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David Poland

By David Poland

Friday Estimates by Slow-Cruising Flatliner Klady

Friiday Estimates 2017-09-30 at 10.33.27 AM

Tom Cruise Opens Movie

That should be the headline.

American Made isn’t having a great opening. But it opened. And there was little on offer other than Tom Cruise smiling. Not even Tom Cruise running. Certainly not enough story. The ads almost told us that it was Tom Cruise making a Burt Reynolds comedy, albeit without Dom DeLuise, Paul Williams, Pat McCormick and Charles Nelson Reilly.

I missed the screenings, but I am curious… mostly because Doug Liman is capable of true genius (and real crap). The film, I assume from the ads, was meant to look like a 70s film and will have that vibe. The choice interests me. And whatever made this story interesting to both Cruise and Liman interests me.

But from Universal, which is usually really, really good at telling you what is coming… it feels like a dump… like they are still upset about The Mummy or something. And I have zero inside info on this. Haven’t asked. Haven’t squeezed. Really, haven’t thought about it much until this very moment. But if I actually pay to see this movie this weekend, I am sure to be surprised, because all I know is that Cruise plays a pilot, smiles a lots, and transports drugs, eventually getting in over his head. “A pilot lands work for the CIA and as a drug runner in the south during the 1980s.” At least if you watch the trailer, you know there is a hot blonde wife and Domhnall Gleeson, who you know will probably end up being the bad guy.


But Cruise opened it. And for all of the downs in the last 11 years, starting with Mission: Impossible III, which lost enough money for Paramount that it broke their since-mended relationship, the guy still opens movies. $17 million ain’t $20 million, but still… if I was Universal, given what they sold – and maybe they maximized what they had, haven’t seen the movie and I don’t trust Rotten Tomatoes scores to tell me otherwise – they should be celebrating on Lankershim this weekend.

(Side Note: There is actually a Lankershim family (Bavarian, jewish) and Toluca used to be called “Lankershim.” The paterfamilias arrived in California in 1854 and by 1870 had massive land holdings from San Francisco to San Diego. He also converted to Baptist. When you are that wealthy, you could afford a better name. But I guess when you are that rich, you can impose your odd name on the entire valley. The Lankershims’ daughter, Susanna, married Isaac Newton Van Nuys… no relation to the genius… but many still live on his farm.)

Less fortunate than UniCruise was Rothman’s Flatliners, which seems to have forgotten why the original was a modest hit in 1990. Julia Roberts was in Pretty Woman a few months before it opened. She was engaging and disengaging in sexual relations with Kiefer Sutherland. Kevin Bacon was still in line to be the next leading man of Hollywood, in spite of setbacks. Oliver Platt was funny and identifiable. Even Billy Baldwin was maintaining the illusion that he could be a major movie star, the hotter younger brother of Alec, the star of that year’s The Hunt For Red October.

The first Flatliners opened to $10 million in 1990.

Put Chris Pratt and Dakota Johnson and Lupita Nyong’o and Tom Holland in Flatliners 2017 and you have a movie that cost 1/2 of what Passengers cost and does 5x what this Flatliners ever had any chance of doing. (I don’t expect anyone to be able to have seen Tiffany Haddish coming and cast her as the Oliver Platt 18 months ago.)

I love Ellen Page, as an actress and a human being. But she doesn’t open movies. Nor does Diego Luna. Nor does anyone fantasize about them having sex. Nor did they make the movie about Ellen’s lead character being gay and having a hot girlfriend. Nor do we know anything about Nina Dobrev as a star other than she is pretty. And Kiersey Clemons is buried by the rest of the cast (while she might be a real opener someday.)

The story of Flatliners remains fool’s gold for movies, since you can’t explain it without giving it away. It is the kind of piece that would be great as a $5 million Blumhouse movie that sells itself on the shock beats then overdelivers. But as a $20 million studio movie without stars that open… just an exercise in masturbation. Movie cold break even somewhere around $50 million worldwide. But every movie takes a lot of personpower at a studio. And… sigh…

Battle of the Sexes found its limitations yesterday in its first expansion. $3 million weekend. $2,500 per screen on 1,213. Not a flop. Can’t find a great comp. Hell or High Water may be the closest in the last couple of years, but it did $3.6m on 909 screens for a $3,908 per-screen. Battle is behind that. $20 million domestic total seems like the max.

Lucky, the last Harry Dean Stanton starrer, doing nicely for Magnolia on one screen.

Why is Mark Felt: Man Who Brought Down the White House called Mark Felt: Man Who Brought Down the White House??? Feels like you are going to watch a filmstrip, not a movie. Was every iteration of Deep Throat taken already? I guess Deep Throat/Big Schlong would be disrespectful to everyone… except maybe Liam Neeson. But silliness aside, this goes right on the shelf next to the Valerie Plame movie (from Doug Liman) as impossible-to-market, overly literal historical dramas.

15 Responses to “Friday Estimates by Slow-Cruising Flatliner Klady”

  1. Movieman says:

    Of the two wide release September movies w/ “American” in the title, I actually enjoyed “American Assassin” more. Nothing in “American Made” juiced me as much as Michael Keaton’s performance in “Assassin.”
    “Made” seems to be missing an introductory 20-30 minutes w/ the Cruise character’s backstory so that when he begins double-dipping (from the cartels and C.I.A.) we actually care what happens to him. It isn’t there (no substantive backstory really), so I didn’t.
    I had an OK time at “American Made.” It just didn’t seem special enough to leave the house for. I’m pretty sure that most people are feeling the same way strictly on the basis of the meh trailer/TV spots.
    Kind of stunning that “Made” has a higher RT than “Battle of the Sexes.”
    Didn’t hate “Flatliners 2.”
    It’s hardly an embarrassment, which makes Sony’s lack of advance screenings (or even Thursday night “previews”) seem downright perverse. The distaff members of the cast (Page, Dobrev and esp. Clemons) are all better than they needed to be, and Kiefer’s (surprise) supporting role made me smile. Kind of liked that they replaced Julia Roberts and four white dudes with an African-American female, a Mexican, two white girls and some token white guy. Also marveled at how influential Schumacher’s original apparently was: certainly the “Final Destination” series (for better or worse depending upon your affection, or lack thereof, for that soon-to-be-rebooted franchise) would have never happened without it.

  2. Night Owl says:

    “Put Chris Pratt and Dakota Johnson and Lupita Nyong’o and Tom Holland in Flatliners 2017 and you have a movie that cost 1/2 of what Passengers cost and does 5x what this Flatliners ever had any chance of doing.”

    LOL. No. Not in an unneeded/unwanted concept that has a 0% rating. Beyond Pratt none of those people you mention are close to “stars who open”. The jury is still out on him too as his presence with the biggest female star in the world was only enough to get Passengers to break even-ish; and could not drag the Magnificant Seven anywhere near profitability. If the audience likes the concept they show, if they don’t they don’t. See also the “stars who opened” IT? If they’d made a great movie and a strong publicity campaign they would have gotten the word of mouth to succeed. They didn’t. They made a “meh” movie. No big story. Low budget, no big loss. Shrug. Moving on.

    “Star power” that can allow Cruise to open a super well reviewed movie to not even $17 million? Color me less than impressed. But in the “concept” of the Mummy he drags that piece of garbage to $400 million. It’s all about the concept. Period.

  3. alynch says:

    Seems like the most logical title for the Felt movie would’ve been “Watergate”. No idea why they didn’t just go with that.

  4. PTA Fluffer says:

    In terms of IP, I would have thought calling it Deep Throat might have sold a few tickets.

  5. Threefecta says:

    Sorry Night Owl American made is not super well reviewed, Tomatometer isn’t Reality.

  6. Triple Option says:

    I think with the original Flatliners you had a cast of cool people doing something cool. The cast was the Brat Pack and you wondered what they did when they’d party in their secret mansions when the lights went down. Certainly, they’re parties had to be better than a kegger we were lucky enough to find out about, or more than just a few lines of coke, that’d be their pregame warm up. And here it was, they were killing themselves and coming back to life. Even if you thought the cast were snobbish dckheads, it’d still be a chance to see how the other half lives. Yes, we knew it was a movie and it’s all acting but it was something not done or explored before.

    Talent-wise this cast may be fine but not all that of an intriguing bunch. Strike two, who kills themselves any more? With all the varied surgeries of bovine artery replacements and cryotherapy on spinal columns and implanting electronic signal interrupting aspirin, stopping the heart for a few minutes seems about as passe as a barbwire bicep tattoo. I’m pretty sure my dentist offers heart stopping as an alternative to laughing gas or Novocaine when getting a tooth drilled.

    As far as something coming back through the other side, we’ve seen that movie before. Final Destination, amirite?! But at least in those films it looked like from the trailer I was going to see some cool, creative deaths. The trailer for the new Flatliners made the movie look like…it was going to be 5 hours long. Death, discovery, recruit, discover a rival, secret gets out, more death, a final death, burial, bizarre stuff happens, battle against the unseen demon from the great beyond. Holy crap, does that all happen in the first 30 mins or did you just show me the entire movie w/out the gore?? Nothing novel, no cool death potential, flat cast.

    Yeah, not surprised it didn’t open.

  7. Pete B says:

    If you’re going to do a remake of a movie where people kill themselves and come back to life, why not Psychomania (AKA The Death Wheelers)?

    I remember watching it late night on a local channel’s “Chiller Theater” and never forgot it. Probably due to the psychedelic soundtrack and wondering why George Saunders was in it. (Turns out it was his final film.)

  8. Sideshow Bill says:

    I hated the original Flatliners. I have no interest in this remake. It’s a cash grab. A bad remake of a bad movie. I’ll pass.

  9. Greg says:

    I loved the original Flatliners. I have interest in this remake. It will get my cash. A remake of a movie I enjoyed. I’m there.

  10. Non-Revisionist says:


    “I loved the original Flatliners. I have interest in this remake. It will get my cash. A remake of a movie I enjoyed. I’m there.”

    Better see it soon. It’ll lose screens quickly.

  11. Greg (not Flatliners-lover) says:

    “But Cruise opened it. And for all of the downs in the last 11 years, starting with Mission: Impossible III, which lost enough money for Paramount that it broke their since-mended relationship”

    MI3 made 400 million worldwide on a production budget of 150 million. How much money could it possibly have lost?

  12. hcat says:

    Cruise’s deal was so rich at that point with Paramount he got his cut well before Paramount got theirs so he raked in the cash while they were still trying to recoup the budget and marketing costs. IIRC he got something like 20 to 25% of first dollar gross so of that 400 million theaters kept half, Cruise got 80 to a hundred million and Paramount got 100 million against a 150 production and whatever they spent on marketing.

  13. 1. MI:3 cost more than $150m

    2. I think hcat is a little high of what Cruise made, but he did get paid before Paramount. And Par probably ate $50 million or so while Cruise took home more than $50m. The deal was made on the idea of “partnership” and one partner ate it. Sumner was not happy.

  14. Hcat says:

    Seeing that the next biggest star in the Paramount stable at the time was Spongebob Squarepants it maybe wasn’t the best idea to toss Cruise under the bus like he did. You would think after The Core, Sahara, Manchurian Candidate, pick random paramount film from first decade of century out of hat, Four Brothers Sumner would have been used to loosing scores of millions every time they released a movie.

    and yes I was high, if it was 25% first dollar of rentals Cruise would have hit 50 when Par would have simply covered the reported budget.

  15. Greg (not Flatliners-lover) says:

    David: 1. MI:3 cost more than $150m
    2. I think hcat is a little high of what Cruise made, but he did get paid before Paramount. And Par probably ate $50 million or so while Cruise took home more than $50m. The deal was made on the idea of “partnership” and one partner ate it. Sumner was not happy.

    Thanks for clarifying. Seems like an insane business model that a movie can make 400 million and it’s considered a loss for the studio.

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