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David Poland

By David Poland

Friday Estimates by The Other Klady

Friday Estimates 2014-04-26 at 10.29.57 AM

The Other Woman opened well. It’s not a super exceptional number. But it’s very good… very good for all the talent involved.

But the most significant thing to my eye is that there has not been a comedy aimed at women since… September 2013. I guess if you wanted to invoke August: Osage County, with its hard Meryl/Julia sell, you could. But I don’t see that as a straight comedy at all. But otherwise you have to go all the way back to September… and the two titles there aren’t really all that comparable. Baggage Claim has a wide release, but was mostly aimed at the “urban” audience and Enough Said never got to as many as 900 screens at any time in its run. Before that, you have to go to The Heat in June, which given Ms. Bullock and Ms. McCarthy, wasn’t really aimed at a female audience as anything less than a broader aim. What To Expect When You’re Expecting, that same month, did try to go there, I guess… though pregnancy would seem to limit the interest, in spite of the tabloid covers. Before that, The Big Wedding, last April? Admission last March? Warm Bodies last February? Really, you have to go back to Pitch Perfect in September 2012 to find a film that really fits the power niche feel of Other Woman.

That’s nuts.

I am as happy as anyone to not see 4 terrible rom-coms a year starring a skinny actress and a hunky male 10 years her senior chasing each other around a desk. But there seems to be some degree of stupidity or blindness on the part of the studios in this regard. Maybe a film like Crazy. Stupid. Love., which was not only a pretty good movie, but grossed $143 million against an alleged $50m budget just isn’t profitable enough for a major studio like Warner Bros. to be bothered. That’s the argument you hear a lot of… the middle movies may be hits and fill the catalog, but the risk/reward just isn’t dramatic enough for the studios anymore. And no doubt, the drop-off in DVD revenue is a part of this. Friends With Benefits was seen as a disappointment in the US, but ended up doing $150m worldwide against an alleged $35m budget. Five years earlier, that would have been a cash cow because the Home Entertainment returns would have been massive. These days, the film was profitable, but was soft enough in the US that the DVD would have been soft and the deal for streaming even softer. Profitable, but not a cash cow.

I would also say that the rom-com game suffered from its success, like most hitmakers do. After some success, budgets creep up for, basically, the same material, and then there is a great deal more risk and very rarely a significant growth in the reward. I used to write about this with comics all the time. When a comic actor gets big, their pay goes up a lot in a hurry… but that isn’t when it gets ugly. It’s when they start to demand much more expensive talent around them, much more expensive production, often because they get grand ideas. When Jim Carrey went “cold,” he was still a bargain at $20m a picture. But he wanted to make more elaborate movies, so every film was suddenly starting at $80 million and going in the mid-100s on proposed budgets. Will Ferrell is still a bargain at $20 million… but only if the overall budget on the movie tops out – with his salary – at $70 million or less. After that, it is a bit of a risky proposition. His biggest worldwide gross, on-camera, is still $220 million for Elf. But $170m worldwide is his real high range… which is about $85m back to the studio these days… and again, with DVD revenues way down. Anchorman 2 was considered a surprise smash last December… but $173m worldwide. Paramount didn’t need to drag their feet as much as they did, but the alleged $50 million budget was about right. $50m + another $70m in worldwide marketing and the film only had to make up about $30 million in post-theatrical before becoming profitable. And it will be profitable. But Transformers 4 will do 8x the gross or better on 4x the budget (and change). That is why “they” want to be in the mega-business.

But the mega-business has its risks… much bigger risks. And when things go cold, fortunes can be lost. Which is why a sane industry continues to chase singles and doubles and hopes for occasional unexpected triples. This is especially true with underserved markets. And while there is plenty of girl power movies out there, from Hunger Games to Divergent, there are no comedies being made for women anymore, it seems. When you have some success and suddenly Gwyneth Paltrow or Kate Hudson costs more than $10m a movie, I understand why things grind to a stop.

One last note on this. The rom-com isn’t completely dead. But it grew a penis in the last few years. And that hasn’t really helped. Maybe it was the Ryan Gosling influence on C.S.L., but Think Like A Man, The Five-Year Engagement, Don Jon, That Awkward Moment, and About Last Night make up a big chunk of the rom-com efforts in the last couple of years and all of them led (marketing-wise, at least) with their dicks. That’s not a smart embrace of the niche, even if Kevin Hart has become superhot right now.

Captain America 2 is the top Marver-made Marvel movie without Robert Downey, Jr. This is a strong 4th weekend. It did not get beat. It’s just playing out its journey.

Brick Mansions is going to be, I guess, Paul Walker’s last non-F&F release. Decent opening. Nothing exciting. Probably better than had he not tragically lost his life… in no small part because the release was probably bigger than it would have been.

The Quiet Ones lived up to its name. Cool poster. Didn’t do the job.

Locke is the big exclusive release of the weekend. Probably about $17k per screen on 4 by the end of the weekend. Worth seeing… a stylish piece, but with a limited audience upside. Tom Hardy is a great actor and here, almost for the first time, plays a pretty regular bloke in a pretty rough situation. I still say it’s the indie version of Noah… a man who must follow principle at all cost, fighting his demons in front of us. This is the eighth release from A24. Heading to top the bottom half of their openings. But it’s hard enough to sell a Tom Hardy movie… tougher with so little Tom Hardy.

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10 Responses to “Friday Estimates by The Other Klady”

  1. movieman says:

    I know it’s a holding pattern/throwaway kind of weekend, but “The Other Woman” and “Brick Mansions” are both fairly entertaining programmers.
    Things could be a lot worse in multiplex-land.

  2. EtGuild2 says:

    I despised “The Other Woman.” Maybe it’s because I’ve seen the trailer more than any other movie this year (other than “Monuments Men” but that was due to a release date shift), or the idea of Nicki Minaj being the best thing in a movie with Diaz, Leslie Mann and Jaimie Lannister, or that it’s the 27th female centered comedy released in the last few years where every character has buckets of money (Mann is a savant whose manic dreams buy her a new lakehouse) despite the success of “Bridesmaids.” But it’s all just so tiring. Ugh.

    I guess we’re just supposed to be thankful Hollywood allows a movie fronted by a pair of 40-something women now, whether or not they are cartoon characters.

  3. movieman says:

    You couldn’t possibly have seen the trailer as many times as I did, Et, lol.
    Not saying “OW” was any great shakes, just that I found it lightly likable mostly because of its very appealing cast. (Taylor Kinney deserves to be the Next Big Thin–he almost made me want to start watching “Chicago Fire.”)
    Yeah, it could have been better and more smartly written. And the direction should have definitely been a lot less clumsy. (Nick Cassavetes’ “Alpha Dog,” “The Notebook” and his earlier, Cassavetes Sr.-inflected films are a lot better made.)
    But compared to “The Sweetest Thing,” “The Ugly Truth,” “Something Borrowed” and lots of other shitty rom-coms I’m blanking on, I didn’t have a bad time.

  4. movieman says:

    That’s “Next Big Thing.”

  5. LexG says:

    Yeah, Brick Mansions was pretty fun; Thought it would be a little depressing so soon after Walker’s death, but it was nice to see him in his element, also enjoyed RZA’s semi-ridiculous villain; It’s pretty much a carbon copy of the French original, minus a few additions for Walker, and…maybe that crazy ending?


    It’s been a few years since I saw District B13, but without spoiling, can’t remember if the goofy 180 of BM’s last 5-10m was in the original. It’s kind of politically subversive for this kinda thing, no?

  6. Ivan says:

    “What To Expect When You’re Expecting” was in 2012, not 2013.

  7. SamLowry says:

    Characters possessing buckets of money is to be assumed in pop entertainment–Oscar season is the only time folks will pay money to see poor people on the screen.

    One of the ten points in a writing guide I tacked over my desk suggested mentioning pricey brand names early and often: when the protagonist slips on a Rolex or grabs a Louis Vuitton bag, the reader wants to imagine they’re right there, doing the same thing. Reading and moviegoing are escapism, after all, and nobody wants to read about someone living the same sucky life they have.

  8. EtGuild2 says:

    “Oscar season is the only time folks will pay money to see poor people on the screen.”

    That’s why BRIDESMAIDS with Wiig’s character was such a breakthrough, and I hoped, a turning point. But nope. Back to Nancy Meyers real estate/decor porn.

  9. Hallick says:

    “Reading and moviegoing are escapism, after all, and nobody wants to read about someone living the same sucky life they have.”

    Oh good lord…how have you not torn that writing guide down and slid the long edge right across your throat til you hit the carotid already?

  10. SamLowry says:

    Because I have many more stories to write, including a play about six astronauts fighting over who will take the only three-seater (the President and his mistress are also contenders) before the world comes to an end.

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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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~ David Simon