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David Poland

By David Poland

Friday Estimates by Klady

As noted yesterday, It’s reasonable to guess that an animated opening weekend will turn out to be anywhere between 2.8x the Friday estimate to 3.5x the Friday estimate. In the case of Up, that’s a $15 million potential swing, from a low of $59.9m to a high of 74.9m… or it could be something else. It’s not news until it’s news…
…as Crazy Nikki reminded us by erasing her ill-conceived post that attempted to claim knowledge of the weekend numbers based on east coast matinees… something no one who knows much about box office would ever do. As Wrecktum pointed out, the posted numbers were, indeed, an accurate representation of the matinee numbers at least one studio had for Friday. Those are facts… but are they news… especially when they cannot be interpreted except in the broadest way, in this case off by almost 30%?
But I digress..
Up‘s opening could be right in line with the two big animated movies last summer, Kung Fu Panda and Wall-E… or it could be the 3rd biggest animated opening of all time, behind only the last 2 Shreks. My guess is more the former than the latter. But my point remains… it’s only news when its news. And when civilians are so anxious to narrow down every piece of “analysis” into a defining context, invariably prematurely, it is the media’s responsibility to be responsible about the context in which we present information.
Drag Me To Hell looks to land an opening somewhere between Death Race and The Strangers from last summer’s race. It’s not a bad number… it’s not a great number.
What’s the difference between this opening and what Screen Gems would have done with the film? Women… girls. The much verbally wanked over poster, which does indeed play as much of Ms. Lohman’s sensuality as it does the horrors of the underworld, is a rather talented piece of design. On the other hand, even though Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead series appealed almost exclusively to boys and geek hags, having a woman at the center of this story was a great opportunity to grab the teen girl horror junkies that made so many Screen Gems movies a bigger success (from Underworld to The Exorcism of Emily Rose to Resident Evil to The Messengers). Screen Gems was not alone in working this, as movies like The Ring and The Grudge also took that road.
It’s ironic that this Sam Raimi film ended up at Universal when the last one, Boogeyman, was at his Spider-Man home, Sony. Boogie’s opening will be a little better than this one… a strong piece of marketing. But I think that Universal would have done as well with that film as Screen Gems did. It was a very straight forward boy sell, with its biggest challenge being getting the rating in at PG-13. Drag Me also got the PG-13… though I have no idea how it did it, aside from not stripping Ms. Lohman nude or emphasizing green bodily fluids and not red. But with a woman in the middle of the action, it seems to me that there was a chunk of money left of the table this weekend that could have been mined by emphasizing the woman’s strength and not just the fun house elements. This is a Sony specialty.
In an industry that is all about single-digit margins these days, a movie that does $40 million – $50 million doing $55 million – $65 million makes a big difference. It’s not that Universal did poorly. They didn’t. They delivered the core and pushed a little past it. But it’s always an interesting game to think of what other studio could have done more with another studio’s titles. For instance, what if Sony had The Hangover and WB had The Taking of Pelham 123?
Congrats to Paramount on $200m for Star Trek. $230m domestic seems real – though they are still spending an unusual amount this far out on national television buys – and with much of Asia still untouched, the hope of the slingshot effect of being a big hit here remains in effect. (Foreign is still under $100 million as of this writing.) The film will come out of this weekend about $10 million behind Wolverine, worldwide, but should pass the X-prequel sometime in the next 11 days or so. Star Trek is looking more like breakeven at this point, though DVD estimates for all theatrical films are getting smaller and smaller, which is a danger.
The story of the summer – in spite of the rush to “box office is booming!” stories – is that by this time last year, not the 3 trilogy year, we had two $300m domestic films launched… this year we have none. On the other hand, we will have six $100 million domestic grossers out of this month this year, up from last year’s four. So how do we define success?

19 Responses to “Friday Estimates by Klady”

  1. Rothchild says:

    Warner Bros is terrible at marketing comedies. This is an understood fact around town, so I really am amazed, besides the usage of “Who Let the Dogs Out” in a TV spot, by how brilliant their campaign for The Hangover has been. It’s easily going to make 100 domestic, which is a big deal considering Old School didn’t even hit that.

  2. David Poland says:

    I like the movie… but the cult in the media around it is, I think, grossly overestimating its potential.
    Zach Galifianakis is funny in the film, but nothing indicates – anymore now than in the last 5 years – that he is “the future of comedy.” Likewise Bradley Cooper, who is utterly replaceable.
    But the biggest problem with the film is… not great for women. I know there are stories out there about women who saw it and liked it, to thir surprise. But really, boys… none of the sweetness here of Wedding Crashers or Old School.
    I expect the box office to be right around Old School. Niche. A legend on cable.
    And do you really think the outdoor is great? Three beat up faces of guys no one – outside of the media cult – knows?
    Maybe I am dead wrong on this one… don’t really think so, though.

  3. Universal marketing should be hung out to dry for not getting Drag Me to Hell to $20 million. The reviews were great, the poster was terrific, and the film damn well should have capitalized on the ‘girl power’ marketing niche. I have no idea what the TV spots were like, but I can only wonder if they spent their ad dollars chasing the geek demo that was always going to show up. There is no excuse for this not opening at least as well as The Strangers.

  4. Aris P says:

    I see a few reasons why:
    1- Where was the marketing/awareness for this film? I saw no posters in LA, and I saw a couple of commercials about a week before it opened.
    2- It’s a stupid title. For people in the fence, a creepy title might draw them in more than an over the top silly title like this.
    3- Alison Lohan. Sorry.
    4- Sam Raimi’s name doesnt guarantee anything, other than for a small contingent of the fanboy faction showing up at midnight.
    5- Hard horror will always draw way more people than goofy horror.

  5. jeffmcm says:

    I haven’t seen it yet, but I never thought the title was stupid and as far as I know it’s more of a hard horror movie than a goofy horror movie – in other words, it looks closer to a roller-coaster 1408 type movie than an obvious joke like Snakes on a Plane.
    Agreed that the marketing didn’t seem to have the right focus and Lohman and Raimi’s names added little.

  6. ManWithNoName says:

    Wait, jeff, are you saying Chucky is right about name-checking? :-)
    The marketing didn’t make a lot of sense. Outside of the geek community, who knows what the “Evil Dead” trilogy is? And those who do know don’t need to be told that Sam Raimi was responsible for those movies. Hooking those viewers with the line “a return to true horror” was also unnecessary — what geek Evil Dead fan wasn’t going to attend this?
    A lot of my friends want to see this, but they also think the premise is goofy as hell, which might have turned some people off. I curse you because you didn’t extend my mortgage? It’s fine as a premise, but it got a lot of unintentional laughter during the trailer. I think the trailer should have just noted that the girl was cursed — no need to show us why.
    Aris does have a point, though I wouldn’t label it a hard horror v. goofy horror distinction. It’s more a supernatural v. slasher distinction. Saw, Scream, Friday the 13th, etc., are always going to generate more box office than horror movies that feature demons (Nightmare excluded, though you could argue those are also slasher flicks with a supernatural element).

  7. jeffmcm says:

    I think the distinction is that people want their scary movies to take the business of being scary seriously. The Exorcist and (even though it sucks) The Exorcism of Emily Rose both do, and they’re certainly about demony things.

  8. Hallick says:

    “Outside of the geek community, who knows what the ‘Evil Dead’ trilogy is?”
    For teenagers at least, aren’t the “Evil Dead” movies kind of a slumber party rite of passage like “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and “Halloween”? One of those scary, messed-up, radiactive with nastiness titles that belong to the home rental pantheon. The geek community would go on to cherish them as part of the creme de la creme of filmgoing; but at one time or another, everybody I knew when I was a kid made a beeline for “Evil Dead” as soon as they got permission or an older sibling with a video store card.

  9. ManWithNoName says:

    Not sure, Hallick. Maybe back in the day, but modern teens? I’m doubtful any that aren’t major film fans know of the trilogy (and any that do probably only know “Army of Darkness”).
    To this day, “Evil Dead” is one of the scariest movies I’ve ever seen. It lacked the over-the-top humor of Part 2 and I love it for that. It was just straight-up horror, trying to scare the shit out of you. I wish we could get more of that — original, scary horror. When it works, there is nothing better.

  10. Hallick says:

    “5- Hard horror will always draw way more people than goofy horror.”
    I don’t think the marketing is selling Drag as a goofy horror film. It’s promising the potential audience that this is going to be a movie that will scare the crap out of you. Yeah, they’re putting Sam Raimi’s name front and forward, but as a “Master of Horror” more than anything else.

  11. Hallick says:

    “Zach Galifianakis is funny in the film, but nothing indicates – anymore now than in the last 5 years – that he is ‘the future of comedy’. Likewise Bradley Cooper, who is utterly replaceable.”
    I think, with profound sadness, that he’s the recent past of comedy. He used to be one of the all-time great one-liner comedians, but somewhere he just decided to turn into his own sight gag and start playing off the visual of a guy with that gut and that beard pretending he doesn’t realize that he’s standing around in his tighty whiteys and grossing everybody out. Which is a tragedy because he’s got the chops under all of this oddness to be a really great actor.

  12. Hallick says:

    “Not sure, Hallick. Maybe back in the day, but modern teens? I’m doubtful any that aren’t major film fans know of the trilogy (and any that do probably only know “Army of Darkness”).”
    If kids back in the mid to late 80’s were looking for Texas Chainsaw Massacre, would it really be so strange if kids nowadays sought out something like Evil Dead; especially when people like yourself are saying it’s one of the scariest movies you ever saw?
    If you’re a teenager, and you’re on the hunt for that iconic horror movie that stands head and shoulders above the rest, what are you grabbing in 2009? “Saw”? “Scream”? “House of 1000 Corpses”? One of the remakes like “The Hills Have Eyes” or Jessica Biel’s “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”?

  13. The TCM remake seems more likely as a modern day slumber party movie than the remake, and the Saw movies are probably a much likelier choice than Evil Dead (sadly). With the internet and such I figure modern day teenagers know the horror movies of today, but have no knowledge and little interest in the horror movies of the ’70s and even the ’80s (although movies like Friday the 13th, Halloween and Nightmare on Elm Street would still remain popular, of course although I’d hazard a guess and say Halloween is still only popular with teens due to its connection to a yearly tradition). They’ve all heard of the Saw films and the remakes and The Ring and so on. They’re not going to grab movies like Evil Dead because it’s “old” and “looks silly” and the CGI isn’t good enough.
    Of course, I could be wrong. :/
    Who is Zach Gali…whatever his name is. I looked at his Wiki page and there’s nothing on there that doesn’t scream “nobody outside of America has even heard of me!” And I can’t say he has much international appeal. We don’t like your fat comedians as much as you do, I fear.

  14. Chucky in Jersey says:

    Next weekend brings a trio of national releases that all scream FAIL
    WB: Name-Checking
    U: TV-Based
    Fox: Name-Checking
    At least arthouse pic “Away We Go” keeps it real.

  15. Hallick says:

    “At least arthouse pic ‘Away We Go’ keeps it real.”
    BZZZZ – the trailer name checks Dave Eggers at the 47 second mark (it also opens with the Focus Features logo, and we all know how much you hate to see studio names being mentioned now). And at 1:26, its “from director Sam Mendes”.
    Sorry, Chucky, but thanks for playing “Who Wants To Find The Most Piddly Reasons Not To Watch a Movie?”. Enjoy your weekend away from the theaters!

  16. yancyskancy says:

    I think trailers should pixelate actors’ faces. Otherwise, audiences will start name-checking on their own. “Hey, isn’t that John Krasinski from The Office? That beard’s not fooling me. If he’s the big selling point, I think I’ll pass.” Pixelation could prevent countless instances of FAIL.

  17. anghus says:

    Is the Terminator franchise officially dead after this weekend?

  18. the keoki says:

    Yes i think that’s it for The Terminator

  19. christian says:

    Another brand bites the dust. Finally.

Box Office

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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