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31 Weeks To Oscar: Telluride, Toronto & New York

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014


It didn’t take long to get back to the festivals…

I feel like all the pieces are in the right place after announcements from New York (FIRST!) and Toronto, with the Telluride schedule showing itself more clearly than ever because of TIFF’s new rules about opening weekend and North American premieres.

I hate the idea of this all being a competition between the festivals. All three are so distinct. They each have a purpose. And for me, the more above board everyone is, the better.

The first thing that really strikes me about the TIFF announcement today is the absence of Cannes. There are three titles from the main competition that have been announced (Foxcatcher, Mr. Turner, and Wild Tales). Also, there is the Sundance premiere, Whiplash, that was at Cannes’ Director’s Fortnight. in All three are top notch and are being distributed in the US by Sony Classics… and all four will probably be in Telluride before Toronto.

Of course, there will be further announcements, but currently, aside from Sony Classics’ entries… no Palme D’or winner Winter Sleep, no Grand Prix winner Le Meraviglie (The Wonders), no Un Certain Regard winner Feher Isten).

Xavier Dolan’s Mommy has a release date in Canada in mid-September, as well as US distribution, announced today, by Roadside Attractions, which would make sense as a critics/publicity opportunity.

And again, pointing out that there are more announcements to come… but could there be a better TIFF film than Clouds of Sils Maria? IFC may not be up for paying the costs associated with a gala, but Kristen Stewart and Chloe Moretz are TIFF superstars. Juliette Binoche, who also conceived of the film with Olivier Assayas is a major veteran star and TIFF regular. And most of Assayas’ post-Demonlover films have shown at TIFF.

It’s also shocking to me that Asia Argento’s powerful and quirky Incompressa (Misunderstood) is not only not announced for TIFF, but still has no US distribution deal. Where is A24 on this one?

Sony Classics bought a slew of terrific movies at Cannes that don’t have US dates yet, a couple of which have had European theatrical debuts (Ken Loach’s Jimmy’s Hall and Saint Laurent) and two of which have not (Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Leviathan and Wim Wenders’ The Salt of The Earth).

Then there’s the Dardennes’ Two Days, One Night (Sundance Selects, euro release, no North America premiere yet), The Homesman (first release by Saban Films via Roadside Attractions, unseen since Cannes), and the re-cut version of Hazanavicius’ The Search (no domestic distributor).

Out of Un Certain Regard, it’s hard to imagine not wanting Party Girl, Charlie’s Country or Jauja… or at the very least for the sake of actor love, Ryan Gosling’s Lost River or Matthieu Amalric’s The Blue Room.

And Kristian Levring’s western, The Salvation, (IFC, euro release, no domestic premiere or date) is the kind of movie that will be surprisingly high on audience awards lists.

That’s 19 movies from Cannes that are currently/surprisingly M.I.A. on the fall fest circuit in North America. A lot. And it doesn’t even include Director’s Fortnight/Critics Week fare like It Follows (look for it in the Midnight group), Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy’s The Tribe, Matthew Warchus’ Pride (a post-fest September CBS Films release), and Diego Lehrman’s Refugiado (no domestic distributor), amongst others.

I suspect that most of these films will land somewhere amongst Telluride, Toronto, and New York… if not at more than one… or even all three. But for the moment, that is the most curious part of the dance for me. New York’s selection committee is still screening, which seems like some serious passive-aggression on their part. No doubt, most of the members of the screening committee have seen most of the relevant films… but still, distributors are waiting to form strategy about the other festivals after they know what is on the table.

New York Film Festival made a point of announcing its premieres before Toronto. (So much for being above the fray.) All three make perfect sense for NYFF and the filmmakers. It is interesting that two of the three World Premieres are next films from filmmakers who were previously produced by Scott Rudin, who has had 2 of the 5 World Premiere opening nights at NYFF.

David Fincher opened NYFF with The Social Network four years ago. It was the first World Premiere to open NY in many, many years. Now it is the standard the festival holds. That said, with a theatrical opening day a week after the NYFF premiere, it seems close to impossible for Fox to do its press work for the film after or in conjunction with NYFF. So expect the film to be seen fairly widely by press before the NYFF screening, surely under strict embargo. Allowing Film Comment the “first review” opportunity has also become the norm. Maybe they press junket on the weekend of the 27th in NY.

Likewise, NYFF will world-premiere (now a verb!) its “Centerpiece” film, Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice… at least in theory. PTA is not exactly without whimsy about finding audiences early for his films. (The Fantastic Fest premiere of There Will Be Blood – exec produced by Rudin – was a reaction to NYFF turning the film down… to the shock of all involved.)

And closing NYFF will be Iñárritu’s Birdman, which will premiere at Venice, close New York, and then open less than a week later in the US via Fox Searchlight. It seems like Iñárritu has been working himself towards a Searchlight release, his first film, Amores Perros at the then-tiny Lionsgate, then to Focus with 21 Grams, then to former Searchlighter Megan Colligan at Paramount Vantage with Babel, and now, finally, at Searchlight itself.

Here’s another thing. Toronto is the big media play of the three festivals. But in the case of both David Fincher and Paul Thomas Anderson, you have directors who do not like to do press. So New York is a much more logical berth for both films. They will do the press conferences and a kiss-up Film Comment piece, and other highly select media for NY. But both guys would rather just let the movie (and a strong awards campaign) speak for them. Fox will take good care of Fincher and Warner Bros love to take the low-key approach to building awards movies. So this is a perfect fit. Of the three, the only one not on a short release date schedule, relative to the festival premiere, is the PTA.

So… the Toronto International Film Festival announcement…

There are only two potential commercial monsters on the announced schedule… The Equalizer and The Judge… Denzel and Downey. And there really isn’t much left at the table. Studio-wise, the only movies that I can imagine still booking a September fest would be The Interview (if it’s great), the Fox animated Book of Life, and the David Ayers film, Fury. You could well see The Skeleton Twins turn up for publicity purposes. I don’t see Searchlight chasing with Marigold 2. What is the story with Big Eyes? Unbroken would have taken an important position if it were coming. Too early for Interstellar. Heart of the Sea is too far away. Into The Woods is reshooting now. I don’t expect any big last-minute surprises at this point.

But I do look forward to being surprised.

I count 59 films on today’s list… and there is a lot to be excited about. Part of that excitement is that it doesn’t feel like it’s trying to be the “kick-off of the season.” It feels like a film festival.

Moreover, it feels like a film festival in 2014, where the definitions are a lot blurrier than they once were. Besides the big movies, you have familiar veterans who feel just right for a festival experience, like Mike Leigh, Jason Reitman, David Gordon Green, Ozon and Zhang Yimou. Studio directors like Ed Zwick, Barry Levinson, Shawn Levy and Andrew Niccol are showing up with small films. Actors are becoming (or continuing as) directors (Jon Stewart, Mike Binder, Alan Rickman, Chris Evans, Chris Rock). You’ve got rising talent whose next films offer a high wire of expectations (Olivier Nakache/Eric Toledano, Jean-Marc Vallée, Ramin Bahrani). And you have a parade of names, all of whom inspire excitement (or fear) Baumbach, Moverman, Marsh, Glatzer/Westmoreland, Bier, Cantet, Ferrara, Hartley, Ferrara, Coixet, LaGravenese, Scherfig, Hartley, Chelsom.

You have Liv Ullmann!

I don’t know about you, but I love not knowing too much when I see movies. I know that I will be disappointed more than once. But I also know that I will be surprised and thrilled a lot more times than one.

And that’s why I go to film festivals.

The Great & Glorious James Garner

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014


22-Year Marketing Kingpin Jeff Blake Exits Sony Pictures On August 1

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014

Big Man, Take A Bow
22-Year Marketing Kingpin Jeff Blake Exits Sony Pictures August 1


Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014


CULVER CITY, Calif., July 22, 2014 – Jeff Blake, Vice Chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment and the studio’s Chairman of Worldwide Marketing and Distribution, announced today that he will leave Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) to pursue other opportunities effective August 1.

“I have had a great 22 years here at Sony Pictures and have worked for and with some amazing people,” said Blake. “I have tremendous respect for Michael and Amy, and I wish them and the great team at Sony nothing but the best.”

“I want to thank Jeff for his 22 years of loyal commitment and service to SPE,” said Michael Lynton, Chairman and CEO of Sony Pictures Entertainment. “We are grateful for his incredible achievements and accomplishments. Jeff has had a unique ability to positively impact nearly everyone at the Company. We will miss him and wish him the best in the future.”

Commenting on the announcement, Amy Pascal, Co-Chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment and Chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment Motion Picture Group said, “I have worked side-by-side with Jeff for more than two decades. He is the best partner anyone could ever want. We have benefitted greatly from his wisdom and genius. As sad as I am about his decision to leave, we all wish only the best possible things for him.”

During his tenure at SPE, Blake has helped the studio set many industry and companywide records. He led the marketing campaigns for all five Spider-Man films, the studio’s biggest franchise, which is now nearing $4 billion in box office revenue worldwide. The first Spider-Man film, in 2002, was the first film in the motion picture industry to reach $100 million in domestic box office in its opening weekend. The third Spider-Man film, in 2007, was the first film ever to open to more than $150 million domestically.

Blake was responsible for the launch of all of the films in the Men in Black and Robert Langdon franchises. He also oversaw the marketing and distribution of the three most successful films in the James Bond franchise, including Skyfall, which earned over $1.1 billion in box office gross globally and became the most successful film ever released in the United Kingdom. Blake led the campaigns for 15 films starring Adam Sandler, which together grossed more than $2.6 billion in worldwide box office, and 11 films starring Will Smith, which grossed more than $3.8 billion total in worldwide box office. In 2006, he set a new studio record for worldwide box office – a record he bettered in 2009 and again in 2012. Since 2000, he has been responsible for the launch of 94 #1 films.

Blake joined SPE in 1992, becoming President of Sony Pictures Releasing two years later. He has served as Vice Chairman of SPE since 2002 and as Chairman of Worldwide Marketing and Distribution for Sony Pictures Worldwide Marketing and Distribution since 2005.

Prior to joining SPE, Blake worked at Paramount Pictures and the Walt Disney Company. He holds a B.A. in economics from Northwestern University and a J.D. from Whittier College of Law. Blake is a member of the California Bar Association.

Weekend Estimates by Still Apely Klady

Sunday, July 20th, 2014

Weekend Estimates 2014-07-20 at 9.19.18 AM

In light of a relatively soft summer, the wrongheaded trend of obsessing on year-to-year weekend-vs-weekend is back. But this weekend is unattractive on more reasonable measures.

Simply, what are studio expectations of sequels or a returning combination of talent? Trends have changed over time in this regard. And I don’t think this particular sampling should define much of anything. But on opening weekend…

The Purge – $34.1m
The Purge: Anarchy – (est) $28.3m

Plane – $22.2m
Planes: Fire & Rescue – (est) $17.9m

Diaz/Segal/Kasdan’s Bad Teacher – $31.6m
Diaz/Segal/Kasdan’s Sex Tape – (est) $14.9m

Off 17%, 19%, and 53%.

Here’s a little more history. Paranormal Activity, a historic piece of marketing by Paramount, did $19.6m on 760 screens, then $21.1m 1945 screens. Paranormal 2 opened to a much more conventional release on 3239 screens and $40.7 million. Paranormal 3 opened to $52.6m. Also on the Jason Blum tip, Insidious opened to $13.3 million. Insidious 2 opened to $40.3 million.

So… what do you think studio expectations were for Purge 2? Doesn’t take a genius.

There is a lot less history for a movie like Planes 2. Disney has theatrically released multiple, not very high grossing Pooh-related films. Famously, The Weinstein Company had a (relative) hit in Hoodwinked and Hoodwinked 2 did 20% of the business domestically and just 15% worldwide. But that is a much more severe drop than this.

This is, however, one of those situations where a lot of the value in this franchise for Disney- as with Pooh – is in merchandising, more so than in the movies themselves. And even if Planes 2 ends up at “just” $70m domestic, the first film did $130m outside of North America and even if that number drops too, the film itself will still likely be profitable. But again… the profit would probably not be worth the opportunity costs for the company were it not for that merchandising. But it is. So Planes 3 seems a good bet.

Sex Tape is not a direct sequel. And that may be one of the problems.

The Other Woman opens to $24.8 million, directed pretty clearly at a female audience. Sex Tape is, in spite of the word “sex,” a bit straighter… a husband and wife in trouble trying to get out of trouble. It’s a classic trope, pushed into 2014 by The Cloud and sex. But is that what audiences want from Cameron Diaz? It seems that the audience like Cameron “sassy.” The anomaly, commercially, being The Sweetest Thing. But that, like Sex Tape, suggested that it had overtly sexual themes. I wonder whether the number would have been bigger for this film had Columbia sold more of what the movie is… disconnected modern couple rediscovers their passion less from the sex in the tape than in doing something together with a shared goal. It is less sexy than wacky sex thing they sold… Cameron spread eagle in her panties and all. But that may have turned off the audience that drives Cameron Diaz movies. In Bad Teacher, the threat of sex was there (much more in the film than in the ads), but they sold that title hard… it was a modern Bad News Bears with Diaz as a modern take on Buttermaker.

To be honest, I am actually surprised that this campaign didn’t work. It felt like it would to me. But I was wrong. And much more importantly, so was Sony marketing. The business of selling movies is not for the faint of heart. And there are many legitimate stops of the wheel of blame.

Tammy passed $70 million this weekend and seems sure to end up in the high 80s domestically. Will any of the “Melissa McCarthy is over” writers be back to correct?

Transformers 4 is the #1 movie of 2014 by $150 million and growing. Get over it. (And keep in mind that this will be the first summer without a billion dollar worldwide movie since 2009. Tr4 numbers are nothing to mock, but there is also no other uber-movie out there this summer.)

Boyhood had an exception $1.2 million on 34 screens. These are Oscar season and top IMAX kinds of numbers. And part of the “Oscar numbers” thing is wide-release marketing budgets driving limited openings… something IFC cannot afford. They are being very aggressive “for IFC,” in terms of marketing dollars, but in Oscar season, you’re looking at $10 – $15 million on TV for a couple weeks that will push an expanded opening after the limited. Critics and film writers actually should feel some responsibility for this. It’s very rare when that is true, but I think it is here.

Edge of Tomorrow is crawling to a $100m domestic gross and Godzilla is doing the same for $200m domestic.

Cannes: It Follows Maika Monroe & Daniel Zovatto

Saturday, July 19th, 2014

Friday Estimates by Sext Klady

Saturday, July 19th, 2014

friday estimates 2014-07-19 at 10.55.09 AM

All three openings this weekend are off expectations. The Purge 2 is off about 23%, but with a budget so small that only the Universal ad spend is at issue. Planes 2 is (amazingly) also off about 23% from opening day for the first film in the series. And Cameron Diaz’s Sex Tape is off a painful 54% from Bad Teacher‘s opening (in which she was also teamed with Jason Segal and Jake Kasdan).

Should it make women worried about inequality in Hollywood happy that a spread-eagled, pink-pantied Ms. Diaz isn’t drawing? Not so much. The 41-year-old Ms Diaz is in spectacular shape for a women half her age, but even if Esquire’s Tom Junod deigns to get aroused by her, taken out of MILF mode, she doesn’t seem to have a young, male audience and without being in “sisters are doing it for themselves” mode, a young female audience.

Sony made a similar miscalculation with Friends With Benefits a few years ago, teaming Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis, thinking the combination irresistible to young audiences. They weren’t quite as resistant as they seem to be to this pairing and the film became nicely profitable because of international audiences… which might happen with Diaz too. Bad Teacher was a $115 million comedy overseas. But at home, the interesting idea of having Diaz play “normal, attractive, middle class mom” is not lighting up the scoreboard.

Why did I start with Sex Tape? Because the other two films aren’t very interesting as box-office conversation. The Purge 2 has a low budget—allegedly under $10m—and even with a drop in opening day, it is likely to be profitable. And Planes: Fire & Rescue is a DVD spin-off writ larger… but hardly a large investment for Disney. And it, too, has a bigger international audience than domestic, pretty much assuring that it will be a profit center.

In other words, you can expect “Purge 3″ and “Planes 3, “regardless of where they end up in the US this weekend. Both will be profitable. You can stop whining about them now (if you were).

Boyhood expanded to 34 screens this weekend and on Friday did $330,000. That suggests a million-dollar weekend on just 34 screens. Impressive. But again, not shocking or unheard of. The film is going to do well. $8m seems like the bottom for its domestic gross. But growing it into the $20m+ range is certainly a possibility.

Interestingly, IFC is being quite transparent in its short-term planning. 44 more screens next weekend. (See the schedule of releases through August here.) This might be a mistake. Companies that play in this game for bigger theatrical dollars tend to be a bit more flexible and aggressive in the face of a hit. But IFC will figure it out, no doubt.

IFC’s biggest non-doc release since the Bob Berney era of 2002, is Frances Ha, with $4 million. Its biggest weekend was $550k on 60 screens. You can see how much bigger Boyhood is, in that it will almost double that number on almost half the screens. But it’s also worth noting that Frances achieved that high in the second weekend.

The one thing that seems clear is that Boyhood has a much better shot at theatrical revenues (and award season) by removing the glass ceiling of VOD. And in this regard—making a clear case for why VOD is not for every “small” film—Boyhood could change distribution for indies.

The Problem With Fox Eating Time-Warner

Thursday, July 17th, 2014

Tale as old as time…

With every major announcement, there is a wave of media insisting that there is a universal meaning. The wave du jour is “bigger, Bigger, BIGGER.”

Dare I remind you that just a few weeks ago, before the Aereo decision, the wave was all about “disruption”?

The crazy thing about watching all this is that each event is unique unto itself, but there is, almost always, an insistence that each event is part of the big picture… until our attention turns elsewhere in an instant, like the dog in Up.

Even within the stories about Fox making a rejected offer to Time-Warner, there is a bit of schizophrenia. Everyone has noted that Time-Warner has scaled itself down, making it an attractive takeover target. But within a paragraph or two, it is also explained that this is really about the consolidation craze amongst those who are providing the “wires” into our lives, both through the air and through physical distribution.

David Carr closes out his column sensibly mentioning the AOL/Time-Warner deal of 2000. But he doesn’t really explain why. He’s still too busy chiding regulators who didn’t stop Comcast from acquiring Universal and don’t seem in a hurry to stop Comcast from adding Time-Warner Cable… or allowing DirecTV to get swallowed by AT&T. Carr and Team NYT are also in a tizzy over the super-sized Amazon and its vise-like control on publishing these days. This seems to distract the paper of record from the bigger picture.

The angle on this story I find myself eye-rolling over is that every move is now a response to Comcast and other merger-minded companies with internet delivery roles. The consolidated theory of the current situation is that, somehow, a company with 30% of the market will have a lot more buying power with 40% of the market, so somehow, the sellers now need to consolidate too. But I don’t buy that at all. I see no history suggesting it is true. Time-Warner Cable’s 10% of the market was, by itself, plenty to create an ongoing national saga as it fought out a retransmission agreement with CBS. Comcast/TWC might put a lot more television sets in play during the next showdown, but neither side wins in these fights. Neither side is just walking away from the table.

And not every merger of a media company is the same. One sort of size is not the same as every other kind of size. Muscling up by cable companies that who see their future leaning more and more to the internet delivery business is not about setting the price for content. Buying more content and the top specialized delivery brand which is already converting into an internet-driven play is.

Did we learn anything from the AOL/Time-Warner merger? (Here’s where I point out that I was publicly against that merger from the start, even though I was working for Time-Warner at the time. That was because it was clear that AOL was a bubble company eating a more substantial company and there was nothing good to come of it.) Time-Warner allowed itself to be consumed because being forced into a merger was seen to be inevitable and AOL was the king of the internet at the time. And they’ve been divesting ever since.

But the lesson I am most keenly interested in, regarding the AOL/Time-Warner merger, is that new ownership, no matter how hands-off they claim they will be, can’t keep their hands off the money… and the film and television businesses are not widget businesses. In the AOL/Time-Warner merger, it was inevitable that we would see some changes in the web business. But AOL blithely dropped established brands not because there was a problem, but because they were Time-Warner’s and not their own. Likewise, their power was felt at both WB and New Line in ways that didn’t make anyone happy… since AOL knew nothing about the film business.

Fox knows a lot about the film business, but it also has had a very different strategic position on most areas of the film business, from development to Home Entertainment. The only strategic match in the new streaming universe is that neither company has a film deal with Netflix. But after that, there are many significant variations. Of course, the most discussed element in this regard is HBO, a worldwide content delivery powerhouse to which Fox does not have an equivalent.

But in the straightforward issue of the TV businesses and the film businesses, both smell of burnt metal when considering this (unlikely) possibility. The Wall Street Journal did a very good job of explaining why the TV side is potentially ugly, but the piece writes of the film side as “unlikely to herald major change in the film business.” And to that I say, “Bull.”

There are two layers of problems. First, is the actual merger bringing two or the six remaining major MPAA studios under one owner. It is true that WB has moved to more outside funding in recent years, but the studio has been a much more aggressive spender and risk-taker over the last decade. If Fox had a summer like WB’s 2006 (Superman Returns, Poseidon, Lady In the Water, Ant Bully), heads would have rolled. Not at WB. And WB having a year like, say, last year’s Fox year is unthinkable… no attempts at anything bigger than a triple and only one of those.

It pretty much would have to fall one way or the other. Either Fox would find WB’s methodology attractive and shift that way or Fox would see WB as profligate and tighten everything up.

But the second layer regards the entire industry. Consolidating power for two studios would mean that that, suddenly, Murdoch and one other studio control half the strategy of the MPAA and the future of the business. Fox has, traditionally, been a passionate outlier when MPAA infighting gets clique-y. They are slow to jump in any pool until they know what temperature of the water is. The company has made some big moves when up against the wall, whether the Fox TV network or the first NFL deal or the Wall Street Journal purchase. But aside from those big leaps, it’s a pretty tight room. Often a brilliant room, but a tight room.

The next big paradigm shift is coming. The massive libraries at all of the majors are not being exploited well in the present streaming era. It’s got to happen. And when it does happen, the question of the theatrical window, the Blu-ray window, and the streaming endgame all need to find maximum revenue positions. Disney has its own ideas. Comcast has proprietary distribution interests. Sony and Paramount are likely to wait to allow others to lead. And that leaves the most conservative studio of this era, Fox, and the most aggressive, Warner Bros. With both companies under his control, Murdoch is in position to decide the future… both of online and theatrical.

For me, the Comcast/Time-Warner Cable is an 800-pound gorilla growing to 900 pounds in an industry under fire. I don’t think they change the game for everyone, whether they get TWC or not. But the film and television production business is not a utility.

People will need internet access until some other delivery system exists… that could be close to forever. And Comcast can only push customers so far. But the movie and television business can be collapsed in on itself and customers don’t get a vote. “Hey… in 2018 there will  be only one studio-distributed release each week.” Only a select group would care, aside from the exhibitors filing for bankruptcy. In fact, a lot of film critics would cheer, presuming that it would mean better movies as a result of a limited number of releases.

In the future of more entertainment abundance than we can even imagine now, original content and the amount of it and the amount of risk capital entertainment conglomerates will spend each year will be seriously reconsidered. And yes, as David Carr memorialized with a column, unique content like “South Park” (and “Seinfeld “and “The Big Bang Theory” and “Family Guy,” etc.) will be worth a fortune… because it’s proven.

But on the film side, we are already noticing that no fad lasts forever. But the fad of the moment has a minimum $300m price tag with production and P&A. WB had three of those this summer (and it was a little quiet this year), a fourth coming, and Fox had one and maybe one more coming (a second sequel). Does Fox have any mega-budget films on the schedule next year? Fantastic Four? Probably on the cheaper side. Nothing else even suggests a huge budget. WB looks to have three… and three more in 2016 to Fox’s two (ID4-2 and Apes 3). Warner Bros ain’t Disney… but it’s a lot more financially aggressive than Fox.

This is a terrible, terrible idea for the movie business. WB and CBS? Sure. Fox and Sony? Makes more sense.

No question there are all kinds of economies that both businesses could take if Fox ate Time-Warner. But I fear that one of them with be a whole lot of investment in theatrically-released feature films, independent network television production, and a cultural legacy that is unlikely to ever be rebuilt if destroyed.

BYOB 71714

Thursday, July 17th, 2014


32 Weeks To Oscar: Toronto, Telluride, and Collateral Damage

Monday, July 14th, 2014

I was completely comfortable with the decision by TIFF to set a rule that if a film chooses to go to Telluride, it can’t have an opening weekend slot at TIFF.

Simply, the inspiration to make an official rule was the increasing issue of major fall releases agreeing to premiere at TIFF, then “TBAing” themselves into Telluride. (TBA meaning, to go on the schedule as a “To Be Announced,” or what was once a surprise screening.)

The choice to play that game with the media—which is what all of this is about—was not without its problems. A decade ago, media at Telluride were, mostly, a non-issue. The trades, indieWIRE, maybe someone from the LA Times (not critics), and a couple internet types. No New York Times, no Wall Street Journal, no TV, etc.

The media tone at Telluride started to change after the 2006 TBA of Capote and the 2007 TBA of Juno. Two eventual Oscar nominees. Two opportunities to get first access to talent, some of whom are a little press shy.

It was also the first year that A.O. Scott attended the festival… the first year, since the very early years, in which the NYT covered the festival.

In 2008, there was a movie that WB had designated for direct-to-DVD got picked up by Fox Searchlight. It TBAed Telluride and then premiered at Toronto. Then Slumdog Millionaire won the Oscar.

It was the first movie in the entire history of Telluride (starting the summer of 1974) in which the eventual Oscar winner played the festival.

The media heat was on and ‘Telluride is the first stop of the Oscar season” started. And with it—and coincidentally, the blogging explosion—the growth of media as a part of Telluride had begun.

It started a remarkable run of six years in which the eventual Oscar-winner premiered as a TBA at Telluride two times… another Oscar-winner slid in as a tribute film… and a fourth launched in North America after premiering at Cannes. Not only were there more journalists heading to the very expensive festival (4 days in Telluride and 10 days in Toronto cost about the same amount) to see movies early, enjoy the amazing location, and bathe in movie first-ism, but the urge to double-dip by bigger studios increased.

2009 – Up In The Air
2010 – The King’s Speech, 127 Hours, Black Swan
2011 – The Artist, The Descendants
2012 – Argo, Amour
2013 – 12 Years A Slave, Gravity

And here’s the problem for Toronto. Half of of these ten films (plus Slumdog Millionaire, Capote, and Juno) were presented as World Premieres at TIFF… and all eight had TBAed at Telluride. Two of the other five films had been at Cannes (The Artist & Amour). Two more were back-doored in as tributes to George Clooney and Colin Firth. And Gravity just booked Telluride and went on to suck up a lot of oxygen at Toronto.

This brings up another issue that TIFF must be feeling. A movie like Gravity used TIFF as its bigger diving board with 10x+ the media at the festival, as well as the base for junketing the movie (which would be virtually impossible at Telluride), taking attention away from actual TIFF premieres. God bless Warner Bros. They had an 800-lb gorilla and it could sit wherever it wanted with great success.

This was good for the City of Toronto, good for the hotel that WB took over for days, a good association for the festival, and good for the media, which has some one-stop shopping for the fall movie season. But does it fit the mission of the festival? Personally, I saw Gravity (and was blown away) in a makeshift hotel screening room WB set up, honoring my commitment whatever other film was World Premiering in the same slot in a big theater. But how many people blew whatever it was off for the hot title with flying buzz out of Telluride? And while it didn’t ultimately matter how I saw Gravity, was it best for the film for me to feel compelled to see it in a tiny room in a hotel?

And would it have hurt Gravity in the slightest had it pushed to Monday or Tuesday at Toronto?

Whatever corner was turned by Telluride and by distributors, make no mistake… Telluride is now in the “me first” Oscar race game. After 33 years of not having a single Oscar nominee for Best Picture premiere at the festival, suddenly they were cranking out at least 1 a year. There is no one more passionate about film—and the best of film—than Tom Luddy. But this kind of thing just doesn’t happen like the breeze shifting directions.

And again, most of these films “officially” premiered at Toronto. So TIFF made claims to being the first stop for Oscar as well. And TIFF’s pedigree in this regard started 7 years earlier than Telluride… 1999… with American Beauty. And they’ve had 8 Oscar winners in 13 years. And 3 Audience Award winners winning Best Picture in the last 6 years.

Regardless, in an era of media obsessed with FIRST and with journalists forever trying to make excessive spending on festivals seem critically important to their editors who approve such budgets, there was and is a big push to prioritize Telluride in the media. And the noise was never so loud as it was last September.

So this last off-season, TIFF made a proclamation. If you show your film at Telluride or anywhere else in North America, you can’t show your film at TIFF on opening weekend (Thursday-Sunday).

Because of the obsessive push over the last decade to put any film with serious sales or awards aspirations into opening weekend at TIFF, the festival has—for media—become a five- or four-day festival. So this rule seems, to many distributors and filmmakers looking for a buyer, like a threatening, trouble-making edict.

My immediate reaction was to see some good in the forced expansion of the festival. Suddenly, media that has routinely left Monday night or Tuesday might feel compelled to stay until Thursday. And in doing so, won’t only see the bigger films that chose a Telluride premiere, but other films they would not have seen… potentially finding gems or creating publicity for rising talent.

I still feel this way.


There are arguments against this edict to be made—and are being made—by distributors of smaller indies, docs (a sliver of the Telluride schedule), and foreign-language films that feel compelled to play at Telluride to take advantage of multiple benefits… which include 1. The pool of Oscar voters at the festival; 2. Smaller pond allows smaller films to be bigger fish; 3. Getting some attention for smaller titles before Toronto offers a better chance at generating attention during the TIFF onslaught.

These are films that are, unlike some of the Oscar chasers, a true part of the history of the Telluride Film Festival, which was founded to honor silent film, but as the stars of that era have died off, has become more and more about great foreign-language and small indie films and filmmakers. But these films at the heart of the festival also have smaller marketing and publicity budgets than most of those taking advantage of the TBA game.

As one distributor mentioned to me, the way things were is that you could bring in a foreign director or actor, go to Telluride on Thursday or Friday, head to Toronto on Tuesday or Wednesday, and be done with TIFF by Monday… a 10-day trip. Now, with this rule, that 10 days becomes 14 or 15 days. And not only is it more expensive, but the talent has no driving purpose for the down week between the two festivals.

An extra 5 days can mean thousands of dollars (it’s not just a hotel room for the talent, but handlers as well) and can create intensified scheduling problems. I am sympathetic to this.

I will say, it also occurs to me that a small film that is willing to screen for me (and others, obviously) before TIFF (under embargo) could reap a real benefit in wide open time for interviews and the like before their TIFF premiere. I can only speak for myself, but it is a hell of a lot easier to book me for a DP/30 on Thursday or Friday than it is on Sat-Tues, when I shoot as many as 10 half-hours a day.

It has also been suggested that the payoff for films that obey TIFF and skip Telluride is not enough to make said skipping an overall win. Smaller films are not really in a financial position to get slots in the big venues (RTH, Elgin, Princess of Wales, Lightbox… or even the Ryerson at night) on opening weekend at TIFF. So if they give up Telluride, what is the payoff in Toronto? Less attention? More trouble breaking through?

Still… I do think it is absolutely fair for TIFF to make an absolute rule for TBAs appearing at Telluride and to hold distributors who have made commitments to North American and World Premieres to their word. I think it’s also fair to ask a company like Warner Bros or Fox Searchlight to make the choice between two high-profile North American festivals that screen within days of each other. Maybe some companies will choose to skip Toronto and junket elsewhere. Maybe others will not care about waiting until Monday or Tuesday to premiere… perhaps even pleased to be fighting less hard for air. TIFF is taking that risk. There is nothing shocking or unusual about a business decision in the world of theatrical releases. It is much more horrifying that any of these companies continue to fund Carlos de Abreau’s made-up personal award show… coming to network TV this October like a leftover episode of “The Bachelor” featuring The Situation’s grandfather as your host.

But for the smaller films that are officially on the Telluride schedule, perhaps a variation in the rule should be allowed, as every film screening in Toronto on opening weekend is not and has never been a World Premiere or a North American premiere. Maybe a new designation that highlights films with talent coming from a distance as unique events. Maybe bridge the gap between Telluride and Toronto with a Wednesday or Thursday program specifically intended to create media opportunities for smaller films that have played Telluride.

As with current arguments about VOD… what works for real indies would likely be a disaster for studio releases and vice versa.

A solution is not so easy. As we all might guess, whatever seam Toronto allows in the rule will surely be exploited by distributors and producers and sales companies as quickly and cleverly as possible. But there is a long history of quality indies and foreign-language films playing both festivals… no harm, no foul. It would be good to see TIFF figure out a way to make that opportunity open up again.

Weekend Estimates by Klady of the Apes

Sunday, July 13th, 2014


I’m trying to figure out something much worth saying about this weekend at the box office… but it’s pretty uneventful.

Apes opened well, not spectacularly. Now we will see what kind of legs it has… and wait a few weeks for international to start throwing money around the cage.

The one thing that is striking is that much-maligned Fox has 3 of the Top Ten films of the summer with Apes likely to make it 4 of 10 by next Friday. Fox also has 3 of the Top 10 worldwide for the year so far with Apes likely to make it 4 of the Top 11 pretty soon.

Currently, Sony and Warner Bros each has 2 in the summer Top 10 with single titles from Paramount, Disney, and Universal.

I guess I am missing all the “attaboy” stories on Fox’s great summer. Truth be told, I don’t think this is a “great” summer for any of the studios… but Fox is the top dog and has a real story in the international explosion of X-Men, the low budget return on Fault, and the risky recreation of the Apes franchise, which they tried before with Tim Burton and saw it fail.

The issue of animation at Fox needs its own story, with Rio 2 looking lame at home, but nearing $500m worldwide and the DreamWorks Animation relationship looking a little soft. Truth be told, Dragon 2 is the first of Fox’s 4 DWA releases that wasn’t an original/first of series. And if you look at the DWA run with Paramount, the big numbers are almost all for sequels or threequels. Given the big number for The Croods, driven by Fox’s international team, things look a lot better. Only the first Panda film did better amongst first-time titles… and only by $45m worldwide. And there is a good amount of international money still out there for Dragon 2.

Disney’s summer will really be defined by Guardians of the Galaxy, with Maleficent a success, but not a knock out.

The bulk of Universal’s summer starts next week, with 3 movies in 3 weekends on the way, though none of them are expected to be significant… though Purge 2 could be high profit.

Paramount also has its summer bulk in August, with Brett Ratner’s Hercules, in partnership with MGM and the Michael Bay-driven Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, co-funded by Platinum Dunes.

Fox has a little comedy coming starring 2 of the New Girl cast. Sony has Sex Tape. And Warner Bros has the oddball, starless Into The Storm, which will try to bring in the Roland Emmerich big-screen disaster audience.

Oh yeah… Transformers: Age of Extinction is now the #1 summer movie worldwide. If it keeps falling 50% a weekend, it will not pass Cap2′s domestic box office. It will be about $15m short. And at least $150m bigger worldwide.

Regardless of reviews and controversy, Tammy is heading to over $75m domestic and a nice profit for WB and Melissa McCarthy. Hopefully, the media will both to write that story.

The Obama-hating America did another $2.4 million… putting it at about half the earning power of its predecessor, 2016: Obama’s America, reminding us yet again that you can fool some of the people some of the time, but even the extremists are getting tired of the single note being played over and over again.

The happy story of the weekend is Boyhood, estimating a $74,800 per screen on 5, which is award-season strong. It pretty much guarantees that the film will be profitable. The question, as indieland sets off fireworks too close to the kids like a drunken parent on the 4th of July, is how big the film can get. Is it $8 million, $16 million, $24 million… $32 million? These are all legitimate possibilities. And no one knows the answer.

Oscarwise, the only non-Weinstein, non-Lionsgate, non-studio Best Picture nomination in the last decade was Roadside Attraction’s success getting Winter’s Bone nominated in 2010. But if you go back to the late 90s and 2000, USA, Grammercy, and October were all independent and getting films in… and that was the 5 nominee era. So with a film this well-liked, this unique, and potentially profitable, there is clearly a legit chance of a nomination.

Also making noise with over $9k per screen was Land Ho!, a Sony Classics release that should be very leggy, if not with huge numbers, as its audience – over 50s – takes a little longer to turn out, but turn out when they get a sniff of a “must see” and there is a distributor that knows how to work that angle well.

Begin Again had a nice expansion. $3 million for Ida is a reason to celebrate. And Snowpiercer smashes into a wall on this expansion as the VOD glass ceiling does it no favors.

How Box Office Analysis Should Be Done… A Personal View

Saturday, July 12th, 2014

A discussion about box office analysis broke out on Twitter and Lindsey Bahr asked: “serious question that could sound snarky: how do you think box office should be analyzed?”

Because 140 characters is rough and torturing people who follow me is not my idea of fun (even if I do it too often in haste), I threw this together as a quick answer. I reserve the right to add more ideas on the issues later.

Box office is not a horse race. Coming in first does not assure a win. Nor does coming in low on the Top Ten chart assure failure.

Expectations are rarely consistent, often loaded with politics, and not relevant to the meaning of the box office facts.

Almost all box office reporting is done on the basis of estimates. Readers deserve to know this.

Friday matinee numbers are only relevant as news in very, very limited circumstances. When an outlet reports anything, they must account for the likelihood that any report they make could define the issue for any number of readers. Box office is not a live reporting event, like a car chase or election. In theory, analysis as constant and detailed as election coverage might have value… but no one does it.

International is, in most cases of studio releases, going to be the majority of theatrical box office. It is not an afterthought or a non-issue. Budgets over $100m all take international into account as a primary issue. Any decent analysis must take this into account.

There are many financial steps in the revenue path of a studio’s theatrical release. No box office analyst ever knows them all. But familiarity with the elements involved and the generalities of how they tend to add up is a fundamental of box office analysis. Just reporting domestic theatrical is fine… but a very limited pursuit and should be contextualized as such.

Pronouncements about the success and failures of films must be more than a balancing act between the spin by various studios. It is the job of every studio publicist and press-chatting exec to spin the best version of their performance and often, to create perspective by tearing down the performance of others. Truth is a relative thing in these exchanges. Studios are not required to offer accurate production budgets, back-end percentages, marketing budgets, various deals that may cut the bottom line or add to it… and rarely offer any of it, unless it benefits their spin in a significant way. Analysis demands a deeper look.

Regurgitating the verbal press releases of studios about weekend box office is acceptable if clearly marked as such. Pretending it is editorial insight is a lie.

Box office analysis, when done professionally, is a serious effort to analyze a very high-profile, high-cost, high-risk business. It is not a blood sport nor is it an extension of the publicity machine.

Friday Estimates by Oo Oo GO Klady

Saturday, July 12th, 2014

Friday Estimates 2014-07-12 at 11.57.33 AM

So… Dawny Apes is not (box-office-wise) the The Dark Knight to Ape Rise’s Batman Begins. Incremental growth, but not explosive growth.

So let’s say that this Dawn of the Planet of the Apes ends up grossing between $170m and $220m domestically. Okay. The story is still, sorry to say, international. The first film in this rebooted franchise (Rise) did about 63.3% of its theatrical business internationally, $305 million to its domestic gross of $176m. So while the domestic improvement is meh, the international could blow this up to the next level. But no one knows until we know. And the World Cup will keep the answer at bay for a while longer.

In second place (eyeroll), Transformers 4 will pass $200 million today, passed Maleficent worldwide yesterday, and should be in the $700m club on or before next Friday. But like Apes, it too feels a bit underwhelming in the financials. It is still on track to become the worldwide #1 for 2014 (at least until InterNolan, Hungry Mockingjay, and Hobbit 3).

The question of this summer’s numbers is intriguing. We have six $200 million domestic grossers so far (inc Transformers), 1 shy of the record 7 last summer and summer 2012, with Apes, Guardians, and Turtles the most likely #7s (or #8) in play. Nothing unhealthy there.

What is missing are the domestic mega-grosses. We’ve gotten used to them since 2007 (the summer of the three-quel), when we had 4 summer movies over $300m domestic. That record has never been broken or matched. 3 in 2008, 2 in 2009, 3 in 2010, 2 each in 2011 and 2012 and 2013.

But here’s the other thing… the same phenomenon is happening in international this summer. This summer has as many $400m international movies as ever… and that seems like a reasonable standard for a worldwide box office hit, no? $200m domestic and $400m international. But while we have the same number – and potentially a record-breaking number – of films over that threshold, we are missing the big numbers. Top international grosser right now is Amazing Spidey 2 with $504m. We’ve had three summer films do better than that in each of the last three summers. There is a good chance that Tr4 will take the lead in international soon… but even then, we’ve had at least two summer films do over $600m internationally in each of the last three years. That isn’t coming close to happening this summer.

And keep in mind that the Chinese box office, which puffs up the international numbers on a bunch of these films, is returning less than half of what normally comes back to distributors from the rest of international. (There is probably an interesting story to be written about who, exactly, is making theatrical distribution deals with China and if US distributors are doing more direct deals than they do in some other major foreign territories and if there are any other fingers in that pie… but I’m not the one to write it.)

So what is happening?

I don’t think one summer defines anything in the film industry. As Sharon Waxman and the New York Times showed in 2005, you can bend yourself into pretzels trying to spin a story that you have decided is The Truth and simply be wrong… over and over and over again. The vestiges of that horrible, ignorant “reporting” in 2005 are still felt as the Times continues to insist it was right when it was clearly wrong. (And Sharon continues the Reporting Of Premature Ejaculation in The Wrap… with Brent Lang now bringing it to Variety, which seems to love it.)

(Note: I transposed the names of Lucas Shaw and Brent Lang in an earlier draft of this entry. My apologies to both.)

But the irrational exuberance of the industry about animation and 3D and comic book movies, in turn, is already showing quiet signs of retreat. There was talk of 3 a year from DreamWorks animation… back to 2. Same with Marvel. Same with 3D becoming the standard for all films. Film critics can tell you how many of the 3D movies are now being screened for press in 2D. There are only 2 traditional studio animation films this summer after 5 last summer. Even if Pixar had taken a summer slot, it would only have been 4. Only 4 are scheduled for next summer. And 4 for Summer 2016 (3 of which are sequels). Has the lesson been learned?

Disney has 6 huge movies coming in 8 months next year, 3 of them in one 7 week stretch. This is when their model starts to really be tested. Maybe it will be fine. In the end, audiences want what they want and circumstances be damned. Avengers and Star Wars in one year with a new Pixar and a new Brad Bird and the other two movies can just not be disasters and it’s probably a strong year.

Boyhood‘s doing gangbusters on 5 screens, looking at between $50k and $70k by the end of the weekend. Second best only to Grand Budapest in limiteds this year. About 40% better than Before Midnight last summer. What it means in terms of the ultimate box office for the film is unknown. Could be a $7m movie… could be a $15m movie. Pretty rangey. That big question (here we go again) is whether there is an international audience for this singular event that will blow up Linklater’s previously soft numbers for his non-studio films. Before Sunset did just over $10m overseas. The hope is that Boyhood can match and surpass.

BYOB 711

Friday, July 11th, 2014


Apes 2: The Moral Implications (spoilers after the jump)

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014


If homosexuality is the subtext of Bryan Singer’s X-Men movies, race is – and has been from the start – the subtext of Planet of the Apes movies.

But from the moment of Chuck Heston saying, “Get your hands off of me, you dammed dirty ape” (quoting from memory only, because even if slightly wrong, the spirit lingers for decades), the original filmed versions of the story had a certain lack of subtlety that fit its time.

This gets into the thorny issue of reboots, which don’t offend me, so long as the choice to reboot is, on some level, about bringing a different angle to an old story. As I have written for what feels like eons, movies are an old enough art form to now be taken seriously and revived and reconsidered as books and theater have been for as long as we can remember. As is obvious when you think about it, all of Shakespeare is a reboot.

Rod Serling and Michael Wilson’s adaptation of the Pierre Boulle novel was powerfully demanding in 1968. Heston was The Good Guy, not only in the film but as a cinematic icon, and when he showed his disgust towards the apes, it wasn’t a racist acting out, but the admission of fear and ignorance even amongst “good people.”

The Jaffa/Silver/Bomback script for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes takes the issue that was so clearly race back in the day and brings it into a current context, which still finds humans fighting between divisions genetic, mapped, cultural, and imagined. But trust is the primary issue. And the earning of it or loss of it knows no boundaries.


Review-ish: Planet of The Apes (non-spoiler)

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014


Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is the kind of movie that can get a film critic in trouble. It’s smart, unexpected, and so skillful in its nearly endless use of computer-generated imagery that you kinda want to scream hosannas.

Of course, it may just be that this film deserves them.

It struck me about a third if the way through the film that the Next Spielberg will be someone who takes the technology, which has gotten so incredibly good and just keeps taking next steps (the CG eyes in this film are CRAZY), to someplace we haven’t even considered yet. Avatar and Gravity both raised the bar breathtakingly. But they were two great films by two great filmmakers who brought magic to the technological possibilities. It would be idiotic not to include Peter Jackson on the list of those changing the idea of what’s possible in astounding ways and in some ways, he has – with WETA – raised the bar so fast that things that were absolutely stunning just a few years ago now seem commonplace.

And I was thinking that Matt Reeves was doing a great job, but this was not that film.

I’m still not sure it’s THAT film. But good gosh, did he make a real run at a CG-driven film that was in a completely realistic setting that could have almost done without its human characters completely.

Love Clarke, love Oldman, love Russell… but this movie belongs to the monkeys. No question.

Serkis is more disappeared here than before. It’s an excellent performance and I can’t put that voice in Serkis’ mouth, but also, the animation is eye-popping. And Toby Kebbell. Lots of people betting on him. Great work here, really outside of his physical boundaries. (Also in the film, Judy Greer… who you won’t recognize… at all.). Can I mention Kebbell again?

And in that evolution (nudge, nudge, wink, wink), this film really becomes The Dark Knight to the first film’s Batman Begins. You spend much of the movie anticipating which weird, never-before-seen turn the thing might take next. It’s Shakespearean, it’s Biblical (Old and New Testament), it’s The Walking Dead, it’s The Lion King, it’s Lincoln it’s The Godfather, it’s Titanic. It’s all over the place. Yet… it really comes together.

SIDEBAR: Here’s another “problem” for serious critics… the film is about 50% a silent/foreign-language movie. How often do you see that from a studio movie?

I will admit, there is an action beat late in the third act that was absolutely unnecessary and, in my opinion, self-defeating in terms of the ongoing story. And yes, it involves the humans. (Always in the way.)

The film smartly works without the first movie (though having seen it is helpful at times). But it really feels like a set up for the more movies. Will it take 5 movies… 6… 8… to get to humans ending up back on The Planet of the Apes? I suspect that the next one will have to leave San Francisco. But how far along will it take us? Don’t know. Don’t care. If it’s as good as this one, I’ll enjoy it and look forward to more.

This is the fifth CG spectacle of the summer. And thought I like most of the others, this one kinda puts the rest to shame. However beautifully done, those films are amazingly free of deep “human” emotion and intimate intensity, though they certainly try. (There are a few moments.). This film, with more CG than any of them, is heavy. Entertaining, but man… lots of life and death and power in which to wallow.

I have no idea how big this thing will be. But it feels like it can be leggy and big for repeat viewing. Whoever is streaming/airing the first film… get ready for some seriously increased numbers on that. Most of all, it feels like a piece in a big Apes puzzle that adults will enjoy for years to come. Huzzah.

(And after this review, do you have no idea of what happens in the movie? Good. Go enjoy it without anticipating it. You’ll be much happier that way.)

Trailer 2: Gone Girl

Monday, July 7th, 2014

I am so in now.

Annals of Sexism: Melissa McCarthy Edition

Monday, July 7th, 2014

I am a Melissa McCarthy fan. I loved her from Go.

I had seen her, somehow, before this trailer and then the movie. She had a tiny part. But she made instant, indelible magic. There are a bunch of actors in this film who were around before this, but established street cred with the movie. Sarah Polley, Timothy Olyphant, William Fichtner, Taye Diggs… even Scott Wolf.


The title of this post is a bit sarcastic. There has been a movement amongst some in media to somehow rise up to defend Melissa McCarthy and her movie, Tammy, as victims of the patriarchy. That, somehow, the movie has been overly pilloried. And that, somehow, Melissa McCarthy has become a victim.

I don’t buy it.

At all.

So I decided to go back and look at the facts. Obviously, statistics can be bent to serve anyone’s purpose. But I am trying—you will tell me if I fail—to play it straight.

McCarthy broke out as a supporting actress on the TV series, Gilmore Girls. She followed that with stints on a Lifetime series, Rita Rocks, and ABC’s Samantha Who? But she got a series based around herself and comic Bill Gardell—Mike & Molly—that launched in 2010. Pretty good trajectory.

The star of Gilmore Girls, Lauren Graham, did a couple of studio movies as The Wife, a couple indies, and a small part in a Focus release… all box-office misses. And went on to the ensemble show, Parenthood.

Nicole Sullivan, who starred in Rita Rocks, went back to funny supporting actress status after that show dies after 2 seasons.

And Christina Applegate, 20 years famous, got another series pretty quickly, teamed with Will Arnett and Maya Rudolph as a triangular lead, Up All Night.

Seems like McCarthy did pretty well for herself, amongst the leads of the shows she had been on.

Then, Bridesmaids hit in May 2011, after a year of Mike & Molly. Big surprise smash. Oscar nominations for McCarthy and for screenplay (Wiig & Mumolo).

Wiig & Mumolo passed on writing (and Wiig also starring) a Bridesmaids sequel. Annie Mumolo’s second screenplay, Joy, is being made by David O. Russell with Jennifer Lawrence in the lead. Wiig has been working nonstop and there is a deal for her to direct her first film.

On the acting side, Maya Rudolph got a co-lead in Up All Night and was recently given a shot at a variety show, something as rare as blue moon these days (and she’s knocked out a few kids in the midst of this, never letting it slow her down).

Rose Byrne was mid-Damages when Bridesmaids happened and has worked in a bunch of studio movies, most recently Neighbors, in which she had a really strong, developed role, even if the ad campaign didn’t show this.

Wendi McLendon-Covey, who had a role on Reno 911 and was on Rules of Engagement when Bridesmaids hit, had a show built around her—The Goldbergs—though the presence of Jeff Garlin and George Segal have taken some of the “she’s the star” luster away from it.

And Rebel Wilson, launched in America by her cameo in Bridesmaids, and made stronger by the turn in the Elizabeth Banks project, Pitch Perfect, got her own series as writer-producer-star on ABC —Super Fun Nigh—which ABC cancelled in May after mediocre numbers and not much critical love.

I don’t see how anyone makes a case for the women of Bridesmaids suffering under the yoke of male Hollywood oppression. Chris O’Dowd, the one significant male part in the film, on the other hand, has been in small parts in a couple studio films, big parts in some UK indies, had a nice arc on Girls, and was the lead on an 8-episode Chris Guest series for HBO. Not bad. But objectively, all the women have done better so far.

Now… on to Ms. McCarthy’s films since Bridesmaids.

Great little cameos in This Is 40 and The Hangover III.

Two movies as co-lead. Identity Thief and The Heat. Jason Bateman and Sandra Bullock as co-stars.

Bateman is one of those guys who is very funny, but has been inconsistent with audience draw. Horrible Bosses, also from Seth Gordon, had Bateman in the lead… but a lot of other firepower. $118m domestic. But then The Switch did $37m domestic. Not so great. Identity Thief… $135m domestic. How much Bateman—who had top billing—and how much McCarthy? Hard to say. But McCarthy is the shiny object, so she tends to get more credit.

Now, I don’t know what dates Bad Words shot. According to published reports, the film had about half the budget of Tammy. But it was probably “bankable” more because of Horrible Bosses and other Bateman work than because of Identity Thief. Nonetheless, that is what came next from The House of Bateman. And Ms. McCarthy went on to co-star with Sandra Bullock, one of the biggest movie stars of the last decade.

$160m domestic, $230m worldwide for The Heat… directed by Bridesmaids director Paul Feig.

So let’s talk Bullock. She took a long time to rise. She became a big star. Then the star fell a bit. After Miss Congeniality II flopped, she did 2 indie dramas, a small love story/thriller, and a straight thriller before going back to a romantic comedy… The Proposal. But before that film ($163m dom/$317m ww) was released, she had fought to make two other, smaller films. One was All About Steve, a comedy for Fox. And the other, which no studio would fund, was The Blind Side, which did $256m via Alcon’s output deal with WB. It also won Bullock the Oscar. Then, BAM. Proposal was a smash. Steve bombed, making the media gasp. Then The Blind Side became an even bigger smash and only Bullock’s 2nd $100m dom drama after 1996′s A Time To Kill.

Bullock slowed down a little. Did Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close for Stephen Daldry in an ensemble situation not unlike Crash… but for a studio. And then, The Heat.

The Heat was Melissa McCarthy’s third lead/co-lead since becoming a name commodity for movies. It was Bullock’s 6th $100m domestic film and her third $100m comedy. She was coming off an Oscar and a lot of media love. How much Bullock and how much McCarthy? Still hard to say.

But from that film and the two others, the McCarthy household got a movie that wife & husband wrote, directed, starred in, produced, and got released by a major studio.

Is it a great film? I don’t know. Haven’t seen it. But the consensus seems to be that it’s okay, not what was expected, and not a big, ol’ laughfest.

But it’s theirs. Supported by Will Ferrell & Adam McKay’s Gary Sanchez Productions and New Line, they got a reported $20 million budget and made their movie. Home run. It’s grossed $33m in 5 days and the worst likely outcome based on this opening is about $80m worldwide. On most WB films, the P&A alone might leave the film with red ink… but they seem to have showed a bit of restraint on this one. With post-theatrical revenues and all, I don’t imagine that this film will lose money. It won’t be close to being as big as any of her Big 3 films. But who cares? Labor of love. No harm, no foul. And probably not another chance to do something personal to her and her husband until she racks up 3 or 4 more big hits within the system.

Is the media overstating the drama of Ms. McCarthy’s film being “a bomb?” Yes.

Does the media overstate every frickin’ movie opening, one way or the other? Yes.

Is the media hum around Tammy either sexist or size-ist? I just don’t see it.

That doesn’t mean that there aren’t plenty of sexists, both in Hollywood and in the real world. Nor that overweight people don’t get abused by a media obsessed with its own idea of beauty.

Is the phrase “vanity production” fair to Tammy? It’s a semantic argument. Do you define it as a movie in which a star controls the film? Do you define it as a film that is funded from odd sources because it’s too self-indulgent to get funded by traditional methods?

I don’t feel anger towards people calling it a vanity production. I don’t think Ms. McCarthy and Mr. Falcone are particularly vain people. But on the other hand, it is a movie driven by a rising star, able to get the studio to—against all normalcy—let her husband direct his first feature at a reported $20m budget for a studio release with no TV resume or anything like that. Neither member of the couple has had a script made by a studio before.

I think of it as a free kick more than as a vanity production.

It happens. Vin Diesel had A Man Apart and kept announcing “Hannibal.” Brad Pitt had The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. Leo DiCaprio (and Danny Boyle) had The Beach. Do you remember Wahlberg’s Broken City? Recall Alec Baldwin passing on the next Jack Ryan movie to do Stanley Kowalski? Which Tom Hanks pet project do you remember worse press for, That Thing You Do or Larry Crowne? Johnny Depp had The Libertine and The Rum Diary. Etc, etc, etc.

Anyway… there is some deconstruction. Your constructive input is welcome.

Weekend Estimates by Dud Fireworks Klady

Sunday, July 6th, 2014

weekend estimates 2014-07-06 at 2.14.19 PM

I am so irritated by being put in a position to defend Transformers 4′s box office. But here I am. Facts…

1. Tr4 is the first of the series to open on a Friday, making comparisons of previous Transformers openings Friday-to-Friday and 1st weekend vs 2nd weekend all but meaningless. Am I saying that Paramount is thrilled? No. But let’s be fair, not pile-on asses, burning down films we don’t like with bad stats (while invariably overstating indies we love with outsized exclusive releases).

2. July 4 is not a strong day at the box office. Historically, it is the December of summer, without the massive opening weekends, but with longer legs and some stronger weekdays.

3. Of all the July 4 Weekends bigger than Transformers 4, there are only two that were in the market for at least a week (7 days) on or before July 4. One was Transformers 2, which did $10.7m on July 4 (day 11, a Saturday) and Superman Returns, which did $10.5m (day 7, a Tuesday).

4. X-Men: DoFP, Godzilla, and Fault all had bigger second weekend domestic drops than Transformers 4 did this weekend… with release dates that didn’t include an “off” day like July 4 as one of the three 2nd weekend days.

5. Tr4 has the smallest domestic gross at the end of its second weekend of the series. Yes.

6. Tr4 is on pace to be the #1 movie of the year (at least through summer) domestically and internationally, it is already the #5 film of the year with $575 million. More to the point, after 2 weekends, it is at the aforementioned $575 million ww, while the other big summer movies were at $500m (X-Men), $366m (Cap 2), $336m (Mal), and $279m (ASM2) after two weekends of worldwide and domestic.

In other words, don’t cry for Bay, Hollywoodland.

And stop smirking like “you” beat him. Financially, he’s beat the crap out of us all again, even if he doesn’t hit $300m domestic.

I still feel that if Michael Bay directs Transformers 5, he will destroy whatever legacy he has… except as a CG schlockmeister. Some think he is that anyway and will never escape this in their eyes. I disagree. I think he is a singular, compelling talent… who has made some real shitty movies. But this is another conversation from another day.

Tammy landed right between two output deals, The Nut Job and RoboCop, amongst 2014 opening weekends. (RoboCop is a little more complicated, yes… but still, in essence, Sony distributing MGM.) It’s also, by a good margin, the worst launch for “a Melissa McCarthy movie” since people knew her name.

It’s been fascinating to watch the whiplash created by a film that is, apparently, more complex than most broad comedies, but still being sold exclusively as “fat, stupid, drunk idiot runs amuck.” People love Ms. McCarthy – and with good reason – and don’t want to see her or her career suffer. I get it. I kinda fall in line with it. But this was her free kick, like it or not, and she blew it. Now it’s back to being the scene-stealing sidekick for 5 years or so until she gets another shot. Or until she comes up with a great script for an indie that will get her raves at Sundance. And before anyone throws out the bait, this is not about her being a funny woman or being heavy. This is the way business always works, male or female, fat or thin. If this was a big hit, she would have 3 shots to fail afterwards before being sent back to the ($8 million a film) minors.

The scariest thing about Deliver Us From Evil – besides Screen Gems poaching the title of a great, Oscar-nominated documentary for a crap horror film – is that Jerry Bruckheimer’s name is on it. Has he made a film this “small” since Defiance in 1980? Anyway… the standard for a successful opening of a horror film is $20 million. Half of that this weekend. Happy holidays!

Earth To Echo… is it a floor wax or is it a desert topping? (Most of you over 40 should get that joke.) Why did an ET rip-off try so hard to look like a Wall-E rip-off? I don’t know. Not a good start. But don’t be shocked if you see some pretty good legs on this one in a very thin market for films for the under-10 set.

LionSummitsGate apparently is in need of cash, so it took on America, Dinesh D’Souza‘s second opus on fearing the black man. His first piece of trash, 2016: Obama’s America generated $33.5 million in hate-dollars for Rocky Mountain Pictures. So it’s back with a grown-up distributor trying to rape and pillage fear. $2.6 million is less than half of what the much more clearly racist first film opened to back in 2012…. though I LOVE watching Drudge try to spin it as a big explosive hit because it went from $39k on 3 screens to $2.6m on 1105 screens. UP ALMOST 7000%!!! Idjuts.

Let me be clear… I have no problem with right-leaning filmmaking or filmmakers. I have defended films considered to lean too far right (the one that jumps to mind is We Were Soldiers, but there are more recent ones) that don’t exist just to stir up shit. I have a problem with fact-disregarding hatemongers on either side of the aisle… always… period. And I was not a fan of Fahrenheit 9/11 for the same reason… and still feel it contributed to Bush having a second term as president. I embrace the ideas behind F9/11 a lot more than D’Souza’s junk, but I feel that righties deserve honest opposition the same as lefties. Anyway…

Funny to see 2 Weinstein Company films next to one another on the chart. Begin Again has all the classic audience draw stuff for an indie (actors, pedigree, irony-laden feel-good romance) but Snowpiercer is still right there nipping at its heels. One wonders whether either film will get the audience they might have with more aggressive releases.

I should point out, once again, that I was wrong about the box office upside of X-Men:Days of Future Past. Not domestically, of course, but internationally. Give credit to the new marketing chiefs at Fox, who built the studio into an international powerhouse. Look at the percentage of total gross coming from international for the series and it is quite telling. In order of the release of each film, starting in 2000… 46.9%, 47.3%, 49%, 51.8%, 58.6%, 68%, and 68.7% for DoFP. You can see the leap between Origins: Wolverine in 2009 (51.8%) and First Class in 2011 (58.6%). But then the big leap again to 2013′s The Wolverine.

I should also point out, again, that $750m worldwide is at the bottom of positive hopes for this film. It’s ahead of another weak sister whose success against expectations of failures caused it to be overhyped as a commercial smash, Man of Steel (which performed better than X:DoFP domestically, and teasing WB with hope to really break through internationally by adding Batman this next time). Don’t misread me… this film will be profitable. But it’s still small change in the Marvel universe.

On the indie side, no fireworks, but a nice launch for Life Itself, a good expansion for Third Person and the inferior Saint Laurent movie, Yves Saint Laurent, and good hold for Words & Pictures. Adults do go to the movies. But they take a while to settle in and they don’t make for wildly flashy numbers. But there is a market and it is being serviced pretty well this summer.

Friday Estimates by Tammyformers Klady

Saturday, July 5th, 2014

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