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David Poland

By David Poland

Knight & Day & Sella & Goldstein

I appreciate that Tony Sella went on record and that Patrick Goldstein gave him a place to do it, regarding the opening of Knight & Day.
Bur here is where I have a problem.
Valkyrie opened to $21 million. It was sold as an action movie, albeit a WWII action movie, That is where Tom Cruise has been the strongest. It also opened on a holiday Thursday.
Knight & Day opened to a 3-day of $20 million. It is a romantic comedy with action, not an action movie, as such. This is uncharted territory for Cruise and not a genre variation that has a history of big numbers. No holiday.
Knight and Day, the supposed sure-thing romantic action comedy that did a belly flop at the box office”
“(T)he actor successfully opened 2008’s Valkyrie

Virtually the same opening… and Tom Cruise trying to kill HItler is NOT “a far more questionable commercial genre” than Tom Cruise trying to be Cary Grant. In fact, the genre Knight & Day was trying for is infinitely more difficult to pull off and sell.
And let’s not forget, MGM spent every dollar Fox did, if not more, selling their movie. It’s not like Valkyrie was some great underdog success. It did $200 million worldwide… and lost money because they spent so much marketing it to that number and because they wildly overspent on the action drama. That’s why, really, Bryan Singer is back at Fox overseeing X-Men movies.
Look… I’m not saying that anyone should be over the moon about the K&D opening. They would have been a lot happier at $35m than $20 million. But that said, you need to have some perspective on history and not the ideas that stick in your head based on your personal perspective. Fox wasn’t aiming at a stronger foregn version of What Happens In Vegas. They spent a lot more on it.
But I am constantly surprised by what gets picked as DISASTER and what gets a pass, even being called a success. And Tony Sella is right… the movie could get to $100 million domestic. Or at least $80m domestic. Or maybe it won’t.

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39 Responses to “Knight & Day & Sella & Goldstein”

  1. Ohman4 says:

    “That’s why, really, Bryan Singer is back at Fox overseeing the XMen Movies.” Brilliant – finally someone with good sense who speaks the truth. Too bad Warner Bros let Singer touch their Man of Steel franchise with his atrocious Superman Returns.

  2. Telemachos says:

    To a certain extent, I have to disagree, David. First of all, despite what genre K&D might be (I haven’t seen it), it’s certainly been marketed as an action/adventure (with a dollop of romance, of course)… it’s not been sold as a romantic comedy at all (at least, in none of the various trailers and TV spots I’ve seen). Secondly, it’s a much bigger production than VALKYRIE was (as I recall, the rumored budget for that was in the mid-60s, whereas the rumored budget for K&D is well over $100m). If Valkyrie had had a similarly large budget as VALKYRIE, its opening would’ve been considered a lot weaker too.
    Consider also that VALKYRIE was also considered to be a “troubled production”, even moreso than K&D. No one was expecting much from it…. so its modest opening, combined with its modest budget and the “hey, it’s not as bad as we thought!” reviews helped the perception that it did respectably. And in the end, that’s what it grossed: a respectable enough amount, though nothing particularly good.
    Lastly, VALKYRIE was marketed as a big of a prestige historical picture… and while that’s certainly a robust genre, it’s not exactly one that is a guaranteed money-maker… while K&D was pushed as a light action/adventure and released in the middle of summer, where even Cruise’s weaker summer hits have done well.
    Of course, if K&D develops the legs to get to $80m, it’ll gain enough respect to be considered a mild disappointment. But if it doesn’t (and at this point we don’t have enough data, although box-office trends don’t seem to favor K&D), then it’ll rightly be thought of as a disappointment.

  3. The Big Perm says:

    I love how the guy keeps saying the problem was that it was too adult and too different…nothing they were selling made it look like that at all.

  4. mutinyco says:

    I stumbled upon Risky Business last night on Netflix and decided to watch it for the first time in years.
    I swear, the opening dream sequence where the Stedicam follows him through the empty house to the bathroom with the naked woman in the shower is a riff on The Shining.

  5. Che sucks says:

    Dave – I have to disagree with your breakdown here. VALKYRIE was by far the tougher sell.
    First, it certainly was not being sold as an action movie. Look at the trailer again:
    The K&D trailer had much more action in it. VALKYRIE’s marketing has a much stronger drama angle (w/ a few doses of thriller) than action flick.
    Second, Cruise had the fresher taint of couchgate. He was wearing a freaking eye-patch and playing a German – which had the potential for easy parodymockery. SAVING PRIVATE RYAN might have launched a new wave of WWII flicks, but very few actually did much at the boxoffice other than the godawful PEARL HARBOR; the totals for VALKRIE were pretty respectable in this genre. On top of that VALKYRIE’s release date had been moved a bunch of times, which had people pegging this as a loser-to-be [which I recall you scolding people about during the stretch of musical release dates for the movie].
    You’re completely right about expectations are everything on the breakdown with these two Cruise films but I think you’re neglecting some key things in the VALKYRIE equation.

  6. chadillac says:

    ‘If Angelina Jolie opens “Salt,” a July 23 action thriller that looks eerily like “Wanted,” her last action thriller, then we’ll have to wonder if Cruise and Diaz really have completely lost their drawing power.’
    This is the most foolish analysis in the entire story. Angelina Jolie is expected to open a movie in her most successful genre. She’s done it alone before, and not doing that is failure. Tom Cruise is out of his comfort zone, and Cameron Diaz has never delivered alone.

  7. bulldog68 says:

    “It is a romantic comedy with action, not an action movie, as such. This is uncharted territory for Cruise and not a genre variation that has a history of big numbers.”
    Gotta say Dave, I have not seen K&D yet so I can’t definitively say what it IS, but to me the promos are more action heavy first with the romance as the appetizer. No judgment on what you said, but that’s the impression I have going in. Its like they took Ethan Hunt, dumbed him down, loosened him up, but with the same skills and even more bravado, and gave him a dick.
    I found Valkyrie more the departure for him because it wasn’t in that seetomrun/runtomrun collection. Plus I think that romantic action comedies are the easier sell, because you can get the female audience along for the ride. How many females were lining up for Valkyrie. This far only three war action/dramas have grossed over $100M, Saving Private Ryan, Pearl Harbour and Inglorious Bastards, and the top ten takes you all the way down to $33M for Flags of Our Fathers.
    Also when you consider that this 3 day weekend is almost identical to the Bounty Hunter with two lower wattage stars, and just $5M more than Killers, this opening was underwhelming, and even though Tom’s movies tend to have some legs, cant say that the future looks rosy for this one.
    I don’t think Tom in this role was as difficult a sell as you are making it out to be. I just think that Tom and Sandler share a large audience and those males more faithful to Sandler and the older females were taking the kiddies to Toy Story and Karate Kid and with the teen female version of the World Cup coming next week, Tom, once king of the box office didn’t stand a chance. Right genre, wrong weekend. IMO
    That being said, when Tom plays lawyer he’s knocked it out of the park, with The Firm and A Few good Men being films I enjoyed tremendously back then. I’m surprised that he hasn’t drunk from that well again. Despite his off screen follies he’s still a solid actor in my book, and to me if he would stop trying so fucking hard and just do what he’s capable of, time will pass and so will these memories.

  8. Joe Leydon says:

    OK, let me be absolutely certain here before I respond: David, you’re saying that you think Valkyrie was an easier to sell, more obviously commercial project than Knight and Day?

  9. Joe Leydon says:

    And BTW: Tom Cruise already has been Cary Grant. Look back at Mission: Impossible 2, a movie that reprises great big chunks of Notorious with Cruise as the Grant character.

  10. tfresca says:

    Isn’t the real problem here not the grosses but the budgets. If they make this thing all in for say $80 million there’d be no question they’d get a return on investment and make money.. You spend $130 million or more on something getting to profitability gets a lot harder. Sandler movies by comparison, their only cost in Sandler and I’m sure he’ll take an up front cut for back end. I have a feeling even if Predators is a flop it may still get to profitability because it didn’t cost a fortune.

  11. EOTW says:

    It’s time to admit it: Cruise is, as is Harrison Ford (just one example), finished as a megastar. He’s had his run, but he’s finished. He’ll never star in a culture changing movie again. It’s a fact. the public thinks he’s a whackadoo. Period.
    Look, I think he’s a helluva actor but he just isn’t doing it for most of us anymore.
    What he needs is less flash, get back to doing two or three truly great dramas to re-establish himself as an “actor,” something along the lines of BOT4OJ.

  12. torpid bunny says:

    I see MI2 as more of a homoerotic fantasia, with Cruise and Dougray Scott playing the tragic romantic leads. Only their shared love of airborne motorcycle gun-chases can bring them together…

  13. Sam says:

    K&D was very obviously trying to be the next Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Not only didn’t it open that big, it didn’t open *close* to that big. Whether those expectations were realistic or not, the film failed its box office mission and is thus justly considered a disappointment.
    I don’t see that Valkyrie was ever chasing those numbers, though probably they were hoping to stumble into them. I also don’t see that it was sold as an action movie but more like a war drama with maybe some thriller elements. In any case it was not at all a traditional pre-sold genre film. It was a risk, and the marketing department had to work hard to get it as far as they did.

  14. Krazy Eyes says:

    Sorry DP . . . gotta agree with the other comments here that your analysis of this situation seems sloppy and unconvincing.

  15. jasonbruen says:

    On the comparisons of K&D to Bounty Hunter… maybe the overall star power is event, but Aniston is much more a draw power than Diaz (and Cruise is much more than Butler).
    Though K&D might not have been sold in the vains of a true romantic comedy, there were/are certainly comedic aspects of their marketing campaign. It certainly comes across as more light-hearted than a pure actioner. Very similar in the Killers/Mr and Mrs Smith vain. Maybe we should call these comedic actioners or something.

  16. Hopscotch says:

    I forgot how dreadful MI2 was. Just stupid, after stupid, after stupid, after slo-motion stupid.
    Hanks – who has not been AS famous AS long as Cruise – has wisely steered his career into new directions. Cruise would be smart to follow. No MI:4.

  17. udterp says:

    Bosom Buddies came out in 1980 and he was the breakout star. Their careers have been pretty much on the same time frame.
    Hanks just kept getting bigger during his evolution.
    It’s harder for Cruise, no matter his underrated skills as an actor, to vanish in a role the way Hanks does. Hanks becomes linked with characters.
    Outside Jerry McGuire, it’s hard for an average person to name a Cruise character.

  18. The Big Perm says:

    Hanks is great at servicing the story. A cruise movie is usually about Tom Cruise first, and whatever else is happening second.
    Cruise has NEVER done a role like Cary Grant. Cruise does boyishly charming, but not in Grant’s style and I don’t think you can compare at all a Mission Impossible movie to North by Northwest…I love them both, but they’re entirely different in all ways. Clooney is doing Cary Grant roles.

  19. Stella's Boy says:

    Didn’t Cruise see Knight & Day as a continuation of his career resuscitation, something somewhat light that allowed him to be funny and charming and do some action? In addition to the dumb title, the marketing was pretty bad, and a $20 million opening for a Tom Cruise mainstream summer flick doesn’t seem like anything but disappointing.

  20. Cain says:

    “Couchgate.” I still think the public wildly over-reacted to Cruise’s “antics” FIVE years ago. The number of people who loath the guy became empowered and actively campaign against him. Now on any board, any video, someone will invariably leave a comment claiming that if you see his movie a 10% of the ticket value will go to the Church of Scientology. People never boycott THE SIMPSONS, even though one of the voice actors has given more than double to the “Church.” It’s like, you can be an adulterous, alcoholic, drug-using, woman-beating ahole, and the public will forgive you.
    Cruise’s problem is that he oozes desperation, and nothing is more off-putting to women than a try-hard nice-guy. Combine that with his ignorant and arrogant comments to Matt Lauer and women will refuse to pay to see him.
    The positives are that Cruise is well-liked and well-connected in the industry. Instead of ingratiating himself he should tell the public to fuck off, and make smaller, edgier films where the acting is the star rather than the concept or the action set pieces. (He tried LIONS FOR LAMBS, I suppose, working alongside the greatest actress of all-time, but have another go at it.)
    He doesn’t have any iconic characters from the aughts. Joel Goodson and Maverick from the eighties, Jerry Maguire and Frank TJ Mackey from the nineties. For this decade the best he can do is Les Grossman, whose more of a joke (and should NOT be overexposed in a feature film).

  21. IOv2 says:

    Cain, I would agree with you about the desperation, if it were not for the people who believe in one imaginary deity, not exactly being tolerant of people who believe in scientology. Again, it’s his religion and people are simply not tolerant of it, because their imaginary deity is more real than something conceived on a bender during a fishing expedition. That’s life but it’s hard to be a major movie star when you have people laughing at your religion and questioning your marriage.
    Cruise would have better off having sex with a hooker, beating her up, then found with a cross around his neck while snorting cocaine. This way, he would at least get forgiveness instead of now, where people just mock him for not being down with Big Baby Jesus.

  22. mysteryperfecta says:

    If scientology was “just another religion”, it wouldn’t matter. Its not. And its not the problem, anyway. Its all the other creepy stuff.

  23. jeffmcm says:

    The grey area is, how do you define what gets to be a religion and what doesn’t?

  24. hcat says:

    While it can get some props for ludicrius philosophy and willingness to seperate its believers with their money, without suicide bombers and people raping the children who are put in their care, it simply doesn’t qualify as a major religion.

  25. hcat says:

    This might be a good time to admit that my atheism can be as judgemental as their ‘religions’
    But staying on topic, I thought anything under a 3-day $30 million would be considered a complete failure on the do-we-still-love-Cruise referendum. But it could have a under 20% drop this weekend due to the two big contenders both skewing to a younger crowd (Twilight gets the older women but more of a girls night out SATC crowd than older couples). Still, I am flabbergasted that the biggest Fox release for the first half of the year will be Date Night.

  26. Triple Option says:

    First off, show of hands…How many people think Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz make a good couple? I don’t care if you show their pictures or don’t, has anyone forgotten what these people look like? I totally got the whole North By Northwest look thing, trouble is they aren’t Grant & Saint. Individually, maybe just as bright or brighter, but collectively if you ask me they go together like peas and green beans. Not off putting but far from exciting or complimentary.
    There was an issue w/the trailer but not sending mixed messages for me, it just looked sucky. I

  27. hcat says:

    As far as Hanks versus Cruise, Hanks was nowhere as big as Cruise until the early nineties. Sure he was a affable star, but not the huge BO star until League of Their Own (in which he had plenty of help). Gump cemented him in the stratosphere but to compare his Money Pit/ Man with One Red Shoe days to Cruise’s Top Gun/Cocktail era doesn’t wash.

  28. IOv2 says:

    Perfecta, I think to some people (and I have limited anecdotal evidence about this) his religious beliefs are creepy. He believes in something that countless people, recently in this blog, do not believe to be a religion. You essentially are stating that his beliefs do not matter and are not major enough, but that’s his religion and his non-christianity is a big deal to people.
    That aside, Triple makes very good points. While I am the only one who liked that poster. The movie has that whole “Do we really need this thing” kind of vibe to it. The last flick that I remember having that vibe was Six Days and Seven Nights.

  29. bulldog68 says:

    Also got that ‘rent it’ vibe from K&D. I still wanna see Tom in movies,just this one did not feel like I wanted to give up my comforts of home for.
    As for this remark: “On the comparisons of K&D to Bounty Hunter… maybe the overall star power is event, but Aniston is much more a draw power than Diaz (and Cruise is much more than Butler)” Jasonbruen, I say, in which universe.
    All JA’s hits have been with strong male leads, Bruce Almighty, Marley & Me, The Break up. CD on the other hand, not counting the Shrek franchise still has goodwill with the general public, she was the main lead in Charlie’s Angels, was on everyone’s top list since The Mask, My Best friend’s Wedding, and There’s Something about Mary. Got some indie cred, though that might be lost now, with Being john Malkovich, also appearing in Any Given Sunday and Gangs of New York couldn’t hurt anyone’s resume, and got the weepy My Sister’s Keeper to almost $50M. I think she got the friendly Jennifer Anniston.

  30. bulldog68 says:

    That should be ‘I think she got the friendly Jennifer Anniston “BEAT”.

  31. hcat says:

    especially looking Love Happens last fall. Sure Universal has had trouble opening anything lately but the lackluster performance of that and Management, which I heard good things about and realize it was also dumped but also did poorly considering those cirmumstances, speaks to the fact that she is not a strong draw.

  32. mysteryperfecta says:

    IOv2- I’m sure Cruise’s scientology matters to some people, but out of those people, it’s mostly about THE WAY he’s been identified with the group. There are other actors involved with scientology that do not have instances of unsettling word and deed to blight their reputation. Cruise does.
    In his defense, its not Cruise’s fault that the scientology promo reel was leaked, which is creepy only because we don’t know what the hell he’s talking about. Also, since he’s scientology’s most famous face, he stands to take a hit for any general disdain.

  33. Joe Leydon says:

    OK, one more time: David, you’re saying that you think Valkyrie was an easier to sell, more obviously commercial project than Knight and Day?

  34. David Poland says:

    Valkyrie was much, much, much more in Cruise’s sweet spot than Knight & Day is… and honestly, I didn’t quite get that until I took a real look at Cruise’s history.
    He is not a light chatter guy. Even Jerry Maguire didn’t open.
    I’m not saying that Valkyrie was an easy sell. They hid the eyepatch. They never let people know how boring it was. And they sold the notion that, against logic, they got Hitler. It was strong, focused, expensive marketing.
    And Knight & Day was a bit of a marketing mess because the movie is a tweener and they kept trying to sell a tweener. No one can – almost ever – open a tweener big.
    I disagree strongly that they were selling AN ACTION MOVIE. No. The ads and every clip they showed on shows had that back and forth thing with Diaz… him and that “with me, here… without me, here” thing. They went after men and women at once and didn’t completely convince either.
    So… simplifying to “was it easier to sell Valkyrie or K&D” is kinda bullshit. K&D was a much bigger challenge than most of the commenters here seem to get. And Fox didn’t find the trigger.
    Valkyrie was all kinds of hard… but they found exactly the best way in to maximize it as best as they could. Much better job.
    That said, there is still a very real chance that K&D will end up outgrossing Valkyrie worldwide.

  35. Joe Leydon says:

    I’m not sure I buy some of your reasoning here, David. For one thing, you introduce a purely subjective appraisal — “They never let people know how boring it was” — as objective fact. Wasn’t this the very thing you were criticizing Mutiny for doing last weekend when we were debating whether Will Smith or Johnny Depp is the world’s biggest movie star? I mean, I thought Valkyrie was exciting and engrossing, but so what?
    Actually, you could argue that Valkyrie was a slightly better reviewed movie than Knight and Day — check out their respective ratings on Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes — and that Valkyrie obviously generated the sort of favorable word of mouth buzz that gives a movie long legs. (As you say, correctly, the opening weekend says more about the marketing than the quality of the movie.) Of course, Knight and Day could also be a long-distance runner as well — it is, I agree, a bit early to be writing it off. And, actually, I think it will wind up outgrossing Valkyrie worldwide. Still, I would say that Valkyrie was by far the bigger challenge to market: A serious historical drama that, as most people walking into the theater knew in advance, had a downbeat ending. Released (in the US, at least) during the Christmas holiday season. Top-lining a star with a semi-tarnished rep, and dragging a lot of baggage (i.e., endless reports about production and release travails). And no major cast member under the age of 40.
    Incidentally: As fate would have it, Valkyrie will air several times this coming week on Showtime. I invite anyone to take a second (or first) look at it and decide whether Knight and Day was a more challenging movie to market.

  36. Joe Leydon says:

    BTW: During its first seven days of release, Valkyrie grossed $40.9 million (according to Box Office Moro). During its first seven days of release, Knight and Day grossed $31.7 million (again, according to Mojo). Now it’s probably unfair for a number of reasons to make direct comparisons — Valkyrie, after all, opened on Christmas Day. Still, I must admit: These figures surprised me.

  37. Sam says:

    What does the difficulty of marketing these two movies have to do with anything? Box office success or failure lies in what sort of revenues the studio is shooting for when it sets the budget, gives the greenlight, decides on a release date, etc. The movie succeeds if it succeeds in the mission the studio set out for it and fails if it fails. If Movie A and Movie B have the same budget and are chasing the same numbers, what difference does it make if one is a harder sell than the other? The balance sheet doesn’t have a row for “marketing challenge adjustment.”
    I can appreciate that K&D was a challenge for the marketing department. Doesn’t change the fact that the movie was made to pull in Mr. and Mrs. Smith money and is failing to do so.

  38. Joe Leydon says:

    But Sam: Aren’t you a bit curious about why certain films perform the way they do at the box-office?

  39. Joe Leydon says:

    So David: Any more comments?

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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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“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.

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