MCN Columnists
Leonard Klady

By Leonard Klady

The Weekend Report: July 11, 2010

Despicable Me animated weekend movie-going and easily outpaced the competition with an estimated debut gross of $60.3 million. The frame’s other national freshman, the sci-fi Predators, also posted impressive initial returns of $25 million to rank third, with The Twilight Saga: Eclipse weathering the onslaught quite well with a 50% hit that
translated into an additional $32.6 million.

The session also saw potent niche returns including The Girl Who Played with Fire — the second chapter of the Millennium trilogy — which bowed with $932,400. In Quebec, the high flying drama Piche – Entre ciel and terreelevated a lofty $620,000 at 86 venues, and the pound-for-pound favorite was the Sundance preemed alternative family dramady The Kids Are All Right, which rang up a hefty $72,430 average at an initial seven engagements.

The brunt of new films in exclusive release proved generally less impressive, though the American indie Winnebego Man rolled up with an encouraging $19,300 from two initial rest stops. And the Grease Sing-a-long was tuneful with a $77,400 weekend tally at a dozen oiled pit stops.

Overall revenues received a slight bump from the three-day portion of last weekend’s Independence holiday session, but a significant boost from the comparable frame in 2009. Weekend revenues nudged close to $200 million that translated into a 6% uptick from seven days prior and ballooned 39% from 12 months ago. Last year’s leader was the $30.6 million launch of Bruno with the second weekend of Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs close behind with $27.6 million.

Despicable Me, the yarn of an arch villain who can’t disguise a soft core, has had a singular rollercoaster ride getting into the multiplex. The original yarn — and Universal’s first foray into 3D animation — had been generating strong advance buzz. However, its momentum got sideswiped with the announcement that The Last Airbenderwould be retro-fitted stereoscopically and the fight for securing screens with depth turned vicious. Expectation dropped precipitously for Despicable with pundits spit-balling opening box office in the range of $35 million to $40 million. However, interest spiked markedly following the July 4 festivities, though trackers appeared to disbelieve (or at least downplay) the surge.

Summer 2010 has had its fair share of blockbusters with the most recent additions of a buoyant Eclipse and Toy Story 3 racking up numbers this weekend that have catapulted it to the biggest domestic gross ever for a Pixar movie. But the interesting wrinkle of the season is the number of alternative and niche titles that have been able to get a toe hold in the marketplace.

While hardly a new phenomenon (Kiss of the Spider Woman in 1985, et. al) and quite consciously a tactic eyed by every independent distributor, past history has suggested a glass ceiling and limited capacity for anything attempting to provide alternative programming to high profile, ballyhooed summer blockbusters. While spring and fall have myriad examples of niche films that have earned mainstream playdates based on commercial performance, the current period has generally revealed that the multiplexes simply don’t have free screens even for a seeming indie juggernaut.

Final numbers still need to be crunched but it appears that the major film circuits are making room at the inn for the more mature movie goer. The American population has been slowly skewing older and the industry (that generally takes an ostrich stance to such realities) seems uncharacteristically open to at least experiment somewhat to a more variegated marquee. The fact that the likes of Cyrus, Winter’s Bone and I Am Love continue to attract ticket buyers week after week while building screen count could foreshadow the biggest shift in summer programming since the last major seasonal changes in 1978 and 1989. ‘Bout time!

Weekend Estimates: July 9-11, 2010

Title Distributor Gross (average) % change * Theaters Cume
Despicable Me Uni 60.3 (17,360) New 3476 60.3
Twilight: Eclipse Summit 32.6 (7,300) -50% 4468 236.3
Predators Fox 25.0 (9,380) New 2669 25
Toy Story 3 BV 22.3 (5,940) -26% 3753 340.5
The Last Airbender Par 16.9 (5,280) -58% 3203 100
Grown Ups Sony 16.2 (4,690) -15% 3463 111.1
Knight and Day Fox 7.7 (2,940) -26% 2628 61.8
The Karate Kid Sony 5.6 (2,270) -30% 2458 164.5
The A-Team Fox 1.8 (1,460) -43% 1236 74
Cyrus Searchlight 1.4 (6,800) 76% 200 3.5
The Girl Who Played with Fire Music Box/Alliance .93 (8,400) New 111 0.93
Get Him to the Greek Uni .70 (1,580) -43% 442 59.4
Peche – Entre le ciel et terre TVA .62 (7,210) New 86 0.87
I Am Love Magnolia .54 (4,620) 2% 117 2
The Kids Are All Right Focus .51 (72,430) New 7 0.51
Shrek Forever After Par .46 (1,000) -48% 461 233.7
Winter’s Bone Roadside .45 (4,210) 5% 107 2.5
Solitary Man Anchor Bay .44 (2,560) -12% 172 3.5
Iron Man II Par .39 (1,170) -39% 333 309.2
Marmaduke Fox .36 (940) 0% 383 31.6
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $193.10
% Change (Last Year) 39%
% Change (Last Week) 6%
Also debuting/expanding
Restrepo Nat.Geo .11 (4,330) 85% 25 0.28
Grease (Sing-a-Long) Par 77,400 (6,450) New 12 0.11
Milenge Milenge Eros 63,500 (2,350) New 27 0.06
Winnebego Man Kino 19,300 (9,650) New 2 0.02
Madrasapattinam OK Media 10,300 (2,570) New 4 0.01
[Rec] 2 Magnolia 6,800 (1,700) New 4 0.01
Red Alert: The War Within Madhu 3,900 (430) New 9 0.01

Domestic Market Share: January 1 – July 8, 2010

Distributor (releases) Gross Market Share
Paramount (9) 1095.9 18.90%
Fox (11) 1056.5 18.30%
Buena Vista (10) 888.5 15.40%
Warner Bros. (17) 854.8 14.80%
Sony (15) 498.6 8.60%
Universal (10) 382.4 6.60%
Summit (9) 326.5 5.60%
Lionsgate (8) 241.9 4.20%
Overture (4) 67.4 1.20%
Fox Searchlight (4) 65.4 1.10%
MGM (1) 50.4 0.80%
CBS (2) 49.9 0.80%
Sony Classics (12) 38.9 0.70%
Weinstein Co. (4) 34.7 0.60%
Other * (186) 137.5 2.40%
* none greater than 0.4% 5789.3 100.00%
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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