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MCN Columnists
Leonard Klady

By Leonard Klady Klady@moviecitynews.com

Property Values

The less than huggable E.T.s of District 9 led weekend box office viewing with an estimated $36.8 million. A clutch of new film releases with varying commercial potency buoyed ticket sales including the romantic sci-fi of The Time Traveler’s Wife that ranked third with $19.3 million. There were passable returns for the comic perspective on car salesman The Goods: Live, Hard, Sell Hard of $5.3 million and an OK $3.4 million bow for the Japanese anime Ponyo but Bandslam’s $2.2 million preem tagged it as an instant casualty.

Among niche and limited debuts was a potent $580,000 launch for Kaminey, a Bollywood film with Slumdog Millionaire resonance. Also very strong was the $92,400 gross on seven screens for rock doc It Might Get Loud but the bawdy humor of Spread landed with a thud on box office of $113,000 at 101 venues.

Overall revenues dipped modestly from last weekend but experienced a double digit boost from 2008 and the season appears headed for a modest box office bump (though admissions trail last year) come the Labor Day finish line.

The buzz was effective for District 9 and even critics responded favorably to the parable of immigrant discrimination and revolt. Pundits anticipated a potent bow between $35 million and $40 million and the film performed as expected and might just beat the odds with a less than intense second weekend drop.

There was also positive anticipation for The Time Traveler’s Wife based on the weepie bestseller. Again, opening response and upbeat word-of-mouth could provide extended theatrical length despite the current fierce competition for distaff viewers.

The Goods ushered in a new slant for Paramount Vantage that appears to rob the banner of any distinction from its mother studio. The specialty division seems to be evolving as Paramount’s equivalent to Screen Gems at least in concept.

Disney still hasn’t figured out how to translate Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki’s popularity to American mainstream audiences. Ponyowas embraced critically and arrived with a $180 million international box office but as with past efforts skewed toward aficionados rather than a family crowd.

Weekend box office added up to roughly $144 million that translated into a slight 4% decline from seven days back. However, it exceeded 2008 revenues by 15%. A year back openings of Tropic Thunder, Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Mirrors racked up respective grosses of $25.8 million, $14.6 million and $11.2 million.

Bollywood cinema is notorious (though not unique) for cobbling American plots but more than a few eyebrows were raised when Kamineycribbed from Slumdog Millionaire’s script. Slumdog failed to secure an Indian distributor and Fox agreed to handle the film that wound up doing well but not extraordinary business there. This spin appears headed for more conspicuous success on home turf.

by Leonard Klady


Weekend Estimates: August 14-16, 2009

Title Distributor Gross (average) % change * Theaters Cume
District 9 Sony 36.8 (12,080) 3049 36.8
G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra Par 22.6 (5,630) -59% 4007 98.8
The Time Traveler’s Wife WB 19.3 (6,450) New 2988 19.3
Julie & Julia Sony 12.2 (5,190) -39% 2354 43.5
G-Force BV 7.0 (2,240) -30% 3065 99
The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard Par Vantage 5.3 (2,890) New 1838 5.3
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince WB 5.2 (1,870) -42% 2771 283.9
The Ugly Truth Sony 4.4 (1,620) -35% 2733 77.4
Ponyo BV 3.4 (3,700) New 927 3.4
(500) Days of Summer Fox Searchlight 3.0 (2,840) -20% 1048 17.9
Funny People Uni 3.0 (1,150) -63% 2584 47.9
A Perfect Getaway Uni/Alliance 2.7 (1,280) -54% 2159 11.5
Bandslam Summit 2.2 (1,040) New 2121 2.2
The Hangover WB 2.0 (1,720) 39% 1185 265.8
Orphan WB 1.6 (1,280) -56% 1261 38.4
Aliens in the Attic Fox 1.4 (910) -66% 1535 20.5
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen Par 1.4 (1,410) -53% 1007 396.6
The Proposal BV 1.3 (1,180) -55% 1084 157.7
Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs Fox 1.2 (1,440) -54% 858 190.8
The Hurt Locker Summit .62 (1,380) -51% 450 10.3
Kaminey UTV .58 (6,910) New 84 0.58
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $137.20
% Change (Last Year) 15%
% Change (Last Week) -4%
Also debuting/expanding
In the Loop IFC .19 (2,550) -14% 74 1.2
Adam Searchlight .21 (3,150) 100% 66 0.52
Paper Heart Overture .16 (2,400) -26% 68 0.51
Spread Anchor Bay .11 (1,120) 101 0.11
It Might Get Loud Sony Classics 92,400 (13,200) 7 0.09
Cold Souls IDP 69,200 (3,460) 10% 20 0.17
Thirst Focus 49,600 (3,310) -11% 15 0.23
Grace Anchor Bay 6,500 (3,250) 2 0.01
Taxidermia Regent 4,100 (2,050) 2 0.01
Earth Days Zeitgeist 1,100 (1,100) 1 0.01

Domestic Market Share: To August 13, 2009

Distributor (releases) Gross Mrkt Share
Warner Bros. (23) 1389.1 20.40%
Paramount (13) 1252.4 18.40%
Fox (13) 899.4 13.20%
Buena Vista (13) 846.7 12.40%
Sony (15) 728.4 10.70%
Universal (16) 665.5 9.70%
Lions Gate (7) 237.4 3.50%
Fox Searchlight (8) 209.7 3.10%
Summit (7) 157.2 2.30%
Focus (6) 105.1 1.50%
Paramount Vantage (2) 52.4 0.80%
MGM (3) 42.3 0.60%
Miramax (5) 41.3 0.60%
Weinstein Co. (6) 34.5 0.50%
Other * (194) 154.6 2.30%
* none greater than 0.4% 6816 100.00%

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Klady

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“To be a critic is to be a workaholic. Workaholism is socially conditioned: viewed favourably by exploiters, it’s generally ruinous to a worker’s mental health. When T.S. Eliot said criticism was as inevitable as breathing, he failed to mention that, respiratory problems notwithstanding, breathing is easy. Criticism is reflexive before reflective: to formalise/industrialise an involuntary instinct requires time, effort and discipline. The reason we seek remuneration, as opposed to the self-hatred of being a scab, is because all labour should be waged…

“Criticism, so the cliché by now goes, is dying. None of the panel discussions on its death agony, however—including those in which I’ve formally participated—come at it from the wider perspective that the problem surely needs. They defend the ways in which criticism functions in relation to the industry and to the public, but they fail to contextualise these relationships as defined by ultimately rotten and self-harming imperatives.

“Criticism was a noble profession so long as only a few could practice it for money; when the field expands, as it has with a so-called ‘democratisation’ of our practice, those few lose their political power. Competition grows and markets are undercut: publications are naturally going to start paying less. Precarity is both cause and effect of a surplus workforce: the reason you’re only as good as your last article is because there are plenty of other folks who can write the next one in your place. The daily grind is: pitch, or perish.

B”ut criticism, so a counter-cliché goes, is not dying. An irony: this is an elite sport that is no longer elite in terms of who is able to practice it, but in economic terms it’s clutching to a perverse and outmoded hierarchical structure. It’s more meritocratic than ever, now: which is to say it isn’t meritocratic at all. That’s a paradox in bad need of a resolution…”

~ Michael Pattison Manifestoes Film Criticism

“It’s easy to forget when you’re reading a critic every single week or multiple times a week, that most of us who do this job, and have been doing it for a long time, understand that this is basically a parasitic profession. I don’t mean in the sense that we’re evil bloodsucking creatures, but we couldn’t exist if we didn’t have something to analyze. And I’m always conscious of that. So whether I like or don’t like a particular thing you do, my point of view is always that of an appreciator. I just like to be in the world that you create.”
~ Matt Zoller Seitz To Sam Esmail

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