MCN Columnists
Leonard Klady

By Leonard Klady

Star Shrek: The Wrath of Con

May 23, 2010

Shrek Forever After held sway ogre the weekend with an estimated debut of $72.5 million. The session’s other wide opener MacGruber wound up a causality of ware with a humorless $4.1 million bow.

The Bollywood hybrid Kites touched a toe in the water with 208 playdates and its $1 million box office proved a warm result. The Hindi version in India opened to the second biggest debut of all time.

Hardly built for speed was the non-fiction Racing Dreams that ground to a halt with $5,800 after 33 laps. Newcomers in exclusive runs had some more encouraging results including the pre-Wall Street Michael Douglas in Solitary Man, which grossed $84,200 on a quartet of screens, and the drug-and-yarmulke Holy Rollers was blessed with $35,600 from a trio of venues. Also strong was the Filipino Here Comes the Bride with $46,600 in six exposures.

Overall business spiked from both the prior weekend and from the same period of 2010.

The fourth installment of Shrek was highly anticipated with advance expectations in the neighborhood of $100 million or just shy of it. However, as opening day loomed, tracking appeared to flag and pundits readjusted down to $75 million to $80 million. Industry honchos pondered how the reduced gross would be spun into a positive result.

The diminished return of Shrek Forever After is likely the result of a couple of key factors such as the franchise’s increasing shift toward a younger audience. Exit polls revealed that 56% of ticket buyers were 25-years-old or younger and females comprised 59% of the crowd. So it’s now a three quadrant movie. We may also be Shreked to death with library discs and merchandize that make it difficult to provide a new chapter that provides novelty and surprise.

The film also opened in nine markets internationally where it tallied an estimated $26 million. Russia’s $20 million estimated bow usurped Avatar (by 1%) as the biggest debut ever. Viewed as more commercially potent overseas, its release is largely being held up in Europe in light of the start of World Cup fever in three weeks.

Weekend box office climbed to roughly $155 million for a 9% boost from last weekend’s Robin Hood launch. It was 10% improved from 2009 when the debut of Angels & Demons nudged past Star Trek with $46.2 million to the latter’s $43 million.

If Shrek proved disappointing, the SNL-derived MacGruber had to be viewed as a catastrophe. Low end estimates had it at slightly better than $10 million and it climbed up into the mid-teens. One can well imagine the twitter effect working overtime with early viewers texting the bad news. Still, its Friday to Saturday decline was only 6% suggesting its target crowd wasn’t nibbling on the bait from the get-go.

The current weekend is likely to raise anxieties for a couple of upcoming sequels such as Sex and the City 2 and the finale of the Twilight saga. The 2010 summer is rife with sequels and remakes and if history is any barometer movie goers tend to become jaded and cynical after a couple of installments fail to live up to their hype.

-by Leonard Klady

Weekend Estimates: May 21 – May 23, 2010

Title Distributor Gross (average) % change * Theaters Cume
Shrek Forever After Par 72.5 (16,630) New 4359 72.5
Iron Man II Par 26.7 (6,400) -49% 4177 251.4
Robin Hood Uni 18.6 (5,310) -48% 3505 66
Letters to Juliet Summit 9.0 (3,040) -33% 2975 27.4
Just Wright Fox 4.2 (2,300) -49% 1831 14.6
MacGruber Uni 4.1 (1,610) New 2551 4.1
Date Night Fox 2.8 (1,510) -26% 1869 90.7
Nightmare on Elm Street WB 2.3 (1,060) -51% 2125 59.9
How to Train Your Dragon Par 1.8 (1,030) -64% 1751 210.9
Kites Big Picture 1.0 (4,950) New 208 1
The Back-Up Plan CBS .88 (820) -63% 1079 35.9
Babies Focus .68 (1,720) -32% 395 5.1
Death at a Funeral Sony .53 (940) -53% 561 41.4
Furry Vengeance Summit .51 (370) -77% 1369 16.3
Alice in Wonderland BV .47 (1,140) 7% 411 332.2
The Secret in Their Eyes Sony Classics .43 (3,300) 17% 131 2.7
City Island Anchor Bay .41 (1,760) -7% 234 4.2
Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Music Box/Alliance .39 (2,010) 4% 196 7.1
Clash of the Titans WB .37 (900) -70% 412 161
Oceans BV .36 (690) -52% 524 18.5
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $145.60
% Change (Last Year) 10%
% Change (Last Week) 9%
Also debuting/expanding
Please Give Sony Classics .24 (4,570) -2% 53 1.1
Harry Brown IDP .17 (2,590) 23% 64 0.83
Princess Kaiulani Roadside .14 (2,940) -25% 48 0.42
Solitary Man Anchor Bay 84,200 (21,050) New 4 0.08
Here Comes the Bride ABS 46,400 (7,730) New 6 0.05
Holy Rollers First Look 35,600 (11,870) New 3 0.04
Racing Dreams Hannover 5,800 (180) New 33 0.01
Two in the Wave Lorber 5,100 (5,100) New 1 0.01
180 South Magnolia 4,800 (2,400) New 2 0.01
John Rabe Strand 3,900 (1,300) New 3 0.01
Leslie, My Name is Evil E1 2,900 (970) New 3 0.01

Domestic Market Share: January 1 – May 20, 2010

Distributor (releases) Gross Market Share
Fox (8) 874.8 22.20%
Warner Bros. (14) 722.5 18.40%
Paramount (7) 686.8 17.50%
Buena Vista (8) 476.4 12.10%
Universal (8) 258.7 6.60%
Sony (13) 240.9 6.10%
Lionsgate (7) 194.7 5.00%
Summit (7) 84.9 2.20%
Overture (4) 67.4 1.70%
Fox Searchlight (3) 63.1 1.60%
MGM (1) 49.3 1.20%
CBS (2) 47.5 1.20%
Weinstein Co. (4) 34.7 0.90%
Sony Classics (11) 30.4 0.80%
Other * (145) 98.9 2.50%
* none greater than 0.4% 3931 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