The Hot Blog Archive for January, 2010

Why Is The Hollywood Reporter Hyping Sundance Sales?

THEATRICAL DEALS OVER $1.5M
The Kids Are Alright – $4m-ish for domestic
Buried – $3m or so
THEATRICAL DEALS UNDER $1.5M
Blue Valentine
The Killer Inside Me
Winter’s Bone
Hesher
NON-THEATRICAL DEALS
Family Affair
Twelve
Undertow
10 deals pending… 2 or 3 for real theatrical.
People absolutely liked the films this year better than in recent years. And this makes last year look pretty damn good, commercially.
And with due respect to vets like Roadside and IFC… not much theatrical muscle (or intent) there… and the number of new companies with no track record… from Oprah’s cable net to a book publisher to Newmarket. Seriously?
Lionsgate bought a thriller with a star for a fraction of what a production would cost them… Focus bought a film they should have made in the first place… and we’re done. Sony Classics will fill their library – and find an indie theatrical hit or two – with six-figure deals for quality films that will roll in over the next two months as reality hits.
And a note to the forgetful… Precious didn’t sell until AFTER Oprah and Tyler Perry signed on… which was not until the bitter end of Sundance… and the deal didn’t close for weeks after. The film was not Little Miss Sunshine or Blair Witch at all.

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Miramax Moronics

If the New York Times’ source is right – and keep in mind, we are dealing with a notoriously iffy industry reporter at the NYT chasing down a source to confirm gossip that Nikki Finke was softly floating – than Disney will make yet another move that seems quick and decisive, but not very smart.
Unless Disney is having major cash flow troubles, $700 million or less will not change much of anything for the company. And in the process, they would be selling off a good-sized library that may, indeed, be worth less and less in the future. But it does create revenue now and though I am not a great believer in the long tail creating a big pot o’ cash, you never know.
What possible reason would a stable company have to sell off a library with dozens of classic and near-classic titles for so little money?
Oy!

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When Pride Met Tarantino… On The Phone…

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DP/30: The List

Welcome to the latest spin on DP/30… one I hope will become a regular feature. “The List” is, simply, a chance to talk to a filmmaker (of whatever stripe) about their entire list of movie credits, from start to finish.
Our first subject is Norman Jewison, who was honored by DGA just last night.
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Part 1: from Judy Garland to The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming!
The Judy Garland Show (1962) (TV)
40 Pounds of Trouble (1962)
The Thrill of It All (1963)
Send Me No Flowers (1964)
The Art of Love (1965)
The Cincinnati Kid (1965)
The Russians Are Coming the Russians Are Coming (1966)

Part II: In The Heat Of The Night to A Soldier’s Story

In the Heat of the Night (1967)
The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)
Gaily, Gaily (1969)
Fiddler on the Roof (1971)
Jesus Christ Superstar (1973)
Rollerball (1975)
F.I.S.T (1978)
…And Justice for All. (1979)
Best Friends (1982)
A Soldier’s Story (1984)

Part III: Agnes of God to The Statement

Agnes of God (1985)
Moonstruck (1987)
In Country (1989)
Other People’s Money (1991)
Only You (1994)
Bogus (1996)
The Hurricane (1999)
Dinner with Friends (2001) (HBO)
The Statement (2003)

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Weekend Box Office by Klady A7/Darkness 17

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Not a whole lot more to say about this weekend.
A stat that I find a bit surprising is that Avatar is still running, in Weekend 7, a few million for the weekend ahead of Titanic domestically, which is the long legs king of the world. Titanic‘s Weekend 8 was $23 million and change… so… we’ll see…
The re-release of The Hurt Locker is… not happening. Another mistake. I will be the first one to cheer if the movie wins Best Picture, but it’s a shame that Summit found so many different ways for audiences not to experience this movie on a big screen. And of course, it’s not just Summit’s fault. The rest of the industry gave the film a collective pass when distribution rights were on the line. Searchlight could be up to win their second Best Picture in a row… and Fox overall would be in a virtual can’t-lose situation.
The real story, when all is said and done, will be that two movies that really chose NOT to compete for Best Picture in an aggressive way are the two front-runners at this point. Yes, both companies have bought ads and will buy more. But for the most part, both Summit and Fox have let the movies themselves do almost all the heavy lifting.
But I digress…

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Kathryn Bigelow Wins DGA

Happy news tonight. The first woman to win DGA could not deserve the honor more.
I do think that Jim Cameron’s achievement as a director deserves major accolades. But making so much of so little, budgetwise, is a great achievement as well. And she did, after all, direct the best American movie of 2009.

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Friday Estimates by Klady – A7

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We’re getting closer to a #2 weekend for Avatar domestically. Taken opened to over $24 million. Will the director’s follow-up, with bald John Travolta a a cherry on top, open to the same or more? If A’ drops 155 this weekend and 15% again next weekend, we’re looking at a $25.2m 3-day. Vulnerable.
Of course, Avatar looks to pass Titanic as top domestic grosser, all-time, in real dollars, before mid-week. And if it doesn’t cross the $2 billion worldwide tape today, it will do so tomorrow.
Mel Gibson’s return in Edge of Darkness should end up opening in the mid-teens. Though the points of comparison start and end here, the last time he opened a movie to this little was Braveheart in 1995. Still, considering the ugliness of the last number of years, there seems to be some forgiveness in this number and room for a return to bigger openings… if studios will have him.
When in Rome is not a disastrous number… nothing to celebrate… except for those who thought the film would never get a real release.
In clean-up, Sherlock continues to roll slowly to $200 million domestic… Complicated passed $100 million yesterday…

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Actual Research Brings Asterisk To GWTW Numbers

I have pointed out repeatedly that the assumptions we make about old numbers can be very iffy. Box Office Mojo, in particular, is operating with a very narrow set of numbers from before its opening a few years ago, none of which it compiled on its own.
Some guy from Australia did some research – what a concept! – and found some issues with Mojo’s much repeated Adjusted Gross chart. He use the NY Times search and found news stories from each time Gone With The Wind was in release and found that the estimates of ticket sales were iffy. You can read that here
Me being me, I am researching his research. And he’s a little off base in some areas. But not all.
Still, if you want to understand why adjusted gross games and ticket sales guessing is a fool’s errand, read the thread. And I’ll offer more when I have gotten closer to real numbers.
You might also want to read this Time Magazine piece from 1940. While Mojo is estimating tickets sold at 23

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Box Office Hell – Avatar To Hit $2 Billion This Weekend

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BYOB

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PRESS RELEASE – 2nd Sundance Buy Made Offiicial

FOCUS FEATURES ACQUIRES RIGHTS TO
LISA CHOLODENKO

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I've Got Movie Stars In My Shorts

“The Jury Prize in Short Filmmaking was awarded to

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Miriam & Max's Namesake Is No More (For Now)

As the final employees exit Miramax today, we find ourselves at the end of a remarkable story.
Really, it is a story about Miramax and New Line. Unlike the other studio-owned indies, The Dependents, these companies were the ones that really started the larger scale independent movement, rising from pick-ups to major production houses. (Orion, Hemdale, UA and others asserted themselves from a rather different trajectory.) New Line’s Bob Shaye started with distributing early John Waters and then built of genre product before the company was mainstreamed a bit under Time-Warner, eventually peaking with Lord of The Rings.
Harvey & Bob Weinstein’s Miramax launched about a decade later, though they took a rather different tack. Their genre was foreign language and non-US English-language films. The way Shaye saw an opportunity in controversy, The Weinsteins saw a world full of films that were not getting any distribution in the United States and with their marketing genius, created a market. (Ironically, may of the great foreign language films released before Miramax came via genre distributors, like AIP and Roger Corman.)
From The Secret Policeman’s Ball to Crossover Dreams to I’ve Heard The Mermaids Singing to Aria, the presence was there. But it was in 1988 with both the Oscar-winning foreign language film, Cinema Paradiso and Errol Morris’ The Thin Blue Line, which controversially was not nominated for Best Doc, that Miramax became a major brand.
A year later, the next major shift… Sundance and Sex, Lies & Videotape. Soderbergh was nominated for an Oscar for the screenplay. Meanwhile, the company released high profile arthouse films like Scandal and The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover. And My Left Foot… Miramax’s first Best Picture nominee.
1990 started the company’s real push into being a production entity as well as a distributor. The effort was a mixed bag. Plenty of acclaim, but the box office returns were just okay. Along the way, the company supported a number of talents of rising profile in the U.S., from Jeunet & Caro to Beeban Kidron to Peter Chelsom to Mike Newell to directors whose previous distributors had fallen apart, like Neil Jordan and Stephen Frears. (Jane Campion, who would bring glory to Miramax with The Piano was being supported for a bit by New Line’s indie art arm, Fine Line.)
In 1993, Disney bought Miramax. This loosened up cash flow, which was notoriously messy when it was a private company. It literally took Disney years to work through the books fully and to organize the internal business workings of the company.
Then, 1994 was the watershed year. The Boys found Kevin Smith at Sundance with Clerks… hip and big return on a tiny investment. They had an old school commercial genre hit with The Crow. Bullets Over Broadway was a bit of a Woody Allen comeback, a hit, and a multiple Oscar nominee. Muriel’s Wedding came form out of nowhere and established Toni Collette and Rachel Griffiths overnight. And they had their first $100 million movie with Pulp Fiction, which was also nominated for Best Picture.
IN 1995, they shoved Il Postino into a Best Picture nomination. And the bar they set was now being chased by other studios with Dependents. The next year, there was only one major studio film amongst the 5 Best Picture nominees. Gramercy, Miramax, New Line, October… and Columbia. And Miramax won for the first time, with The English Patient.
Meanwhile, the new Miramax division, Dimension, brought the company it’s second $100 million domestic grosser, Scream. And the gold rush was on. Good Will Hunting was a 9-figure grosser and an Oscar nominee. Shakespeare in Love just got to $100m, but upset Saving Private Ryan in the Oscar race to the shock of almost everyone.
The real trouble started in 1999, when the company delivered only two films that grossed at least $50m domestic… and only just. One of those, The Cider House Rules, got a Best Picture nomination. But the price vs return was looking less attractive and others were pushing out Miramax-esque films, including the Oscar winner, American Beauty, and other nominees like The Sixth Sense and The Insider, both of which were from Miramax’s parent, Disney.
In 2000, the only $100m domestic grosser was Dimension’s Scary Movie. Again, Harvey & Co (see: Lundberg & Swartz) shoved a movie into a Best Picture nomination, Chocolat… but only $67m at the domestic box office.
In 2001, In The Bedroom, a great Sundance pick-up, got nominated… but did little business. Spy Kids was a blockbuster and Bridget Jones’ Diary was a surprise hit, but The Shipping News was the first expensive Miramax Oscar-chaser to crap out, both commercially and with Oscar.
From there, the chase got more expensive. Chicago worked, made big money, and won the Oscar. But Gangs of New York was Scorsese’s first mega-budget film and didn’t make a profit, just barely making the Oscar cut. From there, things only got more intense… and less successful.
The only other $100 million grosser from Miramax would be The Aviator, Scorsese’s first $100 million budget film… and got nominated… lost… and made $213m worldwide… just barely into black ink, if it got there, given the intense expense of the Oscar chase. That was 2004.
In 2005, Disney said goodbye to The Weinsteins after they refused to pull back on the size of their annual budget from the distended $750m a year it had grown into – more than 5x the original deal of 12 years earlier – and back to $400 million or so, concentrating on the more economical, higher-grossing Dimension model.
The Battsek era at Miramax also deserves to be remembered. After getting past a glut of iffy releases, the division rebounded with Tsotsi and then, The Queen, followed by such quality movies as Gone Baby Gone, No Country For Old Men, The Diving Bell & The Butterfly, There Will Be Blood, Happy-Go-Lucky, and Doubt.
But the legend of Miramax is The Weinsteins’, first and last. 15 Best Picture nominations in 14 years (or 16 in 17 years) with 3 wins, yes. But much more significant, they brought – along with New Line and Orion and Gramercy/October – the idea of heavy-duty marketing and publicity to smaller films. While many pushed the movement, no one sold their shit better than Harvey & Bob and the team they assembled.
Sure, there is something very Hannibal Lechter about the idea of appreciating just how important Miramax was to the film industry. Charming, brilliant, and as likely as not to eat your liver with a glass of Chianti and some fava beans… and some M&MS for dessert. But they didn’t actually kill anyone. And they did actually change the industry in many great ways, whether it was their intention or not.
Miramax is shuttered, but as releases from Touchstone and Paramount Vantage will remind, corpses can still release movies. (I gather that Julie Fontaine is the crypt keeper, with four more films in the Miramax pipeline.)
But more so, as the industry shifts, the name will not only show up on DVDs and VOD, but eventually on a division that makes “specialty” films. The word from Harvey – about 2 years old – that he’d like the name back is fine. I doubt that he will pay the kind of money he would need to pay to get it. But as I have written before, The Weinsteins With Money is a perfect fit for what Iger & Ross are doing at Disney. If The Weinsteins hooked up with Disney for a decade, got their name back, and Disney funded P&A only, at a set amount, there is no reason why it could not work out just fine. The library gets built. Motives for all are good. And The Weinsteins can’t hurt the company with profligate spending. Moreover, TWC really needs strong output.
So… we’ll see…
But for now, It was MIRAMAX… and it will be missed…

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Interesting Trailers From Rotterdam


Sundance With Wildman

Things are slowing down up there, but John Wildman had a movie day that sounds like the most fun I have heard anyone have this week. A stoner comedy called High School, Vincenzo Natali’s Splice with Sarah Polley, amd 12th & Delaware from the terrific documentarians that brought us Jesus Camp.
Here you go,..
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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