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David Poland

By David Poland

Friday Estimates

Saw III is off to a faster start that either of the first two films, sight unseen. Basically, on this series, Lionsgate does what is otherwise the skill set of Screen Gems or Dimension. Solid, simple, sell to one audience and one audience only.
The Prestige has a shot at $45 million or $50 million, which is no disaster, but no thrill either. Look for foreign to be stronger. And Flags of Our Fathers may not get to $30 million, which is an indicator of audience word-of-mouth, regardless of whether some major critics have embraced the film.
As we work through the awards season, critics are far overvalued as are groups like HFPA. The former only makes major waves when throwing a light as a group on a specific film or performance. The latter is in the game of guessing what the Academy voters will think. Neither answers the specific question… what will 6000 middle-aged and elderly Academy voters love?
That is why Babel is not nearly as muscular a player as some would have you believe and Flags is in trouble. It is also why Munich got nominated last year, in spite of scathing attacks from some angry critics. (That one should also remind us that if our sense of the whys changes depending on how we personally feel about a film, we will endup being wrong more often than not.) Reverse Analysis is significant, in that an understanding of history does matter. But as a predictor, it is pretty iffy.
And the danger of being perceived as underperforming at the box office is the good reason why smaller quality films wait for December. If a film like The Hours goes out in December in limited release and doesn’t soar, it is seen as needing space. If a Ron Howard film opens in summer and doesn’t hit $100 million, it is seen as a failure. And The Academy does not, with a few exceptions, vote to nominate failures.
Open Season will quietly become Sony Animation

14 Responses to “Friday Estimates”

  1. Blackcloud says:

    This isn’t showing up on the main page.

  2. Blackcloud says:

    This isn’t showing up on the main page.

  3. jeffmcm says:

    I don’t understand the comment re: Sony and “this is when they want quality” because, without having seen them, only three movies in that batch (All the King’s Men, Marie Antoinette, Running with Scissors) aspire to any sort of awards-worthy quality, and one of them was dumped. Are we saying a studio is not capable of handling more than one or two awards movies a year?

  4. Jonj says:

    “The Departed” really is showing great legs at the box office. With critical support and strong word of mouth, I don’t think the Academy will be able to deny this film a best picture nomination. It would be great if Scorsese finally won his Oscar for a film that arguably wasn’t gunning to go that route. “The Aviator,” “Gangs of New York,” and “The Age of Innocence” really seemed to be projects to attract Academy support. But with “The Departed,” he’s back to doing what he does best. While I’m at it, I hope the Academy doesn’t forget “United 93″ or “Little Miss Sunshine.” I wonder if there are any award season possibilities for “The Prestige?” It’s well-crafted, but I wonder if it’ll be wrongly written off as too twisty for its own good.

  5. “The Prestige has a shot at $45 million or $50 million, which is no disaster, but no thrill either. Look for foreign to be stronger.”
    Well, The Illusionist isn’t out anywhere else in the world I don’t think, so it has that going for it too.
    I know I shouldn’t, but I sort of feel happy that Flags is flopping. Really happy.

  6. palmtree says:

    ^^^How unpatriotic! What has happened to love of country?
    And don’t you dare come back with the whole “I’m Australian” argument either!

  7. martin says:

    For some reason Flags feels like a coffee-table movie to me. A pretty little ornament to class-up a joint, but no one really wants to sit down and read it. I haven’t seen Flags, it may well be more significant than this. But I think this is the impression uninterested movie-goers have.
    Prestige doing $45-50 mill is an OK number as Dave said. Illusionist finishing at $40 makes it look a little worse than it would otherwise, a low-budg Ed Norton/Giamatti making as much as a big budget Jackman/Bale… Hm actually in hindsight Norton/Giamatti feel about as money as Jackman/Bale to me. What suggested Prestige would be real big is Nolan.

  8. Direwolf says:

    I said it before and I am not trying to get in an argument but the country is sick of war. 100 American soldiers and Marines died this month already in Iraq. Iraq is dominating the political season. This backdrop is one factor contributing to Flags below expectations box office.

  9. David Poland says:

    BC – It wasn’t you. Something odd was going on with the programming this morning… sorry…

  10. Blackcloud says:

    Dave, it’s no problem. I just wanted to make sure the right people saw it so the problem could be taken care of, which it was. Thanks.

  11. The Carpetmuncher says:

    Flags is flopping because it’s a lame, boring movie and everybody knows it. People are sick of the war in Iraq, but they’re savvy enough to compartmentalize that and would go check out a war film if it actually looked good and not like medicine.
    The numbers on The Prestige are still pretty good, and I agree that Nolan is the real reason to think that film would do a lot better than The Illusionist (that and the fact that the Norton/Giamatti film got rather tepid reviews at festivals a long time before it came out and so had lowered expectations). I’m still not sure why people think Bale and Jackman are such big stars – neither’s ever opened a big film without wearing their comic book costumes.
    I’m really not sure what Poland is talking about regarding Babel. It’s sort of ridiculous to say that Babel (only!) grossing $45,000 per screen is somehow going to damage it’s Oscar hopes. Or are we saying old academy members aren’t going to dig Babel? The Oscar voters aren’t the general public – they’re movie people, and they like serious, important films. These are the people that voted for Crash last year.
    And do you really believe the HFPA is trying to guess what Oscar voters like and then vote that way? What in the hell for? What’s in it for them? I’m sure a lot of them guess at who’ll get nominated for the Oscars in their publications all the time, but there’s nothing to suggest that would affect what they put on their own ballots.
    Finally Saw Marie Antoinette tonight…and it was slight, slow and lacking a story. I didn’t hate it, but it was definitely disappointing. A step backwards, for sure.

  12. jeffmcm says:

    I haven’t seen Babel yet, but it sounds like it may do well with Oscar voters for the exact same reasons that Crash and Million Dollar Baby did – it presents the aura of being ‘serious’ and ‘important’ while also being emotional. I don’t understand what DP’s point is regarding his perception of its weakness with older voters.

  13. jeffmcm says:

    Sorry for that last run-on sentence.

  14. EDouglas says:

    That’s a shame about Catch A Fire. It’s a really good movie, but it should have been platformed and then expanded.

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Box Office

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MB Cool. I was really interested in the aerial photography from Enter the Void and how one could understand that conceptually as a POV, while in fact it’s more of an objective view of the city where the story takes place. So it’s an objective and subjective camera at the same time. I know that you’re interested in Kubrick. We’ve talked about that in the past because it’s something that you and I have in common—

GN You’re obsessed with Kubrick, too.

MB Does he still occupy your mind or was he more of an early influence?

GN He was more of an early influence. Kubrick has been my idol my whole life, my own “god.” I was six or seven years old when I saw 2001: A Space Odyssey, and I never felt such cinematic ecstasy. Maybe that’s what brought me to direct movies, to try to compete with that “wizard of Oz” behind the film. So then, years later, I tried to do something in that direction, like many other directors tried to do their own, you know, homage or remake or parody or whatever of 2001. I don’t know if you ever had that movie in mind for your own projects. But in my case, I don’t think about 2001 anymore now. That film was my first “trip” ever. And then I tried my best to reproduce on screen what some drug trips are like. But it’s very hard. For sure, moving images are a better medium than words, but it’s still very far from the real experience. I read that Kubrick said about Lynch’s Eraserhead, that he wished he had made that movie because it was the film he had seen that came closest to the language of nightmares.

Matthew Barney and Gaspar Noé

A Haunted House 2 is not a movie. It is a nervous breakdown. Directed by Michael Tiddes but largely the handiwork of star, producer, and co-writer Marlon Wayans, the film is being billed as yet another Wayans-ized spoof of the horror movie genre, à la the first Haunted House movie and the wildly successful Scary Movie series. (Keenen Ivory Wayans and his brothers were responsible for the first two Scary Movie films; they have since left that franchise, which may explain why a new one was needed.) And there are some familiar digs at recent horror flicks: This time, the creepy doll and the closet from The Conjuring, the family-murdering demon from Sinister, and the dybbuk box from The Possession all make appearances. But this new film is mostly an excuse for star Marlon Wayans to have extended freak-outs in response to the horrors visited upon him—shrieking, screaming, crying, cowering, and occasionally hate-fucking for minutes on end. Yes, you read that last bit right. A Haunted House 2 puts the satyriasis back in satire.”
Ebiri On A Haunted House 2