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David Poland

By David Poland

Friday Estimates By Schmuckception Klady

A decent opening for Dinner For Schmucks… not a car wreck… not a home run. It’s a little behind Date Night, which benefited from a premise that was easier to digest. I think it says a lot that the ads and promo clips were all a running competition of which schmuck was the biggest schmuck. The core of the original film was the evolving relationship between The Schmuck and the smooth guy who brought him to the dinner. But in the ads, Steve Carrell’s eyes kept getting bigger (like a rodent in G-Force) and Paul Rudd got smaller by the day,
Of course, the single stupidest thing I have read comes directly from inside Paramount… that they somehow forced Jay Roach to change the movie, bringing up testing scores… and that this somehow got them a better opening. MOVIES DO NO OPEN BASED ON THE MOVIE ITSELF. No one knows what they are actually buying entering that theater. Changes to the movie may matter next weekend. But not this weekend. This opening is based on the success or failure of the marketing department, not the overall quality fo the film.
Inception‘s hold remains excellent, whether it’s #1 this weekend or not. This remains an utterly irrelevant stat that is market-dependent, not a real reflection of Inception‘s success… either way. That said, the film still seems to me heading to around $250m domestic and a slot as the year-to-date’s #4 or #5 domestic hit, both in total gross and speed of getting there.
Sony will chase $100m domestic with Salt. Not a disaster. But not a thrill either.
It’s funny. People get all worked up when I write about the 2-month strategy of a film like A Christmas Carol, suggesting that the opening wasn’t the car wreck the media made it out to be. And some will suggest that I am conversely too hard on a movie like Salt. ACC’s ultimate failure to make good on the long-view strategy means cutting it apart after it’s done. Salt was built to be a quick, big hit. There are things I am right about and things i am wrong about, but more than anything, perspective is what I beg of people. The goals a movie sets for itself are a dominant issue in any film’s box office story.
This is also why I see the media’s willingness to spin Inception as an adult drama, when it was clearly made and sold as an action blockbuster with a brain, as a big gift to WB. The film is a hit… will probably do significantly better overseas… and deserves the praise it gets. But when you get into box office chatter and it is compared to dramas instead of action films, it makes me laugh. (But it is rarely compared to The Blind Side, which made as much domestically with a straight drama that cost less than 20% of the Incept-o-budget.)
Charlie St. Cloud is a teen-appeal drama, opening to the low end of studio summer openings. But the hope is that it will do a chick-flick multiple, like Letters To Juliet, and be a nice, small, cheap hit for the studio at around $60m domestic.
WB can’t be thrilled with this opening for Cats & Dogs 2. Even with a strong children’s Saturday, this opening – with the benefit of the 3D bump – will be at least 20% off of the original film’s opening… and this budget has to be up more than 20% from the first film. Simply put, the film’s marketing was missing a funny line from a talking chihuahua. The first time out, the premise that dogs & cats had a secret life was front and center and compelling. Here, 9 years later, the message was unclear about everything except for cool CG of animals talking… which amazingly, is not enough anymore.
But this point for 3D haters… even a weak opening will make the 3D conversion on this film a profitable choice for WB. Until studios are convinced that they are actually losing business because they are releasing in 3D, $5m a picture for conversion is a no-brainer… even if it sucks. But this film is not the tipping point, as there is no reason to think that without 3D, this film wouldn’t have opened to a $3m Friday… uglier.
Grownups is winding down now, but it will likely end up being Sandler’s 3rd biggest film in his career. He still doesn’t sell overseas, but he is a machine here at home… nearly unstoppable by anything other than on occasional urge to be taken seriously.

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26 Responses to “Friday Estimates By Schmuckception Klady”

  1. Pete Grisham says:

    What Planet is Poland on?

  2. Geoff says:

    Dave, is it really fair to compare Inception to The Blind Side? Raising the bar a bit high, isn’t it? The Blind Side was a bizarre freak occurence and it certainly benefitted from holiday play-ability and awards that kept it chugging along.
    That’s like saying – hey, Sony and Will Smith have done a really nice job with Hitch, but their movie cost a lot more than My Best Friend’s Wedding and will gross significantly less. Just bizarre to make the comparison.
    And I don’t ANY ONE who is saying that Inception is an “adult drama,” has not come up in one review that way or even a box office report. It’s been put out there as a mind-bending action thriller, which guess what? It is. But the thing is….no real mind-bending action thriller has performed at this level since what…..1999? Matrix and Sixth Sense? And this summer has been littered with pre-sold action films with similar budgets (Knight & Day, A Team, Robin Hood, Prince of Persia, The Last Airbender) that have underperformed and will each end up doing less than half what Inception will do – and they were ALL easier sells with easier concepts to put in a 30 second ad. THAT’S why Warners deserves some kudos for pulling off Inception.

  3. IOv2 says:

    Do they have a similar sense of fraternity humour abroad Pete? If they do, then promote Sandler like crazy over there. If not, then, he’s a domestic box office champ. The guy just makes money hand over fist for the studio and he did it this year with a real turkey. That alone is some what commendable!
    That aside, everyone give David around of applause. He finally… FINALLY… did not throw Inception under the bus! IF I CAN CHANGE, IF YOU CAN CHANGE, THEN WE CAN ALL CHANGE!

  4. Geoff says:

    Great Rocky III reference, IO!
    “Yasya ba, YASYA BA!” (Russian for I fight for ME!) 🙂

  5. christian says:

    “Inception’s hold remains excellent, whether it’s #1 this weekend or not. This remains an utterly irrelevant stat that is market-dependent, not a real reflection of Inception’s success”
    Anybody have a Hot Blog Decoder Ring handy?

  6. Geoff says:

    Yes, I can see that Dave is pulling back a little on the Inception-bashing – I’m sure he still doesn’t want to be hearing about it six months later like he did for The Dark Knight and I get the sense that he definitely liked this film better.
    I like the “Schmuckception” headline, too.

  7. bulldog68 says:

    It is so similar the intent of the respective studios re ACC and Inception, which is why we will continue to disagree on this point Dave. IMO your take that ACC was planned as a small opening with expected legs to take it through just doesn’t jibe with the ensemble they put together of Carrey, Carol, CG and Zemeckis. Just like Inception they were aiming for that if not huge, but big opening, with the hope that momentum would propel it over the Christmas season. The opening, coupled with both competition and perceived failure, killed those chances.
    Also, and this is just my experience, but I can’t say that I have seen the great many comparisons you spoke of that were made between Inception and other adult dramas. I have more seen comparisons to other original movies as well as other thinking-man-action flicks like Bourne and yes The Matrix. No one was fooled into thinking that this was a drama, and no one tried to fool anyone either. We all knew and came for the “intelligent” action, and this time most people agreed that the “intelligence” paid off.
    And yes, The Blind Side deserves every kudos it can get, and its $250M would be an even more unexpected feat that the Inception $250M, the possibility of Inception doing these numbers were talked about as a possibility with most pegging it between $175M – $225M, so getting to $250M is an achievement, but never for the Blind Side which lived up to its name.

  8. Joe Leydon says:

    Have to admit: I called it wrong for Cats & Dogs. In fact, I actually thought it had a chance to nab the No. 1 spot. As David says, it’s not about quality on opening weekend. So what happened? Too many other choices out there for kids/families? Are families really starting to rebel against the 3-D ticket price mark up?

  9. mutinyco says:

    Actually, and I hate to be the one to point this out, but it’s Rocky IV…

  10. mutinyco says:

    Though I’ve always been partial to First Blood, Part II:
    “I want what they want…”

  11. Seyless says:

    Talking animals in film only work when they’re animated. Combine that with half-asses 3D conversion you get 4.2 million for opening day.

  12. Joe Leydon says:

    @Seyless: Well, the makers of Babe — and, for that matter, the original Cats & Dogs — might disagree with you on the talking-animals part. But, again: Is this some kind of 3-D pushback?

  13. berg says:

    Leydon, I didn’t see you at Two For The Wave … ever notice in INCEPTION that the window pane in the first dream is the same as the Legendary Pictures logo

  14. Joe Leydon says:

    @Berg: Can’t say I did. Another good reason to see it a second time.

  15. The line from Rocky IV is “If I can change, and you can change, everybody can change!” Sorry for the nitpick, but that’s the movie that turned me into a film nerd at the impressionable age of five (don’t ask because I can’t explain it).
    The Hitch/My Best Friend’s Wedding comparison is a bad example of an otherwise fair point, as Hitch ($368m worldwide on a $70m budget) outgrossed My Best Friend’s Wedding ($299m worldwide on a $38m budget).

  16. Seyless says:

    Looking at these #’s ( I don’t see anything that tells me this is some untapped genre. The really successful films are animated. Dr. Doolittle comes close but we all know Murphy was the draw. The fist Cats & Dog shit made 200 mill worldwide on a 60 million budget. How much of the 140 million could the studio actually claim as revenue?
    Anyway was there a 3D push-back? Hell ya, but the lack of interest for this type of movies does not help.

  17. I don’t think there is a 3-D pushback, but I do believe this is solid evidence in the NO column for the question: “Are audiences seeing movies they wouldn’t otherwise be THAT interested in just because they are in 3-D?”
    It will be beyond interesting to see the numbers for Step Up 3-D next weekend. That is just the kind of franchise where 3-D could be a real boon, in that more people are going to be genuinely curious what a Step Up picture feels like in 3-D than a given run-of-the-mill kiddie action picture. LexG called $45 million a couple weeks ago on Twitter, and while I think that’s a bit high, I’d imagine anyone even remotely interested in the Step Up franchise will seriously consider checking it out on opening weekend because of the sheer ‘unknown-ness’ of its 3-D conversion.
    Point being, how well Step Up 3-D performs will be far more important to box office geeks than how well The Other Guy opens.

  18. IOv2 says:

    I almost want to see Step Up 3D because they shot the damn thing in 3D. That alone might get me through the door because I really do enjoy 3D, when it’s REAL 3D and none of that post conversion crap.

  19. Geoff says:

    My bad, Scott – I meant “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” as the comparison to Hitch; Hitch was a star-driven romantic comedy that still overperformed, but to give it short shrift against a singular freak occurrence like My Big Fat Greek would have been unfair. That’s what I feel that Dave is doing, pretty much comparing any success to The Blind Side.
    And another mistake, sorry – I MEANT Rocky IV, of course. I pity the fool who makes that error, again….

  20. yancyskancy says:

    I really liked the first STEP UP. The second one wasn’t as good, but featured some fantastic dancing. At this point, I’m inclined to see the third one mostly out of curiosity about the 3D. Theoretically, it could bring something really exciting to filmed dance of this type, especially if the routines aren’t chopped up too much and favor full-body framing. Not sure if I’ll catch it opening weekend, but it’s definitely on my list.

  21. Joe Leydon says:

    I, too, remember liking the first Step Up — and being sorry I was too timid to predict a huge opening weekend for it. I don’t know if Step Up 3-D will have quite the same smash opening, but I’m genuinely curious to see a dance film in 3-D.

  22. LexG says:

    You can almost guarantee that STEP UP 3 is gonna be packed wall to wall with piping-hot fresh squack.

  23. IOv2 says:

    Squack? Really? Not a fan of POONTANG? Shameful.

  24. Anghus Houvouras says:

    i can’t wait to see the other guys. i love mckay’s films. but the marketing is terrible. it’s gonna tank.

  25. yancyskancy says:

    Don’t know about the general marketing campaign for THE OTHER GUYS, but the trailer seems to go over pretty big every time I see it in the theater. Seems like it could theoretically draw as well as, say, STEP BROTHERS.

  26. Anghus Houvouras says:

    yancy, i hope so. i hope it does well. but i have this feeling after Land of the Lost and the really nebulous marketing that the other guys will come and go without many people noticing.

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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.”
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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.

~ David Simon