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David Poland

By David Poland

Friday Estimates by Dead Again Poollady

Friday Estimates2016-02-20 at 8.07.00 AM

Finally, an interesting weekend.

Working my way backwards, The Revenant is the only Best Picture or “Top 8” nominee in the Top 10. By next weekend, although there may be a small Oscar weekend bump, there is every chance that none of the Best Picture movies will be in the Top 10. This has become the norm with the Academy Awards. Civilians complain that the awards talk is all about movies that they cannot see and Oscar theorists complain that there isn’t enough time to see everything before voting, but if you are wondering why The Oscars sometimes seem like they are a show chasing horses after the barn door’s been open too long, look to this. We live in a short memory world and Deadpool and The Witch are top-of-mind to American cinemagoers, not the Oscar movies.

I’m sure I will write this in a post-Oscar column in 10 days, but if you want to make a change to the Oscar brand, start by digging deep into what the brand is and then make real change… which in my belief leads to a shorter season. Hollywood will adjust. Believe me. Oscar should have happened a month earlier, when the movies were still close to top of mind. The machinery of Oscar – and in this case, I mean the Academy’s show and process, not the media – has become the tail wagging the dog.

Deadpool has a completely reasonable drop, influenced heavily (numerically) by the Thursday numbers which are included in Friday (stupidly) by rote. Look for the 3-day drop to be in the mid-50s. $200 million domestic is probably being passed by East coast afternoon shows as I type this. Top 10 domestic Comic Book Adaptation and $300 million domestic is pretty inevitable. The question is just how long it will go after BvS lands.

Risen is doing solid Christian business. No idea what the ultimate number might be. War Room opened to the same number and ended up with a sensational multiple, grossing $68 million domestic.

The Witch gets film critics hot. And the Thursday night numbers looked Screen Gems-hot as well. But A24’s first wide release opening is looking more like an $8 million 3-day, which is great for A24, but not very Screen Gems-y. Still, this pickup is going to be very successful for the young distributor as they continue to build and stretch (and win their first Oscars next weekend). It has a very good chance of becoming the company’s biggest grosser ever (passing Ex Machina‘s $25.4 million). Everyone in the indie world would like to know exactly what the spend on this wide release was, in order to gauge the ongoing measure of limited release methods vs wide release.

Speaking of limited releases, Sony is pushing out Stephen Chow’s massive Chinese hit The Mermaid almost reluctantly (to find a list of theaters, go here). And it did more than $10k per screen yesterday in spite of this. At least in Manhattan, it got a theater to go with its NYT rave review. In Los Angeles, there is nothing on the West side or in Hollywood, where we have 40 screens and a motivated audience.

Race opened for Focus, but just barely. What looks like a $6.5 million 3-day is is line with films like Winter’s Tale, Seventh Son, and The Eagle in recent Februarys.

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7 Responses to “Friday Estimates by Dead Again Poollady”

  1. Stella's Boy says:

    Really like The Witch a lot, but the hype did it no favors. Based on the Thursday night (almost full) screening I attended, the audience was expecting an entirely different (and more mainstream) horror movie. Most appeared to be late teens, early 20s. Lots of audible groaning when it ended, and a few people shouted their displeasure at the screen. That said, it’s a pretty great debut. Moody and unsettling and fairly insidious. Very well-acted and directed. It’s grown on me since I’ve seen it too.

  2. EtGuild2 says:


    I have never been in a wide release AMC theater and had people stand up and boo outside of a big urban environment. And I saw “The Box” and “Bug” with general release audiences which got an F CinemaScore.

    Not to sound like JS, but I fucking love A24. I don’t know how they make any money, but god bless them as an outlet for amazing, offbeat shit. THE LOBSTER is next. Then comes KRISHNA. BOW to A24.

  3. Stella's Boy says:

    I second the A24 love. They are releasing really interesting stuff. Sounds like we had a similar experience with The Witch.

  4. Tracker Backer says:

    Yeah, A24’s plan on Witch was pretty smart. They saw an opportunity to market it in a “mainstream” manner, so they’ll get a decent opening weekend number out of it – and then they’ll still draw the arthouse fans, too.

  5. PcChongor says:

    What’s with Sony lately? They can’t open a Spiderman movie to save their lives, but if it’s a hokey Jesus picture that they’re hawking they’re absolutely unbeatable. Maybe they just need to develop a “ChristMan” franchise to finally get the best of both worlds.

  6. leahnz says:

    i’d very much like to see an audience boo at the end of a movie or shout at the screen, sounds exciting, i’ve only ever heard stony silences/dissatisfied sighs-groans/ muttered comments of disapproval, super boring stuff.

    ———— SPOILERS ————-

    i saw ‘the witch’ a while ago at a festival, it was stylish and promising till the last part when it disappointingly goes full retard – i was really hoping for some interesting and bizarre ‘hysterical christian misogyny compounded by mouldy beer and cabin fever’ type twist on the tired ‘witch’ genre but instead just the same ol’ literal nonsense (except for ‘blair witch project’ of course, the beauty of which is the sound design and never actually seeing a damn thing)

    ETA looking at the main MCN page twitter feed it appears people are unhappy and annoyed with audiences booing and such in ‘the witch’ so maybe i should be careful what i wish for

  7. leahnz says:


    looking at some critical/civilian reaction to ‘the witch’ is a lesson in examining convention. it seems at least some of the ‘movie-going public’ expected a more conventional horror movie in these lazy daze of jump scares and literal, mundane film-making, which contrasts with my own disappointment that ‘the witch’ went to such a typical and unoriginal conclusion when ‘the truth’ is revealed at the end after such an atmospheric, unnerving build-up. it so closely hews to the typical, conventional witch horror formula having been done so often instead of treading new ground, going a new direction, the chance to explore in a fresh way the actual roots of the religious fervour and hysteria that resulted in a horrible pocket of persecution and mass murder of (overwhelmingly) women who practiced natural healing/medicine and midwifery while observing the unique setting and era and depiction of creeping evil that ‘the witch’ does so well. a chance to be unique rather than another portrayal of the same old witch cliché, albeit meticulously composed and artisticly depicted.
    thinking about it now maybe it’s because i’d heard at the time the director had painstaking researched the actual era, place and historical details that i thought the film might explore the trope based on finding horror in the historical truth in some interesting way rather than ultimately capitulating to the silly ‘women were actual witches touched by satan frolicking naked in the woods making animals scary and devil’s goats out to get you and kill you with their evil magic.” really?

    i guess the comparisons i’ve seen to ‘blair witch project’ are inevitable, given the nature of that film’s at-the-time fresh foray into the witch genre with the stylistic choice of the ‘found footage’ aesthetic now so irritatingly low-rent and cliché it makes viewing the OG hand-held found-footage hit look a bit dated even as a superior example of the technique. both films rely a great deal on frightening sound design and psychological unease.

    there’s a unique layer of juxtaposition, contrast and subtlety in ‘blair witch’. the black and white film footage segments of the documentary movie the trio are shooting first in the town and then in the woods contrast elegantly with heather’s kinetic ‘amateur’ video dairy aesthetic that captures the mounting friction in the group and propels the narrative. the more smooth, formal composition of the film footage – accompanied by heather’s more traditional, cultivated narration – juxtaposes effectively against the video aesthetic documenting the intensifying conflict, mistrust and hysteria as the group becomes hopelessly lost and haunted in the woods by abstract sounds and unseen horrors in the night, only hinted at in the day with such simple visual cues as piles of rocks and bundled sticks. the scares are in not knowing who or what or where; i think the beauty of BWP is in the abstract, which it clings to till the bitter, awful end, much to its credit.
    i think this is where ‘blair witch’ succeeds over ‘the witch’, which ends up spelling everything out in the most typical, expected way. BWP remains entirely in the head; the ‘evil’ is vague and undefined as viewers have to rely mostly on insinuation and hearsay, people’s stories about the blair witch as either witnesses to strange events or passers-on of local legend as our little group becomes the latest victims of some vague malevolent force. is it the woods itself that are tainted and drive people (incl our trio) to distraction and madness, plays with their minds with sound and suggestion, drives them to murder like the mass child-killer whose house they find at the end. is it ever josh screaming in pain and torture in the night, or calling out because he’s somehow lost and trapped in some alternate nightmare begging for help, is he used as a lure, or is it all just a trick of ‘the witch’? is the floating hairy-legged woman recounted for the documentary by a witness the actual witch or a just a visual manifestation of a greater malevolence infecting the land and those who stay too long, ‘the witch’ a construct of fear, expectation and the passing on of legend.
    the beautiful thing is, we’ll never know. the final shot is so fleeting and horrible and ambiguous in its suggestion, while the final shots of ‘the witch’ are so conventional and cliché. there’s much to admire in ‘the witch’ but it falls over at the end by completely disregarding the subtle horror that makes it special up until the point it becomes a typical witch narrative.

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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.

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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?”

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