The Hot Blog Archive for July, 2015

Adjusted World-Wide Grosses Based On Estimated China Rental

Anyone who has read me for a while knows how much I don’t love adjusted numbers. However, the recent massive changes in China’s box office in regard to U.S. films seems to demand consideration. (These stats are based on what is available on Box Office Mojo.)

In the last two years – so far… more to come – there are seven films that have grossed $100m or more of their worldwide total in China. Prior to 2014, it happened three times. Avatar broke ground with just over $200 million in 2010, followed by Transformers: Dark of the Moon in 2011 with $165 million, and Iron Man 3, with $121 million in 2013.

There have been 10 films with international grosses of $500 million or more in the last two years. The only one not to play in China (yet) is Minions. And there are only two others that failed to hit the $100 million gross mark in China (Maleficent and The Amazing Spider-Man 2). The last time a mega-international grosser went unplayed in China was Twilight: Breaking Dawn 2, which was the only film in that franchise to do over $500m internationally, though none of the sexually-charged series played onscreen in China.

Other franchises/genres that had limited play/revenue in China despite huge international numbers include Harry Potter (top was the finale, which did under $28 million), Pirates (best showing for 4… $70 million), animation (only three ever over $50 million, led by Kung Fu Panda 2‘s $92 million), and Spider-Man, who has never cracked $100 million in China.

The only films that would lose their Billion Dollar Club status by adjusting the charts are Transformers: Age of Extinction and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

So… here is a very rough estimation based on the Chinese gross returning 45% (or less) of what theatrical runs in other countries would return to distributors. There are a few films that have made better deals than this… and most have done worse than I am estimating. But this is a broad survey and meant to be generous… but to still stimulate the conversation.

At this size, the charts are nearly unreadable. Click to expand to an easily-read size.

China Adjusted billion $ totals

China Adjusted under a billion 500m int


26 Weeks To Oscar: Resetting The Field For The Very First Time

Since the last column of “Setting,” 5 of the films mentioned have officially exited the playing field with firmed 2016 dates (The Coen Bros’ Hail Caesar!, Jodie Foster’s Money Monster, John Hillcoat ‘s Triple Nine, Richard Linkater’s Everybody Wants Some, and Jeff Nichols’ Midnight Special) and three have joined… Ryan Coogler’s Creed and Nicholas Hytner’s The Lady In the Van, and Michael Moore’s Where To Invade Next. (Please remember… this is a Best Picture list. There are other categories that other films not mentioned will certainly compete for and perhaps even win.)

One more note… no movie is going to get nominated for or win an Oscar based on what festival they opened at… or chose to open without a festival run. The choice is a strategy. It adds to the pot, it changes the flavor, it supplants other choices… it is a living, breathing moment in the history of all of these films. But with the increases awards aggression of Telluride and New York Film Festival in recent years, it has quickly become clear that the old thinking about festival season is now meaningless. Like opening movies, selling your awards hopeful is a long, long process and so long as your film opens in 2015 and shows in L.A. and N.Y. by December 5, you are as likely or unlikely as any other film with any other strategy to get into the race. It’s all about the movie… and the sell.


TORONTO Premieres

Demolition – Jean-Marc Vallee – released by Fox Searchlight – They are claiming that this Opening Night film will be released mid-2016. If the film gets great reviews in Toronto (and if Everest is regarded as a commercial, non-awards entry), that will change, almost instantly. Doing TIFF without this goal would be nothing less than foolhardy.

The Danish Girl – Tom Hooper – distributed by Focus

The Lady In The Van – Nicholas Hytner – distributed by Sony (could be Tri-Star, could be Sony Classics)

Legend – Brian Helgeland – distributed by Universal

The Martian – Ridley Scott – distributed by Fox

The Program – Stephen Frears – no U.S. distributor yet

Trumbo – Jay Roach – distributed by Bleecker Street

Where To Invade Next – Michael Moore – no distributor yet


TELLURIDE TBAs (likely) that are going on to TORONTO

Black Mass – Scott Cooper – distributed by Warner Bros

Spotlight – Thomas McCarthy – distributed by Open Road


NYFF Premieres

Steve Jobs – Danny Boyle – distributed by Universal

The Walk – Robert Zemeckis – distributed by Tom Rothman’s TriStar


Already Premiered, Going To Festivals

Brooklyn – John Crowley – distributed by Fox Searchlight

Carol – Todd Haynes – distributed by The Weinstein Company

Sicario – Denis Villeneuve – distributed by Lionsgate/Summit

Youth – Paolo Sorrentino – distributed by Fox Searchlight


Already Theatrically Released Before Fall Festivals

Ex Machina – Alex Garland – distributed by A24

Inside Out – Pete Docter – distributed by Disney

Love and Mercy – Bill Pohlad – distributed by Roadside Attractions

Mad Max: Fury Road – George Miller – distributed Warner Bros

Mississippi Grind – Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck – distributed by A24

Ricki and the Flash – Jonathan Demme – distributed by TriStar

Southpaw – Antoine Fuqua – distributed by The Weinstein Co.

September/October/November Releases With No Apparent Domestic Festival Plan At This Time

Bridge of Spies – Steven Spielberg – distributed by Disney

Creed – Ryan Coogler – distributed by Warner Bros

Everest – Baltasar Kormákur – distributed by Universal

Our Brand Is Crisis – David Gordon Green – distributed by Warner Bros

Suffragette – Sarah Gavron – distributed by Focus Features


Late Year Releases (Some Which May Still Push To 2016), Which Won’t Likely Premiere Before AFI, November 5

Silence – Martin Scorsese – distributed by Paramount

In the Heart of the Sea – Ron Howard – distributed by WB

The Revenant – Alejandro G. Iñárritu – distributed by Fox

Snowden – Oliver Stone – distributed by Open Road

Joy – David O. Russell – distributed by Fox

The Hateful Eight – Quentin Tarantino – distributed by The Weinstein Company

By The Sea – Angelina Jolie – distributed by Universal

Concussion – Peter Landesman – distributed by Columbia

I Saw The Light – Marc Abraham – distributed by Sony Classics



A Bigger Splash – Luca Guadagnino – distributed by Fox Searchlight

45 Years – Andrew Haigh – distributed by Sundance Selects

Criminal – Ariel Vromen – distributed by Summit/Lionsgate

The Last Face – Sean Penn – no U.S. distributor

Regression – Alejandro Amenábar – distributed by The Weinstein Company



Weekend Estimates by Klady-Man 2

Weekend Estimates 2015-07-26 at 9.29.12 AM

Not a particularly strong weekend for any of the top titles. The gross of the Top 5, new and old, is a few million better than the weakest weekend of the summer, July 4, which was led by 3rd & 4th holdovers and had the holiday on Saturday. A 57% drop for Ant-Man is nothing to crow about in its second weekend, yet was still good enough to keep a soft Pixels opening from being at the top of the chart. Southpaw and Paper Towns opened modestly. No signs of any effect of the violence in Lafayette on Trainwreck‘s second weekend.

More to come…


Friday Estimates by Pixelated Klady

Friday Estimates 2015-07-25 at 9.40.22 AM

Not a very exciting weekend.

Pixels is not a complete disaster, like That’s My Boy or Blended, but it does stink of Adam Sandler’s last gasp as the major box office star he has been for 17 years. And sorry haters, but his stardom and success is undeniable, even if you hate the man’s humor utterly. The difference with Pixels is that it is high concept and relatively high budget for recent Sandler and unless the videogame element generates $150 million in Asian countries, this one is going down… greatly because they relied so much on Sandler, not Columbus, to sell it. And the truth is, I have no idea what happened inside of Sony to have this sold the way it was. Did Columbus reject being front and center? Did Sandler control marketing? Did they test “Here’s a movie from the guy who brought you Harry Potter and Home Alone and guess what goofball came along for the ride?” and it didn’t test well? Don’t know. But like Hotel Transylvania, I feel like the movie needed to be sold without making it all about the actor, who brings a ton of baggage – much of it unfair, in terms of media – to his releases.

Anyway… will families show up with their kids today? Probably not much. And the film is perfectly safe for under 10s. But they didn’t sell that element either. They just hoped little kids would get jazzed by life-sized videogames. So the fear, for Sony, is that they got the core Sandler audience on Friday and that the film didn’t reach much beyond that and will sink on Saturday and Sunday, leaving either Minions or Ant-Man or both to pass it at the box office to great embarrassment.

As I have noted a million times, ranking means nothing in reality. It is a bad way to report box office and we all should stop doing it as a way of leading. However, taking what was meant to be a 4-quadrant movie and turning it into a half-quadrant movie is hugely embarrassing and when you “win” Friday by almost $2 million in a seven-digit “race” and have to worry about “losing” to not just one, but two movies… someone is shitting themselves at Sony this weekend. And it ain’t Tom Rothman. In fact, if it hasn’t already done so – via internal projections – this opening has got to empower Rothman even more with the corporate bosses, because honestly, Pixels is soooo Amy Pascal… so last regime. Further, Paramount would have found a way to open this thing to $50 million. But then again, Paramount’s computers are working and the studio hasn’t been under attack for 10 months. So, deep breaths.

Ant-Man‘s 68% opening-Friday-to-Friday drop is better than Cap 1 and worse than Thor 1… but not far off of either and the rest of the weekend will tell the story. Cap still ended up with $25.5m for the second weekend off a $7.9m Friday. That suggests Ant-Man should be somewhere around $23.5 million this weekend if it stays in step.

Minions is looking at $22 million and change, based on the 3-day arc of last weekend.

Paper Towns and Southpaw are nearly twins coming out of the gate. If I Stay would seem a good, if slightly generous, template for Paper Towns… meaning, it didn’t find the sweet spot that The Fault In Our Stars did. Back to the niche. $14m – $15m for the weekend and a domestic total in the mid-40s. And Southpaw, which surely plays more adult and more male. Tough to find a comp, but maybe Savages from a few years ago? However, that one had more sex appeal and was all edge. Southpaw, ironically, is really a story of family and redemption. $40 million domestic total looks like a happy number from the perspective of this opening day, especially given the underwhelming media support. But with Wanda as a funder, the Chinese market could prove critical to the bottom line on this one and make the movie profitable all on its own.

In terms of the first run, Jurassic World is already past Titanic ($600m first run, another $58m in re-release domestically) and could pass Marvel’s The Avengers for #2 all-time this weekend. Is Titanic‘s first-run $1.8 billion worldwide catchable? Honestly, I don’t know the layout of the what has played out internationally well enough to tell you. China’s been milked, so I am guessing “no.”

Mr. Holmes added 325 screens and 18% Friday-to-Friday, which is solid work at that level. Roadside is releasing the film at a slightly hotter clip than they did Mud, which is their top grosser ever, and Holmes seems up to the challenge. The film probably tops out at about $25 million with Roadside, whereas Searchlight or Weinstein or Sony Classics may well have ridden it to another $10 or $15 million on top of that. Still, an unquestionable success.

Samba, release by Broad Green, is the only $10k-per-screen art house movie this weekend that isn’t an ethnic play.

Chinese superhero parody Pancake Man is off to a strong U.S. start, as it has been in most countries it has played. Over $20k per-screen seems likely for the weekend on 13. And now I am anxious to find out if there is a subtitled version out there so I can see it too.


Sandler and Pixels and Netflix, Oh My!


I’m not reviewing Chris Columbus’ new film because… what’s the point? Adam Sandler is in it, so obviously it’s a trigger to Armageddon.

The Wedding Singer, The Waterboy, and 50 First Dates are all movies I would recommend without restraint. He has had 29 other movies as the lead. I like a few of them (Zohan, Anger Management, Hotel Transylvania), admire the effort of a couple (Funny People, Punch Drunk Love, Grown Ups), and have various degrees of emotion, from “meh” to active contempt for the rest.

Why do they make Adam Sandler movies? Fourteen $100 million domestic grossers in 16 years. Tom Cruise has had 16 in 21 years. Tom Hanks has had 18 in 24 years. Eddie Murphy had 14 in 22 years, though a group-leading five of those were animated.

There is no era of cinema in which Adam Sandler would not be a major movie star whose film were made. And truly, with $100m+ grossers in 2012 and 2013, this is one of the few eras in which he’d be run off to Netflix to get paid “full value” for his services.

Pixels was not his idea.

And the guy who directed Harry Potter and Home Alone was directing.

If it was Jack Black and Ben Stiller, how would critics feel about this film?

Still imperfect… but I would expect to see less rage.

I wish it were better. But it’s not the most frustrating or worst major release of this summer. Or is it?


Review-ish: Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (spoiler-free)


It’s good.

Christopher McQuarrie wins the “Best Written Mission: Impossible Movie” title. The story is clear. The characters are appropriately hyper-real, but grounded and their behavior follows logically. There are mysteries that keep unraveling. And it doesn’t choke you with details that can’t be deciphered without 27 watchings.

Cruise is good. Pegg is great. Newcomer Rebecca Ferguson has a very real chance at being a part of our cinematic conversation for decades to come. Sean Harris is just right and just weird enough. Really excellent casting all around.

Joe Kraemer does a terrific job with the music, mixing the original theme with Turandot and his own stuff. Robert Elswitt is consummate.

So what is keeping this film from greatness?

My take is that it’s McQuarrie’s direction.

It’s not horrible. It’s not even bad. And I don’t know how things went in the cutting room. But, for instance, there is one terrible habit in the film, which is cutting away from most of the big action beats just before the exact thing that the audience is ready to see happen.

You’ve seen the ads with Mr. Cruise hanging off the side of the plane. “Open the door, Benji!” Cool enough. But Cruise getting from outside to inside when the door finally opens? We don’t see it. Likewise, when he later exits the plane… cutaway before he is fully out and free from harm’s way.

For me, this happened more than a half-dozen times in the film and took me out of the moment of what should have been glorious each time. A few of them could be attributed—though I have not heard any discussion of them—to a PG-13 issue. Seeing where the knife goes in during a scene might have been enough for an R. But not all of them.

In some cases, I thought maybe the CG just wasn’t good enough when it got completed. Or maybe it was sliced for budget. Don’t know.

But what I love about McQuarrie’s The Way of the Gun, for instance, is just how willing McQuarrie is to linger in the discomfort. Not here.

And honestly, as I recall Jack Reacher, which was good, but similarly, it was so close but so far from the glory to which it aspired. Some filmmakers are gifted at pulling punches. It’s almost like McQuarrie would rather leave you feeling something missing than to work around what he isn’t allowed(?) to show.

As I watched M:I-RN, I thought a lot about Billy Friedkin and how he would have made this movie. A little less big. A little more real. And in my imagination, more satisfying… based on this really smart script.

The other thing – and again, I haven’t see the raw footage, so what do I know? – but this film relies on editing a lot for pace. Too much. And along with that, way too many close-ups… always. Punching into a close-up now and again is one thing, but this film felt like they were punching out to the occasional two-shot. And even most of the two-shots were composed close-ups, but not as stylized overall as The Thomas Crown Affair.

And yet… I do like this movie.

Good villains. Did I mention Rebecca Ferguson, who is a chameleon whose face easily holds the screen in a tight, make-up-light close-up? She is a winner. Baldwin and Renner are best as a comedy duo here. Simon Pegg is aces. And the big action sequences generally work… except for the shorted punchlines.

One last comment. Ferguson and Pegg look way too much like Michelle Monaghan and this film’s Sean Harris for this to be a coincidence. But it remains part of the film’s subtext, never really spoken to out loud, But it has to mean something to McQuarrie. I mean, it is so close. There is even a direct close-up with Pegg and Harris that invites us to make the facial comparison close-up. They looks so similar that I really considered the idea that Pegg was playing both roles, with prosthetics to turn him into the other character. I don’t know what it means. But I am fascinated. I will be interested to see if it becomes a conversation as the film rolls out.


BYOB Weekend



Weekend Estimates by Lenwreck

Weekend Estimates 2015-07-19 at 8.51.24 AM

Considering the challenges of Ant-Man, there is nothing wrong with this opening, even though it is the weakest Disney opening of a Marvel film so far. It’s comparable to the Universal opening of the second Hulk, which went on to “just” $135m domestic and $263 million worldwide. Of course, that was not seen as a financial success because it wasn’t doing a Spider-Man or X-Men level of business.

Fox should be a big help to Marvel before their next second-tier character film, Doctor Strange. Fox has four Marvel movies on the schedule (Fantastic Four, Deadpool, X-Men: Apocalypse, and Gambit) and Marvel/Disney only one (Captain America: Civil War) before Strange is due next November. Two of the Fox films are named for and focused on second or even third tier Marvel characters. It’s very important to Marvel that the Fox films succeed, especially the two offbeat titles. Non-industry-watchers aren’t don’t carefully distinguish which studio is making which film. Either there is going to be some fresh excitement about comic book movies, which expands audience interest… or there is going to be some ennui, lading to more dangerous opening days.

By the way… Real-D is very excited that Ant-Man is one of four 3D films in the Top 5 this weekend… and that its the sixth film this summer to sell 40% or more (high being 48%) of its tickets to 3D buyers. This celebration of success is also a reminder of how marginalized 3D was getting in the last couple of years… and how small a percentage of tickets 3D has represented since the explosive moment of Avatar. We seem to be settling into a pattern, at least for now. 43% or so of tickets sold in 3D for spectacles.

Minions had a good hold, considering last weekend’s massive number.

Trainwreck was anything but, the estimate just over the $30 million mark, which notably puts it just ahead of the opening of Spy, which is not just another female-led comedy, but is the #2 non-animated comedy of the summer so far, behind only Pitch Perfect 2. Somewhere between 3 and 4 million people paid to see this film this weekend, which is a bigger audience for the film than Schumer has ever had for an episode of her show. This is a great success for Schumer, Apatow, and Universal marketing. It also, for better or worse, shows the power of wall-to-wall publicity, as Schumer seemed to eat the media landscape in the last couple of weeks. The good news here is that the movie is strong and will likely have good holds as it heads for the $100m mark.

By the way… I imagine I will be disappointed if I expect to see a single story about the number of Originals doing well this summer. The Trainwreck opening means that 50% of the Top 12 summer openings are Originals. Two more are the first sequels to Originals. Do we still have to read endless pieces about the sky falling because of sequels, spin-offs, and comic book movies?

Great holds continue for Inside Out and Jurassic World.

Mr. Holmes is king of the indies for the weekend, with $2.4 million on 363 screens ($6580 average). The new Woody Allen, Irrational Man, picked up steam over the weekend, estimated at $36,460 per screen on 5 after a $10k per-screen launch on Friday, but it’s still n the low end of Woody openings. Also flexing some muscle was The Stanford Prison Experiment, with $19k per on two.


Next Ovation Episodes… Southpaw

Screen Shot 2015-07-18 at 3.17.39 PM

What Is Tracking?

I encountered a proposition on Twitter this morning that, somehow, tracking on Trainwreck as reported by the trades, was lower than what the Friday gross suggests the weekend number will be, in some attempt to damage the film because it centered on a woman.


There are many absurdities piled on others to get to that presumption. But I am not writing this to mock the smart person proposing this notion, but to simply clarify the layers and what is real versus what is completely imaginary.

Tracking is a marketing tool. There are a lot of numbers and math involved, but to simplify, it is a survey-based projection of awareness and interest in seeing movies that are being released in the near future. It was formerly done by phone surveying, which has inherent flaws. Reaching teens on home phones became challenging once cell phones took off. These days, reaching a group that is representative of the ticket-buying audience on home phones is almost impossible. Which is why they all switched to internet surveying in the last few years. But ethnic audiences still seem to be harder to reach. Younger moviegoers are poorly represented in these surveys.

Of course, these problems are supposed to be adjusted for statistically. Sometimes it works better than other times. But you will find, if you look at tracking or even just read what is reported, that guesses at box office based on tracking are consistently wrong. Sometimes by a little. Sometimes by a lot.

For instance, in early June, Melissa McCarthy’s Spy was guessed to open at $30 million and came in only 3% off of that estimate. On the other hand, that same weekend, Insidious Chapter 3, was “tracked” at 10% more than its actual opening. A few weeks before release, Minions was reported to be tracking at one-third less than its actual opening. By the days before opening, the range of trackers had the opening at $95 million to $110 million… a wide berth that was still $6 million shy of reality. Two days before Ted 2 opened, the tracking alleged the film would open to between $45-$55 million. It opened to $34 million, missing by 25% in the kindest reading. Likewise, Magic Mike XXL allegedly tracked to open to $28m over 3 days and missed by $12.9m or 54%.

Some well-informed readers will either comment or send e-mails about how the tracking numbers I am citing are wrong. I can’t and won’t argue. As noted before… different people read tracking differently. I am pointing out published claims about tracking. No question, others saw it differently before, during, and after.

In reality, we non-insiders – even we well-educated guessers of the media – don’t know how well tracking works. We know the number that someone manufactured as the guess at box office at one or more studios. But we don’t know whether the studio had fairly accurate detailed information about each film going into those opening weekends.

If you are watching the marketing, you can often see tactic shifts in the weeks leading into a release. Part of Universal’s strategy on Trainwreck, for instance, was to make the film more accessible to guys with plenty of ads emphasizing LeBron James and the Bill Hader character’s relationship to sports. This led to some reviews overstating the sports element of the film, actually criticizing the film. But if guys going to the movie with their female beloveds this weekend were willing – unlike Magic Mike – then Universal won… and that seems to be the case. Tactically, sometime last week, the studio may have seen reasons to push male or female, older or younger… all looking to maximize the opening. That is what tracking is for.

Studios do, to some degree, feel the zeitgeist. But tracking and other tools are there to quantify the situation, as the bubble most studio execs live in often leads to false reads of the national audience.

Tracking is meant to let marketing departments know whether the public is aware of their movies. It is meant to advise them as to which elements in their marketing are connecting with audiences… and which element with which demographic. And as they get closer to release, it is meant to give them some idea how the marketing message us translating into Must See and Want To See and disinterest in seeing.

How the raw numbers are crunched means a lot. And every studio reads them a little differently.

And yes, every studio has projected internal estimates of what the weekend box office might be, based on these figures. But historically, each studio’s estimates do not match the others.

And historically, tracking was (and is still meant to be) a private document. The first reason for this is that the price of tracking is very high and it is sold to subscribers, not given away for free. But as we have learned in recent years, the reason to keep tracking private is that it is wildly misused and misunderstood by the media.

In the years before Nikki Finke set up a “Studios tell me to say…” faux box office analysis that got its weekly Drudge link (making her pieces on box office valuable marketing real estate), those of us who wrote about box office would occasionally get so interested in a particular title that we would seek and usually get tracking info on Movie X from sources at studios. Sometimes we would even get the raw tracking, which was of little use to most.

But to get the edge, Finke started two horrible habits that have now metastasized across media. One is “reporting” tracking before movies open. The other is “reporting” Friday east coast matinees numbers and projecting the whole weekend’s box office on Friday early afternoon, LA time. The Friday habit is just bad journalism. Yes, those numbers can tell you if a film is in a lot of trouble or doing a lot better than expected. But they after often 20% or more off in terms of projecting Friday’s numbers, much less the weekend’s. But the tracking thing is much more insidious.

Since media is now “reporting” what they think – usually, “have been told” – the tracking means early in the week or even the week before, it is now the job of the studios to spin those numbers even before the first dollar hits the box office. The most obvious ploy is selling the idea that a film is going to open as softly as possible, so if the film does a lot better, it’s a big positive surprise and if it remains modest, it is not a “disappointment.”

So, in a case like Trainwreck – I have no specific knowledge of how this played out with press – Universal would likely be out there, on background, explaining how poorly the film is doing in tracking… looking like it would do mid-teens numbers, all the while thinking it would probably be mid-20s. After encouraging Friday matinee numbers, the studio would surely still be advising that media maintain an even strain… don’t get carried away… it could be an illusion.

This morning, with studios doing official Friday estimates (another phenomenon in published box office which really didn’t happen until Finke made it a habit), the story is that Trainwreck is doing better than tracking but not as good as Friday east coast matinees expected. See… there is a tinge of negativity in there… for no real reason… other than a story ran overreaching reality on Friday afternoon. That is what studios work to avoid. No one wants negativity.

So now the bar is set again. The film did an estimated $10.6 million, including $1.6m on Thursday night… so the pressure is on to get to/near $30 million… or at least close enough to estimate a number that will be seen as a big win when Sunday estimates are reported all day on Sunday. Today the problem for Universal is if the film doesn’t hit $30 million, will it be positioned as “disappointing,” for no logical reason at all… except that some journalist stepped up their personal, unfounded expectations.

Spy opened to a $10.3 million Friday and hit $29 million back in June. But then again, Spy opened against Insidious Chapter 3, which was a horror film that did $23m that weekend, not Ant-Man, a very family-friendly comic book movie that will do something around $60 million. The market can expand enough for box films to do whatever number… but one wonders what the Saturday bumps for each will look like and if date night will lean to the Ant for some couples. We don’t actually know. So we guess.

But it’s not a game, of course. There are real numbers that will occur. When they happen, they will be news. But that would only be one page view… not 6 through weekend updates.

And unfortunately, the difference between how Trainwreck opening to $20 million and $30 million is reported in a much more dramatic way than reality would demand.

The now-classic cautionary tale of a summer movie whose opening was “a disappointment” was Melissa McCarthy’s Tammy, which opened to $2 million more than half what The Heat opened to and $13m less than Identity Thief. But the film went on to do 4x opening and cracked $100m worldwide, turning a strong profit against a $20m budget. (Yes, I was one who kicked the film too early.) By the way… as long as I am ripping on misused stats… CinemaScore came up with a C+ for the film, which would do 4x that opening weekend.

All of this rolls back to the original issue… extrapolating subtext in tracking based on the misuse of tracking. Silly. And a result of readers thinking they are now familiar and/or have an understanding of tracking by reading about it each week, but by reading writers who also know almost nothing about tracking except for what they are told by marketing departments… which is not just a problem of subject-generated news, but of not asking the deeper layer or questions where real issues can be addressed.

I have been writing about box office for longer than any working box office writer except for Len Klady, who works here at MCN. I am not an expert on tracking. None of the writers who I see out there – at the trades or elsewhere – is an expert on tracking. Nothing personal… just the fact.

And of course, this doesn’t start to touch on the absurdity of counting the money while it’s sitting on the table, focusing almost exclusively on domestic, rarely examining costs, etc.

If you are upset about a movie and how it is tracking, you are just looking for a reason to be upset. It is in no one’s interest – not the tracking companies nor the studios nor the press – to be wrong about how a movie is going to do. Even when a studio is trying to get a producer off its back, trying to prove that they are doing everything they can, false expectations within that private circle can lead nowhere good after opening weekend.

And that’s what I have to say about that.

(Edited to note the shift to online surveying.)

1 Comment »

Friday Estimates by Ant Len

Friday Estimates 2015-07-18 at 8.51.18 AM

Ant-Man is a little behind Captain America: The First Avenger and Thor, but Marvel has to feel pretty good about this number.

Trainwreck opens a little behind Spy, but Judd Apatow and Universal have to feel pretty great about this opening.

Minions‘ 65% drop of Friday will likely translate to something in the low 50s for the weekend. Solid. The film will easily pass $500 million worldwide this weekend. Looks like $35m or so ahead of Inside Out domestically after 2 weekends, as that film closes in on (or passes) $500 million worldwide as well.

Jurassic World, now past $600 million domestic, is starting to slow a bit. But it has now passed the first-run domestic gross of Titanic (with the domestic total still possible) and will pass The Avengers‘ domestic total next weekend.

This is the best looking indie weekend in a while. Openings of Irrational Man ($10.5k per on 5 on Friday) and The Stanford Prison Experiment ($5050 per on 2 on Friday) were strong while with a 363 screen opening, Mr. Holmes managed $1791 per screen to start.


BYOB Humpday



Weekend Estimates by Klady Mignon

Weekend Estimates 2015-07-12 at 9.19.57 AM


Friday Estimates by Jagged Yellow Klady

Friday Estimates 2015-07-11 at 8.08.29 AM

Minions had #1 animation opening day of all-time… and amazingly, only the fourth best opening day of this summer.

The idea that there is anything negative to say about this opening is foolish. Big win. No Penguins of Madagascar letdown. New records broken by this Universal summer.

It is time to point out again that Universal has a very different schedule next summer, which is not a tentpole city, and which could – like last year – be hugely profitable without all the crazy numbers of this summer. There are many ways to skin a cat in the film business, even if the media is a size queen.

Dropping off heavily on Friday, for the first time since the inevitable second Friday drops, were Inside Out and Jurassic World. It will be interesting to see how each bounces back over the weekend.

Newcomers The Gallows and Self/Less picked a bad weekend. Warner Bros offered up a pretty clear picture of what The Gallows is and what it offers, though it did look a bit more like a murderous ride at an amusement park than the next iteration of Freddy & Jason. Focus/Gramercy didn’t do a great job establishing just why we needed to see Self/Less, much less to see it mid-summer.

Terminator Genisys‘ Friday was off 63% and remember, last Friday was not opening day, so this drop is pretty rough. $100 million domestic is looking very far off.

Magic Mike XXL is looking like a $65m-70m domestic grosser, which is still an all-in winner for Warner Bros… just not the cash machine the first one was. The big question will still be international and whether it matches that number or doubles it. Magic Mike III: Look at The Veins In My Penis will be directed by Eli Roth and go direct to Netflix.

On the indie side, strong starts for Tangerine and Do I Sound Gay? on four screens and one, respectively.


How New Directors End Up In The Studio System

This survey was originally titled “The Male Director Challenge.” You can find out why, in detail, here.

The basic idea was to answer the question being posed often these days about why so many more men are directing studio movies than women. Answers to the question, mine included, tend to be a bit off the cuff. And I would prefer to have some facts going into any serious conversation.

The standard I set for myself was any first-time major studio director with a non-animated film that ended up grossing in the Top 50 of any of the last 15 years, 1999 – 2014. This means it is, naturally, a somewhat incomplete list. But it feels to me like there is some insight here.

There are 101 people who became studio directors for the first time in the last 15 years. Some are amongst the biggest working these days… some have never made another film.

Of the 101, only 3 are women. Sharon Maguire, Phyllida Law, and Anne Fletcher.

(Why is Ava DuVernay not on this list? Selma ended up as the #61 film of 2015. That is the quirk of this survey. She is not alone. There are others who might have made the list were it not for under-#50-grossing films that were for studios in this time period, leaving them as ghosts.)

The question of how many “people of color” is a lot more complicated, as there is a good-sized chunk of non-Americans that so qualify. That said, there are only three African-Americans on this list of 101.

There are all kinds of stories about how these folks got to be studio directors and many fit into multiple categories of prior history getting there. But the biggest group by far is people who have already made independent feature films. Fourteen of the thirty-four newcomers in this group are people who came from other countries.

1999 – Notting Hill – Roger Michell
2001 – The Others – Alejandro Amenábar
2003 – Gothika – Mathieu Kassovitz
2004 – The Bourne Supremacy – Paul Greengrass
2004 – The Grudge – Takashi Shimizu
2005 – Flightplan – Robert Schwentke
2005 – The Ring Two – Hideo Nakata
2006 – The Pursuit of Happyness – Gabriele Muccino
2009 – Taken – Pierre Morel
2010 – The Tourist – Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
2011 – Rise of the Planet of the Apes – Rupert Wyatt
2012 – Safe House – Daniel Espinosa
2012 – Contraband – Baltasar Kormákur
2013 – Mama – Andy Muschietti

1999 – The Sixth Sense – M. Night Shyamalan
1999 – The Matrix – The Wachowskis
1999 – Inspector Gadget – David Kellogg
2000 – Gone in 60 Seconds – Domenic Sena
2002 – Insomnia – Christopher Nolan
2003 – American Wedding – Jesse Dylan
2003 – Legally Blonde 2: Red, White and Blonde – Charles Herman-Wurmfeld
2005 – Saw II – Darren Lynn Bousman
2005 – The Exorcism of Emily Rose – Scott Derrickson
2005 – The Family Stone – Thomas Bezucha
2006 – Nacho Libre – Jared Hess
2007 – Stomp the Yard – Sylvain White
2008 – What Happens in Vegas – Tom Vaughn
2008 – Cloverfield – Matt Reeves
2012 – The Vow – Michael Sucsy
2012 – Looper – Rian Johnson
2014 – Guardians of the Galaxy – James Gunn
2014 – Godzilla – Gareth Edwards
2014 – The Fault in our Stars – Josh Boone
2014 – 300: Rise of An Empire – Noam Murro

The next biggest group of new directors came from television roots, both here and abroad.

1999 – She’s All That – Robert Iscove
1999 – House on Haunted Hill – William Malone
2000 – Bring It On – Peyton Reed
2000 – Coyote Ugly – David McNally
2000 – Snow Day – Chris Koch
2000 – Final Destination – James Wong
2001 – Bridget Jones’ Diary – Sharon Maguire
2002 – The Santa Clause 2 – Michael Lembeck
2003 – S.W.A.T. – Clark Johnson
2005 – Sahara – Breck Eisner
2005 – White Noise – Geoffrey Sax
2006 – Borat – Larry Charles
2007 – Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – David Yates
2008 – Sex and the City – Michael Patrick King
2011 – The Muppets – James Bobin
2012 – Pitch Perfect – Jason Moore
2012 – Chronicle – Josh Trank

The next group is the much-maligned Music Video/Advertising group.

2000 – The Cell – Tarsem Singh
2000 – Next Friday – Steve Carr
2000 – Shanghai Noon – Tom Dey
2001 – Behind Enemy Lines – John Moore
2002 – Barbershop – Tim Story
2003 – The Texas Chainsaw Massacre – Marcus Nispel
2004 – DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story – Rawson Marshall Thurber
2005 – Constantine – Francis Lawrence
2005 – The Amityville Horror – Andrew Douglas
2010 – Tron Legacy – Joseph Kosinski
2012 – Snow White and the Huntsman – Rupert Sanders

The groupings get much smaller from here.

2005 – The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – Andrew Adamson
2011 – Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol – Brad Bird
2012 – 21 Jump Street – Miller & Lord
2012 – John Carter – Andrew Stanton

2006 – Eragon – Stefen Fangmeier
2008 – Journey to the Center of the Earth – Eric Brevig
2009 – G – Force – Hoyt Yeatman
2014 – Maleficent – Robert Stromberg

2001 – Legally Blonde – Robert Luketic
2008 – Four Christmases – Seth Gordon
2009 – District 9 – Neill Blomkamp
2009 – Zombieland – Ruben Fleisher
2009 – Hotel for Dogs – Thor Freudenthal

1999 – American Pie – The Weisz Brothers
2002 – Two Weeks Notice – Marc Lawrence
2004 – Along Came Polly – John Hamburg
2008 – Forgetting Sarah Marshall – Nicholas Stoller

1999 – American Beauty – Sam Mendes
2002 – Chicago – Rob Marshall
2008 – Mamma Mia! – Phyllida Law

2009 – Paranormal Activity – Oren Peli
2012 – Ted – Seth MacFarlane

2001 – American Pie 2 – J.B. Rogers
2001 – The Animal – Luke Greenfield
2002 – Jackass: The Movie – Jeff Tremaine
2006 – V for Vendetta – James McTeague
2006 – Step Up – Anne Fletcher
2007 – Blades of Glory – Josh Gordon/Will Speck

And finally,”Other Professions.” There is a top-end veteran cinematographer and writer/producers and an actor-turned-choreographer-turned-director, etc.

1999 – Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo – Mike Mitchell
2000 – Romeo Must Die – Andrzej Bartkowiak
2001 – Cats & Dogs – Lawrence Guterman
2001 – The Wedding Planner – Adam Shankman
2002 – The Time Machine – Simon Wells
2004 – Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy – Adam McKay
2007 – TMNT – Kevin Munroe
2009 – Couples Retreat – Peter Billingsley
2012 – Act of Valor – Mouse McCoy/Scott Waugh
2014 – The Maze Runner – Wes Ball

Had I included 2015 in this survey, only Elizabeth Banks would be on the list so far. And she would have to be in the “Creators” or “Other Professions” group because she got the gig after producing the original film back to life… which is not that rare for a sequel, but not often a way in to the first studio gig on an original.


The Hot Blog

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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