The Hot Blog Archive for October, 2009

Friday Estimates by Klady – These Is Them

Title – Distrib – Gross * – Theater – % Change


Super Movie Friends 7

SMF is SUPER-SIZED this week… over an hour on three segments with HitFix’s Drew McWeeny, Jen Yamato, and Cinematical’s Todd Gilchrist on HORROR. All three segments link to the others and there are mp3s for the whole thing. Enjoy!
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3


20 Weeks To Oscar – 20 Weeks To Go



Battsek Out At Miramax

Daniel was well liked and rather effective.
I don’t know. The New Disney is really, really not going to be The Old Disney… not even The New Old Disney.
It as though Bob Iger, who for years has seemed to be playing a very, very smart game of chess in reestablishing what Eisner and Katzenberg had built after they had allowed it to overmature and ripen into too many personal vendettas and self-reflections, has suddenly gotten God and is going to try to turn Disney 3.0 into a hard-driving future-focused leader instead of being a solid, sleepy, history-considering village.
There is something honorable about Iger and his new right-hand, Rich Ross, knowing their intent well enough to not bother keeping Miramax alive as anything much more than a non-theatrical brand. (That’s what Battsek’s exit suggests… and it also suggests more to come.) But there is also something a little bit scary about a company like this galloping so intensely and almost without any restraint towards an uncertain future.
I’ve been watching the well-curated, tremendous 4-disc Blu-ray packages of Up and Monsters. Inc. and it struck me yesterday just how different the Disney brand may be soon… how many more icons will be placed in the background of The Castle in years to come.
The only good thing about this news is that it will create an even greater vacuum in the art house distribution world… and no matter how tough things are, nature abhors a vacuum. But as small as a Miramax business should be at a company like D3.0, not having one is just not smart. The future of the film business is the ability to play to ALL fields, as the revenues for all filmed entertainment gets smaller. Studios that throw away $10 million a year here and $10 million a year there are setting themselves up for dangerous waters ahead. Take a look at the history of the 1960s in the business. Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it.


Circle Of Jerk du Jour

Gawker made a big deal out of catching Nikki Finke re-spinning her ignorance, but they make it seem like a unique event and not the daily reality of Hollywood’s answer to Rush Limbaugh… all self-promotion, all talking points fed to her by others, all rage and unearned arrogance over insight and knowledge, all the time.
But the idiocy around anyone calling This Is It “disappointing” is a classic and epic form of insider masturbation… all insiders… most journalists.
On Tuesday night – Thursday, the film will come close to matching the 3-day weekend opening of The Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience. Before this weekend is over, it will be the second highest grossing concert film in movie history with only the $65 million run of the Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour ahead of it domestically.
A $30 million domestic gross for this piece of kitsch history will be a massive success. It likely means $70m+ worldwide, which puts the film about $45 million away from profitability. The big question for Sony, in terms of profitability, will be DVD sales and record sales. And that DVD is more likely than most to sell strongly… at least in the 6 or 7 million range, which would put Sony well into the black before the record sales.
Who set this up to be a perceived failure? An overzealous press – which yes, includes Rush Finkebaugh – hyping this thing into the stratosphere… overconsidering the information offered by the electronic ticker sellers… trying to draw eyeballs to their various blogs instead of thinking.
And to be fair to Darling Nikki, it is not she who needs to be smacked for listening to Sony insiders who were mouth breathing about this film last week… even if she needs to go back to Journalism 101: Don’t Be A Laydown, Use Your Brain. It is whoever at Sony told her that they were expecting the film to do better than the tracking and pre-sale based estimates. Dumb.
This is the opposite number to Paranormal Activities, where the media has tripped over its own feet to praise the grosses of the film. And indeed, a $15,00 production plus another minimum of $500,000 in finishing costs, millions spent to make prints, etc, is more impressive against a gross of over $50 million than this $60m investment in a concert film, album, and DVD. But it will still work out to be a good piece of business for Sony.
I guess that’s not enough.


BYOB – 102909


More Fake News

I don’t mind Paramount pushing out new stats to promote a movie. “Most Profitable Movie Ever” would be a more significant stat than “Best Friday Matinee Gross For A Comedy Starring Hermaphrodites”… if it were true.
“Most Profitable Movie By Percentage, Based On Publicized And Obviously False Production Cost” wouldn’t probably play as well. But I don’t blame Paramount or the movie, Paranormal Activity, for selling this lie of language. It is the media that sells this stuff with misleading headlines who should be embarrassed (and/or publicly flogged).
The most profitable movies released in 2009 to-date will be, by a distance, The Hangover, Transformers 2, Ice Age 3, and Harry Potter VI. Paranormal Activity will be very, very profitable, along the numbers of Taken.
Again… the enthusiasm is what drives this movie. And the media, which sells a movie like to a wider-than-normal audience, much more than Twitter or even TV ads or trailers, can be manipulated. But when we start lying outright in headlines, it really pisses me off. People want to get angry over The Hollywood Film Awards or The Golden Globes, but the same people love to roll over for stuff like this.
I apologize again if this feels like a slam on this specific movie or the publicity dept at Par. It’s not. Never has a movie’s actual content been more irrelevant to its gross. And the publicity and marketing has been brilliant in selling this film with similar skills to see a Roland Emmerich show-up-to-see-landmarks-explode film.
But when media wonders why journalism is dying, it needs to ask Walt Kelly, not just Craigslist.


Oooh Hoo Hoo!

This will be a quickie.
The stars of This Is It! are Don Brochu, Brandon Key, Tim Patterson and Kevin Stitt. They edited the footage together and made it coherent.
There is always something interesting about a backstage glimpse of a big talent putting things together. This is not Michael Jackson’s best work. It’s not even a full rehearsal, with the exception of one number. I have been to many sound checks that blew it out more impressively.
One thing you do get from the film is that Jackson was a person and not a freak.
In any case, for what this is, it is very well put together and worth seeing. It’s not something I would spend the time on, but that’s an issue of personal interest. If you are interested, you aren’t going to walk out of the theater disappointed, even if there will be small disappointments along the way.
One a side note, singer Judith Hill may offer the sexiest onscreen performance of the year without trying much. She’s one of those women who sizzles with the combination of looks and a clear charm that comes across on screen, much more so than in stills. And she can sing her ass off. Killer.
So… if you are going to see This Is It, you should see it in IMAX, even if most of the IMAX opportunities are FauxMAX. The experience is about feeling like you are in the room and the size and somewhat better sound make that experience all the more real.
Seacrest out.

How Do You Deal With Scientology?

You know… I try to stay out of the religious beliefs of others.
And whatever you or I feel about Scientology, the people who believe are true believers… and if you want to say they are crazy, you can start lining up people who think that Judaism and Christianity are equally dubious.
The one thing that struck me, however, about both the 2-night Nightline coverage and the BBC Panorama coverage is that I have real concerns about any organization that seeks religious standing with the US government and refuses to speak about their beliefs.
When a publicist/believer explains that he won’t speak about, either to confirm or deny, the basic positions of the faith, something is wrong… really wrong. And I am saying this as someone who deals with people who cannot tell the truth, as a matter of business course, every day. I am not even talking about lying with a straight face, which some do and some do not.
Can you imagine if Christians decided that Jesus rising was not to be spoken of publicly, but was still at the center of the idea of Jesus as the third part of the holy trinity. Can you imagine if priests stormed out of interviews if asked about whether the faith believed that Jesus had risen?
Would anyone be able to take them seriously?
Like I said, what you have faith in is not my call… but when you refuse to acknowledge what you believe, it suggests a lack of true faith and by the very lack of transparency, it calls your beliefs into question.
Me? I have no problem with Tom Cruise being anti-psychiatry. That’s his right, just as it’s Jenny McCarthy’s right to be anti-vaccination. These are opinions and we should all be allowed to express ours without fear of being called “crazy” simply for having them. And we should be willing and able, to a reasonable degree, to defend our positions… or at least exclaim our faith, no matter how blind.
In any case, here is the Nightline Package
Nightline Day 1
Nightline Day 2
And here is a channel on YouTube where you can see the BBC’s “Scientology & Me”
Also, this little bit on Paul Haggis… who seems to remain one of the sober individuals of this industry, even when we disagree on ideas profoundly. How could anyone ask more of someone’s principals?
Decide for yourself.


AMPAS Governor's Awards

Quietly creeping up on us is the Governor’s Awards, this year’s spin-off of the honorary awards traditionally featured during the Oscar telecast.
This show, which will be taped but not televised, is in the ballroom at Hollywood & Highland where the Governor’s Ball is done each year (since the Kodak). The honorees this year are John Calley, Roger Corman, Lauren Bacall, and the great cinematographer, Gordon Willis.
The only reason it is now on my radar at all is that I looked it up after being reminded that it was happening after I tried to schedule something with a friend who is obliged to attend. That’s a little quiet when you consider The Academy is honoring 4 true legends.
Sadly, Calley is not expected to attend due to health issues. And the price per ticket is scaring away some who you would expect to be in the ballroom… $350 a head for dinner.


MJ's Pissed!

In LA, as people lined up for the first screenings of This Is It, a hellacious wind blew across the southland and knocked out electricity in Hollywood and beyond.
It has to be the ghost of Michael Jackson, enraged that he is being raped in death by the Brits, the Japanese, and a guy named after a taco.
On a lighter note, IMAX screens with the film are being limited to evening shows in mostly multiplex-imax houses because the screens are already taken up with Where The Wild Things Are. So keep the kids up late, make then dance like Michael in front of the mall’s Ben & Jerry’s and take them to those late night IMAX shows. And remember, this is all about the art… and it’s what Michael wanted… that is, on the list of what he wanted right after not being dead.



PRECIOUS BACKLASH – I am already feeling the urge to lash back at the talk of backlash.
It is the profound arrogance of the entertainment media to delude ourselves that we, not the real movie goers or even the privileged awards voters, decide what should be praised and how intensely. It is the same pathetic mindset that happens when Variety pans a movie like The Road or AntiChrist and other media monkeys line up to suggest that this is a meaningful moment in the history of the film and future audience reaction.
There can be no backlash against Precious because, so far, the entire definition of how the movie plays has been based on a breathless media and Oprah… not necessarily in that order.
Some fools are even wondering aloud whether Lee Daniels is costing himself a Best Director win by being honest in public… when he is a long ways away from getting a nomination, much less a win. (This is true of all the filmmakers in play, not just him.)
STOP!!!! Get some perspective. And stop damaging a movie like Precious by treating it, months before the response to the movie from real people and real voters will be heard, like the Holy Grail.
You know why Up In The Air has gone quiet lately? Because the folks at Paramount marketing get the joke. It’s hard to live up to the endless, screaming hype. Plus it turns a pulpy picture like Precious and really, a smoother-edged pulpy picture like Up In The Air into something an audience has to do… to cross off its list of responsibilities… and disallows the honest discovery of the film.
For me, this goes back to Brokeback Mountain, which actually may have won had so many not assumed that it was a mortal lock to win and that any other result was backlash. This just wasn’t the case. The love for the film, once people saw it, was not universal. Not close. But worse, the positioning of inevitability emboldened Oscar voters who didn’t love the film to feel even more strongly about not loving it. They wanted to kill the hype… the finger-waving “I’m not going” of it all, not the movie.
You can’t tell people, “And you… and you… and you… you’re gonna love me.” You have to let them love you. And that is exactly, by the way, what Dreamgirls says at the end of that song, when the show immediately goes on without Effie.
Let me also point out… the overwrought screeching around this film is not coming from Lionsgate. It’s the media… really a few loud voices. This is not to discount the many people who have seen and love the film or the audience awards. But this is not a film that can march up to the Kodak and demand its Oscar. This is a year of many colors and we are a long way from a frontrunner.
Calm down and let’s get on without talk of frontrunners or backlashes until they are more than a figment of our prideful imaginations.
SOUPY & STERN – I had a thought sitting at the back of my head and finally got to look into whether I was having an aneurysm… I wasn’t. Soupy Sales was Howard Stern’s radio lead-in at WNBC when Stern rose to national fame/infamy and eventually got fired in a flash in September 1985.
When Stern got dumped – I happened to be working in the building at the time – the first rumor was that Sales was behind having him fired. But it wasn’t true. Stern had very crudely attacked the lead anchor of the lead money-making news show on WNBC-TV, which was also in the same building. She was the straw that broke management’s back on Stern.
But remembering back to those days, it amused me to remember that Soupy was still working in the big leagues then and leading into the dark side of modern radio.
SNL KAGAN’S LATEST SILLY STUDY RESULT – I don’t have the study in front of me, so I can’t deconstruct the details, but good gosh a’mighty, this “expensive movies are more profitable than small movies” headline is a load of excrement of monumental proportion.
First, the geniuses didn’t factor in marketing costs – which have been the fastest growing cost for theatrical distribution for the last decade, until the last year or so – or foreign box office – which is greater in most studio release cases than domestic – or DVD revenues.
Really? A grown up analyst is analyzing profits and losses based on 35% or less of the revenue stream and distribution costs that are often greater than the cost of production and on the over-$100m titles represent no less than $100m worldwide?
All a smart person has to do is to read the lead of Variety’s story on the study – “Films boasting production pricetags of more than $100 million actually generate higher returns than mid-range pics, averaging $247 million in net profits per release.”
Seriously. That has to be a typo, right?
Of the Top 30 grossers of 2009 so far, the total domestic gross is $3.127 billion… or an average domestic gross of $184 million. Generously estimating that this represents only 40% of the theatrical gross (foreign, 60%), means an average $460 million gross worldwide. That’s a rental return to the distributor of $253 million. Let’s be even more generous and estimate an additional $150 million NET in post-theatrical revenue.
So we’re at $400 million. Minimum production and distribution cost… $200 million. Realistic but still generous average cost… $275 million. About half of these high-cost titles carry heavy percentage players… but to be generous again, let’s cut it down to 5% of net going out the door to participants. That’s another $20 million.
So… even under this generous and mostly unrealistic scenerio, you’re looking at a $100 million+ cost movie being $105 million into profit.
But what’s the real truth. Three movies will make significantly more profit than $105 million. And five of the movies will lose money. That leaves nine films somewhere in the middle.
And this doesn’t include Land of The Lost or Where The Wild Things Are in this year’s numbers, as neither has gone Top 30 yet. (WTWTA should get there.)
Yes, making The Dark Knight or Transformers 2 or Harry Potter is a better business than making The Proposal or Paul Blart: Mall Cop. But franchise chasing can shut down studios…or at least, get a lot of people fired. In the last decade, no $40 million movie got any major (or even any Dependent) in trouble.
But if you want to know the real truth, simply look at how the business itself has changed. Studios have gotten as far away as possible from funding all but a handful of franchise movies on their own. If there is all this profit in making expensive movies, how come no one other than rich ambitious outsiders are wanting to put the money on the line?

– Great for the Hollywood Foreign Press Association… and a completely wrong-headed idea for The Oscars. Equally stoopid, the notion that Neil Patrick Harris should complete the triple crown by adding Oscar hosting duties to the Tonys (great performance) and the Emmys (not so great). The Emmys were easily the worst televised awards show of the year this year. Very little worked… and it was trying so hard that it bordered on Stephen Fetchit.
I love Gervais. But he has a very specific kind of humor. And it is so distinctly not an Oscar kind of humor.
Truth is, Billy Crystal is a middlebrow funnyman. He’s never going to demand much more from the audience than they are going to be happy to give up from their couches. And that is why he is so well remembered as an Oscar host.
The same is true of Jay Leno. He gave up being edgy, which he once was (a bit), to become Middle America’s funny man. And he did it brilliantly. Would I trade an hour of Leno for 15 minutes of Lewis Black? No. 20 minutes of Letterman? No. But I am not the guy’s core audience. Oscar’s TV audiences ARE his core audience. (Note; I do find Leno funny… but it is just a soft kind of funny… every once in a while, he let’s something tough slip in and I remember just how funny he really can be.)


With Due Respect…

It’s almost impossible to decipher who is the john and who is the whore when it comes to the “Hollywood Film Awards.”
I sometimes wonder why I haven’t launched the MCN Movie Awards and I think the answer is that I’m just not cynical enough yet.


BYOB Monday

Been drivin’…
Salinas is beautiful.


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