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David Poland

By David Poland

Something For Y'All To Chew On

Here is the number I have… if anyone wants to scream about it somehow being wrong, go for it. This has been lingering since Thursday and I admit, I am a little anxious about somehow having missed something.
According to my calculation, the major studios and their divisions opened 89 movies, grossing $3,080,207,993, as of June 17.
As of June 18 last year, the same studios released 94 movies and to June 18, grossed $2,778,780,593.
So the studio business is, but this calculation, up by $301,427,400 this year.
The flip side, of course, is that the true indie sector is down by $399,938,032 with 149 release this year versus 161 to this date last year.
So outside of emotional takes on “The Slump,” what do you think about the details?

36 Responses to “Something For Y'All To Chew On”

  1. Chester says:

    Dave, do your figures reflect total grosses or just domestic U.S. grosses?
    In either case, assuming your figures are correct, it sure would be interesting if independent films were at the root of the currently perceived slump. Then we can have an argument about whether indie filmgoers prefer to watch DVDs…

  2. jeffmcm says:

    Two things:
    1. Why do these numbers not match the official “slump” numbers? What’s the difference?
    2. What do you mean when you say the “true indie sector”? What were their numbers last year vs. this year? It seems like $400 million should be catastrophically devastating numbers to them.

  3. RDP says:

    Well, I would think a large chunk of that indie money last year came from a little movie called “The Passion of the Christ”.

  4. L&Db says:

    Again, we are not in any slump. Especially when we now have THE POTTER coming up. Entertainment Journalist can be so bloody banal sometimes. Good Grief.

  5. Martin says:

    This seems to go back to the Passion/Greek Wedding type of discussion. Ultimately these stories are about the movie theaters, not the studios, so whether it’s indie/hollywood/foreign/etc. it’s about people seeing stuff at home more than at theaters. Whether the movies tanking are Studio or indie is beside the point. No one is disagreeing with the fact that admissions are down this year, the disagreement is why and if this means anything other than lack of interest in current product. We’ll know more if this slump is still going on next year at this time.

  6. Joe Leydon says:

    If the absence of a “Christ” or a “Greek Wedding” is the major reason for this year’s real or perceived “slump,” well, it just goes to show you: There are literally millions of people out there who are totally turned off by most of contemporary cinema, and will buy tickets only if there’s something very, very special that appeals to them. Make it, and they will come. The trick, of course, is figuring out what “it” is.

  7. Anonymous says:

    It’s the actual number of admissions/moviegoers that is of importance, not only the dollar amount.

  8. There IS a slump in theatrical admissions this year, because the distributors have reduced the number of wide-release films (500 or more theaters) they distributed by 13.5% … last year as of this date there were 74 wide-release films shown in 2004 – this year, there have only been 64. (Less product equals less sales. Period)
    For the major studios, its due to a temporary gambling affliction called ‘tent-pole-idice’.
    When your corporate parents are balking at your cost per picture and won’t increase your budgets, (but you need more money for making tent-pole pictures), you have no choice but to reduce the number of pictures you produce each year … and put that money towards your tent-pole picture, and hope to make up the admission losses with your ‘hopefully’ block-buster hit. (It’s a gamble your downstream vendors end up paying for.)
    But after making the huge component formulation errors and missing huge potential profits in their tent-poles, the studios (other than Fox) now hope they can make up for losses and make themselves look good to their corporate parents… by reducing the number of films they distribute even more. (So now it looks to corporate parents like their studios have actually reduced their dollar losses – as compared to last year’s dollar losses – by a big 10%!) …and that they have reduced overall marketing costs by 10%!
    Now the corporate parents are actually proud of their studios for their reductions, especially in a year of low attendance. (A 13.5% lower year in attendance that the studios artificially created by lowering the number of films they distributed, hoping to make it up in tent-pole attendance.)
    But LESS films shown = LESS tickets sold. And the studios forgot they would have to make MORE tent-poles than they did before, MAKE SURE THEY CONTAINED THE CORRECT COMPONENT FORMULATIONS INSTEAD OF THE WRONG ONES, and spend more money marketing each one…and not just put ‘more money’ into producing the same number of them.
    But the tent-pole market is saturated…and putting any more money into the tent-poles that have more ‘negative component formulations’ than they do positive ones is a waste of money. It just won’t draw enough additional admissions to the box-office.
    So why do they gamble? Because less product doesn

  9. Eric says:

    Great. This “component formulation” junk again. It almost makes me miss the casino ads.

  10. jeffrey boam's doctor says:

    oh my aching sides. please stop it michael you’ll killing me.. the reasoon why you fucked up the component formulations is true genius! too funny
    from Michael Adam and Associates
    Herbie: Fully Loaded – starring Lindsay Lohan and Matt Dillon
    Positive Component Formulations = + 108
    Negative Component Formulations = – 110

  11. sky_capitan says:

    He forgot to add the rumours of Lindsay Lohan’s digitally reduced tits added a further -69 Negative Components, which resulted in an even worse Total Component Formulation Score.
    I think I’ll start a consulting site like that too.
    Now I’ll just sit back and relax and let the money roll in, and then let Micro$oft buy me out (it worked for Homer, didn’t it?)

  12. sky_capitan says:

    The “NOT PROFITABLE* in the U.S.” line made me think of something else (I assume he means U.S. and Canada, not just the U.S.)
    But why isn’t Mexican box-office ever added to the “domestic” (U.S. and Canada) box-office? Any particular reason?

  13. Anonymous says:

    From the 6/27 LA Times:
    Paul Hanneman, executive vice president of sales and strategic planning for Fox International, pointed to a global trend of youth drifting toward other forms of entertainment.
    “They’re multitasking, watching TV, on the computer, talking on the telephone all at the same time,” he said. “Maybe going to the cinemas doesn’t offer that instant access. We do need to be aware that the dynamics of the business seem to be changing and figure out what we need to do to adapt to that going forward.”
    You got that right!

  14. Anonymous says:

    Since the US population is increasing rapidly year after year, it’s increasingly worrisome that boxoffice admissions are trending downward. Does anyone have stats on what actual percentage of the population sees movies in a theater each week/year in 2005 compared to 10, 20, 30 years ago, or in the 1939-esque heydays?

  15. KamikazeCamel says:

    Maybe this year we have more mid-range middle tier hits like “White Noise” “Monster In Law” and “Boogiemen” compared to lots of big hits and big bombs.
    This “slump” is still grossing more money than Hollywood did several years ago though isn’t it. Because last year was crazy.

  16. TheLife&DeathBrigade says:

    Anonymous, you really cant compare attendance from the past to the present. Since the world has changed so bloody much. Also, there happened to be a depression in 1939. 10 cents still a lot of money back then. Poland has a point that the theatrical experience still remains the BEST WAY TO SEE A MOVIE. Unless you build a theatre in your crib like Bon Jovi. We are a social animal. It’s fact. We might hate people talking during films, eating to loudly, answering their cell phones, and carrying on with their kids. Yet we still go back. Hell. We still go to the theatre. Animals like watering holes. It’s foolish to think, because of one movie that brought non-movie goers to the theatres and a ridiculous Ogre flick, that the box office has a real-slump going on. Just go read Poland’s articles about this. If the studios would have just listened to Blockbuster.

  17. bicycle bob says:

    why would the us want to be associated with mexico? all they got is good vacation spots wholly supported by the us and corona’s and tequila

  18. Terence D says:

    I never bought this slump talk anyway. Especially since it is only the end of June.

  19. BluStealer says:

    Why all the doom and gloom stories??? It is like if the box office fell apart and the #1 movie every week was under 10 million dollars.

  20. BluStealer says:

    is this all preparing for “how harry potter saved hollywood” stories?

  21. Joe Leydon says:

    Some figures for you to consider, courtesy of the U.S. Census Bureau and

  22. Joe Leydon says:

    One other thing: From time to time, people on this blog (including its host) go off on tears about how the theatrical experience is the best way to enjoy a movie. That very likely is true. It also is almost entirely irrelevant. More and more, people are expressing their preference with their butts

  23. Joe Leydon says:

    One last thing: Today’s Supreme Court ruling regarding file-sharing will have more impact on the film industry than all the “slump” talk we’ve been having.

  24. Brett says:

    From a Timesonline article I read this am.

  25. RDP says:

    Whenever I go see a game at the Ballpark in Arlington in August, I’m wishing that sucker had a roof we could close.

  26. Sam says:

    This “component formulation” guy is the most hilarious thing ever. David Poland offers free publicity for his “business” if this guy posts his box office predictions ONE DAY EARLIER, and the offer is summarily ignored, thereby exposing the scam for what it is, and now I see he is STILL COMING BACK HERE?
    Dude. Game over. Jig up. All done. Get message.

  27. Anonymous says:

    Take another look at website Sam. We are posting films MONTHS in advance, not just a day in advance…

  28. sky_capitan says:

    I think adding the Mexican box-office each week to the ‘domestic box-office’ is just the kind of thinking-outside-the-box remedy that the industry needs. Not only does it solve present problems, but anytime in the future that there is a box-office decline, further “domestic territories” can be added (maybe Greenland, or the Republic of Ireland, or Spain etc).
    If I’ve read Dilbert enough, it’s this kind of ingenius thinking that will win praise from my bosses, and eventually get me promoted to a position where I can greenlight that third Brian Levant / Flintstones movie you’ve all been craving to see.

  29. David Poland says:

    I don’t care about the retracting roof and I don’t need to tell people how to watch movies.
    My argument is about the business. If exhbition declines because the industry moves towards a home model even more, it will end up cutting the business model by 30% or more, in my opinion.
    Some would say, “great.” Not I. I like there to be a distinction between TV and film, just as I do between the New York Times and US Magazine.

  30. Stella's Boy says:

    So can we chalk up all this crisis talk to a few films performing below expectations? Or a lack of other major stories, a la Passion of the Christ, Fahrenheit 9/11 and an election year?

  31. Joe Leydon says:

    David: I can sympathize with your attitude. Hell, I even share your attitude. But we’re approaching the point (assuming we’re not already there) where insisting on “a distinction between TV and film” will be as pointless as inisting on a difference between paperback and hardcover books. There will always be hardcover best-sellers — but these titles will sell even more copies when they’re available in paperback. And there will always be books that are NEVER printed in hardcover, but will be very, very popular as paperback originals. That’s how I see exhibition ultimately shaking out.

  32. Anonymous says:

    Joe – Thank you for the census stats and your non-emotional, unbiased theories. I agree 100%. David Poland, nobly, is operating more on emotion than fact, but the truth will win out and he’ll have to stop the cheerleading and adjust to reality.

  33. L&DB says:

    Sorry, but without exhibition, film has no difference than TV. Which will then lead to TV being the more dominant medium, and film being relegated to just another pay channel. If anyone wants that, then Im sticking with Dave’s emotional take on this story. I love TV, but there should be a difference. Less people have gone to the movies, because the world continued to change. So the population has doubled, that does not mean jack nor )))). When it comes in comparison to cultural change. Joe’s argument has more to do with Cultural Anthropology, then anything dealing with economics.

  34. joefitz84 says:

    Why is Dave operating on emotion? Does he have a personal stake in the BO?

  35. HulkamaniaStillRunsWild says:

    No. He just wants there to be a future for cinema. Without things changing, then there may be some problems ahead.

  36. KamikazeCamel says:

    The thing that certain people are bringing up about how attendance is down from 50 YEARS AGO is the dumbest thing I’ve read on here all week.
    Back then they did not have computers and iPods and giant malls and anything else that large amounts of teenagers may like outside of sport (and even now there’s more of that than there probably was then)

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This is probably going to sound petty, but Martin Scorsese insisting that critics see his film in theaters even though it’s going straight to Netflix and then not screening it in most American cities was a watershed moment for me in this theatrical versus streaming debate.

I completely respect when a filmmaker insists that their movie is meant to be seen in the theater, but the thing is, you got to actually make it possible to see it in the theater. Some movies may be too small for that, and that’s totally OK.

When your movie is largely financed by a streaming service and is going to appear on that streaming service instantly, I don’t really see the point of pretending that it’s a theatrical film. It just seems like we are needlessly indulging some kind of personal fantasy.

I don’t think that making a feature film length production that is going to go straight to a video platform is some sort of “step down.“ I really don’t. Theatrical exhibition as we know it is dying off anyway, for a variety of reasons.

I should clarify myself because this thread is already being misconstrued — I’m talking about how the movie is screened in advance. If it’s going straight to Netflix, why the ritual of demanding people see it in the theater?

There used to be a category that everyone recognized called “TV movie” or “made for television movie” and even though a lot of filmmakers considered that déclassé, it seems to me that probably 90% of feature films fit that description now.

Atlantis has mostly sunk into the ocean, only a few tower spires remain above the waterline, and I’m increasingly at peace with that, because it seems to be what the industry and much of the audience wants. We live in an age of convenience and information control.

Only a very elite group of filmmakers is still allowed to make movies “for theaters“ and actually have them seen and judged that way on a wide scale. Even platform releasing seems to be somewhat endangered. It can’t be fought. It has to be accepted.

9. Addendum: I’ve been informed that it wasn’t Scorsese who requested that the Bob Dylan documentary only be screened for critics in theaters, but a Netflix representative indicated the opposite to me, so I just don’t know what to believe.

It’s actually OK if your film is not eligible for an Oscar — we have a thing called the Emmys. A lot of this anxiety is just a holdover from the days when television was considered culturally inferior to theatrical feature films. Everybody needs to just get over it.

In another 10 to 20 years they’re probably going to merge the Emmys in the Oscars into one program anyway, maybe they’ll call it the Contentys.

“One of the fun things about seeing the new Quentin Tarantino film three months early in Cannes (did I mention this?) is that I know exactly why it’s going to make some people furious, and thus I have time to steel myself for the takes.

Back in July 2017, when it was revealed that Tarantino’s next project was connected to the Manson Family murders, it was condemned in some quarters as an insulting and exploitative stunt. We usually require at least a fig-leaf of compassion for the victims in true-crime adaptations, and even Tarantino partisans like myself – I don’t think he’s made a bad film yet – found ourselves wondering how he might square his more outré stylistic impulses with the depiction of a real mass murder in which five people and one unborn child lost their lives.

After all, it’s one thing to slice off with gusto a fictional policeman’s ear; it’s quite another to linger over the gory details of a massacre that took place within living memory, and which still carries a dread historical significance.

In her essay The White Album, Joan Didion wrote: “Many people I know in Los Angeles believe that the Sixties ended abruptly on August 9, 1969, ended at the exact moment when word of the murders on Cielo Drive traveled like brushfire through the community, and in a sense this is true.”

Early in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, as Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt’s characters drive up the hill towards Leo’s bachelor pad, the camera cranes up gently to reveal a street sign: Cielo Drive. Tarantino understands how charged that name is; he can hear the Molotov cocktails clinking as he shoulders the crate.

As you may have read in the reviews from Cannes, much of the film is taken up with following DiCaprio and Pitt’s characters – a fading TV actor and his long-serving stunt double – as they amusingly go about their lives in Los Angeles, while Margot Robbie’s Sharon Tate is a relatively minor presence. But the spectre of the murders is just over the horizon, and when the night of the 9th finally arrives, you feel the mood in the cinema shift.

No spoilers whatsoever about what transpires on screen. But in the audience, as it became clear how Tarantino was going to handle this extraordinarily loaded moment, the room soured and split, like a pan of cream left too long on the hob. I craned in, amazed, but felt the person beside me recoil in either dismay or disgust.

Two weeks on, I’m convinced that the scene is the boldest and most graphically violent of Tarantino’s career – I had to shield my eyes at one point, found myself involuntarily groaning “oh no” at another – and a dead cert for the most controversial. People will be outraged by it, and with good reason. But in a strange and brilliant way, it takes Didion’s death-of-the-Sixties observation and pushes it through a hellfire-hot catharsis.

Hollywood summoned up this horror, the film seems to be saying, and now it’s Hollywood’s turn to exorcise it. I can’t wait until the release in August, when we can finally talk about why.

~ Robbie Collin