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20 Weeks To Oscar: Cash & Carrying Gold

Saturday, February 11th, 2017

Let’s start with a chart…

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That’s what the Best Picture race looks like at the box office today.

And here is a key stat about winning Best Picture: Since the expansion to 5+ Best Picture nominees, no film that has won Best Picture has been better than #3 on the list of domestic box office grossers amongst the nominees. Another chart…

oscar gross ranks bp since exp

La La Land was the #2 domestic grosser when nominated and is currently the #2 domestic grosser post-nominations. Internationally, it will the #1 in this group, and pulling further away, now and in future.

So… a La La Land win would break new ground, in terms of relative box office, for the expanded Oscar Best Picture era.

And for those of you who are praying for Moonlight to win, it, too, would break new ground, not only in the expanded era, but before as well. Going back 40 years, no film with the lowest domestic gross amongst the nominees has won Best Picture. The lowest-grossing film to win Best Picture in the same 40 years span was The Hurt Locker, with $14.7m before the win, which still had two nominees behind it on the gross list. Second lowest was Birdman, which was still Top 5 in its group with $37.8 million before the win. Moonlight is currently at $19.8 million. So it’s more than The Hurt Locker, but about half of Birdman at this point in the season and last amongst BP nominees, which has no chance of changing without a win.

La La is not in the middle of the pack. If you were looking for that, Manchester by the Sea would be your stalking horse.

Starting in 2005/06, with Crash, we have seen 7 Best Picture winners (of 12) that have grossed under $75m domestic even after winning. and 5 of the 7 winners since the BP expansion have grossed under $75m domestic all in. This is a major change in how The Academy sees the status of its winner. They may not be color blind, but they are much more money blind.

Argo is the only $100m domestic grosser to win in the expanded BP era.

Still… whatever film you are rooting for, La La Land fits the more classic Oscar mold, in terms of money. Thanks to the great success of Hidden Figures, La La Land is not the #1 domestic nominee. The Departed was the last film that was #1 grosser when it won… Slumdog Millionaire became the #1 in its group of nominees after it won, banking a record $43m domestic after winning (though $30m+ grosses after winning were not always so rare).

I have been throwing out this stat for years, but in the 30 years of Oscar before the expansion of BP nominees, only three times was the winner not one of the two highest grossers. Two of those times, it was the #3. The other example, it was #4. But 27 of 30 times, it was one of the Top 2. That is modern Academy thinking. That has changed.

But if La La Land wins, which I still expect it to, it will be a expanded-BP/post-modern Academy anomaly. And that is, after all, the natural fate for statistics meant to measure the vagaries of the heart.

Friday Estimates by Lego Klady Dark w/ Almonds

Saturday, February 11th, 2017

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-30%. -16%. +100%.

This would be as good a weekend as any to see the future of the IP-obsessed trend in Hollywood. Those who want to believe things are great with remaking everything will point out that all three of these movies will make money in the end. And that is true. Those who are more circumspect will note that even with down opening days, it is unlikely that either of the first two sequels will enjoy a 3-day multiple as good as the original and that the third cost at least double what the original cost. And someone who hates the IP trend will note that… well, they will stew, as 2 of the 3 got great reviews and the third will make up for domestic losses overseas.

The bigger question is… will studios burn their own houses down relying on ever-weakening over-used IP before the trend ends and they move back into a more moderate posture? Or will they get so desperate to make the trend work that they day-n-date their own industry beyond the point of recovery?

In some ways, just being off 30% should be a relief to Universal and Team 50 Shades. Tracking, at one point, had the second of three (so far) dropping 50% or more. I expect this launch to get worse today, not better. Still, if $55m is the 3-day, Universal would have taken that the first time and they won’t die from it this time. This is also one of those cases where international is dominant, having done 2.4x what domestic did the first time around. So even if this one drops hard and ends up at $110m domestic, international is sure to be $250m at a minimum. Even with an increased budget, $360m is a success for everyone involved… just not as much of a success. And it could well be higher than that. And if the third film drops to $250m worldwide… still making money… not a ton at that point… but making money. It is a truly hideous movie. Everyone involved should be embarrassed. But everyone also gets a new house or two or five.

The Lego Batman Movie is not an underdog. So the drop in the opening, which I think WB anticipated in recent weeks based on how hard the push got, is disappointing. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. Batman is the King of IP Cash. Iron Man may seem to be kind of the hill right now, but when Downey stops wearing the suit, whoever follows will fall back in line behind Batman. And when WB decided to make a Batman Lego film the next in what they hope will be an annual series from now until forever, they were clearly intending to boost the franchise into its future, not to stay just below even from the phenom of the original. But it didn’t.

Lego Batman is going to make a lot of money (gross and profit). $300m worldwide is pretty much guaranteed. But it is also going to bring the fantasy of the Lego cash cow back down to earth. Even with great reviews, the “you have to see this… I know you think it’s for kids, but it’s for everyone” phenomenon of the first film is not going to keep getting extended to a bunch of Lego movies. Sorry. Just not. I suspect that this film will be the peak of the Lego franchise, aside from the first theatrical Lego movie. (Worth noting that there is a metric ton of Lego “movies” on streaming, cable, and in video games, so the novelty of active Lego characters isn’t really there for kids either.) Assuming the September Ninjago movie is terrific, I would expect it to do half of whatever Batman Lego does… and then, some panic will set in, as it has on Fantastic Beasts.

John Wick: Chapter 2 is a sequel to a modest hit that has become a cult-y favorite since the original’s release 2.3 years ago. This opening doubles the opening of the original, which is great for them. It still leads to a modest success, well under $200m worldwide, unless it really takes off overseas in some unexpected way. And it might.

Paramount looks like it will have a solid year to come, but the winter campaign has been surprisingly disastrous. They may actually lose money on Rings, though they might also break even sometime late this year in post-theatrical… but just barely. They will be upside down on xXx: The Return of Xander Cage. They already took the writedown on Monster Trucks. Silence is barely on their spread sheets, but will still lose a little for the studio. And Allied will bleed red. Fences looks like breakeven will be a happy ending. Arrival is the one financial bright spot… but it is not quite as bright as expected.

They have Ghost in the Shell (aka Scarlett Painted White & Rendered Even More Flawless), Baywatch, and Transformers V… 3 purely commercial vehicles coming down the pike. The whole line-up until next fall. I truly hope they hit them out of the park. I worry that there isn’t a single middle movie for 10 months, which could be a surprise hit. All 3 of these films need to be major hits to get credit for being hits at all. And that is a heavy burden to carry.

Compare this to Sony, which is also fighting uphill right now. 8 releases before next fall, only 1 of which, Spider-Man Homecoming, needs to gross huge numbers to be seen as a success. They are still swinging for the fences with Life and The Dark Tower, but not on insane budgets. And the hopefuls include a Scarlett Johansson comedy, an Edgar Wright comedy, and Danny Boyle’s return to Trainspotting with the full crew intact, plus two Sony Animation films, which won’t be expected to do Disney numbers. It could be that nothing surprises joyfully. But if Spidey does great – which I think it will – and 1 or 2 of the others breaks out, Sony is back on its feet.

On the other hand, if Paramount runs the table with 3 movies and does over $2 billion worldwide with them, they too are going to be seen as being back on their feet.

Nice roll-out on 4 for A United Kingdom, with $4500 per screen on Friday. Duckweed, a $90m comedy hit in China arrives on 27 screens here and is performing modestly.

oscarb bp list ww feb 11

50 Shades Of BYOBlog

Thursday, February 9th, 2017

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Weekend Estimates by 3rd Weekend Personality Klady

Sunday, February 5th, 2017

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Super Bowl eats Sunday at the box office. Rings falls like a stone, allowing Split to rise to the top again, though the Split estimate seems a little high. Both Hidden Figures and La La Land estimate with an eye to being Sunday counter-programming. Again, finals may vary. And The Space Between Us finds too much space in theaters. And I Am Not Your Negro dominates in limited (45 screens), more than doubling any other film’s per-screen for the weekend.

Covered most of this weekend yesterday.

Split passes $100m domestic before next Friday. Becomes Jason Blum’s #1 all-time domestic grosser next weekend.

Sony made a point of sending out international numbers on Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, which has already done almost $95m internationally to its soft numbers here at home.

Likewise, xXx: The Return of Xander Cage is chasing worldwide breakeven with $112m international in the bank and just under $40m at home.

Rogue One, by the way, is just over $1 billion thanks to China’s $69 million… which is really like $35 million in juxtaposition to the returns in other international markets… but still, just over a billion. Anyone who claims Disney didn’t expect to get to this number is living in a fantasy. But anyone who assumes they expected a lot more is equally (more, really) deluded. The film performed almost exactly as expected.

The only Oscar bump in play is with smaller movies, like The Saleman, Toni Erdmann, The Red Turtle, and I Am Not Your Negro, which is not the frontrunner for Best Documentary, but may make Team OJ chafe a little.

Lion expanded to 1405 screens from 575 and did modestly well, but most of the bump for Best Picture movies in wider release is just slower droppage.

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Friday Estimates by Super Klady’s Bowls

Saturday, February 4th, 2017

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The Ring, which was a DreamWorks property converted from the Asian horror films, embodies the entire cycle of too much of current box office. The first film was an underdog that opened decently, but then grew very long legs, grossing $1m or more for 9 weeks. As a comparison, last year’s only horror film to gross $100m domestic, The Conjuring 2, had five such weeks. The Ring launched a craze on the film world, as Asian remakes appealing in particular to young women, and then domestic horror appealing to young women was a huge trend for a number of years.

The Ring 2 opened huge ($35m) by 2005 standards, #15 for the year. Then, unlike its predecessor’s 8.6 times opening weekend, it did 2.2X opening. And with that (and The Grudge 2), the heat was off and no Asian horror remake has since grossed more than $40 million domestic.

And now, Rings is a reboot of a dormant franchise, 12 years from its last incarnation, riding the tide of studios mining ancient IP. This one will do okay, having kept its budget in line with the market, though one wonders why they didn’t cut this budget in half and give it the Jason Blum treatment. If you look at the list of high-end producers on the film, that may explain the problem… they may have made it for something like Jason Blum money and still ended up with a $25m reported budget. That is a given cost of rebooting successful, older IP. Paramount particularly carries this weight with DreamWorks rights.

Anyway… Rings will probably make a little money when all is said and done. Not a flop. Not a smash. Grist for the mill.

Split, which will end up being #2 for the weekend, is more than that. Original production. Cheap. Big grosses. Cash cow. Looking forward to Splitter. (Just kidding… haven’t even seen this one… in no rush… but McAvoy looks like he is having great fun.)

Hidden Figures remains muscular, as I suspected it would be back in September, when at the Toronto event. It will pass the Oscar Best Picture frontrunner, La La Land, either this weekend (Super Bowl sluggish) or during the week. Arrival, the third Best Picture nominee which will likely gross $100m domestic, dropped its screen count in half this weekend, slowing the process. But it’s only $2 million away… hard to imagine Par not pushing it over.

The Space Between Us is barely made any room for itself in the market, looking at a weekend under $3.5m as Super counterprograming.

I Am Not Your Negro is riding great, well-earned reviews to a $10k+ 3-day per-screen. It will be the only one in that category this weekend.

20 Weeks To Oscar: The Simple Case For Moonlight

Monday, January 30th, 2017

(This is the second of an unplanned series of three pieces. I wrote the first, about La La Land, because there is an odd backlash within the media about the likely Oscar success of the film. There is no one arguing against Moonlight being celebrated. As with the La La Land column, this will not be about how much I like the film.)

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Moonlight is a miracle, both in the way that all movies are a miracle – a meeting of like minds, efforts, money, and execution – and in that it is a tiny, fragile piece, given wing by not only the talent behind the filmmaking, but by entitles that tend to engage at a larger scale and have come together to support this unique work.

Tarell Alvin McCraney has a remarkable career. He was raised in Miami, one of four kids born to a teen mother who was an addict and who would die of AIDS. He found his way to great success, including more than a dozen plays, a MacArthur Grant, time at the Royal Shakespeare Company, and work at Yale, where he was recently made the chair of playwriting.

Moonlight is built from a play McCraney wrote in school, which wasn’t produced. Barry Jenkins was five years removed from his first feature, Medicine for Melancholy, when he ended up in Europe writing a screenplay from the McCraney play. Jenkins went to Telluride, as he did for years, and introduced 12 Years A Slave at the festival, reigniting a long, quiet conversation with Plan B, the Brad Pitt-Dede Garner-Jeremy Kleiner production company, which would get a Best Picture win with 12 Years and would also get Best Picture nominations for Selma and The Big Short.

Three years later, Jenkins’ Moonlight would premiere at the festival where it was born.

Of course, Moonlight didn’t quite look like other Plan B Oscar movies. The budget was $1.5 million. (The budget for the other Plan B Oscar nominees ranged from $18m to $28m) The distributor was the small but mighty A24, not a major studio or Dependent like the others.

12 Years A Slave didn’t have “major movie stars,” but Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Paul Giamatti, Sarah Paulson and others were familiar faces to moviegoers. Selma had up-and-coming talent, but it also had Martin Luther King, Jr. and a major event in American history standing in as “the star.” And The Big Short was loaded with movie stars.

Moonlight relies on great, somewhat familiar actors, none of whom has played that much in the awards season. (Naomie Harris should have been nominated for her turn in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, but wasn’t.) Naomie Harris was the big name, having been in Bond movies and a couple Pirates of the Caribbeans. Mahershala Ali has fans from “House of Cards.” Janelle Monae was making one of her first films. André Holland is great on “The Knick” and onstage (including McCraney plays). But these are not stars you could throw on a poster and drive ticket sales. (That’s now changing.)

The phenomenon of Moonlight was on full display at Telluride. Audiences were not only screaming and standing on their feet when the movie ended, but many walked the intimate streets of Telluride in a kind of shock, rocked to their core. Men and women. Straight and gay. Some were black… but it is Telluride and well… most were not.

Somehow, in telling a story that was precisely personal to McCraney and personal to Jenkins in some very specific ways but not in others (Barry is straight), Jenkins and his team had created a universal story. A story of an impoverished neighborhood that reached right into a festival attended by the mostly wealthy. A story of drug culture that was not judged in a negative way by people who are much more likely to have their drug of choice delivered by Uber. A story of the fear and pain of growing into maturity as a gay man in a world and at a time when people would rather beat him down than accept him, embraced by a festival of people who… well, identify a lot more than anyone might have imagined with the universal pain of becoming, not matter how much their personal becomings were not specifically reflected by this film.

That is the magic of Moonlight. It is the smallest of films in the way that Hollywood tends to measure size. It is very, very specific. But it explodes on the screen in the way that great movies do, through your soul.

In terms of a wider audience, Moonlight grossed more than its budget in 12 days on just 36 screens. In the 12 weeks between opening and last week’s Best Picture nominations, in which the film has played on a maximum of 650 screens, it grossed $15.9 million. Last weekend, the film expanded to 1104 screens and has picked up another $2 million in the week.

By the time of its nomination, it had already outgrossed the total domestic grosses of recent indie Best Picture nominees like The Tree of Life, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Whiplash, and A24’s 2016 hit, Room.

These numbers are excellent. And there is a lot of room for growth. Not everyone who sees Moonlight has a life-shaking experience. But many do and no one seems to walk away without deeply appreciating the artistry involved. The word-of-mouth is deeply passionate.

There is an argument out in the world these days that Moonlight is “more important” than other movies because of the color and status of its characters. I would argue that what is important about this film is that it rises above the very specific universe it inhabits and takes us past the color, the mean streets, the drugs, the addiction, the homophobia, and brings us to ourselves.

Weekend Estimates by Not A Bad Weekend Klady

Sunday, January 29th, 2017

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Split holds strong and will be Jason Blum’s second franchise (wasn’t one… is now) to crack $100m domestic. A Dog’s Purpose did well… but didn’t explode with families on Saturday, muting the celebration a smidge. Hidden Figures is holding like a champ, passing $100m, though it is still chasing La La Land, which is $2.5m ahead. Resident Evil: The (Alleged) Final Chapter had, by a good bit, the worst opening of the series… but the international is where the money is and Sony knew that going in. Gold barely opened. CBS and Lionsgate really pushed hard for Patriots Day, but haven’t found the hook, even for the Peter Berg audience. The Salesman leads at arthouses, likely to open well before Trump’s Muslim ban, but surely buoyed by Farhadi’s inability to come to The Oscars, scoring $22,900 per screen.

There’s not a whole lot more to dig into here than in the brief above. Was A Dog’s Purpose hurt by the bad publicity drummed up by TMZ and PETA? Maybe. A little. But not a lot. The only real argument that it had any effect at all is if you believe it was going to blow up surprisingly large because of the dog-loving audience. That didn’t happen. But was it going to happen either way? I have no idea.

Jason Blum has created (with others) a cash-cow genre for studios large and small, but Split looks like it will be his biggest success, especially in a mature segment. His top domestic grosser is $108m and that is sure to be cracked by Split by post-Super Bowl weekend.

xXx: The Return of Xander Cage is another nail in the coffin of studios chasing old IP of mediocre value.

Toni Erdmann was considered the likely Oscar winner for foreign language. But The Salesman is now looking like it might be the rarest of Academy events… a straight-up political vote in defiance of Donald Trump.

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Bring Us Your Tired, Your Poor, Your Huddled Commenters Yearning To Write Free

Saturday, January 28th, 2017

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Friday Estimates by Still Splittin’ Klady

Saturday, January 28th, 2017

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Split becomes a monster for Universal, likely to hold off the family film, A Dog’s Purpose, also from a happy Universal, scoring early in 2017 with 2 non-franchise films, reminding the industry that IP is not the only way. Resident Evil 6 doesn’t care much about the soft US opening. Their grosses have been 80% international the last 2 films, both over $195 million. La La Land and Hidden Figures both pass $100m domestic this weekend, buoyed by Oscar noms. Even with a nice expansion bump, Team La may be a little disappointed that the bump isn’t bigger. They’ll live. And the weeekend bump may well be bigger than the Friday. Gold fools.

20 Weeks To Oscar: The Simple Case FOR La La Land

Wednesday, January 25th, 2017

This is not a column about how great La La Land is, because I am not writing this because I feel a need to defend the quality of the movie. I am putting aside petty issues, at least for now.

The reason I am writing? No matter who is frontrunning… no matter who is behind… this is the time of whining about Oscar… Endless whining about Oscar.

But I can’t think of a season in which this complaint is more foolish. Feel what you want about the movies, you prefer this one to that one, you think this one is a million times more important than that one. And so on. And so forth.

Nine films are nominated for Best Picture. Only three are the spawn of a major studio. Even more surprising, the major studio Dependents (Searchlight, Focus, SPC) were shut out of the category of categories this year. (I’ll keep my tears for Searchlight to myself after they won the big prize two of the last three years.)

Of the six non-major BP nominees, the biggest budget was $45 million (Hacksaw Ridge),  about half of what it would have been made for at a studio, meaning it would not have been made at a studio. The lowest was Moonlight, with $5 million. Four of the six indie BP nominees cost under $13 million. The movie in the middle was La La Land, which saw a budget increase (to a reported $30m) fairly late in the game when more commercial talent landed in the film.

Amazon and CBS Films each had their first Best Picture nominee and A24 their second.

Lionsgate had an amazing year, both with Summit producing and as a default output deal distributor for some legit players (often with Roadside, also riding high this season). And of course, The Weinstein Co. got one through the hoop.

Does this mean the studios will be a minority player in Best Picture for years to come? There is a good chance that this will be the case, at least until there is some wave of consolidation. Why? Money. La La Land is the giddy, happy indie story here… as much as $150 million in rentals (money coming back to the distributor) in theatrical alone on a $30 million investment. A dozen people or more should reap million-dollar-plus paydays. Summit/Lionsgate could reap $50 million or more in profit as a funder and distributor.

But the other five indie BP nominees? Every one a success. But unless there is a big Oscar bump for any one of them, they will be nicely profitably in context of the production spend, but none a 4:1 cash machine like La La.

The studio play is represented by Hidden Figures, which was a nice piece of business, with or without award season. Alleged budget is $25m. But even if they are fudging a little, it was always destined to be a $100m movie. We’ll see how much Oscar helps. But that is what the studios want to gamble on… cheap that has a real shot at overperforming into real money. They don’t want to be in the masterpiece that only just barely breaks even business.

Fences was a $25m budget and the power of Denzel at the box office, as well as the relationship piece of the business. Denzel rarely does less than $75m domestic, so the movie is pretty much covered and the studio benefits from the goodwill of making a passion project.

Arrival is a $50 million sci-fi movie, which is already at $175m worldwide and is likely to crack $200 million before it is done. And what should be a very strong catalog title for post-theatrical. In other words, legit upside.

Moonlight is, by far, the biggest underdog. A little-known writer-director. A cast whose biggest names are on the “hey, that’s the guy/gal from…” level (ideally changing this month… say it… Ma-her-sha-la). $5 million budget, even with one of the biggest studio producers—Plan B—leading the way. I understand the passion people bring to this film. There is nothing less than wonderful about it.

La La Land, on the other hand, had a low, but reasonable $30 million budget, two studio-level movie stars, and 2014’s Flavor of the Year director, who personally got two Oscar nominations for Whiplash. The movie even won three Oscars.

Back in September, few believed that Hacksaw Ridge or Hidden Figures or (to a lesser degree) Lion or Hell or High Water were filling 4/9 of the Best Picture chart. So the conversation has been, for months, La La vs Manchester vs Moonlight, with some Manchester people, but with the greatest passions, La La vs Moonlight. Personally, I would not be angry if Moonlight wins. I don’t think it will, but I would not be unhappy.

Here are reasons why more respect must be paid La La Land by naysayers.

Maybe you think the La La Land producers are a bunch of awards-chasing dudes. Well, this is producer Fred Berger’s first film as producer. Jordan Horowitz and Gary Gilbert worked together on the massive award-chasers The Keeping Room and Miss Stevens, though Gilbert cut his producing teeth on such obvious hits as Garden State, The Kids Are All Right, and Ken Lonergan’s cash grab, Margaret. Yeah, Marc Platt is from the mainstream. But this is a seriously indie team with smart, young, hungry producers. (And again, the silly and inappropriate comparison, as far as profile goes, is the oft-nominated Plan B team which produced Moonlight.) Passion is a big part of the job for most hands-on producers and reducing any movie to “easy” or “Oscar-bait” is wrong-headed.

Don’t forget that this is only Damien Chazelle’s third feature. And the second grossed just $13m domestically. A musical with original music and characters is enormously rare. The list of original musicals that have grossed over $50m domestic was three deep before La: Enchanted, The Muppets, and Muppets Most Wanted. And I would say that none of the three truly qualify as musicals. They are traditional movies with songs… like Trolls (where characters sing) vs Beauty & The Beast (where story is conveyed in song). And two are based on long-established characters while the third pushed against the Disney princess machine.

An intense personal drama about finding one’s place in the world? They land in Oscarland or nearby virtually every year. Of course, that simplifies Moonlight unfairly. So does saying it is unique because the people in the film are black. But so does any claim that La La Land was “in the pocket,” an easy movie.

The “they can’t sing” pushback isn’t so much about Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire (who didn’t really sing any better than this) but about Pitch Perfect, which had a lot of great singing, much of it from actors you didn’t know sang that well. But that was not the point of La La Land, as has been pointed out from multiplexes to Saturday Night Live sketches.

How can anyone claim that a musical that opens with scores of people getting out of their cars to dance and sing on the freeway is “easy,” “obvious” or “made for Oscar voters?” If audiences didn’t fall in love with that five minutes, the whole picture goes down. That is a massive risk. But because it gets applause and not tears, for some, there is no street cred.

Lead male… kinda unlikable. But he isn’t given an A Star Is Born trajectory of high drama. He is suffering of his own accord, fighting to do things his way. Risky. Unusual.

Female lead… you either fall for Emma or you don’t. There is no middle.

As far as the duo’s dances, they are the way human people who love musicals imagine themselves in a musical. Ryan and Emma are not incompetent as dancers (or singers), but they aren’t polished pros either.

Even the dance numbers with professionals are a little light on the precision show-offiness. There are no ringers, like Cyd Charisse walking into the bar. It’s not movie-musical like the big numbers in Hail, Caesar!.

The tipping point is “Audition.” You want to tell me that an in-one that pushes in on Emma Stone’s face and relies on her performance, unadulterated except by music, without flashing onto something else or breaking into a dance or anything, really, besides Emma’s eyes and mouth and jaw and soul is not as daring a moment of cinema as we have seen this year? Well, bully for you. I put it up there with Scorsese’s torture and rapture, Mahershala Ali gently holding a young man just above the ocean water, the big turn in Arrival, Denzel and Viola going at it… even the greatest movie moment (for me) of the year, Michelle Williams trying to talk to her ex about their loss standing outside in Manchester, exposed in so many ways. You may like other things better. I happily concede that the level of intense personal drama in those other moments might top “Audition.” But pushing it off as “obvious” or “easy” or pandering to the greatest common denominator is just picking a fight because you feel like picking a fight.

You know what this argument reminds me of? A sports fan who thinks the superstar is inferior because he/she only wins one way. It doesn’t matter that they just keep winning. Kobe needs to pass more. Big Papi needs to hit more doubles. Serena grunts too much. You know what? You can love whatever you love. No one is judging you. You don’t need to act out.

Look, this season has tragically overlooked films. Silence, 20th Century Women, Loving, and others (you tell me). Embrace what is wonderful, successful or not. And dislike what you dislike. I don’t care.

But if La La Land was easy, someone else would have made a La La Land. No one has. It is a miracle, imperfections and all. It is not about the culture of the downtrodden or truly endanger. I get it. But give it the props it deserves and bring on the rebels, the ripples from pebbles, the painters, and poets, and plays. They count too… even if they don’t suffer as much as you’d like.

BYOB Oscar

Wednesday, January 25th, 2017

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Oscar Nominations

Tuesday, January 24th, 2017

La La Land leads with record-tying 14 nominations (matching Titanic and All About Eve) followed by 8 each for Moonlight and Arrival (but not Amy Adams)
Oscar Nominations

20 Weeks To Oscar: Right Before The Noms

Monday, January 23rd, 2017

In about 13 hours from when I am writing this, the Oscar nominations will be announced on an ABC show with ABC hosts and a bunch of ABC-produced viral videos meant to get more attention for ABC than to support any of the films or the purposes of The Academy and its members.

A few thoughts at this moment…

This has been, perhaps, the most boring Oscar season in modern history. I don’t know ancient history firsthand and won’t presume to know the truth, as I don’t tend to trust storytelling by anyone, winners or losers. But I have been at this, hands on, for about 20 years now and what was exciting about this Oscar season ended on September 15, 2016. That was the Wednesday in the middle of the Toronto International Film Festival. Here’s the picture that already been asserted by then at the August-September festivals.

La La Land
Moonlight
Arrival
Hidden Figures
(at their TIFF event)
Lion
Nocturnal Animals

and Jackie, which had its North American premiere and was bought in 24 hours.

And at earlier festivals…
Loving
Manchester by the Sea

And in theatrical release before September…
The Lobster
Captain Fantastic
Florence Foster Jenkins
Hell or High Water

And Hacksaw Ridge, which screened for those who have opinions about such things in August.

You can claim all you like that Sully still felt like something and that we hadn’t seen Rules Don’t Apply or Silence or Fences or 20th Century Women… but Sully did excellent business but never really felt big, Rules Don’t Apply was the disappointment that everyone really wanted to be a final masterpiece for Warren Beatty, 20th Century Women will be remembered as the lost masterpiece of this season, and Fences/Silence were exactly what was expected, which is to say, of top-top quality, but without very much excitement for the mid-level tastes of The Academy.

Say what you will about The Revenant (and I did and I am still being shit on by some for it), but it was an entertainment first and a serious reflection on the meaning of life second.

And that was that. The jig was up all the way back then.

And I don’t just mean La La Land winning. I mean, the whole thing.

Pieces of it have come and pieces of it have gone. Obviously, there were films still to be seen… but not a lot. And none that really came out of left field, like The Big Short. The only significant contribution of The New York Film Festival this year was a disastrous special screening of Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk. The highlight of AFI was the large-screen presentation of the already front-running La La Land and the real-life heroes who attended after Patriots Day.

Speaking of Sully…. Warner Bros pretty much got out of the awards business this year. They made a half-hearted push for Sully, but lost Hanks’ efforts to the third Dan Brown movie pretty early. They pushed Live by Night into award season, starting with a run at BFCA, but were pushed back. Collateral Beauty was a flea-ridden mutt. And War Dogs, which was fun, was pushed harder by the talent than by the studio. But Warner Bros has had a bad hand before and played it. They have long been the town’s biggest spender. But this year, they rolled up the Monopoly set and passed. And I have heard the groans all around L.A., from the trades to the newspapers to magazines to the blogs.

Speaking of 20th Century Women, I think the combination of the limited bandwidth of a company the size of A24 (which does amazing things regardless) and the unfortunately limited talent support on the film has doomed the film. Seriously, if Annette Bening is not nominated – as the Gurus currently predict – it will be one of the great awards tragedies of the last decade. It is as fine and earned a performance as you will see anywhere. I love all the rest of the performances in the category and there were really eight “must be nominated” performances in the circle of those in play this year, but man, this would be crushing.

A word on A24. Not The Weinsteins in any fucking way. More than a word, I guess. But that idiotic comparison, which may seem like a compliment, does not fly at all, unless there is a $35 million version of Moonlight floating out there that I don’t know about. A24 is its own thing. A creation of now, not the thing that was 25 years ago when Harvey and Bob (and Bob and Michael at New Line) were building their sizable seat at the table. There are other models that have worked well and lasted (Sony Classics, Searchlight, Lionsgate, going back to UA as a Dependent and even Screen Gems). But A24 is none of those. It is something else. And that something is quite beautiful, in action and intent.

For those counting consultant wins at home, the winners since the change to the expanded Best Picture field are about to be: Cynthia, Lisa, Lisa, Michelle, Searchlight+, Searchlight+++, Lisa, Lisa. This is not to say that there were not a lot of wins going around in getting nominations by all of the consultants. But my feeling that choices on the films are destiny for Oscar is seeming truer and truer. You can’t win without the right film(s).

Every category in which there are significant limitations put on the nomination and voting process for Oscar is a problem. Today I was discussing the limits on song entries for Best Song, two per movie. Absurd. Moana, which has two big ballads and two big comedy numbers was hamstrung and had to bet on where their best shots were. Silly. I still don’t remember why the score from Arrival was disqualified, but it was one of the most beautiful, daring scores of the year and should have been in play.

Of course, we have the idiocy of Isabelle Huppert being a legit possibility for a well-deserved Best Actress nomination for Elle and Elle not even making the Foreign Language short list. Don’t even get me started on The Handmaiden, one of the year’s best films, not even being nominated by South Korea. Are these The Academy Awards or The American Academy Awards? (rhetorical)

Moonlight has already won. I don’t want to hear the whining. Wonderful movie. Wonderful filmmaker. Wonderful cast. Extremely strong box office numbers for a film on these themes without movie stars that open movies. Take the win, people. There is nothing to be less than thrilled about here. The success of this film is an epic achievement. Already. And if it wins a few Oscars, all the more so.

It is breathtaking how thin the Best Actor category ended up being this year. Due respect to all five nominees… you were all great. But it wasn’t an eight-deep category this year. Not really. I love Viggo Mortensen and have supported that performance in Captain Fantastic, but if he’s nominated, it is only because there was no one else with more of a push behind him to take the slot. In part, there was a lack of “male lead” characters in Moonlight, Arrival, Lion, Hidden Figures, 20th Century Women, and Jackie. Two of those six didn’t have a traditional female lead either.

And Supporting Actor wasn’t that much better, with a number of films with multiple supporting males (Moonlight, Manchester by the Sea, Hell or High Water, Fences, Nocturnal Animals, Silence) that seemed to lead to either one nominee being pushed or no one getting a foothold.

Loving, which seems to be out of the race, is another moment of shame. Beautiful work all around. Just not enough muscle to navigate the waters of its own unique voice, the number of race-connected films, and a full boat of films at Focus. Speaking of which… if you haven’t seen A Monster Calls, you have screwed up your moviegoing life. A truly great and beautiful films that was nearly impossible to sell without Spike Jonze’s name on it… see it. You will be sad. You will cry. And your heart will grow 2.5x that day.

Truth is, this has been a great award season for movies. Everyone has their personal preferences, but man, what a high quality line-up of product for awards this year. High and low. It looks like at least 3 of the movies nominated for Best Picture will be over $100m domestic. That is above average, even though there are years – every third or fourth – where there are more and certainly with some bigger numbers. But this is not a poor box office group. There is not a single straight mainstream or generally mediocre director even in play to get nominated. Hidden Figures is really the only film on the list that is not aesthetically challenging in a significant way (though wildly entertaining). That’s not three or four auteurist movies… that is 7 or 8 or 9. Something to sing about, no matter which ones you think are overrated.

So tomorrow morning will have a few surprises. A few thrills. A few outrages. But except for The Oscars having its ass branded by ABC like a piece of IP instead of The Most Important Film Event of The Year, it should all be good. There won’t be a lot we didn’t see coming four months ago. But given how brave and exciting the vast majority of films are, for a change, I’ll get over it. Bet you will too.

Weekend Estimates by Klady’s March

Sunday, January 22nd, 2017

Weekend Estimates 1-22 at 10.23.52 AM

 

 

 

 

 

Split kills it in a multiple of xXx: The Return of Another Old Mediocre Franchise. Hidden Figures holds strong while La La Land sees its first traditional dip, though it will be looking for Oscar nominations Tuesday to turn that around next weekend. The Founder rolls out like a franchise its financiers don’t really believe… to mediocre results. The only movie of any size release to do better than $6200 per-screen was the #1 film, a sure sign of a soft weekend.

Last year, the only $40 million horror opening was for The Conjuring 2 in the summer. Last year, there were only five originals that opened over $40 million (Deadpool, Zootopia, The Secret Life of Pets, Trolls, Moana) and the only one that was live action was only barely an original. The #1 original opening last January was 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi with $16.2m and only Kung Fu Panda 3 opened to more than Split.

The opening for Split remarkable. Was it helped by the Women’s March and men free to head to the theater on Saturday? Does it change the face of theatrical cinema? Obviously not. Would it have been well-served by a day-and-date VOD opening? No. It would have cost this title tens of million of dollars in profits. And if Universal is honest about it (not that anyone will ask them), they know this. Split could do Paranormal Activity numbers all around. Huge profits… in theatrical and post-theatrical. This is why windows matter. Studios will fail if they try to cherrypick box office losers for day-and-date. The theatrical system will collapse in time. Very, very dangerous.

xXx: The Return of Xander Cage continues a clear string of soft results for IP for which there is minimal demand. xXx did $271 million worldwide. The sequel – a better movie, but without Diesel – did $71 million worldwide. Now… the question is, will international territories save this from the ash heap of movie history? Allegedly, it has scored $50 million in its first weekend overseas. Triple that and this film will be within range of profitability, maybe.

Hidden Figures‘ strong holds continue. It’s a terrific audience movie, no matter how poorly directed and how many opportunities for improvement were missed. And I expect an Oscar nominatios for Best Picture on Tuesday, and it will then pass $100 million next weekend.

Also headed over $100 million then is La La Land, which took a funny smack on “Saturday Night Live” this weekend about people getting angry at friends who don’t love the movie 100% (https://youtu.be/abn6cPxrc5w). The film took a 42% hit this weekend, which may or may not have been affected by the Women’s March, but isn’t shocking. Expect an expansion and a big uptick next weekend.

The Founder snuck out like a Big Mac fart this weekend. I like the movie more than a little. Others don’t. But either way, TWC didn’t push too hard. In an era of IP obsession. With the biggest restaurant chain in the world as the center of the film.

Terrible weekend in arthouses overall. The high mark was $6,970 per-screen. Only six films over $2000 per-screen outside of the Top 10. Yick.

Friday Estimates by Kladys 1, 7 & 14

Saturday, January 21st, 2017

IMG_0371

Appropriate that Split multiplied the #2 Friday grosser. Universal delivered one of those half-dozen-a-year campaigns that is ubiquitous. Festivals. Great outdoor. Couldn’t use an OTT without McAvoy’s mug showing up. Probably tight on straight TV buys, using publicity to make it up. And massive results. Perhaps last summer’s second Purge sequel was the inspiration. The result, so far, is identical. Very impressive.

xXx: The Return of Xander Cage continues the string of flops in the “why exactly are they making a sequel to a movie that wasn’t really a hit?” genre. Vin Diesel is a massive star… in one franchise and one franchise only. We have learned this three times. Until he finds another gear that people like, he is Chris Tucker. Deal with it.

Hidden Figures has a nice hold. La La Land has its first normal drop. No doubt, they are looking to Oscar noms on Tuesday to stem the slow bleed next weekend.

The Founder flounders… because they didn’t really try. “They” is not TWC staff, but the bosses, who treated the film like a bastard child and that tone leaked into everything thy did to sell (or not sell) the film.

No 10k per-screen titles at the arthouses.

4-Day Estimates by Happy MLK Klady

Monday, January 16th, 2017

4 Day Wknd Estimates 2017-01-16 at 9.49.32AM

Weekend 3-Day Estimates by Not Hidden This TIme Klady

Sunday, January 15th, 2017

3 Day Weekend Estimates 2017-01-15 at 10.10.57 AM copy

No hiding Hidden Figures this weekend. With an excellent 11% drop (with the help of an 800-screen increase), it is the only $20 million 3-day grosser this weekend. Also revving the engines this weekend with the top per-screen in the Top 10 was La La Land, expanding 333 screens, about half of them IMAX, popping 42% (plus, not minus) from last weekends 3-day and closing fact on $75 million domestic. Sing and Rogue One had good drops, helped as the whole chart is by estimates in the middle of a holiday weekend.

The most eye-popping stat on the board is the 19233% increase for Live by Night, but not enough pop for WB, which still only got a $5.2m weekend out of its Ben Affleck period thriller. Also changing dramatically, Patriots Day, which went wide and got a modest $11.9 million for its effort.

Top English-language-market per-screen was 20th Century Women, which A24 is parsing cautiously, hoping to get a bump from Oscar noms in 9 days.

Newcomers The Bye Bye Man, Monster Trucks and Sleepless were somewhere between “meh” and “moan.”

Oscar Films In The Market
Screen Shot 2017-01-15 at 10.48.25 AM

Friday Estimates by Expansion Klady

Saturday, January 14th, 2017

Friday Estimates 2017-01-14 at 9.00.11 AM copy

Have to run this morning, but Hidden Figures has a good Friday-to-opening-Friday hold. The expansion helped. But I would expect the 3-day drop to end up in the teens. Bye Bye Man is on the old Screen Gems measure… $20m is a big win… $14.8 million is okay, but no champagne. CBS can’t be thrilled with the Patriots Day expansion, even with a 10,000% jump. It’s still looking at less than $25m cume at the end of the holiday 4-day. Timing is brutally hard given the amount of politics and American discussion every day in people’s lives since the election. La La Land has a decent expansion… this one including IMAX screens. Expectations are so high for this one that perspective on box office is a little skewed too. It’s not about winning or losing… it’s about how big the win will be. Sleepless and Monster Trucks are similar, except one will lose $100 million and the other won’t.

20 Weeks To Oscar: The 4 Kinds Of Best Picture Winners

Tuesday, January 10th, 2017

Considering the weird frenzy that writers get into about The Golden Globes, an event we all know is an absurdity made powerful by a successfully-produced network television show, I tried to come up with a structure to the logic of what happens to movies as they move through the machinery of award season.

There are so many angles that people lean on, most of which are either too generous or too demanding, based on how the writer feels about the movie or the possibility of it winning or losing.

Personally, I would think that if I was wildly unsatisfied about where Oscar was clearly headed in January year after year after year, I would buy a mirror instead of trying to rationalize what is wrong with The Academy. But that’s another discussion.

The first thing to consider is that the set of preconceptions that lasted from, roughly, from 1967/68’s In The Heat of the Night win to 1991/92’s Silence of the Lambs win and then somewhat adjusted from 1992/93’s Unforgiven to the 2008/09 year of Slumdog Millionaire, before the expansion to more than 5 nominees, is now irrelevant.

This will be the eight Oscars with the expanded list of BP nominees, and on what you could once count on, you can no longer count.

Some preconceptions were always just wrong. Many Best Picture winners of decades past were what the media now calls “independents.” United Artists, it could be argued, was a major. They were, like other more aesthetically complex distributors (such as Avco Embassy). They distributed a lot of films. But they were independent minded. Disney was, by the MPAA standard, an independent until 1979. So you can slice it up many ways. UA was sold to insurance company Transamerica in 1967. They won Best Picture 5 of 10 years from 1967/68 – 1977/78.

From 1984, independent Orion, created by escapees from UA, started a run of Oscar wins, winning 4 Best Pictures in 8 years. Also in there, Hemdale won two (one split with Orion) and good ol’ United Artists grabbed one in 1988/89 after the MGM merger.

1992/93 – 2001/02 was major studio, as well as DreamWorks and Miramax under the Weinsteins.

In 2002/03, Dependent New Line won for Rings and a couple years later, Lionsgate won one, then Vantage, Searchlight, and two WB wins in there.

Starting with the expanded field in 2009/2010, only one major studio has won Best Picture. And two more wins were for Searchlight, a closely-held division of Fox that got one win for a film that could well have been distributed by big Fox.

The recent history of Oscar didn’t put every Best Picture win into the pocket of one of the Seven Sisters, as many seem to think. For one thing, one-time MPAA members like Orion and Avco Embassy are the kinds of companies that would not have been members in the last couple decades. Legitimate distributors of wide release films like Lionsgate, Open Road and even The Weinstein Company have not joined. MGM (and UA with it) has dropped out. But more to the point, going back 20 years, only four films branded as distributed by an MPAA signatory has won Best Picture.

But many clear changes have come out of the expansion of the Best Picture field. The most overt is fiscal. Going back 20 years before the expansion, there is only oneexample of a Best Picture winner that was not the #1 or #2 grosser on the list of nominees. In the 7 years of the expansion, no winner has been one of the Top 3 grossers in the group. The highest rank was #4, for Argo. La La Land seems destined to break that ceiling this season.

What changed with the expansion was opening up the whole game by opening up a small part of the game. A number of the movies that have won are movies that may not have even been nominated in a field of 5. Lionsgate is looking at its third Best Picture Oscar in 11 years (two via Summit). Amazon, which has respected the model of theatrical releases, is looking at its first nomination in a couple years of trying. A24 is back again. We’re a long way from Harvey Weinstein being the big bad ogre vexing the majors and almost-major DreamWorks SKG.

And with the expanded group of distributors who are making well-funded serious efforts to get into the game, Academy members have embraced variety. There is even room for some big ol’ studio movies.

I believe there are 4 kinds of Best Picture wins.

Big Love.
Big Obligation.
Big Avoidance.
Default.

These come together in various combinations.

La La Land is a Big Love movie.
Spotlight was Default.
Birdman was Big Love and Default.
12 Years A Slave was Big Obligation and Default.
Argo was a mix of Big Love and Default.
The Artist was Big Love.
The King’s Speech was Big Love and Avoidance (of The Social Network).
The Hurt Locker was Big Love and Avoidance (of Avatar).

You see a lot of Default on that list. Default, for lack of a better word, matters.

Avoidance has become less of an issue. And Big Obligation is barely an issue at all.

Don’t take lack of Big Love for lack of appreciation. Last year, Spotlight was enormously respected from the time it launched. But in the end, none of the other picture were able to grab Big Love and many Academy voters just didn’t want it to be The Revenant. Not enough Revenant dislike to qualify for Avoidance, I’d say, but enough to swing the vote to the Default, which will always stand as a well-liked, respectable choice.

12 Years A Slave was profoundly moving and well-loved at its launch. It was also pronounced the winner by many. But the four months between release (five away from the festivals) and final Oscar voting dragged on and there were a bunch of glorious distractions. But in the end, the weight of 12 Years, the artistry of Steve McQueen, and the fact that it was the first frontrunner came together in a win.

In the case of Argo, it was among a very good group of movies, but not big passion films. The passion of the season ended up being not about a movie, but about Ben Affleck not being nominated for Best Director. People really, really enjoyed Argo. There was Big Love in there. But there were others with similar love and the “snub” turned Argo into the Default choice.

What I keep hearing is a lot of talk about how The Academy system makes it impossible for the group to make challenging choices. But I call “bullshit” on that. Birdman, 12 Years A Slave, The Artist and The Hurt Locker were all challenging, not traditionally obvious choices. These are not milquetoast.

What most of the people who can’t seem to stop complaining are really saying is, “My favorite didn’t win” or “I’m bored… do something interesting.”

And there is something “boring” about the Default movie ending up winning. But the Default only tends to win when a Big Love movie doesn’t arrive to change the game.

In 2016/17, we started out with 3 Defaults. Moonlight was not expected to be one, but it quickly took that status. Manchester by the Sea was expected. La La Land took off fast and has never looked back. All three also have Love, through the expanse of that love varies.

Nothing has come along to take the season away from this trio. The only real change since Toronto is Hidden Figures… which had an event at TIFF that suggested strongly to some of us that it would be in the race in December. People really, really like the movie. But it’s not quite up to forcing itself into the top tier as an Obligation, it’s obviously not Default, no one is avoiding the Top 3, so… on we go.

All these months after the start of the season, I would argue that La La Land has the widest Love, therefore the Big Love… and the win next month. It’s that simple.

Weekend Estimates by Klady

Sunday, January 8th, 2017

Weekend Estimates 2017-01-08 at 11.01.01 AM copy
I’m not so sure that Rogue One actually won this one…

It’s possible. The holiday schedule mixes things up. But Rogue One has not previously done 3x Friday over a 3-day weekend, and the estimate this weekend is 3.6x Friday for a $100,000 ‘win” over Hidden Figures… Which is estimating 2.9x on Friday. You tell me, which film will be more affected by playoff football? Which estimate feels more realistic?

Rogue‘s run at #1 is surely over next weekend. Hidden Figures should hold strong on the 4-day MLK holiday and the expansion of Patriots Day should win the weekend. So maybe Disney wants to get one more “#1 film in America” set of media pieces today and tomorrow morning.

Rogue One has now cracked the barrier of half of what Episode VII did last year domestically. Internationally, it is running at about the same pace. The film will pass $1 billion worldwide and do slightly more than half what VII did. Some will tell you that this is shockingly strong. Others will tell you that it’s a bit of a disappointment. But it’s a win, either way. And I do expect Young Han Solo, or whatever it’s actually called, to be bigger than this because it will be both Star Wars AND something fresh, as opposed to filling the crack between movies, which is great, but doesn’t encourage repeat viewing from fans who are not obsessed.

Hidden Figures? A $25 million movie that ends it first wide weekend with $25 million at the box office? Already won. And this looks to be a really big win for Fox. I expect it to be between $80 million and $100 million when it gets to its first weekend as a Best Picture nominee. Figures and La La Land will compete to see which gets the biggest Oscar bump, a phenomenon that has faded badly recently. Fox made this work last year with The Revenant, which did $117 million after nominations… although nominations were 10 days earlier last year, 21 days into the Revenant run. This season, Hidden and La La will both be over a month into their runs before nominations are announced. (which, by the way, is HORRIBLE planning by The Academy).

Sing is creeping up on the original Despicable Me domestically… though I would bet against Illumination trying the December slot again anytime soon.

Underworld: Blood Wars opened soft. International awaits.

La La Land doubled its screen count and stayed even. I gather the decision involved stats that suggested that they would get a similar bump next weekend, even with an expansion weekend under their belts. Hope so for them.

The hideous Passengers is still chugging towards $100m domestic and $250m (or better) worldwide. So… it still may lose some money, but those who were ready to hang Tom Rothman from the Columbia rainbow will have to put away the pitchforks and torches for now.

Here is an Oscar Best Picture chaser chart…

BP Oscar chasers 2017-01-08