The Hot Blog Archive for May, 2008

Friday Estimates by Klady – 5/31

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What can one say about Sex?
Mighty niche plays are poorly predicted by tracking.
It’s not going to quite be The Simpsons, but like The Simpsons, a TV series showed its ability to draw on opening day… even if, in this case, the movie sucks like Samantha.
What’s truly remarkable… even if Indy opened on Thursday and even if Sex doesn’t follow with similar muscle… is that if Klady’s number is right, Sex had a better opening day number than Indy… not to mention Rings: 2 Towers and Bourne Ult.
Indy took, perhaps, a bigger than expected hit this Friday… but as there is little chance that families are going to spend the rest of the weekend at Sex, there may well be an uptick as the weekend progresses.
Universal got the $20m opening for The Strangers... which is about right for that title, even if it was released by Screen Gems, known for releasing those films, and whose campaign looked so much like a SG Special.

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BYOB – No Sex, Please

Have I mentioned… I Love New York.
No crane fell on me this morning, but I have been having a lovely day seeing some of my favorite people and places… making up for the painfully unambitious revival of A Chorus Line that we saw last night. (It did make me think that a thoughtful revival of that show and/or Hair could really be great right now. And bring on the John Osborne plays… angry young man is “in.”)
More to come, including a radio spot, another studio meal, and Passing Strange.
The sun is out, the city is alive, and any conversation not involving four women trying to live an era that happily concluded years ago is exciting.
How about you?

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S&TC Is A Internet Ticket Sale Phenom

The MovieTickets.com Top 10 Pre-Sale List of All-Time
1. “Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith”
2. “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”
3. “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King”
4. “Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour”
5. “The Matrix Reloaded”
6. “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End”
7. “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix”
8. “Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones”
9. “The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers”
10. “Sex and the City: The Movie”
A list that is interestingly missing six – Spider-Man 3, Shrek The Third, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, X-Men: The Last Stand, Indiana Jones IV, and Iron Man – of the Top Ten Openings of the last 3 years (before that, it would seem unfair to expect even the biggest openers to break into this list, as the technology was young). This might be because Fandango had a significantly larger number of the theaters playing those films. But it’s still interesting.
And note that amongst some of the biggest openings of all time, their #4 biggest pre-sale led to “just” a $31.1 million opening.
So what does the pre-sale success of S&TC mean?
I would argue that grown women committed to going and utilized their credit cards more aggressively than teen boys do… as they did in order to take their daughters to see the Miley Cyrus concert film.
What do you think?

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There Will Be Tie-Ins

**MEDIA ALERT**
Is your betty

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Box Office Hell – May 30

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Matson & The City

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Ouchie!!!

Ella Taylor is taking heat for shredding, accurately, Sex & The City– Episodes 127-133: The Cash Grab.
Less a movie than a very long goodbye (again), at 142 minutes, Sex and the City is basically a whole season

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Thursday

Not much to discuss.
The Sex & The City coverage is interesting. The idea of the film opening to more than $30 million seems to be freaking some people out… particularly the people at WB who just fired the people who picked up the title after the larger studio took a pass on the ol’ TV show.
There is no real history for a film like this, though the question of whether women could open was probably similar – fewer dart-throwing monkeys in the chorus – for Charlie’s Angels… a movie that should have been a cash cow for Sony, but cost way too much. If reports that S&TC cost $65 million are true, that’s kinda crazy as well.
Obviously, the woman niche is, in hard numbers, much bigger than The Geek 8 niche. And they will have to come out in force, though it is probably a mistake to underestimate gay men attending the film in pretty significant numbers (though many gay men would be offended by the very idea… just like straight men).
The ticket sales companies are all in a flutter because shows are selling out in surprising numbers… but I would argue that this is more about the market for the movie, older women, who plan weekend choices more carefully and have the cash to pay the service charge without thinking about it. S&TC could be Tyler Perry for women.

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BYOB – Heading East

AFTRA continues to be the piss in SAG’s coffee, driven by the avarice of wanting a bigger piece of the media landscape. Still… like DGA’s not- evil deal during the WGA work stoppage, this is likely checkmate for SAG and will quash any real chance of a strike.
And with that, off I fly…

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Capturing A Critic In Your DVR

It seems kind of obvious, but I was immediately rocked by this New York Times story about Tivo making a deal which will allow users to sign up to have the picks of a Chicago Trib TV critic automatically downloaded to their Tivos.
What struck me immediately was… how much would someone pay to have Roger Ebert’s 15 or 20 or 30 movie picks a month automatically downloaded to their DVR? But really, regardless of payment, what a great way, using delivery services you already pay for, to get a direct experience based on the taste of tastemakers in whom you really believe!
Sign me up for Scorsese’s Top 10 movies from across the DirecTV line-up next month!
This idea matches up magnificently with a project like Cinetic’s problematic but interesting effort to find some kind of outlet for a couple hundred indies and foreign language films a year – ridiculously overstated in the story as the 3600 submissions to Sundance each year

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Desperate Times For Republicans

As a Jew, I am not in love with any candidate mistaking one concentration camp for another.
On the other hand, when the Republicans have to try to turn Obama calling his great uncle his “uncle” and who recalls him suffering depression after being part of the group liberating Buchenwald and not Auschwitz into a major issue…
desperate.
When they find out his great uncle wasn’t there when Buchenwald was liberated or was never depressed after he returned home, have them call me.
It’s ironic that I am breaking down language and intent so often these days – as that is where the story of New Media vs Traditional Media lives – and yet I find this so meaningless. For the record, I also find McCain’s inability to get Shia and Sunni right to be overblown as well. Yes, it would be good for The President to talk about world affairs with clarity. But it’s not the stumbles, it’s the ideas that matter.
And I think there was something to Clinton’s use of assassination as a reference point… but not because she was calling for something horrible, but because she has so consistently baited the media into talking about a subject meant to hurt an opponent and taken no responsibility for it. I do think this was intentional… and sloppy. But Keith Olbermann went too far on this one for me.
Anyway… if this and “bitter” and Rev Wright are the big guns that McCain can come up with in this campaign, it’s already over.
I won’t even get far into Bill Clinton’s 65 Comments »

Wilmington On Pollack

Sydney Pollack, the man who directed Out of Africa The Way We Were, and Three Days of the Condor, was one of those Hollywood professionals who seemed bullet-proof — so versatile and ubiquitous, and so talented in all three of his movie professions (director, producer and actor) that it seemed no bilious critic or conniving executive would ever lay a glove on him.
They didn

The Nikki Finke Effect

I guess we’ve now gotten to the point where Nikki Finke is going to desperately try to spin her gossip blog into a new source. As usual, her spin is self-referential and utterly self-serving. And as it is so often… a load of crap.
At least, partially.
And this is how the truly great liars make their lies seem truthful.
Today, Nikki explains

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New (Media) Pre-Jac City

The New York Times had two stories yesterday that seemed disconnected… but are completely connected.
The first was about Redlasso, which decided to try to get ahead of the curve as a clearinghouse for daily television programs, clips of which are popular on websites. Unfortunately for Redlasso – or more so, its funders – the cutesy trick of trying to do this without the approval of the copyright holders is now turning into a real problem – the story – as the copyright holders build their own business models to control this very same content. Note that every sketch on SNL is now available for viewing and embedding on the NBC site, which includes ads for the networks and outside companies.
Next, you have a story about WB “Tr(ying) a New Tactic to Revive Its DVD Sales.” Of course, the central premise of the story is utter bullshit. The film they are “experimenting with” is one of maybe one or two a year they could consider making this kind of investment in… as they already did with The Animatrix and to some degree, with Batman and Superman animated product in anticipation of big theatrical releases. (the story) However, in the case of Watchmen, it is an interesting experiment. Will it have anything at all to do with the future of WB Home Ent? No. Not anymore than an pay-per-view day-n-date experiment with, say, the next-to-last Harry Potter movie would change the face of home delivery.
The third story is Sony’s creation of The Hot Ticket (the press release), announced last week, with the intention of delivering non-movie product to digital screens across America.
All three are stories of trying to get ahead of the curve, even if there are all kinds of inevitable reasons why it won’t work. Redlasso was hoping, it seems, that copyright owners wouldn’t notice that there was an outside company controlling and making money on their materials, so happy they would be with the popularity of the clips. Bzzt!
Sony is an established company, but still… if this kind of product ever ends up working in movie theaters as alternative programming – and the resistance for the last decade has been irrefutable – then won’t each studio with a distribution arm seek to built their own outlets for material, replicating the structure of theatrical distribution now?
And can Warners make people more anxious to buy DVDs by spending more on specific production for those DVDs? Well… weren’t these called extras for the last decade? Ah… it’s different… it’s better. Yes. And it’s much more expensive. And in this case, it might work. And 95% of the public doesn’t want to hear a director’s commentary on a dumb rom-com 95% of the time…. they want to see the movie… they want it for a price… and yes, on huge, culty movies, you can bend the public over and screw them until they bleed and they will come back for more. I’m not sure this is a breakthrough.
The thing is, everyone is reaching for new revenue streams, leaping into the fray, hoping that being first will mean being successful before anyone else gets wise.
It

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3 Movies Blur Into One

Had it occured to anyone else that Baghead seems to be the comedy version of The Strangers and that both seem to be channeling a less outrageous version of Funny Games?
Or is it just me?
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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