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Friday Estimates: Still Insidious

Saturday, January 6th, 2018

Friday Estimates 2018-01-06 at 11.42.15 AM

The most interesting thing about Insidious 4 is that a major (Universal) took over the franchise after it launched at a now-defunct indie, then went to Universal indie division Focus, and now lands at the big house. Part of this intrigue is a bigger story about Universal splitting product between itself and the Dependent. Earlier this year, U took over marketing on Atomic Blonde while the banner on the film stayed Focus.

Blum exploded at Paramount, with a marketing team that is no longer there. But this relationship with Universal has taken his company’s output to its great success. Last year, Blumhouse had its first $100 million domestic gross since 2011… two of them. So this kick-off to Blum 2018 is not as strong as Split. But for the fourth of a series to have a significant uptick is no small feat. Blum-U has two more releases scheduled for this year, one original and one sequel. Last year’s magic was for two originals. How this plays out this year, we shall see. But a solid start. (The story of Blumhouse’s Amityville release through Dimension got lost in October… 10 screens… oy.)

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle appears headed to $300 million domestic, which is undeniably a hit. And Tom Rothman fights on. I find it unfortunate that the entire media focus of the media, regarding Sony, seems to be on Rothman. Like him or hate him, he is a known commodity and does what he has been doing for a very long time. He keeps things tight financially, so there is limited studio exposure and, indeed, often less upside than one would like with successes. He also interferes in the process. And of the film tops at the majors now, he is the only big screamer left.

When Rothman was handed TriStar, he became a loose spender. And it was a disaster for him and Lynton/Pascal, who allowed it. But he managed what he had – what he greenlit – this year very smartly. Ate it often. But only Disney and Warner Bros had any $300 million domestic grossers in 2017… except for Sony… which had two, not just the one with the assist from Warner Bros. The Sony hits are less impressive in the context of the other studios when you look at worldwide, but still puts Sony ahead of Fox and Paramount.

This is not an apologia for Rothman’s record. This studio won’t continue as is with them failing to make more from films like Roman J. Israel, Esq, The Dark Tower, Flatliners, Only The Brave, T2: Trainspotting, etc. There is a variety of quality level in this group, but the feeling is that the studio is giving up on these titles when they expect that they aren’t going to be big hits, instead of digging in and getting every dime they can. $40 million for Roman J, well below the Denzel norm, wouldn’t be a thrill… but would make a real difference to the bottom line of the company. This is how Rothman succeeded so long at Fox. Occasional huge hits, but not a lot of money losers in the line up amongst the middling hits.

And yes, Tom has a lot of enemies. Boring.

Also boring… people suggesting that Star Wars: The Last Jedi is a commercial problem. Some outlets made a big deal out of TLJ getting beaten on opening weekend in China. The Force Awakens did $124 million in China, which is the equivalent, financially, of $65m in any other market… or about 5% of the foreign gross. Not nothing. But not a key. The sixth biggest international market for the film.

Make no mistake. The Last Jedi is not doing the business that The Force Awakens did. The Empire Strikes Back was 27% off of Star Wars. Attack of the Clones was 35% off of The Phantom Menace. And TLJ will be somewhere around 35% off of Force Awakens.

The Greatest Showman is holding well. It will get closer to $100m domestic than I expected. The Annie reboot is in its sights.

Molly’s Game expands from 271 screens to 1608, pushing into the $6 million weekend business, heading to around $30 million domestic unless it has a surprisingly strong Oscar footprint.

Darkest Hour also expanded, from 943 screens to 1733. The expansion isn’t as showy at the box office as Molly’s Game, but the film has been in the market longer. No doubt, Focus is relying on a great big speech by Gary Oldman, assuming he wins at the Globes tomorrow… and then Oscar nods. If they miss Best Picture, which seems to be a possibility, the roll-out could stall completely.

Coco should get past $200 million domestic, but it hasn’t had the second wind that Moana did. It would help if Remember Me got some traction as a commercial hit, but it’s a straight ballad, not the power ballad of “Let It Go” or the pop fun of the Moana songs and that’s not helping. A duet by Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez on the Golden Globes would help.

More tomorrow…

Weekend 4-Day Chart

Monday, January 1st, 2018

Weekend 4 day 2018-01-01 at 12.57.18 PM

Weekend Estimates by Baby New Klady

Sunday, December 31st, 2017

Weekend Estimates 2017-12-31 at 10.17.12 AM

Okay… nothing much changed since yesterday.

Star Wars is doing great by every standard other than Force Awakens and Jim Cameron. I believe that the complaining is marginal. 10% or less of the audience. They are loud and the media loves any story, however misshapen. The future of the franchise will probably be clearer after the next film, which will not be the end of any trilogy, for better or worse.

Jumanji may save Tom Rothman until summer. Of course, the entire studio could be sold by then.

Pitch Perfect 3 is not what Universal hoped… but is still likely to be quite profitable.

Fox marketing isn’t covering itself in glory on the Burbank Death March out the door. Neither film is a complete disaster. Neither film could be called a hit.

Molly’s Game has done fairly well in its opening week (opened on Christmas, last Monday) on 271 screens. Hard strategy to rely on awards making the movie more commercial.

Focus is playing the same game, even more so, with Phantom Thread, which is doing solid PTA-type business on 4 screens.

And then there is The Post, another film from Fox. Nine screens against a full national release campaign. The $60k per-screen is nice, but hardly breathtaking. It’s no unfair to compare the current part of this run to American Sniper… but regardless of how anyone feels about the film, I am not feeling like The Post is an American Sniper in the making. Or a Lincoln. There is definitely a mid-sized audience out there for this movie and they will show up when it goes wide. But if you ask me, they left $10m – $20m on the table by not going out the week before Christmas. The upside is that January is week on dramas. We’ll see.

Here is an awards chart…

BP hopefuls 2017-12-31 at 12.28.48 PM

BYOB – Happy New Year

Saturday, December 30th, 2017

byob4thofjuly

Friday Estimates by The End Is Nigh Klady

Saturday, December 30th, 2017

Friday Estimates 2017-12-30 at 10.51.00 AM

The massive success of The Last Jedi continues. It’s inarguable, unless you just like to argue. The film passes $500m domestic and $1 billion worldwide today, 16 days into its run. You can have story issues with the movie, but claiming audiences are bailing on it is simply false.

Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle is working. It not a world-beater. It’s seems unlikely to pass $600 million worldwide, the low bar of success for mega-movies these days. But the 500s is a range that Sony has seen only three times in the past five years… for a Bond and two Spider-Man films. Sony was the only major that didn’t have any film that wasn’t part of an “established franchise” do over $500 million worldwide in this last half decade. No one else had fewer than two. Sony’s last $500m+ grosser that wasn’t part of a franchise was 2012, released in 2009. So however you feel about Tom Rothman, he’s broken a bad streak longer than his tenure. Credit is due.

Did Universal know that Pitch Perfect was played out, leading it to shove it into Christmas, hoping the Sing audience might show up and that the intense viewing window would bump up the box office? Possibly. Or maybe we are just asking too much of the franchise. PP3 will pass the original’s total domestic box office before the weekend is over. It has no chance of getting close to PP2‘s $184 million domestic gross. But it is reasonable to question the idea that every film needs to become a franchise beyond a single sequel success. This is not the stock market. Films are not simple commodities. Easy to forget that, but it remains the simple truth.

The Greatest Showman is heading beyond the low-50s musical graveyard of Phantom of the Opera and Sweeney Todd. A little past Moulin Rouge. But not as big as one of the worst musical movies of all time, the Annie reboot, which was a crime against cinema AND musical theater, but still did $86m domestic. Showman is not in that category of bad. Not close. I dislike the film, but it is not an act of cruelty. Still, you can fool some of the people…

All The Money In The World opened Christmas Day and hasn’t hit $1k per screen on any day after that first day. My take is that the attention to the change in the Getty role distracted from the conversation about the movie to the degree that few people even seriously considered if they wanted to see the movie. Plummer is great, and if he gets nominated, will deserve it. But very few go see a movie to see a role change. And Sony didn’t do enough to change the conversation to the movie.

Like the movie, the campaign lacks a clock. The premise that the richest man in the world won’t pay a ransom didn’t click with wide swaths of audience. Didn’t that come up in testing? So what else is there? Well it’s not “Michelle Williams in Taken” either. Nor “Mark Wahlberg in Taken.” So what is it? It’s a kidnap victim passed around between criminals as a commodity. It’s Getty as Scrooge in the Christmas season. It’s five months of nothing happening. It’s The Ear. They did those billboards of The Ear, but they didn’t do a great job making the one thing people remember about the story the centerpiece of the marketing. The movie, which is sumptuous, has its own issues. But you have to find something to sell. And from my outside vantage, the marketing was as unfocused as the movie.

Darkest Hour and Downsizing are two very good,  or at least very interesting movies, if they aren’t your cup of tea, that are dying on the vine. A shame. There are clock movies this season that have no clock. Darkest Hour not only has a clock, but, by far, the most compelling clock. Not what they are selling… busy trying to make the Dunkirk association about now, which is death (that is, trying to ride the wake of another film that is not at all similar). And Downsizing is trying to sell the first third of the film that is physical comedy. The movie is better than that. And you are only seeing Oscar candidate Hong Chau in a few shots when she is, really, the female lead of the movie. Not an easy sell. But right now, it feels half-baked.

Not on this chart today are holding-tight holdovers The Post and Hostiles, on nine and five screens, respectively. The Spielberg is doing well on nine, but not expanding at Christmas was not a show of strength. Lincoln was Spielberg’s only other exclusive release film since Schindler’s List and it went wide after one week. Will there be Globes wins? Will it help?

And Hostiles just went for it too late in the game with too fresh a distributor. Really hard get… not getting it, it seems. Too bad. Strong movie. (And that outdoor looks like a History Channel series coming in January.)

Weekend Estimates from The Klady Jungle

Sunday, December 24th, 2017

Weekend Estimates 2017-12-24 at 11.57.02 AM

I’m already beyond disgusted with anyone who is whining about the Last Jedi‘s box office. It’s well on track to be the sixth $600 million domestic grosser. It is currently the second- or third-fastest grossing film in domestic history, taking a hit today because of Christmas Eve. But that will be more than made up for in the coming weekdays.

“But it’s not making as much as The Force Awakens.” Waa Waa!

The Empire Strikes Back made 32% less than Star Wars. Musta really sucked!

I don’t think that the box office for this movie – to this point – was going to be much different than it is no matter what film was delivered. The numbers prove the movie is great… or that there is “a problem.”

And journalists have done their part to add to the stupidity, taking the overemphasized metric of Rotten Tomatoes, then going another step down the rabbit hole, obsessing on the consumer rating for the film, which is driven by motivated participants and is in no way – nor claims to be – a public survey of feelings about the movie. As a result, Star Wars cultists have been given a much louder voice than their numbers earn.

Arguments against the film? I hear you. You are mostly wrong, but the standards you are working with make your opinion sensible. I cant argue that you are wrong. But these issues really concern less than 5% of the audience for this film. Maybe a lot less.

Arguments for the film? Well, the film is the best Star Wars film since Empire, so I am on that team. This doesn’t make me a shill for Disney. I think I have kicked Disney and Lucasfilm enough in the last few years to not suddenly be accused of being in their pocket with any legitimacy.

Star Wars does not, 100% does not, have a box office problem. This can change. One or two movies can change this. But this is not the problem movie you are looking for.

Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle was supposed to be the Sony saver, but… hard to say. Looks like they may top the $60 million six-day projection that came from tracking a month ago. International is doing okay. I just don’t think we know the answer yet. It’s definitely not a lump of coal in Tom Rothman’s stocking. But does it keep things rolling in Culver City? Ask me in a week.

Pitch Perfect 3 seems to know it’s time to close this one out. There is a cable series in this. But this third in the series, unlike the second film, didn’t add anything new (at least as best I can tell from the TV spots) and I don’t know what they were doing throwing it into the Christmas window. The gross will probably be at $50m – $55m by the end of the holiday… which might be okay for Why Him?, but not so great for the capper to a beloved franchise.

The Greatest Showman better be a grower and not a show-er. This could be a Broadway show to come. And gay kitsch forever. What it won’t be is a box office hit.

Downsizing, another movie by a distributor in the midst of a messy transition, got crushed. Paramount has had a hard time releasing quality comedies in December over the years. But there is a giant problem with selling this movie in that they have limited star power and Kristin Wiig is really only in 25% of the movie. The real movie co-star is Hong Chau, and one hopes, after this bad weekend, whoever is in charge of marketing at Paramount this week will let the audience that cares about Alexander Payne’s work know what the movie really is… not just a giant Absolut bottle and giant cracker joke.

Darkest Hour has devolved into a Best Actor-only movie. Focus didn’t figure out how to get people excited. Probably being too careful politically. I am a big fan. But I don’t know  an answer to this puzzle. It’s become a margin player.

Father Figures is a Warner Bros dingleberry. After a great run of Wonder Woman, Annabel: Creation, Dunkirk and It, the studio is back in the box-office toilet for five straight films. The distributor has 23 releases currently scheduled in 2018. Looks like half a dozen potential significant hits are possible. Not an easy time in Burbank.

The Post opened on nine for Fox and managed $54,300 per screen, which is good. You don’t see may nine-screen releases. Four screens with $100,000-per is the platinum standard.

Hostiles had an unfortunate weak launch on three. The movie deserves better. But no matter how many quality consultants are on board, Entertainment Studios is a novice at everything, with four releases in its first six months as a distributor. December is a treacherous (and expensive) release window.

Friday Estimates by Santa Klady

Saturday, December 23rd, 2017

Friday Estimates 2017-12-23 at 8.50.59 AM

Not a lot of answers in this Friday’s numbers. Star Wars: The Last Jedi is doing great, thanks.

Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle is on the tracking numbers, which puts it at $60 million-ish for the 6-day open, the question being how it will catch on with kids and as a result, can it get to $200 million domestic? Then, the bigger question in RothmanVille… how will it do overseas?

Pitch Perfect 3 has its third different landing pad for theatrical release… first September, then summer, now Christmas week. This is one that probably should have looked for open space to run in February. Hard to get a read, comparing three. ery different openings. The film could end up at $110m domestic or $150m. It depends on whether it’s mostly played out by the end of next weekend.

The Greatest Showman is bad on many levels. Still, it feels like a cult hit that will be better remembered over time. Financially, look for a Why Him? gross on a significantly bigger spend.

Downsizing deserves better. So much air came out of the Paramount balloon – mostly with the people who were pushing this one out – that it’s unsurprising. Still, a shame.

Father Figures feels like a movie we have seen 300 times in the R-rated comedy era. Still, a crap launch that feels like a dump, hoping people will just go to see counterprogramming.

The Post pushes out on nine and does an excellent $60k-ish per screen.

Weekend Estimates by Klady: Episode 8 – The Box Office Taken For Granted [COMMENTS HAVE SPOILERS]

Sunday, December 17th, 2017

Weekend Estimates 2017-12-17 at 9.22.31 AM

The fourth $200 million opening ever.

The Force Awakens doubled its opening gross on the second Friday on their run. Will we be reporting a $440 million domestic cume for The Last Jedi next Saturday morning (or in the case of other outlets, presuming to try to be first, even if it’s just a guess)?

Force did $240 million more between the second Friday through the third.

Disney got their opening, even though Thursday night was not as insane as last time… now other landmarks are ahead.

All the guesswork about why it did this or that or how “real audiences” feel about the film… don’t know yet.

This is the film that fixes the bland imitation of the past that was Episode VII with smart, new ideas that can lead to a Star Wars future that is about the next set of rebels, not about the history of the franchise. To be fair, maybe the JJ mirror-fest was needed to get into the next era. But Last Jedi is a beginning, not a middle movie or closer. I am anxious to see it again. That wasn’t true for Force Awakens.

Ferdinand opened weakly. A bit of a recovery on Saturday, as younger kids showed up. But $13 million for a major-studio animated film is anguish.

A24 has tw of the Top 10 this weekend…impressive.

Here is the Oscar-hopeful breakout for this weekend

OScar hopefuls2017-12-17 at 9.50.34 AM

Wonder is the only movie currently in theaters on more than 1,100 screens looking to mount an Oscar push. The Post and All The Money In The World are coming. Phantom Thread, a dark horse to do a lot better than expected come the morning of Oscar nomination announcements, is also coming, though I don’t expect them to go wide to start.

The done-at-the-box-office group of contenders:

Dunkirk – $188,045,546
Get Out – $175,484,140
Baby Driver – $107,825,862
Blade Runner 2049 -$91,385,254
The Big Sick – $42,873,127
Wind River – $33,800,859
Victoria & Abdul – $22,157,715
Detroit – $16,790,139

Friday Estimates by Len Klaywalker

Saturday, December 16th, 2017

Friday Estimates 2017-12-16 at 10.31.06 AM

What is there to say? The only shocking thing about this opening is that anyone ever thought that the Force Awakens opening was going to be replicated… and how close Last Jedi is to doing that.

The Last Jedi is on track to open to over $175 million domestic… #5 or #6 domestic opening ever… stronger than Rogue One (and done), about 30% off of The Force Awakens… more than double the non-Star Wars December opening record.

There is no big box office story here. This is what Star Wars openings should look like for the foreseeable future. How the audience feels about the movie will be established in the weeks to come. Poor Last Jedi may only do $650 million domestic. Boo-hoo.

Why did Fox put Ferdinand in the way of this thing? And who knew that the idea of the Disney Empire eating the little Fox bull rebel would be so ironic this week?

Lady Bird will become A24’s #3 grosser this weekend, #2 by next Saturday and #1 before the New Year. The Disaster Artist is zooming up the company’s charts as well. The Greta Gerwig/James Franco movie should be shooting any minute (kidding). Huzzah.

Disney + Fox: Bigger Than The Media Is Suggesting

Thursday, December 14th, 2017

Here is the cocktail napkin math:  Netflix – $9 billion a year. DirecTV & Comcast cable alone – $90 billion a year.

So… who do you think Disney is going after with this merger? That’s a rhetorical question, because only blinders big enough for the Trojan Horse could lead to the “they are going after Netflix” angle.

Streaming is not a business. It is a delivery system. It is a delivery system that allows a new paradigm. All hail Netflix, the first to go there seriously.

But what Disney needs to make this merger a success is to get you and me and at least 75 million domestic households to sign up for three or four “Netflixes” under their massive umbrella of content. $30 to $40 a month.

And in order to get more than 10 million people to do that, they need more consumers to cut or significantly shave the cord. The fight is with AT&T/DirecTV and Comcast, trying to take money out of their pockets… you know, where the money is.

I am a little horrified by Disney eating Fox, including a movie studio that will, in a few years, cease to exist as more than a brand. That’s not good for consumers.

However, I have to applaud Disney for not ostriching, like most of the majors, and instead taking on the reality of the future, right now. Original content will continue to have value, but Dinsey sees that – aside from sports – the long tail is killing the long-term value of individual bits of content. There will be more revenue produced by more content for, virtually, ever… but the big bites of revenue will come early and not later (this includes theatrical, which will become more important moving forward).

There can’t be fifty $10 a month streaming subscription businesses with more than 10 million subs. It can’t work.

There can’t be five $10 a month streaming subscription businesses with more than 10 million subs… not so long as cable/satellite remains in 90 million domestic households.

Disney needs your $30 a month. That is where they are heading. And the only way to get there is to get the average cable or satellite bundle (and it’s ALL bundling… Netflix is a bundle… wake up, semantic BSers!) to $60 a month.

Both Comcast and AT&T need to angle toward that eventuality being as profitable as their current configurations. And they can. They could start by removing ESPN and the $6 a month they are paying per customer from your bill (although it will be a while before that happens).

That is where we are heading now, thanks to Disney. AT&T/DirecTV will be the home of HBO, all Time-Warner content, the massive Warner Bros library of TV and film and more. Don’t be surprised if they, eventually, buy the Fox broadcast network. Comcast will be the home of NBC-TV, Universal film and TV product and more. Disney will be ABC, ESPN, etc.

There is room for ONE more major player. One. Netflix can keep rolling along with $10 a month. Or the company will be acquired by Amazon or Apple and become the fourth major across-the-board $30 a month entertainment monolith, starting with a 50 million domestic subscriber advantage.

Who will buy all of Viacom, including the CBS TV network? Who will buy the Fox broadcast network? These businesses will be extremely valuable for another 10 – 15 years before becoming nothing but brands (the definition of which will include the idea of weekly episodics).

Not to put too fine a point on it, but this is not a revolution. It’s not disruption. It’s a re-consolidation, finally nodding to the change that streaming delivery of content demands.

Review-ish: Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Spoiler-Free)

Tuesday, December 12th, 2017

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Have we ever had a relaunch followed immediately by a reboot?

Rian Johnson’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi is not, as many hoped, a “middle” Star Wars movie, with the emotional impact of The Empire Strikes Back. And that is why many reviews will come off as disappointed. But they are dead wrong.

The Last Jedi is the Star Wars revival that The Force Awakens utterly failed to deliver.

I wasn’t so enthralled by TLJ in the early going. The opening action sequence was good, but slow and a little too complicated. There were too many cutesy jokes. But toward the end of the sequence, the first glimmer of what Rian Johnson was really after… a new visual idea, a powerful, personal, emotional moment for a character we barely know… yeah.

And again… a bit too much meandering, re-establishing the characters, cute CG animals, three jokes when 1 would have been enough.

But somewhere around the middle, The Last Jedi asserts itself as the template for the Star Wars future. A couple great new characters who you care about seeing again. A couple new characters who you would be just as happy to see get sabered. Romantic relationships seeded. Actual character ideas for Poe Dameron. Snoke as a fully actualized character.

But most importantly, Johnson resets the central characters and sets the direction forward. What is the relationship between Rey and Finn? Can we stop trying to figure out where Rey came from? How does Kylo Ren relate to Rey? Will the Luke & Leia story be important?

And Johnson also establishes which characters who came from Force Awakens are important and which are expendable. In this regard, he is a little rude at times… which I love. I mean, kill f-ing Negan already! Enough! Rian Johnson would have had Carl pluck out both Negan’s eyes then let Maggie snip off his testicles before Michonne cut off his arms as they all wait for him to turn so Rick could stick the knife in his zombie brain in front of everyone.

I found the second half of the film exhilarating, not only because there are many terrific surprises and a couple scenes that I consider the best Star Wars sequences since the original trilogy, but because we are now ready to move into a Star Wars future that is more like the idea of Rogue One than the idea of the original Star Wars. But still, a first chapter.

It’s a weird thing, though. I kept thinking that this was the film that should have – with an obvious bow to introducing the new central characters – been the first of the resurrected series. But while there was value to The Force Awakens, doing the job of imitating what Star Wars was, this film feels like what Star Wars is going to be.

I don’t want to be too generous. I would cut 15 minutes out. There are editing choices that leave the film feeling choppy when it should feel smooth. And like I said before… too cutesy at times… too much plush sold.

But this was like a very effective pilot, making me look forward to future episodes. I like Finn better now. I like Rey better now. I like Kylo Ren better now. Rian Johnson was not a bull in a china shop. He was respectful. But he went right up to JJ Abrams white board and started erasing the lesson and putting up his own… a much more interesting, complex, modern lesson that still feels like Star Wars. A huge win. There were tears of excitement in my eyes a few times in that third act. Johnson’s script – however many people were involved – gets emotional life out of characters both major and minor.

There is no “I am your father.” I suspect that many expect that. But it’s not a middle story. It’s really the beginning.

And sadly, it struck me that JJ is coming back to soften the edge that Rian Johnson so gracefully sewed into this franchise machine. I hope he can imitate Rian as well as he imitates George and Steven. I hope the screenplay is worthy of a Star Wars episode without a Death Star.

You know who would have done great with the next episode? David Ayers. More End of Watch than Suicide Squad. In the old days, you’d want a Walter Hill or Billy Friedkin.

Anyway… I really, by the end, liked The Last Jedi. This is not the Star Wars that anyone was looking for. But it is the first glimpse we have had at real growth in the Star Wars universe. Be wary of opinions that are offered in the idea of not getting what the speaker expected, rather than seriously considering what is actually on offer.

BYOB: Globes

Monday, December 11th, 2017

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Weekend Estimates by No Top 10 Over $8k Per Screen Klady

Sunday, December 10th, 2017

Weekend Estimates 2017-12-10 at 9.31.07 AM copy

Only one new wide release this week… from Broad Green with Just Getting Started, which didn’t. But there are expansion success stories in The Disaster Artist, The Shape of Water, Darkest Hour, and Call Me By Your Name, as well as the successful four-screen launch of I, Tonya.

Friday Estimates By Where Are The Movies? Klady

Saturday, December 9th, 2017

Friday Estimates 2017-12-09 at 9.18.26 AM

There are five wide releases in a two-day stretch the week after Last Jedi. Three are comedies. Two are action movies. And Fox is counter-programming Jedi with an animated bull, which seems suicidal. (The move, not the bull.)

But hell if they are going to take anything out this weekend!!!

The film business keeps finding new niches for distribution and success where there once was little success, with the basic premise that If Audiences Want It, It Doesn’t Matter When You Release It. Yet, they will leave a full month of the calendar without product (such as August and September of this year). And now, they will abandon two weeks after Thanksgiving because… uh… well… Paramount failed to get big audiences for two comedies on the second weekend after Thanksgiving in the last three years, so it must be a dead zone.

Here is the message that the studios need to get:  if ticket buyers don’t show up, it’s your fault.

There is such a thing as a wrong date. Bad Mom’s Christmas or Daddy’s Home 2 would have probably played better in the month of Christmas than weeks before Thanksgiving. Both overcame the terrible dating enough not to be disasters, but both left, probably, 30% – 50% of their potential domestic grosses on the table.

But if a studio really believed in a movie, Star Wars next weekend shouldn’t scare them off this weekend. There will be damage against a mega-opener. But even the last time, when two studios decided to go up against Force Awakens, the drops for the holdovers was not brutal. And the one major release the weekend before was Heart of the Sea, which arrived as damaged goods.

Did Passengers benefit from being in a December 21 cluster or would it have been better off the weekend before Rogue One? How about Why Him?

I looked at It this last September and I looked at the history and that film’s eventual  opening was a super long-shot. But it happened. 2.5x the opening of any other September film ever and almost 2x the domestic gross.

A teachable moment.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens was another. Suicide Squad. Deadpool. American Sniper. Molds broken.

And there is this… a movie that has a soft opening coming is going to have a softer opening in a crowd.

We no longer live in a purchasing universe driven by habit. More than ever, every opening stands alone. Summer is a real thing. Thanksgiving and Christmas-New Years week is a real thing. But four of the Top 10 domestic grossers last year and probably the same this year will come out of other periods.

Will Father Figures survive its release date? Would the sequel to Bad Moms have done better this weekend and played stronger over the Christmas weeks than it did over Thanksgiving? Would Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle have done better before Star Wars than after?

Studios spend a lot of time and people power trying to answer these questions six months, a year, even two years out. Perhaps that is why the answers often end up being more safe than risky. I still believe WB didn’t expect It to do the business it did or they would have put it in August (and would have made more). It proved you could have a $100m September opening. But it also reminded us that, sometimes, these things happen by happenstance as much as planning.

The Disaster Artist is killing it. $8k+ per-screen on 840 for a movie about a failed movie-turned-cult film starring an actor who is not a big opener.

Lady Bird passed $20 million and will get an awards boost on its way to becoming A24’s biggest movie.

Three Billboards is solid, if not spectacular.

Wonder will be just short of $100 million after this weekend.

And Just Getting Started, which braved this weekend, is a $3 million turd in the punch bowl (which has to be about the amount they paid Morgan Freeman).

Academy’s Doc Short List… & DP/30

Thursday, December 7th, 2017

Congratulations to all 15 short-listers. Here are DP/30 interviews with seven. There are two more (One of Us and Strong Island) that will be up soon. The other six short-listers are Ex Libris – The New York Public Library (here’s a Fred Wiseman interview from another doc), Faces Places, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, LA 92, Last Men in Aleppo and Unrest.

Weekend Estimates by Blasé Klady

Sunday, December 3rd, 2017

Weekend Estimates 2017-12-03 at 10.32.28 AM

Very exciting weekend.

$81,600
$69,500
$62,840
$28,460
$26,950

The Shape of Water, Call Me By Your Name, The Disaster Artist, Lady Bird, Darkest Hour.

Three or four of these will be Best Picture nominees. earning their way there. The most remarkable run of the year is Call Me By Your Name, which set the per-screen record for the year last week and killed it again in its second weekend. It’s the most impressive per-screen as Searchlight pushed out The Shape of Water onto only two screens… still a great opening for Guillermo & Co, just not quite as amazing as Call Me.

On the next level down on the per-screen but up on the screen count are Lady Bird and Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri, each around the $4.5 million mark for the weekend on 1.430 screens and 1.194 screens respectively.

(Added Note 6p – I obviously forgot to include Dunkirk in this piece… which was just stupid of me. Apologies.)

Add The Post and Phantom Thread and you are looking at your Best Picture group, with one or two wild cards (Get Out, The Big Sick, The Florida Project, Victoria & Abdul) filling the playlist with a few super-longshots (Wonder, Blade Runner 2046, Wonder Woman, Mudbound, Downsizing, The Last Jedi) holding hope.

Meanwhile, at the commercial cinema, Coco is doing well. Behind Moana by about $10 million after its second weekend. Coco has made a huge splash in Mexico, but we’re a while from knowing how the rest of the world will embrace the film. A success. Degree to be determined.

Justice League is fading fast. Still, it is closing in on $600 million worldwide. It can still lose money. Or it could make a few bucks, depending on how much the reshoots actually cost. In context, it is a carwreck. Figure it will close out with about $650m – $675m worldwide in the bank, well off of Batman v Superman. WB gained a viable Wonder Woman franchise this year, and now, a potential Flash franchise, but no one is clamoring for Aquaman, Batman is being replaced, Superman is inert and Cyborg may be of value in Teen Titans Go Live. There is nothing easy about building a “universe.” But remember, WB is not just having a hard time now. It’s been struggling with this for decades.

Wonder is the happy story of the season. Who saw this as a $100 million movie? You? Unless you are a producer on the film who spent a decade trying to get it made… LIAR! It is shocking to realize how Julia Roberts’ box office power crashed right after her Oscar-winning role in Erin Brockovich. This will be her first $100 million movie in a lead role since then, a long 17 years ago.

Thor: Ragnarok is still kicking. Disney is in full Star Wars mode now, but if I were them, I would have thrown some new TV spots at Thor this last weekend for the most fun comic book movie around. November is the weaker choice for comic book and animated movies, even though there have been massive hits from there in recent years. Still, Thor: R is now in the Marvel Extended Universe Domestic Top 10 and still may move up a slot or two. It’s already #7 worldwide and may well get past Guardians 2. My point? Thor: R would have probably generated another $100 million if it had opened in the summer and made the Marvel Top 5.

And how much did Coco leave on the table by opening in November?

Daddy’s Home 2 and Murder on the Orient Express chug towards $100 million domestic. Murder is over $200 million worldwide, making it a solid money-maker for Fox.

Finally… documentaries.

Twelve million-dollar docs so far this year. Five were niche religion releases from Fathom.

In Our Hands: The Battle for Jerusalem – $2.5m
Is Genesis History? – $1.8m
Mully – $1.5m
Genesis: Paradise Lost – $1.4m
Chonda Pierce: Enough – $1.3m

Disney’s nature docs are not released like other docs, and as a result, Born in China leads all docs with $13.9m.

Of the rest, only I Am Not Your Negro was a 2016 awards qualifier.

I Am Not Your Negro – $7.1m
An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power – $3.5m
Kedi – $2.8m
Jane – $1.3m
Steve McQueen: American Icon – $1.2m
Step – $1.1m

Friday Estimates by Dead Week Klady

Saturday, December 2nd, 2017

Friday Estimates 2017-12-02 at 8.52.30 AM

On one of the weeks that’s a Hollywood dead zone, no new wide releases. The story, aside from the ongoing deterioration of Justice League, is the small pictures, most of which have awards ambitions. A24’s The Disaster Artist leads the pack with $26,000 per screen on 19 in its debut. That’s about what Lady Bird started with, but on 19 screens instead of four. Impressive, though on a quicker burn. Searchlight’s The Shape of Water also debuts at roughly the same per-screen, but on two. Wonder Wheel is looking at a per-screen in the 20s in a five-screen debut. Three Billboards more than doubles its screen count, leaping to 1430 screens, while Lady Bird expands to 1194, with the films neck-and-neck for the weekend.

20 Weeks To Oscar: Year of the Reconstructed Rom-Com

Thursday, November 30th, 2017

Award seasons have a theme that emerges as the season progresses. With the arrival of Phantom Thread and The Post, this year is loaded with rom-coms that don’t want to be rom-coms.

The form has been torn down in recent years and barely exists now in Hollywood movies, indies, or even TV. But take the idea of a romantic comedy about, say, the black guy being brought home to meet the over-exuberant white suburban parents and give it a twist… and BAM!… Get Out.

Lady Bird is a romantic comedy about a young woman who has two intense relationships, one with her mother and another with her best female friend, both of which are strained to the edge by the moment it’s time to leave home.

Call Me By Your Name is a super-charming coming-of-age comedy between a young man and a hot older man who do the dance of romance. It even includes sex with a piece of fruit-not-yet-made-into-pie.

The Big Sick is the closest to a traditional romantic comedy… except the primary romance is between the wannabe boyfriend and the parents of the comatose girlfriend he’s no longer dating.

Downsizing is a romantic comedy, though you don’t really know that until late in the second act. Alexander Payne is working on many layers, so it doesn’t stink of rom-com… but that, ultimately, is what it is.

The Shape of Water is the most traditional romantic drama on the board… a classic romance between a gilled creature with supernatural powers and a mute cleaning woman who communicate without words (mostly) and touch on high drama while avoiding high comedy (mostly).

Victoria & Abdul is the classic girl meets boy from the wrong side of the tracks while-family-objects comedy, in royal garb.

Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri has a comic romance, as one character tries to couple with another and fails… but the movie, a story about a single renegade up against the system, keeps sliding into intimate dyads between different men and this woman.

The Post is a romantic comedy between two people not having a romantic relationship, Katharine Graham and Ben Bradlee. He’s just one more entrance from doing a Kramer when coming into her house. I got confirmation of this notion from the film’s writers just a couple days ago… they used the term non-romantic romance about the leads.

Phantom Thread is the least obvious rom-com in the group… but perhaps the closest to being the traditional form, in spite of Paul Thomas Anderson’s remarkable detail work and a very serious performance by Daniel Day Lewis. When you look closely, aside from getting sucked into its lush, gorgeous period earnestness, it is a coming-of-age movie for a man in his 50s and a tale of how a young woman figures out how to land the man she wants. The most surprising thing about the film is how funny it is… If you allow yourself to laugh for fear of being on the wrong page. (Go ahead… laugh… it’s the driest funny in years.)

There are, of course, variations on this notion. Darkest Hour is surprisingly light at times, but not a rom-com in any way. Dunkirk is neither light nor a rom-com. Ditto Mudbound. The Florida Project is a comedy, but Sean Baker smartly avoids  romance.

All in all, a romantic year as we suffer through a distinctly non-romantic political period. And a lot of humor, although earned in ways other than the traditional hooks of rom-coms.

It’s also worth noting that the vast majority of these films are in a period other than now. Only Get Out, The Big Sick and The Florida Project are of this moment… and none of them are tied to this very moment… they all could just as easily be set five years ago.

Weekend Estimate by Coco Clady

Sunday, November 26th, 2017

Weekemd Estimates 2017-11-26 at 10.51.58 AM

For those who aren’t  going back to yesterday’s comments, I made a mistake. Disney will not be up domestically this year. They will be down about $300 million… with three fewer movies. Still, everything else I wrote stands. And the principle of what I wrote stands. The media is in hysterical frenzy, anxious to move on from theatrical, with almost no effort at all to understand what that would mean to films, even on a purely financial level. I remind again… theatrical is the #1 revenue stream for films… not streaming… not VOD… not pay-TV… and certainly not Blu-ray and DVD.

Coco‘s open is hammocked in between November Disney animated releases Wreck-It-Ralph and Tangled. $200 million will the the domestic target.

No other wide openings and not much to say about holdovers,

Call Me By Your Name has, by estimate, failed to crack $100k per-screen after a $40k per-screeen start on Friday. Still, nothing to cry about… still the top per-screen of 2017 to date.

Darkest Hour‘s $43,650 per-screen estimate on four is good, in the area of Traffic and Black Hawk Down. As a movie for the older audience, it may take some time (and some awards for Oldman) for it to get rolling.

Lady Bird and Three Billboards are cruising nicely.

Friday Estimates by Gobbler Len

Saturday, November 25th, 2017

Friday Estimates 2017-11-25 at 9.44.00 AM

We’re about $400 million behind the best-ever year-to-date gross… just under 4%. That’s one big domestic hit or two moderate big studio hits from even.

Paramount alone will be more than $300 million short of last year at the domestic box office.

Warner Bros. and Universal will all be up at the domestic box office this year.

(*Ed Note: Corrected 11/26. Disney will not top isn’t 2016 domestic gross.  Last year, the studio did $3 billion will 11 titles. This year, it should end up around $2.7 million with 8 titles.)

Last December was the second biggest December ever, after 2015’s biggest December ever. December this year will rely not only on another numbered Star Wars movie, but Ferdinand, Jumanji and Pitch Perfect 3. But it will likely be a Top 3 December again this year.

The media delusion that the theatrical sky is falling, fueled by execs who aren’t finding a way to sell under-quality movies this year, has to break. Anything less than a half-billion change in box office from year-to-year is not a cultural trend, but something that can be made up by or reduced by a single movie or two.

That said, Coco is a weak opening for Pixar and Disney, which cultivated the November holiday slot remarkably well in recent years via the reborn Walt Disney Animation Studios, which almost exclusively launched films in November. Coco  at much the same strength as Tangled.

Justice League is underperforming under the analysis of WB throwing the entire DC muscle at it and coming up well short of Wonder Woman. But is it a disaster, out of context? Depends on foreign. It may be okay. Warner needs to reboot the entire thing yet again. So there is a problem there that needs fixing. Obviously. Warner clearly knows this too… they just don’t know what to do.

Wonder is a shocker. It has a legit shot at $100 million domestic and it would be Julia Roberts’ first $100 million domestic grosser as lead since Erin Brockovich in 2000. Stephen Chbosky is having an epic year, having worked on Beauty & The Beast as well. In spite of being a white make, Chbosky should have studios chasing him for a big movie with feeling, and surely are… I’m just not paying attention to that stuff these days.

Thor: Ragnarok is running $70 million ahead of Doctor Strange domestically and is about even with Spider-Man: Homecoming after 22 days, with $800 million worldwide a sure bet. Universal is insane for not making a deal with Marvel for a Hulk standalone. That would be a billion-dollar movie. 50% of the profits on a billion is a lot more than 100% of the profits on a marginal grosser.

Murder on the Orient Express may suck, but it’s going to be a moneymaker for Fox.

Is this the year that studios get over the silly idea of releasing Christmas-themed movies in early November? Regardless of what you think of the films, A Bad Moms Christmas and Daddy’s Home 2 each cost themselves tens of million by coming out early in November. Daddy did almost $100 million international. Will it do anything this time? Paramount has to hope so.

It’s good news on the awards release front… except for Roman J. Israel, Esq. I don’t know what is going on at Sony, but they have released 14 wide-release movies in the last year and only three have opened to $20 million or more: Spider-Man: Homecoming, Baby Driver, and The Emoji Movie. Denzel Washington hasn’t failed to go wide with a movie to at least $20 million since The Great Debaters in 2007 and Fences last year. But Fences opened to just under $7 million on Christmas weekend and had $33 million in the bank by the end of the holiday. Roman J. doesn’t have a holiday to build with: they have one of the weakest weekends of the year ahead. The movie deserves a bigger audience than this, but Sony hasn’t found a hook, aside from Denzel’s changing looks and some snappy lines. People may have been unhappy with the dark places the film goes, but it could have opened stronger playing up Denzel as the weird underdog hero… heavy on “hero.” As is, Roman J. will likely be crushed by the December wave, before it gets to $33 million or the $58 million that Paramount squeezed out of the “unsellable” period drama, Fences.

On to better news…

Call Me By Your Name will be the top per-screen grosser of the year by the end of the weekend, pushing past Lady Bird‘s $91,109 per three weekends ago. This launch is ahead of Moonlight and Birdman and behind American Hustle and Moonrise Kingdom. This suggests that the film is close to a sure bet to be Oscar-nominated for Best Picture, which will be an achievement.

Darkest Hour also launched strong on four, though not nearly as powerfully. Expect that the demographic analysis will find an older audience that takes a few weeks to show up. Still, a solid start.

And Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri expanded well again, outpacing Searchlight’s Brooklyn while on fewer screens. December is the most dangerous month for this film, before Oscar shows its hand. But across-the-board support from awards and critics groups for the movie, Frances McDormand, and Sam Rockwell, could propel it through the danger zone and up over $25 million before the end of the holiday run. Then the Oscar nominations can propel it further.