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David Poland

By David Poland

Friday Estimates by The Klady Of Adaline

Friday Estimates 2015-04-25 at 9.14.14 AM

What a crap weekend at the box office!

Lionsgate made a smart move pushing out The Age of Adaline here in the eye of the Avengers storm. It is not a hugely promising grosser, but it is counter-programmintog to next weekend and everyone else’s fear of being crushed gave it wide-open space for a single decent weekend.

Warner Bros played the weekend differently, sharting out The Water Diviner like a prisoner forced to pick a last meal. I wonder how much of the internal resistance to this film was a function of the hideous title, how much was that they saw it as an indie release, and how much was being unsure about whether Russell Crowe can still open a movie in the U.S. I have no idea, really… but it feels like all or any of those three notions could have been in play. In some ways, $3k per screen is a strong showing given that this one just fell off the back of the truck into 320 theaters.

Ex Machina‘s expansion from 39 to 1255 screens is one of those stories that can be unpacked a lot of different ways by the media. This weekend will probably come in just below the top weekend ever for young distributor A24, with Spring Breakers opening to $5.3 million on 1104 screens in 2013. But this is a much more accessible movie to a broader audience than was Spring Breakers. It’s a challenging sell, in that in order to get adults to go—who will like it, mostly, if they see it—you have to sell it one way and in order to entice under-25s, you have to see it a different way… and either sell seems likely to turn off the other demo.

In some ways, this is the Blade Runner problem. That film did good business for 1982 ($28 million, #27 for the year, comparable to Unbroken‘s slotting last year), but not exceptional business, certainly not in comparison to its footprint in film history. Why? It was a tweener. R-rated sci-fi noir, neither Star Trek nor First Blood nor Poltergeist. Ex Machina is, probably to its own team’s surprise, a tweener that could break out. I would say that last summer’s Lucy was a tweener that powered through with strong advertising and then, strong word of mouth.

The comparison that fits best, however, is not Lucy, which Universal pushed hard with a good amount of cash, but It Follows, which Radius realized had a potential good theatrical run in it at the last minute and pushed into theaters before dating the VOD. The expansion is almost exactly the same, screen-count-wise, though Ex Machina has beaten the IF grosses by a good margin. This weekend, Ex should do about 20% better than IF‘s third weekend expansion to 1218 screens. The big test will come next weekend, #4, which is when It Follows expanded and still lost forward momentum at the box office. Will the same happen to Ex Machina or will it ascend? The conservative estimate would be that Ex Machina ends up with about $16.5 million at the box office. That would still make it A24’s best grosser by a good margin. But will Avengers and then Mad Max get in the way? Will word of mouth carry the day? This is the challenge for A24.

Also having a happy weekend is Brett Morgan, whose Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck is doing bang-up business on three screens, heading towards a field-leading $50k per screen for the weekend. It’s a really good movie and there is no better way to see a music film than in a theater with great sound. What better way to come down from Coachella than with Kurt Cobain at the movies?

Finally, Furious 7‘s holds continue to be quite good. Is it the film, the success or the lack of competition in this month’s marketplace? No idea. And Home‘s is also holding well, still right in line with How To Train Your Dragon 2 for the hit-hungry DreamWorks Animation.

23 Responses to “Friday Estimates by The Klady Of Adaline”

  1. Bulldog68 says:

    Did anyone see this coming? Furious 7 will be the first movie not directed by James Cameron to cross $1 billion in overseas grosses. Sure there are a lot of asterisks, but still, that’s a lot of cheddar.

  2. David Poland says:

    Even if you asterisk for China – and you should – it will be amongst the Top 5 all-time in international gross.

    The funny thing is that this series was a little soft internationally… until they went all hyperdrive.

    When all is said and done, this one could be the highest percentage of international vs domestic ever amongst big grossers. But China could be a full third of that gross.

  3. EtGuild2 says:

    Re: “The Water Diviner,” how about the fact the movie takes place in 1915 Turkey, and references every relevant conflict of the era throughout….except the Armenian genocide that began exactly 100 years before the date(!) of release.

    Is Crowe a fool, or cruel and callous? Regardless, I’m not one to get easily offended, but this is a stupendous oversight at best.

  4. brack says:

    As far as Crowe goes, he easily helped Noah’s box office just last year.

  5. jepressman says:

    Yes Dave Poland Crowe can open a film,remember Noah? I believe that film opened at 43 millions and collected worldwide boxoffice at 365 millions. The overseas take is higher for Noah than American Sniper. Poland panned Noah last year. As a matter of fact I don’t think Poland has liked any Crowe film…ever. The TWD is not a bad title.why would anyone go off on the title of a film? The 24th of April, I believe is Anzac remembrance day in Australia and that is why TWD opened here yesterday. Remember that this film won awards in Australia. Poland suffers from Crowe derangement syndrome.

  6. movieman says:

    Considering what a half-hearted release WB gave “Diviner,” it’s odd they bothered giving it some IMAX engagements.
    In fact, it’s the IMAX engagements that were highlighted in the TV spots.

  7. movieman says:

    Just saw one of the funniest critics’ blurbs ever:
    in an ad for a 1954 Biblical drama called “Day of Triumph” (I’d never heard of it either), The Catholic World (?) raved that the actor who plays Jesus bears “an extraordinary likeness to Christ.”
    Guess they must’ve seen the Jesus Polaroids Mary Magdalene took pre-Crucifixion, lol.

  8. jepressman says:

    Explain why TWD some IMAX screens is odd? This film is a first time directing gig for Crowe and from what I saw he is has a good eye for cinematography and story telling.I would venture to guess WB thought so as well.This film did well in Australia. In The Age of Ultron even Lawrence of Arabia would struggle. This film isn’tLawrence of Arabia,but it is a good beginning.

  9. David Poland says:

    I’ve liked many Russell Crowe films, jepressman. And I like Russell Crowe.

    Noah is a bigger name than Russell Crowe.

    As for The Water Diviner, I am only looking at the domestic and aside from Les Mis and Noah – kinda pre-sold, no? – the cupboard is looking a little thin.

    Also… I didn’t say he couldn’t open a movie. I said that the studio might be concerned about whether he can open a movie. There is a difference.

    Of course, you don’t address what my actual question is… why the weak release? Or do you think this was an aggressive release?

  10. David Poland says:

    And jepressman… I would have been more than happy to see Water Diviner. Trailer looks good. It looks like a good, old-fashioned feel-bad then feel great yarn… very Unbroken.

    But they needed to ask people to see the movie to get people to see the movie.

  11. movieman says:

    IMAX is usually reserved for CGI-crazy, event-style movies w/ sizable fanboy (and girl) appeal.
    And, with very few exceptions, films that open on more than a veritable handful of screens.
    Petty much everything about “Diviner” screams arthouse. No wonder WB was confused.
    I don’t think “Gallipoli” or “Breaker Morant” would have played IMAX screens back in the day (if IMAX existed back then).

  12. film fanatic says:

    Re IMAX. I think WB has some sort of output deal with them, guaranteeing them a certain number of screens throughout the year (and, more crucially, denying them to their competitors), whether the films “merit” IMAX in the traditional sense or not. FOCUS made a big deal of touting its IMAX release, which seemed patently ridiculous at the time, but that’s the reason why.

  13. movieman says:

    Yeah, “Focus” was another IMAX head scratcher, Fanatic.
    But at least it was an unabashedly commercial Will Smith wide release that wasn’t sold as an early ’80s arthouse movie.
    Maybe WB thought IMAX would give “Diviner” a must-see, “Event”-type patina.

  14. Hallick says:

    “Re: “The Water Diviner,” how about the fact the movie takes place in 1915 Turkey, and references every relevant conflict of the era throughout….except the Armenian genocide that began exactly 100 years before the date(!) of release.”

    Regardless of the importance of this fact, the omission probably had next to zero impact on the box office.

  15. EtGuild2 says:

    I’m not sure that it didn’t affect Lionsgate’s willingness to actually market it though. Why take a chance of really promoting it when it has the potential to court controversy?

  16. jepressman says:

    Poland is a rationalizer. Noah is a bigger name than Crowe? As far as I can see studios hire actors who are compelling and accomplished, most of the time anyhow. Crowe has always been able to get into character, he is an accomplished actor.A weak release means the film didn’t make big money, but often the film has other merits. This notion comes up again and again during Oscar season.You know the quality over big b.o.rationalization? It is a bogus argument.TWD,is 100 year old world history, WWI history. There’s your response to the film’s release. If the film has no comic book hero, vampires,zombies,kinky sex,elves,space travel, time travel,fairy tale aspects…..or body-builder actors in spandex ..well you might get a decent response from a smaller audience,but not an Avatar response….Dave.

  17. Hallick says:

    “Poland is a rationalizer. Noah is a bigger name than Crowe?”

    Well, duh. But to be fair to Russell, Noah’s had thousands more years of publicity to give him an edge.

  18. Hallick says:

    “I’m not sure that it didn’t affect Lionsgate’s willingness to actually market it though. Why take a chance of really promoting it when it has the potential to court controversy?”

    Well I’d do it for the publicity and resulting money that a controversy almost always garners a film. This movie wasn’t going to do gonzo box office at any rate.

  19. jepressman says:

    Is it not self evident that the name Noah is well known, at least by most people? So that name recognition is the single reason for the success of Aronofsky’s Noah? Aronofsky and Crowe were inconsequential? Really? Crowe has played several heroic characters,Maximus,Aubrey, Braddock,Roberts,Robin Hood,Jor-El,and Bud White. He is a fine actor and interesting as well.Poland’s take on all that is pretty sour.I reacted to the sourness. When it comes to Crowe’s achievements, for Poland it is always the half empty glass. What an attitude.

  20. Hallick says:

    “Crowe has played several heroic characters,Maximus,Aubrey, Braddock,Roberts,Robin Hood,Jor-El,and Bud White. He is a fine actor and interesting as well.Poland’s take on all that is pretty sour.I reacted to the sourness.”

    I’ve seen more sourness in your responses to his opinion of the release than in his analysis itself. Why are you still acting so defensive on Crowe’s behalf when Poland’s already elaborated his position on Crowe and his movies FOR THE POSITIVE FOR CHRISSAKES? The Crowe Derangement Syndrome is all yours right now.

  21. Bulldog68 says:

    I think it should not be forgotten than the Noah film made was very controversial in nature and Noah himself was in fact not the most likeable of “heroes”.

    That dampened the US box-office a bit in IMO. That can’t be attributed to Crowe. That being side, he’s not exactly box office anymore, so Noah was sold as an event movie with a solid actor.

    Same thing was tried with Exodus, and not even The Dark Knight could get that one past $70m.

  22. brack says:

    Bale really isn’t a star outside of his Batman movies.

  23. Hcat says:

    I have to say that I am not a fan of Bale or The Lord, but i thought Exodus was a solid film. Suprised it did not do better.

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This is probably going to sound petty, but Martin Scorsese insisting that critics see his film in theaters even though it’s going straight to Netflix and then not screening it in most American cities was a watershed moment for me in this theatrical versus streaming debate.

I completely respect when a filmmaker insists that their movie is meant to be seen in the theater, but the thing is, you got to actually make it possible to see it in the theater. Some movies may be too small for that, and that’s totally OK.

When your movie is largely financed by a streaming service and is going to appear on that streaming service instantly, I don’t really see the point of pretending that it’s a theatrical film. It just seems like we are needlessly indulging some kind of personal fantasy.

I don’t think that making a feature film length production that is going to go straight to a video platform is some sort of “step down.“ I really don’t. Theatrical exhibition as we know it is dying off anyway, for a variety of reasons.

I should clarify myself because this thread is already being misconstrued — I’m talking about how the movie is screened in advance. If it’s going straight to Netflix, why the ritual of demanding people see it in the theater?

There used to be a category that everyone recognized called “TV movie” or “made for television movie” and even though a lot of filmmakers considered that déclassé, it seems to me that probably 90% of feature films fit that description now.

Atlantis has mostly sunk into the ocean, only a few tower spires remain above the waterline, and I’m increasingly at peace with that, because it seems to be what the industry and much of the audience wants. We live in an age of convenience and information control.

Only a very elite group of filmmakers is still allowed to make movies “for theaters“ and actually have them seen and judged that way on a wide scale. Even platform releasing seems to be somewhat endangered. It can’t be fought. It has to be accepted.

9. Addendum: I’ve been informed that it wasn’t Scorsese who requested that the Bob Dylan documentary only be screened for critics in theaters, but a Netflix representative indicated the opposite to me, so I just don’t know what to believe.

It’s actually OK if your film is not eligible for an Oscar — we have a thing called the Emmys. A lot of this anxiety is just a holdover from the days when television was considered culturally inferior to theatrical feature films. Everybody needs to just get over it.

In another 10 to 20 years they’re probably going to merge the Emmys in the Oscars into one program anyway, maybe they’ll call it the Contentys.

“One of the fun things about seeing the new Quentin Tarantino film three months early in Cannes (did I mention this?) is that I know exactly why it’s going to make some people furious, and thus I have time to steel myself for the takes.

Back in July 2017, when it was revealed that Tarantino’s next project was connected to the Manson Family murders, it was condemned in some quarters as an insulting and exploitative stunt. We usually require at least a fig-leaf of compassion for the victims in true-crime adaptations, and even Tarantino partisans like myself – I don’t think he’s made a bad film yet – found ourselves wondering how he might square his more outré stylistic impulses with the depiction of a real mass murder in which five people and one unborn child lost their lives.

After all, it’s one thing to slice off with gusto a fictional policeman’s ear; it’s quite another to linger over the gory details of a massacre that took place within living memory, and which still carries a dread historical significance.

In her essay The White Album, Joan Didion wrote: “Many people I know in Los Angeles believe that the Sixties ended abruptly on August 9, 1969, ended at the exact moment when word of the murders on Cielo Drive traveled like brushfire through the community, and in a sense this is true.”

Early in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, as Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt’s characters drive up the hill towards Leo’s bachelor pad, the camera cranes up gently to reveal a street sign: Cielo Drive. Tarantino understands how charged that name is; he can hear the Molotov cocktails clinking as he shoulders the crate.

As you may have read in the reviews from Cannes, much of the film is taken up with following DiCaprio and Pitt’s characters – a fading TV actor and his long-serving stunt double – as they amusingly go about their lives in Los Angeles, while Margot Robbie’s Sharon Tate is a relatively minor presence. But the spectre of the murders is just over the horizon, and when the night of the 9th finally arrives, you feel the mood in the cinema shift.

No spoilers whatsoever about what transpires on screen. But in the audience, as it became clear how Tarantino was going to handle this extraordinarily loaded moment, the room soured and split, like a pan of cream left too long on the hob. I craned in, amazed, but felt the person beside me recoil in either dismay or disgust.

Two weeks on, I’m convinced that the scene is the boldest and most graphically violent of Tarantino’s career – I had to shield my eyes at one point, found myself involuntarily groaning “oh no” at another – and a dead cert for the most controversial. People will be outraged by it, and with good reason. But in a strange and brilliant way, it takes Didion’s death-of-the-Sixties observation and pushes it through a hellfire-hot catharsis.

Hollywood summoned up this horror, the film seems to be saying, and now it’s Hollywood’s turn to exorcise it. I can’t wait until the release in August, when we can finally talk about why.

~ Robbie Collin