Author Archive

BYOB RIP Jerry, Dick, and …

Sunday, August 20th, 2017

jerry lewis dick gregory

Weekend Estimates by the by…

Sunday, August 20th, 2017

Weekend Estimates 2017-08-20 at 9.55.27 AM

Do I really have to say anything here? I feel like I already covered things in this meh weekend.

It stuns me that there have been 27 $400 million domestic grossers (Wonder Woman joined last week).

The Big Sick will pass $40 million and is a serious candidate for a Best Picture nomination.

The Trip to Spain did a great $27k per on 36.

Strong expansion for Ingrid Goes West.

Detroit will gross almost exactly what The Hurt Locker did domestically.

Gook opened well. Good Time expanded pretty well. Wind River is underdelivering. Patti Cake$ is a work in progress, but word of mouth is going to have to kick in fast.

I’m going to go watch my print of The Day The Clown Cried….

Friday Estimates by The Box Office Man’s Bodyguard

Saturday, August 19th, 2017

Screen Shot 2017-08-19 at 10.42.02 AM

Eighteen months ago, Ryan Reynolds solo-starred a $132 million opening. The Hitman’s Bodyguard will be his #2 non-animated opening of the last five years.

Samuel L. Jackson has been in 20 movies in the last five years, with widely ranging box office, not only from co-star Marvel franchises, but from movies sold heavily on his stardom.

One could easily make an argument that a $22 million-ish opening for The Hitman’s Bodyguard is solid for these two actors at this time. It’s better than a big studio launch with Reynolds like Life. The xXx reboot launched to only $20 million with Jackson AND Vin Diesel. Why would anyone expect more without a supersuit from these two?

On the other hand, two funny guys with strong personalities, jaunting around Europe shooting people seems like a potentially giant R-rated hit movie. Why not a Kingsman-level opening? Why not a third of the Deadpool open?

These are the discussions that give studio execs ulcers. Same with Atomic Blonde. Charlize is glorious. Wonder Woman and Girls Trip suggest that women will show up for female leads. The high style of the film was made for advertising. 75% on Rotten Tomatoes wouldn’t scare anyone away. $18.3 million open.

For that matter, how hard do you have to try to open a Will Ferrell comedy to $8 million? His first wide opening to a number that low in more than 15 years!!! And that doesn’t even take Amy Poehler’s fans into account.

Logan Lucky is another barrel of monkeys. It will open pretty much the way that lower-profile Soderbergh movies open. Big number for Bleecker Street. Not a sensational number for Channing Tatum or James Bond.

Annabelle: Creation dropped almost the same as the first film of these two. The parent franchise, The Conjuring, opens stronger and drops faster.

Girls Trip passed $100m domestic on Thursday.

Decent expansion for Wind River, grabbing $1 million on Friday on a third or a quarter of other films in the Top 10.

Soft opening for well-liked Patti Cake$ and Marjorie Prime.

Weekend Estimates by Klady: Creation

Sunday, August 13th, 2017

Weekend Estimates 2017-08-13 at 10.15.42 AM copy

Annabelle: Creation is off about $2 million from the opening of the first Annabelle, which is almost exactly how much The Conjuring 2 was off of The Conjuring. Ahhh… consistency. Dunkirk holds strong and while summer is ending and September is loaded, there is no other major IMAX event coming for six weeks. Nut Job 2 is 3. The Glass Castle manages near $5 million on only 1,481 screens, which is good, because they are spending less on ads. Baby Driver crosses $100 million. And Ingrid Goes West and Good Time battle to be sexually undefined leader of the exclusive launch.

Charlottesville.

This discussion feels trivial today… especially since it’s not an interesting moment to discuss box office.

It’s time for a summer wrap-up, but that will wait for the middle of the week.

Be well, all.

Friday Estimates by Klady: Creation

Saturday, August 12th, 2017

Friday Estimates 2017-08-12 at 9.09.48 AM
Meh.

It’s been an uninspired summer and this is an appropriately uninspired weekend to close it out.

Annabelle: Creation will win easily. As The Conjuring 2 opened to within $1.5 million of The Conjuring, Annabelle 2 looks like it will open within $1.5 million of Annabelle.

With Dunkirk holding strong at #2, this is the first time in at least a decade (I stopped my research with 2007) in which WB has had the #1 and #2 movie on a weekend.

The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature could crack $10 million, but won’t come close to the surprise success of The Nut Job.

If The Dark Tower opened bigger, a 62% second Friday drop wouldn’t be bad. But…

Girls Trip is slowing, but still pushing along to $100 million sometime in the next five or six days.

Spider-Man: Homecoming passes $300 million domestic, which neither Amazing Spider-Man movie did, but it is lagging behind both ASMs worldwide. Worldwide will likely pass ASM2 worldwide, but not ASM.

The Glass Castle tiptoed out and will do about $3k per screen on 1,461.

Detroit, in its second weekend, starts the weekend out of the Top 10, likely to gross less than $4 million for the 3-day.

Ingrid Goes West and Good Time roll out well in exclusives, with Good making a little more on four but with Ingrid doing a better per-screen on three.

Tipping Point: The Streaming Wars Are About To Start (in 2020)

Friday, August 11th, 2017

The pieces are coming together.

Disney is the first to announce that it will launch a proper studio streaming-app business in 2019.

The non-renewal of the deal with Netflix will “open up” $450 million or so for the streamer… but the number is irrelevant to both Netflix and Disney, although all the headlines seem to find this the most important angle.

Netflix can do a deal with another studio, though the price will be higher.

But Disney is going after the future. Completely guessing at a number here, but… $8 a month… 10 million subs in the first year… almost a billion in gross revenue.

$5 more a month for ESPN? Add 5 million more subs and we’re at $2.34 billion. (And ESPN drops to 60m cable/satellite households. About $3.6 billion annually.)

$2 more a month for Marvel and $2 more for Lucasfilm. Let’s say those two entities drive another 5 million subs in that first year. The streamer is now generating over $4 billion a year.

And that’s just the first year or so, with only about 40% of Netflix’s penetration.

I think $17 a month for those services (including ABC, Disney films and Pixar), is a doable number in the current marketplace. It will eventually be high… but that’s down the road. Things get more complicated down that road. Cable and satellite will find a way to re-assert themselves. Consumers will have a lot more options.

Who’s next in the pool? AT& T seems like a sure bet. They have a more complicated portfolio than Disney. For instance, they own DirecTV, which generates over $30 billion a year. Still, the interest in keeping revenues at the satellite provider high hasn’t kept DirecTV from offering a streaming bundle product, DirecTV Now.The big trick they have to figure out is how to keep the numbers up among the top tier of spenders, who pay $150 a month-plus for service.

Add to this mix Warner Bros film and TV content as well as HBO (which already has a $15 a month streaming option), Cinemax, and streamer Warner Archive, while also hoping to keep monthly numbers going up or even remaining stable.

Of course, there is also the potential for heavy cost savings for the DirecTV brand, if they slim down. The spend a fortune paying the channels they carry. This is a big complication moving forward for both AT&T and Comcast, as a big part of their spending and revenue is based on paying competitors for broadcast content while the current trend is leaning on selling your own created content as exclusive.

Comcast is already the most integrated business in the game, bringing in individualized companies, rather than isolating them. For instance, you can get Netflix through your Xfinity cable box. Comcast has also developed a much more complete system of video on demand for broadcast on their system than, say, DirecTV, where it is still more sporadic.

Like Disney (unlike the planned AT&T/Time-Warner combinaton), Comcast has a major broadcast network. All three have studios that produce both film and television. AT&T/Time-Warner will have the biggest library to work with once the merger lands, but Disney may have the must-subscribe library, with the power of family films, ESPN, Marvel and Lucasfilm. (Stories suggesting that Netflix might keep the Marvel or Lucasfilm packages for more years seems truly foolish for Disney, even if there seems to be some upside in cash money. If they are serious about launching streaming, they need to launch with full aggression.)

The upside for Netflix is that as the studios (and the broadcast and major cable networks with them) build out these standalone options, the plateau Netflix is on can expand from the mid-50 million subs to the ubiquitous 100 million subs. Netflix can keep spending about where it is now and double their domestic revenue. This would still make their stock price significantly too high for the real value of the company, perhaps even more so because the market would now see the massive competition landing on the company’s doorstep.

Other major content producers will follow the lead. Fox is the most obviously analogous to Comcast, AT&T, and Disney as they have a broadcast network, cable nets, big film and TV businesses, and the biggest library of the last three major studios. Financial concerns at Sony and Paramount could propel those companies into a more aggressive position than their current status would befit.

Also, this movement could force another reconsideration of Viacom reconnecting Paramount (etc) and CBS. If the price point does become $15, selling CBS, Showtime, Paramount and Nickelodeon as standalones is not happening. Even if the base price is $8 a month, the real world is not going to pay these companies $32 a month for their content, which represents only about 20% of what is out there.

The giant question that remains: How will Comcast and AT&T combine the new not-really-a-la-carte universe of On Demand (expect a new name to be coined soon) and their traditional cable and satellite businesses, which represent over 75% of American households right now? Every 10 million households subscribed is about $8 billion a year in gross revenue. A skinny package that cuts the monthly cost to consumers in half may be a solid foundation for most American households and the future of these delivery systems with a-la-carte purchases adding to that total.

But if Comcast has their gross cable revenue cut in half and then every buyer pays an additional $15 a month for NBC/Universal, they are still 25% short. Hard bridge to cross. Is the uptick in home internet service where them make up (and/or exceed) their original revenues?

AT&T is more complex, already in the process of trying to expand its home internet position, leveraging the DirecTV audience to wire as many homes with their broadband services as DirecTV has subs. Comcast’s position, in this case, is a bit better than AT&T’s as change is hard and AT&T likely needs to make up the shortfall indicated above with broadband revenues (unless they have a bigger idea).

And then there is the next evolution. Even if the price for each major studio and the connected cable nets, broadcast nets, etc, is $15 apiece, there are six of them and we are at $90 a month for the complete package… before adding Netflix, Hulu and Amazon. That makes it $120 a month. Now add all the cable nets, like FX and AMC, nickel-and-diming, but still adding on. The average spend on what comes to America’s TVs is not going up to $150 a household anytime soon.

And so, bundling will begin. How much will people pay to not have commercials? Maybe an added $30 a month per household is realistic (if you include broadcast TV). How does that get cut up? Is there going to be enough for those broadcasters?

There will be those who will be happy to overpay. (Same people who the film industry fantasizes about when discussing collapsing windows.) But the average spend is going to be under $85 a month for most households for many years to come. So how do you cut up the pie when streaming comes to shove?

That is the next big story.

For now, Disney is the tipping point. If they fail early on (and separating out Marvel and Lucasfilm could cause that), the evolution will slow. If they are a hit, the evolution will be like sound in film… virtually overnight as everyone chooses to eat the financial costs to avoid being shoved out of the business completely within a few years.

It’s gonna be fun. It’s gonna get ugly. And in about 10 years, consumers will have the most access for the most reasonable price in the history of filmed entertainment. A price will be paid. That is what this next decade will be about… who pays it and how much it hurts.

Disney And Netflix In Several Short Tweets (updated)

Wednesday, August 9th, 2017

Disney  logo Netflix_Logo_DigitalVideo_0701

Weekend Estimates by Numbers in Black Klady

Sunday, August 6th, 2017

wknd Estimates 2017-08-06 at 10.32.27 AM copy

The weekend went from bad to worse, as The Dark Tower turned out to be front-loaded, managing only 2.5x Friday for the weekend and Detroit, great reviews and all, managed only 2.8x Friday. Kidnap did 2.7x Friday, but that was expected, given its genre. Meanwhile, holdovers Dunkirk, The Emoji Movie, and Girls Trip were all over the 3x Friday line. The Weinstein Company had a strong start on four screens for Wind River, delivering over $40k per.

Friday is about expectations, which has not been a good thing for movies or journalism. And 3-day estimates are about gaining perspective over a full launch of a film.

Neither was pleasant this weekend, especially for two of the three newcomers. The Dark Tower, which may have been inexpensive enough not to cost anyone at Sony their job, couldn’t get to a $20 million opening. You have to go all the way back to 1998 to find a first week of August without a $20 million opener. Snake Eyes and Halloween: H2O. Memories light the corners of my mind.

Still, even with the weak weekend, The Dark Tower is the #2 Stephen King opening of all time. A big chunk of that is timing, as 28 of the 41 Stephen King adaptations launched more than 20 years ago, when opening weekend wasn’t the studio-created obsession that it is now. (The hysteria about shortening the windows didn’t come from audience preference. It’s been driven this way for decades now.) Still, 1408 is the only $20 million opener and The Green Mile is the only film to gross over $72m domestic. So dream as we might about the master of thrills, one of the greats of the past two generations, delivering big hit movies, history tells us otherwise. Could this change, in what is really the third wave of King movies? Sure. It might explode. But more likely, The King Fantasy will continue to be fool’s gold. Some really good, memorable films made throughout. But more niche product than mass product for moviegoers.

$10 million for Kidnap is a win for the new distributor. It suggests $25m at minimum for theatrical, which should more than cover the careful marketing and give the film a bigger price tag in post-theatrical. Lots of existing distributors would be happy with this number for a not-so-great film with a star who doesn’t have a ton of opening power.

And Detroit. Just couldn’t close the deal. Part of the failure is the reality of a hard movie. A lot of it is misunderstanding what is hard about the movie. I covered this thoroughly yesterday.

Dunkirk continues to roll. It’s turning out that the closest Nolan comp is Batman Begins, though Interstellar seems close as well. Both suggest high 180s is where the final domestic is headed. There is already another $180m in the bank from international.

Girls Trip is slowing down, but has $100m domestic well within its sights.

Spider-Man: Homecoming is going to crack $300m domestic next weekend. International is well behind the Amazings, but China could make up the difference all by itself.

The two $10k per-screeners this weekend are Wind River and Columbus. With $40k+ per, the door is open for Wind River. But we have to be patient to see how they expand.

Friday Estimates by Excelslinger Klady

Saturday, August 5th, 2017

friday Esitmates 651w 080517

This is a crazy weekend.

First, The Dark Tower. With due respect to everyone who wants to kick the guy, this is why Tom Rothman survives and thrives (with thriving at Sony to come). He took a Stephen King book that the King Cult loves and he looked at the numbers. The Green Mile is the massive anomaly. It grossed more than double any other Stephen King-based film ever worldwide. 1408 is the second biggest hit, although it was sold more like a traditional horror/thriller than a Stephen King adaptation. Aside from those two, no other Stephen King-based film has grossed over $62 million domestic or $50 million international (and 1408 “only” did $133m worldwide).

So… would a $150 million effects spectacular based on a Stephen King book have been a smart bet for Sony?

The real question will be international. Can the film do $100 million or more elsewhere? If so, it’s a hero. But even if it does $50 million, the budget on this film keeps Sony safe from significant loss. And if you are harboring a fantasy that they could Mummy it, which is to say, have Tom Cruise draw $300 million-plus internationally… well… Passengers.

The punchline is that this opening suggests that Tom Rothman will survive The Dark Tower and while it will not make him super-hot, it will get him to Jumanji after a summer with two hits, a breakeven or better (TDT), and a small loser (Rough Night).

And when It opens to this number or worse, watch it get celebrated as succeeding over its head. (Truth is, It should open better than this… but we’ll see.)

Kidnap is a direct-to-video movie if ever there was one. Yet here it is, David Dinerstein’s Aviron Picture’s first theatrical release, opening to around $10 million and likely to gross at least $25 million domestic on minimal marketing spend. This follows Entertainment Studio’s 47 Meters Down, which somehow grossed $43 million domestic.

With A24 and the launch of Neon getting all the (deserved) media love, there is a new strain of distributor emerging. (Worth noting that four of the six $10m+ domestic grossers for A24 were genre films.)

Detroit!

Another new distributor, as Annapurna puts it out there. Great team of industry veterans. Strong movie. Strong reviews. Dud opening.

If the rest of the weekend goes well, they will open to about the same as Girls Night.

Some have argued that the date is wrong. I would agree that was a miscalculation if they thought they could be the Hell or High Water of this summer. However, World Trade Center ($19m), The Butler ($25m), and a lot of black-audience-targeted movies suggest the opportunity is there. But the argument, which I consider absurd, that Kathryn Bigelow was an inappropriate director for this film because she is white, held back any momentum in selling to the black audience, without enough time for more than a few selected mea culpas by Bigelow. And I think the marketing was ambivalent about race as a focus in the sell of this movie.

Detroit – which was never going to be an easy sell, released to huge numbers – needed a longer runway. The excitement of “Kathryn Bigelow’s next movie” isn’t that of Christopher Nolan… but it does exist in a very real way. And that is what carried anticipation through the summer. It was seen as The Closer.

First problem… the movie turned out not be about the riots. Team Annapurna knew this. Like any other audience, critics don’t like to think they know what they are getting and then being surprised. And although the Rotten Tomatoes scores suggest otherwise, many writers I spoke to said the film gave them whiplash.

Second problem… when the actual movie came into focus, it was hard as nails. You have to let people – even professionals, if not especially professionals – know that this is coming. Moreover, you need to set the table for the emotional response. Non-horror movies do not do well when the word-of-mouth is, “It’s painful to watch.” You need to turn that to, “It hurts because we are still going through this today in America and across the globe.” That takes time.

Third problem… the “white writer, white director problem” is one I hadn’t anticipated. (Maybe that is a reflection of white privilege, but while I understand that some stories are so steeped in black culture as to make a white reflection of them off-putting, this doesn’t seem to be one of those stories.) But as it started to show, the film needed champions in the black culture… champions who should have been lined up for months, even before the issue was brought up in the press. Kathryn Bigelow has been an earnest supporter of more diversity in the directing ranks for years. Where were the people who she fought for when she needed some support? And if they were signaling a problem a month ago, the team should have taken very different, more transparent actions to save the commercial release of the film.

Fourth problem… what the hell was up with that last second exclusive release last weekend? I’m sure there were plenty of good arguments for it, but it was almost assured to fail because it wasn’t really marketed and the 50,000 people who saw the film aren’t enough to create the kind of word of mouth that will push wide release numbers. What it does is muddy the waters. I would have felt a lot better about them pushing the wide by two weeks, to go to 100 screens this weekend, then 200 next weekend, then wide, rather than to throw a tiny amount of chum in the water early that won’t attract a big fish.

Fifth problem… the movie and its public face. I love the movie. But who did the opening animation? I bet it was a black artist. Perhaps a prominent black artist. Why don’t I know that? Why doesn’t everyone know that? And if it is am imitation of some black artists, Bigelow screwed up. It draws attention to itself as ethnic art… so either do it right and talk about it openly or don’t do it.

I’m glad the marketing shifted to “What happened at The Algiers” 10 days ago… but that was 10 days ago. Until then, you would have thought it was a series of stories taking place during the frenzy of the riot.

It is one of the most basic ideas of movie marketing that you need to have a clear sell. I have seen very few campaigns over these last 20 years that switch focus or tone and work out well.

And the truth is, we will never know if the movie would have opened or done better if the push was clearer and more aggressive, as I have suggested here. Hindsight isn’t really 20/20. We all just want to believe that something is 20/20.

But Detroit deserved better than an $8 million opening.

Nice limited per-screens for Wind River and Columbus.

Review-ish: The Dark Tower (spoiler-free)

Wednesday, August 2nd, 2017

THE DARK TOWER

It’s not as bad as people made it out to be.

You’re going to read that a lot.

And it’s not. But it is bad. And I am not going to do the normal work of reviewing to explain why. It’s the choices made before they rolled a frame of film that killed this thing, not the choices of the film itself. (And God knows, not the f-ing budget… another hundred million would have made it worse, not better.)

I will even make a list, so editors at entertainment journals can understand it. (You know who you aren’t if you aren’t one of those.)

In order:

1. Not R-rated – This is a movie about absolute evil vs the last stragglers, who hope to save everything. Sorry. McConaughey walking around saying “Stop breathing” in his most deadpan voice is not EVIL. Hundreds of people die in this movie, from central characters to faceless bodies, and you feel nothing. Why? Because they played it PG-safe.

It’s not Peckinpah, Verhoeven or even early Schwarzenegger where the body count had a scent of irony. This piece is as earnest as earnest gets. And every body that falls needs to be unpleasant for the audience.

1a. McConaughey miscast for the PG-13 version – I imagine McCanaughey would be great as an R-rated devil. At some point he (and the movie) reminded me of The Devil’s Advocate, where another great scenery chewer fucked, literally and figuratively, with Charlize Theron’s mind and body. McConaughey could make that fly. But taken down into a low-key register, he is the stiff that he was in his early movie star career, before they released the “alright, alright, alright” in him again and made him someone you love to watch. (Ironically, one of the performances of his that I love in a film that wasn’t beloved was EdTV, where Ron Howard – producer of this film – released Matthew’s goofball as well as Harrelson’s.)

So… they deballed the material. They copied the mediocrity of the Indulgent… Indigent… Indigestion… whatever it is called and that Fox thing with Logan Lerman… neither of which had burned up the box office… and then they cast seriously dark and interesting actors who would never be allowed to deliver on what they really can do… and then they put the script in the hands of…

2. Akiva Goldsman – I was tempted to make him #1. Goldsman’s career has been on the same timeline as my journalistic career and I have tried… God knows I’ve tried… to figure out why anyone has hired him in the past decade. He must be SO great in the room. Also, he is a professional. He knows where the i’s get dotted and the t’s get crossed.

But he is an epic mediocritician. (Coining that word. Send me a dime when you use it.) A Beautiful Mind and Cinderella Man were lovely movies… both of which probably would have been better with a more passionate writer. But awards and money and Ron Howard and God bless. But since 2005? Not only bad movies, bur bland as the day is long. You want to protest white male privilege in Hollywood? Start there.

I’m sure he’s a great guy. But this year has brought us, as a writer and producer, Rings, Transformers 5, King Arthur, and now The Dark Tower. No career should survive this. He has made tens of millions of dollars in the last 15 years. Retire him. It was beyond over five years ago. I love Fringe, so maybe he’s able to do TV. But his name on your movie is the first sign of creative failure on an imdb page.

And I hate writing artists off. It’s a horrible thing to do. You never know when magic will rise from the dust of defeat and with a writer, you never know how much to blame they really are. But Goldsman was on Poseidon, Jonah Hex, both terrible Da Vinci Code movies, and now this year of epic mediocrity. Enough already. It’s not like he fails from trying to be interesting. His movies are all like watching DogTV in the late night “make your dog sleep” slots.

And again.. nothing personal. Sure you’re a great guy. You have been very successful. Please, go do something else.

3. There really is no #3 – The failure of The Dark Tower is a failure of imagination… not a failure of finance… not a failure of casting… not a lack of effects… not the idea they took from Stephen King (and I haven’t read the book).

It’s GOOD versus EVIL and a teenager is going to be drawn into the multi-dimensional battle because he is special. We have seen in a million times in a million variations. So how do you make this fresh? How do you make it fun?

What was Nikolaj Arcel’s vision? No idea. And I’m not reading any of those trade stories, giddy with the prospect of embarrassing people. But knowing some of his other work, I bet he had a vision. And I bet it wasn’t a PG-13 movie.

On the other hand, it seems Arcel has made this movie before. It was called Island of Lost Souls and here is the synopsis:

14-year-old Lulu moves to a small provincial town with her mother and younger brother. One night, her brother is struck by a beam of white light – actually the spirit of Herman Hartmann from the 19th-century. To her despair, Lulu realizes that Herman has possessed her brother, and the two of them are whirled into a fevered adventure. Joined by Oliver, a rich kid, and Richard, a disillusioned clairvoyant and inventor, they take on the dark, supernatural forces gathering over the town – evil from deep in the land of the dead, determined to take over the world and see them die.

Do I want to watch this to see if it is as mediocre as The Dark Tower? No. I want to believe it is better (on 20% of the budget or less).

So maybe he is #3. I am being kind. (Met him. Like him. Liked A Royal Affair. But….)

That’s pretty much it. I am completely open to a good new version of the same-old same-old. I’d rather have some serious originality, but if you do “expected” well, okay. This movie just made every wrong decision about what it wanted to be when it grew up. And maybe they will be thrilled with another Percy Jackson… which was a Tom Rothman creation at Fox.

Not me.

(P.S. Someone please give Katheryn Winnick a role where she can be beautiful and funny and super-smart and tough. I was really hoping that she would get to act in this film… but no. Shame is a powerful emotion that we never got to see her play. She is stuck being blonde and pretty. Someone please give her a role as rich as Lagertha while still allowing her to be all the other things she is.)

Weekend Estimates by Sad Face Happy Critic Face Klady

Sunday, July 30th, 2017

Weekend Estimates 073017

We come not to bury The Emoji Movie, but to remind that a $25m start isn’t so bad for a Sony Animation movie. In this, the worst summer for animation in many years, neither film managed to do 3x Friday for their opening weekend and Emoji, like it or not, opened behind only the Hotel Transylvanias (Dracula & Friends), Angry Birds, Sausage Party, and the Cloudy films on opening, making it the top non-R-rated, original launch by Sony Animation. In perspective, it is a successful launch. Dunkirk wins the weekend by default with a good hold. Girls Trip, Spider-Man: Homecoming, and Wonder Woman all have great holds. Atomic Blonde can’t get to $20 million, but out-opened the first John Wick.

Okay… so Dunkirk takes the weekend because Emoji comes up short. Survival. Ironic.

A 45% drop off opening weekend is solid, though The Martian (which opened to $54m), dropped just 32%. And in NolanLand, both Inception and Interstellar held better. I have ZERO proof, but my intuition on this is that the “See It In 70mm/IMAX” of it all puts up a roadblock for some of the audience that doesn’t want to spend the extra money or doesn’t have ready access to those formats and doesn’t want to see an “inferior” showing of the film.

So what happened to Emoji? Nothing, really. Nearly universally despised by critics, the movie still opened well by Sony Animation standards. It nearly doubled the launch of Smurfs: The Lost Village back in April. Emoji is likely to get to $75 million and could get to $100 million. And Sony has made sequels to a number of films that have done less business, albeit mostly direct to DVD. What would really be scary is if this film somehow blows up internationally, where they are years ahead of the US on the emoji love.

Atomic Blonde was the other new wide release this weekend and it… arrived. As noted yesterday, it opened better than John Wick and not as well as John Wick 2. But with the muscle of Universal marketing leaning into this one, it’s got to be seen as a disappointment. The estimate for the weekend seems to intentionally put the opening just past the 2 bottom openers for Universal this year so it’s not on the bottom. This would be a strong opening for a Lionsgate movie (they released Wick). But not for U. How the media treats a launch that is almost the same as The Great Wall… we’ll see. This opening is not a problem for Charlize Theron, who was the entire sell of this movie and she showed she is still a $10-million-a-film level opening star. But that her much-touted nipples on ice couldn’t come close to the girl power vacation of Girls Trip must be noted. (And my guess is that Ms. Theron’s nipples will play like gangbusters internationally, so make that too.)

Speaking of Girls Trip, it outgrossed Blonde domestically in its second weekend. This one could have legs like Latifah and Tiffany Haddish combined.

Detroit arrives early, as Annapurna launches as a distributor and breaks the rules right out of the gate. What the 20-screen launch says to me is that they are flexible, which is great, but that the film must need the word-of-mouth help, which is unfortunate. I keep hearing that people are afraid of experiencing the movie. And in the most simplistic way, they should be. The movie is tough. But it is deep and rich if you are open to self-reflection. A $17,900 per-screen is pretty good. Not life-changing. But it does mean that 30,000+ people are out there talking to their friends and family about the film. Next week, we will see if it helped. (In my view, the Atomic Blonde open would be a legit success for Detroit.)

An Inconvenient Sequel is the per-screen leader of the weekend, with $33k on four. The opening is about half of the original, which isn’t bad at all, considering much less media attention to this film.

Also strong in per-screen is A24’s Yiddish-language Hasidic drama, Menashe, with almost $19k per on three.

Friday Estimates by The Klady Emoji

Saturday, July 29th, 2017

Friday Estimates 2017-07-29 at 9.41.55 AM
200
The Emoji Movie
.

I haven’t even seen it and I hate it. Of course, I love Sony Animation, and somehow, my 7-year-old has a big stuffed poop on his bed, next to other characters that help him quiet down at night. (Thank GOD that this is the only poop in that bed for a number of years.) As one of the smaller operations in the game, Sony Animation pushes in less conventional directions and we should be applauding them. Seriously.

The reason we all seem to be happy to hate The Emoji Movie, even sight unseen, is that we all also knew it would be #1 at the box office whenever it opened. That’s also why they made it. It is truly “high concept,” led by a frozen yogurt-looking pile of excrement speaking the Queen’s English. Is there any better metaphor for why some people think the worst of “Hollywood”?

I wouldn’t be surprised if TEM comes close to $40m for the weekend. I keep hearing parents feeling compelled to go this weekend because the kids insist that Poop is the new Wonder Woman.

Dunkirk is holding as well as one might expect. In NolanLand, it’s another success, but it is tracking closely with Interstellar, but without Thanksgiving coming to give it a Week 4 boost. $150 million domestic seems what’s likely, which, as noted before, would be a big success in WB’s eyes. There were real fears that it would not come close close to that number.

Atomic Blonde opens dead in the middle between John Wick and John Wick 2. No doubt, Team Universal would have liked to have started with JW2, which still “only” did $92 million domestic. But… what can you do? That would have made AB a major outlier in the niche. Also, with Charlize, there will be serious hopes for a much stronger international with this film than with the Wicks. This is the first of three movies that are close variations, with Fox’s Proud Mary and the John Wick Spin-off, Ballerina, which could land in the same release window as Atomic Blonde 2: Blonder (plot preview… Lorraine goes to Grenada).

Girls Trip holds well. I’ve seen it now and a big piece of this puzzle is that the women are over 30. There will, clearly, be a Girls Trip 2. But it’s no joke that there should be a Latina Girls Trip and an Asian Girls Trip as well. It is not the greatest filmmaking. But you laugh. A lot. And I am not sure that I would have expected to laugh a women peeing on a crowd… but I didn’t know that Melissa McCarthy’s mishandling her diarrhea would earn an Oscar nomination. Each ethnic group would bring a different spice, uniquely funny, while it could also touch the heart of a longterm friendships. If other studios don’t have these in aggressive development – like set a shoot date and start casting before you have a script – they are nuts. Girls Trip feels… relaxed. And that would have to be appealing to a lot of actresses who don’t want to play off their sex appeal, but are up for real fun. Sofía Vergara, Eva Langoria, Michelle Rodriguez and Paz Vega out partying is a movie.

By the way, the true prequel to Girls Trip was the ads that Ava Duvernay directed with black female stars hanging out listening to music. And another version of this that could be huge would be (development title) Oscar Girls Trip. Imagine Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence, Emily Blunt and Emma Stone going on a vacation and drinking a lot of Mezcal. Would have to be directed by a not-great director… any time someone in the film starts to ACT, they need another shot and a character humiliation. And don’t forget the Indie Girls Trip with Zoe Kazan, Jenny Slate, Elizabeth Olsen, and Greta Gerwig.

Detroit arrived to a good, if not sensational reception. Opening weekend will be near 20k per screen on 20. This can go one of two ways. It can allow sampling that creates word of mouth that supports the expansion… or it can die of “It was really powerful, but I can’t ever get through that movie again” word of mouth. Zero Dark Thirty is really the exception in Kathryn Bigelow’s commercial career (and that film deserved a bigger audience and a Best Picture Oscar). So it wouldn’t be shocking to see this film end up grossing high-teens or twenties domestically and still going on to a barrelful of Oscar nods.

Review: Detroit (no spoilers)

Sunday, July 23rd, 2017

detroit hands up

It’s an odd summer. It’s almost impossible to see Detroit after seeing Dunkirk without noticing the very different ways the two films turn the similar trick of reflecting on a huge story by narrowing down to one story, or a few stories that are connected by a single character.

Both films are set in the midst of a war. Yet, the movie set in the non-literal war of race and poverty in the United States is far more violent and painful than the movie set on a beach filled with 300,000 people under the immediate threat of being murdered by the Nazis. And speaking of the real-life villains, Dunkirk never names or shows the Nazis behind the barricades of the town of Dunkirk while Detroit makes the young racist policeman as significant a character in the film as any other… perhaps the lead.

The style of filmmaking couldn’t be any more dissimilar. Kathryn Bigelow delivers a documentary-style production, rough and handheld and sneaking glimpses through doorways and around corners, forever on edge, seeking out, at first, the party, and later, the constant threat that never allows anyone in the film to relax. Christopher Nolan, of course, puts on a master directorial clinic at huge scale, perfectly framed cinematic beauty, even when soldiers are under fire.

Another thing the two films share, though in quite different ways, is that Dunkirk is not really a war film and Detroit is not really a riot film.

Detroit, while steeped deeply in race, is not specifically about race. Obviously, the film takes place at a moment of serious racial stress and division and a white cop is rampaging against black people, in part because he sees them as a lesser form of life. And other people support this evil because of their racism.

But one of the excellent things is that while non-blacks cannot fully feel the black experience of America, anyone can understand and identify with the experience of this group of victims under the control of that small number of law enforcement officers gone rogue. The threat of state authority is alive and unwell in countries all over this planet, enforced against and abused by people of all races, religions, genders and ethnicities.

But primarily, Detroit is a movie about the abuse of police power and how we, then and now, respond to that behavior. There are good white people in this film… and good white policemen. But the true horror of Detroit is how abusive behavior can metastasize into something that gets worse and worse over a short period of time.

Detroit is about Detroit 1967, but it is also about Ferguson. And it is about the Australian woman who was shot through the window of a cruiser by a scared cop after she called in to report a rape. It about people who voted for Trump because they feel their idea of the world is being infringed upon by societal changes. It is about white people who watch or hear racism and say nothing. it is about entitlement and disenfranchisement. It’s Macbeth. It’s The Act of Killing. It touches on the worst of human instincts, primarily the instincts of those with power and the fear of losing that power.

And in some ways, Detroit is the bloody, uncomfortable, demanding, intimate, painful reflection of Dunkirk. In the dozen or so “main” characters of Detroit, you may find yourself and your posture in one or two or almost all of these people. You may – though you can never admit it in public – even identify with some of the positions of the bad cops for a moment (though the next horrible choice they make will likely snap you out of it instantly).

A quick unexpected conversation with another writer had him telling me that I was saying that “he just didn’t get it.” But that isn’t fair. Too simple. His dissatisfaction with the film… his urge for something more (he had specific notes) was sincere. Detroit demands self-reflection. And while some people will not care for it for other reasons, I would guess that a lack of interest in self-reflection will be a big factor for those who dismiss it easily.

Bigelow and regular collaborator Mark Boal lay down about 30 minutes of track before you get to the central story. This is when you may still think this is a movie directly about the July 1967 Detroit riot. Be patient and breathe it in. These events are everything you put in the pan with your Thanksgiving turkey, stuffing and basting juices included, that brings it flavor.

Then you get to the movie… What Happened At The Algiers?

It’s a horrible story. I would suggest you not read anything about it (at this point) before seeing the movie. But you take a city on edge, a bunch of law enforcement groups that are not effectively coordinated, and a bunch of young people who are a bit wild, but who are basically staying away from the trouble of the riots, and a few others, and with the BANG of a starter’s pistol, the hot snowball of rage and fear starts rolling downhill, gathering speed as all the individuals struggle to get out of the way.

I am not going to get into story, because that is your work and pleasure as a moviegoer. But there are many layers to this story of victims, victimizers, collateral damage and the jaded. There is racism, sexism, pacifism that borders on appeasement, opportunism, religion, lust, hate, paranoia, confusion, and so much more.

I haven’t had chance to see Detroit a second time, but my guess is that I won’t really have consumed what this movie offers in a full way until I have seen it three or four times. Often, it is like trying to think about something objectively after being punched in the face. There are so many blows landed that until some of the big painful moments are cataloged in your brain so you aren’t rocked in your seat, moments of this movie will be missing from your experience.

Performances are uniformly excellent. It is truly an ensemble film. Will Poulter would be the lead, if there is one… but you won’t want to think about his character as a lead. Algee Smith is the character that rises out of the ensemble through the film. But there are wonderful turns everywhere you look. There is no celebrity hierarchy. Hannah Murray, who you will recognize from a TV show (I will let you figure out which one), gives a really unexpected turn here as her character charges from one emotion to another. Honestly, the only actor I was unhappy to see was John Krasinski because it is a small-ish part, late in the film, and he feels like more of a celebrity showing up. He does well with it, but unlike other actors, he sticks out.

Detroit is a film of size and substance and I don’t want to commit to it being the best film of the major studio size releases this year to date, but I kinda do. I want to see it again before I go there. Honestly, I don’t know how I will feel the next time. Or the time after that. But I do know that I will feel. And feel deeply. And it will make me think about the world and my place in it and how I see others. This will make some writers very uncomfortable. What more could we ask of a film?

Weekend Estimates by Len Dinghy

Sunday, July 23rd, 2017

Weekend Estimates 2017-07-23 at 9.32.20 AM

Dunkirk‘s opening is soooo Nolan.

I get that it was above expectations. I know that the studio was thinking mid-30s. But with Inception‘s $63m opening and Interstellar‘s $48m opening, you wonder why Nolan didn’t do Inchon.

Wait… no… I’ll go with three’s a trend in this case. No one else has delivered like this with original dramas at a studio level. Yes, they are huge spectacles and that is a big part. But still.. these numbers are consistent and remarkable.

But that is not the only remarkable opening this weekend!

Girls Trip at $30 million is in rarefied comedy company at the box office. It’s not only the biggest comedy opening of this summer and this year—and by a lot—but it’s also a big number for any group of actors who don’t generally open movies in this range.

Oh yeah… and it has four actresses in the leads… and they are black.

I don’t want to get too far into the whys and wherefores about this, because I don’t really know.. nor do many others. We do know that black audiences are committed, in many cases, to show up for black movies. But this number suggests a greater-than-might-have-been-expected white audience for this film, particularly women.

What I do think is that we will see a wave of films like Girl Trip, even though we’ve had an R-rated girl group comedy fail this summer (Rough Night) and three other R-rated comedies flop (Snatched, The House, Baywatch).

Of course, stories like “Why the R-Rated, Raunchy Comedy’s Box Office Partying Days Might Be Over” were always stupid on their face. That is one big lesson of Girls Trip. Media wants every story to double as a trend story. And that is absurd. There will be original hits… and misses. There will be comedies in all kinds of combinations. Dramas will have a glass box office ceiling… until one blows right past it.

The reality of the film industry is that there is a pretty healthy black comedy business. There are not a lot of comedies being made (or films, in general) with female leads of color. We have had moments where that was a trend, most recently around Queen Latifah, who is in Girls Trip. Ideally, this success will create opportunity for everyone involved in this film, though a number of participants have strong, consistent careers.

Valerian and The City of 1000 Planets didn’t do a big opening number. Oddly, it is almost identical to the opening number of The Fifth Element. That film did $200 million overseas. The expanded international box office could double that easily… or not. Look at China as a huge opportunity for this film that has the touch and feel and positivity of Stephen Chow, who is a massive box office hero in China.

Spider-Man: Homecoming is doing okay, but just passed the domestic haul of Amazing Spider-Man (both after 17 days) and is a couple hundred million behind internationally. It might catch up with ASM internationally… but maybe not. Journalists generally like this film. Didn’t like ASM. So…

War For The Planet of the Apes is not going to catch up to its predecessor. Fox tried to play the “big finale” card, but no one seems to have bitten.

Baby Driver and The Big Sick are having nice holds… but they are holds now… no more expansion… but $100m and $40m for these films are big, unexpected successes.

$12,850 per for Landline on 4 screens.

Friday Estimates by Beached Klady

Saturday, July 22nd, 2017

Friay Esitmates 2017-07-22 at 10.00.40 AM

A weirdly reflective Friday at the box office…

The opening for Dunkirk is almost identical to the Wednesday-Thursday-Friday “opening day” of Interstellar. ($19 million)

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets opened to almost the same number that The Fifth Element opened to in 1997. ($6.1 million)

And Girls Trip is right around the two-day openings of Baywatch ($10.3m) and Snatched ($11.5m), while blowing away the 3-days of Rough Night and The House on opening day.

What does it mean?

The media will make Dunkirk sound like it beat the world while opening to War For The Planet of the Apes or Cars 3 numbers. Why? Because we like it. And then, in thinkpieces in a few weeks, they will forget that an original opened to over $50 million because it doesn’t fit the “theatrical is dead” mantra.

Interstellar made almost $500 million internationally. The real financial success or failure of Dunkirk will be in that international number, same as every other $150m+ budget film. The artistic success is not related to the commercial success… but when one is emotional, it is hard to separate them.

Valerian? Was always going to be a hard sell domestically. You probably didn’t know that as a director, Besson never had a gross as high as $70 million domestic before Lucy. This one will do, probably, slightly better than The Fifth Element‘s $64 million domestic, but the big leap will come internationally, where it could smash the $200 million international that TFE did, especially if it gets a playdate in China, where it fits right into the favored kind of film… not that violent, not very sexy, big, broad, and fun.

Girls Trip is the #1 comedy of the summer. It is female-driven, although female-driven comedies have been pretty much the only comedies of the summer of 2017, period, exclamation mark. It is based around four black women. Much more rare… and historically, much more likely to have gotten a more location-based release.

This will be the top opening day as stars of a film for everyone in the movie, including Queen Latifah. And it will be read in many ways for months to come. Was it the black audience showing up? Was it a higher percentage of white audience than has been historically expected for a comedy led by black actors? Was it women who don’t really care about race, but do care about the laughs in ads and trailers?

The last Universal comedy that opened this well was Ride Along 2  and the last original comedy that opened this well was Trainwreck, two years ago (which is the film that spurred this summer of female-first comedies). Is Universal a color-blind studio now, with this and Get Out this year?

What is sticking with me is that Disney, the current top dog in the industry, and Universal, the current clear #2, appear to be the major studios that push hardest for diversity in their movies, both on the screen and behind the camera.

While I do believe the international market has serious racial issues that are worse than domestic theatrical, this is the kind of movie that should be pushed hard to break through that. It’s Grown Women Gone Wild and should be marketed as hard, and with similar funding to Magic Mike ($53 million international) and even Sex & The City ($262 million international), although S&TC had the multiple seasons of the show as a big advantage. Scary Movie 5 is the only Malcolm D. Lee movie to do over $4 million internationally. But Ride Along 2 did $33 million overseas. If Girls Trip did over $20 million internationally, it would be an important landmark internationally for distribution of movies starring black actors who are not Denzel or The Rock. And it has a real shot at doing over $100 million domestic.

War for the Planet of the Apes didn’t have a great hold and should be just short of $100 million at the end of the weekend.

Spider-Man is still doing… okay. Hard to say where it will land.

Despicable Me 3, on the other hand, is doing okay here… and should pass $700 million worldwide this weekend.

Wonder Woman should take the domestic summer crown from Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 2‘s today. But Guardians looks secure as the summer’s worldwide winner.

Baby Driver and The Big Sick are both over the box office hump now. How long can they cruise?

Landline is opening on four to over $10k per screen. Not as well as Obvious Child. But Magnolia is not set up for theatrical first, and A24 is.

Review: Dunkirk (spoiler-free)

Wednesday, July 19th, 2017

Christopher-Nolans-Dunkirk-IMAX-poster-croppedIt was the best of films… it was the worst of films…

Dunkirk is the ultimate film critic Christmas present sitting at the base of the tree on the most beautiful of Christmas mornings with all of the relatives you loved back from the dead (in a nice way) and there to enjoy every moment of your cinematic pleasure.

And… Dunkirk is an overly-refined ticking-clock movie without a clock or any significant insight into the power of what happened on that beach in seven days in May 77 years ago.

How can Dunkirk be both these things?

It takes a genius. And Christopher Nolan is a genius filmmaker. It is impossible to imagine that he won’t, finally, get his first Oscar nomination for directing this… because it as directed a film as you can imagine. The images are big and bold and every frame is a picture of skill and elegance. The IMAX experience is different than the 70mm experience – one feels like uncharted territory and the other just gorgeous – but either way, it is a visual feast.

It also takes the myopia of genius to make a movie about 300,000 people, reduce it to 12 of them and not worry about the scale of the human experience. I am not unaware of or unsympathetic to the idea of reducing something of massive scale down to a handful of people who stand as symbols. And Dunkirk tips its hat to that… but only kinda. It’s a movie that shows you massive numbers of men in landscape view, rarely harking back to massiveness of the effort… never even suggesting for a moment that 700 small boats came to the rescue. (I would estimate that the largest group of boats we saw numbered 20 or less.) And in a movie so full of starkness and imagery, you may be too busy to notice that you are being Forrest Gump-ed by the lead character.

By the end of the movie, a character has to tell us what was meant to happen on that beach and what actually happened on that beach or we would not know. (And don’t even get me started on the failure to explain what “The Mole” is until late in the film and then only in passing. It’s the pier.)

There is nothing inherently wrong with the film focusing on a young grunt trying to survive the week. But handsome as he is – and this is a movie of handsome men – he is a blank canvas that Nolan uses to tour the audience through a variety of stories that I assume really happened to someone on that beach. The audience never knows what our protagonist knows or even what he wants, aside from survival.

The problem with that is that even though the movie is a beautiful book of images from that period, meticulously and magically brought to life, I don’t know what Christopher Nolan feels about this whole enterprise. The film is not devoid of feelings or comment. Almost all of the emotion there is comes from Mark Rylance’s character, whose motives and ideas of the world become clear.

There is a major point about/in the film that is also a major spoiler, so I will hold off for now. But I do feel like this event and the meaning behind it for Nolan is a major part of the conversation about this movie. It has to be deliberate choice by Nolan to make it so singular an event in a film in which death in around every corner. But… later.

The movie comprises three distinct parts; Land, Air, and Sea, each of which has characters associated with it and through all of which the lead character wanders. Branagh is mostly there to look stoic and to be Basil Exposition. Hardy is one of two pilots who are fully committed to doing all they can do to protect the men hoping to escape the beach. (His mumbling covered by a mask seems almost like self-homage at points.) And there is Rylance, who captains one of the private ships and has a teen son and a teen family friend on board. The Rylance segment is where almost all the emotion – aside from being threatened by bullets, fire, or drowning – exists in this film. And there is the central character, the silent thread, that someone manages to have every possible experience of The Dunkirk Miracle in two days.

I recommend that anyone who loves movies see Dunkirk and if you can find a way to see it in IMAX, spend the time and money to do that. You should have this experience. And you should take from it what you instinctively take. Don’t listen to critics, pro or con. Just go have the experience.

That said, Dunkirk falls well short of a masterpiece because I was watching a filmmaker do something beautiful, but I was not filled with the spirit of Dunkirk. In a very intensive 106 minutes, I think I got hit emotionally four or five times. None of it sustained.

Near the end of a second viewing, I was struck with a comparison to Chariots of Fire, of all things. In that film, Hugh Hudson balanced the dryness of the British temperament with deep passions of two runners, one who ran for respect and the other who ran for God. I later thought about how unique the imagery of the track racing was at the time, and even how the Vangelis score (which became a cliché  in an instant) was unique at that time. Among the things that makes Chariots work better than Dunkirk for me, is the emotion the lies in the choices that confront both runners and moments of insight and emotion like Sam Mussabini punching through his hat, alone in a room where he is hiding, when he finds out his charge has won. One of the few memorable emotional beats in Dunkirk is a simple line from an old man who understands better than young men what is of value. Not quite grand emotion… but the closest to even subtle celebration we will get here.

Still, only the Rylance character (and for a moment, his son) gets to confront morality in a real way in the film. (There is a moment with the boys that comes close, but circumstance keeps morality from being resolved in a real way.)

I can’t agree with many critics that this is a great war film. It’s not really about war. It is about one element of war, commitment. The war and those 299,888 men are really a backdrop. No one is making choices about this war and their role in it, except at the most micro level. Even when choices come up, the die is really cast.

All the great war films are steeped in choice, often from the first frame to the last. And indeed, the most emotional moment of the film surrounds the rare character who makes a choice of a sweet whim and suffers from fate, not war.

Dunkirk also puts me in mind of The Revenant, which I had very different issues with, but which was also a remarkable piece of filmmaking. My issues with the movie aside, Iñárritu devoted a lot of the film to the deep emotional drives of those characters.

Less of Dunkirk would have served the movie’s ambitions better. The movie is tightly cut… not what I am saying. I don’t agree with Todd McCarthy’s conclusion, but “Dunkirk is an impressionist masterpiece” is right on line with the truth. It’s an impressionist piece. So the concessions it makes to traditional filmmaking don’t serve that well. I would prefer a 100% commitment to impressionism. Of course, the financing might go away. So I get why the film swings back and forth between pure, you-figure-it-out-audience art and a Movie. As a reslut, I was left surprisingly hungry leaving the theater.

I had no expectations walking into the theater. And seeing it a second time disabused me of any notions that might lingered. I am happy Christopher Nolan got to make the film he wanted to make. I am glad Dunkirk exists. But I don’t think much of it will stick, outside of cinema studies class and great moving image packages. I still want to see it again in IMAX. It is absolutely beautiful. I can’t say often enough, do go.

It’s just… I wanted to walk out of Dunkirk with my heart beating. And I walked out with my brain humming. Frustrating for me. Not for everyone.

Weekend Estimates by War For The Box Office Klady

Sunday, July 16th, 2017

Weekend Estimates 2017-07-16 at 11.38.51 AM

Apes: Volume 2 – Episode 3, as described yesterday, followed the pattern of a new box office niche. Establish a decent-sized domestic audience, maintain that audience, never grow much past that audience. Some of these audiences are bigger, obviously. Harry Potter, Twilight, and Rings all lived up in the $300 million neighborhood domestically before adding big international numbers. Then you have series like Divergent and Percy Jackson that are of a lower order. In the middle, Apes.

One of the new tricks attempt an uptick in stable franchises is to create a closer for the series. This trick has been connected, in the upper echelons, to the two-part closer, which is riskier now (though even with a downtick, the 50 Shades franchise seems sure to make a profit even on its third film).

So perhaps this is what Fox was thinking when it pushed the “This is the END” agenda on Apes 3: War.

Didn’t work.

At the risk of a spoiler, I would have suggested a pivot to the new idea out there, the franchise makeover. Ground the franchise to the series, but change the crew and the tone to get the next wave. This film could have been sold as “Apes: The Caesar Saga – The Finale.” I don’t think it would significantly changed the profile of this movie financially (or to shorten… wouldn’t have worked). But I do want to see the kinda-sorta-remake of Planet of the Apes that is the natural next step, unless they want to do a very political, chatty, human-free version of The Founding Of Ape-merica.

The industry is still figuring out how to effectively manage IP, while being distracted with the details of each individual film and its financial profile. The same is true of Netflix and content, though we are even earlier in the maturity of on-demand subscription based future… though the individual project distraction is cloaked by financial and result secrecy.

Marvel (shocker!) has the most success in building off center-brand, then bringing side brands into the big brand. One of the tools they are big on now is adding center-brand characters to slightly-off-brand movies as secondary leads. Hulk in the upcoming Thor. Iron Man in Spider-Man. Iron Man and then Ant-Man and Spider-Man in the third Captain America. Of course, most franchise plays don’t have this kind of range of characters to work with.

We have found, with two films, that off-center Star Wars films make management nervous.

Warner Bros has had a great success with its first non-Bat/Supes off-shoot, which followed the Marvel history closely, as Wonder Woman mirrors the first Captain America closely. At the same time, as they work to roll out individual JLA characters, they will be coming off the the JLA film, not the other way around, as Marvel has done.

There is a lot of talk about Tom Rothman doing a bunch of cheap superhero movies at Sony, spun off the Spider-Man rights. Anyone who is in this business should be applauding this move, as it could be a working model for others. And if it fails, only Tom gets hurt. Why would you care? Ideally, the cheaper model would allow for more aesthetic freedom and more interesting director choices.

One has to wonder what the meetings are like at Fox, where they have the X-Men and Fantastic Four in line for reboots and Deadpool all blown up. There really needs to be a 5-year-plan and a $2 billion commitment (inc P&A) to at least 7 films in this mini-universe and that should bring on IBS for any executive who is determining their heroism or death by 7 severe cuts in greenlighting it all. Worst/Best of all, the right choice is to create their own signature angle on this, not to just imitate what Marvel once did… because Marvel has already made those adjustments.

Would you pay to see a movie in which Wolverine, The Thing, Deadpool, Storm, Sabertooth, Mystique, and The Human Torch do a Magnificent Seven, directed by James Mangold? I sure would.

What would a romcom with Reed Richards courting Sue Storm look like?

What would an Alien movie look like with earth-bond superheroes, who can’t breathe in space, be, sharp claws and laser eyes on the Nostromo being a problem?

Obviously, there are thousands of variations. This is the experience of being a comic book fan. (At least it was for me.) Virtually anything was possible in any new run of books.

Hell, they could do their own Civil War and kill almost every Marvel character they control… then restart again. There is a small part of the ticket-buying world that cares about The Universe. Most of them want to see that really cool thing that the trailer showed them. And then the next one. Then the next one.

So… War for the Planet of the Apes did okay. The number wasn’t shocking in either direction. And now, we wait to see if international is stronger or weaker than the last time.

Spider-Man: Homecoming, off 61%… not so good. 50% is about the optimal number on a big Marvel opening. The film is still ahead of Wonder Woman‘s clip at 10 days, but that should flip (putting WW ahead permanently) this next week. Still, the celebration of one film’s gross and the diminishment of the other isn’t about the math. Both films are amongst 46 in film history to crack $200 million in 10 days or less. For the record, this “homecoming” is just over $60m ahead of Amazing Spidey 2 after 10 days. International, which was laid out rather oddly in comparison on ASM2, feels like it is running about the same, which is to say, pointed towards $500m+, but not $700m.

Some readers of this space seem to want a full paragraph Wonder Woman shout-out every week… a testimonial to the film’s success. Another great hold. And it should pass Guardians Vol. 2 for top summer slot next weekend. Wonder Woman has certainly become the best liked large-scale movie of this summer.

Also holding strong, on a whole different scale, is Baby Driver. Did anyone really expect Baby Driver, with no opening star, to be at $73 million domestic in 19 days? That’s $8 million behind Passengers, which had the Christmas week advantage. It’s $37 million behind Ghostbusters, which is Sony’s #1 domestic non-Spidey grosser of the last 2 years, but the two films at the 19-day mark are heading in opposite box office directions. Could Baby Driver pass that $128m domestic landmark? It would be a huge stretch, finding part of the audience that hasn’t landed yet.

Coming in a couple weeks, in a similar vein, Atomic Blonde is coming and big Universal has taken over much of the marketing/publicity of the film from Focus, apparently in the effort to mine the opportunity on the studio scale. It’s interesting to wonder whether Baby Driver‘s success increased fire under this title. The film doesn’t have the Rotten Tomato 100% advantage that Baby Driver had and which Sony worked hard (though they claim otherwise). But it’s one of those odd cases where 4 “rotten” reviews are killing their number (currently 78%). Variety reviewed out of SXSW and I would expect Universal to be pushing for a re-review by Debruge. The other three are Erik Childress (for The Playlist), William Bibbiani (for Crave Online), and Meredith Borders (for Birth.Death.Movies.). Nothing against those individuals, but the madness of the whole obsession with RT scores is exposed when you see the ability for a campaign to be derailed (U will work around it, obviously) by a few website freelancers. Big Comic-Con push this next weekend with a branded (funded?) EW Hall H appearance by Charlize.

Despicable Me 3 has “only” done $187 million in 17 days. That’s well off of DM2. No one is crying. That’s because of $431 million international. That’s #3 for the summer so far. No one is crying for the #1 international grosser of the summer to date either… Pirates 5… $750 million and counting. Boo hoo.

Wish Upon is actually Broad Green’s #3 opener ever. But that doesn’t make it good. The film is destined to gross its reported $12m production budget domestically. (Which means they get half back before paying for marketing.)

The Big Sick is another happy box office story. As noted yesterday, the expansion is a solid double, not a home run… mostly meaning that these numbers don’t scream that there is another gear up, just nice holds as it plays theatrically through August. Nothing at all to be unhappy about. The film is well on the way to being profitable for Amazon and the 30s or 40s are ahead.

Speaking of big per-screen, De Pere en Flic 2… ya feelin’ me? And in English, Lady Macbeth and Endless Poetry.

Friday Estimates by Primate Klady

Saturday, July 15th, 2017

Friday Est 651w 2017-07-15 at 8.25.00 AM

Déjà monkey.

War for the Planet of the Apes is a perfect example of a pretty new classic… the franchise that does well enough at home to keep going, but grows internationally to make it worth continuing. This is, thankfully, the well-reviewed version of this phenomenon. I am glad we have these films and Matt Reeves has delivered another strong episode, albeit one in so small a world space that it doesn’t feel like a wrap-up to the series at all.

The first two films in the new series did $177m and $209m respectively domestically. (If you are whining about this opening, you are a box office ignoramus.) The second of the two, Dawn, did $502 million internationally, compared to $301m for Rise. If the franchise grow internationally again, expect not only a #4, but a #5.

If they continue, it appears that this film is meant to be the end of the Caesar era. If there is a #4, I would expect it to push a generation into the future, to just before the Charlton Heston version, when the people who are left have been turned into what apes once were. But is Caesar himself the Robert Downey, Jr. Iron Man of this series? These three films have been unique in their willingness to kill off cast and move along without worrying about giving the audience familiar humans in multiple films. Would the next be an entirely new start? Is that the answer to IP in 2017?

Not a definitive day for Spider-Man: Homecoming. It’s running ahead of Wonder Woman. Weekdays were strong. But it is off the number for the second Friday. The weekend will tell more. $400m+ worldwide is for sure this weekend, but $450m is possible.

Baby Driver is still revving its engines, heading past $70 million domestic this weekend, already Edgar Wright’s biggest film worldwide.

The Big Sick goes wide – 2597 screens – and does well. It is significant that Lionsgate (and Amazon Studios) are taking a very different tack than last year with Best Picture nominees Hell or High Water or Hacksaw Ridge or Manchester by the Sea (Amazon via Roadside). Hacksaw started wide and neither Hell or Manchester ever got to a screen count like the 2597 of Sick this weekend.

The closest thing comp in the last couple of years is St Vincent, a couple years ago, with Bill Murray and Melissa McCarthy. They went wide in the third weekend, while this is Sick‘s fifty. They had a $7.7m weekend, which Sick won’t likely reach this weekend, but close. But they held well and had seven $1m weekends before starting to fall off with over $40 million in the bank. $40 million would be a big number for a Kumail Nanjiani dramedy.

Take a look a Box Office Mojo’s respect for Kumail’s box office power…
Screen Shot 2017-07-15 at 9.23.19 AM

You can’t fault Lionsgate and Amazon for hitting the gas here. The ambition to get well past $20 million is honorable and word-of-mouth suggests that passing $30 million is not a pipe dream. And $40 million would not be a miracle… just magical.

Wish Upon is a niche release with a even nichier opening.

Lady Macbeth is the arthouse hero of the weekend, with over $11k per screen for the 3-day.

Really Simple Perspective On The Film Business (Summer 2017)

Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

We are at that time of the year when there isn’t a lot of news… so otherwise professional people start mouthing off like a bunch of nattering nabobs of negativity.

In 20 years of doing this, I have had maybe four or five years total in which I didn’t hear “It’s worse than it’s ever been!” Hollywood is always shutting down. It’s always over for theatrical. The Next Big Thing is forever running this town.

Then it shifts.

So on this sunny mid-July morning, let’s look at some numbers… really, really simplified, stupidly simplified numbers. And then, you can make up your mind.

Worldwide Theatrical for US studio-based movies
$30 billion.
Returns on those grosses to the distributor
$15 billion.

Post-Theatrical Revenues for US studio-based movies (no licensing)
$14 billion
Returns on those grosses to the distributor
$9 billion

So… for all the effort of releasing movies into the world, US studios are looking at a big pot of about $24 billion a year.

$8.5 billion into production
$7.5 billion into marketing

Again, super broad-figures, but that leaves $9 billion for overhead and profit.

Netflix is a most excellent company and has been a boon to the studios, even after they stopped spending on licensing already-released theatrical films for streaming.

How much is Netflix spending each year on what they categorize as films? About $500 million.

And Amazon, which does theatricals? About $350 million.

Absolutely no disrespect to either streamer… but they are the tail, not the dog. They are not close to the size of any major, in terms of output. They are close to – and Amazon is often in business with – Lionsgate… but without the library value Lionsgate has.

But media is again caught up in the charming fantasy of change. There is no denying that Netflix, in particular, has been a pioneer and change-maker. They have shifted – first with DVD rentals, then with streaming – the preferences of the end user. Streaming, which was inevitable, is happening at least a decade before slow-moving studios were ready to make the switch. That is Netflix’s first mover advantage.

The idea, however, that the entire film industry needs to change what it is doing to accommodate Netflix throwing $275 million at Scorsese, Pitt, and Will Smith is, simply, insane.

The question of how to expand revenues again after DVD crashed – in part because of Netflix and streaming, but in part because of greed and short-sightedness in the management of the format – is completely legitimate. But studios have to remember where their money is. Most of it is tied up in theatrical and the too-expensive marketing push to break new product into the market.

Perhaps a good moment to bring up China. Huge new market. Could become as big as the U. S. and Canada for the majors. But right now, it’s worth about 14% of the domestic market. Roughly $2.7 billion a year in grosses for U.S. movies, but with half the return (or worse) as other international markets.

Yet, in the last few years, we have all seen a gold rush attitude toward China, as well as the massively expanded international market overall. And that has changed the way films are chosen and made.

Look back at 2006. There were 100 films that grossed $50 million or more worldwide. 49.7% of the gross was international. Last year, 102 films grossed $50 million or more worldwide. 59.5% of the gross was international. That 10% change, in a low-margin business, changes everything. If we were still seeing the DVD revenues of that mid-2000s moment, you would be seeing star salaries in the $40m range for at least 10 actors and $400 million production budgets. And we’d have the same complaints, but there would be so much cash, everyone would be dumb & (metaphorically) fat.

Ten years further back… 1996. Pre-DVD. Only 38 films grossed $50 million or more worldwide that year. And 53.7% of the grosses were coming from international.

Netflix is not an unimportant factor. China is not an unimportant factor. But the industry, settling in to the horror of having lost the Home Entertainment business as it was, is endlessly searching for the Next Big Thing.

Bob Iger, after two previous attempts at resetting the Disney business, found gold in Big IP. Twenty years from now, we will no doubt be discussing how Disney fell apart under the weight of that Big IP machine. But for now, it is the platinum standard. It has worked because of the IP itself, no half-hearted buys. And it has worked because o fLasseter and Feige and Kathleen Kennedy. And it has worked at least in part by the rise of CG as an expensive, yet reliable storytelling tool.

1978, You will believe a man can fly. 2002, You will believe a teen can swing through the streets of New York. 2006, You will believe that you are seeing an actor acting with his face covered by a digital squid. 2011, You will believe a Transformer can act.

Now… here is the big problem. The future of post-theatrical is not going to get richer. It will grow incrementally over time. And there will be breakthroughs in countries like China, in which the massive population will pay $2 US a month for channels like Netflix and even though it is frustratingly cheap, it could mean a $4 billion a year (or $2 billion or $8 billion) bump for those companies who intend to make that happen.

But aside from the obvious, and the long future hopes… the post-theatrical market is static. Since studios are not building their own Netflixes effectively, not only are they losing a lot of short-window revenue, but their libraries – even fairly recent ones – are relatively fallow.

“Doing Disney” is just not an option for anyone else. Universal has done, by far, the best job of finding middle ground, even with the disastrous Mummy launch this summer. They build on what they have. They try to make thoughtful additions (Amblin, DreamWorks Animation), but they aren’t breaking the bank to chase the IP monster. Universal is minding their knitting on lower-budget and mid-budget movies that deliver for them.

And the truth of the future is, again, that it can become stable… but it is unlikely to provide significant growth. A hundred million households in the US will only grow in number incrementally and the $90 or so the average household spends on having entertainment piped into the house can only grow incrementally.

ESPN is the current big victim of the new reality. When cable/satellite became the norm, ESPN was a must-carry. In 2017, the idea of must-carry is at death’s door. A couple years ago, in a system built across two decades, ESPN was in more than 100 million households and had gross revenue from that alone of $6.9 billion. Fastforward to the coming future. say 20 million households “need” ESPN. Say they charge $15 a month and get it. That’s $3.6 billion. And that would be a massive (unrealistic) success in the coming future.

Disney, as a unit, can, I believe, get 98% household saturation in the future. But not for a single arm of Disney. For all of Disney’s post-first-release product, including ESPN, ABC, etc., that’s only $18 billion a year. And there will be room only for seven or so such $15-a-month entities.

We are really early in this process. But I believe it to be inevitable. Digital walls are too thin. They must be rebuilt into the next standard, which can then survive the next 50 years

That is why theatrical release — the one true one-ticket-per-customer opportunity for film moving forward — will become the dominant focus for growth. Not because I love the church of cinema (and I do), but because of money… greed… human nature.

If studios can’t go back, and they won’t invest deeply in going forward, what choice do they have? You could try to prune and increase the yield. Thus, the suicidal idea of day-n-date, for which Premium VOD is a Trojan horse.

If reading all this makes your head hurt, go back to the big, oversimplified numbers at the top of the piece. If the concept of the scale of the industry vs the endlessly hyped “agents of change” concept, the one that the media is forever in love with, but refuses to do the math on, is the only fact you take away, it was worth the effort.

Review: Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (spoiler-free)

Monday, July 10th, 2017

Valerian-Comic-Book-Luc-Besson

Relentless
adjective re·lent·less \-ləs\
:showing or promising no abatement of severity, intensity, strength, or pace:

If you want a one-word review of Valerian… that’s it.

That is both a virtue and a flaw.

I was entertained every minute of this movie. Honest. There was no room to get bored or not be surprised by what happened, what was happening and what was about to happen.

But at the end, I was emptier than I would have expected. I think this is because of the breathlessness of the storytelling, Luc Besson is, undoubtably, a master filmmaker. His voice is strong. Of all the CG-heavy action films in the last couple of years, Besson’s voice, James Gunn’s voice, Scott Derrickson’s voice, and the guys who did the deeply flawed Pirates movie (Joachim Rønning & Espen Sandberg) come through clearest. If I were Disney, I would be chasing Besson all day long.

You feel Besson’s excitement in every loaded-to-the-gills frame. Sensational opening sequence that manages to explain the idea of The City of 1000 Planets with clarity (and beauty) in three minutes. If I were STX, I’d be pushing that onto the web for audiences to get a head start. After they watch it, they will want to see it on a big screen.

But trying to figure why I wasn’t ready to say this was one of the greatest of the new millennium, I went through the list. Cast? You can’t watch the film without wondering whether it would have been better with young Leo DiCaprio and a young Milla Jovovich. But alas, they are not young anymore. I like the kink of Dane DeHaan. And for the first time, honestly, I liked Cara Delevingne. She delivered. Pitt & Jolie? Colin Farrell & Charlize Theron? All too old now. Bur as the movie progressed, the two of them grew on me. I don’t know. There is something just a little too-little-there and that can’t explain it. DeHaan was less dangerous than I wanted and she was less painful to watch prance around for a man in lust. Maybe that’s it. Just one more turn of the notch.

I thought about The Fifth Element, which I love. There was something about a mainstream, balding hero like Bruce Willis, against all the Besson visual insanity, that made movie magic. He grounded the movie so flights of fancy were free to seduce the audience.

The emotional core of this movie is a species of beautiful, very tall, glowing, peaceful beings who are drawn into the ugliness of the rest of the universe, led by Elizabeth Debicki, who needs some more work as a human being. They offer a similar kind of unexpected, overwhelming humanity and beauty, like the opera alien in The Fifth Element.

Some cameos are better than others. Not a fan of Herbie Hancock acting. He’s no Tiny Lister. Loved Ethan Hawke. Such a joy to see him to comedy. John Goodman’s vocal performance is terrific. Rihanna is not an actor. But she is a performer and did well, even when tasked with big emotional beats.

It is shocking when it seems that Besson has the balls for Chip Zien to voice a duck-billed group of characters… but he didn’t. Sigh.

Valerian was an endless Christmas of packages to open and open and open and open. Something keeps it from being Raiders of the Lost Ark. Wish I knew exactly what that was. (I am going to see it again this week.) The only thing I found eye-rolling was the inevitable exposure of a big baddie. Saw that a mile away. But pretty much everything else was fresh and cool and didn’t feel like obviously derivative of the much-worn alien universe trail.

Trying to offer you a glimpse the storyline would be foolish. It’s not a story movie. Valerian and Laureline need to save the universe… and flirt. You will meet more aliens than you can possible remember. And you will find all of Besson’s optimism about species, however lost they may be, finding their way back to love.

I feel awkward being so Pete about it, but this is the best big movie of the summer. It is original. It is a masterclass in visual filmmaking. And it is like nothing else you have seen.

There are people who will hate it. Too Besson-y for them. I don’t think they are idiots for feeling that way. Individual taste is individual taste. Some will pick at the leads. Some, like me, will just sense that missing element that is just beyond clarity.

But I would send anyone who likes showy Besson (which Guardians owes to) and just wants to have a good time. You don’t even have to turn off your brain. There are some true big ideas here. But mostly, it’s a two-hour-plus non-stop all-downhill rollercoaster ride.

I haven’t seen another summer film a second time this year. I look forward to seeing Baby Driver again in a theater. And Valerian.