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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

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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.

Quote Unquotesee all »

“But okay, I promise you now that if I ever retire again, I’m going to ensure that I can’t walk it back. I’ll post a series of the most disgusting, offensive, outrageous statements you can ever imagine. That way it will be impossible for me to ever be employed again. No one is going to take my calls. No one is going to want to be seen with me. Oh, it will be scorched earth. I will have torched everything. I’m going to flame out in the most legendary fashion.”
~ Steven Soderbergh

I feel strongly connected to young cinephile culture. The thing about filmmaking—and cinephilia—is that you can’t keep hanging out with your own age group as you get older. They drop off, move somewhere. You can’t put together a crew of sixty-somethings. It’s the same for cinephilia: my original set of cinephile friends are watching DVDs at home or delving into 1958 episodes of ‘Gunsmoke,’ something like that. The people who are out there tend to be young, and I happen to be doing the same thing still, so it’s natural that I move in their circles.

In terms of the filmmaking, there was a gear shift: my first movies focused on people around my age, and I followed them for three films. Until The Unspeakable Act, I was using the same actors, not because of an affinity for people at a specific age, but because of my affinity for the actors. I like to work with actors a second time, especially if I don’t feel confident casting a new film. But The Unspeakable Act was a different script, and I had to cast all new people. Even for the older roles, I couldn’t get the people I’d worked with before. But when it was over, the same thing happened: I wanted to work with Tallie again in the worst way, and I started the process all over again.

I think Rohmer did something similar around the time of Perceval and Catherine de HeilbronnHe developed new groups of people that he liked to work with. These gear shifts are natural. Even if you want to follow certain actors to the end of their life (which I kind of do) the variety of ideas that you generate makes it necessary to change. And once you’ve made the change, you’ve got all these new people around.”
~ Dan Sallitt