The Hot Blog Archive for April, 2008

BYOB – Just Another Tuesday

It’s a funny feeling… up 3 touchdowns with 3 minutes to go… or up 6 runs going into the top of the ninth (knowing that if something bad happens, the bottom of the ninth is still there for your team)… and yet, there is always that queasy feeling.
Six weeks of anticipating this third or fourth “opening weekend” in the Democratic primaries… of course, there is way too much emphasis on this one event… unless it pushes one candidate out… which it won’t…. and so, the endlessly asked question of what the numbers will mean in the big picture… to me, it means more negative campaigning by Democrats against one another… no good… this is why so many felt Clinton should have gotten out before PA, not because she should quit, but because exactly what is happening was anticipated… and if she wins by more than 5 points, it will continue, even worse, even if she loses North Carolina by 15 points or more… the Clinton people are already back on the “count Michigan and Florida votes” game after back burnering it for the last few weeks…
Anyway… I look forward to the night being over…. whatever happens… though I worry about early reports of suspiciously broken machines at 7:30 this morning becoming another big story… sigh…
You folks have other stuff on your minds… right?


What Becomes A Studio Most?

Disney had a little shindig on the lot today


20 Wks Of Summer Preview Week

Geeks and Girls have got to be drooling coming into the season. Not only is there an new Indiana Jones, but there is a great comic book hero coming along with some very good buzz, a new Batman from a hero director, a Star Wars that is supposed to look like a cartoon, and the return of two beloved geek colors, green and red. For women, Hollywood responded strongly to some female-driven hits in recent summers with no less than a half-dozen films aimed at them.
The big question mark of this summer is whether Sandler, Ferrell, Stiller, Carrell, Myers, and Pineapple Express is just too much boy comedy for one summer. It


Burying The Lead

Claudia Eller ran a story in the LA Times today about how risky the deal for Indiana Jones 4 is for Spielberg/Lucas/Ford.
Ha ha ha.
She buried the lead down on Paragragh 17… and it’s a doozy!
After the first $400 million in gross revenue, the S/L/F team get 87.5% of the revenue.
87.5 OMFGing percent!!!!
How about a little math?
Let’s look at the last Indiana Jones movie… 19 years ago… which should be about half the gross of this year’s film. The film did $474m worldwide. Taking 87.5% of rentals (at a conservative 55%), the S/L/F group is already into a payday of about $36 million.


Why Is Paramount So Desperate?

The idea of a studio cable/satellite channel is a good one… I have been proposing it as the future for years now.
Bur reading this press release about Par/MGM/US/Lionsgate doing one channel all together just makes my head spin.
I completely understand by MGM and Lionsgate want to be in bed with Paramount. They have a different level of muscle. But what’s in this for Paramount?
Okay, so the two companies have really big libraries… way too big to limit to one channel of programming. But Paramount has a huge library of their own, of both TV and film.
Universal already has the Sleuth Channel, pumping out library mystery and cop shows. They also have Universal High Def Channel, which shows both film and TV in hi-def.
MGM, actually, already launched the MGM HD Channel, showing the studio’s library 24/7 in high-def.
Paramount is not only the studio, but a ton of classic TV that the studio made before they owned a network, plus MTV and VH-1 and Nick and other cable outlets that have been producing original product for years. If ever Paramount seemed in need of self-branding, it is now, in the face of the 98%-likely DreamWorks exit.
Variety reads this all as a slap at Showtime, which is owned by competing family company, CBS. (Another reason MGM needs this is that their Showtime pay-cable deal ends at the end of this year.) But while that may be cute and all… that’s an awfully petty way to walk the walk.
Maybe the strategy is to lock in the MGM/UA and Liosngate libraries, which are two of the biggest after WB. (Lionsgate’s library is huge… only its quality is in doubt… and not based on the Lionsgate release product, but on the kind of libraries the company has acquired over the years.) Maybe 3, 4, 5 or more channels is the longterm goal.
But keep in mind that another pay channel with its exclusives is not any kind of lock to be a hit. Showtime has forever been chasing HBO and others have been chasing Showtime.
What could be a “game changer” is branding The Paramount Channel, where 24/7 great Paramount product plays with a few select slots for originals.
This step feels… oddly careful.



Once again, I wish to speak to the anti-Obama-supporter rhetoric that seems to be the new favorite rhetoric to say that Obama


Weekend Estimates by Klady – April 19

The big story of the weekend is not The Wizards Of Kick Oz or Trying To Forget Segel’s Penis, but Expelled being the widest doc opening ever, leading to being the third biggest doc opening ever. Ever.
Yes, all the Michael Moore movies will overshadow whatever the final number on this film is, but they all went into theaters in exclusives or, with Sicko, under 900 screens.
Expelled is pretty much assured of being amongst the Top Ten doc grossers of all-time before it’s done… and passing Super Size Me and Winged Migration is not out of the question. Just this weekend’s number makes it the #5 doc of the last two years, with Shine A Light and Grizzly Man both likely to be passed this week.
Is this the “Christian Movie” that Hollywood has stumbled chasing since The Passion Of The Christ… meaning more that audience than anything like those numbers? A good question, I think.
Meanwhile, on the Top Two front, neither film had a particularly strong Saturday upturn. Some would argue that Forgetting will outleg Kingdom, but I see no evidence of that, especially with Tribeca opener (snark, snark) Baby Mama and Harold & Kumar 2 landing next weekend, offering comedy options for both women and men. The best shot Sarah Marshall has is to be the date choice somewhere between the two new comedies. Meanwhile, Kingdom has a pretty-much open week until The Man of Iron lands a week later.


Friday Estimates by Klady – 4/19

Well… the good news for Judd Apatow is that Forgetting Sarah Marshall will gross more in its opening week than Walk Hard did in its entire run. The bad news is that aside from that one film, it is his worst opening as a producer since The Cable Guy.
Truth is, seems to me, that people are still ready to buy the Apatow franchises… but without a familiar name in the lead(s) or a clear idea (Universal did a good job of simplifying the film’s narrative for the advertising campaign), the potential for misses increases each time out.
With Klady’s $1.6 million split, the odds are less… but with the thinner separation in some people’s Friday numbers, there is a chance that FSM will pass The Forbidden Kingdom by Sunday night because of a stronger Saturday night market for the romantic comedy vs the notoriously first-nighting action/martial arts crowds. On the other hand, if families decide Forbidden Kingdom is a safe bet for matinees, teh spread will be greater the other way.
The Forbidden Kingdom opening is on the high end of the Jet Li films and looks like it will beat The One to be his best ever start… of course, Jackie Chan ain’t cicken feed. Still, this will be by far is biggest chop socky opening in this country, never having cracked a $10m opening without a pairing gimmick (The Tuxedo is on the borderline, but DreamWorks sold that as a family comedy and teamed him strongly with Love.)
This opening also happens to double what Lionsgate mustered for their first Jet Li effort, War. But even more importantly, it will be the company’s third best non-Saw, non-Tyler Perry opening ever, behind only Fahrenheit 9/11 and the first Hostel…. and Hostel‘s $19.6 million is well in shooting range.
I must admit, I didn’t see this coming for this film… but I am pleased for all involved.
88 Minutes is opening below even the lowest expectations… which goes to show ‘ya that even the best marketing machine can plop out a dud when expectations are so low… aka The MGM Syndrome (pre-new- regime).
And it’s hard to read the tea leaves on Where In The World Is Osama bin Laden?. A $1200 or so per-screen for opening weekend isn’t a disaster. But it isn’t very good under the weight of expectations. Morgan Spurlock clearly carries enough goodwill to get this kind of start, but the per-screen average for Super Size Me didn’t dip this low until weekend 5 with twice as many screens. And the SSM opening weekend cracked $500k on just 42 screens.
The door on theatrical for docs has been closing, slowing lately after a swift shut, leaving only a crack open, after last summer. Between this and Young @ Heart, we could see an even tight squeeze to come…


Ebert Recovering From The Hip

Roger Ebert is recovering at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago after surgery to repair a minor hip injury. He tripped and fell at the Pritikin Center in Florida, where he had gone to continue physical therapy in preparation for his film festival. The staff at Pritikin was very helpful in their quick response to the incident.
“The show must go on!” Ebert says. “I am doing fine and if the doctors clear me, I will be there to welcome our guests, including Ang Lee, Paul Schrader, Richard Roeper, Richard Corliss, Sally Potter, Christine Lahti, Rufus Sewell, Timothy Spall, Michael Barker and many others. But whether or not I am there, the audience will see some amazing films.”
The Roger Ebert Film Festival (Ebertfest) is sponsored by the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign April 23-27. Roger’s wife Chaz says, “Please keep those thumbs up in the hopes that Roger will be there to celebrate the tenth year of his film festival. He has an indomitable spirit.”


Box Office Hell – April 18, 2008



BYOB – Friday

There will be more to post later today… but here is some room to roam…


A Little Petty

A lovely friday afternoon addition to the bile… the WGA decide to “out” 21 members who went “financial core” during the WGA Strike. (Not on the list is George Clooney, who reportedly went fi-core before the strike.)
I don’t object to the idea of allowing membership to know who went fi-core on an informational level, allowing members to draw their own conclusions. But what struck me about this letter is that is was stunningly self-righteous and shows no interest – as it essentially calls on Guild members to shun these 21 people – in explaining why these 21 people made the choice.
One big clue? The only one on the list who is not a soap writer is John Ridley.


Delayed Comments

I saw a complaint in Comments about someone’s comments being delayed.
Once again, I will point out… all commenters who are “trusted” in the Movable type system are published without any limitations.
As it turns out, there were two commenters who had eight total comments held up by Movable Type. I don’t check “unpublished comments” very often, because they are rare. The usual hang-up, when I find them, is what the system decides is too many http links in the comment.
All those comments are now published.
And if anyone EVER has a situation where the system doesn’t publish the comment, PLEASE let me know and I will try to correct immediately.
I do not moderate, edit or remove comments. (There have been maybe 3 examples of edits – with a note from me, explaining – and I think 1 or 2 removals – again, with public explanation – over the years.) It is a core principle of doing this blog that the door is wide open to all voices who wish to comment. The only reason we have any limitations at all is that there are blog spammers that are relentless when you let down your digital defenses.
So again… tell me if you have a problem and don’t assume you’ve been banned or are being censored. You are not.

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Producing Sarah Marshall

Or rather, why didn


They Love Whining In France…

Congratulations to 42West for spinning the ever-spinnable C. Nikki Finke for the second time on the Edward Norton/Hulk non-story in a very slow news week.
Just a couple of quick comments…
1) I defended Edward Norton and Mike DeLuca from attacks by an out-of-control Tony Kaye when the first big buzz about Norton sticking his nose in the editing room started on American History X. The only reason that there was “an Edward Norton cut” is because Tony wasn’t happy releasing his first cut, which tested very well.
2) Norton is a wonderful actor.
3) Norton has had “issues” with his director and/or producers on almost every single film he has been in since, leading to a five year break from any studio work other than a supporting role behind a mask in Kingdom of Heaven. (And his performance, ween at greater length in the “director’s cut” was as great as his truncated work in the release version was not.)
4) The Incredible Hulk will not sell more than $500,000 worth of tickets on the planet because Edward Norton is the star of the film. He may or may not have improved the film with his input, but as a movie star, he is now a non-starter at the box office.
5) No one who will go see this comic book movie has a major interest in whether it is artful. (Doesn’t anyone remember Ang Lee getting slaughtered for bringing his artistic vision to the big green man?) They care if The Hulk is cool and in the spirit of the character they love. Period.
Edward Norton is, no doubt, a talent. But he needs to just put up, shut up, and write and direct his movies himself with small budgets until he earns bigger budgets with financial success as a writer/director. Or he could act like the movie star he could be and do that job instead of endlessly indulging his fantasy of what that job is.
In the meanwhile, by continuing to push out these stories of him being wronged (and really, who the hell else do you think wants you to know about it… unless this is some inverted plot to destroy Norton’s studio viability once and for all?), he is doing exactly what studios will not put up with… an insider screwing his own movie that they paid him for before it is release. In other words, exactly what has kept Tony Kaye from working in this town since American History X.
Fortunately for Universal, stories in gossip columns won’t have much effect on this film’s gross either. But if you’re looking forward to his next Universal film… you will likely have a long, long wait.


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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