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Thankful 18

Before I start my thanks, I should note that this annual column used to be more fun. It used to dissect the year behind us in an often funny and interesting way. But in the 18 years of doing this, the entertainment media has changed dramatically. And I have become a bit exhausted from being the guy who points to what is true and untrue as the wheel turns. These days, outlets throw it all against the way, reporting incorrectly, then eventually reporting what is correct as though they never had it wrong. That way, they get twice the hits and none of the responsibility. Having to explain what really happened last summer at the box office instead of just repeating the endlessly repeated (and deeply misleading) media meme based on the single stat of overall domestic gross is getting tiresome. Spending your life with a finger in a dike is no way to live (unless you like puns and your gender identity is… well, you know).

I had a “Twitter fight” with a friend last week about the language he used to describe something and his suggestion, as it has been before, was to trust my readers more. And I have to say, it’s not about trusting the reader. Being a journalist is not about trusting the reader to figure it out. It is about arming the reader with enough clear facts to know what is happening and for them to make determinations about how they feel based on those facts. We are not here to tell people how to feel. Facts and Feelings are not the same thing and if the job of the journalist continues to degrade to constantly telling everyone what the meal is, how to eat it, and what their shit should look like afterwards, “journalist” will be a term our grandchildren think of the way we think of spats. Those of us who can still make a living doing this will just be “personalities.”

I have a lot of personality, for better and worse, but I love the idea of journalism. And I am thankful for what is left of it.

And now…

I Am Thankful For movies that still get me. I want to be surprised. I want to be shocked. I want to cry. I want to laugh so hard that I can’t hear the next line. And in an era where the expectations are endlessly managed there are still movies that can reach past the marketing and the buzz and the hype and rush like a shot of adrenaline to my soul. Every time I feel like I am done, a movie raises me from that figurative death… in an instant… a flash… a sequence in which I know I am in the hands of a master filmmaker aspiring to their highest level of work.

I Thank the people in my portion of the portion of the film business who remind me by their actions that the people are still more important than the machine. It can be the head of a studio or the assistant to a lower-level executive, it is all too easy to forget that everything is not a tactic… that real people who seek things about which they can be proud, aside from a big paycheck. Parenthood and all the complications that ensue have become a big part of breaking through that clutter with a lot of people. But even beyond that, I am sometimes allowed a glimpse of reality by real people who are not worrying that I am going to use it against them and it is in those moments, that I find a reason to go on with this odd work I do.

I Can’t Me More Thankful To the more than 250 people who have given me a half hour or more (or occasionally a bit less) of their lives to do a DP/30 interview. Talent has been commoditized to a great degree in this industry. But I am not after an opening day number sparked by as many moments as can shoved into the consumer consciousness in the two weeks before release with these interviews. My choice is not a judgement of that system so much as an acknowledgement that, personally, I value something else. And in 30 minutes, few of my subjects chose to avoid that greater thing. I don’t ask for hidden intimacies from my guests, but they give me – and my viewers – their stories. And I value every one of them, whether they have 300 views or 300,000.

I Thank my ongoing readership, many of whom are a bit ticked off that I have started tending the DP/30 garden much more aggressively than I have my blog. I miss writing as much as I wrote. I miss actively cultivating a group of both chatty and silent readers on a daily basis. Time is a harsh taskmaster. And the instant, short-form of Twitter has become an easier form of engagement. Add to that then endless amount of writing on every subject by every outlet by people qualified and not, and I find my self less-than-willing to contribute to the noise. But again, I thank those of you who continue to stick with me and I hope to find enough funding for DP/30 this next few months to allow myself time for more writing.

I Thank the publicists who support my work… the ones that don’t… and the ones who still don’t really know me or bother to know me. But mostly the first group. This is not charity work and everyone earns their place in the food chain. But there are bunch of people out there who represent talent and movies and understand the short and long term value of what my work does for their clients and films. The ones who don’t get what I do keep me focused on delivering something of greater value each year, without becoming just another a piece of business. And those who really couldn’t care less keep me angry… sometimes at the ones who are supporters and just happen to be stuck in the way.

Thank God For my family, who support me and put up with me year after year. My wife is going on a Don Quixote mission of her own this year, so it is on me to support her in that journey. My son will be 5 years old in a few weeks and aside from a couple of trips to the plastic surgeon for stitches, is in great health, spirit, and energy. In this, I am truly blessed.

Thank The Fates for the people who surprise me…. new friends… Twitter friends… people I just didn’t see coming. As this column suggests, my life is a little narrow these days. But unexpected genuineness is a remarkable, life-affirming thing. (And I quietly thank some others for remaining the shallow, selfish fools that have always been. Gotta have a baseline!)

I Am Thankful that I work for myself and have for these last 13 years. I have been very lucky. Very. The only downside is that I may have made myself unhire-able should I ever want a job. But still, I have been allowed a consistency and control that very, very few of my peers have and for that I can’t ever be thankful enough… even in those moments when it is a giant pain in the hind quarters.

I Have To Thank DP/30 itself. I would have left the business of covering film by now if I had not happened into this series. It started as a wild idea, driven by circumstance and now, I feel it is a calling for me. It contributes something that just doesn’t exist otherwise. There are all kinds of strengths and weaknesses with the product – and with its host – but there is nothing else that delivers this kind of deep-dip experience as often, a widely-reaching in guests, or as cleanly. What makes it unique also inhibits its growth. But it is also what makes it valuable. And ironically, that is the story of most of the people who have found a place in the industry and end up being on DP/30. Like I wrote, a calling not a job. My life’s work has been about finding what feels like callings, but can also pay the bills. This makes me very blessed indeed.

Thanks to everyone who loves film. To everyone who believes. To everyone who care. To everyone who disagrees civilly (and occasionally those who are uncivil in a civil way). To everyone who still gives a damn about others and doesn’t just get buried under the avalanche of the work.

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And Your Independent Spirit Award Winners Are…

Boyhood
Richard Linklater
Dan Gilroy
Obvious Child
Justin Simien
Blue Ruin
Julianne Moore
Michael Keaton
Patricia Arquette
J.K. Simmons
Emmanuel Lubezki
Sandra Adair
CITIZENFOUR
Ida

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Review: Big Eyes

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Big Eyes is a movie of shocking complexity and grace, given how simple it seems on the surface.

The simple synopsis is that a single mother paints images that are mocked by many, but which connect so deeply that they became (and remain) iconic. She marries a hustler who ends up assuming her role as the artist with the public, which allows her to shrink as he steals the spotlight (and money) for himself.

Add Tim Burton to the mix and it seems a lot of people expect a Mars Attacks! level farce or a variation on Ed Wood. But it is neither. This, aside from Big Fish, is easily Burton’s most “grounded” film. I detected a lot of interesting work with the landscapes (from the steady hand and with the color correction skills of Bruno Delbonnel) and the locations are gloriously dense and odd. You can feel Burton’s strong, experienced hand here, but not as we are used to seeing it.

The center of the movie is Amy Adams as Margaret Ulbrich, nee’ Hawkins, soon-to-be Keane, who shrinks into a character in a way I have never seen before. Not the young nun in Doubt. Not the wallflower (who blossoms) in Julie & Julia. This is a small, shivering bird of a woman. Even her voice is tiny. Though somehow, even from the start, there is the underlying emotional bravado of someone who is deeply connected to her art and the steely focus of being a separated/divorced woman living on her own with her child in the late 50s. She is hiding. She clearly has been brought up not to make too much noise. But she was strong enough to leave one husband and she is, undeniably, an artist.

Enter Christoph Waltz’s Walter Keane. Waltz is stripped of Tarantino’s dialogue and quirky character here. Also missing is Tarantino’s style of making Waltz’s characters mysterious about their real intentions, their possible actions. Not so with Walter Keene. This guy is the ultimate salesman. No blinking. No boundaries. Not a Glengarry salesman. This is a guy who would have walked up to Alec Baldwin’s hard ass and fondled those brass balls like they were his own. He tells us what he wants right up front and he spends most of the movie getting it.

It would be very easy for this to turn into a cartoon at any moment. But Burton and screenwriters Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski choose not to go that way. There is a lot of humor. But it’s often quite dry and burns slowly.

Big Eyes, oddly, quite reminded me of The Imitation Game, with Margaret Keane stuck in the closet—both literally and figuratively—as the world rages outside of her grasp. Obviously, Nazis and art-clingers are a very different outside world. But as Alan Turing stays deeply focused on his work, aware of, but not participating on what is going on outside, so is Margaret Keane. And coming out of that closet is terrifying and, perhaps, dangerous.

The film is also a fairytale of sorts, but in this one, Little Red Riding Hood marries the Big Bad Wolf. He manages to eat her all up, but instead of trying to get out, she lives there in his stomach, trying to make the best of it, as though she was responsible for being eaten.

There is also a very Garp-ian element, as Margaret is just the kind of woman who would live in Jenny Fields’ home for women who need a safe place to heal. But there is none here. This film, like that part of Garp, takes place on the early edge of the women’s movement, in San Francisco. Again, this could have been leaned on heavily, but the filmmakers show a light touch. This is easily the strongest feminist statement film of this award season. But it is even more about reminding anyone of any sex who is fearful of embracing their own power that living in fear is no way to live… a post-feminism feminist statement.

The balance of Adams and Waltz is what drives most of the film. She is so small and he is so large that there is a near-perfect balance. She seeks safety and he is forever hungry. He has the big personality and she has a real (albeit odd) talent. He concerns himself with no rules and she is as strict with herself as a nun. But what really works about this film is that both characters go further and further into their emotional corners until he forgets to worry about her and she is so small she might just fade away. But she can’t… she has a daughter… and so starts the third act.

I didn’t really know what to expect from this film. And I was shocked. I know that man. I know that woman. I know that unintentional co-dependency. I was a small child through the height of the Keane era, but I know these people. And it’s an elegant descent into madness of a sort. What really makes it consistently unexpected is the honest need that both characters have to be loved for their art… even if Walter’s art is not his own.

I loved the supporting characters here, from Jon Polito as the real-life impresario Enrico Banducci in the period Hungry i to Terence Stamp as the New York Times art critic to James Saito as a judge, who, like so many elements of the film, underplays it gloriously when ham could well have been served.

But it’s those two central characters who own Big Eyes. It’s Adams first. And this may be her best performance yet. She has gone to very different places in the last few years, from The Fighter to The Master to American Hustle to Margaret Keane. There was that moment around Doubt, where it seemed we might know her acting range. But she has blasted out of any expectation that anyone could have had. For me, the performance in The Fighter, while excellent, was not shocking. It was the other side of a coin. But starting with The Master, Adams has become one of our greatest, most range-y actresses, full stop. That was, mostly a veiled performance. In American Hustle, she delivered full adult sexuality for the first time on camera. And here, breathtaking restraint… literally. And yet, as deeply as she disguises herself in her characters, these are not “character actor” performances. They are mature, controlled, leading women.

Adams’ performance is not the only great performance by an actress this year. No one’s ever is. But when you put her next to such vastly different kinds of work, like Julianne Moore’s or Marion Cotillard’s, you can’t really compare them on the same basis. They are so very different and special for such different reasons. But wow.

As for Waltz, I have found myself feeling like he has been a bit of a one-trick pony in his film performances. But, as noted above, there has been nothing on film that has fit him this well that was not written by Tarantino. And he thrives on a broader emotional space. He goes from goofy attractive to utterly repulsive and all kinds of places in between in this role. I prefer it to either of his Oscar-winning turns.

But don’t forget Tim Burton or the screenwriters. This is a beautifully set table. At some point in the first act, I found myself deeply excited about having a director with such a sure grasp taking me on this journey. I was reminded oh what it is like to see a film in which the director really understands the frame. It may seem basic, but it has become increasingly rare.

Like a movie star who has put aside his/her trademark schtick aside for a role, this is a most unexpected turn from Burton. It still has his flair, but he’s dialed it down to the point where if you didn’t know it was a Burton film, you wouldn’t guess. Some things might seem “Burtonesque,” but aside from a few imagined visions of Keane’d people, nope. But you can feel that the film is being shot by a master.

And for me, Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski’s screenplay just kept teeing up great stuff. It’s so complex… yet so simple. There are great beats. Great lines. But they never get in the way of the story by being too clever. And unlike their bios of Larry Flynt and Andy Kaufman, there isn’t so much story here that they have to fight to get it all out. This story is smaller, so we have lots of time to linger. And when these guys linger, scenes hum.

All said and done, the story of Big Eyes for me… a movie what seems to be the least subtle art ever that is quietly, persuasively, relentlessly about the heart of an artist. And a group of artists.

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Weekend Estimates by Mockingbusiness Klady

Weeekend Estimates 2014-11-23 at 8.59.37 AM

Oscar Business Chart
Screen Shot 2014-11-23 at 11.39.23 AM

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Friday Estimates by MockingLen, Part 1

Friday Estimates 2014-11-22 at 9.00.10 AM

So. Hunger.

There are no sure answers after one day. Just aren’t. Is this film—a middle film in a four-film set—going to accelerate or just be less popular than the rest? Not sure. But I can tell you that the domestic on the Potter finale, Part One, ended up being #4 in the series while the final finale was #1. Worldwide it was #3 vs. 7a’s #1… a massive 40% behind the ultimate finale. But there is this… the international number for 7a was the second best in Potter history, behind only 7b.

On Twilight, the first half of the finale also dipped domestically, behind the two films before it and the one after. Internationally, as with Potter, the Part 1 of the 2 part finale was the second strongest performer of the series.

As for the opening day number, here is how I would choose to parse it. There have been 19 days—opening or otherwise —of $40 million or more in the last three years. There have been just nine Fridays over $40 million in the last 3 years. There was Transformers 4 with $42 million. And now, Mockingjay. Last year, there were 3: Man of Steel ($44m), Iron Man 3 ($69m), and Catching Fire ($71m). (THG was the only one without the word “man” in the title… feminists of the world, you are welcome for that micro-stat.) In 2012, there were four: THG with $67m, Twilight 4b with $71m, TDKR with $76m, and Avengers with $81m.

In simpler terms… great launch for this year, significantly off of the previous film in the franchise… and wait for the international numbers before anyone makes a boo-boo face about these numbers. (Because we now live in a movie world where people complain about $100m+ domestic openings that aren’t big enough.)

There are dozens of factors in this situation. And… no one really knows. But I can tell you that the Hollywood Reporter story on the drop in the Lionsgate stock price on Friday after it seemed likely that this weekend’s release would open under $150 million was wildly misleading, as the Lionsgate stock price peaked for the year earlier in the week in anticipation of THG3 and the Friday drop brought the stock down to its 6th or 7th best closing number on a day of the entire year.

If you want to worry about Lionsgate stock price, this time next year would be a good time… if the company isn’t sold by then.

Will Mockingjay Part 1 open to $122m, reflecting the weekend wave of Catching Fire? No one knows. Will it open to more than $150m domestic as the first two films in the franchise did? Probably not. Could the film still outperform Catching Fire worldwide? Yes. Will it be the #1 THG film internationally? Probably.

There are other films at the box office this weekend. Big Hero 6 continues to float between Wreck-It-Ralph and Frozen. Dumb & Dumber To dropped hard, though not much of a surprise there. In a rarity for a U.S. comedy, they will be keeping a close eye on international on this one, as the first film performed unusually well overseas.

Interstellar is going to be in a fight for screens as it tries to get to $150m domestic. It should still make it because of the Thanksgiving holiday. But not a cakewalk. I expect an announcement that international has hit $300m this weekend, making $500m worldwide a lock and offers the possibility of $600m worldwide. But do keep an eye on the Chinese piece of that number, which returns less than half the rental that other international markets do.

Gone Girl is closing out, but will pass $155m domestic this weekend. It’s easily Fincher’s biggest domestic hit and should soon become his #1 worldwide grosser.

St. Vincent is also near the end and will close around $40m domestic. Fury is now past Moneyball domestically and internationally.

On the awards stage, Birdman added five screens to 862, but it now over the hump of its domestic revenue picture, unless award season revives it. It will likely pass $20m eventually (February?), but it will have to wait until Thanksgiving to get to $15m. The Theory of Everything expanded by 99 screens to 140 and should double last weekend’s gross.

Very quiet for the non-awards arthouse scene. Only two new films seem likely to crack the $10k per screen level this weekend, A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night on two screens and Monk with a Camera on one.

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BYOB: MIke Nichols

byob_nichols

I don’t want to play “write the best obit.” It’s exhausting already. But…

To paraphrase Cameron Crowe, Mike Nichols work completed me in a way that I didn’t know I needed completing. His films offered me truths that rang in my head as undeniably true, even when I was too young and inexperienced to know why. He never explained… he always showed, whether visually or with a brilliant turn of words crafted with one of the many great writers with whom he worked. And with his death, a feeling of loss, that like the experience of his work, is deeper than I can really understand.

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Netflix, Nielsen, and The Elephant In The Room

The Wall Street Journal broke the news that Nielsen will attempt —and likely claim to be 96% accurate regardless—to measure Netflix, Amazon Prime and other streaming viewership numbers using a clever technical trick. Of course, the focus is on knowing what Netflix numbers are to figure out how to best manipulate advertisers on traditional ad-driven television as ratings drop.

Big picture, we are told in the WSJ article, is that content owners are trying to figure out if Netflix cannibalization of their MVPD (cable/satellite) ratings is costing them money versus the prices being paid by Netflix, which are quite high, but perhaps not high enough.

Is this another tipping point? Could be. Might not be.

I think everyone agrees that the genie is out of the bottle. Streaming is not going away. But the issue isn’t really Netflix, but the long tail. Broadcast networks, owned by content producers all, aren’t competing against Netflix and the other streamers. They are competing against reruns. Yes, a new Netflix show may get a lot of attention and even a lot of eyeballs in its first month of release. But that’s not, if reports are to be believed, keeping Netflix on the average subscriber’s TV 60 hours a month. Some docs. Some movies via various movie deals. But mostly, it’s television reruns.

And here is The Elephant.

Netflix doesn’t come close to having the entire back catalog of content. I would guess—and mind you, it is just an educated guess—that Netflix content, as massive a bundle… uh, package as it is, is less than 10% of the television catalogs available. And less than 2% of the movie catalogs.

Netflix has been a great piece of business for content owners. Streaming and the subscription-based financial model are a major paradigm shift. But as the DVD sell-thru business peaked out, there was a softer landing thanks for Netflix and the other streaming companies that followed and also spent wildly. Now, the content creators are waking up to The Elephant… what to do with all this catalog content that isn’t generating revenue now?

Everything on demand was mostly inconceivable any time before 2000. Remember, consumer VHS is less than 40 years old. DVD is less than 20 years old. The tech for more and more streaming is still developing. The single moment viewership of the broadcast networks are still more than the internet can effectively handle. Every time viewership for an event online exceeds a couple of million, the trouble seems to begin. That has improved and will continue to improve. But that’s just normal progress coming. Different, less invasive issue.

There is a lot of chatter—endless chatter—about giving consumers what they want. Well… it’s simple. Consumers want whatever they want within seconds of realizing they want it in the absolute best visual and audio quality in which it is available and for free.

So, let’s take “free” off the table.

Households are spending $80-120 a month to feel like they have the maximum amount of content at their fingertips. Some pay less. Some pay more. Some don’t buy any of it. But basically, that is the range. That is the market. In the US, say $90 a month in 90 million homes makes for a $100 billion a year business opportunity. There are more dollars in both software and hardware, but those (like theatrical movies) are extra opportunities, not the biggest bite.

How many people are watching Netflix and how is that affecting ratings on TV Show X could well be a $25 million a year issue for a network. That’s not nothing. But the big issue isn’t over tens of millions, but tens of billions.

For a big company with a big library, like any of the major studios or Lionsgate, aside from math quibbles over which outside businesses get paid what on which pieces of content, the goal is to maximize the value of that library in any and every way possible. There is nothing siting in the vault accumulating value by being unavailable anymore. Yesterday, there was a press day in Hollywood for a Stanley Kubrick package of films released on Blu-ray… which they have already released a couple times. I’m sure there was some new tidbit in there, but DVD/Blu-ray maximized the opportunity to close to the final degree years ago. The only thing left to do is to invest millions in restoring a lot of films to their original glory. But, sadly, that is becoming a niche business as well.

The simple and incredibly simplified math on Netflix is that it has about a third of US TV households signed up, generating about $3 billion a year and spending about $2 billion a year on programming. That is about $60 a year in content spending per household served. Obviously, this is not a big enough boat for everyone to get aboard. And even if the subscriber based tripled, which has been Netflix’s long-term plan (according to them, on record), it’s still not nearly big enough for everyone.

There are many big players invested in the various ways of selling content. But for library owners, there is only one issue. Again… maximizing revenues for that forever aging content.

Netflix knows that. The reason Netflix is experimenting so aggressively is not because there is a business model in which, for instance, day-’n'-date theatrical/Netflix release makes sense in a way that will really threaten wide-release theatrical films. They are looking for their next model, for two reasons. First, they know that much, much more aggressive competition is coming. The more Netflix grows, the more quickly and aggressively direct competition from the major studios will come. Second, they have first-mover advantage at this point. But in order to keep it, they need to continue to be seen as innovative.

But the real onus is on the television networks and movie distributors. They each have similar revenues to Netflix and a constantly changing profile of how they generate revenues. And there are a ton of deals already in place that have end dates that need to be lined up before they can be leveraged. But there will be a tipping point.

If, say, CBS, could start a streaming platform with shows they have dealt to Netflix, like Cheers, Frasier, Twin Peaks, Family Ties, The Andy Griffith Show, Star Trek, Twilight Zone, Hawaii Five-O, and so many others, plus newer shows, plus the Showtime catalog, plus (assuming Sumner Redstone can muster the strength to bring the two sides of his company in line), the Paramount film catalog and the Nickelodeon catalog and the MTV catalog, etc, etc… and they charged half of what Netflix is charging, could they get to the same 35 million subscriber plateau in a hurry and generate $1.6 billion a year and have complete control of their content?

Thing is, that probably isn’t enough to entice Viacom to make the move right now. But triple that number to 105 million homes and $4.8 billion… all on library content. CBS generates about 3x that, but its costs are so significant that it “only” nets about $1.6 billion a year.

Imagine a world with 5 “Netflixes,” costing about $50 a month and live ad-supported TV costing another $50 a month and you might be looking at the not-so-distant future. Upgrade to ad-free TV (except for live programming) for another $40 a month (or another $480 million each year per million subscribers coming to the provider) and you can imagine the opportunity.

Of course, it will likely be some variation in my imagination and/or others. But my point is, there is a lot of potential revenue out there and it has not begun to be mined in depth by Netfilx or Amazon or any combination of these companies. That revenue, not consumer wishes, will drive the future.

But we are waiting for the tipping point. And when it comes, the networks will stop picking Netflix’s nits and mind their own.

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BYOB 111614

byobglobes

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Weekend Estimates by 20 Years Later Klady

Weekend Estimates 2014-11-16 at 10.24.21 AM

Pretty nice box office weekend overall.

Let’s start with… Warner Bros is kicking itself this weekend. Not only did they lose out on a relatively cheap hit movie, but they gave up on a franchise that defined their New Line division. There were only fifteen $100m domestic movies in the history of New Line and D&D was one of them. Look for the long slumbering resurrection of The Mask to suddenly heat up.

This is also an excellent way to track the change in the box office from 20 years ago until today. The 1994 movie was #1 for 4 weekends through the Christmas movie period, opening on December 16. The top weekend gross by D&D during that run was $16.4 million. What is roughly the same weekend last year had 3 or 4 (depending on which weekend you choose to match) films grossing over $16 million and one of those films grossing over $30 million.

Comparing this opening to other openings in the second weekend of November hammock, you find almost all franchise films trying to squeeze an extra week in before a Thanksgiving Day payoff. Twilight, Potter, Bond. 2012 and Happy Feet are the the anomalies. And then, you have D&D2. In that company, D&D2 is an extremely impressive opening.

More to come…

3:26p – Apologies. My Firefox browser has become unwieldy and it seems I have to switch to another. Trying Chrome now.

Big Hero 6 has the 2nd best 10-day number for a November Disney animation release behind only Frozen. There have only been 3 Pixar releases in November and BH6 is behind 2 of them, The Incredibles and Toy Story 2, though just barely on the latter. So things are going quite well, if not singularly.

Interstellar is doing well… though it’s 3rd and 4th weekend are not going to intimidate Hunger Games or even Horrible Bosses Deux. The film should hit $100m domestic tomorrow. The film’s already at $224m internationally, so they are doing well there. If you look at Inception, from the time the film had a $28m weekend, there would only be another $55m in the tank. And that film only had one drop of over 40% before weekend 13 domestically, so I don’t foresee anything better for Interstellar. Even with Thanksgiving coming, $150 million domestic seems the likely domestic total… maybe $160m. Worldwide, $600 million would be a positive-leaning total. Not chickenfeed. But it’s against a very big investment.

Action movies took the biggest hit in the Top 20 this weekend. Not brutal, but decent holds across the board for the other genres.

Birdman continues to lead the limited scene on 857 screens with an estimated $2,830 per and $2.4 million.

Foxcatcher opened on 6 screens to a strong $46k per screen. The hard road for this excellent-but-challenging film is ahead.

Rosewater opened on 371 screens and did a nice $3,180 per for $1.2 million.

The Homesman did $11.5k per on 5 screens, which is not bad.

And Nightcrawler, which feels pretty indie, but is on 2103 screens, pulled in another $2.9 million and is just under $25m so far.

Godard’s Goodbye To Language continues to draw a hardcore crowd.

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Friday Estimates by Klady & Kladier To

Friday Estimates 2014-11-15 at 9.09.28 AM

So… there is clearly an audience for the return of the real D&D guys. Huzzah.

$20m+ second weekends for both Big Hero 6 and Interstellar. Good. Not game changing… but good.

Beyond The Lights is soft… though the outdoor is beautiful. The problem is, the pitch really made the film not only unlikely to draw white people, but a turn off to black men.

Nice holds throughout the Top 10, no one down more than 50%.

Birdman is seeing the top of the box office mountaintop, unless the awards push gives it a second life. And 85% increase in screens and an estimated 3% growth in box office tells us that there is a finite universe for the film. Searchlight went out earlier and has been much more aggressive than on, say, Slumdog Millionaire. I think they know there is a cap on the box office success of the film, are pushing to get a nice number, will narrow the screen count after Thanksgiving, then see what happens with awards.

Foxcatcher is the per-screen hero of the weekend with what looks like $35k or so on its 5 screens. The Homesman is chasing $10k per screen on 4. Decent numbers for both, but again, not thrillers. Sony Classics will keep building Fox and look for it to expand its base with awards wins.

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Weekend Estimates by Big Space Klady 6

Weekend Estimates 2014-11-09 at 9.06.41 AM

Based on Friday, nothing remotely surprising is going on with the estimates. Family movies expand significantly over Saturday and Sunday. Films for the over-12 set tend to pop a little on Saturday then drop a bit on Sunday making for some variation on 3x Friday. Box office 101. There are outliers, as there are for all things. But when the animated film is less than 10% behind the live-action non-family film on Friday, bet on the animated film to win that battle over the 3-day.

Big Hero 6 is a good opening. Interstellar is a good opening. They are both within the Top 26 of all-time amongst November openings. And neither is in the Top 15 or best in class for the first weekend of the month or anything else super-special. For Big Hero 6, this suggests a $200m+ domestic gross. For Interstellar, it suggests something like a $150m domestic gross.

Additionally, the domestic suggests somewhere between $300m and $400m international for Interstellar (handled by Warner Bros). And then there will be the question… if Interstellar does less than $500m or $600m worldwide (vs $826m for Inception), is it a winner or a loser for Christopher Nolan? And how does it affect the funding of the next movie? And the “it’s Chris Nolan’s world and we are all just his serfs” stories?

Big Hero 6, by the way, looks like $600m worldwide at minimum. The film is kissing cousins with anime’ and it could be unusually huge overseas… or not. Time will tell.

Those two films made up 68% of the total domestic box office this weekend. Only two films in 24 next highest grosses did over $3000 per screen – Birdman ($4850 per on 462) and Whiplash ($3660 on 88).

On the under 100 screen scene, The Theory of Everything found a solid start on 5 screens with $41k per. Citizenfour continues to draw nicely with $3580 per on 59 screens. And in exclusives (1 or 2 screens) Godard’s Goodbye To Language and Wiseman’s National Gallery continue to be strong.

Back to the wide releases, Gone Girl, St Vincent, and Fury were the strong holders. The rest were all over 40% (aside from low-count hits like Guardians and Turtles finding a new wave from second run).

Look for Big Hero 6 to “win” next weekend too. The real mystery will be the size of the audience that will show up for a Dumb & Dumber sequel.

This is, I have to say, not a very exciting Thanksgiving window. Congrats if you are a Hunger Games fan, but aside from that, there is a Penguins spin-off which will surely be popular and a Horrible Bosses sequel, but nothing really interesting to dig into. If you want film excitement over the holiday, it’s the arthouse fare, with Foxcatcher, Rosewater, The Homesman, The Imitation Game, and continued expansions of Birdman, Whiplash, and The Theory of Everything. Given that I have seen all of those movies more than once already, I am hungry for a Tim Burton or a Wachowski or something challenging on the long weekend after the turkey. Looks like I will be one of the many sneaking into guild screenings of Unbroken or checking out Into The Woods a second time or seeing Birdman or Foxcatcher a third time if I want something really exciting to chew on.

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Friday Estimates by InterHero Len

Friday Estimates 2014-11-08 at 9.58.18 AM

So… another weekend in which the #1 movie is not the #1 movie on each day of the weekend. Happened last weekend too. Then this week, Nightcrawler “won” Monday and Tuesday, the non-digital limited launch of Interstellar “won” Wednesday, Fury “won” Thursday and now, Interstellar‘s expansion “wins” Friday while Big Hero 6 will surely “win” Saturday and Sunday.

Being #1 really is meaningless aside from its marketing value. And that’s not even taking in the reality of international box office domination into account. If you are reading this, you know my routine on this… but still… demand better from your “box office analysts.” Not having a sophisticated view of box office in 2014 is an abuse of readers, wholly separate from whether people agree on the ultimate meaning of the numbers.

Anyway… strong starts, but not overwhelming starts for both Interstellar and Big Hero 6.

The 10 best launches in November are all after the first weekend of November. The five best openings on the first weekend of November are 4 animated films, ranging from $49 million to $70.5 million. The top live-action opening on the first weekend of November is also the only one to open to more than $45 million is The Matrix Revolutions, with $48.5 million. The #2 in this category is American Gangster with $43.6 million.

So Big Hero 6 has started right between the animated Ralph and Monsters. Figure mid-50s.

Interstellar will surely pass Gangster, but will probably be a little short of Matrix 3 (which by the way, siphoned off $35m of its opening weekend on Wed-Thurs)… but close. Could be anywhere $46m – $49m. It would not be surprising at all for the estimate tomorrow to be over $49 million and the “actual” to be $48m or less. And, of course, this film will have much better legs than Matrix 3. Also, for the record, this opening is about 23% off of the summer opening of Inception.

No one else will see $7 million this weekend.

Many of the Friday estimates are seeming better than they otherwise would because of Halloween last Friday.

Ouija continues to hold unexpectedly well. Can you say, “girls”? 44% is one of the bigger drops on the board… but it’s horror… in its third weekend.

Gone Girl has gone into second run, boosting their take Friday-vs-last-Friday by 2% yesterday and probably something similar tomorrow.

Nightcrawler had a pretty good Friday after opening drop, even with Interstellar coming in strong. High 30s drop is where this will probably land, which is actually quite good.

Fury is the silent hit of the season. The film is over $100m worldwide already and will pass the worldwide on Moneyball by the end of the weekend… domestic in a few weeks.

Nice hold for St. Vincent.

In the limited release market, Focus’ The Theory of Everything will do mid-30ks per-screen on 5 this weekend. Solid, but not overwhelming.

Birdman is up to 462 screens and looking at around $4k per for the weekend.

Nothing exciting for well-loved films Actress and National Gallery.

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Weekend Estimates by Not Quite Crawler Klady

Weekend Estimates 2014-11-02 at 9.04.46 AM

So Saturday was as strong as Friday was soft and the weekend looks surprisingly strong overall. If you look back at the last Friday Halloween, the numbers didn’t recover nearly as well over the rest of the weekend, not just for the new films but for the holdovers.

Even today, it is possible that Nightcrawler will win the weekend. $200k isn’t that hard to overcome on a day and as you all know, these Sunday a.m. estimates can’t actually know what the Sunday numbers will be. And for a movie estimating a $10m weekend, you’re looking, roughly, a $3m Sunday estimate, meaning that a 10% shift is completely possible. Burt give it up for Ouija for even being in the fight. Even if the drop ended up being 50% and not Klady’s estimated 45%, that’s really good for a horror film these days.

Strong hold for Fury, blowing past Moneyball by $11 million after their respective first 3 weekends, the space between the two growing each weekend. Sony… this is a Best Picture movie. Time to get on the stick. $80 million is now a likely low-end guess at the total gross for this film domestically and there could be more with a serious Oscar push. And looking at the awards field, it would be one of the top grossing nominees if you turned this trick. Get going.

Gone Girl is another holdover monster. If nominated, it will likely be the 2nd highest grossing film on the board (#1 should be Interstellar… unless it stalls and/or if Exodus ends up being a serious Oscar film). Fox kinda overpromised on release, but it’s about time for a serious re-positioning of the film in the awards race. Audiences matter a lot in the Oscar race when they love a film. And for all the quality being rolled out right now, this is still a hot audience film. Use that.

The glorious animated film, The Book of Life, is holding firm, even if it doesn’t have the support it deserves from Fox.

Nice hold for St. Vincent. The film had a, roughly, 10% screen expansion this weekend, but the -2% hold is still very strong. TWC has to be happy with the weekend. The question is still, however, has the film peaked or is there more?

And Disney’s well-regarded family outing, Alexander & The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day is staying sticky, the only film in wide release besides Book of Life really good for the whole family… especially the littler ones. By this time next week, it will become the #1 non-animated, non-Marvel movie for Disney this year domestically.

The Maze Runner cume is going to get to $100 million, which seems surprising as the title has barely been whispered since opening weekend. International is heading to $200 million. So, a $300m+ franchise on the first film. And it was made on what appears to be a very tight budget. So that is a massive hit, in terms of profitability.

Birdman spreads his delusional wings to 231 screens and a $10,560 per screen estimated average. A good sign. It suggests that the film may be able to get up to and perhaps past the $25 million mark. And with a strong awards push, who knows?

The other big per-screen players on more than a couple screens are Whiplash ($4k per on 61), Citizenfour ($5k per on 37), Force Majeure ($3700 per on 24), and Laggies ($4k per on 16). Those 4 films are from 4 different distributors… which seems quite healthy for the indie business.

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“The effect of the avalanche, and Tomas’ refusal to acknowledge his terror, seem to have devastating effects. But the interesting thing about Force Majeure is the sly suggestion that maybe this event could have a liberating effect on the family.”
~ Robert Horton 

 “Teaching how to make a film is like trying to teach someone how to fuck. You can’t. You have to fuck to learn how to fuck. It’s just how it is. The filmmaker has to protect the adventurous side of their self. I’m an explorer, I’m an inventor. Doc Brown is the character I relate to the most and he’s a madman. He’s a madman alone, locked up with his ideas but he does whatever he wants. He makes what he makes because he wants to make it. Yes, the DeLorean has to work in order for him to be a madman with a purpose—the DeLorean should work—but the point is I think everyone should try and find their own DeLorean. When Zemeckis was trying to get Back To The Future made, which he was for seven years, he was trying to get a film made where basically a teenager gets in a time machine, goes back to 1954 and almost —-s his mother. That pitch is extremely subversive and twisted in a way. My point is, he had a fascinating idea that no one had done before, but was clearly special to him and he stuck to it and made it what it was. When you do that you can create culture, but I think a lot of movies are just echoing culture and there’s a difference.”
~ A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night Filmmaker Ana Lily Amirpour