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David Poland

By David Poland

The Disney Quarter

There is a lot of short-cut writing on the Disney 3rd Qtr result released today. I thought I would add a dew details to the conversation.
Disney’s fiscal Q3 ended June 27, 2009. So, the quarter is March 27 – June 27.
This year’s Q3 domestic theatrical box office is, literally and ironically, UP this year from last year. (It was down last year, a year after Pirates 3.)
Race To Witch Mountain (partial) – $18 million gross
Hannah Montana Movie (all theatrical) – $79.5m gross
Up (partial) – $246.2m gross
The Proposal (partial) – $63.9m
G-Force – $0
TOTAL GROSS – $407.6m
Step Up 2 – $15.2
College Road Trip $5.7m
Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian – $137.4m
Wall-E – $45.3m
TOTAL GROSS – $203.6
It’s even very close to Q3 2007, when Pirates 3 launched
Pirates 3 (partial) – $290.7
Meet The Robinsons (total) – $95.5
Wild Hogs (partial) $42.2
TOTAL GROSS – $428.4
And for the record, in anticipation of Q4…
Up (partial) – $20m to-date
The Proposal (partial) – $79.1m to-date
G-Force – $45.4 to-date
Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian – $1.7m
Wall-E – $178.5m
Swing Vote – $16.3m
Miracle At St Anna – $3.5
The culprit, as pointed out in the Quarterly Report, is DVD. Bedtime Stories, Confessions of a Shopaholic and Bolt were not competitive, as a group, with National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets and Enchanted, which shipped nearly 17 million units between them.
But what people probably don’t realize is that Enchanted did about 12% more than Bedtime Stories at the box office. And Bolt did about 10% less than DWA’s Bee movie the least before. If DVD corrolated directly, that would mean the two titles would have shipped about 14m units with a third film (Shopaholic) there to make up the difference. Dan In Real Life shipped about 2.3 million units with a similar gross the year before. So it should be pretty close.
But it’s not.
My estimate would be about 12.5m units shipping for those 3 titles, as opposed to the 2 big titles from the year before. That’s not a quality call. That’s a strong shift in the marketplace.
So… this is not so much a defense of Disney as it is a defense against quick and misleading assumptions. In domestic theatrical, Disney is doing better this summer. In the next quarter, even with G-Force holding strong, theatrical will probably be slightly down in the next quarter. But the only division doing better this year than last is interactive, which is still losing money, just losing less.
But note… as always… how small domestic theatrical seems in comparison to the big picture at these companies, whether it is up or down. There are many more balls in the air than people seem to realize… or want to spend the time to consider.

3 Responses to “The Disney Quarter”

  1. Direwolf says:

    Good review, DP.
    There are two other stories in the quarter though not specifically relevant to this blog.
    First, advertising trends at ESPN, ABC, and the local affiliates were pretty much the same as the March quarter. Stability, yes. Improvement, no.
    Second, them park operating income held up much better on a similar revenue decline to the March quarter. This is due to the fixed cost coverage coming from even promotion driven attendance and good cost cutting.
    I do not own Disney for my clients. I won CBS as a play on an ad recovery and Discovery Communications as a growth story given the much better ad trends at cable nets generally and at DISCA specifically. Of course, cable nets have the dual revenue stream and DISCA has the added benefit of the non-fiction focus which keeps programming expense in check and translates extremely well abroad.

  2. Direwolf says:

    One other thing…apparently Disney took a write-down on G-Force. Given the better than expected opening weekend, this suggests that rumnors of unusually production costs that were discussed here might have some truth to them.

  3. Chucky in Jersey says:

    Cable TV is not the only one with a dual revenue stream. Most local stations now collect retransmission consent fees from cable and satellite.
    Retrans consent is quite large and is only going to get larger.

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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