Need For Speed doesn’t feel like a videogame movie. It feels like a very expensive Roger Corman movie. And that could have been great fun. But it’s only modest fun. And that’s why $20 million, while possible, is not a sure bet this weekend. Could the film have been a savior for DreamWorks? Not really. It would have had to have been a $600 million movie for it to really impact the studio’s long-term prospects.
I’m writing a piece on DreamWorks, so I will get into the machinations of it all there, but Need For Speed will likely become a historic landmark for the company as unfairly as The Peacemaker was. The limited number of films being made by DreamWorks makes NFS seem like a tipping point when it is not… not at all. It’s been clear that DreamWorks would be out of Disney since over a year ago. And Reliance has not been as hands-off as originally promised. In fact, I think NFS is the first DW film with a Reliance logo in the opening credits.
The sad part, for me, is that I would have loved to have seen DreamWorks go out with a bang… a fun, director-driven joyride. Instead, for all the great stunts, the film is too serious for its own good and the director is just not very good at letting the camera work for him when he is shooting actors, not cars. So the film sinks to the bottom of the sea… along with, it would seem, the company.
Tyler Perry has had a worse Friday. The problem is, Tyler Perry’s Daddy’s Little Girls opened on that Wednesday. So the Tyler Perry base had already poured $5.7 million into the till before a Friday gross of $3 million. Tyler Perry’s The Single Mom’s Club opened yesterday to just $3.2 million, so the film is $5.5 million behind going into Sat/Sun. And it may rebound a bit today. It could be a $10m weekend. Maybe even slightly above. But it will still be the worst Tyler Perry opening ever. And right after Lionsgate broke up with him.
There are two distinct Tyler Perry businesses. One has him in drag. No Madea film has ever grossed less than $52m domestic. Even the most recent one, Madea/Christmas, got there after what seemed to be a very slow start. But when he takes off the boobs, it’s a little hit-and-miss. He’s had 3 non-Madea films do over $50m (Why Married & its sequel, Marriage Counselor, and I Can Do Bad) and 5 do under $38 million. In the middle is 1 film, Meet The Browns, which did $42m. I would argue that the $15 million or so between the “hits” and the “misses” (Perry’s consistency, even with this, is pretty stunning) is where the profits are for Lionsgate. Perry’s deal is so much to his advantage – which he has earned – that the low-end movies can’t make much, if anything, for the studio. And the high-end movies have a glass ceiling under $100 million, particularly because there is no theatrical audience overseas for Perry’s films. Add to that Tyler being the 3000-pound bull in the room with each film’s release, wanting Lionsgate to try to cross him over more, wanting bigger marketing spends, expecting to have Oprah status… and it’s not a sensational business for a company that now – with the marriage to Summit – sees itself as a franchise machine.
The problem for Perry, in finding the next home, is to find a place with deep enough pockets and a copacetic marketing department that understand the “urban” market as well as Lionsgate does. If I were Relativity, still struggling to find some consistency in the domestic market, I would be all over this… even though the company has always been a foreign-money-first company. The new Focus is aiming higher, but would not be poorly served by a few years of consistent home cooking. The personalities at Screen Gems don’t suggest them as a landing place… but possible. Of course, the key to any of these deals is Perry. If he is trying to get out of the dress, he has a lot less leverage… and this new release doesn’t help. If he comes in expected to be treated as though he was still as hot as he was for a little bit, he will have to rethink it. And if he is really leaving LA forever, he can just fund his films himself and get a good marketing company like Roadside or maybe even Fox (where Marc Weinstock, who had a lot of success with Screen Gems is now) to do his bidding with a straight output deal.
It will be interesting.
Also opening… Veronica Mars, which managed about a .14 rating in the 18-49 demo and will probably do about a .45 rating in the Live +2 numbers by the end of the weekend. Translated out of television ratings-ese, a little over 100,000 people saw the film yesterday and somewhere between 250,000 and 350,000 people will see it by the end of the weekend. This might lead to as much as a $10 million domestic gross for the film. VOD has a good chance of matching that gross. And then there will be foreign TV sales. So this film could be quite profitable for the filmmakers and the division of WB that owns a big chunk of it, Warner Bros Home Video. One of the reasons that there is virtually no chance of anyone under 25 or over 50 will see this film in a theater – or any other pay-per-viewing situation – is that WB has spent almost nothing on marketing. They’ve done a lot of publicity, which has succeeded in letting the core viewership know that the film is now in theaters. But that’s about it. If you are not pre-sold, no one is really trying to sell you.
The big opening in the exclusive market is Bad Words, the Jason Bateman as writer/director/star vehicle that actually has a strong shot with adult audiences, given the rest of the new product coming into the marketplace. $18k per-screen on 6 is a sign of reasonable interest in NY and LA. But the word-of-mouth from those 10,000 people will have to work awfully hard to help the film break wider with limited marketing thrown at TV, etc.