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David Poland

By David Poland

Money & Morons

How can I be blunt enough about this?
If you are positioning the Shrek Forever After opening as a huge disappointment… you might be a moron.
if you are out peddling some crap about how this opening speaks to how people feel about 3D or ticket prices… you might be a moron.
If you are pushing an agenda that has little, if anything, to do with a bigger opening than ANY Pixar movie has ever had… you might be a moron.
I am SICK TO DEATH of entertainment writers taking their expectations of box office, based on tracking and spin and rarely any facts, and forcing the stench of failure onto a success. And conversely, hyping mediocre numbers into An Incredible Event every time they get surprised by something doing decent business.
It becomes news AFTER it happens, you foolish people. And after it happens, you should feel free to analyze it to your heart’s content using real facts and figures.
How To Train Your Dragon opened to a weekend 60% smaller than S4. Yet Dragon has been hailed as some kind of phenom in many journalistic circles because it held a little bit better than most animated movies, which tend to hold better than most other genres.
Meanwhile, the same idiot market analysts who hyped up an opening like Shrek 4 are now extrapolating until the cows come home trying to explain its failure… when it hasn’t failed. It’s a nightmare. (And of course, this comes from the geniuses who brought you, “UP is going to drag Pixar’s brand down” and “Ratatouille is too French to do business” and of course, “Kids will never sit through the silent part of Wall-E… downgrade Disney!!!”)
And don’t even get me started on the ticket counting fools out there.
All I can say is… take a fucking breath, people!
Right now, S4 is ahead of UP‘s first four days… which led to $730m worldwide, which would leave S$ about 10% off of Shrek The Third if it can maintain a strong trajectory. Would that still be written up as a failure or a disappointment… or are we all just stupid?
In the end, it doesn’t really matter and I should stop reading all the terrible journalism about box office. It doesn’t really change the revenues. Even the analysts are wrong so often that it doesn’t tend to affect stock prices. But as a journalist, it is embarrassing. And as someone who ends up explaining what the reality is to a lot of smart people who are believing whatever stupid spin is popular out there, which holds the ADD-addled interest of wannabe box office writers until Sunday brunch, it is infuriating.
Please don’t think that I am saying that everyone who has a different take than me on these things is a fool. There is plenty of room for disagreement in principle. And I am certainly capable of an incomplete thought that leads me astray from the core reality of a particular situation. But as when I criticize film critics for going herd – which I still assert happens 2 or 3 times a year in a big way, positive or negative – it is when it feels like someone threw a not-very-thought-out idea against the wall and then everyone seems to follow, each rationalizing it in their own way (so as to draw attention), that I am driven to distraction.
It’s lazy thinking. And while even a broken clock is right twice a day, it is usually wrong.
And then someone brings up A Christmas Carol… whose opening was overly attacked… which Disney didn’t actually expect to open much bigger… but which Disney did hope would hold a lot better into the end of the year. So… in the end, it was a clearly disappointing number vs expense. But that didn’t make the overly aggressive write-off of the film at opening the correct perspective. It was an incomplete perspective… that turned out to be closer to the end result than not.
But that is the rarity.
Conversely, The Dark Knight opened much better than I ever expected. But that didn’t mean that it was really ever going to challenge Titanic… and it didn’t get withing $800 million of the then-record-holder. Being wrong about one thing does not mean you are unable to stop, think, and analyze based on where you are after your misstep
On the third hand, when I am right about something like Avatar, literally from Day One, that doesn’t make me RIGHT either. I was actually wrong about how massive the film’s gross might actually be… about a billion dollars off. But I was closer to the end result than most. But it’s all a puzzle. Sometimes history is helpful… sometimes it throws you way off. Sometimes a leap of faith takes you somewhere great… sometimes to the toilet. And when we all start writing about expectations, it gets very, very blurry, very , very fast because whose expectations and which of that individual’s expectations, etc. No one funded Dark Knight with the idea that it would have a $100 million opening, but by the time it opened, had it missed that mark, WB would have been disappointed. No studio funded Kick-Ass… full stop. But when this hard R comic book movie opened to just under $20 million, it was like someone had died. Are we all nuts?!?!
If there is one thing I can encourage, whether you think my takes are right or wrong, is to really think and to be serious about finding perspective, even in the short term. Just because everyone wants to be first, to fly to conclusions, to come up with the hot angle, does not mean that thinking, caring, smart people should not rise above the breathlessness of the culture around us.

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45 Responses to “Money & Morons”

  1. bulldog68 says:

    Expectations are a cold hearted bitch. I think the more measured analysts posit the Shrek opening as a disappointment only when comparing to the 2 & 3. It would be interesting purely from a numbers perspective to see what Shrek 1’s numbers are when adjusted for inflation, and purely as a measurement exercise, to see how this opening stacks up.
    However looking at some sites like Box office prophets and a few others, you’d swear Shrek opened to $10M. Pixar, with all it’s goodwill, still has yet to top this opening, and UP and some serious heat going in, reviews, audience awareness, everything, so Dreamworks’ “failure” is stratospheric success for others.
    That being said, the stink of failure, perceived or real, is something that can be hard to get over. If I were DW, and this was truly the last Shrek, I’d have a marketing campaign that actually did some mea culpas for Shrek3 and link this to Shrek1 as much as possible. I’d pull every quote I could find, including Dave’s, about how much this is closer to the original. IMO Shrek is still a loved character and people would like a proper send off.
    And though I don’t think this will do UP numbers, I still see this above $200M. The only thing I see in its way is if Prince of Persia surprisingly pulls the family crowd and is shockingly good.
    P/DW will have 3 X $200M films before 1/2 the year goes. Is that some sort of record?

  2. If you really hate lazy “reportng,” Dave, check this guy out…
    But yeah… back on topic… I’ve pretty much given up on box office prognostications. When someone like Paul Dergarabedian is considered a top expert in the field chafes my hide to no end. His “analysis” is lazy, and his writing style is reminiscent of a high school freshman. This is his opening take on this weekend’s box office…
    “Perhaps a reflection of the rejection by families of the higher movie ticket prices currently being charged, there was a less

  3. Sams says:

    True. There seems to be a proliferation of box office prognosticators and most have no business writing. Their analysis if often laughable and the basis for some of their estimates defies understanding.

  4. Don Murphy says:

    You know you’re a moron IF-
    – you think P/DW actually makes money on the Marvel or Animation films
    – you quote budgets of films as gospel without even seeing a budget top sheet
    – you moan about admittedly ethics-free NIkki Finke while gathers more news than Variety or The Reporter COMBINED
    – you allow JefMcm to still post on your Blog

  5. I’d wager 90% of those who write box-office analysis don’t really do the grunt work. They are basically rundowns of the top ten films, with a sentence or less of studio-approved ‘context’ (‘wow, I guess Iron Man 2 didn’t beat The Dark Knight after all!’), and/or a random attempt at lazy humor (‘Gee, I guess Shrek wasn’t seeing green this weekend!’). Paul Dergarabedian and his ilk don’t really offer anything other than a glorified press release, much of which inexplicably gets treated as ‘analysis’ despite offering no opinions. I do believe that Box Office Prophets can get on their ‘tear down the big studio film’ kick here and there, but they do the math and provide a genuine analysis beyond a glib recitation of the numbers.
    As far as tracking and expectations, the problem comes when predictions become treated as news, if not outright facts. Box office prediction is basically a game and it should be treated as such. When tracking and/or arbitrary predictions becomes the gospel, that’s when you get ‘the sky is falling’ articles like the ones we complain about. The key rests in being able to say ‘the fault lies not with the film’s box office take, but with our own incorrect predictions”.

  6. Krillian says:

    There is a critic out there right now who will compile his Top Ten of 2010 and it’ll be ten little flicks no one’s ever heard of, and his Worst Ten of 2010 will all have a budget of at least $80 million.

  7. Geoff says:

    Dave, have to say that I think you are over-reacting just a bit.
    Yes, this film opened to about as much as any Pixar film.
    Yes, the opening was pretty big.
    But sorry, there is no way any one can spin the opening as not disappointing RELATIVE TO THE FRANCHISE.
    It opened to $50 million LESS than its predecessor – that’s a pretty big drop, man.
    I mean, wow, in about two years if The Dark Knight Returns (or whatever it will be called) opens to just about $120 million, do you think it will be considered disappointing? Will folks say “Hey, it opened to 3/4 of its predecessor, but it opened to more than the first Iron Man!”
    Yes, genre comparisons are relevant, but the film is called Shrek and comparing it to the performance of other films called “Shrek” is fair game.

  8. Brian Aranas says:

    Yeah, I have to agree that RELATIVE to the series it should be considered disappointing.
    I’m sure it’s entertaining as heck but I won’t see it ’til it’s at the $ theatre myself.

  9. Geoff says:

    And another thing – what is with your ongoing gripe against How to Train Your Dragon?
    The film will end up grossing 5X its opening – it will be the first CGI-animated film to accomplish that feat since the original Shrek. Others have come close – Finding Nemo and Happy Feat – since then, but no other animated film has had those kinds of legs. Pretty impressive.

  10. Biscuits says:

    Shrek OW: 42.3 million
    Shrek 2 OW: 108.0 million
    Shrek 3 OW: 121.6 million
    Shrek 4 OW (with 3D bump): 70.8 million
    David Poland: If you are positioning the Shrek Forever After opening as a huge disappointment… you might be a moron.
    How To Train Your Dragon OW: 43.7 million. Total domestic gross: 215-220 million. Biggest non-Pixar, non-Shrek animated movie in history.
    David Poland, a month ago: “HTTYD is still running 5 million behind Monsters and Aliens. Good, but not 3D good.”
    Take away the 3d bump and Shrek 4 opens to less than half what it’s predecessor did. And yet you defend it. HTTYD opens weak but has remarkably strong legs, clearly setting up a potential Shrek-like series/cash cow, and you continually attack it.
    Shrek 3 managed only a 2.65x domestic OW multiple. And yet Poland, inexplicably, chooses to compare Shrek 4 with UP, which like most Pixar movies had a strong 4.3x domestic OW multiple.
    HTTYD managed a 5x domestic OW multiple, and Poland compares it’s OW… to Shrek 4’s OW, saying it was 60% lower. Than a sequel. To the most popular animated series of all time.
    I wouldn’t mind the bizarre spin if it wasn’t smack in the middle of a post attacking other people for their bizarre spin. To borrow a Poland-ism: Box Office Expert, heal thyself.

  11. Jeffrey Boam's Doctor says:

    Biscuits thank you for posting the reality. DP ‘your perceptions’ are what caused your positioning to be in fantasy land.
    I could care less about SHREK as all the films look like ugly commercials for cancerous cereals but DPs insistence in comparing a hit franchise to unknown debuts is bizarre.
    I really do like your analysis DP as you do bring in lots of angles but on this I think you’re way off.
    And like Don I’m sick of people using Mojo as the real bottom line for budgets. No one knows the real budget until smoking gun gets them. And even then those aren’t real. They’re studio real which means less than nothing.

  12. brack says:

    I don’t think Shrek 4’s opening is a disappointment at all. If anything, it’s still impressive considering how unwatchable Shrek 3 was. By unwatchable, I mean I started watching it on cable one day and gave up about 1/3 of the way through. Horrible story, and just not funny. I used to like Shrek, but I’m sick of that green ogre, and I think a lot of other folks are too.

  13. IOv2 says:

    “I could care less about SHREK as all the films look like ugly commercials for cancerous cereals but DPs insistence in comparing a hit franchise to unknown debuts is bizarre.”
    The cancerous cereals thing is just funny. Oh yeah, let me just throw in the perceptions of someone on this blog that ignored a possible 3d bump to some film that I am not very fond of, but that’s just what it is.

  14. LexG says:

    Nothing on topic or anything ANYONE will care about but:
    What happened to THE ROAD?
    Didn’t that come out like NINE MONTHS AGO? Was every print of that in existence burned and all plans for DVD shelved? It was on my 10 best of 2010, then never really got a release in 99% of the world, and far as I know STILL hasn’t come out on DVD, I don’t know ANYONE who even remembers its existence.
    Is it to go the way of VIC MORROW in GREAT WHITE as an entirely MIA movie never to be seen or heard from again?

  15. Coolface says:

    Lex, um, The Road came out on DVD YESTERDAY.

  16. Coolface says:

    Lex, um, The Road came out on DVD YESTERDAY.

  17. christian says:

    I think the difference is that DP liked SHREK and HTTYD not so much. That’s usually where his objectivity falls apart.

  18. Stella's Boy says:

    Success and expectations are a bitch. When Shrek Part 4 opens, are people more likely to compare it to three previous Shrek movies or How To Train Your Dragon? Why wouldn’t it be compares to the three other entries in the series? Granted, its opening doesn’t mean it’s a failure, and putting it in context as far as the history of animated film opening weekends is all well and good, but I don’t understand why you wouldn’t compare the opening weekend to parts 1-3. That is relevant.

  19. Sam says:

    Biscuits: Are you seriously blasting David Poland for calling HTTYD “good” instead of “great” BEFORE its performance actually BECAME great?

  20. Foamy Squirrel says:

    Actually, Shrek 4 is one of the few cases where expectation and hype are legitimate subjects, since Dreamworks is a publicly traded company with revenues of around $700mil – of which Shrek 4 was probably expected to contribute at least half. The share price is based on expectations of future cash flows (and resulting dividends), so if the box office is less than expected it means the payouts will be less – which resulted in the 11% share price drop.
    Talking about the cause of the lower box office is the realm of speculation, but as long as everyone makes it clear it’s speculation and there’s not terribly much evidence either way I don’t have too much of a problem with that. It would be nicer if there was a logical argument with evidence instead but, let’s face it, you’re never going to get that without Dreamworks (or any studio) coughing up more information than is good for them.

  21. mutinyco says:

    It’s amazing how quietly Alice has done $1B ww. Especially since it’s on track to pass TDK. Which would mean that in the 2 years since its release, it’ll have been passed by 2 movies.

  22. David Poland says:

    You know you’re a moron IF-
    – you think P/DW actually makes money on the Marvel or Animation films
    You need to be more specific on this. You’re saying there is zero financial upside for Paramount as distributor of these films?
    – you quote budgets of films as gospel without even seeing a budget top sheet
    Don… I’ve seen top sheets that are false. You have, over the years, caused me to be even more careful about “budgets as gospel,” but I think you would have to admit that there is a lot of lying in multiple directions with budget. (PS Did I mention a budget in this piece?)
    – you moan about admittedly ethics-free NIkki Finke while gathers more news than Variety or The Reporter COMBINED
    No question that the trades have abdicated to Nikki and Sharon… who are running more press released as news than the trades now, yes… and as little actual reported news as the trades ever did. If you don’t care about ethics or journalistic standards, be thrilled. But when it bites you on the ass, I am guessing you won’t be so smug about it.
    – you allow JefMcm to still post on your Blog
    Freedom of speech only extended to those we like is not freedom of speech.
    You make my point, even as you attack. You are getting enraged about The Answers before the answers actually exist. You are right… as acknowledged… history can be bullshit or it can be The Truth. Only time will tell.
    Get it?
    What’s funny to me is that the people who seem to be upset about my position here are still arguing Shrek 4 only… which again, is my point. All kinds of comparisons may be right or wrong.
    Brack has a great point that speaks, again, to the Batman thing. By Batman standards, Batman Begins was a DISASTER! Much close to Batman & Robin, in terms of box office, than any of the others. (And God, let’s not play games and pretend that mid-200m in the mid-90s is not pretty analogous to mid-300m worldwide in 2005.) BB was #8 in 2005 and B&R was #12 in 1997.
    But it wasn’t a disaster. And the media didn’t play it off as one because… taa-dah! – “they” really liked the film. And because, in fact, the argument could well be made that it was a Top 10 box office movie that year and that it made some money and that it boded well for the future of the franchise. All reasonable.
    If the only context was the rest of the Batman series, then WB made a terrible decision to go with Nolan ans should have rebooted again.
    Flip side… if Superman Returns is only in the context of the franchise, it did rather well. Better than Batman Begins. #6 domestic in its year.
    But in context, it was clear from opening weekend that WB had allowed Singer too much latitude in creating his vision, shoved the movie into full production hastily (for all kinds of reasons that seemed reasonable at the time), and it just didn’t work for the masses.
    I’m not saying that Shrek 4 won’t end up being disappointing for DWA. It might. But the expectations game is not being played smartly. It’s being played as though the entire value of a film SHOULD be determined on friday afternoon, definitively, sealed in the vault… because you know, when these Great Positionings are wrong (and they often are before the end of the weekend… see: Babies), no one ever goes back to clean up the mess. And that is irresponsible, in terms of journalism. Geez… how many outlets ever report the finals at all, much less with all the flowery language of Sunday’s estimates?
    In the end, the gross is the gross. Multiples are only terribly relevant in context or with extreme cases. Tickets sold is meaningless. The 3D obsession is now just a line of people wanting to be the first to have killed off 3D.
    We can argue about the specifics of Shrek 4… that’s fine. But no one knows what it will do this next weekend or for the five weekends after. No one knows what it will do overseas. These are the answers.
    Why was there a Spider-Man 4 being rushed into production with a 30 year old in tights playing a teen? Foreign box office… not domestic.
    Why are studios not making many dramas? Budget level and DVD sales, not domestic theatrical box office.
    I am absolutely of listening to the media buzz and reacting… sometimes overreacting. But yes, the growth of HTTYD is an incremental step for DWA, not a major event. And Shrek 4 is not the massive opening that some expected… but also not a major event. And if it becomes that, fine.
    Take a deep breath and wait for the news to be news.

  23. Stella's Boy says:

    So the problem is that while clamoring to declare that Shrek 4’s opening weekend is a disappointment (at least when compared to previous entries in the series), too many used that yardstick to decide that it’s a box office letdown, even though the final number is far from being determined?

  24. brack says:

    Shrek Forever After is on track to become the 4th highest grossing 4th film of a series (unadjusted for inflation), behind Star Wars: Ep I, Indy 4, and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Considering the wild popularity and cultural significance of those those film franchises, I think Shrek 4 is doing spectacular.

  25. David Poland says:

    Stella – Use the yardstick… but understand that it’s not the only one.
    You may recall, people shit all over Avatar’s opening too. It’s not going to be anything like the same end result, but it’ my point.

  26. Stella's Boy says:

    Yeah I gotcha. Makes sense.

  27. Foamy Squirrel says:

    “And God, let’s not play games and pretend that mid-200m in the mid-90s is not pretty analogous to mid-300m worldwide in 2005.”
    Ladies and gentlemen, David Poland adjusts for inflation.
    Seriously, you’re calling the movie that pulled the franchise out of a boxoffice plummet, on a fractionally increased budget a “disaster”? Never mind the favourable reviews, I think you may have neglected a few items in your context…

  28. Sam says:

    Foamy: I think the words “But it wasn’t a disaster” in his post imply — admittedly obliquely — that he doesn’t really consider it a disaster.

  29. palmtree says:

    DP, a Freudian slip of the shift key if I ever saw one!

  30. David Poland says:

    Thanks, Sam.
    Obviously no, Foamy. And I believe I wrote that consistently when it happened.
    What I keep saying is… wait for more info… acknowledge the various perspectives… and don’t get so wedded to history that you can’t get it right. The same “history” can be thrown all over the place… but it’s not always relevant.
    Superman Returns, by historic perspective, did better than Batman Begins. But there are many reasons why in reality, it is not the case.

  31. jasonbruen says:

    Opening is only part of the story (though in today’s time, maybe a more bigger story). With Shrek 4, P/DW got a decent or good opening and it is clearly positioned for a big second weekend (a holiday weekend at that). Prince of Persia and Shrek 4 can both have huge weekends (but doesn’t Persia have bomb written all over it?).
    The second weekend goes a long way to help determining sucess and trajectory. If Shrek drops 30% this weekend, with Monday added in, the movie could get $60-65M this weekend and would have $150M by the end. I still think Watchmen had a good opening and would have done well if it didn’t take a dump the second weekend. Any talk of a disappointment would have vanished immediately.

  32. jasonbruen says:

    I guess to finish my conclusions, for big-budget or tent poles, if they open over $50M, success can hinge on the second weekend. As Dave mentioned, Avatar is the extreme for a good hold (or even improving) to Hulk/Watchmen/Valentine’s Day on the low end.

  33. Foamy Squirrel says:

    Fair enough.
    Actually, I had a glance over the Dreamworks annual report today. Looks like they lost a buttload on Monsters vs Aliens – despite grossing $380mil worldwide, Dreamworks only recognized $83mil in revenues (including 3 months worth of disc sales/rentals from September). Contrast with Madagascar 2 which generated $232mil in 2009 on a $600mil worldwide boxoffice.
    Even accounting for the 4months that seems a relatively low percentage of the gross for MvA. Are there some 3D exhibition charges that people aren’t mentioning?

  34. hcat says:

    DVD sales for Madagascar 2 might have been stronger due to the increasing popularity of the Penguins cartoon with the younger crowd, but the difference most likely has to do with Paramount’s distribution cut. Paramount probably has this and the Marvel deal set up like the opposite of the old Cruise deal where they take their entire cut up front and then the actual owner of the movie gets paid only if its a phenomenal success.

  35. Foamy Squirrel says:

    I’m dubious about whether that’s true – the distribution agreement (signed in 2006) is included in the report, and Paramount takes 8% plus costs. That’s unlikely to account for the drop from 38% of the BO gross down to 22%.
    Besides, Bee Movie – which took in a relatively measly $288mil worldwide – reported $111mil revenue, which is 38% of the BO gross just like Madagascar 2. Unless something huge happened around 10 months after release or there were some serious wonky goings on with DVD, Occam’s Razor suggests that it’s something to do with 3D.

  36. Foamy Squirrel says:

    Here’s 10mins worth of numbers from Mojo, The Numbers, and the shareholders’ report:
    Shrek the Third
    W/W BO (May 2007) – $799mil DVD (Nov 2007) Sales – $175mil Rental – $52mil
    Revenue: 2007 – $380.6mil (8 months) 2008 – $120mil 2009 – $54.3mil
    Bee Movie
    W/W BO (Nov 2007) – $287.6mil DVD (March 2008) Sales – $79.5mil Rental – $41.5mil
    Revenue: 2007 – $11.7mil (2 months) 2008 – $111.4mil 2009 – $36.7mil
    Kung Fu Panda
    W/W BO (June 2008) – $631.7mil DVD (Nov 2008) Sales – $132.4
    Revenue: 2008 – $211.5mil (7 months) 2009 – $106.1mil
    Madagascar 2
    W/W BO (Nov 2008) – $603.9mil DVD (Feb 2009) Sales – $108.5
    Revenue: 2008 – $24mil (2 months) 2009 – $232.4mil
    Monsters vs Aliens
    W/W BO (March 2009) – $381.5mil DVD (Sept 2009) Sales – $83.4mil
    Revenue: 2009 – $83.3mil (10 months)
    MvA kinda sticks out like a sore thumb in terms of revenues as a proportion of gross receipts.

  37. David Poland says:

    I am looking over the report now… my guess is that Paramount didn’t pay out on DVD in 2009 and that the revenue has been pushed into 2010. $300 million in “all other” revenue in 2009 will be hard to duplicate in 2010 and they wouldn’t want to have to explain a downturn. This way, they are up from 2008 and are sure to be up again in 2010… with some Shrek 4 DVD money likely pushed into 2011 to support that year.
    But still swimming through it…

  38. Foamy Squirrel says:

    Triple post – blahblah, usual caveats for these sites being inaccurate in their reporting. I’m assuming they’re ballpark within a couple of %.

  39. hcat says:

    When does the pay cable money get counted? Thats another, what, 12% of domestic gross?

  40. Foamy Squirrel says:

    That was actually my first thought, but it doesn’t seem to jibe with Kung Fu Panda which had a higher proportion of revenues in a shorter timeframe and they run on a “later of A or B” revenue recognition policy.
    None of the options seem very likely on their own – it’s unlikely to be TV sales given Panda’s timing. It’s unlikely to be a large drop in DVD given the alleged sales. It’s unlikely to be variation in exhibitor cut due to multiples of opening, as the report states they’re all within 5%. It’s unlikely to be 3D because given the 20+ 3D releases in 2009 any surcharge would be fairly common knowledge. It’s unlikely to be pushing the revenue into 2010, cos that’s a fairly material change in revenue on which they’re obligated to point out and the report specifically mentions how they eliminated the 30-day Paramount reporting delay.
    It’s pure speculation, and unlikely to get much clearer until the next annual report – exactly the sort of thing that DP rails against in the initial post. Of the unlikely options, a 3D licensing fee seems the most viable given the context of the other releases, but I’ll freely admit there’s not much evidence to support the theory. It could also be a “perfect storm” of minor dips in all the possibilities.
    Who knows? It is odd though.

  41. The Big Perm says:

    David Poland adjusts for inflation.
    David Poland adjusts for inflation.
    David Poland adjusts for inflation.
    David Poland adjusts for inflation.
    Welcome to the dark side, Poland. It’s sweet over here.

  42. David Poland says:

    Big Perm – I have always taken inflation to be a real thing and have NEVER written a single piece that doesn’t acknowledge the differences between tickets in previous eras vs now. This is why Ticket Sales and Adjusting For Inflation is stupid.
    Only in a blog fight in which some people are trying to spin my actual ideas into some sort of deluded brainless hype crap is it otherwise.
    Unlike most people, in here and even in the industry, I have lived through the last 30 years of box office evolution with eyes wide open. I remember the breathtaking $40 million opening of Batman. Did someone actually think that I didn’t understand that $40 million in 1989 was not very similar to a $160 million opening in 2010?
    Of course, if you use Mojo’s pulled-from-ass ticket price tool, Batman’s $40 million opening is analogous to an $80 million opening in 2010… half as good an opening as The Dark Knight. It would be the third best opening of this year so far.
    In other words… bullshit.
    So no, I am no where close to buying into adjusting for inflation. I adjust to logic and reason.
    Intelligent people can acknowledge the fact that the movie business was very different 10 years ago, 25 years ago, 40 years ago, 50 years ago, and 70 years ago. Trying to quantify it with formulas and limited detail is a fool’s errand.
    Whenever people come at me with stupid stats, I offer a quickly found anomaly of logic. Batman vs 2010 is one of those. If someone wants to keep arguing that the biggest opening of all-time in 1989 is the same as an $80 million opening in 2010 and that they know what the actual average price per ticket was in 1939, even though there is a ton of contemporaneous evidence suggesting that GOTW was not priced anywhere near the avg of that period (and none that suggests we really know the average of that period anyway), I can only say, “Enjoy living in the confused unreality of the obsessive.”

  43. The Big Perm says:

    Of course you don’t want to do a one-to-one inflation comparison…especially when ticket prices are artificially inflated well past everything else we buy. But that’s why Hollywood will get their asses kicked soon enough, because they figure more dollars are coming in as ever, even though audience is falling and as ticket keep increasing…well, the music industry learned what happens when prices are too jacked up.

  44. Biscuits says:

    But Poland… an extrapolated 80 million dollar opening for Batman in today’s dollars is neither bullshit nor an “anomaly of logic”. 89 Batman opened in 2200 theaters. 2008 Batman opened in 4366 theaters. An 80 million dollar opening weekend this year for a movie released in only 2200 theaters would be REMARKABLE. Just as a 40 million dollar opening in 89 was remarkable, and a 160 million opening on 4366 screens in 2008 dollars was remarkable.
    As long as people take the information in context (tv/home vid sellthrough/saturation of screens) and understand that it’s an estimate only, tickets sold is a worthwhile statistic to keep in mind, particularly with the current 3d bump.

  45. Sam says:

    Big Perm: “…especially when ticket prices are artificially inflated well past everything else we buy…” Last I knew, ticket prices were increasing at a slower rate than inflation, and it’s been this way for roughly two decades. I’m going on memory here; if you know statistics to the contrary, please share.
    Biscuits: If you’re considering all that contextual information, you don’t NEED tickets sold to refine the picture any. If anything, the number will be more misleading than clarifying, as it will be less accurate and informative than what you already know.

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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