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Weekend Estimates by Kladyman

Sunday, October 19th, 2014

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A weird weekend. Fury is a win, for sure. It’s a better number than some expected, but it’s not a sensational Brad Pitt opening or a giant commercial number. It’s good. (First person who mentions Cinemascore as though it matters gets shot.) There was a sense going into the week that the film was going to underperform and that it was out of the awards race as a result. That presumption can no longer be made. This launch is about 20% better than Moneyball, which got 6 nominations. So a hard push for the movie, the screenplay, Ayer’s direction, Logan Lerman, Brad Pitt – if he’ll push – and a slew of below-the-line nominations (sound, costume, and production design, particularly) can be expected.

Gone Girl remains solid, dropping under 35% again. There was a sense of waning Oscar prospects there, too… that may be turned around as the film heads north of $150m domestic, by far Fincher’s biggest commercial hit.

The Book of Life, a personal beloved, got off to a weak start for an animated film. As noted before, I think Fox was shy about the age issue on the film – which they had no reason to be – and also didn’t sell as intensely to girls as they might have. It really is a love story. For all the very, very, very smart people in big studio marketing departments, movies that get a little complex are often a problem for them. You would think it wasn’t so, but it keeps getting proved, over and over and over again.

Speaking of which, the board looks a bit painful for Warner Bros lately. There is no question that the studio is great with big movies. But right now, they have The Judge, This Is Where I Leave You, Dolphin Tale 2, and The Good Lie all underperforming. (The decent number on Dolphin 2
is 20% behind where the first film was at this point.) The only hit is Annabelle, a horror movie. But more so, no other studio has as many films on the big board this week. Fox and Sony each have 3. Disney and Par, 2. Universal only 1. Every movie has its own life and there have certainly been times when WB having a lot of movies in play has worked well. But with the studio in some transition again, at least strategically on spending, you have to wonder whether the further avoidance of middle and small movies will be a natural reaction for the company moving forward.

Warner Bros has four more movies left to release in this calendar year. One is a guaranteed mega-hit (Hobbit 3). One is a sequel to a cash cow (Horrible Bosses 2) that was driven by brilliant marketing the first time around, so expect big profits there. There is an Eastwood movie (American Sniper), which looks commercial, though awards people are hopeful as well. And there is the challenging title, Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice, a comedy that seems to be made for the very smart and those who think they are very smart. It’s going to be an excellent quarter for WB… but the story to look at will be whether they can get Vice past the $20m mark domestically. The future of smaller films at the studio may depend on it.

One last note. I have to laugh at those who are so dazzled by Marvel/Disney’s commercial success that they assume that Batman vs Superman is guaranteed to be a lightweight in comparison to Captain America 3… now with Downey! They assume that because Superman did okay, but not a billion, that it’s soft. But Batman is the key and that is why he has top billing. Batman films still own the #4 and #5 all-time best openings and of the 5 other Batman films, 3 were the biggest opening weekends in history when they happened. Warner Bros knows what it is doing with Batman. 100% The only opening of the franchise that can be remotely considered soft was Batman Begins, which was a reboot.

Warner Bros really needs a team that specializes in the smaller and middle budget movies that require more intimate hand-holding. It’s not a slap about the team that’s there. It is just the reality that it is rare that a team that does big releases is equality expert with smaller films that are more challenging. This was the real – and long lost – value of Warner Independent as a concept. Paramount is really the only big studio team in town that shrinks well, but a lot of that is that they don’t release nearly as many movies as WB. Screen Gems, Searchlight, and the evolving Focus all report up, but have their own strong voices in releasing specialized films. I’d hate to see WB completely out of that game, but… well… we’ll see…

The Equalizer – which I keep thinking is a WB film – is on its way to $100 million. It’s not going to get to the $126m domestic that Safe House did, but it will be Denzel’s #4 or #3 film of his career. He hasn’t has d a film gross less than $130 million in the last 5 years and this will be his third time over $160m worldwide in the last 3 years. If you’re looking for a consistent movie star out there, Denzel’s high on your list.

Nice expansion for Weinstein with St Vincent to 68 screens. An estimated $9880-per is a really strong number at that screen count. But it’s not clear what happens next. This film isn’t making a serious awards run, so… we’ll see.

Birdman is the big new indie release in exclusive release. 4 screens at over $105k per. Strong. What will expansion look like? We really won’t know until it happens. But a happy weekend in Century City.

Also doing great in exclusive releases are Dear White People ($32k per on 11), The Tale of Princess Kaguya ($16.5k per on 3), and Listen Up Philip ($12.5k per on 2).

Birdman, Michael Keaton

Saturday, October 18th, 2014

Birdman, Alejandro G. Iñárritu

Saturday, October 18th, 2014

Friday Estimates by Len Tanky

Saturday, October 18th, 2014

Friday Estimates 2014-10-18 at 10.17.22 AM

Fury is Brad Pitt’s #10 opener, putting it right near the middle of his list of wide releases. So, not so exciting. On the other hand, it is a better launch than Moneyball, which ended up with six Oscar nominations, including Best Picture. Though Fury may not hold as well as Moneyball did (three of the first seven weekends dropped in the 20s and two more in the 30s), it will surely be a lot stronger internationally and be profitable… which Moneyball danced on the borderline of being. Fury‘s Oscar prospects will lay at the feet of Pitt’s interest in pushing the tank uphill. If he doesn’t—and so far, he hasn’t—it will not happen. If he does, it has a real shot at multiple nominations. The fact that Pitt’s production company, Plan B, is not a producer of the film is an issue… especially since Plan B did produce Selma, Ava Duvernay’s soon-to-arrive historic drama at Paramount.

By the way… Fury is a David Ayer picture, first and last. And by that standard, this is a HUGE opening… should be double or near double his next best. His previous stars have been Arnold Schwarzenegger, Christian Bale, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Keanu Reeves. So he remains a guy who male stars want to work with when they are ready to play capital-M Men. And this is the third of his five films that has really stuck with me. Next time someone does a puff piece about puffy men, throw Ayer’s films in their face to remind them that tough guys can still be there if studios want to make those films. (And remember which critics are turned off profoundly by all the testosterone.)

Really, the #2 opening of the weekend is Birdman, which on four screens should manage over $100k per screen. Keep in mind that this is about half of what the same distributor, Fox Searchlight, released The Grand Budapest Hotel to back in March and that film ended up doing a Wes Anderson-best $59m domestic and $173m worldwide. Alejandro Iñárritu’s best grosses were $35 million domestic and $135m worldwide for Babel. And that may well be where Birdman lands. Or maybe Searchlight (and audiences) will pass those numbers. My guess is that they will have an easier time chasing that domestic number than the international (without Pitt, Blanchett, and three internationally-based stories).

Also opening wide were The Book of Life and The Best of Me. Best of Me is a clear Nicholas Sparks sell. It’s the fifth Sparks film in the last five years and will be the weakest opener. And you can’t just blame Relativity, because they opened Safe Haven to $21 million just last year… and that was with a Thursday opening siphoning off the biggest single day of the run. One advantage is that the sell on that film focused exclusively on Julianne Hough and Josh Duhamel, while this one suggests that Monaghan and Marsden are the framing device for two unknown actors playing them as young ones. This, of course, worked with Garner & Rowlands framing McAdams and Gosling… but those young actors were, well, Gosling & McAdams.

I’m sure I didn’t see all the marketing for The Book of Life (a movie I love), but I have felt for months that Fox wasn’t going all out for this one. Maybe the look, which most people I know who have seen the film see as a strength, didn’t test well. Maybe they didn’t think girls would bite on the central idea, which is two guys battling for the heart of the smart, beautiful girl. Maybe they found that parents were shy about the Day of the Dead theme and wouldn’t bring their under-8s to the film if that was leaned on too heavily. (Personally, I know my 4.5-year-old would love the film and the studio wasn’t so sure he was old enough for it.) I don’t know what their internal arguments were. But I do know was that as a consumer, I got the impression that this was a smaller sell than something like a DreamWorks Animation movie. And for me, with due respect to Lego, this is the best animated film of the year… one that will be discovered by most kids when it lands on TV at whatever point.

This opening day is about the same as The Boxtrolls—another strong, interesting film with a much harder domestic sell—and behind Planes 2, neither of which will get to $60m domestic. Much bigger numbers for The Lego Movie, How To Train Your Dragon 2 and the upcoming Big Hero 6, one of which is likely to win Best Animated Feature, though if there is an upset of those three, it would likely be from a tiny competitor, like The Tale of Princes Kaguya (also opening this weekend), not from a quality film with mediocre domestic results.

Speaking of The Tale of Princes Kaguya, good, but not overwhelming launch. They could get up to $15k per screen on three.

The other muscular exclusive opening, aside from the bird, was Listen Up, Phillip, which should take just over $10k per screen on two.

Kill The Messenger, director Michael Cuesta

Thursday, October 16th, 2014

Fort Bliss, Michelle Monaghan

Thursday, October 16th, 2014

Birdman Speaks (NSFW)

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

The Theory of Everything, Eddie Redmayne (LA)

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

Foxcatcher, Bennett Miller

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

Sunday Estimates by Still Gone Len

Sunday, October 12th, 2014

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Friday Estimates by Leonard Part 1

Saturday, October 11th, 2014

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21 Weeks To Oscar – Carlos & Joey & Cash, Oh My! (Part 2 of 2)

Tuesday, October 7th, 2014

Continuing yesterday’s piece that was inspired by Carlos de Abreu’s attack-by-journalist on Joey Berlin…

So now, after actually talking to the subject of the attack piece that ran on Carlos’ mock journalism site, there is greater clarity. Joey Berlin, as producer of the awards show for the BFCA (an organization he co-created), he makes very good money… but it’s about half as much as the hit piece by the formerly-loveable Bob Welkos suggested. Roughly, Berlin’s production company gets between $350k and $450k for doing the show each year. He produces the show with veteran event TV producer Bob Bain.

And for me, that is about where the factual story about that ends.

In yesterday’s piece, I called Joey “a hustler.” I meant that in the affectionate way I see much of Hollywood. He didn’t like the nefarious suggestion that the word brings. But I don’t know a better word. He built something (BFCA) out of nothing and made a very well-paying job out of magic dust. He didn’t make much for the first number of years that the awards show existed. Now he does. And with today’s announcement of BTJA (Broadcast Television Journalist Association… smartly leaving out the questionable “critic” from the title) launching a TV show on A&E, there is a good chance he will be making even more money.

But that really isn’t anyone outside of the organization’s business. As long as membership knows how much Joey is making and keep electing him and the board to run the organization, it’s all copacetic.

This might be where Carlos de Abreu fesses up to how much he personally makes from the Hollywood Film Awards or the amount for which he sold the show to Dick Clark Productions… but it won’t be. He is not a not-for-profit. The Hollywood Film Awards is a for-profit… always has been, likely always will be.

My issue at this point is to look at where we have come with the major award shows.

The Carlos Awards aka The Hollywood Film Awards are a made-up event to profit one guy who smartly manipulated studios and talent alike by putting on a glitzy show with a distinct below-the-line bent, which brought out big names to honor the below-the-line talent that make their movies work. They also accepted some big awards… just because they were there. The balance shifted, year by year, to more big names and fewer below-the-liners. I would expect zero below-the-liners to appear on the CBS show this November. Your qualification for awards with The Carloses? You’re in heavy contention as determined by guys and gals like me, who prognosticate, as well as having the support of the distributors who will pay to make the appearance happen. Who judges? Carlos. Only Carlos.

How embarrassed should distributors be for being a part of this sham… this mockery of the arts? How embarrassed should we be for the talent that shows up to win a fake award and have their picture taken a lot?

I have no real way of estimating what Carlos has taken in annually on this con job, but it has surely gone from 6 figures to 7 with Dick Clark Productions. The good news, as per the rumor mill, is that Carlos will be out of the picture after the first 2 years with DCP. So I guess they will finally be called The Dicks. Fitting.

So this show will be an award show with no portfolio. A business, designed to make money as a TV show, from a business that has no interest in being anything other than a profit center. Fair enough.

The Golden Globes are given by group that hovers between 80 and 90 “foreign press.” How active are these press members? It varies. But most of them are in the quiet part of their careers. Those who have had more current active credentials, like Mike Goodridge, then of Screen International, don’t seem to last very long.

I have estimated that a slot on the HFPA membership roster is good for $200,000 to $300,000 in perks each year. That includes the studio-paid perks, but the group also spreads the literal wealth amongst themselves. And yes, they do make charitable donations… which keep them a not-for-profit and cleans up their tax situation each year.

So this show has eighty-something journalists of various levels who, a few of which have names that someone might recognize within the industry in any context other than being HFPA members. They work hard for their benefits. It’s no easy slog having your ass kissed 175 times a year. But they put a brave face on and do it.

How have the Golden Globes come be seen as significant in any way. In some ways, just as Carlos did, they played the game. They vote, with few exceptions, for the films in the field that has already been narrowed by the Gurus o’ Gold and all of its imitators. It’s not tricky. But because the group is so small, relative to others – except for the greasy group of one, Carlos – the studios have all taken to laying down and paying fealty (and airfares and hotel rooms and meals and per diem) all year long. Ironically, this has made the attempts to manipulate the group somewhat moot. Mutual Assured Destruction, they call it in the military. But no one dares get out of the game, lest they lose some position.

The same, by the way, is true of media… now more than ever. The hunger for new content, especially celebrity and event content, overwhelms almost anything that ever passed for journalism in this arena. To marginalize any of these events is to risk being unable to get the access they afford media. Ironically, the events exist for the media, so the threat works both ways. But the showmakers have the upper hand in this Not So Cold War.

Then there is The Academy itself, an institution that includes about 6,000 of the most veteran film industry people there are. But it too is playing the TV game, with the vast majority of the organization’s annual revenue coming from one night’s worth of TV. Does that perverse the idea of honoring film? Of course. On the other hand, The Academy is by far the most legit organization giving out movie awards. The group does make real investments back into the film industry and community. The group is so large that any individual or group trying to control it will find it nearly impossible. And there is a sense of maturity and perspective… even if the eventual outcome tends to lack daring. Members of The Academy pay for the privilege, it’s positions of power, outside of the internal bureaucracy, are voluntary. And while the bureaucracy pays some people far too well and others fairly, the organization is hiring – and can fire – those individuals. They are, ultimately, employees.

I would submit to you, dear friends and countrypeople, that the only award show amongst these that really matters is The Oscars. There are glaring flaws with all of the others. This is not debatable.

What is debatable is whether these question marks matter. Should anyone really care that Joey Berlin has built a “critics” group that now affords him a rather significant annual payday? Does it matter than Carlos de Abreu made up awards out of nothing but the contents of his giant scrotal sack and now has gotten rich on the money that returns virtually nothing of value to the studios? Eighty-something foreign-language speakers have made themselves seem worth much, much more than the time of day because they have a TV show that has been successfully and inaccurately positioned as an Oscar precursor… should we care? The Academy has made The Oscars less and less about movies and more and more about being like the Jimmy Fallon show with statues (Oscar nominee beer pong, coming this spring!) because they are obsessed with being cutting edge, when the only real distinction of the organization is the many years it takes to get invited to join, thus given its awards real weight… does it matter?

The scary part is that if I was so inclined, I could ask the Gurus – and a few who work for outlets that are not allowed to play – and 20 of us could hold up the studios for millions a year, demanding perks and more for our valuable prognostications. We could have The Gurus show and force every movie to send the biggest stars in the world to come drink with us for a night while we hire a hot comic to make a show of it. And we could all quit our day jobs and just be wealthy off the fat of OscarLand. And this not ego talking. The reality is, no one gets to December without coming through us… which like all these shows, does not mean we make these movies any better or more Oscar worthy. But we are the gatekeepers in the vetting process that drives ALL of these shows.

And I have no interest in going there.

And I am not happy that things have become this anti-art.

The reason Gurus is considered so legit by so many is that we aren’t on the payroll. Yes, there are ads on MCN and on all of the sites where all of the Gurus work. But there is no quid pro quo. Really, there is very rarely any suggestion of any either. We don’t have a show. We aren’t milking the studios for more, more, more. We all have jobs with organizations and we are all responsible to those outlets before we are responsible to Gurus o’ Gold or advertisers.

And the most ironic thing is that NYFF and LAFCA and NSFC get love, but none of the deep attention that these TV-driven organizations get. NSFC doesn’t really want it. The other two groups wouldn’t mind it at all. And these groups are really about film criticism.

But TV award shows aren’t about The Best. They are about TV.

So perhaps, this entire conversation is – and should be – moot. You tell me…

BYOB 100614

Monday, October 6th, 2014

byobriot

21 Weeks To Oscar – Carlos & Joey & Cash, Oh My! (Part 1 of 2)

Monday, October 6th, 2014

Lots of disclosure here… sorry, but it’s necessary…

I have been a non-participating member of Broadcast Film Critics Association for, I think, 5 years now.

I took fire from one of Carlos de Abreu’s many fake storefronts, HollywoodNews.com, in 2010, when they “investigated” a 2007 screening series Movie City News did in conjunction with BFCA by looking at BFCA tax documents which showed that BFCA “loaned” MCN $27,600. What the “reporter” was told by both me and Joey Berlin in separate conversations was that this money was paid out for a theater rental which we mutually decided to make an MCN event and not a BFCA event in 2007. Movie City News collected the cost of said rental from the studios involved and paid back BFCA back in 2008. The situation was positioned as something nefarious, as Carlos and his henchman (formerly good guy journalist Bob Welkos) tried to take me down personally as “Crackpot of the Month.” I believe this was the only time they gave out this “award.” Like most things Carlos, it was just a ruse towards an unstated end.

I was part of Carlos’ group of “consultants” or his “committee” for the Hollywood Film Awards in years past. This consisted of an occasional phone call and a couple lunches a season at either Orso or Crustacean for which he paid. The purpose of the contact was to solicit opinions about who would be the likely Oscar nominees in the year to come so he could then go solicit/choose them for his award show.

Carlos also asked me repeatedly to run his Hollywood Film Festival, which was and has been another false front, cover for the awards show on which he made his money. However, he wanted me to do it for no money and with virtually no budget. I tried, for a couple of years, to get LA Film Critics interested in taking over Carlos’ festival. They had almost no money, but were trying desperately to create a platform to promote films they felt were being lost to the distribution machine. But their position on Carlos was extreme and full of rage. They would have nothing to do with him. And they were right.

As years passed, Carlos stopped being funny to me and his con started making me sick to my stomach.

How could I write about what a con the Hollywood Foreign Press Association was – and is – with its eighty-something barely-employed writers puffing up with self-importance and raping studio coffers all year long while showing no semblance of journalistic integrity whatsoever, and be charmingly amused by Carlos who made up awards, chose winners by himself in negotiations with distributors, with no other purpose than to line his own pockets? I was being a hypocrite. So I stopped engaging. And Carlos has hated me for it – as he hates anyone who tells the truth about him – ever since.

I am old enough to remember the Old Hollywood way of things. I felt, for instance, that George Christy was a wonderful example of this. Anita Busch and David Robb felt he was embarrassment to entertainment journalism and worked hard to eventually force Bob Dowling to dismiss him from The Hollywood Reporter. What was his crime? He took up the back inside page of THR with pictures and florid writing about stupid Hollywood parties. And, in a long established con, acted in movies one or twice a year to get health insurance. That crime, which still feels rather benign to me, and Anita’s obsession with it, got him fired.

Likewise, I have had an have a soft spot for Joey Berlin and his work at the BFCA.

When I was actively involved with BFCA – through these screening series (which John Horn, then at the LA Times, also used to lie about me and the revenues from the series in the LA Times without ever interviewing me on the subject) – I got to know Joey. Good guy. He was still the muscle behind infamous quote whore Jeff Craig, who is a real person, but who doesn’t see movies. He has a series of junket people feed him opinions… which are almost always positive. The resulting output is Sixty Second Previews, which is syndicated across the country on radio. Joey was and is a hustler. But not a liar. Even then, he was drawing a salary of, I believe, $75k a year to run BFCA, when none of the other critics organizations were paying their presidents. (This may have changed in years since. I have been more concerned about the macro grotesquerie than the micro for years now.)

Pushing BFCA onto television was Joey’s primary goal at the time and continues to be, it seems, his primary focus for the organization. I am pretty sure that the year I got more involved was the last one in which there was no TV, just the event at the Beverly Hills Hotel, which had started to bring out the biggest names in the awards season. This lead to television and a lot more money in the pot.

I withdrew my efforts (and my vote) from BFCA a couple years later, as BFCA continued to expand its roster as the job of “film critic” in traditional media (aka, paying media) became an endangered species. While I was out making lists of the dwindling number of full-time critics jobs at the time, BFCA, which was an organization of junketeers, not of film critics, was expanding. Done. But I didn’t want to embarrass the group or Joey, so I just withdrew quietly, without informing anyone. I know it is impossible to imagine someone making a decision without blogging about it… but it happened.

I knew that Joey was taking a producer’s role and surely a salary. But he was also creating profile, opportunity, and even paying jobs for journalists/critics. BFCA was and is a more legitimate platform – even with fewer than 25 of what I would call real film critics on its roster – than HFPA or clearly The Carlos Awards. I felt no need to take him down. And there was no doubt that I could have taken advantage. As DP/30 was in its early stages, BFCA was offering money for pilot projects in a relationship with the Reelz cable channel. I didn’t get in line for the support or the handout.

The reason I am writing this today is that Carlos and his employee, Robert Welkos, went after Joey Berlin personally today. And there is information worth unpacking there. The concern is legit, especially for BFCA members. But when a con man goes after a hustler, there are always more questions left unanswered than not.

We are a little under a month from Dick Clark Productions’ version of The Carlos Awards running on CBS. The con man leap-frogged over the hustler on this one.

I have no idea what DCP and CBS have in mind to try to make Carlos’ one-man show appear more legitimate. Perhaps they feel no need for legitimacy in the current circus atmosphere of movie awards, following the lead of such “Come show up and win an award” shows as The American Comedy Awards, created by the legendary George Schlatter to fill a void and to make some money. They already moved the event from October to November, surely because the distributors told them to do so.

You have to figure that Carlos will personally pocket no less than a million dollars a year for creating this monstrosity. If it’s a hit, that number (whatever it is) will multiply. It is far from inconceivable that he will be making $5 million or more annually off of the show, which is based on his willingness to create something from absolutely nothing. Carlos doesn’t even know enough to have his own opinions. He is the cover of a magazine, writ larger… just as available for purchase to the highest bidder.

As for the BFCA… I am still unpacking this. First, I am seeking confirmation that the tax return, as stated, is accurate. And a response. And I am pained just trying to get my head around the numbers, talking to others who are associated, but not on anyone’s side of this issue. And that is why there will be a Part 2 to this piece. Because I am committed to speaking to this… it would be wrong to bury my head in the ground (or in my distaste for Carlos and his scummy ways), but I am not ready to have a strong opinion yet.

Weekend Estimates by Gone Klady by That Much

Sunday, October 5th, 2014

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Okay… was at the Pumpkin farm… great roasted corn, terrible internet reception.

Gone Girl probably wins the weekend. Truthfully, I expected it to pull farther away. We have it at a million. Others at a bit less.

The truth is, it is Annabelle overperforming the standard for horror than a Gone Girl issue. The estimate is a bit better than WB’s big opening for The Conjuring, which did 2.4x Friday’s number for its opening weekend. Annabelle is estimating 2.47x. Insidious 2, which is the other big opener in the category in the last year did 2x Friday’s number… which is really more the norm in the genre.

On the other hand, Gone Girl‘s estimate could turn out to be low by as much as a million. Fox took what looks to me to be a conservative position on estimating Sunday. We’ll see. This is, as estimated, Fincher’s best opening by almost $8 million or a 27% bump over his now #2 opener, Panic Room.

There have only been twelve $35m+ openings in the history of October. This is the third time that there were 2 such openings in the same year. It’s the only time they have occurred on the same weekend. So, a happy story for everyone on both films.

The trio of other openings over 100 screens were surprisingly obscure. FreeStyle did okay, but not sensationally with Left Behind, which starred Nic Cage, not Kirk Cameron. Fox International rolled out Bang Bang, which makes the most sense as an unknown. WB rolled out The Good Lie from Team Alcon.

Also trawling for word of mouth was CBS films with Pride and Paramount with Men, Women & Children. Neither found much of an audience.

The best per-screen from traditional domestic indie distributors was IFC’s $7,030-per estimate for Matthieu Almaric’s The Blue Room.

TIFF ’14: Salma Hayek on Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet

Saturday, October 4th, 2014

TIFF ’14: Damien Chazelle, Whiplash writer/director

Saturday, October 4th, 2014

Friday Estimates by Annabelle Ain’t Gone Klady

Saturday, October 4th, 2014

Friday Estimates 2014-10-04 at 9.07.36 AM

It’s all perspective. Gone Girl‘s opening day is about 10% better than any Fincher opening day before. It is likely to be his fourth straight opening as the #1 movie of the weekend (though the whole #1 ranking thing is more often than not a worthless stat). And even the reviews that are not stellar are nearly universally admiring. It is a Fincher success. Somewhere around $100m domestic… somewhere around $250m worldwide… Oscar nominations… lots of conversation.

With a budget reported to be under $10 million, Annabelle is easily the big business winner of the weekend. No conversation, no Oscar nominations… just a lot of profit. This, for me, is the fall season of confused studios. Annabelle seems like a wet dream movie for Fox (cheap and hugely profitable) while Gone Girl is more the Warner Bros style (huge prestige being more important than the bottom line) or maybe Sony. Meanwhile, The Equalizer also feels like a WB film, if not a Universal one… but it’s from Sony.

Studio imprint has been fading in recent years, aside from Disney. But this year, it all feels random as hell. Even the producers seem off. Pop Quiz: On which movie is Scott Rudin a producer? A. Gone Girl, B. Inherent Vice, C. Foxcatcher. Answer: None of the Above. The guy behind the last 3 Finchers, There Will Be Blood, and Moneyball is not the guy behind any of those filmmakers this time around. (It’s not like he hasn’t been busy with some great stuff this year, from Grand Budapest to Silicon Valley to Jon Stewart’s directorial debut/perhaps finale’ Rosewater to the Cameron Crowe film that got pushed into 2015.)

Anyway…

55% percent Friday-to-Friday for The Equalizer is pretty good, actually… likely to be down to the high 40s for the weekend.

The new Christian movie, Left Behind, is doing better than FreeStyle’s last Christian movie, The Identical, which I don’t even remember happening a month ago. (Toronto may have distracted me right past noticing its $2.8m opening weekend.) Still, is $7 million a good number or not? Well, it’s well behind the two huge Christian hits earlier this year (Heaven Is For Real and God’s Not Dead), but it’s a solid #2 for the year in this category. Is it a good number for a Nic Cage movie? Well… given the size of the film, it’s not bad versus other recent Cage openings of smaller budget/scale movies. It’s right between Season of the Witch and Drive Angry. Even excellent indies like Joe and Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleanshave failed to do even $2 million in total domestic. So, this looks pretty good, really.

Men, Women & Children is a bust. Makes me sad, honestly. Jason Reitman is a remarkably talented guy and this film, which is surely his least successful effort, is by far his least successful opening. He’s never launched on this few screens before. His other three limited launches were 5/7/8 screens and they did (roughly) $25k/$60k/$50k per screen. On 17 screens, this is looking like $2500 will be the top possible per-screen for the weekend.

Opening with an even worse per screen (but on a lot more screens, making it the biggest pygmy in that race) is Warner Bros’ The Good Lie, a movie abut Sudanese refugees who land in the heartland of America and need to find their way. Fronted by Reese Witherspoon, who has a more high-profile small movie (see: Awards) in play, Wild, this one didn’t get as hard a push as WB might have liked. And even if it had, still a very hard sell… especially for a big-baller like WB. Under $2k per screen on 461.

The only indie release likely to do over $6500 per screen this weekend is Breakup Buddies, China Lion’s Hao Ning release that sounds a bit like the Asian version of SPC’s Land Ho!. Just behind that should be TriBeCa’s Nas: Time Is Illmatic, somewhere near $30k on 5 screens for the weekend.

22 Weeks To Oscar: Bring On The Narratives!

Thursday, October 2nd, 2014

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I really have been trying to stay out of this early scrum. If there is anything I can feel good about, it’s that I held out longer than Mark Harris.

Even so, no big bold predictions this week. It just struck me that even before we really know—and no one really knows jack-excrement this early, especially in this season—we do know some of the strategies waiting to be unfurled in the next two months.

If you wanna to win an Oscar, you gotta have a narrative.

There are many narratives that have worked. But each season, the elements involved change and that changes the value of any given narrative.

Narratives are debated before, during, and after the awards… sometimes for years after. I would still argue that without the Kathryn-vs.-Jim narrative, The Hurt Locker (my favorite film that year) would not have won… and might not even have been nominated. Others see it as the triumph of the best film… or the indie… or war guilt, etc, etc, etc.

So here are a handful of narratives that you will surely hear floating around in the months to come (if you haven’t heard them already):

It/They/He/She Is Due

Always a popular one. but a multi-edged sword. This year’s top contender for this narrative is Christopher Nolan. Thrice nominated (two for writing, one for producing a Best Picture nominee), he has never gotten the Best Director Oscar that so many feel he is due. Is Interstellar his fast ride to Gold City? Word (from interested sources) is that this film has the emotion that some of his other titles have not. And it’s a big picture-picture.

Of course, riding just behind Nolan on the same train are Richard Linklater & Boyhood, David Fincher & Gone Girl, and Alejandro G. Iñárritu (new layout on his name in titles) & Birdman.

Like Nolan, they have all been nominated for multiple Oscars. And won none. They all have very distinct styles and skills. And we know there will be plenty of love from critics of all three of the movies already seen… and likely for the one unseen as well.

On the Actress front you have Julianne Moore (4 Oscar nods so far) and Amy Adams (5 Oscar nods). They make Jessica Chastain (two nods) and Keira Knightley (one nod) looks like the nouveau-nominated.

Amongst the Actors, it could easily be a field dominated by Oscar winners (Aflleck/McConaughey/Duvall/Phoenix) or by never-before-nominated veterans (Michael Keaton, Steve Carrell, J.K. Simmons, Timothy Spall, Eddie Redmayne, Benedict Cumberbatch amongst them).

They are all “due.”

Reese and Meryl better watch their already-gilded backs.

Celebrate The Singular Artistic Event

I must be thinking of Boyhood, right? Or is it Interstellar? Or Foxcatcher? Or Mr. Turner.

There really has never been anything like Boyhood. Except the 7 Up series by Michael Apted.

There won’t be anything like Interstellar. Except for 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Right Stuff (referenced by the writer/director himself).

There won’t be anything like Foxcatcher. Except for much of the Michael Haneke collection.

Nor nothing like Mr. Turner. Except Altman’s Vincent & Theo.

No disrespect intended to these four excellent movies. But I would argue that “singularity” is not a great argument. Not on its own. The Artist was singular, as a silent film in a noisy era. But it was also supported by The Big 3 Ws – (about) Hollywood, Heartwarming and Harvey.

Harvey Time

Few people have been as successful playing the awards game and at making people insanely paranoid about their behavior.

After a seven-year losing streak (and for Harvey, not winning is losing), The Weinstein Co won two in a row before not winning in the last two seasons. This year didn’t look so good just a few months ago, at Cannes, when the company’s reel for the rest of 2014 was presented. Suite Francaise and Macbeth are already pushed to 2015. Big Eyes has not gotten much love from the company (though Amy Adams will out). Grace of Monaco suicidally opened Cannes against Harvey’s will. The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby is currently being ignored in cinemas and the two-film version is soon to follow in those footsteps. St. Vincent is a Bill Murray event, but no Oscar movie. And there was this little movie that slid in between the others… The Imitation Game, which emerged as TWC’s lead pony at Toronto. Really, the only horse in Picture.

The odd thing is that there is a certain synergy with Focus’s The Theory of Everything, which is also a period piece, a true story, about a genius and a woman who loves him. So if paranoia is in order round Harvey, it should probably start at Focus, where they have to fight off his attempts to knock their movie out of the box to make his seem more singular.

Angelina vs Brad

This is my favorite new narrative in the making. Brad is in Fury, a David Ayer (also kinda due.. at least for a big hit and some Academy love) World War II movie set in and around a tank full of unorthodox heroes with The Kid providing the audience a point-of-view of the horror. Angie is the director of Unbroken, the story of The Kid, who takes all the war has to dish out and takes it like a tank.

Are these both Best Picture class movies? Here’s hopin’!

But what gets interesting is what happens if they are… and they both manage to get nominated, along with Brad for Actor and Angie for Director. it would suck the oxygen out of the season like no one’s business. In space, no one can see you failing to campaign. But if expectations are met and both films are of a quality level that legitimately makes them candidates to win, this becomes the story of the season, right past Boyhood’s 12-year production and Interstellar‘s big movie muscle.

The only “problem” is that they really aren’t completing directly. Brad’s company didn’t produce Fury and Angie isn’t acting (and if she was, she wouldn’t be directly competing there either).

Still… the media loves Bradgelina (or however the hell they spell it!)!!!

The big “if” is The Films. But we’ll soon figure out what is what.

The one thing we do know is that both Brad and Angie will be nominated for Golden Globes. Mortal locks.

Focus’ Last Stand

If you’re still pissed about Brokeback Mountain clap your hands!

Yes, Focus is being refocused and The Theory of Everything is considered one of the last breaths of The Old Focus as we knew it. True, it’s a Working Title film and that their relationship with Universal proper is not over… so there will be more such films in future. But don’t let that get in the way of a good narrative.

Do you want to shout, loud & proud, about the direction studio movies are going in 2014 while celebrating the great and glorious legacy of Schamus, Linde, and the whole gang? This is your chance.

Revenge Of The Elders

Another group that gets forgotten by the pundits this time of year is… well, The Academy. Dawn Hudson may have ushered in so cool kids into The Academy because it’s never a really a party until Rosario Dawson starts twerking up against an Octogenarian, but still, the overwhelming majority of members are not paying full admission at any movie anymore. And they like their movies the old fashioned way… on a screen… not too much blood…. not too many curse words or sex scenes… powerfully familiar.

I think Mr. Turner is the film that is a near-lock for a nomination… this year’s Philomena. Beautifully made, with real-life images that match the beauty of Turner’s painting. About the challenges of an aging artist of great renown. Brilliant, emotional performance by a familiar face in the lead.

This is also the domain of The Imitation Game, a movie that has been universally liked, but pushed away from by some critics as not edgy enough. Old people say, “Take your edgy and get off of my golden lawn.”

Unbroken is counting on people who remember World War II for themselves as well. So is Theory. And surprisingly, Foxcatcher, which was the clear critics’ choice coming out of Cannes, but is now being challenged by Birdman and Boyhood, will be looking for The Adult Vote of those for whom The Bird is too clev-ah and would rather watch Grandsonhood (coming to CBS next spring).

It’s The Best Picture

I know… almost unthinkable.

This is really a Phase 2 narrative.

But this time of year, it really is, “If Movie X turns out to be Forrest Gump 2014, it wins in a walkaway.”

This is the power of being unseen. Anything can happen. I remember when Million Dollar Baby was last in the pool and the minute the lights came up, I knew it was going to beat the very good, but flawed The Aviator. Of course, the thrill of the new can also lead to an overreach, such as when I saw Munich and pegged it as a likely winner. I still ended up being nearly alone predicting its eventual nomination back in the 5-nominee days. Or there is the case of Zero Dark Thirty, which had to face a barrage of misguided attacks, killing the film in its crib. A double-edged sward, the late game.

Will Unbroken be the last movie to be shown? Its looking like it. Could be American Sniper. Could be Into The Woods, though not terribly likely, in spite of being the last of the trio to be locked.

Right now, as you read everyone, you get the feeling that we have passed the “It’s THE Movie” option. But one never knows.

There will surely be another narrative or two that I haven’t considered today. Such is the nature of the season. (How’s that for a narrative?)

Weekend Estimates by Denzel Klady

Sunday, September 28th, 2014

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