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Review: Interstellar (non-spoiler)

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I don’t really want to write this review.

You see, Christopher Nolan is a profoundly talented artist and he is trying really hard to make a profound movie here. He hired excellent actors who give excellent performances. And not just the much-promoted 3 leads. The supporting cast and many of the surprising small roles are terrific. Much of the film is strikingly beautiful. And there is a lot of really good stuff in the film.

However…

The dialogue – never a Nolan strength – is downright terrible through two acts. I mean, off-off-off-Broadway kinda stuff. Painful, no matter how beautifully delivered.

And it repeats the same ideas over and over and over again, as though we in the audience were too stupid to understand a science fiction movie.

I can say, to the film’s credit, the insufferable first act is only about 40 minutes long. It seems longer than the next two acts, which take over 2 hours.

But even the exit from the first act into the second is painful, not because it’s not well-executed, but because it feels like Nolan is desperate (I can’t say how he feels in reality) to make his mark, attempting a Lean-Kubrick-style transition into the second act that is not nearly as clever as it needs to be to be special.

This was my experience in the film, over and over again. There are so many parts of the film that, were they simply not trying so hard to be clever, would be so much better. Any time I am watching a film and there is a piece of stunt editing – say, paralleling two story elements that are not naturally synced – and when it ends, I don’t feel like I got anything out of the stunt and was beaten over the head by the story point, something is wrong. At least to my eye.

The third act, as you will surely read in many other places, is the best part of the film. But even there, the pieces never quite come together. I have promised a spoiler-free review in the title, so I won’t explain in too much detail. But if you are making a movie that screams that it is espousing a very well-considered philosophy and the story then turns on a series of extreme coincidences (however interesting or complicated by science, space, and spirit), then I say that the movie had better make a real case for the nature of the universe to be about fate. But I tried twice to find this in Interstellar and failed. And I am not an idiot.

Interstellar does have the nerve, to seem to suggest answers to some of the mysteries of 2001: A Space Odyssey in a veiled way. My instinctual response is “f*** off.” Nolan is obviously brilliant, but he is no Kubrick because he is, it seems, incapable of anything beyond literalism.

Actually, some of the “phone call” footage in Interstellar are my favorite moments in the film. Jessica Chastain lights it up, big time. But however much I liked those moments, they are not analogous to the phone calls in 2001, which were about things other than the calls.

Similarly, one gets the feeling that Nolan is one-upping the HAL 9000 by creating more realistic, reflective-of-some-kind-of-current-science mechanical support for the journey. The voices are not as distinct and unforgettable as HAL’s. Clearly, that is not the filmmaker’s goal. But in terms of the audience, what I am presuming to be the intended accuracy doesn’t mean much to an audience, which is trying to distinguish one voice from another without always having a face or name-tag in sight. We can’t build a relationship with the specific machine, even if we can remember some of the repeated conceits around said machines. Literal. But not good drama.

And the overall conceit of the film, which is to reduce a threat to the existence of all human life on earth to fewer than 2 dozen people… I mean, from beginning to end. I get the dramatic notion that sprouted this choice. You can’t tell a story about everyone on earth. Yes. I get it. But the myopia of the film – which only increases from start to finish – becomes a theme, whether intended or not. There is a line between a few people representing humanity and the entire value of humanity being reduced to a handful of people.

The Nolans’ screenplay is constantly telling us what big-picture thinkers they are. And as an audience member, I could easily imagine the deep, intense, months-long philosophical debates between the brothers and, probably, any other friends who would listen (and keep their mouths shut). But there is an odd shallowness that reduces all the intellectual power that is obviously brought to this endeavor to a “you mean… one atom of my fingernail could be an entire universe?” stoner joke.

I honestly think i might have been less anal about the whole third act had the first 110 minutes of the film not felt like water torture so often. I hate reading critics claiming that a movie should have been shorter. It’s usually a random comment that really means that the critic got bored and lost interest for a period. But damned if I didn’t feel that, literally, 40 minutes of this movie could have been stripped away and improved the final product by 60%/70%… not because I was bored, but because I was getting the same detail over and over. Do The Nolans understand E=MC-squared? Probably. I don’t. Not really. And Interstellar was not the place to try to teach me what I never bothered to learn in high school. But the repeated technical blather… oh lord!

And the score. OH MY GOD!!!! The score. I often love Hans Zimmer. I find myself defending his scores when others complain. He has done some truly wonderful work. And this film felt like being hit over the head with every instrument in the orchestra until unconscious. I don’t ever recall a more relentless or agonizing aural experience in a film. There is not a moment of drama that does not, apparently, require underscoring that makes it seem like Atlanta is burning. HEY! THIS IS IMPORTANT. But everything is important in Interstellar. That’s what the film tells me endlessly.

Except, of course, when there are cuts to the silence of space. Oy. Kill me now. Not new. Not special. And on the opposite side of the bombast of the score, it is almost comedic.

I guess I was less pleased with this film than I even thought…

But like I say… there are things to like. Some will love it. Some will go where Nolan takes them. And there are performance moments that are truly wonderful. The current incarnation of Matthew McConaughey could do this role in his sleep. He gets to run the gamut of emotions… but he’s not a trained monkey. He is an actor of control and discipline. You have to be to go as wild as he can go. There is a sequence in which his reaction shot ranges through a lot of emotions and, sadly, I felt like I was watching a bad acting class. Not that the acting was bad, but that the director, leaving a great actor in a position to just react, going through a list of intense emotions… ewww. Chastain did a lot better for herself. Anne Hathaway was wasted in a role that could have been played by literally hundreds of good actresses. She has one good dialogue run in the film. That’s it. (And the young Chastain looked, to me, a lot more like the young Hathaway.)

I won’t talk about the ending… but as I think about it, I just want to note that after all of the drama of the film – 2 hours and 30 minutes before the last 10 of screen performances – the idea that it is all reduced to something so small and carefully undetailed as the very ending is the final heartbreak of this film for me.

But like I wrote… that last act is, easily, the best part of the film. 40 minutes less movie might have made it all seem worth the journey.

The only memorable line in the film will probably become a punchline in future. I won’t tell you what it is, because it is a big spoiler. But when I think about memorable dialogue from Nolan films, there is none. Even the best moments of The Joker were silent.

Okay… enough… feeling bad, to tell the truth. The film is so steeping in good intentions, taking a bat to it (no pun intended) seems cruel. And it doesn’t take a bat to the audience. This is not “a terrible movie.” But I don’t know that it is a good movie. Certainly not a great one.

I look forward to discussing it, in detail, once readers get to see it.

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Weekend Estimates by Ouiady

Weenend Estimates 2014-10-26 at 9.14.38 AM

Ouija (probably) squeaks past $20m, the standard for horror genre openings. It’s Universal’s 7th $20m+ opening of the year. When you look at the studio’s output for 2014, it’s a little shocking. It looks more like a conversative-spending Fox output than what we are used to from Universal. Say what you like, Comcast’s hand can be felt there. There’s not a $100m production in site… not even close. And next year, there are a couple, but the only big spending titles are on sequel/franchise titles. Even the CG-heavy Dracula reboot—another attempt to relaunch the Universal monster franchise—cost well under $100m. The studio is clearly happy to hit doubles and occasional triples while shooting outside of the park is only going to be done in the most conservative situations… aka The Anti-Disney.

Lionsgate’s John Wick is the #3 opening of 2014 for the once-aggressive Lionsgate. It’s within a grenade’s throw of the disappointing #2, The Expendables 3. If you want to know why insiders at Lionsgate are giddy at finding a sucker… uh, partner… in Alibaba, it’s because the studio is on cruise control, except for the soon-to-end Hunger Games franchise and the not-that-huge Divergent franchise. Aside from Divergent, the studio hasn’t had a single film open over $16m or gross as much as $40m domestic this year.

If you want to know why the overall domestic gross is down this year, read this… but more instantly, you can just look at the output of these two distributors.

Fury, which is a project that was built for a smaller distributor, but landed at Sony with a bigger budget, held okay. Still, except for Spider-Man, this was also a fairly conservative output from Sony this year.

Fox’s Gone Girl has the best legs of the big studios since Guardians/Turtles. If you look at fall films with long legs in recent years, there is a remarkable similarity in many of them… Ben Affleck. The film will become Fincher’s #1 domestic grosser sometime in the next week and will likely be his #3 international grosser when all is said and done (behind Se7en and Button).

Another Fox film, The Book Of Life, is on life support. Sigh… Is the film a victim of the studio’s relationship with DreamWorks Animation? Maybe. I don’t have any inside information saying so. But this should have been the Rango of this year and instead… real shame.

Nice expansion for St. Vincent, the closest thing the moribund Weinstein Company may have to a hit so far this year. The studio moved Paddington out of 2014 and will focus on awards hopeful’s The Imitation Game and Big Eyes only the rest of the year.

Disney has a nice family hit with Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, Fucked Up Day. The film will be #4 for the studio – until BH6′s opening weekend – the most successful of the handful of low-budget efforts the studio releases every year at a total cost of less than the worldwide marketing budget of any Marvel, Pixar, Disney Animation, or LucasFilm movie.

I don’t know of any studio doing this, but I think that a number of them should build a small, specialized team that doesn’t just split up the films being released, but actually is there to release films that cost under $30 million. It’s not easy to be pushing out a massive franchise film one week and then an intimate comedy the next. I don’t care how smart and skilled you and your team is, it causes whiplash. And the film that always suffers is the smaller one, with the much smaller marketing budget. Remember, many recent heads of marketing have come out of the hugely successful marketing of smaller films. Pushing out the giant movies is a form of art as well. But a $30 million difference in a small film can actually be felt on the bottom line and much less so on the big films.

Let’s not forget foreign either. The Equalizer is at $170 million worldwide. It’s Denzel’s 7th $170m grosser all-time and could well end up in his Top 5, behind only Safe House with him as the clear lead.

On the indie scene, you start with St. Vincent, but then in smaller releases, Birdman expanded its wings to 50 screens for a $28,600 per-screen average and $1.4 million. A mighty doc opening with Citizenfour’s $235k per on 5. And Laggies, from A24, is surprisingly strong with $13.6k per on 6. The charming little Lynn Shelton movie has a great Keira Knightley performance, but got lost at TIFF after premiering at Sundance in January. Still, people are coming. And Magnolia can’t complain about the numbers on Force Majeure with a $11.7k per-screen on 2. It’s notably not a day-’n'-date VOD film, reminding us that the distribution movement is heading towards more complex ideas of balancing distribution options, not just being theatrical or day-’n'-date.

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Friday Estimates by Klady from Parker Bros.

friday estimates 2014-10-25 at 8.20.01 AM

The box office continues to get more boring…. but that will change next week.

John Wick is the film that should be doing $25m-plus this weekend, but isn’t. Don’t feel too bad, Relativity. Universal couldn’t get the actual Liam Neeson to open to more than $13m last month.

Ouija is yet another junk horror film. Opening day did a little better than half of Annabelle‘s opening day. Maybe “Ouija” should have been the name of a monkey with cymbals that comes to live.

Fury will end its second weekend with numbers similar to The Monuments Men. The real battle between these two end-0f-WWII films will be international, where I expect Fury will have a lot more juice overseas, making it a hit based on worldwide numbers that gets remembered by US media as being soft. With the exception of Moneyball, which is about American baseball, no live-action Brad Pitt film in the last decade has done less than 60% of its business overseas, meaning domestic x1.5 as a starting point. Say Fury stops at $70m domestic (Monuments did $78m)… that suggests a minimum of $175m worldwide for the film.

Gone Girl continues to hold like a champ. I am limited to anecdotal evidence, but my sense is that the film continues to be the only real talking point for the public now available in wide release. Fury has some buzz, but if adults are talking current wide releases, it seems to be Gone. It’s also the only $100m movie since Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, though The Equalizer could crawl there eventually.

Nice expansion for St. Vincent, though this is still, ultimately, a fairly low-grossing title. $20something million. Better than Hyde Park on the Hudson. To be fair, it will also gross more than Rushmore or Broken Flowers. But a modest win for McCarthy and Murray.

I feel a little stupid undervaluing a $20m+ gross for a movie as small as St. Vincent, but that is the market right now. When TWC invests in a film on the marketing side to that degree, there is an expected return and this film isn’t going to achieve what they were aiming at after TIFF. The number is quite nice compared to comparable films with smaller launches. It could certainly match Boyhood‘s $24 million. But what is a special achievement on an IFC marketing budget is “just okay” on a TWC budget like the one for StV and “unfortunate” on a studio marketing budget.

My beloved The Book of Life is dying on the vine. Wish I could say I didn’t see it coming.

The two strong non-Indian arthouse numbers in exclusive are Citizenfour and Laggies. Both will be close to or over $18k per screen on 5 and 6 screens, respectively.

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Marvel’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron” – Teaser Trailer (OFFICIAL)

Yes, I actually like this trailer a lot!

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F-Bombs For Feminism (Very NSFW, No Ad At The End)

Quite the conversation about this on my YouTube channel. Curious what you all think.

I hope you will have an open exchange of ideas on this. Not expected everyone to like it. I, for one, won’t be name-calling anyone on either side of the issue, or as has often been the case, when people are offended by the use of children in this way. It’s been about 50/50 so far… which has been interesting.

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Weekend Estimates by Kladyman

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A weird weekend. Fury is a win, for sure. It’s a better number than some expected, but it’s not a sensational Brad Pitt opening or a giant commercial number. It’s good. (First person who mentions Cinemascore as though it matters gets shot.) There was a sense going into the week that the film was going to underperform and that it was out of the awards race as a result. That presumption can no longer be made. This launch is about 20% better than Moneyball, which got 6 nominations. So a hard push for the movie, the screenplay, Ayer’s direction, Logan Lerman, Brad Pitt – if he’ll push – and a slew of below-the-line nominations (sound, costume, and production design, particularly) can be expected.

Gone Girl remains solid, dropping under 35% again. There was a sense of waning Oscar prospects there, too… that may be turned around as the film heads north of $150m domestic, by far Fincher’s biggest commercial hit.

The Book of Life, a personal beloved, got off to a weak start for an animated film. As noted before, I think Fox was shy about the age issue on the film – which they had no reason to be – and also didn’t sell as intensely to girls as they might have. It really is a love story. For all the very, very, very smart people in big studio marketing departments, movies that get a little complex are often a problem for them. You would think it wasn’t so, but it keeps getting proved, over and over and over again.

Speaking of which, the board looks a bit painful for Warner Bros lately. There is no question that the studio is great with big movies. But right now, they have The Judge, This Is Where I Leave You, Dolphin Tale 2, and The Good Lie all underperforming. (The decent number on Dolphin 2
is 20% behind where the first film was at this point.) The only hit is Annabelle, a horror movie. But more so, no other studio has as many films on the big board this week. Fox and Sony each have 3. Disney and Par, 2. Universal only 1. Every movie has its own life and there have certainly been times when WB having a lot of movies in play has worked well. But with the studio in some transition again, at least strategically on spending, you have to wonder whether the further avoidance of middle and small movies will be a natural reaction for the company moving forward.

Warner Bros has four more movies left to release in this calendar year. One is a guaranteed mega-hit (Hobbit 3). One is a sequel to a cash cow (Horrible Bosses 2) that was driven by brilliant marketing the first time around, so expect big profits there. There is an Eastwood movie (American Sniper), which looks commercial, though awards people are hopeful as well. And there is the challenging title, Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice, a comedy that seems to be made for the very smart and those who think they are very smart. It’s going to be an excellent quarter for WB… but the story to look at will be whether they can get Vice past the $20m mark domestically. The future of smaller films at the studio may depend on it.

One last note. I have to laugh at those who are so dazzled by Marvel/Disney’s commercial success that they assume that Batman vs Superman is guaranteed to be a lightweight in comparison to Captain America 3… now with Downey! They assume that because Superman did okay, but not a billion, that it’s soft. But Batman is the key and that is why he has top billing. Batman films still own the #4 and #5 all-time best openings and of the 5 other Batman films, 3 were the biggest opening weekends in history when they happened. Warner Bros knows what it is doing with Batman. 100% The only opening of the franchise that can be remotely considered soft was Batman Begins, which was a reboot.

Warner Bros really needs a team that specializes in the smaller and middle budget movies that require more intimate hand-holding. It’s not a slap about the team that’s there. It is just the reality that it is rare that a team that does big releases is equality expert with smaller films that are more challenging. This was the real – and long lost – value of Warner Independent as a concept. Paramount is really the only big studio team in town that shrinks well, but a lot of that is that they don’t release nearly as many movies as WB. Screen Gems, Searchlight, and the evolving Focus all report up, but have their own strong voices in releasing specialized films. I’d hate to see WB completely out of that game, but… well… we’ll see…

The Equalizer – which I keep thinking is a WB film – is on its way to $100 million. It’s not going to get to the $126m domestic that Safe House did, but it will be Denzel’s #4 or #3 film of his career. He hasn’t has d a film gross less than $130 million in the last 5 years and this will be his third time over $160m worldwide in the last 3 years. If you’re looking for a consistent movie star out there, Denzel’s high on your list.

Nice expansion for Weinstein with St Vincent to 68 screens. An estimated $9880-per is a really strong number at that screen count. But it’s not clear what happens next. This film isn’t making a serious awards run, so… we’ll see.

Birdman is the big new indie release in exclusive release. 4 screens at over $105k per. Strong. What will expansion look like? We really won’t know until it happens. But a happy weekend in Century City.

Also doing great in exclusive releases are Dear White People ($32k per on 11), The Tale of Princess Kaguya ($16.5k per on 3), and Listen Up Philip ($12.5k per on 2).

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Friday Estimates by Len Tanky

Friday Estimates 2014-10-18 at 10.17.22 AM

Fury is Brad Pitt’s #10 opener, putting it right near the middle of his list of wide releases. So, not so exciting. On the other hand, it is a better launch than Moneyball, which ended up with six Oscar nominations, including Best Picture. Though Fury may not hold as well as Moneyball did (three of the first seven weekends dropped in the 20s and two more in the 30s), it will surely be a lot stronger internationally and be profitable… which Moneyball danced on the borderline of being. Fury‘s Oscar prospects will lay at the feet of Pitt’s interest in pushing the tank uphill. If he doesn’t—and so far, he hasn’t—it will not happen. If he does, it has a real shot at multiple nominations. The fact that Pitt’s production company, Plan B, is not a producer of the film is an issue… especially since Plan B did produce Selma, Ava Duvernay’s soon-to-arrive historic drama at Paramount.

By the way… Fury is a David Ayer picture, first and last. And by that standard, this is a HUGE opening… should be double or near double his next best. His previous stars have been Arnold Schwarzenegger, Christian Bale, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Keanu Reeves. So he remains a guy who male stars want to work with when they are ready to play capital-M Men. And this is the third of his five films that has really stuck with me. Next time someone does a puff piece about puffy men, throw Ayer’s films in their face to remind them that tough guys can still be there if studios want to make those films. (And remember which critics are turned off profoundly by all the testosterone.)

Really, the #2 opening of the weekend is Birdman, which on four screens should manage over $100k per screen. Keep in mind that this is about half of what the same distributor, Fox Searchlight, released The Grand Budapest Hotel to back in March and that film ended up doing a Wes Anderson-best $59m domestic and $173m worldwide. Alejandro Iñárritu’s best grosses were $35 million domestic and $135m worldwide for Babel. And that may well be where Birdman lands. Or maybe Searchlight (and audiences) will pass those numbers. My guess is that they will have an easier time chasing that domestic number than the international (without Pitt, Blanchett, and three internationally-based stories).

Also opening wide were The Book of Life and The Best of Me. Best of Me is a clear Nicholas Sparks sell. It’s the fifth Sparks film in the last five years and will be the weakest opener. And you can’t just blame Relativity, because they opened Safe Haven to $21 million just last year… and that was with a Thursday opening siphoning off the biggest single day of the run. One advantage is that the sell on that film focused exclusively on Julianne Hough and Josh Duhamel, while this one suggests that Monaghan and Marsden are the framing device for two unknown actors playing them as young ones. This, of course, worked with Garner & Rowlands framing McAdams and Gosling… but those young actors were, well, Gosling & McAdams.

I’m sure I didn’t see all the marketing for The Book of Life (a movie I love), but I have felt for months that Fox wasn’t going all out for this one. Maybe the look, which most people I know who have seen the film see as a strength, didn’t test well. Maybe they didn’t think girls would bite on the central idea, which is two guys battling for the heart of the smart, beautiful girl. Maybe they found that parents were shy about the Day of the Dead theme and wouldn’t bring their under-8s to the film if that was leaned on too heavily. (Personally, I know my 4.5-year-old would love the film and the studio wasn’t so sure he was old enough for it.) I don’t know what their internal arguments were. But I do know was that as a consumer, I got the impression that this was a smaller sell than something like a DreamWorks Animation movie. And for me, with due respect to Lego, this is the best animated film of the year… one that will be discovered by most kids when it lands on TV at whatever point.

This opening day is about the same as The Boxtrolls—another strong, interesting film with a much harder domestic sell—and behind Planes 2, neither of which will get to $60m domestic. Much bigger numbers for The Lego Movie, How To Train Your Dragon 2 and the upcoming Big Hero 6, one of which is likely to win Best Animated Feature, though if there is an upset of those three, it would likely be from a tiny competitor, like The Tale of Princes Kaguya (also opening this weekend), not from a quality film with mediocre domestic results.

Speaking of The Tale of Princes Kaguya, good, but not overwhelming launch. They could get up to $15k per screen on three.

The other muscular exclusive opening, aside from the bird, was Listen Up, Phillip, which should take just over $10k per screen on two.

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Birdman Speaks (NSFW)

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Sunday Estimates by Still Gone Len

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Friday Estimates by Leonard Part 1

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BYOB 100614

byobriot

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Weekend Estimates by Gone Klady by That Much

Screen Shot 2014-10-05 at 2.13.08 PM

Okay… was at the Pumpkin farm… great roasted corn, terrible internet reception.

Gone Girl probably wins the weekend. Truthfully, I expected it to pull farther away. We have it at a million. Others at a bit less.

The truth is, it is Annabelle overperforming the standard for horror than a Gone Girl issue. The estimate is a bit better than WB’s big opening for The Conjuring, which did 2.4x Friday’s number for its opening weekend. Annabelle is estimating 2.47x. Insidious 2, which is the other big opener in the category in the last year did 2x Friday’s number… which is really more the norm in the genre.

On the other hand, Gone Girl‘s estimate could turn out to be low by as much as a million. Fox took what looks to me to be a conservative position on estimating Sunday. We’ll see. This is, as estimated, Fincher’s best opening by almost $8 million or a 27% bump over his now #2 opener, Panic Room.

There have only been twelve $35m+ openings in the history of October. This is the third time that there were 2 such openings in the same year. It’s the only time they have occurred on the same weekend. So, a happy story for everyone on both films.

The trio of other openings over 100 screens were surprisingly obscure. FreeStyle did okay, but not sensationally with Left Behind, which starred Nic Cage, not Kirk Cameron. Fox International rolled out Bang Bang, which makes the most sense as an unknown. WB rolled out The Good Lie from Team Alcon.

Also trawling for word of mouth was CBS films with Pride and Paramount with Men, Women & Children. Neither found much of an audience.

The best per-screen from traditional domestic indie distributors was IFC’s $7,030-per estimate for Matthieu Almaric’s The Blue Room.

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Friday Estimates by Annabelle Ain’t Gone Klady

Friday Estimates 2014-10-04 at 9.07.36 AM

It’s all perspective. Gone Girl‘s opening day is about 10% better than any Fincher opening day before. It is likely to be his fourth straight opening as the #1 movie of the weekend (though the whole #1 ranking thing is more often than not a worthless stat). And even the reviews that are not stellar are nearly universally admiring. It is a Fincher success. Somewhere around $100m domestic… somewhere around $250m worldwide… Oscar nominations… lots of conversation.

With a budget reported to be under $10 million, Annabelle is easily the big business winner of the weekend. No conversation, no Oscar nominations… just a lot of profit. This, for me, is the fall season of confused studios. Annabelle seems like a wet dream movie for Fox (cheap and hugely profitable) while Gone Girl is more the Warner Bros style (huge prestige being more important than the bottom line) or maybe Sony. Meanwhile, The Equalizer also feels like a WB film, if not a Universal one… but it’s from Sony.

Studio imprint has been fading in recent years, aside from Disney. But this year, it all feels random as hell. Even the producers seem off. Pop Quiz: On which movie is Scott Rudin a producer? A. Gone Girl, B. Inherent Vice, C. Foxcatcher. Answer: None of the Above. The guy behind the last 3 Finchers, There Will Be Blood, and Moneyball is not the guy behind any of those filmmakers this time around. (It’s not like he hasn’t been busy with some great stuff this year, from Grand Budapest to Silicon Valley to Jon Stewart’s directorial debut/perhaps finale’ Rosewater to the Cameron Crowe film that got pushed into 2015.)

Anyway…

55% percent Friday-to-Friday for The Equalizer is pretty good, actually… likely to be down to the high 40s for the weekend.

The new Christian movie, Left Behind, is doing better than FreeStyle’s last Christian movie, The Identical, which I don’t even remember happening a month ago. (Toronto may have distracted me right past noticing its $2.8m opening weekend.) Still, is $7 million a good number or not? Well, it’s well behind the two huge Christian hits earlier this year (Heaven Is For Real and God’s Not Dead), but it’s a solid #2 for the year in this category. Is it a good number for a Nic Cage movie? Well… given the size of the film, it’s not bad versus other recent Cage openings of smaller budget/scale movies. It’s right between Season of the Witch and Drive Angry. Even excellent indies like Joe and Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleanshave failed to do even $2 million in total domestic. So, this looks pretty good, really.

Men, Women & Children is a bust. Makes me sad, honestly. Jason Reitman is a remarkably talented guy and this film, which is surely his least successful effort, is by far his least successful opening. He’s never launched on this few screens before. His other three limited launches were 5/7/8 screens and they did (roughly) $25k/$60k/$50k per screen. On 17 screens, this is looking like $2500 will be the top possible per-screen for the weekend.

Opening with an even worse per screen (but on a lot more screens, making it the biggest pygmy in that race) is Warner Bros’ The Good Lie, a movie abut Sudanese refugees who land in the heartland of America and need to find their way. Fronted by Reese Witherspoon, who has a more high-profile small movie (see: Awards) in play, Wild, this one didn’t get as hard a push as WB might have liked. And even if it had, still a very hard sell… especially for a big-baller like WB. Under $2k per screen on 461.

The only indie release likely to do over $6500 per screen this weekend is Breakup Buddies, China Lion’s Hao Ning release that sounds a bit like the Asian version of SPC’s Land Ho!. Just behind that should be TriBeCa’s Nas: Time Is Illmatic, somewhere near $30k on 5 screens for the weekend.

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Weekend Estimates by Denzel Klady

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“The city to me is the only possible vehicle we have to measure human achievement. We’re an urban species now. If you look at Karachi or Mexico City or Hong Kong or London or New York or Yonkers or Baltimore or any of these other places, the pastoral is now a part of human history. We’re either going to figure out how to live together in these increasingly crowded, increasingly multi-cultural population centers or we’re not. We’re either going to get great at this or we’re going to fail as a species.”
~ David Simon

“I wondered how different it would be to write a novel and it’s totally different. It’s very internal. The weird thing about it is that I found that novel-writing was much more like directing than it is like screenwriting. You’re casting it, you’re lighting it, you’re doing the costumes, you’re doing the locations, you’re doing it all yourself as a director would. In screenwriting, you don’t do that stuff. You don’t describe the face of the actor or the character when you’re writing a screenplay because Tom Cruise is going to do it and he doesn’t look like that, whereas in the novel to describe what he is is what he is. The actual act of writing, just like shooting on a set, is a slow slog. It’s going to work every day.”
~ David Cronenberg On Screenplay vs. Novel