Author Archive

And Your Independent Spirit Award Winners Are…

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

Boyhood
Richard Linklater
Dan Gilroy
Obvious Child
Justin Simien
Blue Ruin
Julianne Moore
Michael Keaton
Patricia Arquette
J.K. Simmons
Emmanuel Lubezki
Sandra Adair
CITIZENFOUR
Ida

Review: Big Eyes

Monday, November 24th, 2014

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Big Eyes is a movie of shocking complexity and grace, given how simple it seems on the surface.

The simple synopsis is that a single mother who paints images that are mocked by many, but which somehow connect so deeply that they became (and remain) iconic. She marries a hustler who ends up assuming her role as the artist with the public and allows her to shrink as he steals the spotlight (and money) for himself.

Add Tim Burton to the mix and it seems a lot of people expect a Mars Attacks! level farce or a variation on Ed Wood. But it is neither. This, aside from Big Fish, is easily Burton’s most “grounded” film. I detected a lot of interesting work with the landscapes (from the steady hand and with the color correction skills of Bruno Delbonnel) and the locations are gloriously dense and odd. You can feel Burton’s strong, experienced hand here, but not as we are used to seeing it manifested.

The center of the movie is Amy Adams as Margaret Ulbrich, nee’ Hawkins, soon-to-be Keane, who shrinks into a character in a way I have never seen before. Not the young nun in Doubt. Not the wallflower (who blossoms) in Julie & Julia. This is a small, shivering bird of a woman. Even her voice is tiny. Though somehow, even from the start, there is the underlying emotional bravado of someone who is deeply connected to her art and the steely focus of being a separated/divorced woman living on her own with her child in the late 50s. She is hiding. She clearly has been brought up not to make too much noise. But she was strong enough to leave one husband and she is, undeniably, an artist.

Enter Christoph Waltz’s Walter Keane. Waltz is stripped of Tarantino’s dialogue and quirky character here. Also missing is Tarantino’s style of making Waltz’s characters a mysterious about their real intentions, their possible actions. Not so with Walter Keene. This guy is the ultimate salesman. No blinking. No boundaries. Not a Glengarry salesman. This is a guy who would have walked up to Alec Baldwin’s hard ass and fondled those brass balls like they were his own. He tells us what he wants right up front and he spends most of the movie getting it.

It would be very easy for this to turn into a cartoon at any moment. But Burton and screenwriters Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski choose not to go that way. There is a lot of humor. But it’s often quite dry and burns slowly.

Big Eyes, oddly, quite reminded me of The Imitation Game, with Margaret Keane stuck in the closet – both literally and figuratively – as the world rages outside of her grasp. Obviously, Nazis and art-clingers are a very different outside world. But as Alan Turing stays deeply focused on his work, aware of, but not participating on what is going on outside, so is Margaret Keane. And coming out of that closet is terrifying and, perhaps, dangerous.

The film is also a fairy tale of sorts, but in this one, Little Red Riding Hood marries the Big Bad Wolf. He manages to eat her all up, but instead of trying to get out, she lives there in his stomach, trying to make the best of it, as though she was responsible for being eaten.

There is also a very Garp-ian element, as Margaret is just the kind of woman who would live in Jenny Fields’ home for women who need a safe place to heal. But there is none here. This film, like that part of Garp, takes place on the early edge of the women’s movement, in San Francisco. Again, this could have been leaned on heavily, but the filmmakers show a light touch. This is easily the strongest feminist statement film of this award season. But it is even more about reminding anyone of any sex who is fearful of embracing their own power that living in fear is no way to live… a post-feminism feminist statement.

The balance of Adams and Waltz is what drives most of the film. She is so small and he is so large that there is a near-perfect balance. She seeks safety and he is forever hungry. He has the big personality and she has a real (albeit odd) talent. He concerns himself with no rules and she is as strict with herself as a nun. But what really works about this film is that both characters go further and further into their emotional corners until he forgets to worry about her and she is so small she might just fade away. But she can’t… she has a daughter… and so starts the third act.

I didn’t really know what to expect from this film. And I was shocked. I know that man. I know that woman. I know that unintentional co-dependency. I was a small child through the height of the Keane era, but I know these people. And it’s an elegant descent into madness of a sort. What really makes it consistently unexpected is the honest need that both characters have to be loved for their art… even if Walter’s art is not his own.

I loved the supporting characters here, from Jon Polito as the real-life impresario Enrico Banducci in the period Hungry i to Terence Stamp as the New York Times art critic to James Saito as a judge, who, like so much of the film, underplays it gloriously when ham could well have been served.

But it’s those two central characters who own Big Eyes. It’s Adams first. And this may be her best performance yet. She has gone to very different places in the last few years, from The Fighter to The Master to American Hustle to Margaret Keane. There was that moment around Doubt, where it seemed we might know her acting range. But she has blasted out of any expectation that anyone could have had. For me, the performance in The Fighter, while excellent, was not shocking. It was the other side of a coin. But starting with The Master, Adams has become one of our greatest, most range-y actresses, full stop. That was, mostly a veiled performance. In American Hustle, she delivered full adult sexuality for the first time on camera. And here, breathtaking restraint… literally. And yet, as deeply as she disguises herself in her characters, these are not “character actor” performances. They are mature, controlled, leading women.

Adams’ performance is not the only great performance by an actress this year. No one’s ever is. But when you put her next to such vastly different kinds of work, like Julianne Moore’s or Marion Cottilard’s, you can’t really compare them on the same basis. They are so very different and special for such different reasons. But wow.

As for Waltz, I have found myself feeling like he has been a bit of a one-trick pony in his film performances. But, as noted above, there has been nothing on film that has fit him this well that was not written by Tarantino. And he thrives on a broader emotional space. He goes from goofy attractive to utterly repulsive and all kinds of places in between in this role. I prefer it to either of his Oscar winning turns.

But don’t forget Tim Burton or the screenwriters. This is a beautifully set table. At some point in the first act, I found myself deeply excited about having a director with such a sure grasp taking me on this journey. I was reminded oh what it is like to see a film in which the director really understands the frame. It may seem basic, but it has become increasingly rare.

Like a movie star who has put aside his/her trademark schtick aside for a role, this is a most unexpected turn from Burton. It still has his flair, but he’s dialed it down to the point where if you didn’t know it was a Burton film, you wouldn’t guess. Some things might seem “Burtonesque,” but aside from a few imagined visions of Keane’d people, nope. But you can feel that the film is being shot by a master.

And for me, Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski’s screenplay just kept teeing up great stuff. It’s so complex… yet so simple. There are great beats. Great lines. But they never get in the way of the story by being too clever. And unlike their bios of Flynt and Kaufman, there isn’t so much story here that they have to fight to get it all out. This story is smaller, so we have lots of time to linger. And when these guys linger, scenes hum.

All said and done, the story of Big Eyes for me… a movie what seems to be the least subtle art ever that is quietly, persuasively, relentlessly about the heart of an artist. And a group of artists.

Weekend Estimates by Mockingbusiness Klady

Sunday, November 23rd, 2014

Weeekend Estimates 2014-11-23 at 8.59.37 AM

Oscar Business Chart
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Friday Estimates by MockingLen, Part 1

Saturday, November 22nd, 2014

Friday Estimates 2014-11-22 at 9.00.10 AM

So. Hunger.

There are no sure answers after one day. Just aren’t. Is this film—a middle film in a four-film set—going to accelerate or just be less popular than the rest? Not sure. But I can tell you that the domestic on the Potter finale, Part One, ended up being #4 in the series while the final finale was #1. Worldwide it was #3 vs. 7a’s #1… a massive 40% behind the ultimate finale. But there is this… the international number for 7a was the second best in Potter history, behind only 7b.

On Twilight, the first half of the finale also dipped domestically, behind the two films before it and the one after. Internationally, as with Potter, the Part 1 of the 2 part finale was the second strongest performer of the series.

As for the opening day number, here is how I would choose to parse it. There have been 19 days—opening or otherwise —of $40 million or more in the last three years. There have been just nine Fridays over $40 million in the last 3 years. There was Transformers 4 with $42 million. And now, Mockingjay. Last year, there were 3: Man of Steel ($44m), Iron Man 3 ($69m), and Catching Fire ($71m). (THG was the only one without the word “man” in the title… feminists of the world, you are welcome for that micro-stat.) In 2012, there were four: THG with $67m, Twilight 4b with $71m, TDKR with $76m, and Avengers with $81m.

In simpler terms… great launch for this year, significantly off of the previous film in the franchise… and wait for the international numbers before anyone makes a boo-boo face about these numbers. (Because we now live in a movie world where people complain about $100m+ domestic openings that aren’t big enough.)

There are dozens of factors in this situation. And… no one really knows. But I can tell you that the Hollywood Reporter story on the drop in the Lionsgate stock price on Friday after it seemed likely that this weekend’s release would open under $150 million was wildly misleading, as the Lionsgate stock price peaked for the year earlier in the week in anticipation of THG3 and the Friday drop brought the stock down to its 6th or 7th best closing number on a day of the entire year.

If you want to worry about Lionsgate stock price, this time next year would be a good time… if the company isn’t sold by then.

Will Mockingjay Part 1 open to $122m, reflecting the weekend wave of Catching Fire? No one knows. Will it open to more than $150m domestic as the first two films in the franchise did? Probably not. Could the film still outperform Catching Fire worldwide? Yes. Will it be the #1 THG film internationally? Probably.

There are other films at the box office this weekend. Big Hero 6 continues to float between Wreck-It-Ralph and Frozen. Dumb & Dumber To dropped hard, though not much of a surprise there. In a rarity for a U.S. comedy, they will be keeping a close eye on international on this one, as the first film performed unusually well overseas.

Interstellar is going to be in a fight for screens as it tries to get to $150m domestic. It should still make it because of the Thanksgiving holiday. But not a cakewalk. I expect an announcement that international has hit $300m this weekend, making $500m worldwide a lock and offers the possibility of $600m worldwide. But do keep an eye on the Chinese piece of that number, which returns less than half the rental that other international markets do.

Gone Girl is closing out, but will pass $155m domestic this weekend. It’s easily Fincher’s biggest domestic hit and should soon become his #1 worldwide grosser.

St. Vincent is also near the end and will close around $40m domestic. Fury is now past Moneyball domestically and internationally.

On the awards stage, Birdman added five screens to 862, but it now over the hump of its domestic revenue picture, unless award season revives it. It will likely pass $20m eventually (February?), but it will have to wait until Thanksgiving to get to $15m. The Theory of Everything expanded by 99 screens to 140 and should double last weekend’s gross.

Very quiet for the non-awards arthouse scene. Only two new films seem likely to crack the $10k per screen level this weekend, A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night on two screens and Monk with a Camera on one.

BYOB: MIke Nichols

Friday, November 21st, 2014

byob_nichols

I don’t want to play “write the best obit.” It’s exhausting already. But…

To paraphrase Cameron Crowe, Mike Nichols work completed me in a way that I didn’t know I needed completing. His films offered me truths that rang in my head as undeniably true, even when I was too young and inexperienced to know why. He never explained… he always showed, whether visually or with a brilliant turn of words crafted with one of the many great writers with whom he worked. And with his death, a feeling of loss, that like the experience of his work, is deeper than I can really understand.

Netflix, Nielsen, and The Elephant In The Room

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014

The Wall Street Journal broke the news that Nielsen will attempt —and likely claim to be 96% accurate regardless—to measure Netflix, Amazon Prime and other streaming viewership numbers using a clever technical trick. Of course, the focus is on knowing what Netflix numbers are to figure out how to best manipulate advertisers on traditional ad-driven television as ratings drop.

Big picture, we are told in the WSJ article, is that content owners are trying to figure out if Netflix cannibalization of their MVPD (cable/satellite) ratings is costing them money versus the prices being paid by Netflix, which are quite high, but perhaps not high enough.

Is this another tipping point? Could be. Might not be.

I think everyone agrees that the genie is out of the bottle. Streaming is not going away. But the issue isn’t really Netflix, but the long tail. Broadcast networks, owned by content producers all, aren’t competing against Netflix and the other streamers. They are competing against reruns. Yes, a new Netflix show may get a lot of attention and even a lot of eyeballs in its first month of release. But that’s not, if reports are to be believed, keeping Netflix on the average subscriber’s TV 60 hours a month. Some docs. Some movies via various movie deals. But mostly, it’s television reruns.

And here is The Elephant.

Netflix doesn’t come close to having the entire back catalog of content. I would guess—and mind you, it is just an educated guess—that Netflix content, as massive a bundle… uh, package as it is, is less than 10% of the television catalogs available. And less than 2% of the movie catalogs.

Netflix has been a great piece of business for content owners. Streaming and the subscription-based financial model are a major paradigm shift. But as the DVD sell-thru business peaked out, there was a softer landing thanks for Netflix and the other streaming companies that followed and also spent wildly. Now, the content creators are waking up to The Elephant… what to do with all this catalog content that isn’t generating revenue now?

Everything on demand was mostly inconceivable any time before 2000. Remember, consumer VHS is less than 40 years old. DVD is less than 20 years old. The tech for more and more streaming is still developing. The single moment viewership of the broadcast networks are still more than the internet can effectively handle. Every time viewership for an event online exceeds a couple of million, the trouble seems to begin. That has improved and will continue to improve. But that’s just normal progress coming. Different, less invasive issue.

There is a lot of chatter—endless chatter—about giving consumers what they want. Well… it’s simple. Consumers want whatever they want within seconds of realizing they want it in the absolute best visual and audio quality in which it is available and for free.

So, let’s take “free” off the table.

Households are spending $80-120 a month to feel like they have the maximum amount of content at their fingertips. Some pay less. Some pay more. Some don’t buy any of it. But basically, that is the range. That is the market. In the US, say $90 a month in 90 million homes makes for a $100 billion a year business opportunity. There are more dollars in both software and hardware, but those (like theatrical movies) are extra opportunities, not the biggest bite.

How many people are watching Netflix and how is that affecting ratings on TV Show X could well be a $25 million a year issue for a network. That’s not nothing. But the big issue isn’t over tens of millions, but tens of billions.

For a big company with a big library, like any of the major studios or Lionsgate, aside from math quibbles over which outside businesses get paid what on which pieces of content, the goal is to maximize the value of that library in any and every way possible. There is nothing siting in the vault accumulating value by being unavailable anymore. Yesterday, there was a press day in Hollywood for a Stanley Kubrick package of films released on Blu-ray… which they have already released a couple times. I’m sure there was some new tidbit in there, but DVD/Blu-ray maximized the opportunity to close to the final degree years ago. The only thing left to do is to invest millions in restoring a lot of films to their original glory. But, sadly, that is becoming a niche business as well.

The simple and incredibly simplified math on Netflix is that it has about a third of US TV households signed up, generating about $3 billion a year and spending about $2 billion a year on programming. That is about $60 a year in content spending per household served. Obviously, this is not a big enough boat for everyone to get aboard. And even if the subscriber based tripled, which has been Netflix’s long-term plan (according to them, on record), it’s still not nearly big enough for everyone.

There are many big players invested in the various ways of selling content. But for library owners, there is only one issue. Again… maximizing revenues for that forever aging content.

Netflix knows that. The reason Netflix is experimenting so aggressively is not because there is a business model in which, for instance, day-’n'-date theatrical/Netflix release makes sense in a way that will really threaten wide-release theatrical films. They are looking for their next model, for two reasons. First, they know that much, much more aggressive competition is coming. The more Netflix grows, the more quickly and aggressively direct competition from the major studios will come. Second, they have first-mover advantage at this point. But in order to keep it, they need to continue to be seen as innovative.

But the real onus is on the television networks and movie distributors. They each have similar revenues to Netflix and a constantly changing profile of how they generate revenues. And there are a ton of deals already in place that have end dates that need to be lined up before they can be leveraged. But there will be a tipping point.

If, say, CBS, could start a streaming platform with shows they have dealt to Netflix, like Cheers, Frasier, Twin Peaks, Family Ties, The Andy Griffith Show, Star Trek, Twilight Zone, Hawaii Five-O, and so many others, plus newer shows, plus the Showtime catalog, plus (assuming Sumner Redstone can muster the strength to bring the two sides of his company in line), the Paramount film catalog and the Nickelodeon catalog and the MTV catalog, etc, etc… and they charged half of what Netflix is charging, could they get to the same 35 million subscriber plateau in a hurry and generate $1.6 billion a year and have complete control of their content?

Thing is, that probably isn’t enough to entice Viacom to make the move right now. But triple that number to 105 million homes and $4.8 billion… all on library content. CBS generates about 3x that, but its costs are so significant that it “only” nets about $1.6 billion a year.

Imagine a world with 5 “Netflixes,” costing about $50 a month and live ad-supported TV costing another $50 a month and you might be looking at the not-so-distant future. Upgrade to ad-free TV (except for live programming) for another $40 a month (or another $480 million each year per million subscribers coming to the provider) and you can imagine the opportunity.

Of course, it will likely be some variation in my imagination and/or others. But my point is, there is a lot of potential revenue out there and it has not begun to be mined in depth by Netfilx or Amazon or any combination of these companies. That revenue, not consumer wishes, will drive the future.

But we are waiting for the tipping point. And when it comes, the networks will stop picking Netflix’s nits and mind their own.

20 Weeks To Oscar – The Ides Of November

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

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It’s still early.

And it’s so f-ing late!

There are a few titles floating out there, waiting for their moment in the spotlight. But it’s getting awfully late to make a first impression.

Why do Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, and The Theory of Everything seem to be in a leading position in the award season? That is, aside from their sparkling movie and performances? Well, in the inimitable words of Madagascar 7: It Must Be Award Season Cause Look At That Zebra’s Balls, they like to move it move it.

These two and Team Theory have been working their asses off for over a month. And do you know what happens when you do that… and you have something people like? You get rewarded with “locked in” status. Well done, Focus.

Boyhood seems to feel like its done its set-up work and will cruise into nominations before they get serious about chasing down the win.

The Imitation Game blitz is heavily Benedict-centric, though he has been away working for most of the season so far. So it pops into the radar view and then, out again. But in a season where nothing seems definitive, this film feels like one of the most likely suspects.

Birdman blasted onto the scene. The phrase that pays on this one is, “I love the film… but Academy… I don’t know.” I’m not sure whether you can kill a Birdman with this weird passive-aggressive ambivalence, but the job for Searchlight is to get people to shut up after the “I love it” part.

Of course, most Best Picture runs are driven by the pursuit of multiple branches of The Academy, building a base for Best Picture, for which everyone votes. So in the case of Birdman, you have Edward Norton and Emma Stone, and the one true lock of this season right now, Michael Keaton. Good with actors.

But wait… let’s look at this…

Best Supporting Actress always seems like a soft area, open to incursion. But after Patricia Arquette, it’s a pretty rough room. Knightley in a BP fave, Stone, Laura Dern who is not only great in Wild but is beloved in town, Jessica Chastain with TWO movies in supporting, the stunning two-scene turn by Vanessa Redgrave in Foxcatcher, Tilda Swinton rocking it in both The Grand Budapest Hotel and Snowpiercer. That’s 6 serious candidates before you get to amazing turns by Carrie Coons, Rene Russo, Greta Gerwig or anyone in the cast of Into The Woods, which could be Meryl Streep (though she doesn’t really do supporting) or “it young woman” Anna Kendrick.

Not an easy category.

Supporting Actor is much easier this year. J.K. Simmons doesn’t need to buy insurance against a nomination. Norton should be undeniable. Ethan Hawke, assuming the support for Boyhood remains strong. Then… blurry. Love Ruffalo and Tatum in Foxcatcher, but have they locked into the thinking of awards voters like Steve Carell has? Both had transformative roles, but they aren’t quite the news that Carell is. Brolin is great fun in Inherent Vice, but do any actors aside from Mr. Phoenix in that film really get credit? John Goodman is, as he often is, magic in The Gambler… but will that movie get enough traction to get him moving towards a deserved nomination? Logan Lerman (And Jon Bernthal, for that matter) should absolutely be in the running for Fury, but that movie, a bigger hit than Moneyball, doesn’t seem to have any traction in its own studio, but less The Academy. If there is a great supporting performance in Into The Woods and/or Unbroken, they could shove right past actors who might otherwise be on the top of this list.

But back to the hard categories… Best Actor.

Keaton, Redmayne, Cumberbatch, Carell. Is that the blockade here? Tim Spall should walk into a nomination… but may not. Jack O’Connell is capable of true greatness… but we will see Unbroken when we see it. (Are the reviews from Australia up yet? I hope not.) Gyllenhaal, Phoenix, Fiennes, Isaac, and Cooper are all viable… all need to somehow crack the code.

And Best Actress, which is really harder to figure than Actor, but doesn’t feel quite a violent.

Assume Julianne Moore, Reese Witherspoon, and Felicity Jones are in… though really, none of them are really locks… they are just really likely at this juncture. Excellent performances all, but none quite feels like the guaranteed winner, whereas in Actor, there are real arguments for any one of those top 4 not just to be nominated, but to win. And then you get to more complex situations. Weinstein Co seems to hate Big Eyes, but Amy Adams is always great and a presumptive nominee. Rosamund Pike, who should have a baby by now, was a solid starter, but the movie seems to be fading from memory, even though it’s doing big box office. Shailene Woodley is a rising star, is great in The Fault In Our Stars, but somehow has people looking like the RCA dog when you talk about her Oscar prospects. Marion Cotillard should be a mortal lock for Two Days, One Night and being discussed for the win… but the same was true of Rust & Bone and she got bupkiss. Jennifer Aniston is still out there in a raw, intimate performance in Cake. Jenny Slate and Gugu Mbatha-Raw are getting a lot of love off the award circuit and will be around for many years to come. There is still Into The Woods. And Hilary Swank.

Do I think the Top 3 are getting nominated. Yeah… pretty likely. In this sleepy award season, it might be time for all the brilliant (not sarcasm in the least) consultants out there to start thinking outside the box that the four-trade, endless covers and Q&A habit has become.

Everyone has become (figuratively) fat and lazy. Too many media outlets are offering up too many shiny objects that, in the end, don’t deliver the goods. Just ask Oprah after last year.

Oscar advertising and hype has become clutter. Glossy magazines full of ads for awards have become the proverbial paper at the bottom of the bird cage. And this is not an insult to those outlets shoving out endless printed ads. This is about being buried in them. I often quote The Incredibles… “When everyone’s super… no one will be.” When everyone is doing the same circuit, over and over, nothing is special anymore. Nothing stands out.

And that is when you get the entire publicity community holding its nose and participating in the stink bomb of The Hollywood Awards. I mean, every publicist I have seen since Friday has brought it up, mocked the show, then acknowledged that it will keep going and get stronger. No one will say “no.”

I am a beneficiary of habit in this business. I am thankful for that. My child is thankful for that. But going back to the smart play of Focus and The Theory of Everything… the only thing that really stands out in this atmosphere is quantity. This is what Harvey Weinstein has known and practiced for years. He works his talent to the (rich people’s) bone and they get rewarded and those movies have, mostly, been rewarded.

But there has got to be a better way.

It’s going to get quiet after this week. And then, when we get back from Thanksgiving, it is going to be insane, as there is a very real opportunity for a lot of people and films to break through when normally everything is pretty locked down by this time of year. Madhouse. And then, nominations and awards will start being announced. And there will be a little more clarity… but still an uncertain march to Oscar nominations.

Break the clutter… win the race. Or just keep playing the imitation game… even though you know it ends with chemical castration.

BYOB 111614

Sunday, November 16th, 2014

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Weekend Estimates by 20 Years Later Klady

Sunday, November 16th, 2014

Weekend Estimates 2014-11-16 at 10.24.21 AM

Pretty nice box office weekend overall.

Let’s start with… Warner Bros is kicking itself this weekend. Not only did they lose out on a relatively cheap hit movie, but they gave up on a franchise that defined their New Line division. There were only fifteen $100m domestic movies in the history of New Line and D&D was one of them. Look for the long slumbering resurrection of The Mask to suddenly heat up.

This is also an excellent way to track the change in the box office from 20 years ago until today. The 1994 movie was #1 for 4 weekends through the Christmas movie period, opening on December 16. The top weekend gross by D&D during that run was $16.4 million. What is roughly the same weekend last year had 3 or 4 (depending on which weekend you choose to match) films grossing over $16 million and one of those films grossing over $30 million.

Comparing this opening to other openings in the second weekend of November hammock, you find almost all franchise films trying to squeeze an extra week in before a Thanksgiving Day payoff. Twilight, Potter, Bond. 2012 and Happy Feet are the the anomalies. And then, you have D&D2. In that company, D&D2 is an extremely impressive opening.

More to come…

3:26p – Apologies. My Firefox browser has become unwieldy and it seems I have to switch to another. Trying Chrome now.

Big Hero 6 has the 2nd best 10-day number for a November Disney animation release behind only Frozen. There have only been 3 Pixar releases in November and BH6 is behind 2 of them, The Incredibles and Toy Story 2, though just barely on the latter. So things are going quite well, if not singularly.

Interstellar is doing well… though it’s 3rd and 4th weekend are not going to intimidate Hunger Games or even Horrible Bosses Deux. The film should hit $100m domestic tomorrow. The film’s already at $224m internationally, so they are doing well there. If you look at Inception, from the time the film had a $28m weekend, there would only be another $55m in the tank. And that film only had one drop of over 40% before weekend 13 domestically, so I don’t foresee anything better for Interstellar. Even with Thanksgiving coming, $150 million domestic seems the likely domestic total… maybe $160m. Worldwide, $600 million would be a positive-leaning total. Not chickenfeed. But it’s against a very big investment.

Action movies took the biggest hit in the Top 20 this weekend. Not brutal, but decent holds across the board for the other genres.

Birdman continues to lead the limited scene on 857 screens with an estimated $2,830 per and $2.4 million.

Foxcatcher opened on 6 screens to a strong $46k per screen. The hard road for this excellent-but-challenging film is ahead.

Rosewater opened on 371 screens and did a nice $3,180 per for $1.2 million.

The Homesman did $11.5k per on 5 screens, which is not bad.

And Nightcrawler, which feels pretty indie, but is on 2103 screens, pulled in another $2.9 million and is just under $25m so far.

Godard’s Goodbye To Language continues to draw a hardcore crowd.

Friday Estimates by Klady & Kladier To

Saturday, November 15th, 2014

Friday Estimates 2014-11-15 at 9.09.28 AM

So… there is clearly an audience for the return of the real D&D guys. Huzzah.

$20m+ second weekends for both Big Hero 6 and Interstellar. Good. Not game changing… but good.

Beyond The Lights is soft… though the outdoor is beautiful. The problem is, the pitch really made the film not only unlikely to draw white people, but a turn off to black men.

Nice holds throughout the Top 10, no one down more than 50%.

Birdman is seeing the top of the box office mountaintop, unless the awards push gives it a second life. And 85% increase in screens and an estimated 3% growth in box office tells us that there is a finite universe for the film. Searchlight went out earlier and has been much more aggressive than on, say, Slumdog Millionaire. I think they know there is a cap on the box office success of the film, are pushing to get a nice number, will narrow the screen count after Thanksgiving, then see what happens with awards.

Foxcatcher is the per-screen hero of the weekend with what looks like $35k or so on its 5 screens. The Homesman is chasing $10k per screen on 4. Decent numbers for both, but again, not thrillers. Sony Classics will keep building Fox and look for it to expand its base with awards wins.

Mr Turner, Timothy Spall

Friday, November 14th, 2014

Weekend Estimates by Big Space Klady 6

Sunday, November 9th, 2014

Weekend Estimates 2014-11-09 at 9.06.41 AM

Based on Friday, nothing remotely surprising is going on with the estimates. Family movies expand significantly over Saturday and Sunday. Films for the over-12 set tend to pop a little on Saturday then drop a bit on Sunday making for some variation on 3x Friday. Box office 101. There are outliers, as there are for all things. But when the animated film is less than 10% behind the live-action non-family film on Friday, bet on the animated film to win that battle over the 3-day.

Big Hero 6 is a good opening. Interstellar is a good opening. They are both within the Top 26 of all-time amongst November openings. And neither is in the Top 15 or best in class for the first weekend of the month or anything else super-special. For Big Hero 6, this suggests a $200m+ domestic gross. For Interstellar, it suggests something like a $150m domestic gross.

Additionally, the domestic suggests somewhere between $300m and $400m international for Interstellar (handled by Warner Bros). And then there will be the question… if Interstellar does less than $500m or $600m worldwide (vs $826m for Inception), is it a winner or a loser for Christopher Nolan? And how does it affect the funding of the next movie? And the “it’s Chris Nolan’s world and we are all just his serfs” stories?

Big Hero 6, by the way, looks like $600m worldwide at minimum. The film is kissing cousins with anime’ and it could be unusually huge overseas… or not. Time will tell.

Those two films made up 68% of the total domestic box office this weekend. Only two films in 24 next highest grosses did over $3000 per screen – Birdman ($4850 per on 462) and Whiplash ($3660 on 88).

On the under 100 screen scene, The Theory of Everything found a solid start on 5 screens with $41k per. Citizenfour continues to draw nicely with $3580 per on 59 screens. And in exclusives (1 or 2 screens) Godard’s Goodbye To Language and Wiseman’s National Gallery continue to be strong.

Back to the wide releases, Gone Girl, St Vincent, and Fury were the strong holders. The rest were all over 40% (aside from low-count hits like Guardians and Turtles finding a new wave from second run).

Look for Big Hero 6 to “win” next weekend too. The real mystery will be the size of the audience that will show up for a Dumb & Dumber sequel.

This is, I have to say, not a very exciting Thanksgiving window. Congrats if you are a Hunger Games fan, but aside from that, there is a Penguins spin-off which will surely be popular and a Horrible Bosses sequel, but nothing really interesting to dig into. If you want film excitement over the holiday, it’s the arthouse fare, with Foxcatcher, Rosewater, The Homesman, The Imitation Game, and continued expansions of Birdman, Whiplash, and The Theory of Everything. Given that I have seen all of those movies more than once already, I am hungry for a Tim Burton or a Wachowski or something challenging on the long weekend after the turkey. Looks like I will be one of the many sneaking into guild screenings of Unbroken or checking out Into The Woods a second time or seeing Birdman or Foxcatcher a third time if I want something really exciting to chew on.

Friday Estimates by InterHero Len

Saturday, November 8th, 2014

Friday Estimates 2014-11-08 at 9.58.18 AM

So… another weekend in which the #1 movie is not the #1 movie on each day of the weekend. Happened last weekend too. Then this week, Nightcrawler “won” Monday and Tuesday, the non-digital limited launch of Interstellar “won” Wednesday, Fury “won” Thursday and now, Interstellar‘s expansion “wins” Friday while Big Hero 6 will surely “win” Saturday and Sunday.

Being #1 really is meaningless aside from its marketing value. And that’s not even taking in the reality of international box office domination into account. If you are reading this, you know my routine on this… but still… demand better from your “box office analysts.” Not having a sophisticated view of box office in 2014 is an abuse of readers, wholly separate from whether people agree on the ultimate meaning of the numbers.

Anyway… strong starts, but not overwhelming starts for both Interstellar and Big Hero 6.

The 10 best launches in November are all after the first weekend of November. The five best openings on the first weekend of November are 4 animated films, ranging from $49 million to $70.5 million. The top live-action opening on the first weekend of November is also the only one to open to more than $45 million is The Matrix Revolutions, with $48.5 million. The #2 in this category is American Gangster with $43.6 million.

So Big Hero 6 has started right between the animated Ralph and Monsters. Figure mid-50s.

Interstellar will surely pass Gangster, but will probably be a little short of Matrix 3 (which by the way, siphoned off $35m of its opening weekend on Wed-Thurs)… but close. Could be anywhere $46m – $49m. It would not be surprising at all for the estimate tomorrow to be over $49 million and the “actual” to be $48m or less. And, of course, this film will have much better legs than Matrix 3. Also, for the record, this opening is about 23% off of the summer opening of Inception.

No one else will see $7 million this weekend.

Many of the Friday estimates are seeming better than they otherwise would because of Halloween last Friday.

Ouija continues to hold unexpectedly well. Can you say, “girls”? 44% is one of the bigger drops on the board… but it’s horror… in its third weekend.

Gone Girl has gone into second run, boosting their take Friday-vs-last-Friday by 2% yesterday and probably something similar tomorrow.

Nightcrawler had a pretty good Friday after opening drop, even with Interstellar coming in strong. High 30s drop is where this will probably land, which is actually quite good.

Fury is the silent hit of the season. The film is over $100m worldwide already and will pass the worldwide on Moneyball by the end of the weekend… domestic in a few weeks.

Nice hold for St. Vincent.

In the limited release market, Focus’ The Theory of Everything will do mid-30ks per-screen on 5 this weekend. Solid, but not overwhelming.

Birdman is up to 462 screens and looking at around $4k per for the weekend.

Nothing exciting for well-loved films Actress and National Gallery.

20 Weeks To Oscar: A Thin Line Between Love & Hate

Thursday, November 6th, 2014

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Jessica Chastain is a bona fide trouper when it comes to promoting her movies. She is not only willing… she makes it look like she wants to be doing it.

So this morning, when the New York Times’s Michael Cieply dropped “One Star, 2 Films and Conflict (sub hed) Jessica Chastain in a Publicity Tug of War,” it clarified what anyone covering the season has known for a week or two or more… Jessica was not available for A Most Violent Year, for which Oscar Isaacs and JC Chandor are doing press this week. Some of us knew more about what was going on. Some knew less. A24 has been hedging. But now, thanks to the New York Times, it has become a public issue.

I will spare you the lecture about whether this is News in any legitimate way. (In my opinion, it is not. It is gossip that is only deeply inside baseball.)

But the question stands… who benefits and who is damaged by the story being out there… and more specifically, the story the way it is being told by the NYT?

This time of year, it is common to connect a story like this to a “dirty tricks” campaign. But it is very possible, that faced with a lack of access to Chastain, the New York Times and Mr. Cieply simply followed the trail and came up with this story, no one inducing the effort in any way. Personally, I think it is the most probable case, as Team A24 is not exactly The Dirty Tricks Squad.

But when people start answering questions under the protection of anonymity (“isn’t identified for lack of wanting to be seen taking a position on this in the New York Times because there is only downside from being quoted in a story like this”)… well, professional spinners are gonna spin. And professional reporters are, it seems, going to take a side when they don’t have truly firm facts.

As a result, there are still winners and losers.

“Mr. Nolan and others, for the most part, are enforcing an agreement that says she cannot campaign for any film but Mr. Nolan’s from early October through early December, with the exception of her appearance at the premiere on Thursday, according to people briefed on the dispute.”

Read: This is Christopher Nolan’s thing, not Paramount’s.

“Speaking on Wednesday from Washington, where she is on a press tour for ‘Interstellar,’”… “(Chastain) noted that Mr. Nolan had personally helped her get out of an appearance on “The Late Show With David Letterman” so she could attend the premiere for ‘A Most Violent Year.’”

Read: This is Christopher Nolan’s thing, not Paramount’s.

“Mr. Chandor and his backers—Participant Media and the independent distributor A24—believed that Ms. Chastain, while blocked from media appearances, would be allowed to attend the screenings and get-togethers that are de rigueur for those seeking Golden Globes and other prizes that pave the way to the Oscars.”

Read: Jessica is being disallowed from participating in the (idiotic) HFPA news conference tomorrow that is, however, pretty much 100% required in order to get a nomination from the awards groups of random semi-journalists. Also, no SAG nom com Q&A this weekend. Etc, etc, etc.

“Mr. Nolan and his backers have insisted that Ms. Chastain’s contract forbids even those semiprivate encounters and have not given in to pleas from Mr. Chandor, A24 and others for a waiver. Next week, however, she will be permitted to attend a private tastemakers’ screening at the Creative Artists Agency here.”

Read: Again, it’s Nolan, not Paramount. Jessica will be in LA and available for at least 3 or 4 days… but will not be allowed to support this movie that will have a total marketing budget that is less than what Paramount will spend on Interstellar this week. “Pleas.”

“Paramount Pictures, which is distributing “Interstellar” in the United States, and Warner Bros., which is releasing it abroad, declined to comment, as did representatives for Mr. Chandor and A24. Kelly Bush, who represents Mr. Nolan, also did not comment.”

Read: None of these people or companies spoke on the record or even on background. But someone representing every one of these companies talked to the reporter. And unmentioned is Ms. Chastain’s representation, who both in logic and their absence remain the most logical candidates for intel about the boundaries places on the actress… though I have no doubt that Ms. Chastain would not be happy if it turned out that they were exposed as a key source for this story. So maybe they are just innocently on this ride as well.

And so… why is this story out there?

Is it a coincidence that this story ran the morning of the premiere of the film at AFI and before the HFPA press conference and the press engagement?

Hard to say… but no. I would say that NYT put a piece of provocation into the ether, not really in control of the story. The timing is a function of the expected availability. But why not hold the story until Violent has premiered and Interstellar opens wide, given that by next Tuesday, we will know if Ms. Chastain ended up participating in any events, thus turning a conflict into News that has occurred? Could be purposeful. Or it could be that no one really cares about News anymore… they care about speculating until something becomes news, noting the News without admitting having speculated poorly, and then moving on to the next speculation.

Who is the story aimed at? The press. Media companies do this now. Getting linked and mentioned matters as much, if not more, than actual reporting.

It might also be aimed at the HFPA, which would forgive Chastain and A Most Violent Year for her no-show and punish Interstellar‘s Nolan for causing it.

And now the story is, “Poor little A Most Violent Year. That bully Christopher Nolan and his Steve Jobs cover wardrobe are trying to destroy this lovely little movie made on Interstellar‘s craft service budget.”

I am not the biggest fan of Interstellar… but this is not fair to the hundreds of people who made the movie.. or Paramount… or Warner Bros… or Chris Nolan, for that matter. He may be the nasty mastermind of narrowing Ms. Chastain’s and her other film’s opportunity. But he may not. Remember, she signed this agreement and there is little doubt that when she did, there was good faith on both sides.

Paramount hasn’t given me jackshit from Interstellar. Christopher Nolan has joined in on some of the most insipid coverage of his career, heavily controlling the idea that everything about his movie is a spoiler. And media has ceded control to him like the sheep we have become. So I have every reason to be privately happy to see The Man take a big bite from a NYT-sized shit sandwich this morning. But I am not happy. I am not okay with it.

I do not have a right to get what I want from whom I want. I do not have a right to access. I can make legitimate arguments about the value of my work all day long and it just doesn’t matter. People, whether Nolan or his reps or the studio or their reps and on an on, make choices. That is their prerogative. That is their business. And my frustration with their choices does not make the interaction between us into News.

This kind of thing is a constant in our little universe of talent wrangling. There are all kinds of internal dramas through award season. But we don’t report them. I have a dozen DP/30 interviews scheduled in the current 7 days. Five of them are with likely Oscar nominees. Almost every single one of them has moved at least once this week. Two of them are still in flux. And in the specific instance of A Most Violent Year, I was forced to not shoot Oscar Isaac or to wait for his return to town so we can shoot him and J.C. Chandor together… and that was yesterday afternoon for a Friday shoot. You don’t see me writing it up as a news story. I may be shooting Sunday. I may not. There are people promoting the same movie who are not working together on the awards push. There are personal publicists tearing up schedules. There are conflicts everywhere.

And Christopher Nolan may, indeed, be acting like an ass. It may be 100% on him. But I don’t know that. You don’t know that (well, a dozen of you reading this do know). And as things go, it is not your place or mine in print to speculate.

This is work product, gang. This is the job that I choose to do and a part of that is navigating bullshit. This is not an ongoing public conversation.

You may want to know what is going on… but it’s really none of your damned business. Sorry. But it just isn’t.

How many times do I hear, ‘This is just between us,’  on a given day this time of year? More than I can remember. Some meetings have a dozen instances. And this is with people who know that I am not going to burn them.

So… is it a muscle flex by the NYT? Could be. Is it just a way of getting attention? Could be. Do the editors at NYT really think this is News? Could be.

If I had to speculate, I would guess that A24 is hoping that this story in the NYT will embarrass Nolan enough to make him cough up some flexibility… and that Paramount really wouldn’t mind that so much because the “arrogant” tag on Nolan is already causing them grief in positioning what will surely be a very popular movie for Oscar season… and that Ms. Chastain would really like to not be being discussed in this regard… and that her team probably thinks she is a better candidate for Oscar from the Chandor film than from the Nolan.

But I could be wrong on every single one of those speculations. Dead wrong. Or half of them. Or one of them. And when the NYT speculates like some blogger at a bar, it becomes News. And that ain’t right.

I know one thing… there are a lot of angry people this morning. Some are hiding, some are giggling and some are seriously considering whether anyone should be fired.

This, my friends, is the kind of story that gets people fired. Maybe not this week. (Too obvious.) But soon.

I am pretty sure that I will know what actually happened by the end of the weekend. But I am sorry to say, I won’t be writing a sequel to this column with the details. They were private a couple days ago. And next week, they will be treated like state secrets.

I’m going to the movie tonight, by the way. I hope Jessica kicks some serious ass. She usually does. Oscar, too. And would love this to be the best work from Chandor, as some have told me it is.

But I can be sure that after 30 seconds of “The movie was XXXX or XXXX,” the conversation will turn to this morning’s “news.” And that’s a shame. There is no doubt that the movie will have been much more interesting.

BYOB 110514

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

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Weekend Estimates by Not Quite Crawler Klady

Sunday, November 2nd, 2014

Weekend Estimates 2014-11-02 at 9.04.46 AM

So Saturday was as strong as Friday was soft and the weekend looks surprisingly strong overall. If you look back at the last Friday Halloween, the numbers didn’t recover nearly as well over the rest of the weekend, not just for the new films but for the holdovers.

Even today, it is possible that Nightcrawler will win the weekend. $200k isn’t that hard to overcome on a day and as you all know, these Sunday a.m. estimates can’t actually know what the Sunday numbers will be. And for a movie estimating a $10m weekend, you’re looking, roughly, a $3m Sunday estimate, meaning that a 10% shift is completely possible. Burt give it up for Ouija for even being in the fight. Even if the drop ended up being 50% and not Klady’s estimated 45%, that’s really good for a horror film these days.

Strong hold for Fury, blowing past Moneyball by $11 million after their respective first 3 weekends, the space between the two growing each weekend. Sony… this is a Best Picture movie. Time to get on the stick. $80 million is now a likely low-end guess at the total gross for this film domestically and there could be more with a serious Oscar push. And looking at the awards field, it would be one of the top grossing nominees if you turned this trick. Get going.

Gone Girl is another holdover monster. If nominated, it will likely be the 2nd highest grossing film on the board (#1 should be Interstellar… unless it stalls and/or if Exodus ends up being a serious Oscar film). Fox kinda overpromised on release, but it’s about time for a serious re-positioning of the film in the awards race. Audiences matter a lot in the Oscar race when they love a film. And for all the quality being rolled out right now, this is still a hot audience film. Use that.

The glorious animated film, The Book of Life, is holding firm, even if it doesn’t have the support it deserves from Fox.

Nice hold for St. Vincent. The film had a, roughly, 10% screen expansion this weekend, but the -2% hold is still very strong. TWC has to be happy with the weekend. The question is still, however, has the film peaked or is there more?

And Disney’s well-regarded family outing, Alexander & The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day is staying sticky, the only film in wide release besides Book of Life really good for the whole family… especially the littler ones. By this time next week, it will become the #1 non-animated, non-Marvel movie for Disney this year domestically.

The Maze Runner cume is going to get to $100 million, which seems surprising as the title has barely been whispered since opening weekend. International is heading to $200 million. So, a $300m+ franchise on the first film. And it was made on what appears to be a very tight budget. So that is a massive hit, in terms of profitability.

Birdman spreads his delusional wings to 231 screens and a $10,560 per screen estimated average. A good sign. It suggests that the film may be able to get up to and perhaps past the $25 million mark. And with a strong awards push, who knows?

The other big per-screen players on more than a couple screens are Whiplash ($4k per on 61), Citizenfour ($5k per on 37), Force Majeure ($3700 per on 24), and Laggies ($4k per on 16). Those 4 films are from 4 different distributors… which seems quite healthy for the indie business.

DP/30 One Question: Mike Leigh, “So, criticism matters to you?”

Saturday, November 1st, 2014

DP/30 One Question: Dan Gilroy, Where Is The Sex Scene In Nightcrawler?

Saturday, November 1st, 2014

Friday Estimates by NightKlady

Saturday, November 1st, 2014

Fri Est corrected 2014-11-01 at 9.05.01 AM

In yet another example of Friday Estimates done during the day on Friday being proven to be a bad practice, Ouija wins the holi-horror-day over Nightcrawler by $200k. There is a still a good chance that Nightcrawler will win the weekend, but perhaps not with the double-digit gross that two Penske outlets guessed at based on Friday matinees on the east coast.

The last time Halloween fell on a Friday was 2008 and there were openings at $10.1m and $5.4m. Zack & Miri Make A Porno opened to $2.2m on Friday, but more than doubled that on Saturday and had $3m on Sunday. What does that mean for Nightcrawler? Well, the opening Friday for Crawler is 45% higher than Z&M, so if the math holds, Nightcrawler could do $14.6 million. Will it? Probably not. Porno was a teen play and Crawler is more of an adult play, so the Saturday bounce will likely be more modest. Still, $10 million-plus for the 3-day is very possible.

Ouija is an unknown. There was a 59% Friday-to-Friday drop, so the story is not pretty, even if it owns the top slot. Yet, the film had a pretty good Saturday last weekend – as horror films go – and who knows what will happen today as the teens look for something to do after a night of candy and pranks?

Fury is doing better business than the buzz would suggest, coming close or passing $60 million on this, its third weekend. Really, Gone Girl, which is easily the biggest hit of Sept/Oct, is also not getting the hum that it deserves from its numbers (passing $130m domestic today) either. The news cycle has become so hyperactive and movie coverage so obsessed with what is opening every single weekend that there is a distinct lack of institutional memory past each Monday.

Not much happening on the indie scene. Will be watching to see if St Vincent makes a recovery over the the weekend or if it has hit its maturity and has topped out.

20 Weeks To Oscar: Sell Short

Friday, October 31st, 2014

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The is something new happening in this business of the same old song & dance (taken literally as the game plan for the producers of the award show these last two years).

I don’t think anyone has conspired, but it feels as though this entire awards business has been quite seriously shortened. When the completely meaningless Hollywood Film Awards are handed out in mid-November, it really will be “the kick-off of the award season.”

Yes… of course there are campaigns going on.

Yes… of course there were a slew of launches at film festivals in September and AFI is a week out from slinging the latest pack of awards hopefuls in our general direction.

Yes… Eddie Redmayne has fabulous suits.

But for as busy as things have been these last few weeks, it’s been kinda slow.

it’s been 3 weeks since Birdman flew into NY and became a critics’ darling. Since then, it’s really only been Interstellar. And that’s a release campaign so far… even if they are doing Guild and Academy Q&As by the ton.

Nightcrawler, a film I love, but is challenging for Academy members (and is with Open Road, which doesn’t have a ton to spend on Academy) has taken up a lot of the conversation lately, in great part because no one else is out there pushing. I would love to see Jake Gyllenhaal get the nomination for the amazing work he has delivered in the last few years, particularly in this part. But he won’t really be here doing heavy lifting until next week. Same with Steve Carrell, Channing Tatum, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Timothy Spall.

And Best Actor contenders like David Oweyelo, Oscar Isaacs, and Jack O’Connell aren’t even set to come onto the field yet, as their films have not been seen, though Isaacs’ A Most Violent Year film lands at AFI—in the Kodak, no less next week. O’Connell’s Unbroken is scheduled to start screening for guilds/unions over Thanksgiving weekend. And Oweyalo’s Selma… well, who knows?

Jessica Chastain is also arriving with the AFI premiere of A Most Violent Year. And everyone is inundated with Reese Witherspoon for Wild, right? No? Amy Adams for Big Eyes? No? We’ll all have been going to the round-the-clock screenings of Still Alice, for which Julianne Moore is guaranteed the Oscar she has deserved for so many years… ya?

Oh.

And those are four of the six current Gurus o’ Gold frontrunners for Best Actress nominations. (Rosamund Pike, off having a baby sometime soon in the UK, and Felicity Jones are the others.)

You’re not late to the party. It just hasn’t really started yet. And it doesn’t much matter that, Still Alice, for instance, was at Toronto. It was seen. It was liked and loved. There is even Supporting Actress buzz out there for Kristen Stewart. But until people who actually vote start seeing the film in numbers, we’re just not out of the gates.

And by the way… the aforementioned, utterly corrupt Hollywood Film Awards, which are nothing but a marketing tool created by a conman that will not be called out by 90%+ of the media because they are participating in the gravy, moved from mid-October to mid-November with no fanfare at all… because the studios wanted it that way. Historically, The Carlos Awards (my name for them, honoring the scumbag who created them) gave the distributors a red carpet platform in October, where there was none. NYFF ends that first week of October. They wanted something between then and AFI where talent could look great in photos serviced to the world (and voters). But the idea of a TV event in October was not so pleasurable. And so, it’s now in November, between AFI and Thanksgiving. And have no doubt, there will be films that were no complete whether the awards were chosen that will get Carloses this year…. because there is no voting involved… just marketing.

It’s November 1 tomorrow and none of the Top 5 Gurus o’ Gold Supporting Actress candidates has really shown their face at all outside of film festivals… which were weeks and weeks ago already. Arquette, Knightley, Dern, Stone, Streep. The only one in the group whose film is still in hiding is Streep. And she is Streep! But I gotta say… it’s not like we have been inundated with wannabe climbers into the nomination game. (Hmmm… The Nomination Game… almost like a movie title…)

Fury has been spinning its wheels. Forget Pitt… where’s Logan Lerman? Is anyone in The Grand Budapest Hotel still alive? I’d love to see that movie emerge, but it’s not going to happen without anyone asking. Do Jennifer Aniston’s people think that a Pete Hammond grease-up online (or in an advertorial magazine) is going to get her into the Best Actress race? Cause, with due respect to Pete love, not close to being enough… not even a serious starter kit. Shailene Woodley is truly wonderful in The Fault In Our Stars, but if she is not present – a lesson from the movie? – her candidacy isn’t going to be alive in February.

Yeah… some people get exemptions. Bradley Cooper starts previews on Broadway next week for “The Elephant Man” and the show runs until the week before Oscar. I’m sure there are plenty of people working on movies and such. That is the nature of things. But almost no one is taking serious advantage of the quiet before the storm. And when the storm comes, only those with deep roots tend to make it through.

Of course, there are other reasons for the unofficially shortened season. Talent burns out… some even before they start campaigning. And there are very few films using Oscar season as a catapult for their films nowadays. It’s “sell the movie” first, then chase awards.

In the real world, where studios are just selling movies with massive marketing campaigns, the marketing windows have shrunk in recent years. Big TV buys, it seems, can wait for 3 weeks out if the awareness has been pumped up via publicity for the months and months before. This is why ComicCon has value. it doesn’t sell movie tickets. But it’s an awareness launching pad. And as such, it can be a key part of the marketing puzzle. They still have to sell the movies, but awareness is step one.

Have Oscar campaigners taken this lesson to heart? Are the early September festivals just an awareness play, followed by a 6 – 8 week window of lingering, and then the real campaign in the course of just a few weeks? Then leave the real fighting for Phase II (after Oscar nods)?

It sure seems that way. Both Gone Girl and Birdman were released off of the NYFF event marketing. Gone Girl‘s done great. We’ll see what the Birdman story looks like as it plays out. But the rest? Apparently, they can wait… all those whiny features about too many movies too late in the season for voters to catch up be damned!