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David Poland

By David Poland

Friday Estimates by Good Grandpa Klady

Friday Estimates 2013-10-26 at 9.43.11 AM

Gravity will close in on $200m domestic and pass $300 million worldwide this weekend. Don’t cry for me, Jackass Grandpa.

The only thing more profitable for Paramount this last decade than the Jackass brand is the Paranormal brand… and mostly because the horror films are so incredibly cheap. Johnny Knoxville may never become a successful mainstream actor (though I think he could, if he really focused on that), but he is the biggest star that Paramount has. Imagine what he would do with Jack Ryan of Mission: Impossible!

The other newcomer is The Counselor, which you could tell from a distance Fox thought smelled funny. They will be fortunate to get to $9m this weekend. My perverse nature is to want to go back to see it again, as any film that is so consistently reviled, especially coming from an often-great filmmaker, must have some redeeming feature I didn’t notice the first time around. But it might just be what it seems to be… a beautiful mess that didn’t force its novelist/screenwriter to conform to the demands of film soon enough in the process. (I gather that the working relationship between Scott & McCarthy was not always 100% smooth. Ahem.)

I took the whip to the LA Times yesterday over a messy, nasty, poorly reported (or edited or both) story about 12 Years A Slave yesterday and nothing about the box office changes my take on story.

That said, Friday was not a hugely encouraging day for the film’s box office future. The per-screen will end up between $12k and $15k on 123 screens… which is good. But it doesn’t scream out “big numbers to come.” It keeps the ultimate story of the film’s business life blurry.

There are not a lot of good comps for this. For one thing, it’s October. There are pretty much no examples of this expansion tactic being used in October. It’s usually, start in November, expand in December… or December to January. Searchlight’s Sideways started in November, didn’t expand to 100+ screens until December and then finally went wide in January. A long expensive road. Michael Clayton, which is one of the few October openers priming the pump with a release in the teens, went to over 2000 screens in its second weekend.

One hates to limit this to a comp to another movie focused on the Black experience, but Precious went 18 screens to 174 screens and the per-screen on both weekends was significantly higher. It was November. And it had Oprah power. When The Weinstein Co put out The Butler by Lee Daniels this August, with Oprah power, it went wide right out of the gates. And it worked.

For me, the problem I have feared for the film since Toronto was that the peak of passion by the media was so high then that there was no place to go but down… with a release date a month away. It’s just really hard to convert. That is why so many Toronto films with commercial aspirations open almost right out of Toronto or wait until late Nov/Dec to go theatrical.

How much media has attempted to ghettoize 12 Years A Slave, as the LA Times did (knowingly or not) by focusing on what might keep adult, especially female, audiences from going to the film instead of the reasons people get so much out of the film? I have no idea. I don’t read every paper in every city where the film is now open. How much of a factor in box office is media? At this level of release, it can be quite significant. And most of the media response has been glowing. But the role of media remains a curiosity. And in the end, when the film goes wider, Searchlight’s marketing skill will be the driver, more so than media.

Let’s see what happens. I don’t think anyone associated with this film ever thought it would do Lincoln business – no one who made Lincoln did – or even crack $100m domestic. But $40m – $60m domestic is about where the target was/should have been. Still doable.

For a positive comp, look to The Queen. Opened off of Toronto and NYFF, in exclusive for 4 weeks, until this same 2 October weekends, expanding to 99 screens “last week” and then 152 screens “this week” in 2006. At the end of the 99 screen weekend (its 4th), it was at $3.8m total. 12 Years will be at about $3.2 million after 2 weekends. The Queen had only one weekend over $3 million, which was the week after Oscar nominations. But it had 16 weekends with grosses over $1 million, the first on October 15 and the last on February 25. Those are some long awards legs. $56m domestic. And that is the track that Searchlight and New Regency are surely hoping 12 Years A Slave will take.

The news in arthouse releases this weekend is blue… Blue is The Warmest Color. 13 screens. About $7500 per (they now hope). It’s a long movie, so that is a factor in this narrow a release. Media continues to obsess on sex – on either side – though the amount of graphic sex in the film is only slightly higher percentage of the film than the scene with Sharon Stone crossing her legs in Basic Instinct. In fact, if you took all the rough sex stuff in that film and figured out the percentage of sex to screen time, it would be more sex than Blue. But I guess media was all aflutter about that peek-a-boo moment too. And these days, you get to see Rosario Dawson’s stuff in Trance and no one seems to care… or Scarlett Johansson going the full monty in Under The Skin causes little stir (which is actually as it is intended in the context of the film). Personally, I think the excitement – positive and negative – around Blue is because the sex is not only graphic, but actually sexy… the way your first tumbles in the back seat were sexy… and you’re either pleased with that, offended by that, or offended that others – perhaps those heathen of the opposite sex – are pleased with that. Regardless, the theatrical run of the so-much-talked-about film looks like it will be modest. In the theatrical business, sex doesn’t tend to sell so well. In the VOD business… through the ROOF!

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24 Responses to “Friday Estimates by Good Grandpa Klady”

  1. Mary says:

    “Blue is the Warmest Color” opened in 4 theaters, not 13.

  2. Gus says:

    Mary, he might be including the Canadian release, which is ongoing.

    My odd note for the weekend is the Counselor’s budget. Really $25M? I had it pegged at like $80M from watching the ads and considering the cast and director and source material. Saw this number and thought it was a huge flop but a $10M opening against $40-50M outlay seems more manageable.

    No idea how you land that cast and director with that budget tho.

  3. Hcat says:

    First you land the writer

  4. Chris says:

    “only slightly higher?” I beg to differ. And the actors have been talking non-stop about the sex (which, of ourse, means they’re getting asked), so it’s an issue that is out there.

  5. pj says:

    Who uses per screen averages anymore? Blue is gonna out open both All is Lost and Amour. Not even talking per theater wise, that is total gross for weekend.

  6. movieman says:

    I’m pretty sure “The Queen” was a NYFF exclusive back in 2006, Dave.
    I think it may have been New York’s opening night film that year.

  7. Bulldog68 says:

    I think your comparison of 12 Years to The Queen may be spot on with one exception Dave. If 12 Years becomes an event film for the African American audience, then that could help propel it past Queen’s numbers. Still agree this is not Lincoln territory, and The Butler did have the Oprah machine behind it so it may not do those numbers either, but also having a black Director is a positive, and perhaps monetarily so, asset, so $75m- $90m if the wind blows right might be doable.

    But it’s that first week of wide expansion that could be the killer. If it does well, then it’s box office legs is all but assured, but if it’s perceived as a failure, unfortunately because of the expectation game, then the wind will be knocked out of it’s sails.

  8. movieman says:

    Not sure why Searchlight didn’t go the route they’ve taken w/ “Sideways,” “Descendants,” etc. in previous years.
    Very slow (sometimes excruciatingly slow) platform rollouts beginning in mid-November have certainly worked for them in the past.
    Blowing their wad this early by opening on more than 500-700 screens could give “12 Years” an also-ran feel by New Year’s Day.

  9. AdamL says:

    “Mess” is just completely the wrong adjective to attack this film with. It doesn’t sound like you hate it as much as others, but I’ve heard that adjective a lot and calling it a mess seems completely inexplicable to me.

    I understand not liking it – it’s not to everyone’s taste at all – but what exactly is so ‘messy’ about it? It’s clearly a film made with a lot of skill and one that’s exactly what it sets out to be.

  10. Ira Parks says:



    Poor LexG has finally relented and agreed to do a less-important-than-mine junior G Man badge H-E column of sorts. It’ll be a nervy, cruising and bruising, man on the street, tripabout thing. There will be no – I repeat no – Marquis de Sade side trips into the sexual realm. All caps will be turned off. There will be no pay.

    His first assignment: A review of NYMPHOMANIAC

  11. Ira Parks says:


    Wells must still be jet lagged from London because I didn’t agree to JACK or SHIT. Haven’t talked to him in weeks. NO IDEA what he’s talking about.

  12. Ira Parks says:


    …fine. I didn’t get full consent. But I felt it. A high wind breezing in from the hinterlands told me it was decided, finalized, right-as-rain.

  13. Jack1137 says:

    Nikki…….is the Warmest Color.

  14. Jack1137 says:

    The Number: 334 days to the Release of the Next Chloë Grace Moretz Film

  15. Nick says:

    the fact that a majority of Americans are stupid and The Counselor is bombing in no way shape or form means it’s not a masterpiece, which it is.

  16. Nick says:

    when does All is Lost go wide?

  17. Etguild2 says:

    Apparently Dreamworks Animation did a “Mr. Peabody & Sherman” movie, which I liked from “Rocky & Bullwinkle” growing up.

    It looks so terrible:(

  18. JS Partisan says:

    How does that look terrible? Even the most cynical of movie sites, popped for that trailer. Seriously man, that’s a weird direction to take from a very whimsical trailer.

  19. Jack1137 says:

    Nick since All is Lost is not from a big Distributor i would guess they will probably do a small Rollout instead of wide

  20. YancySkancy says:

    Oscar attention got THE ARTIST, a B&W silent, to about $45 million U.S. Surely it can get 12 YEARS more than that, assuming it stays in theaters long enough.

  21. LexG says:

    COUNSELOR. BOW. YOU WILL BOW. Poland, you need to to man up and see it six, seven more times, it is human PERFECTION.

    Also PARKS HAHAHAHAHAHAHA I don’t know where or when the world would ever call for a SPOT-ON JW impression, but you got the parlance down to a T.

  22. Breedlove says:

    Parks so good, so good. Dying.

  23. Etguild2 says:

    “How does that look terrible? Even the most cynical of movie sites, popped for that trailer. Seriously man, that’s a weird direction to take from a very whimsical trailer.”

    I must visit vastly more cynical sites than you. The reactions on Collider and Film Drunk are terrible, and I agree 100%. It’s like a bunch of 20 year olds made it who never saw the original and the voice cast was chosen via dartboard. I can see why Robert Downey Jr. dropped out, but Ty Burrell?

  24. Ira Parks says:

    Lex and Breedlove: Thanks.

    Lex: I’m voting for more CRYSTAL VOICE. Always excellent.

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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