So little interesting to say this Saturday.
The Equalizer opening is one of Denzel’s best openings, probably his 2nd best ever as the solo lead, unless you count Ryan Reynolds against the Safe House opening. If you do, this could be Denzel’s #1 solo opening ever.
The Boxtrolls, which I quite enjoyed – especially Sir Ben Kingsley’s great, nearly unrecognizable vocal performance and 2nd persona as Madame Fifi – is going to be another somewhat soft animation opening for Laika and Focus. Of course, no stop-motion film has ever had a $20 million weekend in the domestic market, so what looks modest from the outside may be as expected by the distributor and filmmakers.
The Skeleton Twins is the big indie of the weekend, looking at a weekend just over a million bucks. The other indie with a shot at opening with more than 10k per-screen is IFC’s Days & Nights.
Continuing the Compare-’n'-Contrast between this NIGHTMARE summer and the glorious summer of 2013…
SONY – Last summer, there were five movies from Big Sony and one from Screen Gems. (I am not counting any TriStar product as the releases have all been output deals across the last two summers.) This summer, there were just three Sony movies and two Screen Gems.
Think Like a Man Too – $65m – $69m
Deliver Us From Evil – $31m – $79m
Sex Tape – $38m – $109m
22 Jump Street – $191m – $324m
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 – $203m – $708m
The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones – $31m – $91m
After Earth – $61m – $244m
The Smurfs 2 – $71m – $348m
White House Down – $73m – $205m
This is the End – $101m – $126m
Grown Ups 2 – $134m – $247m
So again, a studio where the gross—the popular way of measuring this summer—is up, not down.
Of course, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 skews the survey. But by how much? How much of a disappointment ASM2 is seen as, it was profitable. However, last summer’s duo of White House Down and After Earth cost more combined than ASM2, but generated a combined $259 million less than ASM2 ($449m) at the worldwide box office and likely lost money.
The other two Columbia releases this summer, Sex Tape and 22 Jump Street, had a combined production cost of under $100 million and generated $443m combined in worldwide theatrical.
Last summer, This Is The End and Grown Ups 2 had a reported combined budget just under $120 million and were both profitable, but less than this summer’s combo of comedies.
That leaves Smurfs 2 and Screen Gems’ Mortal Instruments entry from last summer and just the two Screen Gems films this summer. Smurfs 2 appears to be a revenue-positive film, though $217m short of the first film, which would make it a marginal success.
On the Screen Gems side, Mortal Instruments last summer cost more than the combined productions of the two SG releases this summer. Even taking the added marketing costs of two films over one, the $57m edge this summer makes this summer a stronger one for Screen Gems.
So not only was the summer up for Sony overall, but it seems to have been undeniably more profitable across the board.
Universal – The studio had 6 wide releases this summer, same as last summer, though last summer, the Focus division also had a wide release, which they didn’t in Summer 2014.
Get On Up – $31m – n/a
As Above/So Below – $21m – $33m
The Purge: Anarchy – $72m – $107m
A Million Ways to Die in the West – $43m – $86m
Lucy – $125m – $378m
Neighbors – $150m – $268m
Kick-Ass 2 – $29m – $61m
R.I.P.D. – $34m – $78m
The Purge – $64m – $89m
2 Guns – $76m – $132m
Fast & Furious 6 – $239m – $789m
Despicable Me 2 – $368m – $971m
The World’s End – $26m – $46m
That would be a 58% drop in revenue. The entire summer deficit that everyone is screaming about is $853 million. Universal’s summer theatrical revenue drop alone was $1.26 billion.
So was this a disastrous summer for Universal?
Last summer was driven (81% of the total summer gross) by two films. Both were pre-sold franchise films. There was also a third sequel and a fourth film that was considered to be part of a trilogy, though not a direct sequel. This summer, there was just one sequel that reported cost under $10 million to produce.
This summer, the were no Universal releases with reported budgets over $40 million. If you believe budget reporting, the entire summer slate at Universal cost $150 million in production costs and probably another $225 million in marketing… and generated $903 million in theatrical alone.
Last summer, the two massive hits more than covered the small loss on Kick-Ass 2 and the more significant on on R.I.P.D. This summer, no clear losers, though Get On Up is marginal.
Of course, any business would prefer, on principle, 58% higher revenues. But Universal will be back on that track next year with five straight franchise films, starting in April and running through the summer, including follow-ups to both F&F and Despicable, as well as Jurassic Park, Pitch Perfect & Ted. So if we are not back with a conversation about near $3 billion between April and August next year, feel free to cry, “Slump!” But for now, the downturn of this summer does not mean that Universal is suffering or “over” in any way, shape or form.
Warner Bros – As I start to work on this studio, I am fearful that it is the one really sad story of this summer… especially after a face-saving piece in the NYT… always a sign of fear and defensiveness. Let’s dig in…
Seven movies both summers. But not unlike Universal, only one franchise/sequel/remake in the group this summer compared to three last summer.
Jersey Boys – $47m – $59m
If I Stay – $48m – $69m
Into The Storm – $46m – $147m
Tammy – $84m – $97m
Edge of Tomorrow – $100m – $369m
Blended – $46m – $124m
Godzilla – $201m – $535m
Getaway – $11m – $n/a
Pacific Rim – $102m – $411m
The Hangover Part III – $112m – $362m
The Conjuring – $137m – $318m
The Great Gatsby – $145m – $351m
We’re the Millers – $150m – $270m
Man of Steel – $291m – $668m
Okay… so another down studio. $991 million or 41% down on the broadest gross figure.
As I have written before, WB had the only $150m production budget film this summer that failed to gross at least $500 million worldwide, Edge of Tomorrow. Godzilla was a reported $160 million partnership with Legendary.
Again like Universal, aside from those two big gambles, nothing reported a budget over $50 million, including the Sandler-Barrymore vehicle, Blended.
Even on the big pictures, the difference between last year’s Superman/Pac Rim combo vs this summer’s Edge of Godzilla is about 10% on theatrical revenue…. which is not nothing… but is hardly a disaster, especially when compared to the 2006 summer of Superman/Poseidon/Lady in the Water/Ant Bully.
I am not saying that this was a great summer for Warner Bros; it wasn’t. But neither was it the kind of summer that should lead to harsh discussions about the studio’s future.
Again, like Universal, WB goes back to the well next summer with a lot of familiar titles (Mad Max, Entourage, Magic Mike, Peter Pan, Point Break and Man from U.N.C.L.E. are all on tap next summer).
No one is here to tell you that this was a world-beating summer. It was not. But a lot of that was by choice.
As noted at the top, there was a 27% drop in the number of films released widely by the majors this summer. That is not a disaster. That is a choice.
Still, three of the six majors were UP for the summer in gross worldwide revenues. Fox was up by $920 million, Paramount was up by $626 million, and Sony was up by $28 million.
Of the other three, Disney was down by $869 million, Universal was down by $1.26 billion , and WB was down by $991 million. But with all that “down,” only one movie at these three studios was a significant loser financially.
And perhaps the greatest irony is that all three had “down” summers because, in great part, they didn’t have more franchise/sequel/remake films on their schedules. So all the “Hollywood is dying because it is out of original ideas” is the exact opposite of the true story of this summer. It was “down” for lack of repetition.
None of this means that the quality of movies being put out by the studios is great or that you must feel it is because the numbers are not disastrous. Personally, I feel the studios are betting too big on too many big movies in the next few years and we could see a studio collapse under the weight of multiple losses. So don’t misread this piece as some sort of “everything is great” salute to studio choices.
But the read of this summer by the media, perpetuated by an industry more than ready to lower its head and self-flagellate at the slightest sign of trouble (all the while continuing the silly, greedy behaviors that often lead to shooting oneself in the foot), is profoundly simplistic and misleading. And while many might read all this and wonder, “So what? Rich people with rich people problems!,” it is my contention that false spin about the health of the industry is profoundly destructive. Self-fulfilling prophesies are the saddest prophesies of all. And if we keep telling the world that the film business is in the toilet, it will contribute to shoving it right down there.
I am not calling for cheerleading. That would be foolish too. But I implore my brethren of journalism to be tougher on our work when we castigate an entire industry. Dig deeper than the stat about how much the domestic gross was this summer and what year it was so low. Ask real questions about why and don’t just rely on your personal instincts, which reflect your personal preferences. Sorry, but if you are over 35, you are not the #1 movie audience, but as a journalist it is not your prerogative to take that out on the industry by overstating “the problem with Hollywood.”
I hope you are all really rough on this industry… with the truth and real research. You can ask any of the studios I wrote about today and find someone in a position of power who sees me or has seen me as relentlessly negative. I am not. And I am not relentlessly positive about anyone or any studio. I may be – and certainly have been – wrong about things. But I am intellectually honest. And I dig and dig… not to find the answer I wanted, but to find a truth to which I can feel comfortable attaching my name.
That’s the job… no?
That is the direct output of the wide-release movies from the six major distributors this last summer.
Do you want to think about this summer based on numbers or do you want to get all emotional about it? Because if you think facts matter, start with the fact that there were 33 wide-release movies from the 6 major distributors last summer (2013).
If all you are basing your reports of a summer disaster on is one specific, not very rich stat, you probably don’t care.
How about this? The average wide release studio (or Dependent) movie released this summer grossed— and this is just domestic, where the overall box office was down 13% from last year’s mass stat… international is up—earned an average of $22 million more at the box office this summer than last summer.
WAIT! How is this possible? Hollywood is BURNING!!!!
Let’s look at it studio by studio:
Disney (Buena Vista) – The studio released five films this summer and four last summer. They had the #1 domestic movie of the summer both summers. Last year, Iron Man 3 was #1 worldwide for the summer. This year, Maleficent is #2 worldwide and the domestic #1, Guardians of the Galaxy, is at #7 and likely to get to #6 or #5 by the time it plays out worldwide.
Maleficent – $230m – $754m
Guardians of the Galaxy – $314m – $632m
The Hundred-Foot Journey $51m – $52m
Million Dollar Arm – $36.5m – $37m
Planes: Fire & Rescue – $58m – $96m
The Lone Ranger – $89m – $261m
Planes – $90m – $220m
Monsters University – $268m – $744m
Iron Man 3 – $409m – $1215m
That’s a $869 million shortfall from last summer. Disney must be in a panic, right?
Well, let’s put aside the fact that two of the movies this summer have yet to have a major international release and that Guardians still has a few big markets coming. Say that’s good for $150m. Still… $719 million off… scary, right? That’s 29%! Far worse than the beloved overall domestic summer gross figure. Disney must be in free fall. People must be getting fired left and right, right?
Here’s the deal. None of the five releases this summer are likely, when all is said and done, to lose money. Maleficent has a similar profit profile to Monsters University and perhaps even has the same value in resurrecting an aging brand. Planes, which launched a strong new marketing brand, was also highly profitable last year. Not so much this year… but the brand value is extended without taking a loss. 100 Foot and Million Dollar will be modestly profitable. Lone Ranger took—though the only reporting was on the projected loss, not the actual writedown—a $160m loss for the studio, it seems.
So Summer 2014 is, it seems, up about $80 million on Summer 2013 at this point. (Yes, very rough numbers.)
Comes down to IM 3 vs Guardians.
And IM3 will probably gross about $500 million more than Guardians when all is said and done. $121 million of that was in China… and there may be a similar haul for Guardians there too… so no need for an immediate asterisk-off. Figure about $250 million more in revenue back to Marvel/Disney. Then, consider how much more Iron Man 3 cost Disney than Guardians did. Publicly confirmed figures say IM3 cost $30 million more to make than Guardians. And how much more backend did Robert Downey, Jr. get on IM3 than anyone could have negotiated for Guardians? Not to mention that IM3 seems to be the end of Downey in that suit, except in team-ups while Guardians took a pretty much nonexistent title and made a franchise out of it. How do you value that?
One more factor. Marvel/Disney stuck another Marvel franchise, Captain America, a month ahead of the traditional summer launch of May 1 and had a summer opening result. It is not a summer movie. But if you look at it from Disney’s perspective, it kinda is. And with it at the back of the mind, it actually dips this summer into being a slightly better summer than last for Disney… even though they were off 29% by every major outlet’s favorite front page stat.
Moving on to…
Fox – The Century City studio wide-released 5 films this summers, 1 less than Big Fox last summer and 2 less if you include Searchlight, which didn’t get past 525 screens with anything this summer.
Domestically, Fox’s grosses were up 33% over last summer ($818m vs $617m), even with fewer films released. Worldwide was even more dramatic, up 61% from last summer.
Let’s Be Cops – $77m – $101m
The Fault in Our Stars – $125m – $301m
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes – $207m – $681m
X-Men: Days of Future Past – 234m – $746m
How to Train Your Dragon 2 – $176m – $609m
The Internship – $45m – $94m
Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters – $69m – $200m
Turbo – $83m – $283m
Epic – $108m – $268m
The Wolverine – $133m – $415m
The Heat – $160m – $230m
The Way, Way Back – $22m – $23m
Three of the five wide releases from the studio this summer did better than any film the studio released last summer.
It is true that Apes 2 and the new X-Men are, respectively, one of the most expensive and probably the single most expensive film made by the studio without a large percentage of the cost coming from outside the studio. But the $250m-plus box office improvement over last summer’s most expensive film, The Wolverine, more than makes up for that in either case.
Even on DreamWorks Animation, which is self-funded and distributes through Fox, the Fox revenue this summer doubled.
Last summer, The Internship lost money, Percy Jackson 2 was borderline, as was Epic.
This summer, Fault was way more profitable than last summer’s Heat, and both Apes and X did their jobs and made money.
Still looking for a studio with a disastrous summer…
Paramount – They only released two films last summer. Three this summer.
Hercules – $72m – $219m
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – $185m – $333m
Transformers: Age of Extinction – $245m – $1081m
World War Z – $202m – $540m
Star Trek Into Darkness – $229m – $467m
World War Z was last summer’s most expensive film. But a brilliant, aggressive push by Paramount may have gotten it to black ink. Close call. I don’t know enough to be sure either way. But with $540 million worldwide, there is a reasonable sense that they can make a sequel and build on that without reshooting an entire act of the film this time.
Star Trek Into Darkness was another soft hit last summer. They admit a $190m budget this time and wordlwide gross increased about $80 million… in other words, the way things are going, flat. They found a new glass ceiling on this franchise, it seems.
This summer, Hercules stiffed… though it isn’t clear how much money Paramount had tied up in the film. So the studio had a clear loser that they didn’t suffer last summer.
But Transformers: Age of Extinction, even with the Chinese $300m in asterisk gross, generated (very roughly) approximately $450 million in rentals coming back to Paramount… more than any other movie this summer and roughly double either Paramount movie last summer. And T4 certainly cost less than WWZ and may be closer than acknowledged to the Trek 2 budget.
And also from producer Michael Bay, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles has overperformed expectations with $333m to date and given more energy to what was already a very strong merchandising line.
So even with the Hercules smack, Paramount was stronger this summer than last.
That’s three studios that have all had summers certainly equal to and really, better than last summer.
Still waiting for The End of Hollywood as we know it…
Part II: The Other 3 Major Studios
Well, it doesn’t look like there will be a feeling other than “blah” about the theatrical box office between the opening of Guardians of the Galaxy on the first week of August and the opening of Interstellar and Big Hero Six the first weekend of November. There are likely hits and nice openings (Gone Girl, The Equalizer, Book of Life, maybe Fury), but $50 million-plus openings look to be at least another 7 weekends away.
The Maze Runner (“we called it margarine”) will be the best opening since the Mutant Turtles resurfaced on the weekend of August 8. But it’s still looking like it will come up short of the first Percy Jackson film, which was not a big event. Interestingly, looking at the Box Office Mojo chart of YA Adaptations, there is a big gap between Percy‘s opening ($31m) and the next opening, which is The Fault in Our Stars with a $48m launch. The Top 17 titles, all opening at that $48m or better, all did at least $125m domestic. In the lower half (30 titles opening to $31m opening or less), only two films were leggy enough to get to the $100m domestic mark, Lemony Snicket and The Princess Diaries. It is also worth noting that in that Top 17, it’s all Potter/Twilight/Hunger Games except for the two bottom titles, Divergent and Fault.
Speaking of overworked franchises, the Liam Neeson Whispering Threats genre may be coming to an end. A Walk Among The Tombstones is going to be his weakest wide opening since Taken, with the exception of The Next Three Days, a Paul Haggis film that Lionsgate allowed to escape more than released. Or maybe this is just a fluke. Perhaps Neeson will bring new life to the tough guys turned nanny genre next. “I know you don’t want to put away your toys. But I have special skills in dealing with naughty children. I’ll give you one last chance…”
And This Is Where I Leave You seems to be in the Don’t Tell Them It’s About Jews category and the Sell The Ensemble Not The Movie oeuvre. Neither really draws well. It certainly was the quietest big studio premiere in recent TIFF memory. And indeed, with a boatload of talent (though with due respect to Adam Driver, the hot name of the moment has never sold a movie ticket), a marginal number of people bought tickets yesterday. I saw a Tina Fey interview in which she mentioned Admission and noted, “But nobody saw that.” Expect her to use the line on this film in future interviews.
Not a lot of redemption at the arthouse. The big per-screen in limited release will be Yellow Day, which is not another “New Girl” spin-off, but rather another spiritual film. Right behind it will be Hector & The Search For Happiness, a film that I found charming, if imperfect. Lots of new titles riding that $4000 to $5000 per-screen mark this weekend.
And Yahoo! reminds us why giving them a trailer exclusive is not a good idea.
Update 5:21p – And now, it is working… thanks…
Update 5:19p – This link seems to work… https://movies.yahoo.com/video/big-eyes-trailer-151825125.html
My experience of the Toronto International Film Festival used to be quite different.
The film count was about the same. The location was different… but not so that it really changed the tone of the festival.
The event screenings were, back in the 90s, pretty much exclusively at Roy Thompson Hall. Opening night sported just one film and one party. The RTH was an exotic location, miles from the rest of the festival.
Over time, the Elgin evolved into a key premiere (and sometimes studio “work-in-progress) venue. It only got hotter when the entire event moved into the theater district.
The Princess of Wales was only added to the screening schedule a few years ago, when Jonathan Demme wanted better sound for that year’s Neil Young doc. Dolby built out the best sound at the festival and by the next year, it was a full time festival theater… which was also the preferred choice for many filmmakers premiering at the festival.
So now you have 3, count ‘em, 3 venues at TIFF for major premieres… each of which usually has at least 2 major premieres a night over the opening 5 days of the festival. That makes 30 PREMIERES! (as opposed to the more staid “premiere”).
Parties in the old days might be at Roots or some other retail venue turned party room during festival week. There were some bigger rooms. Some temporary discos. Closing night was in the Skydome.
In 2000, the festival asked 25 directors to make 25 films of (approximately) 25 minutes in length in 25 hours at the festival in celebration of the festival’s 25th anniversary. It was called 25 x 25 and featured some very well known directors and some up and comers.
If they tried that these days, the filmmakers would be followed live by TV crews, appear together in a 2-page spread in EW, have a special issue in The Hollywood Reporter, be branded trendsetters by a certain LA Times reporter, and have their sex lives investigated by The Wrap.
I miss the Uptown theater. I miss Dusty Cohl. I miss Roger Ebert.
The Sony Classics dinner, which has been going on forever it seems, used to be quiet and mellow. This year, there was a red carpet and no fewer than 150 people trying to get a look at the parade of SPC talent. I get it… I get it. But it was once a singular respite from the insanity. Now it’s a great place to catch up with filmmakers and journalists… but a bit like a wedding with two dozen brides.
But the past is the past. The TIFF show is bigger and brassier than ever. More importantly, there is still a great film festival there.
I only saw 27 movies at TIFF this year. We shot 30 interviews, but some of those were Cannes titles and there were a few titles that got multiple interviews. I would have preferred over my 7 days at the festival more like 35 or so. I missed some films that I really wanted to see, partially because some were too late in the festival and partially because my production schedule makes a five-screening a day schedule impossible.
Here are my 27:
Black & White
The Imitation Game
Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet
License To Drive
The Look Of Silence
Revenge of the Green Dragons
Seymour: An Introduction
Song of the Sea
The Sound and The Fury
The Tale of Princess Kaguya
The Theory of Everything
Time Out Of Mind
The Yes Men Are Revolting
Only 4 docs… which really sucks. History reminds us that documentaries are, as a group, the best films available at any film festival (except, when like Cannes, they are not a focus). I didn’t see Beats of the Antonov or Do I Sound Gay?, the winner and 2nd runner up, respectively, of the audience award for docs. I did see the first runner up… and loved Seymour: An Introduction. Seymour makes an interesting TIFF bookend with Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Look Of Silence, which has much of the perspective and good-heartedness of Seymour, but in dealing with a mass murder whose perpetrators are still in control of the country. Both films could well be…
I decided not to mention the Academy Awards in this piece. I’m going to write another piece about the award season and the recent festival run, so… forget I started that sentence…
Out of my list of 27 titles, there were only 4 that I actually disliked. That’s a pretty good festival. (And don’t forget the great Cannes films from Assayas, Leigh, The Dardennes, and Bennett Miller that I’m not counting. There are probably a few others.)
I’m really interested in talking about the films that didn’t get as much overwhelming media love as some of the others.
I irrationally loved both Al Pacino films. They are very different and yet, somehow connected for me. The discussion of aging and one’s place in the world are also themes in Mr. Turner, Clouds of Sils Maria, Seymour: An Introduction, Time Out of Mind, St Vincent, and even, in a slightly odd way, in The Look of Silence, which includes aging perpetrators.
The Humbling is a Barry Levinson comedy about a man/actor who becomes self-reflective, it seems, for the first time in his life. The reason I lead with the director is that it feels like Barry Levinson. It’s also very Phillip Roth (whose story this comes from)… rye and self-deprecating and full of embarrassing things and wicked smart. Pacino plays the actor who is still able to generate a quick six figures by agreeing to do a dumb commercial or the like. But he is back on Broadway… and he can’t remember his lines or quite find his way through his King Lear. Making things even more complicated, he starts an affair with a much younger woman who is working through her teenage crush on him, even though she is now out as a lesbian. What starts as a fling becomes real and then he faces having his middle age all over again. hat is less Levinson than usual is the visual style of the film. It is the most complex visual experience that I recall seeing in any Levinson film. Its silences are as important and meaningful as its words, words being Levinson’s most obvious gift.
It is worth noting that there are many similarities (and differences) between The Humbling and the steaming-hot Birdman, which was the most talked about film at TIFF without even being at TIFF.
Pacino is back again in Manglehorn, as an aging locksmith who is by turns a free-floating source of wisdom and an immobilized wreck who can’t get out of his own way. Like Levinson, David Gordon Green seems to be pushing himself into new territory visually here, as Manglehorn lives in a world of memory infringing on his reality. It’s quite beautiful to watch. And the material doggedly refuses to fall into traditional ways of telling a story “like this.” Pacino’s Manglehorn is a bit of a genius and a bit of an asshole and a bit of a magician. He is still of the world, not a curmudgeon hiding in the corner or seeking saving. But he is not fully alive either. It is one with David Gordon Green’s work in that it is more interested in the ambiguities than in An Answer.
Another film that didn’t get the attention I felt it deserved (though it did win a critics award) was Time Out Of Mind, a remarkable collaboration between Oren Moverman and Richard Gere. Simply – surely too simply – the film is a slice of time in the life of a man of 60 or so and has found himself living on the street. Why? We don’t know. And the movie is in no rush to explain itself. The film was shot by the great Bobby Bukowski, who conspired with Moverman and Gere to make the city a set and the camera as invisible as possible at all times. We experience this man’s journey, trying to find his way, with just one attachment in the world. It’s not a doc. But it is one emotionally, really. When the quiet gets too much – Gere’s character is not a guy who likes to gab – alongs comes a glorious – yes,i will say it, breaking my own rule – Oscar-nomination worthy turn by Ben Vereen as a thinks-he’s-seen-it-all motormouth who provides an entertaining, if sometimes exhausting narrative. This movie is truly one of a kind. Special. Challenging. And again… word of the day… ambiguous.
Nightcrawler, which is being released by Open Road, is imperfect… but a thrilling thing to watch. Jake Gyllenhaal turns himself into an absolute creep. And the story, of a guy who sees his opportunity specializing in getting footage from the most unpleasant news scenes possible to great success with the local news, is not quite Chayefsky for 2014… but it makes a real stab at it. I really look forward to seeing the film again soon. My biggest argument in the film is that it doesn’t get degrading enough. Others feel the opposite. But this is in-your-face stuff that will make you look around carefully next time you are in a car at night in Los Angeles.
Finally, distribution-free Learning to Drive is this year’s The Visitor. It’s an unexpected, charming, serious, sexy, goofy, philosophical, heartbreaking little movie from Isabel Coixet (working the comedy beat as lightly as she can). Sir Ben Kingsley and Patricia Clarkson are a pairing of opposites, but both are searching for something. The joy is in the journey. I’m not sure why Fox Searchlight or Sony Classics hasn’t already picked this one up. It’s a delight and will be a money-maker for someone.
It was a really good TIFF. Solid.
What was missing, really, were the home run-hitting feature films. (Great docs… but we expect that.) I really like The Imitation Game, but it is old-fashioned in many ways. Great performances in The Theory of Everything, but as wonderful it is in humanizing Stephen Hawking, it doesn’t quite make the connection to his genius. St. Vincent is a Bill Murray showcase, but it isn’t as special as Rushmore or Broken Flowers or Lost in Translation. Rosewater is terrific for everything it chooses not to be, which is leaving many feeling like they are missing something.
After some seemingly over-the-top negative reviews of Men, Women & Children, I went to go see it on my last day… but I arrived a little late and then left within 20 minutes because I was so exhausted that I just wasn’t in a mood to deal with the darkness. But I can’t wait to check it out here in L.A. It could easily make it into the “underappreciated” ranks for me.
The issue of Toronto vs Telluride, which was wildly overwritten before both festivals, turned out to be mostly a non-issue. I know it was a pain in the ass for Sony Classics and Toronto would have done well to have an opening weekend gala for a couple of their titles that they took to the mountains. But aside from that, it actually stretched the festival. And even though people still streamed out of town on Monday and Tuesday, the festival had a lot to offer in the second half… more this year than in many. And frankly, I lost out by leaving on Thursday afternoon. There was a lot to do on Thursday and Friday that I missed and will have to catch up on soon.
I would love to see TIFF try to keep moving the bar and make it a must-stay event through Wednesday, at least.
It’s taken me a few days to regain my sanity after going into the bunker of fabulousness for a week. But I can’t wait until next September, when the whole insane thing will happen again.
No Good Dead|24.4 (11,230)|NEW|24.4
Dolphin Tale 2|16.6 (4,540)|NEW|16.6
Guardians of the Galaxy|7.9 (2,550)|-23%|305.8
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles|4.8 (1,630)|-26%|181.1
The Drop|4.4 (5,480)|NEW|4.4
Let’s Be Cops|4.3 (1,570)|-22%|73
If I Stay|4.0 (1,320)|-28%|44.9
The November Man|2.8 (1,030)|-36%|22.5
The Giver|2.5 (1,120)|-26%|41.2
The Hundred-Foot Journey|2.5 (1,270)|-21%|49.4
Not a whole lot more to say about this weekend. The weekend estimates are a bit better than I expected based on Friday estimates.
Screen Gems seems to be back in its groove with its third $10m opening in four films released so far this year.
Dolphin Tale 2 is another Alcon film, released by WB, that like its predecessor found an audience that studios don’t spend a lot of time working for anymore.
Guardians of the Galaxy passes the elusive $300 million domestic mark. Absolutely a phenom. Even though based on a comic, unknown enough to really be seen as an original. Shows how helpful it is to have some free space after your opening. Not as big a hit overseas, though that was the trajectory for Marvel’s Captain America and Thor as well.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles will likely be the 9th $200 million domestic grosser of the summer. $350 million worldwide is in range. $400 million would require some very strong performances in still unopened international markets.
The Drop is a… not great success. Whether its international cast can drive greater numbers is to be seen.
One of the unacknowledged hits of the summer is Let’s Be Cops, which is, I think, the least expensive film released by a studio this summer, and is not only going to do over $80m domestic, but will be over $100m worldwide.
Luc Besson’s Lucy, by the way, has almost doubled its domestic gross and is now over $350 million worldwide.
Also stronger than the stories out there would suggest was The Hundred Foot Journey, which will pass $50m domestic this week and hasn’t yet started overseas.
The Expendables 3 has tripled its domestic gross internationally… but that is because domestic is so weak and is probably still not enough to make the film profitable.
On the indie side, Boyhood is the top limited domestic release (under 1000 screens) of 2014 so far (and of this week), now slowing to under $1m a week with $21.8 million. Number 2 indie for the year is A Most Wanted Man, with $16.6m. #3 is Belle, with $10.7 million.
Indie newcomers are led in per-screen by Roadside’s The Skeleton Twins and in gross by Fox International’s Finding Fanny.
Before I start pulling apart the meager entries of this weekend, let me note once again… the box office story of this last summer looks quite different when viewed in micro perspective instead of macro perspective. The sky is forever falling for media writers. That is the preferred story. And there are serious issues about what is coming to be deconstructed (especially the rest of the world tending to follow U.S. behaviors a few years later… which will become a major problem if it holds true). But this summer was not a box office disaster simply because overall domestic grosses were “off” $850 million or so from last year’s total summer domestic gross. There was less profit on the high side, but there was also a lot fewer losses on the low side. Ask a studio about the summer and they will concur that it was down, but then ask about the details of their studio and they will tell you that they were not strong as they would like or that they were pretty happy with the results.
Here is a simple example, which I do not think explains away everything. But it is specific and it is legit. Animation only. No Pixar movie this summer. Last year released-by-this-date, the 4 animated movies in the Top 20 grossed $2.6 billion worldwide. This year, the 4 animated movies in the Top 20 have grossed $1.5 billion worldwide. The total drop from last year – to date – is about $1.7 billion. Take out animation and it’s about $600 million… or about a 4% drop… a little above average, but not terribly dramatic. And while you can’t just blink your eyes and change the numbers, a single Pixar movie could have easily been expected to deliver $700 million of the animation sector’s $1.1 billion “deficit” for 2014 or about 40% of the overall “deficit.” One movie.
I will do a full piece about summer box office soon, but I keep reading the doom and gloom headlines, as well as those who would love to claim that it’s all about quality and the end of the great movies and yadda yadda yadda…
There is certainly a discussion to be had and weaknesses to be poked at, but any disaster that can be fixed by a couple hit movies is not the end of the line for the movies or for theatrical. It just isn’t.
As for this weekend, Sony hid No Good Deed from critics and Sony won that bet. The truth is, critics were not likely to damage this film. But why take the chance of a wave of negativity just before opening. Sony found their market – a combination of thriller lovers and people of color – and surely knew they were in good shape going into the weekend and chose not to rock their own boat with no upside. This doesn’t bother me. Never has. Frankly, it’s amazing that studios screen as high a percentage of their films ahead of time as they do. None of these films are culture changers. They are pieces of business. And as such, they are treated as nothing but product, dedicated to their best possible product launch.
Dolphin Talk 2 is the sequel to the surprise 2011 Alcon hit that WB didn’t want to fund and though this is not a terribly impressive Friday number, it’s off only 18% from the first film and projects to a $15.5 million 3-day weekend and a possible $60m domestic gross. Like other films, Alcon is surely hoping that the sequel will perform better overseas, where it only did $23 million the first time out.
Guardians of the Galaxy finally hit $300 million domestic, the only film of 2014 to do so. It is still #8 worldwide for the year… but will surely get up to #6 or #5 before international plays out. (It is possible that it will get a much bigger Chinese boost… that is the wildcard here).
The Drop opens to $1.4 million, which is not good… even for Tom Hardy’s limited history. It opens behind the great Warrior (a box office disappointment) and Lawless.
Meanwhile, Let’s Be Cops, yet another summer movie that was written off by most writers on opening weekend, will pass $70 million domestic today. And let’s not forget Tammy, which was overhyped as a feminist issue, but grossed $84 million domestic and was not a summer miss, but rather, a success. These films are victims of hit-and-run journalism, which can’t pay attention to anything for longer than the length of a Twitter trend.
On the indie side, Roadside release The Skeleton Twins should get to $20k per-screen on 15… which is okay. The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, which gets the record for most worked-over project of the year (leading pretty much nowhere), should do about $15k per on 4 screens and never expand to more than a couple hundred screens (maybe) and half a mil (at most). Even people who hate Harvey Weinstein will have to admit that he game this film a LOT of room to be what indie audiences wanted. But as great as the cast is, this one just loves itself a bit too much to allow others to love it. And My Old Lady, which was at Toronto last week, but didn’t seem to work very hard for attention, will be just under $10k per (as will Born to Fly and The Quitter).