MCN Blogs
David Poland

By David Poland poland@moviecitynews.com

Another Early Screener Break

Word came through another web journalist that Universal’s American Gangster has already hit the internet.
In spite of perception out there, it is still fairly unusual for films to turn up weeks before theatrical release. Now and again, a copy of a film being distributed internally at a studio and shared with vendors working on the film will pop up, loaded with timecode and other frame-breaking images in order to discourage piracy or any other recreational viewing. But for the most part, the studios have kept pretty good hold of their films before prints are shipped. Once prints are out there, it is inevitably a matter of hours before the first off-screen bootleg appears on city streets for $5 or less.
The studio is already on the hunt in this case, but it does remind those of us who are in the business of seeing films before release that all those irritating and, for some, personally insulting security precautions in screening rooms and theaters with recruited audiences do have a purpose.
I always think that 10 of us – who the distributor knows and has invited into a room way too small for anyone to run a camera without others seeing and hearing it – being monitored by men with goggles is a bit much. But corporations infamously can only move at one speed and “secure” is the one that is responsible to shareholders these days. And really, the guys at SEM and other security firms hired to do these events have gotten to know those of us who attend regularly by sight and have a more relaxed attitude, I find, when we see them for the third time in a week. They know we are not the danger. (That was kind of like asking for a strip search the next time, huh?) But still, the problem continues.

66 Responses to “Another Early Screener Break”

  1. brack says:

    As if this movie didn’t have enough problems with it’s crappy marketing campaign and high budget.

  2. brack says:

    I meant its lol.

  3. waterbucket says:

    Trust me, if the movie is good enough, people will go see it in the theater.

  4. Noah says:

    I wonder if this will affect the box office because I don’t know how many people know how to download pirated movies. I mean, does the average person know where to go to find the American Gangster bootleg on the internet and would they even go looking for it if someone hadn’t told them it was out there? I think a large portion of people probably don’t download movies, but then they hear that it’s out there in the newspaper, so they go searching for it.

  5. If you want to download “American Gangster” just enter the word “Washington” into the Google search engine and read the text of every result. Eventually you will find the movie download embedded in one of the links. It’s random, so just refresh the search every few hours or so.

  6. movieman says:

    I have a hunch that once words leaks out what a disappointment the movie is, nobody is going to care one way or another.
    *****SPOILER ALERT****
    Ridley Scott and Steve Zaillian had two potentially interesting stories to tell here. Regrettably, one of them (how heroin was transported to the U.S. during the Vietnam War by American servicemen) is only given short shrift; and the other (that Richie Roberts became Frank Lucas’ lawyer after busting him and helped get his life sentence reduced to 15 years) is reduced to a single sentence in the film’s lengthy postscript. Because either would have sufficed as the basis for a compelling docudrama, it’s unfortunate that both are sidelined in favor of dueling narratives of lesser distinction. HBO’s “The Wire” employs the same two-pronged storytelling approach to cops-and-pushers material with more panache and originality. “AmericanGangster” offers precious little that we haven’t seen before-and better–in a slew of other movies (“Scarface,” “New Jack City,” “Blow,” et al).
    Also depressing is the waste of so many gifted performers (Chiwetel Ejiofor, Idris Elba, John Hawkes, Clarence Williams III, Roger Guenveur Smith, Ruby Dee) who have virtually nothing to do but punch a clock. Even Cuba Gooding Jr. is relegated to one measley scene. (The best performance is turned in by Josh Brolin who’s having one helluva year!)
    The late 60s/early 70s art direction and production design are as authentically fetishized as they were in “Zodiac,” yet the film has practically zero emotional impact–it’s tough to care about any of these stereotypical characters–and I was lulled into a narcoleptic stupor long before it was over.
    It’s one of the year’s biggest non-events.

  7. brack says:

    “Trust me, if the movie is good enough, people will go see it in the theater.”
    Yeah, but you got to get the public’s interest first. If you don’t promote your movie right, I don’t care how good it is, you won’t get the numbers you want. I see the trailers, and all I’m thinking is “Denzel needs a new act.”

  8. IOIOIOI says:

    Brack; that’s you and most European countries. A lot of us disagree about Denzel needing a new act. Again; Jay-Z is doing the soundtrack and he has some pull in the music industry (PRESIDENT). This means that the soundtrack alone will be good promotion. Let us also not forget that this film is being sold to all sectors. So… seriously… reel that shit back, or go check the flick out online. You may be right about it. Nevertheless; we live on the wrong continent to make downloading movies an applicable thing.

  9. brack says:

    Fact: Denzel hasn’t hit $100m domestically in seven years, and that was a “family friendly” movie. Maybe Russel Crowe will help with that, though he’s not really being sold this time out. I’m happy other people aren’t sick of the Serious Scowl of Denzel.

  10. bmcintire says:

    Washington’s career hasn’t exactly been littered with $100M pictures. THE PELICAN BRIEF passed the mark, and CRIMSON TIDE almost got there. PHILADELPHIA and TRAINING DAY are the nearest misses doing roughly $75M each. But he quite often opens these pictures to $20M weekends. Russell Crowe has been no slouch in the same department if you remove the obvious misfire A GOOD YEAR (much like Denzel’s ANTWONE FISHER or THE HURRICANE) from the equation. Between the two of them and the (so far) good word of mouth, I am guessing this opens north of $30M, easily.

  11. Geoff says:

    I think you guys are really underestimating this film – the hype has been deafening and the marketing campaign has been great.
    This is what Universal does best – launching an youth/urban oriented “serious” movie in early November, with the marketing hook of a catchy hip hop song – remember Jarhead opened to $28 million, with lesser stars and 8 Mile opened to just over $50 million.
    I am predicting this does close to $40 – it should easily be the biggest opening for Denzel or Russel and will probably do The Departed-like business.
    Denzel is no slouch in box office – crap like Deja Vu and John Q has made about $70 million each just on his shoulders. And just last year, Inside Man did just under $100 mill and made the same overseas.
    What also helps this film is that it looks like a truly weak November after what is a pretty weak October – all these films geared towards adults with little appeal. This film is going to feed pent-up demand and MAYBE even beat Bee Move – god, it there is a more annoying marketing campaign out there? I mean, I used to watch Seinfield, but I am already sick of this movie.
    Regardless, it should do Over the Hedge-like business, but I am guessing Dreamworks was hoping for more.

  12. doug r says:

    Last picture with Washington and Crowe was…Virtuosity, made about $25 million?

  13. I don’t know anyone who is not going to see AG. And I know lots of people. It’s going to be H U G E.

  14. Joe Leydon says:

    Yeah, but Doug: I kinda-sorta think Virtuosity opened back before many people here in the USA really knew who Russell Crowe was.
    BTW: At the risk of sounding more like a perv than I normally do, how many of you guys have clicked onto Mistress Malevolent’s link? Cowabunga. I mean, the gal is hot. Yeah, I know, she’s probably young enough to be my granddaughter. But so what? I find myself fondly recalling my youth, when I had a major jones for Carolyn Jones as Morticia on The Addams Family.

  15. jeffmcm says:

    And like Morticia, the Mistress is also fictional, Joe.

  16. Joe Leydon says:

    Gee, you think?

  17. Don’t listen to him, Joe. He’s clueless. The only reason Jeff knows his own name is because people shout it at him all day.

  18. jeffmcm says:

    Sorry Joe, I should have known you were sharp enough.

  19. IOIOIOI says:

    Thank you Joe for the douche chills. Joe Leydon everybody. Check him out on his own blog and at Variety. Peter Bart loves him! Nevertheless; American Gangster could pull a 300 level opening. It’s pretty much one of those FALL films that get close to SUMMER level hype. So here’s hopin.

  20. “Last picture with Washington and Crowe was…Virtuosity, made about $25 million?”
    That’s the silliest thing I’ve heard on here in a long time (which is saying a lot).

  21. movieman says:

    ****SPOILER ALERT****
    Crowe and Washington share one scene together, and it’s 10 minutes before the end. It’s the best scene in the entire film, but too little too late.
    I’m wondering if that fact will dampen the enthusiasm of opening weekend moviegoers expecting them to go mano-on-mano from beginning to end.

  22. IOIOIOI says:

    Movieman; total dick move on your part with that post. However… I doubt people expect them to share every scene together. The freakin ad campaign and the trailers have established the tone of the story. Of course this does not guarantee that people will not be pissed at a lack of interaction between the two, but we have VIRTUOSITY in case the people need the interaction :).

  23. Devin Faraci says:

    It’s a great, great movie.

  24. movieman says:

    I have no doubt that “AG” will open big–everyone I know is dying to see it. And they all seem genuinely shocked when I tell them that it’s a major disappointment. Of course, I’m sure they’ll go
    anyway since nobody cares what movie critics say, lol.
    Not sure what kind of legs it’s going to have, though.
    Definitely looks like it’s going to split audiences (and critics) right down the middle into “love” and “hate” camps. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
    And having the wide-release “adult” market to itself, at least until Thanksgiving weekend, will definitely give it a leg up.

  25. movieman says:

    I just wish that it had been better….even “New Jack City” quality would be an improvement.

  26. Andrew says:

    All of you who keep saying it will be huge because everyone you know wants to see it, – who cares? That’s hardly proof of anything. I live in L.A., also know tons of people, all of whom are regular non-Hollywood folk (mostly in their 20s), and only one is interested in watching it. By their movie-going habits, I’d say they’re more in tune with the masses, and this month they’re waiting for the likes of Fred Claus, and The Mist. Now, I’m not offering this up as proof of anything, I’m just saying it’s stupid to try and guess a movie’s performance by the interest of people you know.

  27. bulldog68 says:

    On my way to work this morning, all the way here in the tiny caribbean island of Trinidad, I saw a guy with a roadside DVD stall, selling nothing but bootlegs of American Gangstar. there is a thriving business here, and this has definitely affected the theatre business locally as the DVDs sell for less than ten local dollars, or the equivalent of US$1.50.
    The movie is high on my radar however and surprisingly on my wife’s as well, so I don’t know if that speaks to the female demographic that might turn out to this movie. Denzel and Russell are sex symbols in their own right so I guess we’ll see.
    Also agree with Geoff re: weak october and November, and while there have been lots of adult product, none have really broke out of the pack. Only horrors and ironically another Russell Crowe movie, 3:10 To Yuma made 50M+ this fall, and Denzel beats Christian Bale in my book regarding Box Office draw. Additionally, the last time Denzel played a bad guy, he got an Oscar, so I think persons want to see that again as well.
    Disagree with Geoff though on this beating Bee Movie. Game Plan’s game will be mostly over and Bee Movie will be the only product out there for the kiddies. I think Bee Movie will do the bigger business.

  28. brack says:

    good movie, though nothing we haven’t seen before.

  29. brack says:

    good movie, though nothing we haven’t seen before.

  30. brack says:

    sorry about the double post.

  31. montrealkid says:

    Jay-Z is not doing the soundtrack. He is releasing an album that is “inspired” by the film and yes, the film does contain some older songs of his, but he did not write new music for the film.

  32. Hallick says:

    “Trust me, if the movie is good enough, people will go see it in the theater.”
    Owwwwch…I think you dislocated my jaw. Wasn’t that a Stuart Smiley line?

  33. IOIOIOI says:

    New Jack City quality? Really? Come on… come on… come on… that’s looney tunes. New Jack City is easily one of the most bizarre freakin films ever made. Not only has it aged poorly, but the film makes no damn sense. There’s less fantasy in the Neverending Story compared to New Jack City. It’s such a goofy parable that it makes me feel bad for ever believing it to be a movie of quality. The same goes with the KING OF NEW YORK. A movie that’s as goofy as New Jack City, but it at least has ridiculously reckless cops in it.

  34. brack says:

    New Jack City aged poorly? It’s a period piece, set in the 80s when the crack epidemic was at its worst. It’s far more entertaining and deals with more issues than American Gangster.

  35. Sevenmack says:

    Out here in the Midwest, there are several people in my circle of friends who want to see it. My girlfriend wants to see it too. And even I’m a bit curious. And it’s in part because of the music. When the girlfriend and I saw the preview to AG in August, you could hear people in the theater buzzing. Especially about Jay-Z’s remake of “Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City,” which blared during the preview. The Jay-Z album that’s being tied to the movie and the tour should boost awareness.
    This should open up to $30 million easy just because of the buzz out in the Midwest alone. The coasts? When was the last time people in Indiana, Ohio, Illinois and Minnesota gave a damn about the coasts? If anyone here did, a lot of movies wouldn’t have made any money this year.

  36. Sevenmack says:

    As for New Jack City aging poorly? Are you kidding me. It was a masterpiece back when Roger Ebert reviewed it in 1991; it’s still fresh today. It reflects a period of time and it didn’t romanticize a drug culture that pervaded New York at that time. And it’s still fairly accessible to the Gen-Yers in the same way as Scarface.

  37. Tofu says:

    American Gangster has been tracking hot for awhile now. 30 million easy.

  38. brack says:

    $30m opening isn’t very impressive anymore.

  39. IOIOIOI says:

    Brack; feel free to post, but pay attention to history! 30 million for an R-rated film is pretty damn impressive in this day and age. If you get over 30 million with an R-rated film, then you are really cooking with grease. Nevertheless; stop propagating an agenda, that would be swell.

  40. brack says:

    A $30m opening isn’t impressive when crap like the Saw series can do it year after year.
    I would be impressed if this movie didn’t star Denzel Washington and Russel Crowe. But it does. With this movie’s starpower and so-called “good buzz” that you’re talking about, it is EXPECTED to do the business you’re talking about, hence not impressive.

  41. Wrecktum says:

    There are maybe 20 R rated movies that have opened over $30m. I’d call it damn impressive if American Gangster could reach that #.

  42. IOIOIOI says:

    Brack; SAW IS A FREAKIN FRANCHISE THAT SOME FOLKS LOVE! Seriously… it’s a franchise. If you do not get that 30 million for an R-rated flick is pretty damn impressive. Well, obviously, someone does not pay attention to HEAT. Heat has expanded on this several freakin times. So… again… stop pushing an agenda. Yes; I may have used propagating wrong in the last post. Schucks.

  43. brack says:

    36 R-rated movies have had $30m+ openings. 29 of those were released within the last 10 years. There have been 4 such openings this year thus far. The bar has risen.

  44. jeffmcm says:

    36 R-rated movies out of thousands produced.

  45. Of the three (four if you include Halloween on it’s four-day weekend) one was the stylised teen gore action flick 300. The other two were youth-aimed slacker comedies Superbad and Knocked Up. And then, if you want, Halloween a remake of a horror classic.
    So American Gangster isn’t exactly in familiar territory.
    Interestingly, the #3 r-rated flick is Superbad, which made $121mil, while #4 is Halloween, which made $57. Yikes.

  46. brack says:

    Halloween’s take is a great example of why I’m not too impressed with opening numbers.
    So you’re saying gangster movies aren’t familiar? That Washington and Crowe aren’t familiar?
    I guess movie stars are obsolete.

  47. Cadavra says:

    I’ve always said the best way to judge a film is by its second weekend. Most anyone can spend their way into a big opening weekend gross, and teens and geeks will always show up opening day for anything gory or genre-related. The true test of a movie is sunshine. This ain’t rocket science, people.

  48. Wrecktum says:

    “So you’re saying gangster movies aren’t familiar? That Washington and Crowe aren’t familiar?”
    Crowe has never opened a movie on his name alone. Washington has (many times) but none of his movies have ever opened to a $30m 3-day. Face it, you’ve lost this one.

  49. brack says:

    I never claimed this movie was going to open at $30m. I said that these guys are movie stars, and that their combined power could easily open a movie. Whether or not American Gangster will be that movie is a mystery. But with its running time, I highly doubt it.
    Now, as far as Russl Crowe goes, what is this name alone nonsense? Just because Crowe has never put himself in the position to open a crap movie, if that’s what you mean by “name alone,” doesn’t mean he can’t. It just means he’s smart and wants to do quality stuff.
    Gladiator made that R-rated list, opening at about $34m. Him being the gladiator totally sold the movie, and people knew of him after his Oscar nomination for The Insider the previous year. Master and Commander opened with $25m. Sure it was a book, but his name and face was plastered all over movie posters for that one.
    Cinderella Man opened to $18m. That was all Crowe. A Beautiful Mind opened with $16m and did wonderful business. Crowe again.
    Whether or not this movie does open well depends on selling both of these actors, and to be honest Crowe isn’t being sold very well, based solely on TV ads. But the movie isn’t being sold well period. Then again, it isn’t a great movie, so what can you do?

  50. brack says:

    I can’t spell Russell lol.

  51. brack says:

    “36 R-rated movies out of thousands produced.”
    so what? most of those movies weren’t trying to go for a big opening.

  52. jeffmcm says:

    You’re claiming it’s nothing special. I’m claiming it’s pretty rare, and the numbers back me up.

  53. Joe Leydon says:

    But how much are these figures skewed by inflation? Or screen count? Rambo III posted a 1988 opening weekend of $13 million back when the average movie ticket price was $4.11. Pretty Woman (which, oddly enough, people tend to forget was rated R) opened to $11.2 million when average ticket price was $4.23. And perhaps more important — as David always warns us, front-loading is another factor to consider — neither of these films opened on more than 2600 screens. How many screens did Saw IV open on? How many screens will American Gangster open on?

  54. brack says:

    “You’re claiming it’s nothing special. I’m claiming it’s pretty rare, and the numbers back me up.”
    Things that are rare and things that are special are two separate things

  55. brack says:

    I know it’s rare, you obviously missed my point.

  56. Wrecktum says:

    I don’t consider an $18m opening very impressive for a movie like Cinderella Man. In fact, if you remember the sad theatrical history of the movie, I think it’s quite clear that Crowe is not the type of “star” that puts butts in seats.

  57. Cadavra says:

    Also, most of Crowe’s big openings came before he started acting like a thug in public.
    Still, if Denzel’s good for 20, and Crowe and Scott combine for another 10, then opening at 30 is perfectly plusible.

  58. Cadavra says:

    Urk, “plausible.” C’mon, D-Po, give us an edit button already!

  59. brack says:

    “I don’t consider an $18m opening very impressive for a movie like Cinderella Man.”
    It was released not only in the summer, but June. What kind of opening is one really to expect?
    “Still, if Denzel’s good for 20, and Crowe and Scott combine for another 10, then opening at 30 is perfectly plausible.”
    Thank you, my point exactly. Use Firefox. It has a spellchecker.

  60. jeffmcm says:

    Your point is a $30m opening is ‘plausible’? Way to go out on a limb.

  61. brack says:

    Well, not American Gangster, no, but a better movie that wassn’t as long and stars the same actors, sure why not?

  62. jeffmcm says:

    I still don’t understand your point – so your prediction is that American Gangster will open at less than $30m? And remember that quality doesn’t matter for a movie’s opening.

  63. brack says:

    “American Gangster will open at less than $30m?”
    Yes, but I think it’ll be close to that number since everything Washington does seems to open well.
    The trailer is okay, but I don’t think the tv spots have been good enough to guarantee a $30m opening. They all show the same scenes. They need one that tries to tell the actual story a little better. When I first saw the trailer I had a “wait until the reviews come out” attitude. And I’m a fan of the drug kingpin genre.

  64. IOIOIOI says:

    Brack; that’s your rationale. A lot of people see that Denzel and Russell Crowe are going to be in a film that features CRIME, and they are going to see it. 30 million seems very reasonable for this flick next weekend. Nevertheless; I dislike Firefox and I do enjoy Leydon’s point about inflation.

  65. brack says:

    I’m not saying it’s not reasonable. I just don’t think it’ll happen. We’ll see. What don’t you like about Firefox?

The Hot Blog

Quote Unquotesee all »

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