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By David Poland

Friday Estimates by Klady: Estimates & Actuals

Friday Estimates 2014-12-13 at 11.43.52 AM

So what does the Exodus: Gods & Kings opening mean? Unclear. One could argue that the giant audience of Christians that do not normally go to the movies but show up for occasional special events (The Passion, Narnia 1) did not arrive for the film this weekend. Or one could argue that only Christians (as a group) showed up, as the number is about the same as Fox’s low-budget surprise, Mark Burnett’s Son of God. I don’t know.

My bet would be that Christians and other religious groups are sticking their toe in the Nile, and that they’re the prospective the word-of-mouth that will either make this a strong player through the holiday or not. And that there are limited mainstream audiences that are  interested in a biblical epic… especially one with mixed-to-negative criticism floating out there. Unless Cinemascore has added a “how much do you love God?” tab to their polling, they won’t be telling us either. Sunday will be an indicator. But mostly, we will be waiting for next weekend, when the film goes up against Hobbit 3 and will either hold steady or be crushed.

Similarly, Top Five, which is deservedly beloved by what seems a majority of critics (and audiences who have seen it), suffers by comparisons to another film in its genre, Borat, which rolled out slowly on 837 screens in 2006 when the media hype didn’t quite match  audience interest. But that film did $9.2m on opening day compared to T5‘s $2.5m.

Here’s what must be really disturbing for Paramount. Kevin Hart’s second concert movie, Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain did $3.8 million on its first Friday, even with some of the must-see ($7.4m worth) siphoned off by a Wednesday opening (and a strong Thursday). So the hardcore black audience isn’t showing up in droves.

Is Chris Rock a tweener? Can he deliver the “urban” audience? Is his courting of more traditionally white media too smart for its own good, intimidating the people whp simply want to see a big laugh comedy?

Please read this carefully… I think Top Five has as many laughs as any movie in years, and is neither primarily nor secondarily about race. It is a comedy with what felt like a cast 80% of color, but it is not a film that is limited by this, either for white people or people over 40. To call it “colorblind” would be wrong because Rock does not put blinders on about anything. But much as I see Amy Schumer as a post-feminist comedian who digs deep into the issues of being a woman, I see Rock as a post-racial comedian who digs deep into the reality of being “of color” in America.

I don’t know why people haven’t gone to see Top Five in bigger numbers. They are only denying themselves a true pleasure. Maybe the current talk – endless talk – about the Sony hack and the Obama jokes and the importance of Selma at this moment, has worn people out on the topic already – though People of Color in America have to live with it daily and have for longer than anyone reading this has been alive – and they think that this movie is going to continue that conversation somehow. It doesn’t. It makes you think. It makes you laugh. Hard.

Maybe a fairer comparison for this movie is Woody Allen, who has never had numbers this good on any weekend, whether at this screen count or better. (His best ever was for Midnight in Paris, with a $5.8m weekend.) But that would seem to ghettoize Mr. Rock as well.

Paramount is smart. They can handle both the huge movies and the smaller ones. I hope that plays out here. This film should be a massive, all-audience hit.

On the Oscar scene, expansions for The Theory of Everything (826 to 1220 screens), Wild (21 to 116), and The Initiation Game (8 to 25). All look pretty successful, though Theory and its bigger count is more about maintaining at this point and Wild and Imitation are more about building to the next stage.

Launching in exclusive runs is Inherent Vice, which will do an impressive $75k per or so… but only on five… which doesn’t foreshadow anything clearly. It’s not as big a start as The Master, but WB ain’t Weinstein and Paul hasn’t been on rogue operations with this one.

Birdman is actually up Friday-to-Friday, even though it’s losing screens. Maybe it’s an award season bump, though the weekend total is still just headed to the $1 million range.

Gone Girl is slowing, as would be expected, but will pass the $165m mark next weekend. Big Hero 6 is looking at, as it seemed from the start, a number between Wreck-It Ralph and Tangled.

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18 Responses to “Friday Estimates by Klady: Estimates & Actuals”

  1. js partisan says:

    The second week in December, remains a fucking dog.

  2. cadavra says:

    Not sure BORAT is a 100% fair comparison, as the character was already familiar from the TV show, whereas TOP FIVE is strictly an original.


  3. Triple Option says:

    I purposefully try to avoid finding out too much about a film before going in so the experience is a fresh as possible but my perception of Top Five heading in was that it just going to be some talky film, not really about anything. Or, at least, hard to tell what it was about. Part of me wants to commend Paramount for not putting anywhere near the funniest lines of the film in trailers or ads, at least that I’ve seen. But at the same time, I wonder how did they screw this up?? Right, it’s a small roll out and no way of knowing where this puppy will land but that number is below what I would’ve imagined and possibly lower than what they would’ve hoped.

    I did see some high marks by critics but I’m not sure if the film is getting much attention from the awards going about, which is really a shame because it is thoroughly solid. Part of it may be Rock’s own history. He’s top of his field as a comic but not really believable as an actor. Just a guy to deliver jokes. Also, the previous films he’d directed were rather generic and forgettable. Never in a million years would I’ve imagined he had something like this in him. I could see why Woody Allen would come to mind. It had that sort of send up for the male lead but not as obvious a wink to nyc the whole time.

    Not every film hits but Top Five should be dissected and discussed if it doesn’t climb. We may never get a satisfying, or accurate for that matter, answer but race could be an issue. Which, what can you do if a sizable portion of the population are resentful that people of color are using their voice? Then there’s an issue of perception of equality or, what is art? Linkletter is top of his game with Boyhood. Anderson did some of his best work in Grand Budapest Hotel. Those are very specialized and I believe achieve what they sought out to do. Though perhaps not the broadest of appeal. Top Five I think does what the director hoped and could equally be assigned a special slot for the film that it is. However, it’s not, or he’s not getting his props like the other. Will he have to do two – three more? Maybe. If it’s not prejudice but preference, then maybe the conversation should be about limited view point.

    Sorry, this is maybe more esoteric/byob worthy a post but I ran w/it since you brought it up. People comment on the lack of diversity in the Academy and Hollywood in general. Will a movie be handicapped because it’s not “serious enough” and thus not award-worthy? Like because it’s poignant but goes down smooth as ginger ale will it be assumed to not being of sustenance? If the award nominating boards reflected the makeup of society, would Top Five be a hardware magnet? Is a potentially under-performing Black film indicative that studios don’t know how to reach all segments of society?

    Perhaps way too early to be asking these questions but this may be more of a litmus test for the industry as opposed to a single event issue.

  4. PcChongor says:

    Even though you certainly can’t fault him for it, I think “Top Five” opening soft is somewhat due to Rock not totally committing to selling the film as either “white” or “black” friendly (like a “white” generic Eddie Murphy family comedy or a “black” comedy with Kevin Hart or Tyler Perry). Props to him for not selling his film short and trying to pander to either kind of audience, but I think the approach definitely hurt the film’s ability to muster up any kind of major support in either camp.

    Hopefully it’ll make enough money to at least lock in his next project, which would make for an exiting prospect given the strides Rock seems to be making with each subsequent film.

  5. movieman says:

    What was up w/ Christian Bale’s accent in “Exodus”?
    The damn thing practically gave me whiplash.
    He starts out doing his standard issue Charlie Sheen-y “American.”
    Then segues to properly clipped Brit stentorian tones.
    And in the third act, Bale sounds like a mafia don from “The Godfather.”
    I did love how “god” is portrayed as a petulant, vaguely sinister English schoolboy.
    Seemed just about right to me, lol.
    P.S.= Was Aaron Paul’s role always that puny, or was it chopped to ribbons in the editing room?
    I think he may have had five lines of dialogue in the entire film.

  6. leahnz says:

    maybe Bale did his accent training and drills with the Aryan Nation, they clearly had an influence in casting so perhaps they’re expanding their repertoire to accents and vocal training for ‘approved’ actors

  7. Nick says:

    Exodus is a domestic wipeout and will follow the same financial trajectory as Kingdom of Heaven, despite being PG-13 AND pandering to the bible thumpers. Big-time disappointment.

  8. eric says:

    Unless he has another Alien, Blade Runner, Gladiator or heck even American Gangster in him, maybe it’s time Sir Ridley hangs it up. We can hope the Martian next year snaps him out of this rut he has been in.

  9. PcChongor says:

    Ridley and Bale might currently be getting shit from the media for being racist, but I can’t think of a single country that always does 1-to-1 racial/ethnic casting for their films either. Producers will go with whatever cast plays best in their market, so whether it’s a South Korean playing a North Korean, a Russian playing an American cowboy, or any British actor ever playing Othello, it all seems a bit silly to act as though Hollywood is some giant racist exception to the rest of the world.

    And if people think the casting was whitewashed in “Exodus,” they should check out the pretty gnarly brown-face in “Faraon,” a 1966 Ancient Egypt set Polish super-production.

  10. LYT says:

    “I don’t know why people haven’t gone to see Top Five in bigger numbers.”

    For a guy who goes on about opening weekend being all about the marketing, you must.

    I’ve seen very little promotion for this. The only press screening I was invited to was early and on the same day as other major screenings. The title sounds like a Buzzfeed list.

    i don’t know if it’s good or not, as I haven’t seen it. But the marketing is not good.

  11. EtGuild2 says:

    Chris Rock has referred to T5 as his Woody Allen movie (Allen is his personal idol), so an Allen box office number would be ironic.

  12. EtGuild2 says:

    BIG HERO 6 has more than enough in the tank to pass TANGLED.

  13. berg says:

    Take Five has so many laugh out loud scenes, but how do you market a tampon dipped in hot sauce used as a suppository …. or CR getting busted in a Manhattan store and the police using a choke hold on him as he’s arrested, et al.

  14. movieman says:

    As smart as “Top Five” is about race and tabloid media/celebrity culture, it’s remarkably stupid about journalism.
    The Rosario Dawson character defies belief.
    We’re supposed to believe that the NYT would allow their film critic to use a pseudonym (what is this? 1946?).
    Or that a professional journalist would bring the movie star they’re profiling up to their apartment in order to retrieve a missing tape recorder.
    And–biggest boner of all–that movie junkets take place on a movie’s opening day.

  15. Tom says:

    LOVED Top Five. It’s my favorite comedy of the year and I hope they keep pushing it because it deserves a Best Original Screenplay nomination at the very least. Rock really knows how to get the most out of his ensemble. Everyone from Hassan Johnson to Anders Holm to Ben Vereen gets at least one memorable moment.

    That being said, the marketing was bad. The commercials made it seem like the movie was going to be Rock and Dawson walking around New York, stuffing themselves into Rock’s family’s apartment to crack some jokes and Rock meeting a permed Cedric in a hotel room with locked hangers at some point. The outdoor campaign was absolutely horrible, possibly the worst of the year, And the title sucked. The whole “top five” idea doesn’t even come into play until halfway through the movie.

  16. palmtree says:

    “Producers will go with whatever cast plays best in their market” + “it all seems a bit silly to act as though Hollywood is some giant racist exception to the rest of the world.”

    Isn’t that why Hollywood is the exception? Because Hollywood makes movies for the world?

    And this is not even to mention that Hollywood has access to major talent around the world, and isn’t limited by regional casting the way smaller film industries are.

    And this is not even to mention that Americans have rejected blackface on the grounds of its racial insensitivity and that to whitewash other people of color seems a bit hypocritical.

    And this is not even to mention that Ridley Scott disparaging using more authentic casting by calling such an actor “Muhammad So and So.”

    Other people have said it better than this, but those are a couple reasons for starters…

  17. YancySkancy says:

    I haven’t seen a shred of marketing for TOP FIVE, but then again I forward through commercials and spend a lot of time streaming on Netflix. But I would guess that at least part of the reason it didn’t open better is that Chris Rock is hardly a film star on the level of Eddie Murphy or Will Smith (to name two actors American filmgoers have embraced just fine “despite” their being black). He’s a great standup, maybe not such a great actor. At any rate, his name hasn’t meant much at the box office before now, so it’s maybe disingenuous to think that should have changed. I’ll definitely check it out at some point. It sounds great.

  18. Stella's Boy says:

    Rock can’t be faulted for Top Five’s box office. Last week was like Chris Rock Week. I heard him on two NPR shows. He was in Grantland, New York Magazine, and The Hollywood Reporter. He was on David Letterman. He was everywhere. But I never saw a single TV spot. I saw a ton for Exodus, Hobbit, and Night at the Museum. Not a one for Top Five.

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