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David Poland

By David Poland poland@moviecitynews.com

Friday Box Office Not By Klady (yet)

Len got us the wrong numbers this morning and is now out of pocket, so look for his chart later.

Opening day for The Fate of the Furious is off by over $20 million – almost a full third – from Furious 7. Disappointment rarely is so exciting! (Should be the tagline for the movie).

Internationally, it is killing, as expected. The weekend estimate from the studio is $430 million overseas, $192 million of that from China, which (of course) returns half of what the rest of the world returns to the studio. Still, $240 million aside from China, $100 million in real dollars from one market out of the US (China), and something around $100 million domestically is nothing to complain about.

As crap as this episode of is, China will make the $800m worldwide bottom a $1 billion bottom. And that makes it very, very profitable.

So what is the strategy going forward? Because Universal has to know, even though they are getting away with it, this is not a road to keep traveling based on the box office alone. They tried to upgrade. They failed. So now, they need to try to upgrade in some other way to keep people coming to #9 and #10 and onward.

Besides other bad choices, I think the big mistake on this film was thinking that Charlize Theron, who is great, was going to juice the franchise. But she isn’t this franchise’s speed. She plays a Bond villain. Honestly, Jessica Chastain is more the speed. She isn’t the box office star that Theron is, but she brings a grounded energy that is a better fit. Donald Glover would be huge in this series (likely won’t do it, even less so after Lando). Go get Channing Tatum, who is believably physically, but brings a different kind of charm to the piece. Add Ilana Glazer and bring some real comedy and some overt female sexuality.

And hire Michelle MacLaren next time. Or some director who LOVES cars. Why aren’t they hiring Walter Hill? Does Billy Friedkin want to direct something that big at his age? (He’d tell me to fuck myself for asking… but you gotta.) Get the tires back on the ground. Come up with some giant, crazy action sequences, but bring it back to something more intimate. Brad Bird won’t do it. McQuarrie won’t do it. Jordan Peele would be a hip pick, though I am not sure he really wants to do a big ride movie. Bong Joon-ho could kill it. Go get Gareth Evans. How about Karyn Kusama?

Anyway… I like F Gary Gray, but this was his first giant machine movie and he overreached. He will make many more terrific, commercial movies. This isn’t his thing. Coming off Compton, he seemed obvious, but instead of bringing the franchise to him, he “let” the franchise eat him. Move on.

Beauty and the Beast becomes the tenth $450 domestic grosser of all time today, seventh fastest all-time.

5 Responses to “Friday Box Office Not By Klady (yet)”

  1. Geoff says:

    Dave, you don’t think that The Italian Job was a nice little dress rehearsal for Gray to take this on??

  2. EtGuild2 says:

    *Jordan* Peele (who by the way took away Gray’s black director record for COMPTON only to have Gray snatch it back two weeks later).

    Glad for the levity as always. Headlines are going to scream about the record-breaking numbers, and rightfully so to a point. But yes, you need $650 million just to cover a quarter billion production when over a third of your money comes from China.

    To put it another way, if it does $1.2 billion it will still be less profitable than SING. It would need to do $1.5 billion to match BATB from a financial standpoint at these costs and splits.

  3. Sideshow Bill says:

    Karyn Kusama deserves the shot. Actually, she deserves Batgirl. Her and Gail Simone. Not to change the subject but I love Whedon, and he’ll probably do a great job but I wanted a Kusama/Simone teaming for Batgirl.

    Regardless she deserves another shot at a big film, if she wants that of course.

  4. Heather says:

    I thought Furious was okay..clearly the worst since the reboot. One question Dave..when you say they tried to upgrade but failed how do you mean? I know you didn’t like the movie..but what upgrade? It’s just more of the same

  5. Dr Wally Rises says:

    Nicely argued as always Dave – I’d posit that at this point Chastain is a bigger draw at the box office than Theron though. Oh and the ideal director for a more grounded take on this franchise would be David Ayer. Let’s not forget that this was his baby to begin with.

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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