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David Poland

By David Poland poland@moviecitynews.com

Friday Estimates by Caper Klady

I’m going to start with smashing Nikki Finke’s bullshit in the mush. I know. Not all that unusual. But it’s getting more important as the mouthpiece for the studios – she’s gotten her wish and truly become a trade magazine, circa 1985 – continues to push The Lie Of The Theatrical Slump 2011 Edition. Honestly, I think she just doesn’t have the slightest idea what she’s writing about and isn’t much interested in doing any legwork at all except to pick up the phone and to be told what to write… as usual. She’s a victim. But when you write crap like, “North American box office is still unsettlingly weak just as it’s been since the beginning of August. This weekend’s total gross is running a bad -25% behind last year’s,” you can’t get a pass.

First… she’s listening to someone who is telling her about the aggregated weekend gross for this weekend based on Friday matinees. Stupid.

Second… yes, it’s likely Ron Meyer and/or his people who is/are spinning her on this, as he’s got the perceived weak launch this weekend.

Here is a (CORRECTED) list of all the first-weekend-of-November films that will have opened better than Tower Heist seems likely to this weekend..

Notice… 3 non-animated comedies total. One, Borat, was a phenom. One, The Waterboy, was the next movie after Sandler’s first big hit and was, at the time, the biggest November opening of all-time. That’s all of November, all-time. Does any of this sound like Tower Heist to you yet?

The third comedy to open to more than $15m was Due Date. $33m last November 5. That was probably what Universal was counting on. But have they looked at Ben Stiller’s career in the last five years? School for Scoundrels, $8.6m opening. The Heartbreak Kid, $14m opening. Tropic Thunder, $25.8m opening. Everything else has been for kids and/or a sequel.

And what is Tower Heist going to open to? Probably a little less than Tropic Thunder, which btw, opened in the summer and had Downey 3 months after Iron Man.

Must be a slump!

Want to know the reality of the last three months? August was up $20m from 2010. We had the biggest September in history, the first ever over $600m, and up $58m from 2010. And October was down $79m from 2010. All-in-all, business is off by $1m in the last 3 months. SLUMP!!!

You want to know where the big difference was between Oct 2010 and Oct 2011? Simple. Jackass 3D. The only film to earn $100 in either month, there was no similar event this year. Paranormal 2 actually brought $20m less in the month of October than Paranormal 3 did this year. The other big factor? The Social Network vs The Ides of March.

It’s the movies, stupid!

Here’s what we got in August… the first time in history that two august films grossed over $150m domestic in one year.

Here’s what we got in September… four releases that grossed over $60 million… when there have never been more than two before.

Here’s what we got in October… the biggest opening in October history and the 2nd biggest animated opening in October history.

SLUMP!!!! It must be the industry and not the movies…. right?!?!?!?

The thing is, I now think this crap is being pumped to ignoramuses like Nikki so that the studios that control some media can try to get an upper hand – read: complete control – over the theatrical window vs VOD issue. And while they all refuse to openly admit their weak-ass VOD numbers (indie is an exception), they continue to whine about theatrical, willing to knock down what’s working in order to make way for a change on which they have no real numbers.

And i keep saying to the exhibitors… let then have that day-n-date window on Tower Heist… the only stipulation being that the studio publicly admits the real VOD number.

Why is the simple truth so very painful for some people?

30 Responses to “Friday Estimates by Caper Klady”

  1. kbx says:

    do WB and Universal have a strange comedy-film feud going on?

    earlier–released Arthur (WB) and Your Highness (Universal) on the same day

    and now H&K3 and Tower Heist on the same day

  2. EthanG says:

    *Paramount is looking at the first 4-week reign at number 1 by a distributor this year.

    *Look at the “Moneyball” hold. A baseball movie about statistics and managing doing 70 million? Surreal

    *The first three “Paranormal Activity” movies will pass the total gross of the first four “Saw” movies this weekend

    *Why the hell are their a pair of WB/Universal comedies being released at the same time AGAIN in 2011?????

  3. anghus says:

    The puss n boots hold is remarkable.

    Harold and kumar 3 doing 15 million also seems like a win. These movies have never been box office monsters. Im amazed they got to 15 million on opening weekend with a stoner Christmas movie out the first week of November.

    Then again, how long can they hold the 3D screens for? Itd be nice if they were able to cobble together 5 or 6 weekends making 3-5 million througj Cheistmas, but do they have the real estate?

  4. mary says:

    looks like “In Time” is holding surprisely well.

  5. EthanG says:

    David, I hate to break it to you, but the quality of the product, or the perceived quality, can indeed lead to a slump. Reduced earnings (aka reduced quality) lead the stock market to decline, and markets are then often referred to as being in a slump.

    A 5% yearly domestic decline in revenue is serious, no matter how many times you scream that it is “about the movies.” The quality of movies released this year is actually better than previous years according to Metacritic. Are the marketing campaigns worse? Did movie studios suddenly develop group amnesia and not know how to market their product? If so, where is even anecdotal evidence of this?

    The film industry is staring at the second worst domesic revenue decline (percentage wise) year-over-year in the LAST HALF-CENTURY. As much as I disagree with Finke, if you have such a decline staring you in the face, something more fundamental is at work than the product. Thus is the same with EVERY industry in times of relative normalcy.

    Ps-Norbit opened to 34 million a few years ago. This movie opening to 26 or 27 million is stunning…and I don’t care that “Dodgeball” is 7 years old. It opened to 30 million!

  6. EthanG says:

    I will add, at the same time, that Finke is very wrong when she says the health of the whole industry is in major trouble. Soaring foreign grosses make up for domestic losses….this year. Foreign is the new 3D which was the new BluRay/HD which was the new DVD. If the industry continues to innovate, look for continued health. But a 5% year-over-year domestic decline is not something to ignore, throw up your hands over and blame on the product.

  7. David Poland says:

    Ethan… you’re wrong. And you’re using crazy methods to rationalize it… it’s called METAcritic. You’re using meta to prove meta.

    First…. the industry is not “domestic theatrical first” and hasn’t been for over a decade.

    Second… Reduced grosses in theatrical have ZERO effect on the stock market… just as increased grosses have not.

    Third… there is no group anything. My ongoing point. The industry was down more than 20% in the first quarter. Now it’s down under 5% and is as likely as not to end up going up for the year overall after Twilight, Jack and Jill, Happy Feet 2, Mission: Impossible, Sherlock Holmes, etc.

    Fourth… this business has ALWAYS been cyclical. The delusion of annual growth in any one section of the filmed entertainment business is a sucker’s bet.

    Step away from the myopia, Ethan.

    And Foreign is not the new 3D. That’s just dumb, man. And 3D was not the new Blu-ray. You see it all as goulash. And you’re just plain wrong about that. Any industry that thinks like that is really in trouble.

  8. joshreader says:

    David, have you seen ‘School for Scoundrels’? Stiller basically has a cameo in it – I think he’s in two very brief scenes. I certainly don’t recall him getting top billing for that film. ‘School for Scoundrel’ flopped for many reasons (it’s a witless, stupid film, and Todd Phillips later said he learned his lesson from it – that he should never make a comedy that is rated anything less than R), but it’s disingenuous to add it to a list of Stiller underperformers. (I think Stiller did the cameo as a favor to Phillips, who directed him in ‘Starsky and Hutch,’ which was a big hit.)

  9. jesse says:

    Yeah, if anything I’d say Stiller’s career “over the last five years” has been indicative of him not doing very many movies outside of the Fockers/Museum axis. Heartbreak Kid was four years ago. Scoundrels was indeed a cameo, not a Stiller movie and not even sold as such. Tropic Thunder was the most Stiller-y non-family comedy, and it opened softer than I, at least, would have expected… but held on pretty well and made over 100.

    So it is surprising given that Stiller had bigger openers in 2004 for Along Came Polly (with Aniston), Starsky & Hutch (with Wilson), and Dodgeball (with Vaughn) that a Stiller+Murphy combo couldn’t make over 30! (Even if the movie doesn’t use that combo to full advantage, you don’t know that from the marketing.) I wonder if this is a Tropic Thunder situation, where it’ll wind up with a 4+ multiplier just because for whatever reason, people didn’t rush out on weekend one.

  10. EthanG says:

    David the points you make are absurd.

    *How do you rationalize the quality of films, and that they are worse this year? Your subjective opinion of films? Unfairly or not I remember supposed Oscar-sweeper “Dreamgirls” on your blog. In your mind the films this year are worse. Is your opinion on this more valid than someone locked up in the local insane asylum without any supporting evidence? No. The films this year have better reviews…say what you will but Metacritic’s rankings of recent years in film are damn on point AND generally match up with box office revenue.

    *I didn’t say the industry was focused on domestic theatrical Mr. Poland, hence my immediately above post.

    *I didn’t say reduced theatrical grosses have a stock effect. I was COMPARING INDUSTRIES. Every industry that sees significantly reduced revenue has a problem. This is how the world works.

    *Thinking Jack & Jill, MI4, and Happy Feet 2 will be hits is silly. Even Sandler fans think this movie looks absurd, the previous MI film was a flop and this one has the most over-confident release date in recent years, and I will need to see evidence that parents want another damn penguin movie before I believe it’s going to be a hit.

    *I see new revenue streams as replacement revenue streams David. This is how people in the real world operate. 3D WAS the new Blu-Ray in terms of DOLLARS for an admittedly brief period. For years the industry has been replacing new ancillary markets with other ancillary markets as they die out like DVD, movie-related video games, and now 3D have mostly done. The explosion year-over-year of foreign theatrical is similar. Surely you know this.

  11. LYT says:

    A disappointing opening plus strong hold makes sense for Puss in Boots. Haven’t seen it, but from what I hear it’s way better than a typical Shrek sequel, and quite different. People may have stayed away expecting the Ogre, but word of mouth is good from everyone I know who’s seen it.

  12. Gary says:

    Twilight was not a first weekend in November release. It opened the Friday before Thangsgiving so it should not be on the list. Just for the record.

  13. Twilight and Quantum of Solace were both mid-November debuts in 2008. 2012 was the second weekend in November 2009.

  14. Jason says:

    Boots was indeed entertaining. As good as Shrek 1 and 2. The thwarted was pretty full today. I think the previews did not do it justice and it seemed like a retread. I wonder if the same can be said for Heist. Heist does not look funny and it doesn’t seem to offer anything new or interesting. Thunder looked funny and ridiculous in the ads – I’d guess it was the R rating that kept the initial audience away as people tried to figure out the rating (I think the violence confused). The reviews for Heist seem to be meh. I’d guess it holds decently but not as good as Thunder.

  15. Triple Option says:

    It’s not that I don’t get the whole “It’s the movies, stupid” thing. But isn’t it that the movies don’t become “The Movies” until after they’re “The Movies”?

  16. LexG says:

    TOWER HEIST is the only game in town for anyone who’s awesome. Only GOD RATNER can give the public what it wants. EVERY bit as good as the Soderbergh Ocean’s movies, but critics have a boner for icy-removed nebbish Soderbergh, and can’t relate to tubby vag-hound money-man Ratner.

    Spinotti’s DP sheen makes it worthy of 3 stars alone, the heist is awesome, Precious is funny, and EDDIE!!!!! if not in BHC/Trading Places form, at LEAST back to Life/Bowfinger form.

    Why do Nikki– and especially her commenters– ROOT AGAINST MOVIES sooo much? She and her regulars hate Hollywood more than the neocons on Big Hollywood. It’s amazing.

  17. Anghus says:

    Lex, im with you on the finke thing. Do you ever get the feeling that anyone from deadline even likes movies?

    Itd be like watching Sportscenter and having Stuart Scott go “Tiger Woods lost another major today, what an asshole. We totally saw that coming.”

    Deadline is bad for the industry, if for no other reason than its an entertainment news site run by people who dont like the entertainment industry.

  18. David Poland says:

    Ethan… not sure what Dreamgirls has to do with this conversation, but seems like a desperate reach.

    The quality of the films is not a reliable standard for analyzing box office. Period.

    Reduced revenue in one segment of an industry is not significant in and of itself.

    Glad you’ve already determined the failure of these films. I guess all your friends wanted to see Grown Ups and Just Go With It. And I guess you saw the $200m domestic on Happy Feet coming and assume that since the one penguin movie of size (live action, btw) since then flopped, no one loves animated anthropomorphic penguins any more. Do you need convincing that they need chipmunks?

    People in the real world with multiple revenue streams see them in context… if they are intelligent. Foreign is not a replacement business. There is no comparison. It’s like saying that Sony is replacing their Walkman business with HD TVs. Makes no sense at all.

    You have a tendency to get caught in micro-view, Ethan.

  19. David Poland says:

    The thing about Stiller not being a lead in School for Scoundrels… yes. But it makes my point more so.

    Looking back 7 years for an example of a better opening tells you that he is not in that business… anymore than Jim Carrey was in Mr Popper’s Penguins. 2 or 3 years is a lifetime in most movie careers.

  20. David Poland says:

    Scott and others… sorry about that list… the wrong one was posted… not sure how I screwed it up… not fixed.

  21. Krillian says:

    Anghus, that analogy made me chuckle.

  22. actionman says:

    Fuck Tower Heist, in fact, fuck ALL of the movies in the top 10 this weekend. You should all be BOWING DOWN to Take Shelter, and in particular, Michael Shannon. Holy-fucking-shit if he doesn’t get nominated I’ll fly out to Hell-A and start fire-bombing the Kodak theater…

  23. Rob says:

    I said it in another thread, but Take Shelter is a stone-cold masterpiece. No idea why Sony Classics is struggling with it.

    Take Shelter, Higher Ground, and Weekend all feel like movies that would’ve made ~ $5m in the late ’90s but are struggling in today’s indie marketplace.

  24. Greg says:

    Im not on board with all the love for Take Shelter. Michael Shannon was excellent as usual but…I would have rather watched ‘The Rapture’ again.

  25. jesse says:

    TOWER HEIST spoilers

    Lex, I have some questions for you about the “awesome” heist in this movie.

    1. When Stiller and company are watching the building and Murphy goes in early and they talk about how he’s going against the plan, on his own… what was the original plan? Did they ever make that clear in the movie? And how did they have some other plan that *didn’t* involve Murphy doing what he does in that scene? Were they just intending to sneak into the building without distracting Judd Hirsch or getting access to the unfinished apartment?

    2. Towards the end, when they’re all “caught” one by one… why did that happen? I mean, OK, Alan Alda gets home and his car is missing and he thinks probably Stiller did it… but how on earth would he finger the specific gang involved (especially Murphy), and how did cops then track down EACH of them separately so we can have a “funny” everyone-getting-caught-oh-shit montage, and why would they arrest a bunch of people just because Alda says so?

    The real answer is because Ratner is lazy as fuck and can never get a movie done by more than the skin of its teeth… but I was seriously confused by what should’ve been a pretty simple, low-tech heist (and I liked that aspect a lot). And I’m not trying to be an asshole — I’m sincerely wondering if, as a fan of the movie, you felt like that stuff was explained and I just didn’t get it? (Since you often profess bewilderment at following plots.)

    It wouldn’t be a big deal if EDDIE!!!! was, say, in it more in the last half-hour, or if the whole movie was more than in-and-out funny, but…

  26. jesse says:

    And Greg, I agree… not sure why Take Shelter is the one movie of the fall a lot of commenters and such seem to be zeroing in on as a masterpiece. Shannon is great, Chastain is great, liked the movie fine, but it’s one of those movies that pretty much does one thing very well (and for maybe 10 or 20 minutes longer than it needs to).

  27. LexG says:

    Jesse, I was even MORE bewildered by how they changed Alda’s trial date, which is a BIG SLEEP worthy unexplained plot point for the AGES… Once the heist got underway, I was IN MY GLORY with the greatness of LORD GOD EDDIE and Sidibe being awesome (give me some props on that, she’s neither white nor skinny nor 17), that AWESOME CAR, GOD BRODERICK…

    But, yeah, shy of Eddie distracting Judd Hirsch, I didn’t understand the early run of that heist– also, what was Affleck going to do otherwise? Also, wasn’t it the Latino guy who came in to distract the guards with the Playboy? But he wasn’t in on it? Is Playboy that thrilling to a group of guys in 2011?

    But, really, REALLY, what was with Alda’s trial? Why would it be on Thanksgiving? Was the movie missing a scene where Stiller or his Russian law student friend snuck into a judge’s chambers and changed the date?

    I don’t really care, it was in WIDESCREEN 2.35 and had a car and EDDIE MURPHY. AKA, GOOD MOVIE.

    Take Shelter is the best movie of 2011. You will bow.

  28. actionman says:

    Tree of Life, Drive, and Take Shelter are my top 3 of the year so far. The STUNNING, almost Malick-esque widescreen cinematography in Take Shelter is haunting me.

  29. jesse says:

    I think the deal with the trial was that Stiller and company basically made a call, tricking the FBI (?!) into saying the trial had been moved up? And that it hadn’t actually been moved up?… but yeah, you’re right, there is NO indication about how they could go about doing this in a REMOTELY convincing way. Makes absolutely no sense. And it’s the kind of thing where if it DID make sense, it might be really cool. But it didn’t.

    The Playboy thing, and the Snoopy balloon thing, OK, I get that it’s a comedy so it’s supposed to be kind of cute that they distract the staff like that… I can get that even though it’s pretty thin. But then there’s this super-difficult stuff they’re doing offscreen that no one really cops to. Just weird. I felt like the whole second half of the movie was missing scenes like crazy. And I don’t much care if a movie is in 2.35 if I don’t remember it one way or the other an hour later. You could’ve told me that movie was in 1.85 and I would’ve believed it just as easily, and I usually pay attention to that stuff.

    The New Yorkiest moment of the whole thing was when they have the car in the hall, and the old lady comes out and says she can’t walk her dog because there’s a “goddamn parade” outside. The reading of that line, and that the line was about the world-famous Macy’s Parade, was a PERFECT old-lady-in-a-NYC-high-rise moment. One of the biggest laughs in the movie for me on a little throwaway thing.

    Take Shelter is like Martha Marcy May Marlene… I respect it and enjoyed watching it but… I don’t know. It doesn’t have that extra auteurist flash that makes me love a movie like Tree of Life or Super 8 or Cold Weather or other stuff that will almost certainly land on my ten best list.

  30. Actionman and Rob, the indies are where it’s at for sure this weekend and in general but TAKE SHELTER, while great where it counts (the 3rd act), takes a long time to get there. That first 2/3rds is what has kept it to limited release. The director looks like he could do something major with a real actioner, but this one’s too talky to transcend the art house. Strong performances all around though.

    Too true about HIGHER GROUND and WEEKEND, but it’s not the ’90s anymore and for those films to make 5M, the distribs would have to spend 10M+ on P&A. That math is what got indie film in this mess in the first place.

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