Box Office

Weekend Estimates by Klady


Friday Estimates by Klady

$12 million was a significant mark for the Justin Bieber doc (maybe it should have appropriated the name of the Chris Rock doc, Good Hair), as that was the amount the Jonas Bros did in their entire first weekend and it’s about 50% more than the Hannah/Miley Concert doc did on its opening day. It’s hard to figure out just how frontloaded this film is. If you go by the Michael Jackson: This Is It numbers – which were cooled by a Wed launch – it will be a $36m weekend. If you go by Miley Montana, it could be in the low low 40s. If you go by the Jonas Bras, low 30s.

Sony is clearly looking at 50 First Dates when they tell their media mouthpiece, Nikki “4 Days & My Doorstep & You Won’t Get A Picture Of Me” Finke, “Justin Bieber Wins Friday With $12.5M; But Adam Sandler Should Finish Weekend #1.” (I’m pretty sure that the movie being marketed as “Adam Sandler ogles the swimsuit model” isn’t Date Movie #1 Of 2011.) Unbiased Magic 8 Ball says, “Unlikely.” And please note… I have been more bullish on Sandler’s box office power than most anyone out there. But Sony is putting up a $10m figure for Friday… Klady has it at $9.3m. And even Grown Ups, which is now Sandler’s all-time high grosser, didn’t do 3x opening day. Nor did Anger Management, his biggest out-of-summer opening.

There is no reason to believe that 3-Bieber will drop much on Saturday, given the history of the only 3 musical concert films that have ever opened to more than $4 million in a weekend. None of them dropped as much as 10% on Saturday. Look for Sandler to end up around $27m and for Bieber in at least the low 30s.

Disney did better opening an animated film from Starz Animation than Fox (Space Chimps) or Focus (9), even if Gnomeo & Juliet isn’t burning down the box office. The weekend number should end up in 2nd Tier Disney Land, near Meet The Robinsons.

And The Eagle is perplexing. Looks like an epic, released like a pick-up. Welcome to The Movie Business 2011. It’s no disrespect to Focus. They are doing a piece of business. The US is the only territory where Focus is involved, though UPI bought some of South America, the UK, Spain, and Mexico. The stakes are so low here that anything more than they have done is risking more than the apparent reward. And if it heated up, somehow, Focus could capitalize on it.

In Oscar news, The King’s Speech will pass $90m today and should be past The Social Network by next week at this time. True Grit passes $160m this weekend. Black Swan lost about half its screens and The Fighter about a third of its screens to the new films which ate almost 13,000 screens between them. Both now have almost identical screen counts around 1050. Fighter will end the weekend just over $85 million and Swannie will be just under $99 million, celebrating $100 million sometime this next week.


Weekend Estmates by Pro Bowl Klady

Ah, Riiiiite. WB did a Screen Gems movie and opened, probably, $4m or $5m short of where Screen Gems would have opened it and about $15m short on what will be the total domestic gross… because Screen Gems is really good at that kind of marketing. On the other hand, Screen Gems probably left $20m or so on the table for Easy A domestically because big studios tend to do a better job of marketing that kind of movie. Everyone has a skill set. And the more success a marketing team has with a certain kind of movie, the more they seem to do better and better with that kind of movie and less so with other kinds of films.

But hey… is $14.7m for The Rite something to be unhappy with? No.

Peaking of that, give Sony a lot of credit for taking a film that looked like a $30 million writedown for a long time and making it in to a $100 million domestic grosser with some real upside in the Asian markets in particular.

No Strings Attached is no Norbit… which is to say, unlikely to slow Portman’s Oscar role and unlike to gross more than 2/3 of the Eddie Murphy comedy.

The Mechanic is CBS Films’ 2nd best opening, just an estimated $700k behind The Back-Up Plan. It’s not great, but you know, aside from the Twilight phenomenon, it took Summit more than 2 years to get to its third 9-figure opening. CBS Films, thus, has more than a year to get to #3. Yes, it is leap to eliminate Twilight from the conversation. On the other hand, shouldn’t a hit of that size have made it easier to grab some 9-figure openings? Summit is on its way, heading into its fourth year of distribution, now making hits that are not such phenomena that the job is to stay out of its way. (And that’s not always so easy for distributors to do.) And I guess my overall point it, CBS Films has not had a beautiful start and they don’t have a phenom to hide behind… but there is still a chance to turn the ship around to a successful direction. (Some other time, we can discuss whether Sumner Redstone needs a brain exam to understand why he allows the two sides of Viacom to continue to compete with one another this way.)

The Oscar Racers dominate the rest of the Top Ten: Speech, Grit, Swan, Fighter. The King’s Speech expansion is excellent, though do note that the per-screen is still behind the second weekend of Portman/Kutcher. Black Swan is showing the most sign of slowing, albeit as it passes $90 million, which is a figure that I don’t think Fox ever thought was possible. (Aronofsky definitely did not.) True Grit, nearing $150 million domestic, is clearly finding some stragglers thanks to Oscar nods, estimated off just 1% in the sixth weekend of its very commercial run. The Fighter also benefited from its nods, in spite of losing screens for the fourth straight weekend.

Also, a spark of life for 127 Hours, which had its first $2m weekend after 13 weekends in theaters… 916 screens, which more than doubles the previous high count of 433.

The Current Oscar BP Box Office List
Toy Story 3 – $415m domestic (out of theaters, in Home Ent)
Inception – $293m (oot, in HE)
True Grit – $148m ($7.2m this weekend)
The Social Network – $96m (367 screens, around $500k a week, in HE)
Black Swan – $91m ($4.9m tw)
The Fighter – $79m ($3.9m tw)
The King’s Speech -$72m ($10.4m tw)
The Kids Are All Right – $21m (oot, in HE)
127 Hours – $13m ($2m tw)
Winter’s Bone – $6m (oot, in HE)

And though obviously a very rough set of numbers… why not?

Projecting End Of Next Weekend
Toy Story 3 – $415m
Inception – $293m
True Grit – $162m
Black Swan – $100m
The Social Network – $96m
The King’s Speech -$90m
The Fighter – $87m

Projecting Feb 13 grosses
Toy Story 3 – $415m
Inception – $293m
True Grit – $175m
Black Swan – $107m
The King’s Speech -$106m
The Social Network – $97m
The Fighter – $94m

Projecting Feb 20 grosses
Toy Story 3 – $415m
Inception – $293m
True Grit – $185m
The King’s Speech -$120m
Black Swan – $112m
The Fighter – $99m
The Social Network – $98m


3-Day Weekend Estimates By The Green Klady

The Green Hornet probably did pass last MLK Weekend’s Book of Eli for 3rd best opening in January… but not by too much. Bless the 3D bump, which was worth about $5m in these 3 days, according to Sony’s 3D stats. And it may be worth reminding that Eli didn’t hit $100 million domestic off of that opening. Still, a solid opening for a long-troubled film. Sony spent a lot of time and money trying to fix the film and this opening, which may not have changed much but will surely make for stronger legs, proves them right. Think Steve Martin’s Pink Panther.

Universal put The Dilemma on the Paul Blart date, but evidently forgot that Blart was a big hit because of family business… and there is none to be found for this title. I haven’t seen the film, but the sense that Jennifer Connelly and Winona Ryder watch from the edges of the frame probably didn’t help any guys convince their wife/girlfriend to go to the movies with them.

An Oscar cluster formed just behind the two new titles. (Get out the penicillin!!!) True Grit keeps pounding away, closing in on $130m domestic today. The King’s Speech is the strongest – albeit newest to widening release – per-screen with $5810 per on 1543 screens. And Black Swan continues to flap its wings at the naysayers, as it should hit $75 million today, now officially Searchlight’s 3rd biggest grosser ever. A bit behind is The Fighter, which seems to be losing steam a little faster than the others, but is over $65m and into profit already. (This is also pretty much true of all four of these titles, marketing budgets being the only question mark.)

I am a little surprised that Blue Valentine is doing as well as it is so far. A $1.4m weekend may not seem like a lot, but given that it’s adults only, very dark, and very indie… huzzah. Also niching pretty well is Somewhere. Not a big number. But they seem to be reaching interested people. Rabbit Hole, not so much. People are scared of that film… which is a shame. It deserves better. And Nicole Kidman, would would have to see a split between the front-runners, would not be an unhappy story as the Best Actress winner.


Friday Estimates By Kato Klady

Sony will open The Green Hornet to a Underworld: Evolution type number. How core is the audience? Today and next weekend will tell.

The Dilemma‘s opening is not gay…. as in happy. Let’s just say, it’s no Bride Wars… but if it’s better than the ads make it look, maybe there are some legs to be stretched… but probably not. The movies that have done a big multiple from this kind of opening and this month tend to be kids films.

True Grit is cruising along, nearing $125m by the end of the weekend. Also, The King’s Speech finally went semi-wide to good effect, passing $40m this weekend. Black Swan, expanded to 2328 screens, will crack $70m this weekend and perhaps become the #3 grosser in Searchlight history (if not tomorrow, Monday or Tuesday). And The Fighter, the only film in this group to lose more than 30% from last Friday, will close in on $65m this weekend.


Looks Like Them Thar HFPA Foreigners Got It!

The Tourist passed $100 million internationally this weekend. Seven markets with #1 openings (Portugal, Ukraine, Hong Kong, Norway, South Africa, Israel, Philippines) and three holdover #1s (Spain, Singapore, Vietnam).

In Russia, it was the 18th biggest opening EVAH!

In Russia, Portugal, Ukraine, Norway, South Africa, and Israel it opened bigger than Wanted or Salt!

The road to Oscar goes through Norway, baby!

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Friday Estimates by Deja Vu Klady

Opening a horror/thriller in this slot – first weekend after the holiday – has become a bit of a tradition. Daybreakers last year… The Unborn the year before… One Missed Call… and so on. Season of the Witch will deliver, it seems, about 60% of the least impressive opening of this group.

Also opening is Country Strong… which is… who knows? This All About Crazy Heart Eve is opening on more screens than Crazy Heart saw at any time of its run last year and this will, in turn, be a bigger weekend than Crazy Heart ever had last year. But logically, this film is headed, at best, to a similar neighborhood as its predecessor… or less. It’s still only 1425 screens. And there is no way of knowing whether the Bible Belt will make this movie as leggy as its star. Meanwhile, the less happy comparison is Youth In Revolt, which had a similar opening day and just $15m total domestic.

The movies that are suffering most from the transition from a holiday Friday to a non-holiday Friday are the kids movies. Yogi and Narnia have 66%+ drops and Potter has fallen out of the 10. I would expect somewhat of a comeback for those titles over the rest of the weekend. Not huge, but more in the 50s than the 60s.

We’re still dealing with a lack of the kinds of massive December holdovers that we’ve had in the past. So, while Avatar and Sherlock Holmes outgrossed everything on the chart on this relative date, the smaller scale hits are doing okay heading into 2011. True Grit sits on top of the chart, as it has in 6 of the last 8 days. By the time I write this, it’s passed $100 million and will look for a boost when Oscar nods hit, by then likely to be in the $2m or $3m weekend range.

Little Fockers remains the shining example of why making the third in a series is often a bad idea, though it looks like it will find its way to black ink someday, if you believe the price tag the studio has put on it. I don’t. I have no direct insight or evidence. But reports about the process suggest that the $100 million figure may be as much as 25% low. Either way, the gross is a significant disappointment, with the film scraping to get to 50% of the last film in the series’ gross, both on the domestic and international side. For comparison, the disappointing Sex & the City sequel did about 70% of the prior film’s gross.

Tron: Legacy could find its way to $300 million worldwide… but just by the hair of its chinny chin chin.

Black Swan, The Fighter, and The King’s Speech are back-to-back-to-back on today’s chart, in that order. Swan is looking like a comeback kid this Friday, up 24% from last Friday, but part of that is the odd drop it suffered last Friday, about which I still haven’t been able to get a satisfying explanation. This is the 6th day in a row that Swan has been in front of Fighter. Meanwhile, King’s Speech is doing the least business of the trio, but with the best per-screen average. All three are poised to be in the 60s or 70s, depending on awards reaction.

And here’s an awards note that should be taken with a little salt… but not too much. Last year, the first year of 10, the lowest pre-nom grosser was at $8.8m when it was nominated. I don’t think that Academy members are looking at the box office before casting their nominating ballots, so I wouldn’t count out Winter’s Bone ($6.2m) or Another Year, which has really just done a qualifying run so far. But it’s an uphill fight. A big part of that is that grossers are somewhat of an indicator of how many potential Academy voters have seen the film. In the case of Bone and Year, their studios have been screening the heck out of them for month… and are still screening. (Tomorrow night, Winter’s Bone with John Hawkes at Harmony Gold… get out those Guild cards!)

And again, this would be one of my arguments for The Ten, an idea I pooh-poohed when I had a passionate discussion about it before it went to the Academy board 20 months ago. Like others, I feared that it would put junk into the race. Instead, we are seeing a relaxing of prejudices about “success: of some films and it is the Winter’s Bones and the The Kids Are All Rights that get to play in the big sandbox because of the larger group of nominees. And I am good with The Pixar Slot too, though it would be nice to see it just be The Animation Slot in future… Pixar just keeps doing such great stuff. (I suspect that next year, we will not be assuming that Cars 2 is in… so the door is open to some other animated film.)

If this were a 5 horse race, i would bet on it being True Grit, The Social Network, The King’s Speech, Black Swan, and The Fighter. Would we really like that better?

Toy Story 3 – $415m
Inception – $293m
True Grit – $114.4
The Social Network – $93.4m
The Town – $92.1m
Black Swan -$55.5
The Fighter -$52.9
The King’s Speech – $28.2
The Kids Are All Right – $20.8m
127 Hours – $10.6m
Get Low – $9.1m


Weekend Estimates by Year End Klady

The odd shape of this holiday weekend seems to have thrown a lot of number crunchers for a loop. No big deal… odd weekend with a Friday New Years Eve. I’m still trying to figure out the odd drop – compared to how other films grossed on Friday – for Black Swan on Friday, which there was no sign of on Saturday or Sunday.

It’s a sign of how stupid – a harsh, but accurate word in this case – box office coverage is when it obsesses on whether True Grit beat Little Fockers. It’s another one of those things in modern movie coverage that dumbs down the conversation, especially in this case. #1 Fockers is a relative flop, about $60 million behind its predecessor’s gross at the end of the holiday. #2 Grit is a an epic success for The Coens… for Westerns… the 11th best New Year’s Day gross in history. Talking about their rank is, well, rank.

In terms of comparing last year’s New Year’s weekend to this years, again, apples and oranges… but not because the world has changed, but simply because the product released this holiday had a clear absence of mega-movies. No Avatar. No Sherlock Holmes. No Chipmunks sequel. Those films meant three December movies over $135 million at this moment in their history (including $352m for Avatar)… and this year, none. There are only two $100 million-plus grossers from December so far… Tron Legacy and Fockers. And the only other film really aspiring to that kind of number over the holiday was Narnia 3… which will just barely get to $100 million after another few weeks. (Keep in mind that most of these titles will drop in the mid-40s – mid-50s next weekend, post-holiday.)

But the flip side is that this December is a lot deeper. There are eleven films with weekend grosses of over $5 million this weekend… and only seven last year.

Obviously, the marketplace can expand more than it has this season. But part of what happens is that opportunity changes when you have the mega-movies running and a multiplex that might have a second screen running a popular per-screen film like The Fighter or The King’s Speech has that screen occupied by the fourth screen for that mega-movie. Also, if you look at the distribution decisions, you see some titles being a bit more aggressive in this slot than they might have been knowing that there were more giants in the field and that the fight to get the best screens would be that much harder.

This is one of those areas where exhibitors are a little schizophrenic. Having recently had the conversation with John Fithian, head of NATO, I know that he knows that a broader range of films succeeding in the marketplace and having longer legs is good news for exhibitors. On the other hand, exhibition is the one area where the number of tickets sold really does matter, as there is more money in concessions than in 3D bumping, if it means fewer people in the theater. Likewise with a strong, more balanced field of movies than a few mega-titles at the top, sucking all the air out of the room, but delivering a lot more bodies to the theaters.

It’s a real issue… live for today or live for the future of the industry. The answer is almost always the short-sighted one, for both distributors and exhibitors. The problem is, you can’t pick your spots. So it’s hard to say that you object to studios wanting to try day-n-date while you are perfectly happy pushing films though your theaters faster than excrement through a Christmas goose. Plenty of people think I am a finger wagger… but I simply understand that there is a price to pay for short-term thinking… it’s the difference between morality and situational morality… all the same.

But I digress…

Burlesque looks like it will be the lowest grossing Screen Gems movie of 2010… while being the most expensive film the division ever made.

In Oscar chatter, the True Grit train moves forward with muscle, The Fighter is solid, if not spectacular, Black Swan is in tweener land, open wide enough to be saturating their strongest markets (1553 screens), but not full out, and The King’s Speech is dragging its feel in anticipation of awards more than the others, expanding to 700 screens to take what advantage they could of the holiday.

Toy Story 3 – $415m
Inception – $293m
Shutter Island – $128m
The Social Network – $93.2m
The Town – $92.1m
True Grit – $86.7
Black Swan -$47.3
The Fighter -$46.4m
The King’s Speech – $22.7m
The Kids Are All Right – $20.8m
127 Hours – $10.4m
Get Low – $9.1m
Winter’s Bone – $6.2m
Rabbit Hole – $420k
Blue Valentine – $270k
Another Year – $170k
Biutiful – n/a


2010: The Year In Box Office (Part 1)

The tickets sold game… such clap trap.

The stat we do know is overall sales. The cost per ticket is estimated by NATO on a quarterly basis. How accurate is it? Unknown. How accurate is it when you are looking for any specificity or cause-and-effect? Worthless.

Simple logic tells us that a $400 million domestic gross for Toy Story 3 vs a similar gross for Transformers 2 means more tickets sold for TS3. Why? More tickets priced for kids. Of course, it’s possible that the 3D bump balances out or more than balances out the numbers of tickets sold at a lower price. But the truth is… we don’t know.

We do know that Tickets Sold is The New Black in media coverage and that the ultimate self-promoting (and most often way off track) analyst, Rich Greenfield, will just keep beating that drum in order to be quoted. He’s quite literally making numbers up… based on broad stats that cannot be reduced down into the kind of detailed claims he frivolously makes. And his claim that studios have jumped into the 3D business to pump up the number of people going to the movies is simply wrong. It’s a cash business, not a tickets sold business. Domestically, Inception clearly sold fewer tickets than Harry Potter 7.0. But that’s the dream! Make a movie for adults and make more money from less tickets sold.

Anyway… back to earth…

If you want to know the big difference between 2009, the highest grossing year every, and 2010, start with this stat; Thirty-two $100 million domestic grossers in 2009… Twenty-five in 2010.

And is wasn’t like this led to a bunch of films grossing between $50m and $100m that just happened to fall short of the mark. There was a much bigger “middle class” in that gross range… but mostly in the 70s, well short of nine-figures.

In terms of gross, things are worse than they might seem, as the $10.5 billion figure being thrown around includes films released in 2009 that played into 2010… which includes $470 million of Avatar‘s $750m domestic gross, giving 2010 a near $200m bonus over last year on that film alone. 2011 won’t get that benefit. It will have a similar amount of holdover business aside from Avatar, but nothing to come close to matching Avatar.

But as I have always said, “It’s the movies, stupid.”

The audience shows up when they want to show up. They aren’t avoiding the theaters. It’s not that kind of proposition.

There were four $300m+ domestic releases this year, compared to three last year. But there were more $200m-$300m films last year.

There were ten $450 million grossing films worldwide both this year and last.

But there is no December title this year that’s going to get close to $200 million domestic… or, most likely, $400m worldwide. Last year, there were three.

The only November title to get there this year will be Potter… last year, there were two.

But what does this mean? Chicken Littles will scream that the screen is falling. But there is no logical indication of that. It’s the movies.

Was there a potential The Blind Side in the last couple of months that I didn’t notice? I don’t think so. Was there an Avatar that didn’t quite take off? Even reducing expectations significantly from Avatar to Alvin & The Chipmunks: The Squeakquel, Tron 2 and Narnia 3 didn’t get there… but would have really been a surprise had they gotten there.

And for me, this is the lesson. It’s not about quality… it’s about popularity. We can argue all day about how the two things match up or do not. But in the end, Inception can be a 100x better movie than 2012, but at the box office, Inception did only 6% better. Obviously, given a choice, every studio would prefer to have Inception (now that it proved to be a mega-grosser). But every studio would also want a 2012 on their schedule every November, no matter how embarrassing as a movie.

If you look at the movies at the top of the charts, you’ll see that it was adults, not kids, who seemed to show up less at the movies this year. Was it the recession or what it too many movies aimed at kids? Impossible to know. But last year, I see four of the Top Ten aimed at adults (The Hangover, Star Trek, The Blind Side, Sherlock Holmes) and this year, only Inception. (Pixar is age neutral… and obviously I am using a broad brush as to what “aimed at adults” means.)

The great irony of box office coverage at this time of year is that it echoes the ideals of Wall Street, not movie fans… that somehow, hitting the target of beating the grosses of the year before is the goal. It’s not. Max profitability is the goal… as ever. Critics often pay lip service to the idea of quality and how studios would be well served to embrace it. The meme of recent years was All Blockbusters and Little Hits. 2010’s answer to that was, Blockbusters, lots of mid-range box office ($40m – $100m), and most under $40m wide releases being seen as disappointing, even if they were profitable. But it’s not like audiences are trying to hit a number at the box office. Bigger numbers are coming for nichier product. And the things that don’t catch fire are deader than ever. Adam Sandler up, Never Let Me Go down. And the box office for movies that writers want to beat up, like The A-Team, is fine… they just spent too damn much on the picture.

There is nothing broken about the box office. There is no reason to panic. But the studios, which are always smarter than the media understands, need to continue to find ways to make it work at a price. There is plenty of audience for everyone… and for every delivery format.

Part Two: The Studios


True Grit Watch

Now that True Grit has muscled its way into the frontrunner slot to win Best Picture – more in a 20 Weeks column coming up later today – watching the film’s box office, a major influencer, becomes more interesting.

The best comparison I can find is Benjamin Button, which didn’t win Best Picture, but actually came to the table with higher expectations than Grit. They had slightly different points of entry, as Grit opened on the 22nd while Button stuck to the Christmas Day release. And with one extra day, Grit’s 7-day is only about a million dollars up on Button’s 6-day, putting both on even footing on the Tuesday after Christmas.

However, while Button blew out of the gates more strongly, Grit is the film that’s accelerating post-opening faster, grossing $2.1 million more than Button on the comparative Monday and $1.4 million more on Tuesday. Projecting a modest (using Mon/Tue as a guide) 30% increase onto Button’s run from yesterday (Wed) to the end of the upcoming holiday weekend, which was $31 million, you’re looking at True Grit closing the holidays at just around $90 million domestic, passing The Social Network as the highest grosser other than Toy Story 3 and Inception in the field by midweek, maybe Jan 4 or 5.


Box Office Year & Originality

I don’t understand what Brooks Barnes smokes before writing up his pieces on the film industry. Today’s bit of absurdity is about how a wave of originality is taking over Hollywood because of this year’s box office.

My sides are hurting from laughing.

I’ll keep the response simple.

There were twenty-two $250 million worldwide grossers in 2010 (counting Tangled, which is just short of the figure and will be there this week).

Ten of them were sequels or direct remakes.
Three of the “originals” were children’s cartoons.
One was based on a videogame. One was based on a children’s TV series. One is an standard-issue Adam Sandler comedy. One is an action movie based quite overtly on the premise of going to the movie to watch a parade of action stars from the last 3 decades, including Governor Schwarzenegger. Robin Hood was a new version of a classic story.

We’re up to 18 of 22. What’s left?

Knight & Day, explicitly noted as the movie Hollywood won’t be making anymore.
Salt, a terrific return to Angelina Jolie kicking ass… a three-times successful franchise.
Shutter Island, a truly terrific, original piece by Scorsese.
Inception, a hat tip to The Nolans doing more Batmans that ended up being a huge (and expensive) success.

How many of these Top 22 grossers have rankings of 80% or better on Rotten Tomatoes? 3.

How many 70% – 80%? Another 2.

The cut-off for Rotten is 60%.

And don’t get me started on the complete lack of (recent) historical perspective when it comes to such claims that hiring “edgy” directors to do seemingly mainstream properties is a new phenomenon. This is an article that calls out Chris Nolan for originality. Has anyone at the Times heard of Bryan Singer?

If Disney’s model for success is Burton doing Alice, great… just make sure the combination of the director and the classic, completely familiar source material make people go, “Of course,” when they hear the combination. I love Guillermo del Toro, but only a small percentage of the audience knows him by name or is clamoring for a Haunted Mansion movie. (I’m sure it will be great and the marketing will, as it must, sell it.)

Sony bet on Sam Raimi for the first Spider-Man film. Great choice. And I hope Webb is one too. But the Spider-Man movies remain Raimi’s only $100m worldwide grossers in his career. (500) Days of Summer did a terrific $33 million… terrific for what it is. A blind monkey with all the movie channels on his satellite could open the next Spider-Man to $100 million. The success of the franchise will not prove the value of an edge director. Marc Foster made the worst Bond movie in many years… but it still beat Casino Royale domestically (not worldwide), made by second-time Bond director Martin Campbell. I am rooting for Webb. I LOVE Andrew Garfield for this job. Tobey Maguire is one of the great characters actors of his generation. Garfield is heading that way and can be a bigger movie star than Tobey is ever likely to be. He’s got that gear. Great! But it proves little.

Phil Lord and Chris Miller are great guys and Cloudy was absurdly brilliant… but the “daring choice” is to remake a 80s TV show. Wow. Edgy. (Don’t even get me started on Sony dumping Soderbergh on Moneyball… though I am very much looking forward to Bennett Miller’s version of the project.)

“Animation is not as infallible as it has been.” A record FOUR animated $200 million domestic grossers in one year… doubling the previous top of two. Huh?

The audience most certainly has NOT pushed back. The “rejected” Tom Cruise and Sex and the City 2, each to the tune of over $250 million worldwide. Julia Roberts was rejected to the tune of $203 million. Nice rejection. Disappointing vs expectations? Absolutely. But a little sane perspective please.

Whipping Boy The A-Team grossed $15 million less than The Social Network. It also cost more. But again, perspective. Paranormal Activity 2, Jackass 3D, and The Other Guys are all modestly reviewed retreads that will be more profitable than The Social Network.

God bless The Social Network. Huzzah. Really. But you can’t take the odd man and try to claim it’s a trend. That goes for Inception as well, a movie that could have been delivered by ONE filmmaker and only one… from his (and his brother’s) mind… and it would never have been greenlit ANYWHERE if it weren’t for the success of The Dark Knight. The success of Batman Begins would not have gotten that film greenlit. Great… but not a standard that any studio can work under.

I am all for originality. It is my belief that the biggest successes come out of the unexpected. Twilight was dumped by Paramount. Slumdog MIllionaire dumped by Warner Bros. Fox sold off 60% of Avatar with less than a year to go before release. Due Date and Shutter Island are great examples of films that were not expected to do as well on paper… any by the way, were director and star driven. There are plenty of good stories.

I love Pixar… very original… yet, a franchise with a history of quality that people follow closely. DWA is out there working it too.

But let’s not delude ourselves. The only original thing about Alice in Wonderland was Burton’s visuals… and they were, in many ways, expected and anticipated, which made the film such a massive hit. But not a great film. Iron Man 2 is a terrible film. The Twilight series is famously horrible (except to the obsessed fans, 50 million strong). Clash of the Titans? Prince of Persia? Resident Evil: Afterlife, the fourth in the series? The horror… the horror…

You know what’s original? Making the right choices and having it all work out. The Karate Kid… fifth in the franchise… but from that first trailer, you knew they made the right choices… the kid is great… Jackie Chan as an old guy… make it international so the alienation is real and not just teen angst… all great choices. Is it the best movie of the year? No. But it really, really works for its audience.

And the same is true of The Social Network, which is pretty much a perfect film within the boundaries of the script Aaron Sorkin wrote. And yeah, $192 million is great for a straight drama. It’s not the best gross in that niche this year. And the film that did better for Sony but got killed as a disappointment? Eat Pray Love… a bad movie that did really strong business worldwide… but still not seen as enough.

Trend. Stories. Suck.

(Edit, 12/27, 1:27p – There were four previous Karate Kid films, not three.)


Weekend Estimates by Little Gulliver Klady

Little Fockers is off, 5 days in, about 32% from Meet The Fockers. Size does matter.

Meanwhile, True Grit opened about 34% better than any other Coen Bros 3-day before and could well be past $75 million domestic by the end of next weekend which would mean a new domestic box office record for the brothers in 12 days or less. (No Country is at $74.3m domestic.) This pretty much guarantees a domestic total of over $100 million, probably before Oscar nominations are even announced.

It’s worth noting that for all the shrying about Westerns as a dead genre, the last two unironic westerns that grossed over $100 million – actually, there are only two – both won Best Picture. It’s been 18 years. Hmmm…

Tron Legacy is kicking along and will have passed $100 million at some point next weekend, if not on Thursday. $130m-$150m is looking like a viable domestic total for the film. Looking back at Tron‘s 1982 gross, it was #22 for the year with $34 million. This year, #22 is at $103 million as of right now… may end up being $110m or $115m. So Tron Legacy with be, on paper, an improvement on the success level of the first film. International numbers are a different conversation, in which Tron Legacy will surely beat Tron by a whole lot… a very different box office field overseas 28 years later.

Narnia: Dawn Trader’s Christmas Day dream of Christians audiences coming to the film’s rescue didn’t happen. There was a bump, but not a jump. Walden Media started the campaign to blame Fox for even the existence of the film via willing web sites on opening day. I can’t say that I know what the deal between the two companies really is on this movie and who will lose what amount of money. All I do know is that Fox Marketing didn’t turn the trick here at all – and it does make Oren Aviv’s campaigns for the first and second film look rather good – AND Walden Media is successful about 20% of the time as a production company. They are smartly retreating to the Benji-level of the business, where they can make profit on most titles and may even hit on out of the park by surprise now and again.

Speaking of a Fox flop, Gulliver’s Travels is a classic car wreck, which the studio saw coming month ago and just had to go through the paces to release. Greatness is getting some extra mustard on that hot dog. Not here.

As ever, the conversation is “Wither Fox?” And 2011 looks more like 2009 than 2010, with 5 strong-looking sequels/prequels (X-Men, Wimpy Kid, Big Momma, Apes & Chipmunks), what should be two strong family films (Rio, Popper’s Penguins), a couple of silly comedies, a trio of chick flicks, and returns from Andrew Niccol and Cameron Crowe. The only big ticket items are the sequels. Obviously, there is no Avatar or any hope of Avatar there. But neither do there seem to be fatty A-Team/Knight & Day/Wall Street 2 kinds of titles that bring massive expectations and tough profitability pictures if they don’t work just right.

But I digress…

The Fighter came back stronger over the weekend, but it is a second wide weekend and even throwing another $1 million on top of the gross to make up for Christmas Eve day, the drop was still about 21%, which would be solid, but not especially strong for this grouping of films. Expect $45m-$50m by the end of the holiday. Looking for a comparable number, the one from Wahlberg’s history that jumps out at me is Three Kings. Go figure. Similar release, similar 2nd weekend drop. I like the film to do slightly better business and much better at the Academy Awards… but interesting to consider (and debate) the O. Russell reflection.

Tangled passed Megamind as the #5 animated title at the domestic box office released this year. The next tier is HTTYDragon’s $217m… which isn’t at all likely.

But let’s take a look at the remarkable year in animation. I would say it was a little overcrowded, but still.. four $200m domestic grossing animated films in one year. And if you want to look at the one area where 3D really is working for the box office, it’s here. All four $200m domestic grossers were in 3D, as were all four of the other wide-release animated films this year (no counting Yogi Bear). It’s ironic that the place where price point would seem most significantly altered – increases on kids tickets and more group movie visits with kids – is the place with the least price resistance. Even with too many films in that marketplace, it is a closed eco-system.

Speaking of 3D, as we go into the year of the most titles scheduled in 3D and the year I have predicted will kill off the trend for live-action 3D releases, Gulliver’s Travels will be the first true 3D disaster for a major… the first to not cover the cost of a relatively cheap conversion with the 3D bump to ticket sales. More on this in another entry.


Christmas Eve Estimates by Grinch Klady

Again, the theme I see here is more movies doing better without the massive hit(s) eating the marketplace.

This is what The Industry must confront, on some level. Lower overall numbers but more films able to get to profitability based on a lower price tag… or chasing the big gold ring of $500m+ grosses. It’s a double-edged sword, as we saw into the studio foray into the indie business. The lower the potential profit, even with success, the less motivated the big corporations are to keep funding the effort. (As in, “Wouldn’t this $200 million a year generate more money if it were used in the microwave division?”) But it’s the chase of The Big Movie that has made the film business the vast wasteland that some allege it to be.

It’s all too easy to get bogged down on the individual performances of these movies… even more so by obsessing on domestic box office first and last. A massive hit or a number of 8-figure losing bombs can change the dynamic for a studio, but mostly, it’s a portfolio business. There’s time enough for counting when the dealing’s (or the quarter’s) done.

True Grit is much more important to Paramount’s bottom line, since they financed it (and yeah, brought in a partner), than is The Fighter, on which they are in an output deal. But the distribution deals on Paramount’s spread sheet have been, in recent years, a more important business for the studio than their produced product. Grit will have a direct effect on the bottom line, but Fighter can prove to producers that you can bring a challenging movie to Paramount and do better with it there than at other studios.

Don’t pay attention to the man behind the curtain… unless you are interested in what the real bottom line is.

Ho ho ho.

(And though it’s a lump of coal in the stocking… Little Fockers has to feel like a holiday dagger as Comcast gets closer to taking over at NBC/U. The marketing was horrible. Showing clips from the old movies as your main push is like telling people they should stay home and watch their old DVDs of the first 2 films. But a marketing department has to work with what they have and you have to wonder just how bad a mess the movie is – I haven’t seen it – that the only bits worth bringing to the pitch are the Very Old “I have my eyes on you” and fake period pictures of Old Fockers. “The Godfocker?” Really? So what that would signal to a new boss might be, “Production can’t even milk a smash hit for a few new gags that can make a great trailer and TV spots.” There is nothing easy about a third film in a series… everyone is in charge and no one wants to be caught pandering even though every single person is doing it for the check. But if you’re a company under duress and you decide to greenlight another overpriced film, you at least have to be willing to fail… or you will most surely fail. Ya?)


Box Office A Ho Ho

As I continue to try to pump out some more weighty year-end stuff, box office caught my eye this morning.

With a $32.2m Top Ten gross, the day before Christmas Eve is down by $13.5 million in the Top Ten this year from last… but considering the lack of a single mega-hit, like Avatar or Alvin & The Chipmunks 2, the box office did rather well, really.

Those two films – and Alvin beat Avatar that day last year – represented $35.2 million of the $45.7m total gross for the day, 77% of the gross. Those were the only two films in the marketplace with a daily gross of over $2 million. Yesterday, there were six such films.

We are also less reliant on the 3D bump this year, with 3D films representing about 26% of the gross yesterday and about 44% last year. If you figure the 3D bump at 25% of ticket prices for those films, that was $11m added to last years day-before coffers and $3.8m this year. That alone makes up more than half the difference from last year.

Yet, my guess is that you will read a lot of stories about the box office being down that use it to bolster the false claim that bad things are happening in exhibition. And the ultimate irony of this is that the argument will be used – incorrectly – to talk about the “broken” system… when in fact, the spread of better box office for more movies and a lack of a mega-movie is exactly what all the doom sayers say that they want, more balance.

Other points of interest…

Little Fockers is off 40% from the last one and is yet another reminder of going to the well too many times, slightly less of a drop than Sex & The City 2’s 47% opening day fall, but not pretty.

Tron Legacy is only a few million behind King Kong‘s 7-day number, though it’s also significantly behind Kong’s day-before-Christmas-Eve gross… so hard to read… $200 million is still realistic, but it’s getting a little more distant each day.

Hard to get a read on True Grit‘s opening so far. Not bad. Not sensational. But enough to get word-of-mouth rolling.

Black Swan passed The Fighter in daily gross the last two days, in spite of 42% fewer screens. More importantly, Swan finds itself at almost double the gross of Up In The Air after the day-before-Christmas-Eve after very similar slow December release strategies. Those who have argued that Swan isn’t capable of finding a mainstream audience might be forced to reconsider.

Tangled is already at $137 million and still running a little hotter than The Princess & The Frog was last year. Look for the domestic total to pass $175 million by the end of the holidays, which would make it the #3 non-Pixar Disney animation title of all-time. Yes, 3D… yes, ticket prices… but still, after years of slumber, even at the stupid price tag, you have to be impressed (especially since the big production cost isn’t an on-screen stunt… it’s just a good animated movie doing very good business compared to recent Disney history.


Weekend Estimates by Yogi Klady

Is there anything much more to say about the weekend? The visual effects sell opened Tron Legacy and history tells us that it will get to $200m domestic off of this opening. If that happens, it will be only the 17th time in history that a December opener hit $200m domestic. The only film that has been positioned as less than A Hit coming off of that number is Peter Jackson’s King Kong.

At $16.m projected, Yogi Bear has a shot at $100m+… or not. Not much competition in the niche.

Nice number for The Fighter, though it can’t be leaving Paramount too comfy, as it may just be a Wahlberg number. Films of his that had none of the hoopla around them – Shooter, Invincible, Four Brothers – all opened to more on the populist star’s shoulders.

The juxtaposition of Fighter and Black Swan fascinates me. After a small word-of-mouth release, Paramount pushed Fighter out like a commercial movie. Searchlight is doing a relatively slow burn on Swan, in spite of some strong early indicators that the film was a big buzz film outside of the industry-heavy markets. Looks to me like the two films could end up around the same domestic number, getting there in completely different ways. Or not. Fighter could gain heat, though it’s not actually a feel good movie. And Swan could take off, especially with teen girls, but it also may have shot its wad o’ heat. No one actually can know how these films will play out as we work through awards season, until it actually happens.

Strong numbers for The King’s Speech. But who knows there either? Will anyone under 50 ever go see this film? They can probably get to $80 million or more without a tween in sight. And127 Hours treads water weakly, hoping for awards help.

Red is the biggest grosser for Summit that isn’t a teen vampire movie. As fall phenoms go, it’s right there with The Social Network domestically, though, interestingly, TSN beat Red by a significant margin overseas.

Unstoppable turned out to be a strong Denzel Washington title, but not one of his rare breakouts. It seems that the movie is too simple to be explained in the marketing… and that simplicity is really the reason the film is so good.

Due Date is heading to pass $100m… which isn’t The Hangover, but is really quite remarkable for a 2-man show that is so happily centered on a relentlessly nasty character.

How Do You Know, a romantic comedy shot mostly in rooms, could become the single biggest financial flop of 2010. I’m sure commenters will be quick to offer lists. But with a total worldwide gross that may be less than $50 million and a cost said to be well over $100 million, Sony could be eating $50m – $75m on this one, which as best as I can tell, they funded on their own. That makes Green Zone and The Wolfman look, well, horrible, but not as horrible.


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