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BYOB Oscar 2018

Sunday, March 4th, 2018

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Weekend Estimates by Oscar Boy Klady

Sunday, March 4th, 2018

Weekend Esitmates 2018-03-04 at 9.10.07 AM

Black Panther pounces on $500 million domestic. Red Sparrow estimates a $16.8m launch, which is #7 among seventeen 2,000-screen openings this year. It’s a weak J-Law open in that the other two in this range were Christmas releases, giving them a big advantage over the first weeks. Death Wish is a bad movie that manages not only to poke at open wounds in America, but to do it in a way so generic as to make it insulting to those being killed on America’s streets.

Meh.

Saw Death Wish. It was so bland that I watched a few minutes of a movie I utterly despise – Hostel II – to remind myself of Eli Roth having had ambition as a misogynist prick at one point. Now, he is… unbleached paper.

I don’t know the history of the script, but I know that Joe Carnahan is not Mr Bland. Even if they felt compelled to avoid a lazy use of race, the film might have been better had our antihero been mistaken about race and turned in the process (while slaughtering people) or if he had a chip on his shoulder about being rich or something… anything… ANYTHING.

I don’t like hateful movies. But boring non-committal movies are even worse.

Boring weekend at the box office. Seven of the nine Best Picture nominees are still in theaters. Here’s how they looked this weekend.

OScars bo 2018-03-04 at 9.34.48 AM

The real story here is that “small” movies did a strong amount of business. This is the legacy of the expanded field (5+). The field is laid out almost exactly as the noms would probably have been had we been in a year with only five nominees. Dunkirk and Get Out, plus Shape and 3 Billboards, and either Lady Bird or Darkest Hour. Would that have made anyone feel better? Would anyone have been happier with Call Me By Your Name and Phantom Thread left out?

Of course, in a five-film race, maybe Universal would not have gone wild selling Get Out. A24 might not have had nominees three years in a row… or any… and likely no win for Moonlight. The Spielberg of The Post may have been more aggressively positioned. Et cetera. Lots of moving parts.

It’s endlessly fascinating that many of the people who are most passionate about The Academy picking “better” films are also into going back to 5 BP nominees, which would retard their interests more than anything else they could do.

I am going to watch E! for the first time in years, just to see how people deal with Seacrest. It reminds me of the moment after Fallon messed up Trump’s hair so adorably. “Are we still doing Fallon?” was a popular question. Tonight, will they do Seacrest or will they go to the anorexia queen or skip E! completely?

Have fun…

BYOscarPre-ShowBlog

Saturday, March 3rd, 2018

BYOB OScar preshow

Friday Estimates by Red Spare Ol’ Klady

Saturday, March 3rd, 2018

Friday Estimates 2018-03-03 at 10.38.21 AM

Black Panther… still cruising. Floating with the other five phenomena that have done similar numbers (four, really, as The Force Awakens dwarfs them all). There have been six $600-million domestic grossers. Avatar and SW:TFA are the only two that have a 7 or better in the front of their ultimate number. Will Panther beat Avengers? Who cares? #1 or #2 all-time Marvel movie is an indistinct distinction. The success is profound either way.

Jennifer Lawrence is a true movie star. She is a lovable figure with an undeniable kind of power who draws a crowd to watch. The question is, how does she navigate what has undeniably become her Eddie Murphy problem? Which is to say, she is a powerful underdog figure who now has power. How many times can characters in movies underestimate her? Yet it is that underestimation and her ability to overcome that draws us to her. You can drink too much and fall up the stairs and say outrageous things in real life and be charming, but in a movie, that feels contrived. And at $20 million a movie, it’s hard to hide in plain sight.

The problem with Red Sparrow is not that Jennifer Lawrence isn’t good in the movie. And Francis Lawrence did a great job behind the camera. The problem is that 90 minutes of Jennifer Lawrence being abused and passive is not the $20 million Jennifer Lawrence. And really, neither was the one in Passengers. Nor the one in mother! (for which she didn’t get paid the big bucks, but you get my drift). It’s almost as though, in making choices, Ms. Lawrence is digging deeper and deeper to be vulnerable enough that she can come back.

She is 27 years old.

She is rich beyond a lifetime of need.

I believe in this actress. I believe in that person. And I look forward to seeing new work from her for the rest of my life. Taking a year to get a breath and consider what she really wants to do moving forward is the smartest move possible. No one is going to forget her. And no one is going to pay her $20 million for her next film. (Don’t weep to much for her. $10 million-$15 million is still likely.)

Bruce Willis has insight into the problem of becoming a huge movie star and no one really wanting to see anything but the same trick as you get older. I haven’t see Death Wish, but I guarantee that Jacques Audiard’s Dheepan – on Netflix – is a better version. But only Wes Anderson has been insightful enough to find the other Bruce Willis, around whom there is no mayhem, these days.

Game Night is not being resurrected by word of mouth. The bottom line, in this could-be-a-remake-of-the-failed-Rough-Night, is that while you can see many wonderful ideas in this film, John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein are not competent film directors. They can become competent. And they have the other esthetic skills to be better than that. But until they can stage a scene around a table, none of the trick shots are going to matter and the amazing cast they had will not get all the comic wins they earned on the soundstage.

20 Weeks To Oscar: A Week To Go

Monday, February 26th, 2018

I’m writing this with about 25 hours left in the final voting.

Everything seems pretty locked in, except for categories that most people don’t think about, but also the category that everyone will be talking about next Monday.

Every one of the five films that are considered to have a chance of winning Best Picture has a position of strength as well as a soft underbelly.

Do you want to go through them all again? (I don’t, either.)

When did you see Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri, The Shape of Water, Lady Bird, Get Out or Dunkirk? Long enough ago that if you saw any of them again today, you would be surprised by things you forgot?

We are in the Era of Immediacy. Between the time Oscar voters nomination voting ended on January 12 and when final voting started officially last Tuesday, there were 39 days. That’s 39 days of Trump: indictments by Mueller, nuclear brinksmanship with North Korea, a major school shooting, multiplehigh level White House employees pushed out over sexual abuses, a (brief) government shu down, no DACA deal, Omarosa on Big Brother, and so much more.

Also, The Super Bowl. Last Minute Release of a Paramount-Produced Film on Netflix on Super Bowl Night. The Winter Olympics. Black Panther. And more.

There have been minor skirmishes, like the weird claim of plagiarism against The Shape of Water, the “if you touch on racism, racism has to be a central theme of your film” claim against Three Billboards, the effort to marginalize Lady Bird as too minor, and the abandonment of Call Me By Your Name for Get Out as the PC special of the season. But have any of them really sunk in with voters, as opposed to the chattering class?

It’s been a quiet season, loaded with high quality films. It is appropriate that the biggest surprise of the nominations was the number for Phantom Thread, which is also so clearly the finest film in the field that it has absolutely no chance of winning.

It’s a season of filmmakers, most of whom will make many more wonderful films without ever being weighed down with the ambition of being “big” commercial filmmakers. I mean, someone like Greta Gerwig could back into a $100 million production, though it would never be one that wasn’t a glove to her hand. Luca Guadagnino will always have enough money to make films if he likes and will never click with the occasional moviegoer, much less infrequent viewers. Same with PTA, but with a Valley accent. Martin McDonagh couldn’t give a shit. Sean Baker will find deep and abiding lovers of his work every time out, inspiring film lovers and filmmakers… and probably never gross more than $25 million. And Guillermo works in genre, but can’t help but add layers of passion that will, weirdly, make him less commercial.

Steven Spielberg is, obviously, Steven Spielberg. Nolan is one of the great freaks of film history, making quirky, complex films that audiences are drawn to like moths to a flame, not even quite sure why they need to be there. Jordan Peele works in comedy and so he may well ring the money bell every third or fourth film. And Joe Wright really wants to be a money man… but he is an art guy… whether he is in fashion or not.

And then there are the actors. There are a few who have not graced me with time. But the rest? Almost without exception, I love them and their passions. After a while, it gets to be like “six degrees,” but of your own experiences.

If there was an expanded field in 2003, Lisa Cholodenko’s magnificent Laurel Canyon surely would have been nominated for Best Picture. Francis McDormand would surely have had her now-6th acting nomination for a role that should have won Best Actress if there was a fair awards universe. And Christian Bale. And Kate Beckinsale. And Alessandro Nivola. But it was an also-ran. And I have been chasing Fran ever since. We did get a round table with her in San Diego for Almost Famous, but that was 18 years and a failed studio ago.

It’s weird to watch Saoirse grow up over the years. She’ll be a legend. And before I even met her Lady Bird co-star, just hearing the way everyone working on the movie talked about Beanie Feldstein made it clear that she would be the unmitigated pleasure that she is. And she helped Lucas Hedges relax in our interview, so even better.

Sam Rockwell has always been an interview I look forward to and always wondered whether he was happy being there by the end. Not this year. He seemed more at peace… or at least let me feel more at peace talking to him. And he is connected to so many of the others out there this season.

Gary Oldman is a handful… but I was there when he burnt his career down in 2000. And I felt sympathy for him them. And I am thrilled for him now. It took 18 years to get back to where he was in 2000… and now, he is most likely going to get the embrace from his peers he so wanted back then… that he wanted so much that he lashed out at people trying to get him there too. He’s been quiet this season… because he is wiser now. He always was a genius actor.

Jessica Chastain, even though she didn’t get into the finals, came into the season so strongly, not as an actress, but as a social activist in the name of women and actresses in particular. I’m not sure I clear the bar of her absolutism these days, but I love her and her intensity and her fearlessness, even if I am the jerk who is not 100% on board.

And of course, Rose McGowan and Asia Argento, who are strong flavors, perhaps even too strong for the movements that they are really responsible for starting. There are so many colors of survivor. But they are always there, smart and angry and, amazingly, still hopeful about the world. They should be presenting together at The Oscars, but no one has the guts to do that. I am happy that Ashley Judd and Mira Sorvino were finally heard (and I bet they will present to a standing ovation)… but they were never as close to the fire.

Love Timothée Chalamet. He is such a 20something. So smart. So pretty. So young. He needs to spend some time hanging out with another guy I am always thrilled to see, Ethan Hawke, who recovered from coming of age to become a man of substance and deep ambition.

Greta. Such a great moment to be Greta. And so much more work to get done.

I felt cheated out of Denis Villeneuve and Roger Deakins and Joe Walker because Blade Runner 2049 didn’t instantly become what it will eventually become.

Margot Robbie was such a lovely surprised. I had no idea how that meeting would turn out. But she is no one’s Hollywood blonde. It’s almost like she got lessons from Charlize Theron on how to skip that unpleasant, self-defeating step and to move right into being a hardcore worker bee who also happens to be drop-dead gorgeous and funny and fearless.

Dafoe was an unexpected delight. Wide open and never defenseless.

What would a season be without Mike Shannon and Alexandre Desplat?

Weirdly, I was kept from the world of Get Out. Not a single interview or meeting. I asked. I was even asked about shooting a couple of people. But nope. None of it happened. And that is my loss.

Of course, you meet some of the most interesting people in the world in doc and foreign and below the line. In some way, they are the stars of a season, given the odd familiarity with so many of the others. To be honest, I stopped asking this season. Tired of fighting for position. With maybe one or two exceptions, I spent time with people this season because they wanted me to… and I was happy to accommodate. One can only beg Paul Thomas Anderson so many times.

I did yell and scream like a jerk when Idris Elba was pulled at the last minute. So we did a short one… and I am really looking forward to seeing his directorial debut. He is in a whirlwind of passionate joys, whether he becomes Bond or not.

I was struck this season by the intimacy of creation. How making something together, really working, is like joining a sorority/fraternity from which you can never be removed. It’s a beautiful thing. And it’s so transient.

I guess I love the people who let me have that kind of moment with them. It’s an act of generosity, though I would say that few of those people see it that way.

As we get to next weekend’s show, the awards themselves won’t be all that interesting. I will be watching the sides of the frame. Watching people I know a little, to see when they are themselves, when they are not, and when the world is changing right in front of them.

If the rest of the world could have my view, a lot more of them would watch the show. But I expect some of the lowest numbers in years for the Oscars for a season with, perhaps, the best line-up of films, pound for pound, that we have seen.

May we all be Beanie Feldman on Oscar night.

Weekend Estimates by White Leonard

Sunday, February 25th, 2018

Weekend Estimates 2018-02-25 at 9.11.03 AM

Black Panther shows remarkable resilience from a 45% drop on Friday to estimate 3.7x the Friday gross over the weekend and a record $108 million second weekend. Game Night holds through the weekend and there are some hopes that it will play leggy and do more than $50 million total domestic. And Annihilation is flat over the 3-day, with arguments ramping up amongst film writers.

Well… that was a remarkable Saturday explosion. A 65% bump from Friday to Saturday is pretty much unheard of outside of children’s films, which have soft Fridays. And indeed, there may well have been a big rush of younger kids showing up Saturday after word-of-mouth let parents know Black Panther was safe for the little ones. It is the 2nd best 2nd Saturday ever, behind only Star Wars: The Force Awakens and ahead of #3, Avengers, by over 10%.

This has to up the estimate of the final domestic number on the film… and to some degree the international. Perhaps $1.3 billion is now the floor, not the ceiling. But it’s still early to really know.

Reported demographics remain abut the same. 33% black, 37% white, 18% hispanic/latino, 7% asian, and 5% “other.”

One-third black means about $133 million at the box office or about 12.5 – 13 million black ticket buyers (given add-ons and an adult lean). That’s about half the entire total of frequent and occasional black moviegoers in America, though I’m sure that part of the number is also infrequent moviegoers (1 or 2 times a year). This is a remarkable show of muscle. I’m not 100% sure how the industry responds. After all, history tells us that recreating a phenomenon – with any group or every group – is no mean feat. I would expect WB/DC to put a black Green Lantern film on speed dial immediately. And I would expect a $15 million – $20 million payday for Michael B. Jordan in the next year.

The film is also, obviously, huge with white audiences and all the others. (But more on that yesterday.)

Game Night found an audience as the only wide release comedy in the marketplace and really, the only wide comedy since Pitch Perfect 2 and Father Figures back on December 22. So really good date. Some pretty good reviews. But still kinda soft. I haven’t seen the movie, so I can’t explain the movie vs marketing variable fully. But from the outside, the marketing was pretty blurry. Maybe it will play for a while, as the filmmakers’ previous Horrible Bosses did.

Annihilation is causing fights amongst film critics and writers. Is it a great movie that was dumped. Is it a problem movie that was unsellable? What would it have been like if it went straight-to-streaming? Bottom line is that it will make as much as Ex Machina and perhaps a little more. But while that was a great win for A24, this one is less so for a big studio like Paramount. The film also cost more than double what Ex Machina did.

Fifty Shades Freed is doing well… but not nearly as well as the first two films… though it may catch up with #2.

Jumanji is still chugging away towards $400 million domestic and just short of $1 billion worldwide.

The Greatest Showman will pass Chicago domestically. Probably not Grease. But worldwide, the way the international market has expanded, it will pass both worldwide. Beauty & The Beast and La La Land stand in the way of the top 2 slots. That means that the top 3 musicals ever were released in the last 14 months… which means??? More musicals?

Both Searchlight Best Picture contenders are shedding screens, but holding well anyway. Interestingly, after falling behind Shape of Water, Three Billboards has now moved ahead this weekend – for this weekend, Shape remaining ahead by $5m or so – and is the top Best Picture contending grosser this weekend. Does that mean anything? Impossible to say. Both films are also quite close to the box office gross at the time of the awards of 12 Years A Slave. Also probably irrelevant.

BP contenders 2018-02-25 at 10.24.26 AM

As noted before – and all rules are made to be broken – no film in the top 3 grossers amongst Best Picture nominees has won since the expansion beyond 5 said nominees. Twice the #4 has won (Argo and The King’s Speech). Last year was the first time the bottom grosser at the time voting ended won the Oscar.

Does box office matter in Oscar voting? Not like it used to… not at all. And so it goes…

Friday Estimates by T’Klady

Saturday, February 24th, 2018

Fri Estimates 2018-02-24 at 12.47.07 PM

Okay… Black Panther.

The definitive answer to how super-huge Black Panther will be in the box office pantheon will come from foreign ticket sales. Domestically, it will be Top 10 and maybe Top 5 all-time. There have been 32 billion-dollar worldwide movies. Black Panther will make it 33. Only two of those billionaires have been under 50% foreign (The Dark Knight – $46.8% – and Rogue One – 49.6%). Black Panther may avoid the under-50 group, but it doesn’t look like it will be by a lot.

Some want the massive box office success of Black Panther to stand as proof of something other than itself, as well as Marvel’s unique place in the market. This is as wrongheaded in success as it is in failure.

Likewise, the international success (relative to domestic) of Moonlight and 12 Years A Slave is the norm for Best Picture winners, the only exceptions since The Expansion to five or more Best Picture titles are Spotlight, which was less than $2m off, and Argo, the only BP winner in these last that had a wide release.

But successful and failing movies have their orbit and they don’t tend to fit (or create) trend lines, which was a different story during the DVD era. International box office has become much more significant than DVD sales and the complications of selling movie theater tickets worldwide are very different than selling DVDs were.

Attitudes about race vary across the globe and to deny that is counter-intuitive. But that is no excuse for blithely backhanding every film starring primarily black talent. Aside from a few star directing names, virtually no one buying tickets really cares whether the person behind the camera is male or female, black or white. But having perspectives other than white male behind the camera makes good business sense on its face, just like having new talent . Neither argument is heeded often enough and getting a job directing a studio movie for the first time remains a rarity.

Black stories have value in the marketplace and not just with black people. This is an undeniable truth, but not the only truth.American theatrical films, for almost the entire existence of distribution, have all-white as the norm and anything off that was “a variant.” But America and the world have changed. And Hollywood is super-slow to make change without a financial gun to its head.

It’s hard to imagine – especially if you are under 40 – but DVD is only 21 years old. And the decision to make the format into a sell-through item instead of a rental was the first major paradigm shift in film business history that was was not driven by impending financial disaster. Cable and VHS before it were also voluntary, but those business models were  designed to fit the industry as it existed, not to change the landscape dramatically. Sell-through DVD changed everything within a few years, as DVD revenues outpaced theatrical box office and priorities shifted in every phase of making movies.

DVD was a boon, for a while, for black cinema in America as well. There was a lot of money out there for black movies, as in all genres. When the DVD business started to crater, studios saw disappearing revenues in every area of their business and adjusted their risk/reward analysis. But this narrowed “safe” choices, certainly beyond logic. But they were working backwards, focused on lost revenue, not building new revenue. That is the nature of working backwards.

The film industry did, actually, go backwards for black talent.

Then the pendulum started swinging toward both black talent and women.

In 2008, there was Twilight, Sex & The City, and Mamma Mia!. Two of the three were directed by women and all three were extremely profitable. I believe that Mamma Mia!, with a tiny budget and a $610 million worldwide gross, was the most profitable movie of that year.

So what happened?

Sequels to all three films would be directed by men (albeit some really gentle, kind men). The Twilight franchise made an absolute fortune, S&TC couldn’t find its way to a third film (although the second underperformed the first, it still made money). And Mamma Mia! 2 is arriving this summer.

In 2017, Wonder Woman would be seen as the gamechanger. We’ll see. The game still needs changing, but not just on the highest-profile films – where much of the credit can go to the franchise game – but in the middle of the industry. The slow reemergence of the black industry really started in 2009, with Fast & Furious, which was directed by a Taiwanese American and didn’t have any black leads, although the returning Vin Diesel calls himself a “person of color.” But the success of that film, reviving the franchise for Universal, which had Tokyo Drift, set up Fast Five, where the additions of The Rock, Ludacris, and Tyrese in major roles changed the game.

In 2012, there was Denzel’s biggest film without a major white star (the still growing Ryan Reynolds), over $200m worldwide, Safe House. There was, despite racial controversy and Leo, Django Unchained. There was Men in Black III, which reminded us of Will Smith’s star power (even though it was fading). And there was the rise of Kevin Hart, with Think Like A Man.

2013 was a slightly down year for “black films” at the box office, with Fast and Furious 6, 42, 2 Guns, and The Best Man Holiday the only Top 50 movies that year. There was a nice tag, however, with 12 Years A Slave winning Best Picture.

2014 saw four Kevin Hart movies, including his Ice Cube team-up for his first $100m grosser (Ride Along) and a hit sequel (Think Like A Man Too). Guardians of The Galaxy featured actors of color, albeit covered in other colors. Denzel revived The Equalizer with director Antoine Fuqua for Fuqua’s first $100m domestic hit. Annie was re-booted as a black musical. Let’s Be Cops was a surprise hit for the New Girl team of Wayans & Johnson. And The Rock flexed his Hercules, which more than doubled its domestic gross overseas. That’s seven of the top 50 domestic grossers that year. 14%. Plus Selma and No Good Deed over $50m domestic.

2015 was led by Furious 7, then Straight Outta Compton, San Andreas, and Creed in the Top 30 (13%), with two of those films directed by black directors. Add another 2 Kevin Hart films (Get Hard, The Wedding Ringer) rounding out the Top 50 (12%).

In 2016, Suicide Squad, Moana, Hidden Figures, and Central Intelligence (should ID4-2 be included) all cracked $100 million domestic. 13% of all $100m dom grossers. The Magnificent Seven, Ride Along 2, and Boo! A Madea Halloween added to the Top 50. (14%) Those last three were directed by black directors as well. And Moonlight won Best Picture.

And last year, it was Get Out, Kong: Skull Island, and Girls Trip in the $100m club (9%), though two of those films were hugely profitable with big grosses against small budgets, both directed by black directors. The Hitman’s Bodyguard and Baywatch rounded out the Top 50. Close by were Dark Tower and Tyler Perry’s Boo 2! A Madea Halloween.

Now, Black Panther… the killer king of black box office, taking its place with the very top box office hits of all time. And unlike some of the bigger hits of these last seven years, it has impeccable racial credibility. It’s not relying on Dwayne Johnson or Will Smith as the star, though it is worth noting that 9 of the last 15 years have had a black man (Will Smith) or a mixed race man (Dwayne) as the biggest star in the world. The director is black. Both writers are black. The cast didn’t include a big name white star for safety (wonderful as Andy Serkis is chewing the hell out of the scenery as a South African). And the story – almost the entirety of the film – is set in Africa.

Ryan Coogler gets a free hand to do as he wants for at least a couple films (more if he does the sequel). Stars are being made. Some irrational resistance will be broken.

But the war for inclusion is not being fought at Disney, where they have been embracing both black directors and female directors in the last couple of years in a way that they never had before and that is still unique in the industry. The war will be on the $30 million comedy or drama, where rising black directors (who are not one of the handful already well established and on a lot of wish lists) are not always being considered.

As with women, the challenge is that there are 4 or 5 now-name directors of color who make a film every 2 or 3 years. They may not care to chase commerciality, even when they have had real commercial success. I would love to see Steve McQueen’s Bond film with Michael Fassbender as Bond and a female villain who is much smarter and morally complex than Bond, but I don’t see it coming. Barry Jenkins took his free pass and is adapting a James Baldwin novel. Malcolm Lee can probably get any comedy he wants, but is an unlikely as for a $200 million production.

This is similar to “the Kathryn Bigelow problem,” as the brilliant director doesn’t want to work endlessly and her ambitions for depth in her work have become more important than hit status for her. If she is the de facto leader of the movement for women, does she need an $800 million grosser to help? Or does doing weighty work move the bar?

Anyway… this turned out to not be much about weekend box office. But Black Panther will probably be disappointing – in context only – internationally… and we really shouldn’t give a shit. It will be a massive hit everywhere. And it’s about the blackness. And it is about the Marvelness. And it is about a terrific movie. (And yes, I know some of you don’t think it is that great, but while the car chase isn’t Billy Friedkin, it is always wildly inventive and wonderful in a very different way than the gritty realism we all also love.

* * *

Game Night is not a disaster, but not a smash. $50m looks like the cap unless it takes off in some unexpected way. What was WB selling? I wouldn’t mind seeing it. But the call to action was very, very soft. Horrible Bosses, which was nicely leggy, had some more star power, but it also had a really clear idea. This one seems to be the comedy version of The Game… kinda…. sorta… maybe.

And Annihilation is an interesting movie that is getting dumped on 2,000 screens, right after the failure to launch mother!. I don’t know whether there was a better box office answer. The great Ex Machina did $25 million without ever having a $3 million day. But that was A24 and their ad spends are not like Paramount. It is hard for a major studio to release films that way and to be satisfied. Success in that way almost looks like failure because the special skill of studio marketing is scaling things up. But maybe a thinker like Annihilation is really meant to gross $30 million max and to become a legend in post-theatrical.

Black Panther: The Math, Objectively – Part 2, Opening Weekend

Tuesday, February 20th, 2018

Okay… huge number.

Tracking was low. Not a shock. When you get past $100 million, tracking is mostly a crap shoot.

As it turned out, Disney did itself a great service by letting the film stew in its strong media reaction for what seemed like a week too long in a very soft early 2018 movie market. This is the first legit blockbuster coming into the market since Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. And what was always expected to open around $100 million then took off as a major cultural event.

People were inspired to see this film, not wanting to be left out of the conversation over the weekend at at the office or at school on Tuesday.

$235 million 4-day.

What does that mean in basic box office math?

I think $100 million or so. 10 million or so people going to Black Panther that would not have been expected to go to any character-launching comic book movie, even a well-reviewed one.

And if I had to guess – and I do – I would guess that the expected black American audience of about $47 million for a $235 million opening was more like $90 million here.

Looking earlier at the BP math, I would assume that half of that number represents about 85% of all domestic black frequent moviegoers and half of that number is likely made up of occasional and infrequent domestic black moviegoers. An extremely strong turnout in both categories.

But those numbers still would leave Black Panther as a massive out-sized opening amongst non-blacks (whites, Hispanics/Latinos, Asians), pulling in $145 million or so, about $25 million more in non-black audiences compared to an opening like Deadpool or Suicide Squad. That’s 17% above in non-black ticket sales vs the huge openings mentioned.

There will be someone out here who thinks I am undercutting this opening. But I am not. Not at all.

Eliminate the black box office bump and you are still looking at a Top 12 all-time opening. Everything that anyone suggests regarding culture shift is just as true (or just as untrue, if you don’t subscribe to the notion) with $45 million less than the actual 4-day number. The idea that the specific number was critical stopped being an issue around a $150 million domestic launch.

Internationally, still unknown. What we do know is that the $169m opening weekend from about 70% of the international market will likely lead to no less than $550 million internationally. And we know that this could as much as double to $1.1 billion internationally. There is no way of knowing for another week or two.

Still, it seems impossible for Black Panther to come up short of $1.1 billion worldwide by the end of its theatrical run. $600 million domestic and $500 million international seems like the bottom. $1.3 billion and a spot in the all-time Top 10 Worldwide (until the next Avengers movie and Jurassic World 2, at least) would not be shocking at this point.

The argument floating out there that these sensational numbers will change how “Hollywood” and particularly the international theatrical market see “black movies” is a more troubling conversation. A look at the list of billion-dollar worldwide movies quickly make clear that these massive commercial events do not change the market very much. You could make the argument that Marvel’s overall success has prompted more efforts to make comic book films, but I don’t think that is any real cultural shift. The evolution of the technology and Marvel’s successful navigation of storytelling seems more the story. We don’t see the influence of the Cameron films or the Rings films or Pirates or Transformers or even the physical slapstick of the Minions reflected in what has  been produced since. There has been some Twilight imitation and maybe it begat The Hunger Games, but the failure of the genre beyond those two series proves the point, perhaps.

Under 30s are a lot less racially discriminating than their parents everywhere in the world and that the bias was even greater at the international box office than here in the U.S. Fear of The Other in America is excessive and paranoid. While still dead wrong, the sense of threat is more real in much of the rest of the world. Some will tell you that this is a myth perpetuated by a small cabal of film buyers clinging desperately to their racist ways. I do not believe this is so.

Seventeen of Will Smith’s twenty-three films have done more than 50% of their business overseas. And the few that haven’t usually contained very American content.

Denzel had a consistent run of 50%+ overseas from 2006 – 2010… but hasn’t seen the better side of 50% since 2011, whether in dramas or action movies, with name co-stars or not. His best performance ever overseas was 65% with Déjà Vu, which had no major white co-star.

Eddie Murphy cracked 50% overseas with just 7 of 23 of his live-action films.

Dwayne Johnson is over 58% overseas in the last decade with everything except his straight comedies. (Baywatch, however, did 67% of its revenue overseas.)

I don’t believe there is a “we won’t see movies with black people” blockade overseas. Comedies have a hard time overseas, period. Big action movies play everywhere, regardless of race… and in many cases, better because of casts that are international and racially inclusive.

And dramas are complicated. They are complicated for all American movies that don’t have big movie stars… and for many that do.

12 Years A Slave did more than double its successful American gross overseas. 70% of total box office. Look at the cast of the film of all colors and nationalities and how their dramas did overseas, since and before, and you see a lot of films that didn’t do a whole lot of business in America or overseas, the exceptions being the few dramas set internationally. (This is particularly a Brad Pitt thing… and you wonder how consciously he makes the choice to set his dramas outside of America.)

This is what I do think Black Panther will change. Michael B. Jordan will be, if he so chooses, an action star who does business worldwide. Lupita Nyong’o and Letitia Wright will get opportunities they may not have otherwise gotten in colorblind casting and will be able to fund indies on their names. Danai Gurira will be a curiosity who directors will want to figure out and may or may not find a career as an action star who is also female… and black. Winston Duke and his big smile, deep voice and 6′ 5″ frame will work every day he wants to work for decades and may turn out to be the multi-faceted actor that Forest Whittaker has been or perhaps “just” the next Bill Duke (who I love to watch) or maybe he is John Lithgow waiting to happen… who knows? This is a terrific cast and they now have box office cred and the world will be their oysters for a few years and they will do what they do.

I would hate to see Ryan Coogler sucked into another franchise. He has the wherewithal to get something about which he is passionate made now and he can be comfortable that if he loses every dime the film costs, he can do Black Panther 2 and get a $10m+ payday. So he is set for a while. I want to see his next hard-to-get funded passion project made by Fox 2000 as they segue into Disney.

Much of the team under Coogler are established veterans. Hannah Beachler is fascinating and quirky and she may have the biggest upside caused by this film as she has the least feature experience. Others, like Rachel Morrison and Ruth Carter are already well-known crushers.

This is how I see change in the film business. Seed the field. Success breeds opportunity. The more seeds, the more success, the more colorblind (and gender-blind) the industry appears to become.

The future that is really interesting is someone like Lisa C. Satriano, Black Panther‘s first AD. Does she want to direct? She’s done a lot of big movies as a first.

Claudia Castello co-edited Coogler’s first two films and did some work on Black Panther… and cut two more films coming out this year. Will she become one of the hot name among editors with these credits?

Seed the field.

Black Panther was always likely to be a winner. It wasn’t expected to be this big. But the fact that it is a winner, combined with the high quality of the work by Ryan Coogler and the people he hired is what will put another brick in the wall of change. $1.3 billion or $600 million? It’s great to go big. But James Wan hasn’t caused Hollywood to start recruiting for mega-movie directors in Malaysia. It just doesn’t work that way. Things are changed by the people in the fight, not by the details of the gross.

The success of Black Panther makes things better for those who were already well placed in the industry and makes room for people who are still getting started, even if they already had a foothold. No distributor in Europe is going to book a $20 million drama starring and made by people of color because of Black Panther. But they may be more inclined to book the Lupita Nyong’o drama or the Danai Gurira sexy actioner directed by Steven Soderbergh or Ryan Coogler’s next film that is more like Fruitvale Station than like Creed. Those are 3 wins. And if even just 1 of those 3 hits, that is another win, squared.

And that is how the movie world changes.

Weekend Estimates From Down Wakanda Way

Sunday, February 18th, 2018

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Friday Box Office Estimates

Saturday, February 17th, 2018

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Weekend Estimates by Finally Closed Shades Klady

Sunday, February 11th, 2018

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The final 50 Shades movie looks like the first that will fail to gross $100 million domestic. Still, $250 million worldwide seems likely, so Universal can still make a bundle and the Chinese can get their money out. Peter Rabbit delivers an Emoji Movie opening, sans Poop. And The 15:17 to Paris chugs out of the station slowly. Jumanji and Greatest Showman continue to hold, their 2018 numbers outgrossing any 2018 release to date.

Friday Estimates

Saturday, February 10th, 2018

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Black Panther: The Math, Objectively

Thursday, February 8th, 2018

Here is where we are heading on Black Panther.

Tracking indicates, roughly, a $150 million opening.

Huge number. 10% bigger than Deadpool. About 15% less than Beauty & The Beast.

But I am interested in the long term: people are focused on this as a breakthrough for black cinema. But I think it is a normal comic book movie with a not-the-norm visual look and style that can be seen in the ads… plus the extra commercial kick of a unique appeal to black moviegoers. That is, in theory, where the big opportunity is.

The comp would be Wonder Woman, which behaved like most good comic book movies, plus – I estimate – 20% to 25% added domestic gross from women who would normally not go to a comic book movie. There may have been some kick overseas as well, but in the rest of the world, the film was the lowest-grossing of the four DC films in 2016/2017.

The interesting element on Black Panther is that the potential group of ticket buyers who are African American who don’t normally go to comic book movies is smaller than the potential group of female American ticket buyers.

There are roughly 5.5 million African American frequent moviegoers (12 or more movies a year).

There are roughly 21 million African American occasional moviegoers (between 2 and 11 movies a year).

If Black Panther draws, say, 25% more black occasional moviegoers than the approximate 5% of normal attendance in that group and all the frequents, that’s about 10.5 million black ticket buyers domestically… or about $120 million (roughing in IMAX, 3D, a lean to evening and weekend shows, and heavy viewing in cities) coming from black ticket buyers, over perhaps $75 million otherwise.

Then add to that, African Americans who rarely, if ever, go to the movies, the same way conservative whites came out for Passion of the Christ or American Sniper. 35 million opportunities. Find just 5% and that’s another $20 million. Of course, with something like The Passion, that opportunity was nine times bigger… reaching white and brown audiences, as well as religious black audiences.

Regardless of opening, that Black Panther will be end up past Deadpool domestically… and probably just short of Wonder Woman, although $400 million is a real possibility. And I think $75 million – $100 million of that will be African Americans inspired to see a film led by African Americans in front of, and behind the camera.

The reality overseas is going to be the reality overseas. It will not likely be the same smash internationally. Anything over $400 million will be a win. Anything over $350 million will not be a disappointment. And if it’s over $450 million, it will be a breakthrough, important commercial moment for international box office for a movie driven almost exclusively by black faces.

20 Weeks To Oscar: The Big Quiet

Monday, February 5th, 2018

Can you hear it?

Listen carefully.

Silence.

We are still a month from The Oscars.

We are still weeks from voting.

And in what has felt like a pretty open season is not accelerating into a passionate discussion of the top movies of 2017. The discussion is about the Solo trailer and Black Panther.

I will make my now-annual argument that The Academy has the season upside down. Now is when they should be stoking – and encouraging the distributors with films in play – the excitement. But instead, they restrict activities and leave the entire push to an enclave with a few hundred Oscar voters in what has devolved into a series of trade magazine promotions. (Perhaps they should start calling Santa Barbara “The Contended.”)

The four month slog from September to December remains a bit of a cluster fuck, though to be fair, the major studios have withdrawn nearly all but their Dependents and talent is participating less and less. Was there a single event this entire awards season that anyone can remember with passion?

All of the studios have put on lovely garden parties and lunches. But… yawn. Everyone does it by rote.

Do we remember anything about The Golden Globes that involved celebrating movies?

The (Fake) Hollywood Film Awards continues, without a TV platform or the slightest pretense of influence.

The Contenders has become a better liked event… but means nothing in the long run. I dare anyone to claim a single nomination over all these years of the event – which should be illegal by Academy rules – that was pushed along at all by appearing at The Contenders. No one will. Everyone does it because of fear of not doing it.

The most interesting events of a few years ago, musical events, have been eliminated by The Academy. (Jane managed to do it beautifully and unforgettably at The Hollywood Bowl… probably breaking a host of Academy rules in the process, which hasn’t become a talking point because the film was “just a doc” and now, it turns out, didn’t make it into the 5.)

I thought the “fashion show” evening for Phantom Thread was exceptional. Elegant. Beautiful. But the lack of a big presence by Paul Thomas Anderson and/or Daniel Day Lewis neutered its significance as an awards event.

Quick… right off the top of your head… can you remember what film won either NY or LA film critics? Best Actor? Best Supporting?

Look… no one can complain about lunch with celebrities at nice restaurants with good food and free valet parking.

There have been beautiful books and wonderful art and many charming people nicely dressed.

But the clutter… the repetition… the odd push by The Academy to kill showmanship while encouraging advertising spending ahead of publicity…

Have the great minds who manage the awards season forgotten how to put on a show that will have a lasting impact on voters (and the media, for that matter)?

The Nominees Luncheon is happening as I finish writing this piece. It is one of the great events of the whole season. Many call it their favorite event. But as a press event, it is crap… and it should be crap! It should be for the nominees. Putting press at tables inside is just stupid. It constrains a joyous event just a little, which is a little too much. Likewise, allowing the Governor’s Award to turn into an epic glad-handing media shitshow that generates more stories about potential nominees saying clever things than it does about the worthy winners of (essentially) lifetime achievement awards.

So… where does that leave us?

As of today, I see nothing – aside from the movies themselves – that is going to change anyone’s vote. The season is wide open for some movie to take a strong position and to win Best Picture against expectations. But… crickets. Ads. Managing the flow of information.

The conversations have been had. The movies have been seen. Might as well start voting this week. But we won’t.

This is the kind of season where The Default Movie wins. The question remains, what is the default movie?

Is it Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri or The Shape of Water?

Could the big grossers, Dunkirk or Get Out, leap into the power position?

Does Lady Bird have a strong enough following with men to be the default? For that matter, is Shape of Water too genre for the older half of The Academy? And will the chatter about Three Billboards being “racist” shape its potential?

As everyone has written, every film has its limitations this season.

So again what is The Default? And we’re back to the two Searchlight movies, which have split most of the awards so far.

And that is how it will probably go.

Maybe not. We still have a near 3 week window in which a clear case for any one of the nine nominees can emerge.

But it’s not looking like anyone wants it that bad.

Sigh.

BYOB: Super Bowl

Sunday, February 4th, 2018

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Weekend Estimates by Wardrobe Malfunction

Sunday, February 4th, 2018

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Aside from single-screen releases of Oru Nalla Naal Paathu Soiren and Kiarostami’s final film 24 Frames, A Fantastic Woman is the only opening over $4,100 per screen this weekend.

Seven of the nine Best Picture nominees are still in theaters (limited releases of Get Out and Dunkirk lasted only a week),

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The Shape of Water chugged past Three Billboards and Lady Bird, but is in no immediate danger of cracking the Top 3 of the nine (#1 Dunkirk, #2 Get Out, #3 The Post), which would put it in the danger zone, where no film has won Best Picture since the expansion from 5 BP nominees. Box office film #4 of the BP nominees has won the big award twice in eight years… 25%. Could leap to 33.3% this year.

Only The Post and The Shape of Water are on over 1,500 screens.

Darkest Hour had a small expansion, and it and Shape should be over $50 million by the end of next weekend.

I, Tonya is a big hit for Neon, getting a film to the high end of A24 business in just its first year, when it took A24 three years. (A24, of course, is cracking their ceiling with Lady Bird, which could do close to double what the distributor’s previous top title did.)

Hostiles also is over $20 million for Entertainment Studios, though this isn’t close to the new distributor’s one hit so far, 47 Meters Down.

International worked magic for Ferdinand, which didn’t quite land here for Fox, but is nearing $300m worldwide, running just behind The Greatest Showman.

Jumanji will pass $900 million in a couple weeks, making it Top 5 for 2017, but coming short of the next level at $1 billion. Notably, that will leave only one comic book movie in the Top 5. (Star Wars, Beauty, F&F, Despicable 3.)

Enjoy the Super Bowl. I was born in Philly and am a Dolphins fan, so I should hate The Pats. But I don’t. They have earned their success, even if they cheat sometimes. I’d like an Eagles win, but I won’t be comfortable with the idea, even if they have a big lead, until the clock is under a minute or Tom Brady gets crushed in a horrible wardrobe malfunction and Timberlake has to play for him. And if the Pats win another, God bless ’em… it’s been an amazing run… and even if they keep it together for another couple years, the agony of being in their division is almost over. Hope it’s a great game!

Friday Estimates by Super Bored Klady

Saturday, February 3rd, 2018

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This is the Friday the studios worked so hard to have.

The studio business starts again next weekend after a month off, essentially.

So here is the question… does Disney have responsibility to balance out the year for the film industry?

Black Panther would have opened nearly as well two weekends ago and perhaps played even better in the long run, with almost nothing in the marketplace to contend with for a couple weeks. Why is Disney waiting until February 16?

Ironically, Black Panther is already an aggressive move for Disney as is. March has been the month of non-summer/non-holiday triumphs for Disney in recent years, with Beauty & The Beast and Zootopia. They took BP halfway into February.

And I have to tell you, at risk of social media abuse, that Disney is using Black Panther to try to slingshot the launch of A Wrinkle in Time, which is in a category in which Disney has flailed in recent years, and which is not expected to be as well received critically as Black Panther. Disney looks for at least a six week window between movies that the studio sees as having blockbuster potential. Wrinkle is opening three weekends after Panther. And they only have opening weekend before the new, girl-powered Tomb Raider. Don’t assume I am pre-judging the movie. I’m just telling you what the factual tea leaves of history tell us about how Disney must see the film. (August has gone from a wasteland last summer to overripe this summer, with at least eight studio/”big” releases.)

Searchlight appears to have decided they want The Shape of Water to win Best Picture over Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. They have expanded Shape more aggressively and probably don’t want to deal with the PC squad that keeps slapping at Three Billboards for what it isn’t. Either way, a great season for the distributor.

Sony Classics’ A Fantastic Woman will be over the $10k per-screen mark, presumably less slowed by Super Bowl tomorrow. Could come up just short. Nothing else will come close.

Weekend Estimates by Studio Disinterest Klady

Sunday, January 28th, 2018

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Aside from Padmaavat, the Indian film on 324 screens and kicking ass within that niche market as films do every week, and a 1-sceeen release by Strand of Have A Nice Day, and a couple 2 screen releases, there are no per-screens to find that drew over $6500 per. That sucks.

The only upside is that a lot of the holdovers are having per-screens long into their run that are a bit higher than expected. There are no per-screens under $1300 in the Top 25.

Oscar expansions did show improvement, but nothing remotely explosive. The top winner is The Shape of Water, which also had the widest expansion of the Best Picture nominees. All 9 nominees are now in the marketplace, as Dunkirk and Get Out are having Oscar re-releases.

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The last 9 years of the 5+ nominee history suggests that we look to the bottom half of this list for a winner… but of course, rules are made to be broken.

Add in the editing and directing “rules,” and it has to be either The Shape of Water or Three Billboards. But again… one never knows.

The Greatest Showman continues to amaze and now seems guaranteed to pass La La Land domestically, though it won’t catch the worldwide ($446m). The next target is Chicago‘s $171 million domestic and $307 million worldwide.

12 Strong is a misfire at the box office that should have done better. It has the story. It has the celebrity. It should have had a strong audience in middle America. Instead, meh. Was it a result of the churn at WB? Perhaps. It was not going to be American Sniper, but it should have done better than this.

Poor Last Jedi… only $611 million domestic. Only $1.3 billion worldwide. How can they deal with all this rejection?

The Disaster Artist is over $20 million, making it the second straight year that young A24 is over $20m domestic on 2 movies with one of those movies setting the new record for the company at the box office.

Friday Estimates by The Klay Drunner

Saturday, January 27th, 2018

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Another mostly abandoned weekend by Hollywood. I understand avoiding next weekend – which they are – because the Super Bowl assures a weak Sunday. But starting the week after next, there are seven of eight weeks with potential overload of at least three major, wide releases every weekend. If you have a movie you believe in that has legitimate audience interest, why take on the Thunderdome instead of taking advantage of weeks of open space? After watching the weekly numbers for years, I admit, I have followed the history of things and accepted the arguments of the past. But that was the past. And now there is It. Now you can have an $800m+ movie come out of August, doesn’t have to be May-July. Marketing windows are both longer (launching awareness) and shorter (hard but-tickets-now selling). Old habits die hard. And if you have a big winner, it doesn’t matter what the competition is. But if you are the next level down – interested audience, but not rabid – opening in a war zone can cost your movie tens of millions.

It’s a whole different conversation, but this is happening with Oscar thinking, too. The hope that many have is that we are in a new era of The Academy that will be more diverse and ambitious. At the same time, arguments about what means what cling to earlier ideas of how Oscar voting worked, My favorite is blaming the idiotic voting system for everything. Here’s a news flash… hold two ideas in your heads at once… preferential voting is dumb for The Academy and there is no real indication that it has changed the answers much, except on the nominating periphery.

Maze Runner is following the same path as Divergent, but smaller. Core audience-plus for first movie, lookie-loos drop off with second film, core shrinks and there are no non-fans by the third film. Financial models are adjusted as we speak, and not just for kid-lit films, but for, say, “Bad Moms 3,: which is likely given the $130m worldwide for BM2… even if it was regarded as a box office disappointment. $90 million worldwide for #3 is manageable, because budget will be driven by paying talent, not the costs of chasing unchaseable new CG highs.

Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle continues to hold like a champ… partially because the industry has left the month WIDE open. It will pass It this weekend, and even with the Super Bowl, it should pass Spider-Man next weekend. Every weekend with a drop under 30% is like another week added to Tom Rothman’s safe position at Sony.

Also at Sony: Screen Gems has been flat since a strong 2014, when it had four releases, and three of four opened to over $24 million. In the three years and a month since then, just nine movies. 2015 was okay, with two films that opened over $20m and did $57m and $65m domestic. In the last two years and a month, seven openings, just one opening over $15 million and only one grosser over $31 million domestic. A Hollywood movie division that was among the most aggressive (and most successful) in “the black movie market” over the last decade is saying goodbye to Clint Culpepper (who was widely disliked) while being accused of being racist for its handling of Proud Mary. That’s silly. Not reality. Screen Gems suffered, in fact, from others marketing to black audiences as well and even better than they once did… not racism, just failed marketing. And two-and-a-half years without a real hit made Culpepper (and all the potentially embarrassing issues around him) dumpable. Bye bye.

Hostiles expanded to… okay numbers. $10 million is a good number for a Christian Bale indie. And a low-action western to boot. Most of the action in the film is so violent that it can’t be shown  in TV ads or even trailers. It is powerful, adult, and worthy violence… but still, not airable. Even with an excellent movie, the lack of Oscar heat means that Entertainment Studios’ top opening with still be 47 Meters Down. Hard to launch a distributor.

The Greatest Showman is holding incredibly well. It is the family movie of choice, overwhelming Paddington 2. Go figure.

The Post took its two Oscar nominations and dropped like any normal weekend.

The Shape of Water expanded into its Oscar nomination explosion and… is still soft. In context, the movie is doing well. Make no mistake. But this was not an expansion to match being the top nominee. Doesn’t mean it won’t win on Oscar night. (Doesn’t mean it will.)

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri also expanded this weekend, by about half as much as Shape. At the end of the weekend, the two Searchlight movies will have almost identical domestic grosses.

Doesn’t look like there will be a $10k per-screen film this weekend.

20 Weeks To Oscar: Nomination Morning

Tuesday, January 23rd, 2018

For an unpredictable season, this was pretty predictable.

The niche movies that settled early – Lady Bird, Get Out, Call Me By Your Name – got in. The rest – I, Tonya, The Big Sick, Mudbound – did not. Phantom Thread, which is in so many ways a traditional Academy film, was the surprise tag on the day. A lot of people had written off Darkest Hour, but it got the Best Picture nod, though not a surprise in other categories that would suggest it could possibly cause an upset.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, The Shape of Water, Dunkirk, and The Post were widely expected nominees.

So now what? Probably not much, in terms of big surprises.

It’s very easy to imagine:
Best Picture: 3 Billboards
Best Director: Guillermo del Toro
Best Actress: Frances McDormand
Best Actor: Gary Oldman
Best Supporting Actor: Sam Rockwell
Best Supporting Actress: Allison Janney
Best Original Screenplay: Three Billboards
Best Adapted Screenplay: Call Me By Your Name

Things could swing in a couple of those categories, but not by much. It’s the same list you would have expected before the nominations this morning.

On the other hand… Three Billboards is under attack from the PC police.

Universal will keep pushing Get Out hard. Focus got “do-over” opportunities for their two Best Picture nominees that many felt would not have gotten their BP slots, Phantom Thread and Darkest Hour. Warner Bros isn’t abandoning Dunkirk. And at Searchlight, they have two children, one the more cerebral (3BB) and one more of the heart, The Shape of Water, which as the frontrunner for Best Director has a legit chance of becoming the BP winner too. (And Lady Bird isn’t a dead issue to win BP either.)

Nomination morning is reset morning.

How can the consultants, publicists, and marketers turn the corner and make their movie the movie of the moment, a film of importance, a film of higher value, a film you love and shouldn’t be afraid to imagine winning?

Of course, the easy assumption is that things are now baked in an won’t change. And that may well end up being the case.

But the season is still soft.

This is when the hard-boiled will of the team behind any film can rise and change the game.

Three Billboards needs Frances McDormand and Woody Harrelson out there explaining why the movie is about something profound and about moving forward, not about lingering in the pain of the moment (however long it has lasted).

Focus didn’t really explain why Darkest Hour was so much of the moment when they released this film. They could do this now.

Phantom Thread relied heavily on the shoulders of Vicky Krieps and Mark Bridges up until now… if that changes and PTA is also willing to have them explain the film a bit more, the ball can be moved.

Dunkirk‘s unique place in filmmaking can be further exploited.

Universal has done great work in positioning Get Out as more than a horror comedy (though this is probably the top of the mountain).

Context is in order for The Shape of Water… a movie about movies… Oscar loves that shit. (Also, true here.)

Lady Bird needs to stay solid and emphasize that it is about the future of a young woman… thus, the future of all women.

I am a fan of Call Me By Your Name and The Post, but neither is winning this year.

In meetings all over town, the question of whether Phase II will be a war or a love letter is being determined. Me? I think the door is open just wide enough for people to come out fighting. But we shall see… about this time next week, just before every single person alive is honored in Santa Barbara, we will know.