchmen” on Youtube? The misdirection alone is hilarious.
    But Kick-Ass seems more like “the Little Rascals become superheroes”.

  15. LexG says:


  16. sloanish says:

    I didn’t think Kick-Ass was outstanding, but it’s fun and I’m annoyed that young Americans outside of big cities have no interest in anything left of center. Felt the same after Watchmen. From the studio perspective, why try making something a little different when it’s just going to do ho-hum business.

  17. Chel says:

    I don’t know much about the movie making process, but can someone explain why it is so darn difficult to make a coherent action movie? I mean, how can anybody read the script of the clash of the titans and not see that it is crap and some minimum amount of effort would have made it a whole lot better? I enjoyed avatar, but I don’t think it is a major breakthru. Not in the way that the Matrix or even Titanic were. But avatar is reasonable and coherent. I feel like this is the way most movies should be like. So what is the problem? Directors, producers, studios?

  18. RudyV says:

    Blame Hitchcock. As I pointed out in a nearby topic, he was the creator of the “Wouldn’t it be cool if we shot a scene were x happens?” school of filmmaking, where you come up with the action scenes first then try to find a screenwriter who can link them together.

  19. Bob Violence says:

    That was also a pretty common practice during the early silent era (to the mid-late 1910s), except they came up with much of the linking-together business on the spot. Chaplin didn’t even bother with a shooting script until The Great Dictator.

  20. RudyV says:

    Ah well. I was basing it on a recent article where the writer blamed Hitch for every crappy action movie from the ’80s onward (and how Dr No and every imitator that followed would never have made it to the screen without North by Northwest). His meaningless McGuffins didn’t help his case, nor did his desire (pointed out in The Dark Side of Genius) to shoot a chase across Mt Rushmore that burned in him for nearly a decade before he finally came up with a story to justify it.

  21. The Big Perm says:

    There’s also the slight problem that Hitch made good movies. You can’t blame Tarantino for the horrible rip-offs, or Lucas, or Leone, etc etc.
    I still don’t understand why people attach importance to MacGuffins. Like when Mission Impossible 3 came out, there were complaints about not knowing the the thing they were after was. As if it would have made any difference if it was a bomb or a virus or a magic key.

  22. RudyV says:

    Well, I guess some people want to know what the world is being saved from, but if it’s too generic you lose some of the emotional investment.
    I still think the best McGuffin was in “Repo Man”. Like a proper McGuffin it had absolutely nothing to do with the plot, but it was so out there that it fit the movie perfectly.

  23. CleanSteve says:

    No comment on KICK ASS as I haven’t seen it. The wife is soooooooooooooooo not interested, and my kids are too young, and none of my friends seem to give a crap. Maybe that says something right there. It really does look like Little Rascals fight crime. I know my kids were stunned when they found out it was rated R. I can’t imagine it’s an easy property to market. Plus, if you tome it down to get the kids in the theater the fanboys will revolt. Again, haven’t seen it, but I wonder how much the alleged blood and violence really add to it. I’ve grown far past the point where a huge puddle of blood makes any sort of difference to me.
    But my point was to thank RudyV for directing me to Saturday Morning Watchmen. I spend almost zero time on YouTube so I’m always late to the party on these things. That was funny as fuck. In a perfect world, that could be on the Sunday night Adult Swim block.
    Side note: HOUSE OF THE DEVIL was sweet. Kind of remarkable piece of work in it’s own right.

  24. I knew “Kick-Ass” would bomb because as many people alluded to here; the blogger/geek writers have really lost touch with the rest of the world. They engage in geekgasm groupthink, fall all over themselves praising mediocre films that they used to have some power in terms of helping them open, still not realizing that those days are gone. “Kick-Ass” proves that the geek blogger community means nothing anymore. Well, except to one another and the rabid fanboys that follow them.
    That being said, I didn’t hate “Kick-Ass” but I was sadly underwhelmed. It was a movie I was really, realllly looking forward to and it’s just o.k. The first half is so boring and the lead character is by far the least interesting person in the ENTIRE movie. I mean, the henchmen in the film had more personality and character than that Kick-Ass kid. It’s asking alot of audiences to be involved with a boring kid and care about what he’s going through when there’s 2 other far more interesting storylines going on around him.

  25. The Big Perm says:

    Rudy, to me that really doesn’t make sense. The emotional investment is about the lead character and the battles he has to go through…in MI3 it’s about saving his wife. That’s the story. If you found out the thing he was after was a list of supplies to build an evil robot, that would make you care about the story moreso than if it was a virus? Or vice versa?
    Don, with geeks if the movie is dark and nilistic, bloody, or Asian (with either action or violence) then no matter how mediocre it is, it will get a fair share of praise.

  26. Hallick says:

    “I knew ‘Kick-Ass’ would bomb because as many people alluded to here; the blogger/geek writers have really lost touch with the rest of the world.”
    By definition, being in touch with the rest of the world has never been an awe-inspiring strength of the “geek world”. When did this ever happen on a level beyond the conincidental and anomalous? That community isn’t like some political party that marginalized itself away from the center. They were born on the fringes, they live on the fringes, and they’ll die on the fringes. I wouldn’t blame them for idiots being gullible or desperate enough to use them like a wet finger jabbed in the air looking for a killer box office breeze.

  27. torpid bunny says:

    It does seem that there is an increasing discrepancy between production values, which seem as high as they’ve ever been, and writing. Lot’s of great looking movies where the crew and actors obviously worked very hard, and the writing is absolute crap. Why that is I don’t know.

  28. Joe Straat says:

    “Rudy, to me that really doesn’t make sense. The emotional investment is about the lead character and the battles he has to go through…in MI3 it’s about saving his wife. That’s the story. If you found out the thing he was after was a list of supplies to build an evil robot, that would make you care about the story moreso than if it was a virus? Or vice versa?”
    Well, in M:I II, I cared more about the stakes when they showed exactly what the virus did to people. Plus, the wife in M:I III pretty much has no character. She’s the wife. She’s a nurse. That’s it. At least with Nyah in M:I II, they had a few nice scenes of banter that, while I’m not quite buying she’d risk her life for him, I’m willing to at least go along with it. Might I add the first ten minutes of M:I III is pretty much botches whatever the hell it was trying to do. I don’t know why J.J. Abrams considers boring brodude parties ripe for building character…

  29. Chel says:

    Speaking of macguffins, are we supposed to enjoy action or action+character struggle? While I was watching 2012, I kept thinking whose side I am on – characters or the destructive force. I really came to watch the really cool disaster sequences. I did not really feel all the drama about most of the people dying. Maybe it is me or maybe it is bad directing. Though I was invested into characters in lord of the rings and avatar. But I feel like some directors think – give people a very small amount of logical continuity and focus on the CGI.

  30. The Big Perm says:

    Well, using a Mission Impossible movie as a barometer of almost anything is probably not the best way to go…so what if we use North by Northwest? We know they’re after microfilm. What’s on it? When Cary Grant asks, he’s basically told “oh, some government secrets.” That’s it, that’s all we know.
    But if the guy answered “well, that microfilm has secret files of the John Mazetti and Walter Johannsen, two American contractors who we know have been selling info to the Soviets. They may even be giving them missiles, but we don’t know that for sure…that’s why we need that film. And it may go farther than just those two, there are ties to a dozen US corporations!”
    Now, would that make the movie any better or make you care about Cary Grant’s problems any more, or make the movie more or less of a classic? Or did you get bored just reading that?

  31. RudyV says:

    Even in the Valerie Plame case we know she was spying to see if Iraq was looking to buy yellowcake uranium to build bombs–that’s pretty interesting stuff right there. But if the story involved dozens of Iraqi agents dying to retrieve a tape of Saddam snorting blow off a hooker’s belly, then you could turn a typical spy movie into a dark comedy. In these cases, the nature of the McGuffin can change the mood of the whole movie.
    Still, I thought the search for George Kaplan was a McGuffin in itself; discovering whatever it was he had been doing really is extraneous.
    And though I haven’t seen 2012, I did kinda root for nature in “Day After Tomorrow”–it was a lot more interesting than the human characters.

  32. Joe Straat says:

    It really depends on the nature of the McGuffin. There are times when knowing what it is hurts the picture a little, as well. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen Notorious, but wasn’t the McGuffin plutonium or some radioactive material that was hidden in a jar in a wine cellar or something like that? And nobody in the movie loses their hair or gets a mutated hand or something like that? Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a great movie, and Hollywood’s still doing things like making $200 million movies where people hang out in post-apocalyptic L.A. and have NO worries about fallout. It’s just an example of one time where knowing the McGuffin lessened the enjoyment.
    But then there’s Raiders of the Lost Ark, where they actually open the Ark, and it’s awesome, and there’s Lara Croft and the Cradle of Life where they keep Pandora’s Box closed, and it’s just a shitty copout to cap off a REALLY shitty movie (I know I know, not opening the box was the LEAST of cradle of Life’s problems). So, you can find plenty of examples to make or break your case wherever you stand.

  33. RudyV says:

    Uranium, in an unrefined form. Since refined uranium is a “weakly radioactive metal” (and the wiki page shows a guy holding a disc of uranium), I’m guessing wine bottles full of raw ore probably weren’t terribly dangerous (and if the bottles were leaded glass…?). “Selznick had trouble understanding its use as a plot device”, according to the “Notorious” wiki, but by the time the movie was released a year after Hiroshima, the McGuffin was much easier to figure out.
    Most Hollywood action flicks are just plain stupid, though, so it’s rare to find one that cane be fan-wanked so easily.

  34. RudyV says:

    …”cane”…?!? Good gravy. I swear there’s something in the drinking water around here, and I only wish it was vodka.

  35. Hallick- I totally agree but the rub is, the geeks got their shit co-opted and it became the mainstream, for a while anyway. “Kick-Ass” is a movie right in their wheelhouse that good buzz and positive reviews would have pushed the film towards more money, heck, 5 years ago? Now it’s all preaching to the choir.

  36. Joe Straat says:

    Okay, that makes more sense. It was just something that struck me as odd when I first watched it, and wrote it off as nobody really had a full grasp of radioactivity at the time, but it turns out they were just fine. Granted, Hitchcock and his writers are much smarter people than the B-movie makers who went wild on Atomic age stuff….

  37. RudyV says:

    And I just couldn’t stay away from this one:
    “It does seem that there is an increasing discrepancy between production values, which seem as high as they’ve ever been, and writing. Lot’s of great looking movies where the crew and actors obviously worked very hard, and the writing is absolute crap.”
    PotC: At World’s End, anyone? Oh my, I think I just reopened a can of worms.

  38. doug r says:

    PotC:AWE had writers?

  39. LYT says:

    I imagine Lionsgate will be fine with Kick-Ass. The difference between it and Watchmen, from a financial standpoint, is that Kick-Ass was a pick-up, and Lionsgate didn’t have to fund the production.
    It doesn’t have to do huge numbers to make their money back. And it doesn’t really need a sequel.
    But Mezco dropped the ball by not having their tie-in action figures in stores this week.

  40. a_loco says:

    For all of the legendary talk about Hitchcock and his McGuffins, he didn’t treat them like some holy grail of ambiguity (like MI3), he just realized the audience didn’t care about the details if they weren’t interesting.

  41. Martin S says:

    Luke – I imagine Lionsgate will be fine with Kick-Ass. The difference between it and Watchmen, from a financial standpoint, is that Kick-Ass was a pick-up, and Lionsgate didn’t have to fund the production.
    They overpaid, dramatically. 50Mil before P&A. K-A cost less than 30. I don’t think they’re kewl because its another step towards forced restructure.

  42. The Big Perm says:

    MI3 didn’t treat it as such either. It was just “get me this thing so we have a plot device.”

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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?”

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