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Disney + Fox: Bigger Than The Media Is Suggesting

Thursday, December 14th, 2017

Here is the cocktail napkin math:  Netflix – $9 billion a year. DirecTV & Comcast cable alone – $90 billion a year.

So… who do you think Disney is going after with this merger? That’s a rhetorical question, because only blinders big enough for the Trojan Horse could lead to the “they are going after Netflix” angle.

Streaming is not a business. It is a delivery system. It is a delivery system that allows a new paradigm. All hail Netflix, the first to go there seriously.

But what Disney needs to make this merger a success is to get you and me and at least 75 million domestic households to sign up for three or four “Netflixes” under their massive umbrella of content. $30 to $40 a month.

And in order to get more than 10 million people to do that, they need more consumers to cut or significantly shave the cord. The fight is with AT&T/DirecTV and Comcast, trying to take money out of their pockets… you know, where the money is.

I am a little horrified by Disney eating Fox, including a movie studio that will, in a few years, cease to exist as more than a brand. That’s not good for consumers.

However, I have to applaud Disney for not ostriching, like most of the majors, and instead taking on the reality of the future, right now. Original content will continue to have value, but Dinsey sees that – aside from sports – the long tail is killing the long-term value of individual bits of content. There will be more revenue produced by more content for, virtually, ever… but the big bites of revenue will come early and not later (this includes theatrical, which will become more important moving forward).

There can’t be fifty $10 a month streaming subscription businesses with more than 10 million subs. It can’t work.

There can’t be five $10 a month streaming subscription businesses with more than 10 million subs… not so long as cable/satellite remains in 90 million domestic households.

Disney needs your $30 a month. That is where they are heading. And the only way to get there is to get the average cable or satellite bundle (and it’s ALL bundling… Netflix is a bundle… wake up, semantic BSers!) to $60 a month.

Both Comcast and AT&T need to angle toward that eventuality being as profitable as their current configurations. And they can. They could start by removing ESPN and the $6 a month they are paying per customer from your bill (although it will be a while before that happens).

That is where we are heading now, thanks to Disney. AT&T/DirecTV will be the home of HBO, all Time-Warner content, the massive Warner Bros library of TV and film and more. Don’t be surprised if they, eventually, buy the Fox broadcast network. Comcast will be the home of NBC-TV, Universal film and TV product and more. Disney will be ABC, ESPN, etc.

There is room for ONE more major player. One. Netflix can keep rolling along with $10 a month. Or the company will be acquired by Amazon or Apple and become the fourth major across-the-board $30 a month entertainment monolith, starting with a 50 million domestic subscriber advantage.

Who will buy all of Viacom, including the CBS TV network? Who will buy the Fox broadcast network? These businesses will be extremely valuable for another 10 – 15 years before becoming nothing but brands (the definition of which will include the idea of weekly episodics).

Not to put too fine a point on it, but this is not a revolution. It’s not disruption. It’s a re-consolidation, finally nodding to the change that streaming delivery of content demands.

Review-ish: Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Spoiler-Free)

Tuesday, December 12th, 2017


Have we ever had a relaunch followed immediately by a reboot?

Rian Johnson’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi is not, as many hoped, a “middle” Star Wars movie, with the emotional impact of The Empire Strikes Back. And that is why many reviews will come off as disappointed. But they are dead wrong.

The Last Jedi is the Star Wars revival that The Force Awakens utterly failed to deliver.

I wasn’t so enthralled by TLJ in the early going. The opening action sequence was good, but slow and a little too complicated. There were too many cutesy jokes. But toward the end of the sequence, the first glimmer of what Rian Johnson was really after… a new visual idea, a powerful, personal, emotional moment for a character we barely know… yeah.

And again… a bit too much meandering, re-establishing the characters, cute CG animals, three jokes when 1 would have been enough.

But somewhere around the middle, The Last Jedi asserts itself as the template for the Star Wars future. A couple great new characters who you care about seeing again. A couple new characters who you would be just as happy to see get sabered. Romantic relationships seeded. Actual character ideas for Poe Dameron. Snoke as a fully actualized character.

But most importantly, Johnson resets the central characters and sets the direction forward. What is the relationship between Rey and Finn? Can we stop trying to figure out where Rey came from? How does Kylo Ren relate to Rey? Will the Luke & Leia story be important?

And Johnson also establishes which characters who came from Force Awakens are important and which are expendable. In this regard, he is a little rude at times… which I love. I mean, kill f-ing Negan already! Enough! Rian Johnson would have had Carl pluck out both Negan’s eyes then let Maggie snip off his testicles before Michonne cut off his arms as they all wait for him to turn so Rick could stick the knife in his zombie brain in front of everyone.

I found the second half of the film exhilarating, not only because there are many terrific surprises and a couple scenes that I consider the best Star Wars sequences since the original trilogy, but because we are now ready to move into a Star Wars future that is more like the idea of Rogue One than the idea of the original Star Wars. But still, a first chapter.

It’s a weird thing, though. I kept thinking that this was the film that should have – with an obvious bow to introducing the new central characters – been the first of the resurrected series. But while there was value to The Force Awakens, doing the job of imitating what Star Wars was, this film feels like what Star Wars is going to be.

I don’t want to be too generous. I would cut 15 minutes out. There are editing choices that leave the film feeling choppy when it should feel smooth. And like I said before… too cutesy at times… too much plush sold.

But this was like a very effective pilot, making me look forward to future episodes. I like Finn better now. I like Rey better now. I like Kylo Ren better now. Rian Johnson was not a bull in a china shop. He was respectful. But he went right up to JJ Abrams white board and started erasing the lesson and putting up his own… a much more interesting, complex, modern lesson that still feels like Star Wars. A huge win. There were tears of excitement in my eyes a few times in that third act. Johnson’s script – however many people were involved – gets emotional life out of characters both major and minor.

There is no “I am your father.” I suspect that many expect that. But it’s not a middle story. It’s really the beginning.

And sadly, it struck me that JJ is coming back to soften the edge that Rian Johnson so gracefully sewed into this franchise machine. I hope he can imitate Rian as well as he imitates George and Steven. I hope the screenplay is worthy of a Star Wars episode without a Death Star.

You know who would have done great with the next episode? David Ayers. More End of Watch than Suicide Squad. In the old days, you’d want a Walter Hill or Billy Friedkin.

Anyway… I really, by the end, liked The Last Jedi. This is not the Star Wars that anyone was looking for. But it is the first glimpse we have had at real growth in the Star Wars universe. Be wary of opinions that are offered in the idea of not getting what the speaker expected, rather than seriously considering what is actually on offer.

BYOB: Globes

Monday, December 11th, 2017


Weekend Estimates by No Top 10 Over $8k Per Screen Klady

Sunday, December 10th, 2017

Weekend Estimates 2017-12-10 at 9.31.07 AM copy

Only one new wide release this week… from Broad Green with Just Getting Started, which didn’t. But there are expansion success stories in The Disaster Artist, The Shape of Water, Darkest Hour, and Call Me By Your Name, as well as the successful four-screen launch of I, Tonya.

Friday Estimates By Where Are The Movies? Klady

Saturday, December 9th, 2017

Friday Estimates 2017-12-09 at 9.18.26 AM

There are five wide releases in a two-day stretch the week after Last Jedi. Three are comedies. Two are action movies. And Fox is counter-programming Jedi with an animated bull, which seems suicidal. (The move, not the bull.)

But hell if they are going to take anything out this weekend!!!

The film business keeps finding new niches for distribution and success where there once was little success, with the basic premise that If Audiences Want It, It Doesn’t Matter When You Release It. Yet, they will leave a full month of the calendar without product (such as August and September of this year). And now, they will abandon two weeks after Thanksgiving because… uh… well… Paramount failed to get big audiences for two comedies on the second weekend after Thanksgiving in the last three years, so it must be a dead zone.

Here is the message that the studios need to get:  if ticket buyers don’t show up, it’s your fault.

There is such a thing as a wrong date. Bad Mom’s Christmas or Daddy’s Home 2 would have probably played better in the month of Christmas than weeks before Thanksgiving. Both overcame the terrible dating enough not to be disasters, but both left, probably, 30% – 50% of their potential domestic grosses on the table.

But if a studio really believed in a movie, Star Wars next weekend shouldn’t scare them off this weekend. There will be damage against a mega-opener. But even the last time, when two studios decided to go up against Force Awakens, the drops for the holdovers was not brutal. And the one major release the weekend before was Heart of the Sea, which arrived as damaged goods.

Did Passengers benefit from being in a December 21 cluster or would it have been better off the weekend before Rogue One? How about Why Him?

I looked at It this last September and I looked at the history and that film’s eventual  opening was a super long-shot. But it happened. 2.5x the opening of any other September film ever and almost 2x the domestic gross.

A teachable moment.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens was another. Suicide Squad. Deadpool. American Sniper. Molds broken.

And there is this… a movie that has a soft opening coming is going to have a softer opening in a crowd.

We no longer live in a purchasing universe driven by habit. More than ever, every opening stands alone. Summer is a real thing. Thanksgiving and Christmas-New Years week is a real thing. But four of the Top 10 domestic grossers last year and probably the same this year will come out of other periods.

Will Father Figures survive its release date? Would the sequel to Bad Moms have done better this weekend and played stronger over the Christmas weeks than it did over Thanksgiving? Would Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle have done better before Star Wars than after?

Studios spend a lot of time and people power trying to answer these questions six months, a year, even two years out. Perhaps that is why the answers often end up being more safe than risky. I still believe WB didn’t expect It to do the business it did or they would have put it in August (and would have made more). It proved you could have a $100m September opening. But it also reminded us that, sometimes, these things happen by happenstance as much as planning.

The Disaster Artist is killing it. $8k+ per-screen on 840 for a movie about a failed movie-turned-cult film starring an actor who is not a big opener.

Lady Bird passed $20 million and will get an awards boost on its way to becoming A24’s biggest movie.

Three Billboards is solid, if not spectacular.

Wonder will be just short of $100 million after this weekend.

And Just Getting Started, which braved this weekend, is a $3 million turd in the punch bowl (which has to be about the amount they paid Morgan Freeman).

Academy’s Doc Short List… & DP/30

Thursday, December 7th, 2017

Congratulations to all 15 short-listers. Here are DP/30 interviews with seven. There are two more (One of Us and Strong Island) that will be up soon. The other six short-listers are Ex Libris – The New York Public Library (here’s a Fred Wiseman interview from another doc), Faces Places, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, LA 92, Last Men in Aleppo and Unrest.

Weekend Estimates by Blasé Klady

Sunday, December 3rd, 2017

Weekend Estimates 2017-12-03 at 10.32.28 AM

Very exciting weekend.


The Shape of Water, Call Me By Your Name, The Disaster Artist, Lady Bird, Darkest Hour.

Three or four of these will be Best Picture nominees. earning their way there. The most remarkable run of the year is Call Me By Your Name, which set the per-screen record for the year last week and killed it again in its second weekend. It’s the most impressive per-screen as Searchlight pushed out The Shape of Water onto only two screens… still a great opening for Guillermo & Co, just not quite as amazing as Call Me.

On the next level down on the per-screen but up on the screen count are Lady Bird and Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri, each around the $4.5 million mark for the weekend on 1.430 screens and 1.194 screens respectively.

(Added Note 6p – I obviously forgot to include Dunkirk in this piece… which was just stupid of me. Apologies.)

Add The Post and Phantom Thread and you are looking at your Best Picture group, with one or two wild cards (Get Out, The Big Sick, The Florida Project, Victoria & Abdul) filling the playlist with a few super-longshots (Wonder, Blade Runner 2046, Wonder Woman, Mudbound, Downsizing, The Last Jedi) holding hope.

Meanwhile, at the commercial cinema, Coco is doing well. Behind Moana by about $10 million after its second weekend. Coco has made a huge splash in Mexico, but we’re a while from knowing how the rest of the world will embrace the film. A success. Degree to be determined.

Justice League is fading fast. Still, it is closing in on $600 million worldwide. It can still lose money. Or it could make a few bucks, depending on how much the reshoots actually cost. In context, it is a carwreck. Figure it will close out with about $650m – $675m worldwide in the bank, well off of Batman v Superman. WB gained a viable Wonder Woman franchise this year, and now, a potential Flash franchise, but no one is clamoring for Aquaman, Batman is being replaced, Superman is inert and Cyborg may be of value in Teen Titans Go Live. There is nothing easy about building a “universe.” But remember, WB is not just having a hard time now. It’s been struggling with this for decades.

Wonder is the happy story of the season. Who saw this as a $100 million movie? You? Unless you are a producer on the film who spent a decade trying to get it made… LIAR! It is shocking to realize how Julia Roberts’ box office power crashed right after her Oscar-winning role in Erin Brockovich. This will be her first $100 million movie in a lead role since then, a long 17 years ago.

Thor: Ragnarok is still kicking. Disney is in full Star Wars mode now, but if I were them, I would have thrown some new TV spots at Thor this last weekend for the most fun comic book movie around. November is the weaker choice for comic book and animated movies, even though there have been massive hits from there in recent years. Still, Thor: R is now in the Marvel Extended Universe Domestic Top 10 and still may move up a slot or two. It’s already #7 worldwide and may well get past Guardians 2. My point? Thor: R would have probably generated another $100 million if it had opened in the summer and made the Marvel Top 5.

And how much did Coco leave on the table by opening in November?

Daddy’s Home 2 and Murder on the Orient Express chug towards $100 million domestic. Murder is over $200 million worldwide, making it a solid money-maker for Fox.

Finally… documentaries.

Twelve million-dollar docs so far this year. Five were niche religion releases from Fathom.

In Our Hands: The Battle for Jerusalem – $2.5m
Is Genesis History? – $1.8m
Mully – $1.5m
Genesis: Paradise Lost – $1.4m
Chonda Pierce: Enough – $1.3m

Disney’s nature docs are not released like other docs, and as a result, Born in China leads all docs with $13.9m.

Of the rest, only I Am Not Your Negro was a 2016 awards qualifier.

I Am Not Your Negro – $7.1m
An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power – $3.5m
Kedi – $2.8m
Jane – $1.3m
Steve McQueen: American Icon – $1.2m
Step – $1.1m

Friday Estimates by Dead Week Klady

Saturday, December 2nd, 2017

Friday Estimates 2017-12-02 at 8.52.30 AM

On one of the weeks that’s a Hollywood dead zone, no new wide releases. The story, aside from the ongoing deterioration of Justice League, is the small pictures, most of which have awards ambitions. A24’s The Disaster Artist leads the pack with $26,000 per screen on 19 in its debut. That’s about what Lady Bird started with, but on 19 screens instead of four. Impressive, though on a quicker burn. Searchlight’s The Shape of Water also debuts at roughly the same per-screen, but on two. Wonder Wheel is looking at a per-screen in the 20s in a five-screen debut. Three Billboards more than doubles its screen count, leaping to 1430 screens, while Lady Bird expands to 1194, with the films neck-and-neck for the weekend.

20 Weeks To Oscar: Year of the Reconstructed Rom-Com

Thursday, November 30th, 2017

Award seasons have a theme that emerges as the season progresses. With the arrival of Phantom Thread and The Post, this year is loaded with rom-coms that don’t want to be rom-coms.

The form has been torn down in recent years and barely exists now in Hollywood movies, indies, or even TV. But take the idea of a romantic comedy about, say, the black guy being brought home to meet the over-exuberant white suburban parents and give it a twist… and BAM!… Get Out.

Lady Bird is a romantic comedy about a young woman who has two intense relationships, one with her mother and another with her best female friend, both of which are strained to the edge by the moment it’s time to leave home.

Call Me By Your Name is a super-charming coming-of-age comedy between a young man and a hot older man who do the dance of romance. It even includes sex with a piece of fruit-not-yet-made-into-pie.

The Big Sick is the closest to a traditional romantic comedy… except the primary romance is between the wannabe boyfriend and the parents of the comatose girlfriend he’s no longer dating.

Downsizing is a romantic comedy, though you don’t really know that until late in the second act. Alexander Payne is working on many layers, so it doesn’t stink of rom-com… but that, ultimately, is what it is.

The Shape of Water is the most traditional romantic drama on the board… a classic romance between a gilled creature with supernatural powers and a mute cleaning woman who communicate without words (mostly) and touch on high drama while avoiding high comedy (mostly).

Victoria & Abdul is the classic girl meets boy from the wrong side of the tracks while-family-objects comedy, in royal garb.

Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri has a comic romance, as one character tries to couple with another and fails… but the movie, a story about a single renegade up against the system, keeps sliding into intimate dyads between different men and this woman.

The Post is a romantic comedy between two people not having a romantic relationship, Katharine Graham and Ben Bradlee. He’s just one more entrance from doing a Kramer when coming into her house. I got confirmation of this notion from the film’s writers just a couple days ago… they used the term non-romantic romance about the leads.

Phantom Thread is the least obvious rom-com in the group… but perhaps the closest to being the traditional form, in spite of Paul Thomas Anderson’s remarkable detail work and a very serious performance by Daniel Day Lewis. When you look closely, aside from getting sucked into its lush, gorgeous period earnestness, it is a coming-of-age movie for a man in his 50s and a tale of how a young woman figures out how to land the man she wants. The most surprising thing about the film is how funny it is… If you allow yourself to laugh for fear of being on the wrong page. (Go ahead… laugh… it’s the driest funny in years.)

There are, of course, variations on this notion. Darkest Hour is surprisingly light at times, but not a rom-com in any way. Dunkirk is neither light nor a rom-com. Ditto Mudbound. The Florida Project is a comedy, but Sean Baker smartly avoids  romance.

All in all, a romantic year as we suffer through a distinctly non-romantic political period. And a lot of humor, although earned in ways other than the traditional hooks of rom-coms.

It’s also worth noting that the vast majority of these films are in a period other than now. Only Get Out, The Big Sick and The Florida Project are of this moment… and none of them are tied to this very moment… they all could just as easily be set five years ago.

Weekend Estimate by Coco Clady

Sunday, November 26th, 2017

Weekemd Estimates 2017-11-26 at 10.51.58 AM

For those who aren’t  going back to yesterday’s comments, I made a mistake. Disney will not be up domestically this year. They will be down about $300 million… with three fewer movies. Still, everything else I wrote stands. And the principle of what I wrote stands. The media is in hysterical frenzy, anxious to move on from theatrical, with almost no effort at all to understand what that would mean to films, even on a purely financial level. I remind again… theatrical is the #1 revenue stream for films… not streaming… not VOD… not pay-TV… and certainly not Blu-ray and DVD.

Coco‘s open is hammocked in between November Disney animated releases Wreck-It-Ralph and Tangled. $200 million will the the domestic target.

No other wide openings and not much to say about holdovers,

Call Me By Your Name has, by estimate, failed to crack $100k per-screen after a $40k per-screeen start on Friday. Still, nothing to cry about… still the top per-screen of 2017 to date.

Darkest Hour‘s $43,650 per-screen estimate on four is good, in the area of Traffic and Black Hawk Down. As a movie for the older audience, it may take some time (and some awards for Oldman) for it to get rolling.

Lady Bird and Three Billboards are cruising nicely.

Friday Estimates by Gobbler Len

Saturday, November 25th, 2017

Friday Estimates 2017-11-25 at 9.44.00 AM

We’re about $400 million behind the best-ever year-to-date gross… just under 4%. That’s one big domestic hit or two moderate big studio hits from even.

Paramount alone will be more than $300 million short of last year at the domestic box office.

Warner Bros. and Universal will all be up at the domestic box office this year.

(*Ed Note: Corrected 11/26. Disney will not top isn’t 2016 domestic gross.  Last year, the studio did $3 billion will 11 titles. This year, it should end up around $2.7 million with 8 titles.)

Last December was the second biggest December ever, after 2015’s biggest December ever. December this year will rely not only on another numbered Star Wars movie, but Ferdinand, Jumanji and Pitch Perfect 3. But it will likely be a Top 3 December again this year.

The media delusion that the theatrical sky is falling, fueled by execs who aren’t finding a way to sell under-quality movies this year, has to break. Anything less than a half-billion change in box office from year-to-year is not a cultural trend, but something that can be made up by or reduced by a single movie or two.

That said, Coco is a weak opening for Pixar and Disney, which cultivated the November holiday slot remarkably well in recent years via the reborn Walt Disney Animation Studios, which almost exclusively launched films in November. Coco  at much the same strength as Tangled.

Justice League is underperforming under the analysis of WB throwing the entire DC muscle at it and coming up well short of Wonder Woman. But is it a disaster, out of context? Depends on foreign. It may be okay. Warner needs to reboot the entire thing yet again. So there is a problem there that needs fixing. Obviously. Warner clearly knows this too… they just don’t know what to do.

Wonder is a shocker. It has a legit shot at $100 million domestic and it would be Julia Roberts’ first $100 million domestic grosser as lead since Erin Brockovich in 2000. Stephen Chbosky is having an epic year, having worked on Beauty & The Beast as well. In spite of being a white make, Chbosky should have studios chasing him for a big movie with feeling, and surely are… I’m just not paying attention to that stuff these days.

Thor: Ragnarok is running $70 million ahead of Doctor Strange domestically and is about even with Spider-Man: Homecoming after 22 days, with $800 million worldwide a sure bet. Universal is insane for not making a deal with Marvel for a Hulk standalone. That would be a billion-dollar movie. 50% of the profits on a billion is a lot more than 100% of the profits on a marginal grosser.

Murder on the Orient Express may suck, but it’s going to be a moneymaker for Fox.

Is this the year that studios get over the silly idea of releasing Christmas-themed movies in early November? Regardless of what you think of the films, A Bad Moms Christmas and Daddy’s Home 2 each cost themselves tens of million by coming out early in November. Daddy did almost $100 million international. Will it do anything this time? Paramount has to hope so.

It’s good news on the awards release front… except for Roman J. Israel, Esq. I don’t know what is going on at Sony, but they have released 14 wide-release movies in the last year and only three have opened to $20 million or more: Spider-Man: Homecoming, Baby Driver, and The Emoji Movie. Denzel Washington hasn’t failed to go wide with a movie to at least $20 million since The Great Debaters in 2007 and Fences last year. But Fences opened to just under $7 million on Christmas weekend and had $33 million in the bank by the end of the holiday. Roman J. doesn’t have a holiday to build with: they have one of the weakest weekends of the year ahead. The movie deserves a bigger audience than this, but Sony hasn’t found a hook, aside from Denzel’s changing looks and some snappy lines. People may have been unhappy with the dark places the film goes, but it could have opened stronger playing up Denzel as the weird underdog hero… heavy on “hero.” As is, Roman J. will likely be crushed by the December wave, before it gets to $33 million or the $58 million that Paramount squeezed out of the “unsellable” period drama, Fences.

On to better news…

Call Me By Your Name will be the top per-screen grosser of the year by the end of the weekend, pushing past Lady Bird‘s $91,109 per three weekends ago. This launch is ahead of Moonlight and Birdman and behind American Hustle and Moonrise Kingdom. This suggests that the film is close to a sure bet to be Oscar-nominated for Best Picture, which will be an achievement.

Darkest Hour also launched strong on four, though not nearly as powerfully. Expect that the demographic analysis will find an older audience that takes a few weeks to show up. Still, a solid start.

And Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri expanded well again, outpacing Searchlight’s Brooklyn while on fewer screens. December is the most dangerous month for this film, before Oscar shows its hand. But across-the-board support from awards and critics groups for the movie, Frances McDormand, and Sam Rockwell, could propel it through the danger zone and up over $25 million before the end of the holiday run. Then the Oscar nominations can propel it further.

Thankful 2017

Thursday, November 23rd, 2017

I am thankful for 33 years making a living in and around theater, television, and film, for 20 years as an internet columnist, and for 15 years of Movie City News. It’s been a privilege.

I am grateful for every day that passes, knowing that it is one less day that my country will have the lowest caricature of The American in the nation’s highest office.

I am grateful for the artists who talk to me for extended periods, their representatives who encourage and make time for it, and all of the people who facilitate my work.

I thank Mrs. McDonagh, who raised two rather brilliant sons who have found so many interesting ways of examining the human condition.

Thank a deity for Greta Gerwig and the undeniable light that she emits. I never know what to expect from her, except honesty.

I thank the young hustlers of this industry, like The Safdie Bros, who work their asses off and stay open to what comes and just keep getting better.

Thanks to Steven Spielberg for letting Gary Oldman out of movie jail so we can enjoy his mastery of the craft fully.

I’m thankful for my family, from the youngest (little Avi) to the eldest (that would be my mom, amazingly). But especially my wife and soon-to-be 8-year-old son.

I thank Ashley Judd and Rose McGowan and Asia Argento and Annabella Sciorra for changing the world by having the strength to speak out. It is now incumbent on the rest of us to build a future that makes silence about abuse for fear of retribution a thing of the past.

Thank the journalism gods for Kim Masters walking the walk. And jeers to The Hollywood Reporter for trying to claim the high road after refusing to run Kim’s first story on Roy Price and Amazon.

Thanks to Jeff Bezos for revitalizing the Washington Post and not getting in the way of a lot of masterful journalists getting it done when the press needs to express its power every single day as the fascists in the White House seek to trick the world.

New York Times, I thank you for being yourself, flaws and all.

I thank all the Republicans who see behind the curtain and have refused to stand with a wannabe monster.

Thanks to all the entertainment reporters who take this profession seriously, even if you are working for idiots at various levels of various publications. We will not always live and die by clickbait.

I am more thankful than I have ever been for people who really listen, for people who really want to speak truth, and for anyone who aspires to the same.

I don’t know of it’s time or a fluke or what, but I am thankful that there are more people for whom I feel a genuine affection in the awards game this season than ever before.

I thank anyone who has taken the time to read this, anyone who watches DP/30, anyone who survives my torrent of tweets or otherwise puts up with me spouting my opinion.

I thank Frances McDormand.

I thank everyone at the Farmers Market table, even as we lose members at too fast a clip, Charlie Bragg and Bob Stolfi heading off this year as another member had a baby with his wife this summer. Hanging out can be hard work.

I am thankful to everyone who helped me get here, whether Scot Safon at (then) TNT. or Laura Rooney at roughcut and then co-founding Movie City News. or David Dinerstein who asked me to do online video. or the late great Roger Ebert who did so much to promote my work early on. There are so many more. I don’t know what MCN would do without the efforts of Ray Pride, day in and day out.

Have I mentioned Allison Janney, Saoirse Ronan, Ben Mendelsohn, Beanie Feldman, Max Minghella, Joseph Cedar, Zoe Kazan, Sam Rockwell, Jake Gyllenhaal, Ethan Hawke, Guillermo, Andrew Garfield, Ai Wei Wei and Brett Morgan? Asking for a thankful friend.

Thanks to Jeremy Glenn, whose decency and skill should have him running physical production at a major studio sometime soon.

Thanks to everyone I forgot to thank. You know who you are.

And thanks to all of you. You are the wind beneath my… well, you are important to me.

There is a good chance that I won’t be writing a thanks column next year. We’ll see how things go. The world changes. I should change too. Change is good. Not for change’s sake, but to keep growing.

Weekend Estimates by Justice Served Soft Klady

Sunday, November 19th, 2017

Weekend Estimates 2017-11-19 10AM

The pathetic opening for Justice League is as simple as, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on you. Fool me three times? No, thanks.”

Warner Bros.’ effort to make the great fortunes that comic book movies could offer with the DC brand has been a disaster with intermittent bouts of mastery. Donner, Burton and Nolan are the masters. The studio learned the lesson that a strong, clear voice was important in building a solid franchise run. Richard Lester split Superman II with Donner and they all got lucky…. but the Donner vision would never have delivered a disaster like Superman III. Schumacher took Burton’s vision too far and crashed the franchise. Nolan came in to WB and took Bryan Singer’s X-Men model and topped it.

Then Jeff Robinov, who had overcommitted to Zack Snyder for three straight money-losing films before handing him the keys to the franchise the studio was counting on becoming the foundation of the entire studio as Harry Potter ended. The instinct to hand the keys to a single artist with a clear vision was the right one. But they picked the wrong artist.

Somehow, they were smart enough to stop making Bryan Singer Superman movies after one. And Green Lantern got the single shot. But Snyder got three.

And now, it’s over.

Warner Bros probably won’t lose money on Justice League. But they will come close.

They probably were hoping that they could convert inside of one movie from Snyder to Whedon with the same success as Donner to Lester. But instead, they got schizophrenia. And they got it so strongly that it came across in the marketing.

If I were Warners, I would put Superman and Batman on ice for two or three years and build a base. Keep the budgets tight. Build character over CG extravaganza… which leads to the next Wonder Woman. Do the Flash movie with Stephen Chbosky and Ezra Miller. If there is a good story for Cyborg, find it. Make the Batgirl movie. Try Catwoman again with a fresh take. And I guess, yeah… if you have a young, fresh take on Batman or Superman, for a price, do it.

I still want to see the The Dark Knight Returns done the way Frank Miller did it… bitter old guys. Or find the kind of director who would pair Gyllenhaal and Phoenix as Superman and Batman.

Just hire Lord & Miller and let them do whatever the hell they want inside the DC Universe. Hand Sofia Coppola or Greta Gerwig whatever character they want to make an intimate piece about being a superhero. Let’s see what the Safdie Bros can do with a villain on a $10 million budget. Let’s see Soderbergh’s $50 million Justice League.

In other words, shake it up. The characters will maintain their intrinsic value. Let DC be cool… for a minute.

DC remains the most squandered asset in all of moviedom. And Lucasfilm just tied up Rian Johnson for the next 5 years. AT&T is coming. Let it roll.

In other news, Wonder opened really nicely. Look at the Top 20 and except for third weekend of Bad Moms 2, find me a movie on more than 300 screens that women might want to see in large numbers. That would be Wonder.

Speaking of screen count… there are only eight films on 1000+ screens this weekend. Last year, on “this” weekend, 13. Overall the studio movie count hasn’t change much this year.

Disney -3 11 to 8
Fox +2 12 to 14
WB +1 16 to 17
Sony +3 19 to 22
Par -4 15 to 11
U -2 16 to 14

But release dates are in need of deep analysis. The August abandonment and the glut on too many weekends is of great interest. There are two limited releases in the Top 9 this weekend. They are two success stories of different colors. Lady Bird expanded to 238 and stayed over $10k per screen. A24 is pushing it out faster than Moonlight, and to bigger numbers as well. We’re a long way from the domestic total, but I’d like Lady Bird to get past $30 million before Oscar nominations and to crack $45 million if Greta Gerwig gets a directing nomination.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri did similar numbers to the second weekend of Lady Bird, but on more screens. Ironically, it was Searchlight that made Saoirse Ronan more marketable with Brooklyn and they now have a challenge with the brilliant 3 Billboards, which has great actors who have limited box office pull. A24 has to wait for the Saturday after Thanksgiving to start mining the benefits of Saoirse hosting Saturday Night Live. Her not being this last weekend’s host probably cost $3 million or more at the Thanksgiving weekend box office. But I have a feeling they will make up for it.

Roman J Israel, Esq did nothing to help itself with a four-screen release this weekend. 5000 or 6000 people saw the film. Meaningless sample. Paramount did this with Fences last year and did almost exactly double the gross. They didn’t need it either. But in their case, it was the weekend before Christmas and they probably would have had a hard time getting 2000+ screens they wanted with the Rogue One opening.

Roughly 500 people saw Mudbound in a theater.

Friday Estimates by Waiting For Supe-ot Klady

Saturday, November 18th, 2017

Friday Estimates 2017-11-18 at 8.33.42 AM

(Did anyone see the earlier version of this post before it disappeared?)

Of 54 movies that have had a Friday opening of $38 million or more, only 4 failed to crack $100 million for the 3-day… 2 Fast/Furious films (#6 & #8), a Potter (Azkaban), and the most recent Godzilla.

So why are outlets projecting that Justice League will come up short of $100 million?

My guess? Because they were told to by Warner Bros.

It is possible that Justice League will, indeed, come up short for the weekend. Telling writers that it will be under that wire softens the blow if it happens. But more so, if the movie does pass $100 million, the idea has been in place that $100 million is a positive mark for the film… a surprise from Friday to Sunday morning. Writers will spin themselves.

Of course, underlying this is the fact that Justice League is a disaster for Warner Bros. opening to just over $100 million, as opposed to $130 million-plus. A Wonder Woman opening for the movie where the whole thing is meant to come together is a failure.

And WB has my sympathy as I watched their marketers struggle for months with signalling to audiences that Superman would be in the movie while trying not to tell audiences openly that Superman would be in the movie. It is a reminder, long before marketing, that Zack Snyder is an arrogant fool as a producer and that whoever greenlit the idea of killing Superman and then pretending he wasn’t in Justice League while DC was still struggling to find its commercial footing should probably be fired.

Regardless, the manipulation of box-office writers is a process of managing expectations for a group that isn’t all that interested in thinking for themselves. Problem isthat these ideas get repeated to the public ad nauseum with almost no detail. And with weekend box office, who really cares? Right?

But the problem is bigger than box office. Studios forget that every time they manipulate the truth for a small gain in marketing, they are feeding a monster that will come back to haunt them later. Box office has become a game. But so have reviews. Every time a quote whore gets quoted, studios are devaluing criticism and legitimizing the simplistic aggregation of Rotten Tomatoes. Don’t misunderstand me… nothing wrong with Rotten Tomatoes. It was a great idea and it offers a service that can be used in a positive way. But it can also be abused. And lately, studios have felt threatened by that RT score. That leads to efforts to manipulate the RT score… which is where madness lies.

Harmless lies or harmless thoughtlessness is not harmless.

Being moorless when things are bad gives you room to maneuver. Being moorless when things are good makes your success seem smaller than it is. Either way, choosing to work the fringes of truth does not actually empower studios. It is the corn syrup of Hollywood.

Wonder is the biggest opener for Lionsgate, aside from the Saban-controlled Power Rangers output deal, since Madea Boo! in October 2016. And I expect it will be leggier than anyone imagined because of a dearth of product aimed at female audiences and pre-college-age kids.

Expansions for Lady Bird and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri went well.

No idea what Sony was thinking with the four-screen run of Roman Israel, Esq… but it didn’t work. It worked for Fences last year… but Fences is a whole different kettle of fish.

20 Weeks To Oscar: Season of a Different Color

Friday, November 17th, 2017

I don’t know if this will be an #OscarSoWhite year. But even if Denzel Washington and Octavia Spencer are nominated, it will be the same way as two seasons ago… and as likely as not, two seasons into the future (give or take a season).

The problem is not how many nominations people of color get from The Academy. The problem is that we have such a small group of “movies of color” for Academy members to consider. And the issue is not only the overall number, but the details of films up for consideration. Any film with Denzel Washington or Viola Davis is taken seriously. Octavia Spencer gets attention in an array of genres. Barry Jenkins creates a high alert when he directs now. Ava Duvernay has people waiting for her next “serious” movie. Steve McQueen is a high-art director, before and after 12 Years A Slave and will continue to be. Lee Daniels got left out even with a classic Oscar-style movie (The Butler), although his name still draws a look.

So when those six individuals of color aren’t involved… where is Oscar looking?

In the year of #OScarSoWhite, movies with Academy potential that didn’t get in were Straight Outta Compton, Creed, Concussion and Netflix’s first Oscar try, Beasts of No Nation.

I loved Straight Outta Compton, and felt sure it would never be nominated because of its content, even before seeing it. And nothing that has been nominated since (or before it) suggests that it is the kind of content that would get nominated any other year soon. The violence in the film is strong enough that only Iñárritu and Scorsese could get it nominated. It is also about rap. There is relentless cursing and nudity. And yes… it is about black culture, which is one area where a change in mindset is possible, by degrees.

Concussion just wasn’t good enough. Will Smith was great in the lead, but the movie grounded him.

Beasts of No Nation was not only very, very tough, but it was Netflix and there remains a bias against films that don’t do a true theatrical release. There are great performances and it is a movie that should have a legacy of excellence as time goes by.

Creed is a film that should have been nominated for a bunch of awards, including Best Picture. It’s mainstream, familiar, but original and excellent. But as noted before it opened, Warner Bros didn’t treat the movie like it deserved that status until late in the game, when it got enthusiastic press feedback. There was time for Stallone, who had the head-start of being Stallone, but not enough for the movie to get what it deserved. But this timeline issue would be true of any movie like it, regardless of the color of its stars or director.

This season, Netflix is pushing hard on Mudbound, directed by a woman of color, but led by white actors. The black family that parallels their story is central, but if one of the white actors got nominated and Jason Mitchell or Mary J. Blige did not, there would be bad vibes. And this is still a Netflix movie without a true theatrical release.

Detroit is a movie with a lot of talent of color, about a historic moment in black American history. Annapurna is fighting to get it back in the game (which I applaud, as it is a brilliant, albeit difficult, movie). But getting any movie perceived as a box office failure is harder to get into the awards game by a factor of 10.

Get Out has been slotted into The Golden Globes as Comedy… which was a straitjacket for The Martian, though it did get the Best Picture nomination, which is the real ambition of Universal on this one.

And of course, there are the two actors who are Oscar beloveds.

Denzel is brilliant in Roman J. Israel, Esq.  and will likely get a nod.

The Shape of Water is a beauty and may or may not generate a nod for Octavia Spencer (and another Oscar favorite, Michael Shannon).

So… if Oscar is So White again this season, you should understand that it isn’t because of old white men in The Academy or a failure by new Oscar voters or because The Academy has not yet met its 2020 goals.

I am in favor of the diversity efforts of The Academy, but irritated by the notion that all progress at The Academy is driven by women and minorities and that the “old white men” are a force for regression. What stats never seem to tell people about The Academy is that like the industry it represents, The Academy is a heavily liberal organization that has a pretty positive record at the Oscars, given the marketplace. No question, the organization’s liberalism is a liberalism steeped in the 1960s and 1970s, when most of the membership came up. There is a degree of lingering racism and sexism. But it is the kind of “ism” that dismisses the kind of deeper progressive thinking of the last 20 years, not one that seeks to keep people of color and women in its place.

“Old white men” voted for the winners of color and women and non-Americans too.

Its also worth noting that the only variation in winners from Oscar in acting categories in the five years prior to 2016 at the very liberal, much younger, much more diverse Independent Spirit Awards, as regards people of color, came in the “OscarSoWhite” year in which the three Oscar winners didn’t get ISA noms because the films didn’t qualify.

Last year, in the crazy logic of Indie Spirit Nominations, all three Oscar winning actors of color were not nominated in their categories… even though Moonlight won in all five categories in which it was nominated. This cleared the way for three white people to win those acting awards. I am pretty sure no one in the media mentioned this.

My point is not to excuse some racist tendencies in The Academy. Back before #OSW, I seemed to be the only one who publicly noted racism, sexism and homophobia as occasional features of the organization. Now I seem to be the only one interested in discussing the idea that it’s not just racist old white men at issue.

We tend to fix on an idea and then, like the proverbial hammer seeing only nails, there is no shades of gray allowed. Not one… not fifty.

But The Academy is changing. And again… not primarily because of the change in the membership. The biggest change combines a change in strategy by the major studios and the broadening of Academy thinking created by the expansion of the Best Picture nominations from five to… well, more.

In these last eight seasons, there has been more ethnic and racial diversity in Best Picture winners than there has been box office diversity.

For years, MCN did year-end charts of film critics Top 10s that showed a consistent choice by Academy members of titles that were in the Top 20 of the year on Top 10 lists, but with winners that were never in the top slots. We stopped producing those charts a couple seasons ago, but I suspect nothing has much changed. The critics’ beloveds were and are “too good” for Oscar. But Oscar voters lean to the best of the middlebrow.

For two decades, before The Expansion, voters leaned toward the top two grossers to find their winner. That has not been the case since The Expansion.

In the last eight years of the expanded Best Picture race, six of the winners grossed between $17 million and $57 million. Two have grossed $135 million.

So where would you put your bet on the Best Picture winner?

$135 million seems to be enough to impress, but not enough to disqualify a picture as “too commercial” in the unspoken discussion.

Just as The Hurt Locker was an extreme game-changer with only a $17 million domestic gross when it won Best Picture, La La Land would have been a major change of speed if it had won with $150 million in the domestic bank. I’m not suggesting Oscar voters were checking the box office charts before voting. But there were months of media discussions suggesting that La La Land, based on its shockingly strong box office, was frivolous. This is not meant to diminish Moonlight as this logic could have led to a win by Manchester By The Sea or Lion… but it didn’t. Two ideas in one thought… La La Land lost and Moonlight won. They are not mutually exclusive notions.

This season, Dunkirk and Get Out seem to be the only potential nominees that will have grossed over $100 million domestic when nominations are announced. Only one Oscar year since the expansion to more than five Best Picture nominees has seen just a single $100m+ domestic nominee. That was 2011 and that high grosser was The Help.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and The Shape of Water have the backing of the mighty Fox Searchlight, though neither feel like movies that will be successes, just not  nine-figure successes.

Darkest Hour, Phantom Thread and Victoria & Abdul may be three movies with passionate followers for Universal’s Focus division, but hard to see mega-grosses for them, either.

A24 has Lady Bird and The Florida Project, which may crack the all-time domestic gross for the young distributor…but that’s $30 million, not $100 million.

Sony Classics has Call Me By Your Name. Amazon has The Big Sick. Mudbound is a Netflix film, so won’t have any true box office.

And there is The Post. Will it be a big hit? Could be. We’ll see in 72 hours or so.

What I look at this list, what jumps out at me is the likelihood that Billboards, Darkest, Shape and Lady could all land right in the $35-$50 million box-office sweet spot. And while I don’t believe it is a strictly causal connection with Oscar, but I think it does matter.

Of course, there is one more contender floating. If All The Money In The World is great, it will also be The Movie That Did The Right Thing About Sexual Harassment. In this environment, that could be a positive.

In the meantime, the industry has homework: Make more movies with leads of color and stories about non-white culture, so that The Academy can stop getting punched in the nose for limited imagination. Actors and directors and audiences will be your partners in this… promise… Then we can start thinking about movies only for the content of their characterizations.

Whomever is nominated, it looks like the winner of Best Picture and a high percentage of nominees will be movies we can all be proud of as nominees. Taste is taste. But I don’t see a single loser out there threatening any real chance of contention. And that is thanks to all of the Academy, the new and the old.

Weekend Estimates

Sunday, November 12th, 2017


Friday Estimates

Saturday, November 11th, 2017

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BYOB: It’s Not Just For Harvey Anymore

Thursday, November 9th, 2017

byob ck moore

Fresh Ideas In Hollywood? Start With Executives!

Wednesday, November 8th, 2017

I was in the middle of writing a piece about the studio landscape this week and BOOM!, down goes Megan Colligan.

I expect that she leapt before she got whacked. Not shocking. New chiefs tend to clear the decks and bring in people who were part of the success that got them the job. Plus, Colligan was stuck with Brad Grey’s decade of horrible decisions, reaping the benefit of Grey overspending on Paramount Vantage, over-delivering on movies that didn’t deserve so much attention but which got it because there was so little on the slate, and smashing into walls trying sell Shinola, pretending all the time that it wasn’t really shit. Rise and fall… and she will rise again soon enough.

So. For new chief Jim Gianopulos, the marketer with whom he had great success would be…

Anyone? Anyone?

And there is the problem.

Who is in the top slot overseeing film at the six majors?

Tom Rothman, Jim Gianopulos, Stacey Snider, Alan Horn, Donna Langley and Kevin Tsujihara.

Donna Langley has survived many sales and nukes at Universal and has been there a long time. Kevin Tsujihara is the newbie, has been on shaky ground from Day One and It isn’t enough to change that, and is about to face a new owner.

And then, you have the history of leadership in the film business going back over 20 years still running four of the majors.

And when there might be an open slot, who do the owners cling to?

Oren Aviv, Peter Chernin, Dick Cook, Brad Grey, Sherry Lansing, Bill Mechanic, Barry Meyer, Amy Pascal.

New Business, Mogul-ing, Retired, Dead, Retired, Producing, Retired, Producing.

Who is the one person who hasn’t run a big show that people are still obsessed with? Elizabeth Gabler… because she keeps saying, “no.”

Scott Stuber is at Netflix. Mary Parent is at Legendary (for now). Where did Donald Tang go when he wanted to reboot Open Road? Rob Friedman.  And where did Friedman go for a head of marketing? His old young EVP from Summit, Jack Pan.

In the immortal words of The Joker, “This town needs an enema.”

With due respect to an excellent career by Jim G, he’s never had success in the top job as a solo act, so why assume that he will be able to fix all that is wrong with Paramount? Remember, they are cash poor and every time some company goes on an asset search, it’s “thumbs down” on the Paramount/Viacom B asset base. Paramount has a wonderful history, but a lot of their assets don’t seem ready to convert to The Now. Library is excellent, but probably the fourth or fifth best out there. The cable networks are tired. TV is not the powerhouse it once was. And Jim G’s boss wants to spin straw into gold. Is Jim G going to take a big swing, chancing a strike out?

Wyck Godfrey: The Hire says, “No.” It says that Paramount is going to be chasing what didn’t work out for Jim G at Fox. This is not an indictment of Wyck Godfrey. He is a producer of significance. But will his Paramount slate ever hit anything better than a double? Can a studio thrive on that?

We are at the very beginning of Fox demonstrating Stacey Snider’s voice. The biggest thing she can bring is stability and a safer work environment (which the Murdochs will have to support… and should).

Horn is overseeing the multi-pronged Disney IP machine. And the new chatter about Disney buying Fox would put Stacey Snider in place to fill Alan Horn’s space on retirement, which would kinda be perfect for another decade-plus.

Warner Bros is a troubled studio, even with a run of success in the last few months. Some people on top are incredibly talented, but internal politics have overwhelmed any vision for years now and it shows. And now, the shadow of AT&T is hanging over what, just a decade ago, was the Big Movie capital of Hollywood that also played well to the middle movie range of comedies and dramas… with much of the same executive talent making that happen.

I was not a huge Jeff Robinov fan, but at least he knew where he wanted to go.

Tom Rothman is in “prove it” space at Sony and Jumani better kill. I am not telling you anything that everyone doesn’t know… though some assumed his career dead months ago. Rothman has a vision. Lots of people don’t like his vision. But he has a real track record and he hasn’t tended to lose a lot of money. But he has over this last year… so we will see.

And Universal is pretty much golden about now. The internal ranks, with as much change has happened, have been remarkably stable through five ownership changes. Comcast isn’t going anywhere. The studio plays to all fields. Marketing is like a rock (not without flaws, but solid). And aside from the now-stalled monsters relaunch, they have avoided disaster for a number of years now. And it seems that the bosses at Comcast are happy with what they own.

With Colligan’s exit, the 3/3 balance of male/female marketing chiefs is in play. Strauss and Goldstine aren’t going anywhere. Pam Levine is freshly set at Fox. Blair Rich is good at WB for now… always a potential “it was marketing” target if things go flat again over there. And Josh Greenstein lasts if Rothman lasts… JUMANJI!

Who is left for Jim G?

Tony Sella? Tomas Jegeus? Paul Hanneman?

It’s funny. Because every once in a while, Hollywood reaches for something new. And you get MT Carney… an everyone goes back into the same hot tub for a decade or so.

And that is why change is hard. It’ is hard. It’s risky. And this industry loves playing the same record over and over and over again.

Meanwhile, the media is OBSESSED with change. Change is good. Not change is bad. To the point of dementia.

Somewhere in the middle lies sanity.

Weekend Estimates by Sore: Kladnarok

Sunday, November 5th, 2017

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