MCN Columnists
Leonard Klady

By Leonard Klady

Weekend Box Office Report – September 19

A trio of new films was expected to duke it out for weekend bragging rights but Friday box office returns burst that bubble. The cops and robbers of The Town prevailed with an estimated $23.6 million while the high school angst and hijinx of Easy A took place position with $18 million; followed with a $12.5 million gross for the horror entry Devil.

The session’s fourth national bow was the family-targeted Alpha and Omega (in 3D) that ranked fifth with $9.2 million.

And despite the surge of new blood, weekend box office was no better than on par with 2010; albeit with fewer people buying tickets.

The frame was also chock-a-block with new additions in regional and exclusive play. The Toronto fest favorite Incendies had a solid bow in Quebec of $170,500 at 29 venues while another TIFF debut, the adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, rang up a per engagement average of $29,370 from four screens. Also good in limited exposure were Philip Seymour Hoffman’s directorial debut Jack Goes Boating and the black comic Leaves of Grass.

Though The Town was clearly out-pacing its competition in advance ticket sales, tracking pundits pegged the latter day Ridgemont High antics of Easy A as the box office leader for the frame. Devil was expected to be very close behind the duo.

But some unexpected twists altered the scenario. The most telling wild card was the fact that Devil went against the grain of drawing in women (horror films generally draw a majority distaff audience). Exit polls revealed the horror film’s audience at 60% while The Town, which was expected to be predominantly male, had a better than expected 45% female buyers.

Conversely, Easy A’s composition was two-thirds female and whenever two films display comparable strength, the one that favors males usually dominates. Men out-weigh women among avid filmgoers.

Weekend revenues should top out just shy of $100 million for a sizeable 24% boost from the immediate prior weekend. However, that also translated into a 1% box office drop from 2009. A year ago the debuts of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and The Informant held the top two slots with respective opening salvos of $30.3 million and $10.5 million.

Holdovers largely took it on the chin with last weekend’s chart topper Resident Evil: Afterlife going free fall by 63%. In general older titles saw their box office halved. The alternative hits of summer have pretty much run their course and specialized exhibitors are almost rabid about getting the deluge of film festival favorites on screen to bolster flagging sales.

Weekend Estimates – September 17-19, 2010

Title Distributor Gross (average) % change * Theaters Cume
The Town WB 23.6 (8,250) New 2861 23.6
Easy A Sony 18.0 (6,310) New 2856 18
Devil Uni 12.5 (4,460) New 2809 12.5
Resident Evil: Afterlife Sony/Alliance 9.9 (3,090) -63% 3209 43.8
Alpha and Omega Lions Gate 9.2 (3,490) New 2625 9.2
Takers Sony 3.0 (1,390) -48% 2139 52.3
The American Focus 2.7 (1,110) -52% 2457 32.8
Inception WB 2.0 (1,510) -29% 1305 285.1
The Other Guys Sony 1.9 (1,050) -43% 1827 115.3
Eat Drink Pray Sony 1.6 (980) -44% 1668 77.6
Machete Fox 1.6 (940) -63% 1704 24.2
Going the Distance WB 1.3 (660) -65% 2007 16.7
The Expendables Lions Gate 1.3 (720) -59% 1854 101
The Last Exorcism Lions Gate 1.2 (600) -64% 2013 40.1
Nanny McPhee Returns Uni 1.0 (600) -53% 1588 27.6
The Switch BV .91 (790) -55% 1158 26.6
Despicable Me Uni .86 (910) -48% 944 244.7
Lottery Ticket WB .62 (920) -49% 677 23.5
Get Low Sony Classics .57 (1,380) -34% 421 7.8
Vampires Suck Fox .54 (560) -64% 964 35.8
Toy Story 3 BV .43 (900) -44% 475 410.5
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $94.30
% Change (Last Year) -1%
% Change (Last Week) 24%
Also debuting/expanding
Catfish Uni .25 (21,080) 12 0.25
Incendies eOne .17 (5,880) 29 0.17
Never Let Me Go Searchlight .12 (29,370) 4 0.16
I’m Still Here Magnolia .11 (970) 11% 111 0.25
Jack Goes Boating Overture 30,300 (7,580) 4 0.03
Leaves of Grass First Look 24,300 (8,100) 3 0.02
Picture Me Strand 6,800 (6,800) 1 0.01
The Freebie Phase 4 4,400 (4,400) 1 0.01
GasLand HBO 2,800 (1,400) 2 0.01
Kings of Pastry First Run 2,250 (2,250) 1 0.01

Domestic Market Share – January 1 – September 16, 2010

Distributor (releases) Gross Market Share
Fox (15) 1232.8 15.60%
Warner Bros. (21) 1229.4 15.60%
Paramount (11) 1227.5 15.60%
Buena Vista (13) 1086.8 13.80%
Sony (20) 967.9 12.30%
Universal (14) 718.4 9.10%
Summit (9) 424.5 5.40%
Lions Gate (10) 382.2 4.80%
Fox Searchlight (4) 70.6 0.90%
Overture (5) 67.4 0.90%
Focus (6) 62.8 0.80%
Weinstein Co. (6) 60.3 0.80%
MGM (1) 50.4 0.60%
CBS (2) 50 0.60%
Sony Classics (18) 49.8 0.60%
Other * (235) 199.9 2.60%
7880.7 100.00%
* none greater than 0.45%
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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