The Hot Blog Archive for April, 2008

BYOB – Just Another Tuesday

It’s a funny feeling… up 3 touchdowns with 3 minutes to go… or up 6 runs going into the top of the ninth (knowing that if something bad happens, the bottom of the ninth is still there for your team)… and yet, there is always that queasy feeling.
Six weeks of anticipating this third or fourth “opening weekend” in the Democratic primaries… of course, there is way too much emphasis on this one event… unless it pushes one candidate out… which it won’t…. and so, the endlessly asked question of what the numbers will mean in the big picture… to me, it means more negative campaigning by Democrats against one another… no good… this is why so many felt Clinton should have gotten out before PA, not because she should quit, but because exactly what is happening was anticipated… and if she wins by more than 5 points, it will continue, even worse, even if she loses North Carolina by 15 points or more… the Clinton people are already back on the “count Michigan and Florida votes” game after back burnering it for the last few weeks…
Anyway… I look forward to the night being over…. whatever happens… though I worry about early reports of suspiciously broken machines at 7:30 this morning becoming another big story… sigh…
You folks have other stuff on your minds… right?
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What Becomes A Studio Most?

Disney had a little shindig on the lot today

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20 Wks Of Summer Preview Week

Geeks and Girls have got to be drooling coming into the season. Not only is there an new Indiana Jones, but there is a great comic book hero coming along with some very good buzz, a new Batman from a hero director, a Star Wars that is supposed to look like a cartoon, and the return of two beloved geek colors, green and red. For women, Hollywood responded strongly to some female-driven hits in recent summers with no less than a half-dozen films aimed at them.
The big question mark of this summer is whether Sandler, Ferrell, Stiller, Carrell, Myers, and Pineapple Express is just too much boy comedy for one summer. It

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Burying The Lead

Claudia Eller ran a story in the LA Times today about how risky the deal for Indiana Jones 4 is for Spielberg/Lucas/Ford.
Ha ha ha.
She buried the lead down on Paragragh 17… and it’s a doozy!
After the first $400 million in gross revenue, the S/L/F team get 87.5% of the revenue.
87.5 OMFGing percent!!!!
How about a little math?
Let’s look at the last Indiana Jones movie… 19 years ago… which should be about half the gross of this year’s film. The film did $474m worldwide. Taking 87.5% of rentals (at a conservative 55%), the S/L/F group is already into a payday of about $36 million.
Now

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Why Is Paramount So Desperate?

The idea of a studio cable/satellite channel is a good one… I have been proposing it as the future for years now.
Bur reading this press release about Par/MGM/US/Lionsgate doing one channel all together just makes my head spin.
I completely understand by MGM and Lionsgate want to be in bed with Paramount. They have a different level of muscle. But what’s in this for Paramount?
Okay, so the two companies have really big libraries… way too big to limit to one channel of programming. But Paramount has a huge library of their own, of both TV and film.
Universal already has the Sleuth Channel, pumping out library mystery and cop shows. They also have Universal High Def Channel, which shows both film and TV in hi-def.
MGM, actually, already launched the MGM HD Channel, showing the studio’s library 24/7 in high-def.
Paramount is not only the studio, but a ton of classic TV that the studio made before they owned a network, plus MTV and VH-1 and Nick and other cable outlets that have been producing original product for years. If ever Paramount seemed in need of self-branding, it is now, in the face of the 98%-likely DreamWorks exit.
Variety reads this all as a slap at Showtime, which is owned by competing family company, CBS. (Another reason MGM needs this is that their Showtime pay-cable deal ends at the end of this year.) But while that may be cute and all… that’s an awfully petty way to walk the walk.
Maybe the strategy is to lock in the MGM/UA and Liosngate libraries, which are two of the biggest after WB. (Lionsgate’s library is huge… only its quality is in doubt… and not based on the Lionsgate release product, but on the kind of libraries the company has acquired over the years.) Maybe 3, 4, 5 or more channels is the longterm goal.
But keep in mind that another pay channel with its exclusives is not any kind of lock to be a hit. Showtime has forever been chasing HBO and others have been chasing Showtime.
What could be a “game changer” is branding The Paramount Channel, where 24/7 great Paramount product plays with a few select slots for originals.
This step feels… oddly careful.

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It

Once again, I wish to speak to the anti-Obama-supporter rhetoric that seems to be the new favorite rhetoric to say that Obama

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Weekend Estimates by Klady – April 19

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The big story of the weekend is not The Wizards Of Kick Oz or Trying To Forget Segel’s Penis, but Expelled being the widest doc opening ever, leading to being the third biggest doc opening ever. Ever.
Yes, all the Michael Moore movies will overshadow whatever the final number on this film is, but they all went into theaters in exclusives or, with Sicko, under 900 screens.
Expelled is pretty much assured of being amongst the Top Ten doc grossers of all-time before it’s done… and passing Super Size Me and Winged Migration is not out of the question. Just this weekend’s number makes it the #5 doc of the last two years, with Shine A Light and Grizzly Man both likely to be passed this week.
Is this the “Christian Movie” that Hollywood has stumbled chasing since The Passion Of The Christ… meaning more that audience than anything like those numbers? A good question, I think.
Meanwhile, on the Top Two front, neither film had a particularly strong Saturday upturn. Some would argue that Forgetting will outleg Kingdom, but I see no evidence of that, especially with Tribeca opener (snark, snark) Baby Mama and Harold & Kumar 2 landing next weekend, offering comedy options for both women and men. The best shot Sarah Marshall has is to be the date choice somewhere between the two new comedies. Meanwhile, Kingdom has a pretty-much open week until The Man of Iron lands a week later.

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Friday Estimates by Klady – 4/19

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Well… the good news for Judd Apatow is that Forgetting Sarah Marshall will gross more in its opening week than Walk Hard did in its entire run. The bad news is that aside from that one film, it is his worst opening as a producer since The Cable Guy.
Truth is, seems to me, that people are still ready to buy the Apatow franchises… but without a familiar name in the lead(s) or a clear idea (Universal did a good job of simplifying the film’s narrative for the advertising campaign), the potential for misses increases each time out.
With Klady’s $1.6 million split, the odds are less… but with the thinner separation in some people’s Friday numbers, there is a chance that FSM will pass The Forbidden Kingdom by Sunday night because of a stronger Saturday night market for the romantic comedy vs the notoriously first-nighting action/martial arts crowds. On the other hand, if families decide Forbidden Kingdom is a safe bet for matinees, teh spread will be greater the other way.
The Forbidden Kingdom opening is on the high end of the Jet Li films and looks like it will beat The One to be his best ever start… of course, Jackie Chan ain’t cicken feed. Still, this will be by far is biggest chop socky opening in this country, never having cracked a $10m opening without a pairing gimmick (The Tuxedo is on the borderline, but DreamWorks sold that as a family comedy and teamed him strongly with Love.)
This opening also happens to double what Lionsgate mustered for their first Jet Li effort, War. But even more importantly, it will be the company’s third best non-Saw, non-Tyler Perry opening ever, behind only Fahrenheit 9/11 and the first Hostel…. and Hostel‘s $19.6 million is well in shooting range.
I must admit, I didn’t see this coming for this film… but I am pleased for all involved.
88 Minutes is opening below even the lowest expectations… which goes to show ‘ya that even the best marketing machine can plop out a dud when expectations are so low… aka The MGM Syndrome (pre-new- regime).
And it’s hard to read the tea leaves on Where In The World Is Osama bin Laden?. A $1200 or so per-screen for opening weekend isn’t a disaster. But it isn’t very good under the weight of expectations. Morgan Spurlock clearly carries enough goodwill to get this kind of start, but the per-screen average for Super Size Me didn’t dip this low until weekend 5 with twice as many screens. And the SSM opening weekend cracked $500k on just 42 screens.
The door on theatrical for docs has been closing, slowing lately after a swift shut, leaving only a crack open, after last summer. Between this and Young @ Heart, we could see an even tight squeeze to come…

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Ebert Recovering From The Hip

Roger Ebert is recovering at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago after surgery to repair a minor hip injury. He tripped and fell at the Pritikin Center in Florida, where he had gone to continue physical therapy in preparation for his film festival. The staff at Pritikin was very helpful in their quick response to the incident.
“The show must go on!” Ebert says. “I am doing fine and if the doctors clear me, I will be there to welcome our guests, including Ang Lee, Paul Schrader, Richard Roeper, Richard Corliss, Sally Potter, Christine Lahti, Rufus Sewell, Timothy Spall, Michael Barker and many others. But whether or not I am there, the audience will see some amazing films.”
The Roger Ebert Film Festival (Ebertfest) is sponsored by the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign April 23-27. Roger’s wife Chaz says, “Please keep those thumbs up in the hopes that Roger will be there to celebrate the tenth year of his film festival. He has an indomitable spirit.”

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Box Office Hell – April 18, 2008

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BYOB – Friday

There will be more to post later today… but here is some room to roam…

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A Little Petty

A lovely friday afternoon addition to the bile… the WGA decide to “out” 21 members who went “financial core” during the WGA Strike. (Not on the list is George Clooney, who reportedly went fi-core before the strike.)
I don’t object to the idea of allowing membership to know who went fi-core on an informational level, allowing members to draw their own conclusions. But what struck me about this letter is that is was stunningly self-righteous and shows no interest – as it essentially calls on Guild members to shun these 21 people – in explaining why these 21 people made the choice.
One big clue? The only one on the list who is not a soap writer is John Ridley.
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Delayed Comments

I saw a complaint in Comments about someone’s comments being delayed.
Once again, I will point out… all commenters who are “trusted” in the Movable type system are published without any limitations.
As it turns out, there were two commenters who had eight total comments held up by Movable Type. I don’t check “unpublished comments” very often, because they are rare. The usual hang-up, when I find them, is what the system decides is too many http links in the comment.
All those comments are now published.
And if anyone EVER has a situation where the system doesn’t publish the comment, PLEASE let me know and I will try to correct immediately.
I do not moderate, edit or remove comments. (There have been maybe 3 examples of edits – with a note from me, explaining – and I think 1 or 2 removals – again, with public explanation – over the years.) It is a core principle of doing this blog that the door is wide open to all voices who wish to comment. The only reason we have any limitations at all is that there are blog spammers that are relentless when you let down your digital defenses.
So again… tell me if you have a problem and don’t assume you’ve been banned or are being censored. You are not.

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Producing Sarah Marshall

Or rather, why didn

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They Love Whining In France…

Congratulations to 42West for spinning the ever-spinnable C. Nikki Finke for the second time on the Edward Norton/Hulk non-story in a very slow news week.
Just a couple of quick comments…
1) I defended Edward Norton and Mike DeLuca from attacks by an out-of-control Tony Kaye when the first big buzz about Norton sticking his nose in the editing room started on American History X. The only reason that there was “an Edward Norton cut” is because Tony wasn’t happy releasing his first cut, which tested very well.
2) Norton is a wonderful actor.
3) Norton has had “issues” with his director and/or producers on almost every single film he has been in since, leading to a five year break from any studio work other than a supporting role behind a mask in Kingdom of Heaven. (And his performance, ween at greater length in the “director’s cut” was as great as his truncated work in the release version was not.)
4) The Incredible Hulk will not sell more than $500,000 worth of tickets on the planet because Edward Norton is the star of the film. He may or may not have improved the film with his input, but as a movie star, he is now a non-starter at the box office.
5) No one who will go see this comic book movie has a major interest in whether it is artful. (Doesn’t anyone remember Ang Lee getting slaughtered for bringing his artistic vision to the big green man?) They care if The Hulk is cool and in the spirit of the character they love. Period.
Edward Norton is, no doubt, a talent. But he needs to just put up, shut up, and write and direct his movies himself with small budgets until he earns bigger budgets with financial success as a writer/director. Or he could act like the movie star he could be and do that job instead of endlessly indulging his fantasy of what that job is.
In the meanwhile, by continuing to push out these stories of him being wronged (and really, who the hell else do you think wants you to know about it… unless this is some inverted plot to destroy Norton’s studio viability once and for all?), he is doing exactly what studios will not put up with… an insider screwing his own movie that they paid him for before it is release. In other words, exactly what has kept Tony Kaye from working in this town since American History X.
Fortunately for Universal, stories in gossip columns won’t have much effect on this film’s gross either. But if you’re looking forward to his next Universal film… you will likely have a long, long wait.

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The Hot Blog

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This is probably going to sound petty, but Martin Scorsese insisting that critics see his film in theaters even though it’s going straight to Netflix and then not screening it in most American cities was a watershed moment for me in this theatrical versus streaming debate.

I completely respect when a filmmaker insists that their movie is meant to be seen in the theater, but the thing is, you got to actually make it possible to see it in the theater. Some movies may be too small for that, and that’s totally OK.

When your movie is largely financed by a streaming service and is going to appear on that streaming service instantly, I don’t really see the point of pretending that it’s a theatrical film. It just seems like we are needlessly indulging some kind of personal fantasy.

I don’t think that making a feature film length production that is going to go straight to a video platform is some sort of “step down.“ I really don’t. Theatrical exhibition as we know it is dying off anyway, for a variety of reasons.

I should clarify myself because this thread is already being misconstrued — I’m talking about how the movie is screened in advance. If it’s going straight to Netflix, why the ritual of demanding people see it in the theater?

There used to be a category that everyone recognized called “TV movie” or “made for television movie” and even though a lot of filmmakers considered that déclassé, it seems to me that probably 90% of feature films fit that description now.

Atlantis has mostly sunk into the ocean, only a few tower spires remain above the waterline, and I’m increasingly at peace with that, because it seems to be what the industry and much of the audience wants. We live in an age of convenience and information control.

Only a very elite group of filmmakers is still allowed to make movies “for theaters“ and actually have them seen and judged that way on a wide scale. Even platform releasing seems to be somewhat endangered. It can’t be fought. It has to be accepted.

9. Addendum: I’ve been informed that it wasn’t Scorsese who requested that the Bob Dylan documentary only be screened for critics in theaters, but a Netflix representative indicated the opposite to me, so I just don’t know what to believe.

It’s actually OK if your film is not eligible for an Oscar — we have a thing called the Emmys. A lot of this anxiety is just a holdover from the days when television was considered culturally inferior to theatrical feature films. Everybody needs to just get over it.

In another 10 to 20 years they’re probably going to merge the Emmys in the Oscars into one program anyway, maybe they’ll call it the Contentys.

“One of the fun things about seeing the new Quentin Tarantino film three months early in Cannes (did I mention this?) is that I know exactly why it’s going to make some people furious, and thus I have time to steel myself for the takes.

Back in July 2017, when it was revealed that Tarantino’s next project was connected to the Manson Family murders, it was condemned in some quarters as an insulting and exploitative stunt. We usually require at least a fig-leaf of compassion for the victims in true-crime adaptations, and even Tarantino partisans like myself – I don’t think he’s made a bad film yet – found ourselves wondering how he might square his more outré stylistic impulses with the depiction of a real mass murder in which five people and one unborn child lost their lives.

After all, it’s one thing to slice off with gusto a fictional policeman’s ear; it’s quite another to linger over the gory details of a massacre that took place within living memory, and which still carries a dread historical significance.

In her essay The White Album, Joan Didion wrote: “Many people I know in Los Angeles believe that the Sixties ended abruptly on August 9, 1969, ended at the exact moment when word of the murders on Cielo Drive traveled like brushfire through the community, and in a sense this is true.”

Early in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, as Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt’s characters drive up the hill towards Leo’s bachelor pad, the camera cranes up gently to reveal a street sign: Cielo Drive. Tarantino understands how charged that name is; he can hear the Molotov cocktails clinking as he shoulders the crate.

As you may have read in the reviews from Cannes, much of the film is taken up with following DiCaprio and Pitt’s characters – a fading TV actor and his long-serving stunt double – as they amusingly go about their lives in Los Angeles, while Margot Robbie’s Sharon Tate is a relatively minor presence. But the spectre of the murders is just over the horizon, and when the night of the 9th finally arrives, you feel the mood in the cinema shift.

No spoilers whatsoever about what transpires on screen. But in the audience, as it became clear how Tarantino was going to handle this extraordinarily loaded moment, the room soured and split, like a pan of cream left too long on the hob. I craned in, amazed, but felt the person beside me recoil in either dismay or disgust.

Two weeks on, I’m convinced that the scene is the boldest and most graphically violent of Tarantino’s career – I had to shield my eyes at one point, found myself involuntarily groaning “oh no” at another – and a dead cert for the most controversial. People will be outraged by it, and with good reason. But in a strange and brilliant way, it takes Didion’s death-of-the-Sixties observation and pushes it through a hellfire-hot catharsis.

Hollywood summoned up this horror, the film seems to be saying, and now it’s Hollywood’s turn to exorcise it. I can’t wait until the release in August, when we can finally talk about why.

~ Robbie Collin