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David Poland

By David Poland

I Should Be Doing Box Office

I will be writing about box office on the regular again soon.

But I am put off by two events. First, the passing of our own Len Klady, who had his quirks, but whose numbers I worked with for a very long time, weekend in, weekend out. Second, the deconstruction of Box Office Mojo, which had become the best tool for box office analysis online.

So I am way out of rhythm.

In any case, the $3.1 million number, which likely means a number under $10 million for the opening of the new Charlie’s Angels is shocking. Just shocking.

Not because of the movie, but because the number is inexcusable. Shall I compare it to other openings this year? Can’t. Box Office Mojo has removed that opportunity.

The recent comps are Stuber, Ugly Dolls and The House. All originals.

For Sony to go out with this movie and miss so completely is… shocking. The film is better than this, if still imperfect. But quality is not the standard for opening a movie! It is, more than ever, a matter of targeting specific core audiences and serving what they might want. You have to convince them first – unless you have a four-quadrant film, which I think Elizabeth Banks was trying for, you need to nail down your base first. And Sony failed to do that with anything less than a $15 million opening for this. (And even then.)

Many reviews I read referenced Hustlers as good feminist fun, while this was somehow lacking. Not sure how to process that. But going out with a female star who is not a consistent movie opener and two actresses who have no name recognition might have been the first mistake. The ads that had both Patrick Stewart as what seemed like Bosley and then Elizabeth Banks as Bosley may have been too clever about not explaining by half (as wanting to keep the third act secret). Naomi Scott playing incompetent in ads may have turned off some women and girls. Silent ass-kicking with Ella Balinska in ads didn’t warm things up, either.

I thought that Banks found a tone that was pretty good within the movie, though Balinska is acting-deficient and this should have been played for comedy more aggressively. The girl-power theme was leaned on too hard. And if the MacGuffin of the film is too complicated to explain here in a couple of sentences, explaining it in ads was impossible.

And why would you change one of the most famous TV-movie logos in history?

In any case, Angels will land slightly better than Miss Bala, the studio’s weakest wide release of 2019 to date. An embarrassment.

On the other side of the hill, Warner Bros. sends The Good Liar into the box office toilet a week after misfiring on Doctor Sleep, which had the same marketing mismanagement as Charlie’s Angels: too heavy a lean on old IP that needed a fresh, aggressive sell for movies that were not what one might expect. I have bad news for my friends in Burbank… Selling Joker is not a game changer. People forget the box office force that Batman and associated characters have always had. (And no, I don’t include Harley Quinn, so they better be marketing that movie like no one knows who she is and not like Charlie’s Angels.

The Good Liar is a solid change-of-pace title. So what do they do? They date it against Ford v Ferrari in what was the Green Book slot last year. But even then, Green Book did a weekend (this weekend) on 25 screens before going to 1,063 for four weekends, 1,215 for one more, and then dropped screens until they got Oscar nominations and went to over 2,000 screens. The Good Liar is not WB’s primary Oscar play, but if you want to throw it into the ring, at least wait until the spring, where the competition for adult eyes is not as hysterical.

I really liked Last Christmas. A piece of pulp that did what it was meant to do. But I was definitely wrong about it growing. Unless there is a miracle over Thanksgiving, it will be gone soon. The word-of-mouth about the close of the film is keeping it from getting the love it might. The one thing that didn’t make sense to me was that ending—aside from the fact that it was not as expected—pisses people off, especially those who claim most loudly they want to see new ideas. I don’t know the story. But something odd must have happened.

And Parasite stays out ahead of Jojo Rabbit in the limited release Oscar race.

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34 Responses to “I Should Be Doing Box Office”

  1. MarkVH says:

    Good to have you back, Dave.

  2. Triple Option says:

    The original Charlie’s Angels were sex symbols who conveyed a sense of insightful wit and could show some toughness in a time of peril. Of the first movie cast, Lucy Liu was hot, and while not unattractive, Drew Barrymore and Cameron Diaz had quirk and personality. It’d be fun to spend a couple of hours watching them. Now, 2019 rolls around and you’ve got a studio throwing out yet another unimaginative re-boot to a title that prolly already overstayed its welcome with a crappy sequel and unseen DOA TV series.

    Only this time instead of hiring sexy, daring or charm, you’ve got two leads who came across as basic and one name, who outside of a YA vampire series, is known for her flat affect. On paper, it already sounds like a dud. But then throw in a trailer or two that affirms a suspicion that it’s likely a waste of time and there should be little doubt you’re looking at a $6-$8 million opening. Whereby giving an already b.o. fatigued people more ammunition to say, “Hollywood just doesn’t make movies for me,” whether wrongly or rightly deserved.

    My only concern is that the wrong people are going to suffer for this failing. Maybe the cowards who developed and greenlit this film can come up with a plan to have Sony and Paramount merge, combine the studios, eliminate 2/3rds of the employees, cut production down to 1/4th, and pat themselves on the back with tens of millions of dollars in bonuses for doing absolutely nothing.

  3. Stella's Boy says:

    I get on my phone to check news this morning and first headline I see is The Daily Wire blaring “Charlie’s Angels Gets Woke, Fails.” Love box office analysis from The Daily Wire and I’m sure they’ve seen it. I don’t know I think it looks like fun. But where was the marketing? For the last few months I’ve seen the same handful of trailers every single time I go to the movies. Not Charlie’s Angels. I watch a lot of TV. I’ve seen tons of TV spots for the same few movies over the last month or so. Not Charlie’s Angels. Did they even try?

  4. hcat says:

    I know too much Hollywood skews our sense of beauty, but deeming Diaz and Barrymore as “not unattractive” is pretty far down the rabbit hole.

    The rest of the points are fair though. The audience they are aiming for aren’t familiar with the source material and its already been exploited as kitsch twice on the big screen. This is the terror that must grip Columbia as they simply do not have a franchisable catalog. Yet in the space of a year they will be attempting to reboot and continue all their big guns (MIB, Spidey, Angels, Jumanji, Bad Boys). And even with a merger (I see Lionsgate as being a better fit for Paramount, but since they are steering toward the familiar shores CBS its probably unlikely as that would be too big of a bite for them to swallow) NEVER NEVER NEVER suggest ANYONE cut production. The studios are hardly making any films to begin with.

    Silver lining is that Columbia has a literary adaption and a based on the true life story coming up. Honestly those are the only things they should ever put out (I guess they can pepper in some low brow comedies to the schedule but be who you were meant to be!)

  5. YancySkancy says:

    The Charlie’s Angels trailers simply failed to sell the story (if there is one) and the stars. Old Hollywood would’ve found a way to introduce the newcomers in the advertising and invest us in being a part of making them into stars (assuming they actually have that potential).

  6. Triple Option says:

    Nit the pick, man! It wasn’t meant to be a slight. If I had just mentioned Drew & Cameron as having “great personalities,” everyone would’ve lost their minds that I called them ugly. They weren’t sex symbols. They were rom-com sweethearts. Nothing wrong with that but that’s a different sell from the originals. Cameron didn’t really gain a hot persona until a few years later when she started dating Puffy and Bad Teacher came out.

  7. YancySkancy says:

    Wasn’t Diaz sold as “hot” in The Mask and some of her other earlier roles?

  8. Hcat says:

    Sorry if that was too nitpicky, I did agree with the rest of your points if that helps.

    But disagree that they were primarily Sandra Bullock type girl next door types going into Angels. Barrymore posed in Playboy and flashed Letterman. Her mid nineties work in Mad Love, Boys on the Side and Bad Girls were wild girl roles, and in Batman Forever she couldn’t be seen as anything other than strictly eye candy. Ever After and Never Been Kissed were more the deviations than the norms. And Cameron was the one on the receiving end of all the Tex Avery antics in the Mask, and in Mary was cast as the object of desire that drove men to felonious lengths to court her. Plus when you look at the McG film, they were the ones who were pranced around in various stages of undress, Diaz in her skivvies was one of the major selling points of the marketing campaign.

    Yes this is sort of splitting feathered hairs, but it does speak to the difference between the films, they were seen as sex symbols and the film was marketed with them as such.

  9. Stella's Boy says:

    Cameron Diaz was absolutely sold as a sex symbol in The Mask. Much was made of her age and beauty. And watch the movie to see how it presents her.

  10. leahnz says:

    er newsflash: in the OG charlie’s angels, kate jackson was in no way, shape or form a sexpot/symbol (ffawcett did not play all three angels). the OG series was a soup of cliches and sexist tropes but to say the orig angels were primarily sex symbols with a modicum of wit and toughness while leaving out the brains part – see kate jackson in particular above, the scooby gang’s thelma – is not accurate, and therefor renders all arguments built on this faulty premise void

  11. palmtree says:

    Glad to see DP back and also hating on the new not-improved Mojo.

    Charlie’s Angels had trailers that looked silly, but not in a good way. It relied heavily on the “girls do action” theme without much else, but in the post-Wonder Woman world, you’ve gotta do more than that. Even Ocean’s 8, with a similar “girls doing heist” theme played better than this because it sold that it was smart and savvy too. Sucks that it opened so low, but I’m not surprised.

  12. Pete B. says:

    How can the original Angels be brought up and no one mentions Jaclyn Smith?

  13. amblinman says:

    I have a novel idea: the problem isnt’ that Charlie’s Angels bombed. It looked like garbage. We do not have a dearth of hot women doing karate that involves wrapping their legs around guys’ heads and pussy-choking them to the ground. What we need are a) legitimate, new projects that allow different voices to tell stories that arent’ just rehashing of all the boring shit old white guys used to love; and b) no more Charlie’s Angels reboots. Jesus Christ the IP was dated af after the first reboot.

  14. sam says:

    Virtues or lack thereoff of the McQ-Thomas Angels, at least they had three solid names. I don’t even recall how Lucy Liu got famous but she was someone I was aware of. This time the casting was just “meh.” The only thing that came close to interesting me was Banks as director and in the Bosley role but not enough to schlep to the theater – not even on Tuesday for AMC’s discount day.
    Now Parasite – that deserves its attention!

  15. Hcat says:

    Its quite possible that Parasite will end up selling more tickets than Angels. Seems extraordinary, since Mojo cut itself in half I can’t lookup the last foreign language film did this well, but its marching on quite nicely.

    ‘new projects that allow different voices to tell stories that arent’ just rehashing of all the boring shit old white guys used to love’

    What a great time to bring up Netflix making a JJ Gittes (the early years) series. So with early Jack Ryan at Amazon and Summer Lovin likely headed to theaters I suppose we are going to get Axel Foley at the Police Academy, Shane learning to ride a horse, Oliver Barrish’s high school romance (crush story) and a series on the Rise of the Corleone’s.

    While all the source material is hardly boring, this reliance on taking their classics by the ankles and shaking the change out of their pockets is beyond tiresome.

  16. Stella's Boy says:

    Can Fincher get nothing else financed? Does Netflix just throw so much money at him that he can’t say no? All the things he has been attached to and this is what he signs up for. I do love Mindhunter but wish Fincher would make another feature.

    From Variety on November 8: Crossing $10 million would make “Parasite” the highest grossing foreign-language film of the year on North American soil, overtaking the Spanish-language Mexican comedy “No Manches Frida 2,” which was released in March and grossed $9.27 million domestically.

    Last year it looks like Padmavati was the top grossing foreign film with $11 million. I used The Numbers to scroll through 2018 titles.

    Very curious to see where Parasite ends up. Will it continue to expand or is this as wide as its release will get?

  17. hcat says:

    I am still skeptical that it will reach the I, Tonya or Favourite benchmarks that we talked about a few weeks ago but it still has a decent per screen average going and should continue to hold for awhile. I guess the big question is whether they are going to try to keep it in theaters through the nominations or if they think they can make more money striking video while it is in the awards conversation.

  18. movieman says:

    While Towne and Fincher’s involvement makes me sit up and take notice, the biggest hurdle a “Chinatown: The Early Years” has to pass is finding a (young) actor who doesn’t look like a shrinking violet next to New Hollywood era Jack Nicholson.
    Seems like a Sisyphian task to me.

  19. hcat says:

    So this Valachi guy (sorry, misspelled Sondland) has a beautiful singing voice.

    Not at all certain anything will come of it, but feeling a little bit of faith in institutions.

  20. Ray Pride says:

    Fincher is preparing a black-and-white Netflix feature written by his late father about Herman J. Mankiewicz, with Gary Oldman as “Mank.” That should have before THE HALF JAKE?

  21. movieman says:

    Who wants to make a bet that an unknown Brit or Aussie gets the young Jake Gittes role in the Towne/Fincher Netflixer?
    Which is probably the smart way to go.

    Can anyone think of a current/established/young enough actor capable of stepping into Nicholson’s shoes for one of Jack’s most iconic roles?

    (Alden Ehrenreich? LOL.)

  22. Hcat says:

    And there are plenty of perfectly exploitable material that is being ignored, I would love for someone to do for Easy Rawlins what Graham Yost did for Raylan Givens.

  23. movieman says:

    Really loved “A Beautiful Day.” (Unexpected casting bonuses: Christine Lahti and Tammy Blanchard!)
    That makes three wonderful movies in a row for Marielle Heller.
    Guess that means she’ll either disappear and never be heard from again…or get co-opted by Disney-Marvel Inc.

  24. Stella's Boy says:

    I adore Heller’s first two movies and look forward to A Beautiful Day. Listened to her on Fresh Air earlier this week. She’s an amazing talent.

    Was going to check out a matinee of Dr. Sleep today. Like to see horror in theaters as often as I can. Alas there are no matinees here. We have 11 multiplexes in Milwaukee and the surrounding suburbs, and two weeks after its release Dr. Sleep is playing in four of them and only has one showing a day in three. That movie burned out quickly.

  25. Stella's Boy says:

    So I saw Parasite instead. Much better choice I imagine. It lived up to the hype. I didn’t find it to be as much of a jarring genre blend as others seem to, but it’s a great flick. Funny and exceptionally well acted.


    I was intrigued by the way the rich family isn’t just cartoonishly awful and the poor family isn’t saintly. And what it has to say about the way society conditions people to accept poverty while chipping away at their humanity is quite compelling. It also takes some shots at the rich without ever feeling like it’s beating you over the head with a message. Love the way he shoots the living room escape and the suddenly violent birthday party. Ending is pretty great. I’m a big fan.

  26. movieman says:

    Took in a Friday matinee of “21 Bridges,” mostly because it was the only movie playing at my nearest Regal ‘plex that I hadn’t seen.
    It’s watchable enough, but dangerously close to 1990’s direct-to-VHS Blockbuster flotsam.
    After his brilliant performances as Jackie Robinson, James Brown and Black Panther, it felt like a terrible waste of Chadwick Boseman’s talents.

    Finally caught up with Hulu’s “Catch-22” this week and thought it was great.
    While it lacks the “Wow!” moments of Mike Nichols’ 1970 movie, it’s easier to follow and seems less like a highlight reel of Joseph Heller’s iconic book. (4 1/2 hours versus 2 hours will do that.)
    The entire cast is tremendous (Austin Sowell, Jon Rudnitsky, Kyle Chandler, Lewis Pullman, et al), and Christopher Abbott solidly anchors the mini.
    Abbott deserves to be getting offered as many primo roles/movies as fellow “Girls” alum Adam Driver.
    Is he penalized for being more conventionally handsome? It’s strange.
    Even in the New Hollywood era, Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman both got plenty of opportunities to shine…once in the same movie!

  27. Stella's Boy says:

    21 Bridges has a strong cast and looks like a decent matinee, but yeah it definitely has a Steven C. Miller VOD quickie vibe to it. Or something that drops quietly on Netflix. And it seems like an odd movie for Boseman to make. I mean sure being a lead in a studio flick is swell and all but it does look like a waste of his talents.

    Watched The Fanatic out of morbid curiosity. I cannot possibly exaggerate how shockingly bad Travolta is in this. It’s hard to think of a worse performance given by a former major movie star. Has to be seen to be believed. It’s worse than Simple Jack. I don’t have the words to accurately describe how misguided and terrible it is. Kind of sad to see but also like holy shit how did this get made and released.

  28. movieman says:

    I’ve got a similar morbid curiosity about “The Fanatic,” SB. Especially since it was directed by Fred Durst (I actually didn’t mind “The Longshots” and “The Education of Charlie Banks,” his previous feature directing credits).
    To show you how dire the Netflix DVD situation is these days, they didn’t buy a single copy of “The Fanatic.” It’s precisely the sort of movie that used to be their bread and butter.
    My Netflix “bread and butter” was traditionally the hard-to-see indie/foreign films that only played a handful of big cities. That era has passed, too. They buy precious few esoteric and/or subtitled movies anymore.
    I’ve been threatening to cancel my DVD plan for a few years now, but will finally cut the chord next week when it’s official they’re not getting Hong Sangsoo’s “Hotel by the River.”
    Guess I’ll pay to watch it on Amazon Streaming.
    I don’t have the stamina to spend months trying to track down one of the precious few Ohio library copies like I did w/ Hong’s “The Day After” earlier this year.

    Re: Boseman. Hard to believe “21 Bridges” is the best thing he was offered post-“Panther.” If so, he needs to fire his agent PDQ.
    At least he’s got the next Spike Lee (“Da 5 Bloods”) on his plate, along w/ a Netflix series, the “Black Panther” sequel and “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” w/ Viola Davis (co-produced by Denzel Washington). So things should be looking up for Mr. Boseman next year.

  29. Stella's Boy says:

    It’s streaming on Prime if you have that. Forget the other movies Durst has directed. It might be the worst directed movie of the decade. Every single choice is wrong. And there are ads out pushing Travolta for awards consideration! It’s legit his Simple Jack.

    That’s good. Boseman is a great actor.

  30. movieman says:

    Yeah, I do have Prime, SB. Hadn’t realized it was on there.
    Finding the time to watch is my problem.

    Pretty much a one-movie weekend, although “F v F” has a nice hold.

    1 – Frozen II Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures $41,800,000 – – 4,440 – $41,800,000 1

    2 – A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood Sony Pictures Releasing $4,545,000 – – 3,235 – $4,545,000 1

    3 1 Ford v Ferrari Twentieth Century Fox $4,500,000 – – 3,528 – $46,489,570 8

    4 – 21 Bridges STX Entertainment $3,330,000 – – 2,665 – $3,330,000 1

    5 2 Midway Lionsgate $1,380,000 – – 2,627 – $39,787,561 15

    6 9 Playing with Fire Paramount Pictures $1,070,000 – – 2,760 – $28,076,647 15

    7 3 The Good Liar Warner Bros. $1,030,000 – – 2,454 – $9,420,794 8

    8 5 Charlie’s Angels Sony Pictures Releasing $970,000 – – 3,452 – $11,735,592 8

    9 4 Last Christmas Universal Pictures $940,000 – – 2,411 – $25,692,390 15

    10 8 Joker Warner Bros. $765,000 – – 1,410 – $324,876,813 50

  31. cadavra says:

    Sam: Lucy Liu had been around for a few years, but her breakthrough was on “Ally McBeal,” which led directly to her CA casting.

    Movieman: 21B is produced by the Russo Brothers, so it’s possible Boseman agreed to do it because of their relationship in the MCU, plus it gave him a straight action role, something he really hasn’t done yet.

  32. movieman says:

    I’d forgotten the “21B” trailer, Cad: “From the visionary directors of ‘The Avengers: Endgame'”…or something to that effect.
    Always made me laugh.
    The Russo Bros. are able technicians and darn good entertainers, but “visionary”? Hardly.

    The Russo/Marvel connection is as good an excuse for Boseman agreeing to do the movie as any, Cad.

  33. YancySkancy says:

    movieman: Christopher Abbott may be a decent actor, but he seems charisma-deficient to me (based solely on Girls and The Sinner; haven’t seen Catch-22 or that movie he was acclaimed for — James White, I think?).

  34. movieman says:

    I think Abbott has plenty of charisma, Yancy.
    He’s great in “James White,” btw. As is Cynthia Nixon.
    Definitely worth seeking out.

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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