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David Poland

By David Poland poland@moviecitynews.com

Friday Estimates by Early Fox Klady

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This 21 Jump St opening takes me back 5 years to a DreamAmount comedy called Blades of Glory, which people didn’t see coming… but was funnier than expected and much more successful than expected. Will Ferrell has a long history of these kinds of surprises… Jonah Hill doesn’t. But sometimes the pieces just fall together. Channing Tatum as girl-bait (as well as being funny here), Oscar-nominee Jonah, being the third high-profile teen movie in the last couple months (which will open the best of the 3), and the writer-directing team that has, once again, delivered beyond expectations. The number is slightly more muscular than Blades… befitting the rise in ticket price (a factoid which in this specific, narrow conversation is interesting and used more broadly is not).

Clearly, the negativity on John Carter cost it even more since last weekend’s opening. Brutal. And Project X is taking a hit from the new teen flick in the marketplace… and being brainless, boring calories.

Will the Summiteers point at Casa de mi Padre as an excuse for dumping Lionsgate marketing staff? Probably. But it will be silly. Hard to say whether, say, Paramount could have found a $9m opening there. It’s an odd niche product, but so was Nacho Libre.

On the other hand, Paramount couldn’t figure out Jeff, Who Lives At Home, which they (rightly) loved. The Duplass Bros film, which has been screening at fests for 7 months, somehow missed the part where all of its fans who write for a living became a singular voice, making this a must-see for intelligent adults. (Obviously, not 100% of people love it… but it’s had a wider embrace than any other Duplass or Duplassian work, so…) The studio kind of had the same problem with Young Adult, a film I am still mourning. (Perhaps coincidentally, Reitman and Mr Mudd are on this film as producers as well.)

I don’t see this as a problem of execution at Par so much as some kind of strategic issue. It feels, from the outside, as though when they have a good film with a potentially strong core, but a tough road to widening beyond that base, they do great strengthening that core and “forget” the support they might get from the rest of the media.

Don’t get me wrong. Paramount is clearly as strong as any movie marketing dept in the industry, if it’s not the strongest. But with so much big product, some of these smaller films are not opening the way they should… even when real loving care has been part of the dynamic.

38 Responses to “Friday Estimates by Early Fox Klady”

  1. Eric says:

    They screened 21 Jump Street hard in advance too. They seemed to have believed in the movie. I got offers for four different sneak peaks over the last month or so here in Milwaukee.

  2. movieman says:

    That’s a really disappointing figure for “Jeff…. .”
    Maybe they should have opened on a handful of screens instead of 250, and let the generally positive reviews do the (marketing) heavy-lifting?
    I’m guessing there will be no expansion plans for it in the foreseeable future.

  3. JEFF is good, but it’s not CYRUS level good… so I think a platform strategy might have fizzled also. If it gets a Saturday bump–which I think it will–it should manage a $3,500 PTA, which is respectable enough.

  4. Should also be noted that at a good chunk of locations, THE FP was a one-show-a-night thing. That per screen is nowhere near as bad as it might seem.

  5. Casa de mi Padre’s biggest problem is that it only opening on 382 screens. It’s still a Will Ferrell comedy and should have been treated as much. Lionsgate did the same thing to Everything Must Go last year. Yes, it was a more dramatic Will Ferrell movie (light drama I suppose, and a damn good one), but they certainly could have tried to sell it as a mainstream comedy. The problem with releasing something like this in limited is that the arthouse junkies aren’t going to see a Will Ferrell vehicle while those who are Ferrell fans have to look hard to find it providing they even know its out. Lionsgate has been doing this a lot for the last few years (see – Buried), inexplicably burying would-be mainstream star-driven product in uber-limited release and then acting *shocked* when it doesn’t break $4 million. Our Idiot Brother was no more/less arty than this stuff, yet Weinsteins to their credit went wide, snagged a $7 million weekend and rode off with a $24 million domestic total for their $5 million comedy. Had they gone the Cedar Rapids route (Fox Searchlight, natch), they wouldn’t have grossed $7 million total. I’d argue the same applies to Jeff Who Lives At Home. Sure it’s an artier, less-conventional film than it might appear from the trailers, but let audiences discover that on opening weekend.

  6. David Poland says:

    I would say that Jeff is a better film than Cyrus, but perhaps less broadly appealing on paper.

  7. Don R. Lewis says:

    I thought JEFF was doing a slow roll-out too. It’s at 2 theaters near me which isn’t many considering the area. I didn’t check out SF though. I also think it’s a better “movie” than CYRUS with hotter stars but it also looks like a Seth Rogen redux which is most definitely is not.

    Also- I still have NO freeking clue what the deal is with CASA DE MI PADRE. I mean that literally. I don’t know what it’s about, if it’s all in Spanish, if it’s a comedy, a drama….I know nothing. I don’t even recall seeing a trailer. In terms of what Scott said- CASA is playing at 2 local multiplexes where I live and JEFF is at the 2 art houses. For whatever that’s worth.

  8. Aaron Aradillas says:

    JEFF is a good movie, but let’s not kid ourselves in thinking it is better or more
    “commerical” than CYRUS. CYRUS had the appeal of a more edgy stalker comedy. JEFF plays almost like an indie version of a 70s Mazursky movie. CYRUS had more of an arc to its tructure. JEFF wanders all over the place until its surprisingly emotional ending. Some audiences tned to grow impatient when a movie seems to not know where it’s going.

    Also, Reilly, Tomie, and Hill have bigger profiles than Segel and Helms.

    To me, the movie that I thought had the potential of being a really indie hit was FRIENDS WITH KIDS. It has a beautifully structured screenplay that has big laughs and some genuinely heartbreaking scenes. Maybe if Chastain, Mara, or Emma Stone had been cast in the lead it would’ve taken off. That’s too bad because Westfeldt is both a terrific actress and writer-director.

  9. movieman says:

    Also, Reilly, Tomie, and Hill have bigger profiles than Segel and Helms.

    Really, Aaron?
    I’m not so sure about that.
    Segel just headlined the (immensely popular) “Muppets” movie, and Helms costarred in two of the biggest (if not the biggest) R-rated comedies of all time, “Hangover 1 and 2.”
    Plus, the latter is seen every week by millions of “Office” fans on a long-rnning hit series. And “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” and “I Love You, Man” were substantially more popular than “Walk Hard” and “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead.”
    Just saying.

  10. movieman says:

    P.S.= You’re right about “Friends,” though. It should have definitely done better.
    Adam Scott proved that he can headline movies as well as, say, Paul Rudd, and the film has some of the same grown-up/Manhattan-centric appeal of vintage Woody Allen.
    Still not sure why, for example, Searchlight (which had some success with “Jessica Stein” a decade ago) didn’t nibble. It’s infinitely superior to Bart Freundlich’s abysmal “Trust the Man” which they picked up at TIFF 2005–and gave a surprisingly “wide” (albeit deservedly unsuccessful) release to.
    The ending could have used a rewrite, though.

  11. anghus says:

    Is the lesson once again that you cant expect limited release comedies to expand well?

    it feels like with comedies, you have to go wide or go home.

  12. Don R. Lewis says:

    I too think Helms and Segal are “bigger names” than Hill/Reilly/Tomei. Helms is in the HANGOVER and THE OFFICE and Segal’s in the stuff above and HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER which, I’ve never seen but I know is pretty popular.

    I think JEFF, WHO LIVES AT HOME is described really well by Aaron above and it indeed is a slow boil. But if you stick with it, there’s a terrific payoff that brings a movie that seemed pretty meandering right back around in a big, big way.

    I just added my review on Film Threat if anyone cares.

  13. SamLowry says:

    Marketing ain’t to blame for “Casa”–it’s the movie itself.

    I sat through the trailer waiting for a payoff that never came. “So, when’s it going to get funny?” I wondered, and it never did, since the whole movie is a one-trick-pony, a performance art piece (with all the negative connotations attached) about a WASP actor doing an entire movie in Spanish.

    Maybe it’s funny if you’re baked…but then breaking your arm is funny when you’re baked.

  14. movieman says:

    but then breaking your arm is funny when you’re baked.

    …or getting stabbed like in “21 Jump Street”?

  15. Aaron Aradillas says:

    Helmes is in the HANGOVER movies, but he’s not why people see the HANGOVER movies. He’s clearly the 3rd lead. The same of his participation in THE OFFICE. He’s on THE OFFICE, but he’s not why people tune into THE OFFICE. Segel has been successful in two-handers (I LOVE YOU, MAN) or high-concept movies (THE MUPPETS). HEFF is a two-hander without a major star.

    Reilly has close to 15 years of familiarity with audiences. And he’sbeen and both big and small movies.

    IF Hill had been cast in the Jeff role the movie might’ve opened a little better.

  16. Rob says:

    I hate that made-up logic of “X was in a hit movie, but he (or, usually, she) isn’t WHY it was a hit.” How on earth do you know?

  17. movieman says:

    HEFF is a two-hander without a major star.

    And who precisely were the “major star(s)” in “Cyrus”?
    Hill wasn’t quite there yet (a case could be made that he didn’t become a full-fledged “star” until “21 Jump Street”); Tomei never really became a “star” (a respected actress, sure), even after winning an Oscar in 1992; and even Reilly himself will probably tell you that he’s a hard-working character actor rather than a movie star.

  18. David Poland says:

    I agree that Cyrus was more easily sold.

    But Jeff is better, in my opinion… in no small part because there is no big gimmick. It’s a pure character piece until is comes together at the end.

    And the Mazursky thing… absolutely. And amazingly, Paul, now reviewing for Vanity Fair, hasn’t seen the film.

  19. Krillian says:

    I actually liked John Carter, but for me, its central problem was Taylor Kitsch. His line-reads tended to go for the obvious community-college-drama choice and I wonder how much better it might have been with a different lead.

    21JS was great. I’m happy for its success.

  20. David Poland says:

    I think it’s fair, in general, to look at ensemble films and not credit any one actor as “the reason.” I still don’t think that Bradley Cooper is for real, box office wise.

    But you’re also right… one can’t know. Is Channing Tatum box office? He’s had a great year, but we won’t really know until Magic Mike, where it’s really on him. And even then, the release could be botched regardless of him.

    The only proof, in my opinion, is in consistency. But all but a handful of box office openers have ever been foolproof. Wrong genre can make an action opener worthless, for instance.

  21. Aaron Aradillas says:

    Mazursky probably hasn’t reviewed JEFF because he doesn’t want to come off as biased.

  22. movieman says:

    …I personally see more Ashby in “Jeff” than Mazursky, but that’s just me.
    Re: Paramount Vantage.
    Did I miss something? Didn’t Paramount shut down Par/Vantage some time ago? I was equally surprised when “Like Crazy” went out–well, sort of–thru Vantage last fall.
    Talk about mixed signals.
    A healthy, thriving Vantage might have been able to make a commercial success out of “Jeff” (and/or “YA” which, rightfully, should have been distributed by a boutique division rather than their corporate parent) the way they did with, for example, “There Will be Blood.”
    Of course, Vantage is the same outfit that badly bungled the release of “Into the Wild,” too.

  23. anghus says:

    I hated Cyrus.

  24. Aaron Aradillas says:

    I loved INTO THE WILD, but I knew it had limited appeal. For one thing, the running time prevented from being a breakout hit. I loved Hirsch, but an actor with a little more buzz might’ve also helped. Leger would’ve killed in the role.

  25. Don R. Lewis says:

    I too got a Ashby vibe from JEFF but also a strong Billy Wilder one, but I don’t know why that was.

    Funny you said there’s no gimmick in JEFF, DP. It’s basically a gimmick movie when it’s all said and done.

    As for JOHN CARTER– I thought the problem was the shit-ton of characters/lingo/backstory and exposition needed to understand what the hell you’re seeing. It was ALOT to take in for a silly popcorn flick. Plus, I didn’t have any reason to care about who was doing what and why. STAR WARS was a much simpler sell with more interesting characters. I’m still kinda unclear on who those shapeshifter guys in JOHN CARTER were. It asked too much of an audience that shouldn’t have to give that much to that level of a film.

  26. aframe says:

    I think Paramount Vantage still exists as a label for smaller pick-ups much like how Sony trots out TriStar now and again.

  27. scooterzz says:

    i can’t help but wonder how much of that ‘lorax’ money rightfully belongs to ‘project x’…just a thought…

  28. movieman says:

    Don- I think it may have been “Jeff”‘s pot-addled humanism; a quality I traditionally associate with Ashby’s best films.
    Not sure about that, Aaron.
    “Wild” was a helluva lot more accessible to mainstream auds than, say, “There Will Be Blood,” and PTA’s film did three times the business. (Of course, the awards season fever helped it considerably.)
    Hirsch was absolutely perfect, and the movie should have made him a star. At that stage in his career, Ledger was way too old to convincingly play a college student. (Although I definitely could have seen a post-”Titanic” Leo DiCaprio in the role.)

  29. Aaron Aradillas says:

    THERE WILL BE BLOOD had Day-Lewis and even greater rave reviews.

    If done today, Eisenberg would absolutely KILL in INTO THE WILD.

  30. movieman says:

    …well, that’s what I meant about “Blood”‘s awards season rollout and thunderous/rapturous critical buzz.
    “Wild” was sacrificed at the “Blood” altar by Paramount who decided to put all their Oscar eggs into its basket.
    I still think “Wild” could/should have done a lot better at the box-office. It was a prime example of a worthy film that was platformed to death by its distributer.

  31. SamLowry says:

    scooterzz:

    “[Snow Day] opened at #3 at the North American box office making $14.3 million USD in its opening weekend behind The Beach and Scream 3, which was on its second week at the top spot. It received mostly negative reviews; the film has a “rotten” rating of 26% from Rotten Tomatoes.”

    And yet it still managed to tally $62 mil, nearly 5x its budget. Gee, I wonder how that happened.

  32. Martin S says:

    Carter’s marketing made zero sense. It felt like some fanboy sold Disney on the legacy of the character and that alone will carry it, when history has shown Carter – in any form – has never sold well.

    It’s like LXG, Wild Wild West or DW’s Time Machine. Anachronistic characters shot with a modern aesthetic creates this weird time-space gap that stops the audience from crossing over. That’s why Steampunk will never work as a big studio production. As an indie or endeavor, yeah, but not as big rollout.

    As for Ferrel, I think you can graph his downward trajectory. Talledega absorbed all the credit for Anchorman and then it goes on a steady decline.

    http://boxofficemojo.com/people/chart/?id=willferrell.htm

    It turned upward with Other Guys, but that film Advertised Jackson and Johnson from the first commercials.

    Unless he does a sequel to Elf, or something that can be sold as such, I don’t see him as a solo opener anymore.

  33. brack says:

    Never got that impression with The Other Guys. That movie was sold hard with Farrell and Wahlberg, since they were the guys mostly in the commercials, trailers, movie poster. Just having Jackson and Johnson in your movie as parodies of characters they’ve played in the past doesn’t make for a hit.

    The movie did well because it was a funny idea that got a decent opening weekend, then it continued to do well based on word-of-mouth. Farrell hasn’t tried to open a movie of that caliber since (Does Megamind really count, considering it’s just his voice?), so to say that he’s washed up seems a bit premature. His only real disappointments have been Semi-Pro and Land of the Lost, with the former’s b.o. hurt by an R-rating in the middle of winter and the latter being overlooked due to opening opposite to the phenomenon known as The Hangover (I’ve never seen LofL, I have no idea whether or not it deserved its fate anyway) .

  34. Chucky says:

    @Don R: Which part of the country are you in? New Jersey bookings show “Casa de mi padre” as megaplex/Latino and “Jeff Who Lives at Home” as arthouse/megaplex.

  35. chris says:

    Only two weeks’ difference between the R-rated “21 Jump St” opening date and the R-rated “Semi-Pro” date, brack.

  36. jesse says:

    Yeah, going WAY too premature in writing an obit for Ferrell as a solo opener. The Other Guys was absolutely not sold on The Rock and Sam Jackson, and also, uh, The Rock and/or Sam Jackson in 2010… NOT SOLO OPENERS EITHER. The Other Guys grossed more than any movie with The Rock before Fast Five, but he’s supposed to get the credit for that?! Ridiculous.

    There’s this weird idea that being a box office star means a huge opening for any movie in any genre. That’s basically only the case for Will Smith. Put Ferrell in a broad wide-release comedy, and it will more likely open than not.

    Semi-Pro and Land of the Lost are outliers (and Land of the Lost is a LOT of fun, I’d say it’s a way better movie than The Hangover but then that movie has become the most overrated comedy of the past decade), and even those opened above $15 million… not great, especially not for a wannabe blockbuster like LotL, but shows a pretty clear Ferrell base that can be expanded upon when the movie is a bit more appealing to audiences.

    Hell, CASA is a deadpan foreign-language experiment without a lot of big trailer-moment laughs (more of a weird exercise with lots of goofy touches), and it did a few million on fewer than 400 screens? I’d say that’s OK, though Poland is right: you could’ve had a decent opening for a micro-budget oddity if they bothered to get it out in enough theaters.

    Ferrell is really about as consistent as any comic actor, save Sandler (who, recent slight underperformances aside, has had a pretty incredible run at the box office). In the past ten years, Ferrell’s had seven pretty big comedy hits: Old School, Elf, Anchorman, Talladega Nights, Blades of Glory, Step Brothers, The Other Guys. And I’d be surprised if this Campaign movie coming out in August doesn’t land in that $80-130 million range.

    Ferrell is also unusual in that his biggest-grossing movies tend to be his best, at least so far. I do like Land of the Lost, but those four McKay movies are all better, and they all did really well. Whereas his more traditional put-a-comedy-star-in-a-recycled-premise plays, like Bewitched and Kicking & Screaming and such, tend to perform weaker (though still OK) (just as those movies aren’t nearly as good as his best, but are generally funnier than lower tier Sandler/Stiller/Carrey/etc.).

  37. Don R. Lewis says:

    Chucky– I live in Northern California, about 45 mins North of San Francisco. Huuuuge hispanic population here too so maybe that explains the CASA multiplex opening.

    Movieman– for me the Ashby thing in JEFF was more about Jeff going against what society expects of him to be the man he wants to be. or, thinks he might be. The only really pot addled character in Ashby’s films was Ashby!

  38. brack says:

    chris – three weeks difference, this had been a mild winter, and one was an action comedy, which in my opinion usually has a broader appeal, kind of like The Other Guys, and opened to similar numbers accordingly. Can’t really compare the two just simply because they’re R rated.

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