By David Poland firstname.lastname@example.org
Friday Estimates by Good Grandpa Klady
Gravity will close in on $200m domestic and pass $300 million worldwide this weekend. Don’t cry for me, Jackass Grandpa.
The only thing more profitable for Paramount this last decade than the Jackass brand is the Paranormal brand… and mostly because the horror films are so incredibly cheap. Johnny Knoxville may never become a successful mainstream actor (though I think he could, if he really focused on that), but he is the biggest star that Paramount has. Imagine what he would do with Jack Ryan of Mission: Impossible!
The other newcomer is The Counselor, which you could tell from a distance Fox thought smelled funny. They will be fortunate to get to $9m this weekend. My perverse nature is to want to go back to see it again, as any film that is so consistently reviled, especially coming from an often-great filmmaker, must have some redeeming feature I didn’t notice the first time around. But it might just be what it seems to be… a beautiful mess that didn’t force its novelist/screenwriter to conform to the demands of film soon enough in the process. (I gather that the working relationship between Scott & McCarthy was not always 100% smooth. Ahem.)
I took the whip to the LA Times yesterday over a messy, nasty, poorly reported (or edited or both) story about 12 Years A Slave yesterday and nothing about the box office changes my take on story.
That said, Friday was not a hugely encouraging day for the film’s box office future. The per-screen will end up between $12k and $15k on 123 screens… which is good. But it doesn’t scream out “big numbers to come.” It keeps the ultimate story of the film’s business life blurry.
There are not a lot of good comps for this. For one thing, it’s October. There are pretty much no examples of this expansion tactic being used in October. It’s usually, start in November, expand in December… or December to January. Searchlight’s Sideways started in November, didn’t expand to 100+ screens until December and then finally went wide in January. A long expensive road. Michael Clayton, which is one of the few October openers priming the pump with a release in the teens, went to over 2000 screens in its second weekend.
One hates to limit this to a comp to another movie focused on the Black experience, but Precious went 18 screens to 174 screens and the per-screen on both weekends was significantly higher. It was November. And it had Oprah power. When The Weinstein Co put out The Butler by Lee Daniels this August, with Oprah power, it went wide right out of the gates. And it worked.
For me, the problem I have feared for the film since Toronto was that the peak of passion by the media was so high then that there was no place to go but down… with a release date a month away. It’s just really hard to convert. That is why so many Toronto films with commercial aspirations open almost right out of Toronto or wait until late Nov/Dec to go theatrical.
How much media has attempted to ghettoize 12 Years A Slave, as the LA Times did (knowingly or not) by focusing on what might keep adult, especially female, audiences from going to the film instead of the reasons people get so much out of the film? I have no idea. I don’t read every paper in every city where the film is now open. How much of a factor in box office is media? At this level of release, it can be quite significant. And most of the media response has been glowing. But the role of media remains a curiosity. And in the end, when the film goes wider, Searchlight’s marketing skill will be the driver, more so than media.
Let’s see what happens. I don’t think anyone associated with this film ever thought it would do Lincoln business – no one who made Lincoln did – or even crack $100m domestic. But $40m – $60m domestic is about where the target was/should have been. Still doable.
For a positive comp, look to The Queen. Opened off of Toronto and NYFF, in exclusive for 4 weeks, until this same 2 October weekends, expanding to 99 screens “last week” and then 152 screens “this week” in 2006. At the end of the 99 screen weekend (its 4th), it was at $3.8m total. 12 Years will be at about $3.2 million after 2 weekends. The Queen had only one weekend over $3 million, which was the week after Oscar nominations. But it had 16 weekends with grosses over $1 million, the first on October 15 and the last on February 25. Those are some long awards legs. $56m domestic. And that is the track that Searchlight and New Regency are surely hoping 12 Years A Slave will take.
The news in arthouse releases this weekend is blue… Blue is The Warmest Color. 13 screens. About $7500 per (they now hope). It’s a long movie, so that is a factor in this narrow a release. Media continues to obsess on sex – on either side – though the amount of graphic sex in the film is only slightly higher percentage of the film than the scene with Sharon Stone crossing her legs in Basic Instinct. In fact, if you took all the rough sex stuff in that film and figured out the percentage of sex to screen time, it would be more sex than Blue. But I guess media was all aflutter about that peek-a-boo moment too. And these days, you get to see Rosario Dawson’s stuff in Trance and no one seems to care… or Scarlett Johansson going the full monty in Under The Skin causes little stir (which is actually as it is intended in the context of the film). Personally, I think the excitement – positive and negative – around Blue is because the sex is not only graphic, but actually sexy… the way your first tumbles in the back seat were sexy… and you’re either pleased with that, offended by that, or offended that others – perhaps those heathen of the opposite sex – are pleased with that. Regardless, the theatrical run of the so-much-talked-about film looks like it will be modest. In the theatrical business, sex doesn’t tend to sell so well. In the VOD business… through the ROOF!