The Hot Blog Archive for March, 2005

The Guess Who Discussion

In the bowels of Columbia Pictures marketing, you will find the fabulous Wheel Of Blame. The wheel spins when films are perceived as having underperformed. Possible “winners” range from “bad date” to “horrible movie.”

So this weekend, Hot Bloggers are fighting over the Wheel Of Success. Who should be credited (besides Columbia marketing, where the credit or blame really lies for any opening) with the estimated $21 million weekend for Guess Who?

Ashton Kutcher, whether anyone likes it or not, is a remarkable box office draw… more so because he has made almost nothing but shit. Both The Butterfly Effect and Just Married opened to more than $17 million. Both made my Worst 10 of their respective years.

Bernie Mac has previously been the lead star in one one film, Mr. 3000, which opened to just $8.7 million.

But it is true that the “urban” market has been flexing its muscles like crazy lately.

The exit polling numbers on Guess Who were:
59% under 25
54% Female 46% male
55% non-caucasian (strong ethnic mix of african american, latino, asian, etc)

Honestly, I’m not sure what the exit polling is on your average comedy release these days. But it would be silly to give Bernie Mac all the “non-caucasian” credit… or to give too much credit to Ashton Kutcher.

No one will ever have a real answer here. My personal guess would be that Sony would be estimating and grossing higher without Easter Sunday to compete with, putting the gross around $23 or $24 million… or almost the combination of the opening grosses of both Kutcher & Mac’s last films, allowing a few million for crossover audiences. Seems fair to me.

I would say that Kutcher is a guy who can consistently open movies in the mid teens on his celebrity and Mac is a guy who can open movies around $5 million – $8 million on his celebrity.

And personally, I discount any draw from the remake of a great film… apparently, the power of it was thrown out in the screenplay and is completely neligible in the sell.

What do you think?


Early Box Office Analysis

Guess Who?
Ashton Kutcher.
Ashton Kutcher Who?
Ashton Kutcher who is in the midst of registering the biggest opening in his remarkable and still advancing career.
True, the opening of Guess Who won

1 Comment »

Early Box Office Analysis

Guess Who?
Ashton Kutcher.
Ashton Kutcher Who?
Ashton Kutcher who is in the midst of registering the biggest opening in his remarkable and still advancing career.

True, the opening of Guess Who won’t break any records. It won’t even break the Top Ten for March launches. It won’t break the Top Four of this March’s openers. It won’t even be the top March opening for a movie starring a white and a black star of higher and lower box office value. (That would be Bringing Down The House, aka The Reason Columbia Thought It Might Work To Open This Film At This Time Of Year.)

But $22-$26 million is pretty impressive for an Ashton Kutcher comedy that is getting no benefit from the cache of the original film and with Bernie Mac coming off of Mr. 3000 and with a gimmick that probably isn’t all that interesting anymore. (Note: Start on sexually-flipped remake of Norman… Is That You? in which Norman’s parents are gay and black and catch Norman with a white girl. How much to get Denzel & Wesley to play a couple?)

Then there is Ms. Bullock. She’s made fifteen films in which she starred, starting with Speed in 1994. Eleven of the fifteen films opened to between $10 million and $16.2 million. These are movie star numbers, but it is striking that she has never had even one $20 million opener… not even by fluke (See: Most of the cast of Ocean’s Eleven & Twelve). The final number for this weekend will smell of disappointment, but only because people aren’t looking too closely. The first Miss Congeniality opened to just $10 million on its way to $108 million domestic, one of only three $100 million grosser in Bullock’s career. (I’m not counting The Prince of Egypt in any of these numbers.)

The disappointment that is The Ring Two is being confirmed at the box office, this Friday off by more than 60% from last weekend’s not-so-impressive start. It may have opened stronger than The Pacifier, but it will gross less than the Disney comedy here at home.

On the other hand, Disney is suffering from trying to get Ice Princess gliding a little too close to Fox’s modest success, Robots… and even to its own The Pacifier. Overall, March is not a great month to be on the Disney schedule. Splash, Pretty Woman, Bringing Down The House and The Pacifier are the only March releases from the company that really have worked. And with the exception of The Pacifier, gentle sex and movie star names have been key to each of those successes. I love Joan Cusack, but she is not Julie Andrews and March is not a summer month on this side of the equator.

Million Dollar Baby continues to slug its way to $100 million… and Hitch remains the box office king for the year so far by double the gross of #2 to date, The Pacifier. Robots will close that 2-to-1 margin… but it won’t come within $50 million of the Will Smith vehicle. And I would guess that Hitch will remain the year’s leader by at least a $20 million margin (probably much more) until Star Wars: Episode Three passes Hitch’s domestic total on or about May 30th.


An Open Discussion

I haven’t been blogging as much as I expected to from Bermuda… so instead of futzing around on some other post, feel free to use this one to bring up discussions that you want to be having while I am slacking off…


What Does Gail Berman Really Represent?

Seems to me that everyone is getting the Gail Berman to Paramount story all wrong when they worry that Donald De Line is the target. I would suggest that it should make Rob Friedman a lot more nervous than De Line.

Tom Freston is no idiot and he knows that Gail Berman is not a film production executive. But the evolution of The New Paramount is one of integration… as all the Split Viacom stories have pointed out, Freston and the feature side is keeping the key cable nets. This is to make the machine run an a truly synergistic machine. And as most people who have worked in the Paramount/MTV/Nickelodeon nexus will tell you, the leaders of the TV nets are angry and hurt and ready to get payback as their power increases. Who will put a stop to that?

Gail Berman.

In his first few months, Freston has shown, by both action and inaction (aka not firing everyone), that he is interested in letting people who can do their jobs do their jobs without micromanaging. He has also shown that he is very interested in macromanaging.

Someone has to be the point person in the integration of all the divisions. Brad Grey will be busy, he hopes, making movies. Dealing with the personalities of all the nets is a full time job… too much for one leader, especially as the effort is to break new ground.

Who is the odd man out? It’s not De Line, though that may happen in the future. It’s Rob Friedman, whose job responsibilities have grown wide and far and is, you might notice, never mentioned by anyone regarding Paramount these days. With Grey and Berman, there is not an “appropriate” level for Friedman to land. And there is a real chance that his exit has already been determined, preceding the determination that they needed to go find someone of Berman’s level to lieutenant Grey.

Could Friedman be on his way to Disney as the hands on chief of the New Miramax? The deafening silence around that job lately… a job that Disney has to be itching to move forward with… suggests that someone might already be on tap. Rob Friedman would not be the expected choice, but as I have written before, the Mouse House seems to be looking to make New Miramax into a New Line/Searchlight combo, ultimately supplanting the slowed down Touchstone label, and not into an arthouse division.

And just worth noting, there seem to be three high end exec jobs hiring inside at least two studios as we speak. One is definitely at one of the studios in this story. Another is a bit more of a mystery. But Paramount, Fox and New Miramax are all in play in a lot of roles in town…

I personally believe that the Paramount team in place has the summer to prove themselves. But the Gail Berman move suggests that someone jumped or was pushed before that period came up. And the only job out there that high on the food chain, although many feel it is a fool’s errand, is the New Miramax role, which would be an interesting choice for a studio guy who has not had the chance to really lead the creative side. As for the rest of Paramount, $175 million for The Longest Yard and $8 million for Mad Hot Ballroom are targets that could change a lot of lives, whether met or not. (Clarification: These are rough domestic box office targets that represent job-saving success in each case, not the cost of each film.)

But hey… I’m just a guy blogging in Bermuda… what do I know?


Long Day Of Travel…

… Bermuda wet… late night… see you all tomorrow…


The Passion Discussion RePosted

I just can’t imagine that six minutes of gore removed makes that much of a difference. Certainly not enough to drastically change one’s opinion of the movie. Just because Gibson tossed it back into theaters a year after its release, critics should have to see it again? I don’t think so.

Posted by: Stella’s Boy | March 15, 2005 07:08 PM

the recut wasn’t screened for critics.

Posted by: bicycle bob | March 16, 2005 07:02 AM

“the critics have an unbreakable obligation to show up, plant their asses in their seats, and then give us their professional assessments.”

Chester! Now, after so many thoughtful posts on your part, that’s something I have to disagree with. 😉

Whether it’s a “Film Comment” critic who doesn’t bother to see every trashy Pauly Shore film or “USA Today” which doesn’t send Mike Clark to a seven hour Bela Tarr film, NO critic can see ALL the films that open. There are just too many of them. Pauline Kael didn’t review Ozu films. She admitted in an interview that she just didn’t “get” Ozu. Admitting that, why should she bother watching them and giving her limited assessment? I think you are right that it’s a bit odd that NOBODY reviewed the new version of “The Legal Execution of the Christ”. Point taken. But frankly, if a critic had to choose between seeing the recut “Passion” and the latest Ming-liang Tsai film, I’d rather have him see the latter and report on it.

Posted by: L.J. | March 16, 2005 07:34 AM

I do not know where you are looking but the film has been reviewed and not well. It has taken away the one thing it brought. The gore and violence of Jesus’ death.

Posted by: Terence D | March 16, 2005 10:32 AM

L.J., my key point (which I admit could have been presented better) has been that this re-release is newsworthy, and therefore arts editors should have ASSIGNED this film to their critics. Trust me, none of the critics at any publication, whether it’s USA Today or The N.Y. Times, are able to refuse assignments from their editors. You can’t compare Pauline Kael and some of the Film Comment crowd to other critics; they fall under the category of essayists who get to pick and choose, a privilege other film critics do not share. Even Roger Ebert, arguably the most powerful movie critic of all time, seems to review every single film that gets released.

Terence, as of yesterday, I hadn’t seen a single review anywhere and there were none posted on Rotten Tomatoes. Today, Rotten Tomatoes posted a single review from Philadelphia Weekly (=thumbs down).

Posted by: Chester | March 16, 2005 11:41 AM

Apparently most people (including editors) simply do not feel that it is newsworthy.

Posted by: Stella’s Boy | March 16, 2005 01:15 PM

I completely agree that that’s the case, Stella. And that’s precisely what I (and apparently I alone) think stinks. Does anyone doubt that if Scorsese were to suddenly release a personally recut version of “The Aviator” that was six minutes shorter, revised to address the criticisms of the original, that every major newspaper would have been all over it?

BTW, Stella, you might want to take a look at the Philadelphia Weekly review, because the critic addresses your “they only cut six minutes” argument. He says that while six minutes may not sound like much, the cuts are extremely noticeable and throw off whatever merit he found in the original version. The review is at

Posted by: Chester | March 16, 2005 01:48 PM

I don’t think that’s a logical comparison, nor do I think every major newspaper would be all over something like that. Not so soon after the release of the original version. I’ll check out that review, but other articles have stated that the cuts don’t amount to anything significant. I really don’t care. I hated the movie with a passion and will never, ever watch it again.

Posted by: Stella’s Boy | March 16, 2005 02:01 PM

Stella, how is it not a logical comparison? Where is the flaw in my logic?

Posted by: Chester | March 16, 2005 02:19 PM

I think that critic is on crack. The movie’s message is the power of love in the face of barbarism? Lefties will never admit to nor see its strong direction? Are you fucking with me? I’d hate to read his original review. I assume it’s even more full of shit than his review of the new cut. Maybe my choice of words was poor. I just don’t see something like that ever being a remote possibility, re-releasing The Aviator a year after its original release with six minutes cut. And if it did ever happen, I don’t think that every major newspaper would make sure that it was reviewed.

Posted by: Stella’s Boy | March 16, 2005 02:25 PM

I wholeheartedly agree with you, Stella, that “the power of love in the face of barbarism” is not the message I took from the original film. But I think it’s fair to say that it is the prevailing view of those who supported it.

As far as our ongoing debate about the newsworthiness of the recut … hey, where’s Joe Leydon when we need him?

Posted by: Chester | March 16, 2005 02:35 PM

Excellent question. Where is Joe? Did he all of a sudden get busy or something?

Posted by: Stella’s Boy | March 16, 2005 02:40 PM


It's A Bird! No… wait…

It was one of those nights when the internet was at its best and the internet was at its worst.

The band of brothers (and sisters) that started more than five years ago captured the leadership in news coverage of the trilogy’s phenomena. They’re obsessiveness even pushed the day-to-day coverage beyond the award-winning web presence from New Line. In the process, the site and its leaders became very close to Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and many members of the Rings team. And in the last year, that led to a collaborative effort in, where daily production videos, produced by Jackson’s team and webcast without any clear credits, are the ultimate in movie obsessive meat.

It was only a matter of time before another studio followed in their footsteps. Warner Bros. is using the strategy for the new Superman movie. WB is not the first company to have a direct relationship with a fan site. DreamWorks has owned for years now. But when ran a video of Bryan Singer saying “hello” to fans from Australia, the OneRingers (now Kongites) got pissed off.

Welcome to Hollywood.

Michael Regina aka Xoanon sent out a mass e-mail yesterday to movie site webmasters. I’m not going to publish the five paragraph long e-mail because given the end of the story… less than two hours later…. its harshness and arrogance would be breathtakingly embarrassing and I am not writing this piece to embarrass Michael, but to illustrate a bigger point. Let’s just say that Xoanon accused Warner Bros. of meeting with his people, offering the possibility that they would hire the now incorporated One Ring, Inc to build a fan site for Superman , then backstabbing them and doing it themselves. His central argument, designed to enrage webmasters, was, “When a production company creates a site ‘by fans and for fans’, is that not akin to the tail wagging the dog?”

Xoanon’s first big mistake was that he didn’t investigate, which was started by a guy named Justin Korthof who went to graphic design school up at Cal State Fresno and still lives in Clovis, CA, near Fresno. He registered the site name with It is a .net because the .com is owned by a URL broker in Hawaii. (It comes up for renewal next November… I imagine that WB could have bought it for $10,000 or less… and probably still should.)

And note… none of this info was given to me by Warner Bros. or anyone else. It took about five minutes of snooping around and Google to figure it out.

What Warner’s has done is very much what Peter Jackson has done. They went to a real fan site and offered some financial support and singular resources (and if you don’t think the Kong set reports would bill out to the film budget/studio at $10,000 or more a pop, you’re wrong) and created a hybrid that serves all masters… and serves them pretty well.

Somewhere in there, Xoanon started to confuse his love for the movies he and his team are covering with a business that fakes love like a $5000 a night hooker. Then he forgot whether he was the blower or the blowee. Like so many others in the young history of the web, he thought he had ownership rights over being a “real fan.”

Within minutes of the e-mail blast, WB’s Don Buckley was trying to figure out where Xoanon got the idea that there was a deal on the table to do a Superman site. He went right to Michael Regina and in exactly one hour and forty minutes, the following e-mail arrived.

“Dear webmasters,

After some phone calls from Warners the situation has been rectified. Warner Bros. has pointed out that The One Ring Inc. was not in contention for a Superman site, merely doing research. Warner Bros. has stated that while they love the sites we maintin they decided to work with an existing fansite, rather than create a new one.

I apologize for any confusion, thanks.”

Getting past the typos and grammar problems, the WB story and the OneRing story became as one after one conversation between Mr. Buckley and Mr. Regina. And I have been assured that this was not a big threat talk, but rather a clarification of the reality of what happened.

Yes, WB loved what happened with OneRing on the Rings trilogy. Yes, someone chatted with someone at OneRing… but apparently, there was never an official proposal on the table, in either direction, that would lead a more established site to think that there was a business transaction in the offing. And indeed, Warners was not interested in creating a site out of whole cloth – no matter how loving OneRing’s whole cloth is – but wanted to, just as OneRing once did, offer special opportunities to a real and existing website.

Anyway… the very web-ian mistake was taking something public with a sense of high-handed rage without really knowing all the facts. And in this case, Xoanon didn’t know the two most important facts of all… the website he was attacking was not created by WB and he had no deal pending with WB. In other words… black was white, white was black, all because he was seeing red.

What is the best of the web here? The hour and forty minute turnaround. The access to senior execs at Warner Bros to address this issue within minutes of the first e-mail. Regina making a formal retraction that will go up in all of the places the first e-mail went.

If this mistaken accusation was woven into a story in the mainstream press – and if you think bad fact checking is a web-only phenomenon, you are sadly delusional – a correction would be buried and never seen. Follow-up story? Yeah, right.

Of course, the best thing is always for cooler heads to prevail, for deep research to be done and for “the accused” to get the chance to face the accusations before anything goes public.

And so it goes…


What The Bleep

Interesting… Fox Home Entertainment, which is distributing the DVD/Video of the cult/four-wall surprise indie hit What The Bleep do We Know? took a 30 second spot for the release of the film.

I believe it is the first national spot of any kind for the film that grossed $11 million over the last year… just a few hundred thousand less than the much better known Super Size Me.


Eisner's Iger Sanction

MCN Commentary here.

“Getting back to the political metaphor, there has been no great president who won on the coattails of a strong administration in my lifetime. Nixon was once a Vice President, but he took a long time to get to the big chair and got there on a different energy. George H.W. Bush… Ford… Johnson… no, no, no. That doesn’t mean it can’t happen. But taking the role of maintaining the legacy is pretty brutal. You inevitably pale in the glow of the legendary success of a former reformer.

But maybe Bob Iger will emerge as a big thinker. Maybe he really has a vision for the future that Michael Eisner hasn’t seen.”

Your thoughts below…


I Love The Bad News Bears

I’m into the third act of the film… on HBO Family West at the moment… though it seems to be on cable a lot right now.

What a great movie. Not just a good movie. Truly, a great movie.

This is the best work of Matthau’s late career.

Tatum O’Neil is just perfection.

And all the other kids… I forgot how much they were kids… I guess because I was roughly their age when it came out.

And Michael Ritchie’s work… it’s just so gentle and warm and completely on it.

But it is the underlying theme that makes the film great. When Buttermaker realizes during the climactic game that he has become the kids and they have become him and that for all of his bluster and beer, he knows what he does and does not want to be.

I can only pray that Linklater, who does have much the same cinematic feel of a Michael Ritchie – Dazed & Confused is his Smile… no The Candidate yet – didn’t let the script get overdeveloped or succumb to the urge to modernize too much.

The magic of the movie is when these kids who are so precocious return to being kids here and there.

Great movie.


Early Box Office Analysis

Not a thrilling start for Fox’s Robots. It looks like its max gross for the three-day weekend is about $38 million, which puts its almost $10 million behind DreamWorks’ crappy, but Will Smith led, Shark Tale, which also opened “off-season” last October.

It will also be at least $8 million behind Ice Age, another relatively no name animation from the same production team, which opened in the same slot three years ago. In my opinion, Ice Age was a much more enjoyable movie with a stronger emotional element that made multiple viewings more palatable. Would anyone at Fox see $135 million domestic total for Robots as a success? Probably not. That figure puts the movie into profit in Home Entertainment, but still…

In spite of the big noise of Robots, The Pacifier is off “just” 45% Friday-to-Friday. It isn’t a home run, but a solid double is a step up for Mr. Diesel.

Miramax’s Hostage got surprisingly strong reviews, but will have a fairly mediocre $11 million start thanks to fairly weak awareness of the Bruce Willis action movie. Sure, it’s a better start than the one for The Whole Ten Yards, but this feels like one of those opportunities lost to a lot of distraction and overwork at Current Miramax.

Million Dollar Baby‘s Friday tells you everything you need to know about the current state of trying to ride your Oscar to the big money. In just its second weekend after winning Best Picture, the film had the worst Friday since it went wide and is now off pace to catch up with The Aviator or to pass $100 million.

Speaking of The Aviator, it will try to hit $100 million by the end of next weekend… maybe the start of the weekend after… but it looks like the film will get to the mark, ring the bell and then go away.

Finally, the dismissal and now disappearance of The Jacket has tongues wagging the stability of the team at Warner Indie. If they can’t open the Keira Knightley kinda-horror movie with the Oscar winning co-star to a third of Dimension’s dumper Cursed… well…


Re: Disney

By the way… even though I am laughing about the “reporting” going on around Stanley Gold and Roy Disney’s whining about the lack of a serious search for someone than Bob Iger to replace Michael Eisner at Disney, they are right. There is no serious search for an Eisner replacement at Disney.

But what make me laugh is the idea that this is anything but business as usual for any corporation. As Eisner regained his power base enough to even say the words “Bob Iger” as his successor without being mocked, he also gained the power to withstand this kind of lightweight backbiting.

To the winner, comes the spoils. That is war. That is business. Deal with it.

And ironically, the lack of interest within Disney to make a change as significant as the one that was made when Eisner was hired is also a reason why a candidate as serious as Peter Chernin could be will be hard to get. Why would Chernin go to Disney to maintain what’s been built? He’s doing that at Fox and making more money than he ever would at Disney.

On the other hand, changes at Paramount/Viacom and Sony are indicators of seismic shifts much like the one that first brought Eisner into Mouse control. Eisner & Co. started attacking their weaknesses a couple of years ago and its starting to pay some dividends. And so, the continuation of the status quo instead of a shake-up had the support it needs.

And here’s a topper – if New Miramax turns out to be more New Line/Dimension than Old Miramax, that could be a huge success story that other studios would try to emulate… just as they try to emulate Searchlight now. And as for that job… DeLuca has more movies in play at Sony since he arrived four months ago than he had the entire time at DreamWorks. He’s tan, rested and ready. And as long as he doesn’t get Snow White to smear her lipstick…


Blogus Boringuptus

Sorry about the lack of updates. Honestly, I feel like most of the e-journalism world is circling the same stories and repeating the same secrets and lies a lot this month. We don’t even have a Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue to obsess on like the sportswriters.

It will pick up. THB is going on hiatus for the next couple of weeks, so it should get more interesting here. Of course, I’ll be in Bermuda, so maybe it will be sonombulistic.



Getting Into RSS

Just realized that this page can be syndicated… cool!

Do you all use feeds?


The Hot Blog

Quote Unquotesee all »

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