MCN Columnists
Leonard Klady

By Leonard Klady


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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“Let me try and be as direct as I possibly can with you on this. There was no relationship to repair. I didn’t intend for Harvey to buy and release The Immigrant – I thought it was a terrible idea. And I didn’t think he would want the film, and I didn’t think he would like the film. He bought the film without me knowing! He bought it from the equity people who raised the money for me in the States. And I told them it was a terrible idea, but I had no say over the matter. So they sold it to him without my say-so, and with me thinking it was a terrible idea. I was completely correct, but I couldn’t do anything about it. It was not my preference, it was not my choice, I did not want that to happen, I have no relationship with Harvey. So, it’s not like I repaired some relationship, then he screwed me again, and I’m an idiot for trusting him twice! Like I say, you try to distance yourself as much as possible from the immediate response to a movie. With The Immigrant I had final cut. So he knew he couldn’t make me change it. But he applied all the pressure he could, including shelving the film.”
James Gray

“I’m an unusual producer because I control the destiny of a lot of the films I’ve done. Most of them are in perfect states of restoration and preservation and distribution, and I aim to keep them in distribution. HanWay Films, which is my sales company, has a 500-film catalogue, which is looked after and tended like a garden. I’m still looking after my films in the catalogue and trying to get other people to look after their films, which we represent intellectually, to try to keep them alive. A film has to be run through a projector to be alive, unfortunately, and those electric shadows are few and far between now. It’s very hard to go and see films in a movie house. I was always involved with the sales and marketing of my films, right up from The Shout onwards. I’ve had good periods, but I also had a best period because the film business was in its best period then. You couldn’t make The Last Emperor today. You couldn’t make The Sheltering Sky today. You couldn’t make those films anymore as independent films. There are neither the resources nor the vision within the studios to go to them and say, “I want to make a film about China with no stars in it.”Then, twenty years ago, I thought, “OK, I’m going to sell my own films but I don’t want to make it my own sales company.” I wanted it to be for me but I wanted to make it open for every other producer, so they don’t feel that they make a film but I get the focus. So, it’s a company that is my business and I’m involved with running it in a certain way, but I’m not seen as a competitor with other people that use it. It’s used by lots of different producers apart from me. When I want to use it, however, it’s there for me and I suppose I’m planning to continue making all my films to be sold by HanWay. I don’t have to, but I do because it’s in my building and the marketing’s here, and I can do it like that. Often, it sounds like I’m being easy about things, but it’s much more difficult than it sounds. It’s just that I’ve been at it for a long time and there’s lots of fat and security around my business. I know how to make films, but it’s not easy—it’s become a very exacting life.”
~ Producer Jeremy Thomas