The Hot Blog

Disney + Fox: Bigger Than The Media Is Suggesting

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.


BYOSpoilers: “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”



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


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



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

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

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

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.

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Weekend Estimates by Blasé Klady

Weekend Estimates 2017-12-03 at 10.32.28 AM

Very exciting weekend.


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

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.


BYOB – That Time Of Week Again

moneyScreen Shot 2017-11-29 at 4.22.34 PMScreen Shot 2017-11-29 at 4.22.11 PMSo… Anything besides these guys happening in The News?


Weekend Estimate by Coco Clady

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

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.


Thankful 2017

I am thankful for 33 years making a living in and around theater, television, and film, for 20 years as an internet columnist, and for 15 years of Movie City News. It’s been a privilege.

I am grateful for every day that passes, knowing that it is one less day that my country will have the lowest caricature of The American in the nation’s highest office.

I am grateful for the artists who talk to me for extended periods, their representatives who encourage and make time for it, and all of the people who facilitate my work.

I thank Mrs. McDonagh, who raised two rather brilliant sons who have found so many interesting ways of examining the human condition.

Thank a deity for Greta Gerwig and the undeniable light that she emits. I never know what to expect from her, except honesty.

I thank the young hustlers of this industry, like The Safdie Bros, who work their asses off and stay open to what comes and just keep getting better.

Thanks to Steven Spielberg for letting Gary Oldman out of movie jail so we can enjoy his mastery of the craft fully.

I’m thankful for my family, from the youngest (little Avi) to the eldest (that would be my mom, amazingly). But especially my wife and soon-to-be 8-year-old son.

I thank Ashley Judd and Rose McGowan and Asia Argento and Annabella Sciorra for changing the world by having the strength to speak out. It is now incumbent on the rest of us to build a future that makes silence about abuse for fear of retribution a thing of the past.

Thank the journalism gods for Kim Masters walking the walk. And jeers to The Hollywood Reporter for trying to claim the high road after refusing to run Kim’s first story on Roy Price and Amazon.

Thanks to Jeff Bezos for revitalizing the Washington Post and not getting in the way of a lot of masterful journalists getting it done when the press needs to express its power every single day as the fascists in the White House seek to trick the world.

New York Times, I thank you for being yourself, flaws and all.

I thank all the Republicans who see behind the curtain and have refused to stand with a wannabe monster.

Thanks to all the entertainment reporters who take this profession seriously, even if you are working for idiots at various levels of various publications. We will not always live and die by clickbait.

I am more thankful than I have ever been for people who really listen, for people who really want to speak truth, and for anyone who aspires to the same.

I don’t know of it’s time or a fluke or what, but I am thankful that there are more people for whom I feel a genuine affection in the awards game this season than ever before.

I thank anyone who has taken the time to read this, anyone who watches DP/30, anyone who survives my torrent of tweets or otherwise puts up with me spouting my opinion.

I thank Frances McDormand.

I thank everyone at the Farmers Market table, even as we lose members at too fast a clip, Charlie Bragg and Bob Stolfi heading off this year as another member had a baby with his wife this summer. Hanging out can be hard work.

I am thankful to everyone who helped me get here, whether Scot Safon at (then) TNT. or Laura Rooney at roughcut and then co-founding Movie City News. or David Dinerstein who asked me to do online video. or the late great Roger Ebert who did so much to promote my work early on. There are so many more. I don’t know what MCN would do without the efforts of Ray Pride, day in and day out.

Have I mentioned Allison Janney, Saoirse Ronan, Ben Mendelsohn, Beanie Feldman, Max Minghella, Joseph Cedar, Zoe Kazan, Sam Rockwell, Jake Gyllenhaal, Ethan Hawke, Guillermo, Andrew Garfield, Ai Wei Wei and Brett Morgan? Asking for a thankful friend.

Thanks to Jeremy Glenn, whose decency and skill should have him running physical production at a major studio sometime soon.

Thanks to everyone I forgot to thank. You know who you are.

And thanks to all of you. You are the wind beneath my… well, you are important to me.

There is a good chance that I won’t be writing a thanks column next year. We’ll see how things go. The world changes. I should change too. Change is good. Not for change’s sake, but to keep growing.


Weekend Estimates by Justice Served Soft Klady

Weekend Estimates 2017-11-19 10AM

The pathetic opening for Justice League is as simple as, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on you. Fool me three times? No, thanks.”

Warner Bros.’ effort to make the great fortunes that comic book movies could offer with the DC brand has been a disaster with intermittent bouts of mastery. Donner, Burton and Nolan are the masters. The studio learned the lesson that a strong, clear voice was important in building a solid franchise run. Richard Lester split Superman II with Donner and they all got lucky…. but the Donner vision would never have delivered a disaster like Superman III. Schumacher took Burton’s vision too far and crashed the franchise. Nolan came in to WB and took Bryan Singer’s X-Men model and topped it.

Then Jeff Robinov, who had overcommitted to Zack Snyder for three straight money-losing films before handing him the keys to the franchise the studio was counting on becoming the foundation of the entire studio as Harry Potter ended. The instinct to hand the keys to a single artist with a clear vision was the right one. But they picked the wrong artist.

Somehow, they were smart enough to stop making Bryan Singer Superman movies after one. And Green Lantern got the single shot. But Snyder got three.

And now, it’s over.

Warner Bros probably won’t lose money on Justice League. But they will come close.

They probably were hoping that they could convert inside of one movie from Snyder to Whedon with the same success as Donner to Lester. But instead, they got schizophrenia. And they got it so strongly that it came across in the marketing.

If I were Warners, I would put Superman and Batman on ice for two or three years and build a base. Keep the budgets tight. Build character over CG extravaganza… which leads to the next Wonder Woman. Do the Flash movie with Stephen Chbosky and Ezra Miller. If there is a good story for Cyborg, find it. Make the Batgirl movie. Try Catwoman again with a fresh take. And I guess, yeah… if you have a young, fresh take on Batman or Superman, for a price, do it.

I still want to see the The Dark Knight Returns done the way Frank Miller did it… bitter old guys. Or find the kind of director who would pair Gyllenhaal and Phoenix as Superman and Batman.

Just hire Lord & Miller and let them do whatever the hell they want inside the DC Universe. Hand Sofia Coppola or Greta Gerwig whatever character they want to make an intimate piece about being a superhero. Let’s see what the Safdie Bros can do with a villain on a $10 million budget. Let’s see Soderbergh’s $50 million Justice League.

In other words, shake it up. The characters will maintain their intrinsic value. Let DC be cool… for a minute.

DC remains the most squandered asset in all of moviedom. And Lucasfilm just tied up Rian Johnson for the next 5 years. AT&T is coming. Let it roll.

In other news, Wonder opened really nicely. Look at the Top 20 and except for third weekend of Bad Moms 2, find me a movie on more than 300 screens that women might want to see in large numbers. That would be Wonder.

Speaking of screen count… there are only eight films on 1000+ screens this weekend. Last year, on “this” weekend, 13. Overall the studio movie count hasn’t change much this year.

Disney -3 11 to 8
Fox +2 12 to 14
WB +1 16 to 17
Sony +3 19 to 22
Par -4 15 to 11
U -2 16 to 14

But release dates are in need of deep analysis. The August abandonment and the glut on too many weekends is of great interest. There are two limited releases in the Top 9 this weekend. They are two success stories of different colors. Lady Bird expanded to 238 and stayed over $10k per screen. A24 is pushing it out faster than Moonlight, and to bigger numbers as well. We’re a long way from the domestic total, but I’d like Lady Bird to get past $30 million before Oscar nominations and to crack $45 million if Greta Gerwig gets a directing nomination.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri did similar numbers to the second weekend of Lady Bird, but on more screens. Ironically, it was Searchlight that made Saoirse Ronan more marketable with Brooklyn and they now have a challenge with the brilliant 3 Billboards, which has great actors who have limited box office pull. A24 has to wait for the Saturday after Thanksgiving to start mining the benefits of Saoirse hosting Saturday Night Live. Her not being this last weekend’s host probably cost $3 million or more at the Thanksgiving weekend box office. But I have a feeling they will make up for it.

Roman J Israel, Esq did nothing to help itself with a four-screen release this weekend. 5000 or 6000 people saw the film. Meaningless sample. Paramount did this with Fences last year and did almost exactly double the gross. They didn’t need it either. But in their case, it was the weekend before Christmas and they probably would have had a hard time getting 2000+ screens they wanted with the Rogue One opening.

Roughly 500 people saw Mudbound in a theater.


Friday Estimates by Waiting For Supe-ot Klady

Friday Estimates 2017-11-18 at 8.33.42 AM

(Did anyone see the earlier version of this post before it disappeared?)

Of 54 movies that have had a Friday opening of $38 million or more, only 4 failed to crack $100 million for the 3-day… 2 Fast/Furious films (#6 & #8), a Potter (Azkaban), and the most recent Godzilla.

So why are outlets projecting that Justice League will come up short of $100 million?

My guess? Because they were told to by Warner Bros.

It is possible that Justice League will, indeed, come up short for the weekend. Telling writers that it will be under that wire softens the blow if it happens. But more so, if the movie does pass $100 million, the idea has been in place that $100 million is a positive mark for the film… a surprise from Friday to Sunday morning. Writers will spin themselves.

Of course, underlying this is the fact that Justice League is a disaster for Warner Bros. opening to just over $100 million, as opposed to $130 million-plus. A Wonder Woman opening for the movie where the whole thing is meant to come together is a failure.

And WB has my sympathy as I watched their marketers struggle for months with signalling to audiences that Superman would be in the movie while trying not to tell audiences openly that Superman would be in the movie. It is a reminder, long before marketing, that Zack Snyder is an arrogant fool as a producer and that whoever greenlit the idea of killing Superman and then pretending he wasn’t in Justice League while DC was still struggling to find its commercial footing should probably be fired.

Regardless, the manipulation of box-office writers is a process of managing expectations for a group that isn’t all that interested in thinking for themselves. Problem isthat these ideas get repeated to the public ad nauseum with almost no detail. And with weekend box office, who really cares? Right?

But the problem is bigger than box office. Studios forget that every time they manipulate the truth for a small gain in marketing, they are feeding a monster that will come back to haunt them later. Box office has become a game. But so have reviews. Every time a quote whore gets quoted, studios are devaluing criticism and legitimizing the simplistic aggregation of Rotten Tomatoes. Don’t misunderstand me… nothing wrong with Rotten Tomatoes. It was a great idea and it offers a service that can be used in a positive way. But it can also be abused. And lately, studios have felt threatened by that RT score. That leads to efforts to manipulate the RT score… which is where madness lies.

Harmless lies or harmless thoughtlessness is not harmless.

Being moorless when things are bad gives you room to maneuver. Being moorless when things are good makes your success seem smaller than it is. Either way, choosing to work the fringes of truth does not actually empower studios. It is the corn syrup of Hollywood.

Wonder is the biggest opener for Lionsgate, aside from the Saban-controlled Power Rangers output deal, since Madea Boo! in October 2016. And I expect it will be leggier than anyone imagined because of a dearth of product aimed at female audiences and pre-college-age kids.

Expansions for Lady Bird and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri went well.

No idea what Sony was thinking with the four-screen run of Roman Israel, Esq… but it didn’t work. It worked for Fences last year… but Fences is a whole different kettle of fish.


The Hot Blog

Quote Unquotesee all »

What about replacing Mr. Spacey with another actor? Mr. Plummer, perhaps.
“That would theoretically be fantastic,” Mr. Rothman said he responded. “But I have supervised 450 movies over the course of my career. And what you are saying is impossible. There is not enough time.”
~ Publicizing Sir Ridley’s Deadline Dash

“Would I like to see Wormwood in a theater on a big screen? You betcha. I’d be disingenuous to argue otherwise. But we’re all part of, like it or not, an industry, and what Netflix offers is an opportunity to do different kinds of films in different ways. Maybe part of what is being sacrificed is that they no longer go into theaters. If the choice is between not doing it at all and having it not go to theaters, it’s an easy choice to make.”
~ Errol Morris