MCN Columnists
Leonard Klady

By Leonard Klady Klady@moviecitynews.com


A modicum of laughter propelled Funny People to the top of the weekend box office chart with an estimated $23.2 million. The frame also saw a complete miss for the family targeted Aliens in the Attic of $7.7 million and an OK $3.3 million for the thriller The Collector.

The session also included a flood of specialized fare including sturdy bows for Love Aaj Kal of $702,000 on the Bollywood circuit and a $323,000 tally for Les Doigts Croches in the Quebec marketplace. Limited openers also had strong initial forays with the oddball romance Adam grossing $68,100; Korean vampire yarn Thirst biting into $56,200 and non-fiction dolphin expose The Coveflipping $55,300. Each of the trio bowed on four screens while Cannes-prized Lorna’s Silencegrossed $33,700 from six venues.

Still the glut couldn’t stave off summer’s viewing attrition with box office experiencing significant declines from both last weekend and last year.

While Funny People was being positioned as a comedy, the reality was a more sober-sided yarn of comics with tsoris. Exit polls also revealed that the film was drawing in a primarily young male audience rather than what was perceived as a broader appeal picture. Business dropped 15% from opening day and some invoked the newly coined “twitter” effect as a factor keeping it from opening to more than $30 million.

There wasn’t a lot of enthusiasm for Aliens in the Attic especially with both G-Force and the latestHarry Potter still potent box office attractions. HP6 finally launched its Imax playdates and the 166 large format venues accounted for about $3.2 million (18%) of its weekend earnings.

Buoyed more by word-of-mouth than marketing The Collector generated a respectable return. One can well understand the reluctance of a small distributor to compete against the seasonal behemoths but there’s also the inevitability that a perfunctory ad buy will leave millions on the floor.

Weekend box office shrank to about $125 million for an 18% decline from last weekend. It was a slightly steeper 19% behind 2008 when the third weekend of The Dark Knight edged out the debut of The Mummy sequel with $42.7 million to the latter’s $40.5 million.

To date summer 2009 has generated revenues of roughly $3.2 billion and the current weekend results have put it behind last year at this point by 0.5%. G.I. Joe can’t come too soon or too big.

One largely unseen summer success story is taking place in Quebec where the local action-comedyDe Pere en flic has grossed more than $6 million – the first indigenous blockbuster since Bon Cop, Bad Cop in 2006. That venue has also seen a couple of other Canuck films do well in the current hot season as well as the Swedish nail-biter import Millennium.

– Leonard Klady

Weekend Estimates: July 31 – August 2, 2009

Title Distributor Gross (averag % change Theater Cume
Funny People Uni 23.3 (7,770) 3007 23.2
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Pr WB 17.6 (4,010) -40% 4393 255.4
G-Force BV 17.2 (4,650) -46% 3697 66.6
The Ugly Truth Sony 12.8 (4,430) -54% 2882 54.2
Aliens in the Attic Fox 7.7 (2,490) 3106 7.7
The Orphan WB 7.2 (2,610) -44% 2750 26.7
Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs Fox 5.2 (1,900) -38% 2757 181.8
The Hangover WB 5.0 (2,040) -22% 2071 255.7
The Proposal BV 4.8 (1,970) -25% 2435 148.8
Transformers: Revenge of the Fall Par 4.6 (1,740) -44% 2626 388.1
The Collector FreeStyle 3.3 (2,510) 1325 3.3
(500) Days of Summer Fox Searchlight 2.7 (10,300) 67% 266 6.8
Public Enemies Uni 2.3 (1,430) -47% 1620 93
The Hurt Locker Summit 1.8 (3,520) 28% 523 6.7
Up BV 1.1 (1,500) -35% 726 286
Bruno Uni .88 (1,180) -59% 747 59.1
Love Aaj Kal Eros .70 (6,890) 102 0.7
My Sister’s Keeper WB .66 (1,010) -51% 656 46.7
Du Pere en flic Alliance .63 (9,520) -26% 105 6.4
Night at the Museum 2 Fox .53 (1,520) -19% 349 174
The Taking of Pelham 123 Sony .35 (1,010) -28% 348 64.4
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $120.00
% Change (Last Year) -19%
% Change (Last Week) -19%
Also debuting/expanding
Les Doigts Croches Alliance .32 (4,970) 65 0.32
In the Loop IFC .26 (8,160) 36% 32 0.54
Moon Sony Classics .24 (1,280) -38% 188 3.9
Away We Go Focus .15 (1,050) -48% 142 9.2
Fifty Dead Men Walking TVA 68,820 (3,130) 22 0.07
Adam Searchlight 68,100 (17,020) 4 0.07
Thirst Focus 56,200 (14,050) 4 0.06
The Cove Roadside Attrac 55,300 (13,820) 4 0.06
Lorna’s Silence Sony Classics 33,700 (5,620) 6 0.03
Flame & Citron IFC 10,400 (5,200) 2 0.01
Gotta Dance Dramatic Force 7,300 (7,300) 1 0.01
You, the Living Palisades 5,900 (5,900) 1 0.01
Not Quite Hollywood Magnolia 4,400 (4,400) 2 0.01

Domestic Market Share: January 1 – July 30, 2009

Distributor (releases) Gross Market Share
Warner Bros. (23) 1312.9 20.50%
Paramount (12) 1162.5 18.20%
Fox (12) 864.7 13.50%
Buena Vista (13) 788.6 12.30%
Sony (14) 663.5 10.40%
Universal (14) 605.2 9.50%
Lions Gate (7) 237.4 3.70%
Fox Searchlight (7) 198.5 3.10%
Summit (7) 152.3 2.40%
Focus (5) 104.5 1.60%
Paramount Vantage (2) 52.4 0.80%
MGM (3) 42.3 0.70%
Miramax (5) 41.1 0.70%
Weinstein Co. (6) 34.5 0.50%
Other * (172) 133.4 2.10%
* none greater than 0.45% 6393.8 100%
Medea Goes to Jail Lions Gate 91,092,583
* does not include 2008 box office

Top Domestic Grosses: January 1 – July 30, 2009

Title Distributor Gross
Transformers: Revenge of the Fall Par 383,500,991
Up BV 284,878,665
Star Trek Par 254,334,469
The Hangover WB 250,696,417
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Pr WB 237,762,860
Monsters vs. Aliens Par 197,895,942
X-Men Origins: Wolverine Fox 179,556,048
Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs Fox 176,542,789
Night at the Museum 2 Fox 173,454,677
Fast & Furious Uni 155,206,768
Paul Blart: Mall Cop Sony 146,777,505
Taken Fox 145,000,989
The Proposal BV 144,033,677
Gran Torino * WB 142,251,852
Angels & Demons Sony 133,185,462
Terminator Salvation WB 124,182,894
Slumdog Millionaire * Fox Searchlight 119,092,566
Watchmen WB 107,599,799
He’s Just Not That Into You WB 93,953,653
Medea Goes to Jail Lions Gate 91,092,583
* does not include 2008 box office

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“The core fear is what can happen to you, personally. Your body. That’s what horror films deal with, precisely. We are a very thin skin wrapped around a pumping heart and guts. At any given moment it can come down to that, be it diseases, or somebody’s assault, or war, or a car wreck. You could be reduced to the simple laws of physics and your body’s vulnerability. The edged weapon is the penultimate weapon to disclose that reality to you.”
~ Wes Craven, 1996, promoting Scream

Well, that, to me, is always the trick of dramaturgy; theoretically, perfectly, what one wants to do is put the protagonist and the audience in exactly the same position. The main question in drama, the way I was taught, is always what does the protagonist want. That’s what drama is. It comes down to that. It’s not about theme, it’s not about ideas, it’s not about setting, but what the protagonist wants. What gives rise to the drama, what is the precipitating event, and how, at the end of the play, do we see that event culminated? Do we see the protagonist’s wishes fulfilled or absolutely frustrated? That’s the structure of drama. You break it down into three acts.

Does this explain why your plays have so little exposition?

Yes. People only speak to get something. If I say, Let me tell you a few things about myself, already your defenses go up; you go, Look, I wonder what he wants from me, because no one ever speaks except to obtain an objective. That’s the only reason anyone ever opens their mouth, onstage or offstage. They may use a language that seems revealing, but if so, it’s just coincidence, because what they’re trying to do is accomplish an objective… The question is where does the dramatist have to lead you? Answer: the place where he or she thinks the audience needs to be led. But what does the character think? Does the character need to convey that information? If the answer is no, then you’d better cut it out, because you aren’t putting the audience in the same position with the protagonist. You’re saying, in effect, Let’s stop the play. That’s what the narration is doing—stopping the play… It’s action, as Aristotle said. That’s all that it is—exactly what the person does. It’s not what they “think,” because we don’t know what they think. It’s not what they say. It’s what they do, what they’re physically trying to accomplish on the stage. Which is exactly the same way we understand a person’s character in life—not by what they say, but by what they do. Say someone came up to you and said, I’m glad to be your neighbor because I’m a very honest man. That’s my character. I’m honest, I like to do things, I’m forthright, I like to be clear about everything, I like to be concise. Well, you really don’t know anything about that guy’s character. Or the person is onstage, and the playwright has him or her make those same claims in several subtle or not-so-subtle ways, the audience will say, Oh yes, I understand their character now; now I understand that they are a character. But in fact you don’t understand anything. You just understand that they’re jabbering to try to convince you of something.
~ David Mamet