The Hot Blog
Yes, I actually like this trailer a lot!
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.)
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.
So little interesting to say this Saturday.
The Equalizer opening is one of Denzel’s best openings, probably his 2nd best ever as the solo lead, unless you count Ryan Reynolds against the Safe House opening. If you do, this could be Denzel’s #1 solo opening ever.
The Boxtrolls, which I quite enjoyed – especially Sir Ben Kingsley’s great, nearly unrecognizable vocal performance and 2nd persona as Madame Fifi – is going to be another somewhat soft animation opening for Laika and Focus. Of course, no stop-motion film has ever had a $20 million weekend in the domestic market, so what looks modest from the outside may be as expected by the distributor and filmmakers.
The Skeleton Twins is the big indie of the weekend, looking at a weekend just over a million bucks. The other indie with a shot at opening with more than 10k per-screen is IFC’s Days & Nights.
Well, it doesn’t look like there will be a feeling other than “blah” about the theatrical box office between the opening of Guardians of the Galaxy on the first week of August and the opening of Interstellar and Big Hero Six the first weekend of November. There are likely hits and nice openings (Gone Girl, The Equalizer, Book of Life, maybe Fury), but $50 million-plus openings look to be at least another 7 weekends away.
The Maze Runner (“we called it margarine”) will be the best opening since the Mutant Turtles resurfaced on the weekend of August 8. But it’s still looking like it will come up short of the first Percy Jackson film, which was not a big event. Interestingly, looking at the Box Office Mojo chart of YA Adaptations, there is a big gap between Percy‘s opening ($31m) and the next opening, which is The Fault in Our Stars with a $48m launch. The Top 17 titles, all opening at that $48m or better, all did at least $125m domestic. In the lower half (30 titles opening to $31m opening or less), only two films were leggy enough to get to the $100m domestic mark, Lemony Snicket and The Princess Diaries. It is also worth noting that in that Top 17, it’s all Potter/Twilight/Hunger Games except for the two bottom titles, Divergent and Fault.
Speaking of overworked franchises, the Liam Neeson Whispering Threats genre may be coming to an end. A Walk Among The Tombstones is going to be his weakest wide opening since Taken, with the exception of The Next Three Days, a Paul Haggis film that Lionsgate allowed to escape more than released. Or maybe this is just a fluke. Perhaps Neeson will bring new life to the tough guys turned nanny genre next. “I know you don’t want to put away your toys. But I have special skills in dealing with naughty children. I’ll give you one last chance…”
And This Is Where I Leave You seems to be in the Don’t Tell Them It’s About Jews category and the Sell The Ensemble Not The Movie oeuvre. Neither really draws well. It certainly was the quietest big studio premiere in recent TIFF memory. And indeed, with a boatload of talent (though with due respect to Adam Driver, the hot name of the moment has never sold a movie ticket), a marginal number of people bought tickets yesterday. I saw a Tina Fey interview in which she mentioned Admission and noted, “But nobody saw that.” Expect her to use the line on this film in future interviews.
Not a lot of redemption at the arthouse. The big per-screen in limited release will be Yellow Day, which is not another “New Girl” spin-off, but rather another spiritual film. Right behind it will be Hector & The Search For Happiness, a film that I found charming, if imperfect. Lots of new titles riding that $4000 to $5000 per-screen mark this weekend.