A decent opening for Dinner For Schmucks… not a car wreck… not a home run. It’s a little behind Date Night, which benefited from a premise that was easier to digest. I think it says a lot that the ads and promo clips were all a running competition of which schmuck was the biggest schmuck. The core of the original film was the evolving relationship between The Schmuck and the smooth guy who brought him to the dinner. But in the ads, Steve Carrell’s eyes kept getting bigger (like a rodent in G-Force) and Paul Rudd got smaller by the day,
Of course, the single stupidest thing I have read comes directly from inside Paramount… that they somehow forced Jay Roach to change the movie, bringing up testing scores… and that this somehow got them a better opening. MOVIES DO NO OPEN BASED ON THE MOVIE ITSELF. No one knows what they are actually buying entering that theater. Changes to the movie may matter next weekend. But not this weekend. This opening is based on the success or failure of the marketing department, not the overall quality fo the film. Inception‘s hold remains excellent, whether it’s #1 this weekend or not. This remains an utterly irrelevant stat that is market-dependent, not a real reflection of Inception‘s success… either way. That said, the film still seems to me heading to around $250m domestic and a slot as the year-to-date’s #4 or #5 domestic hit, both in total gross and speed of getting there.
Sony will chase $100m domestic with Salt. Not a disaster. But not a thrill either.
It’s funny. People get all worked up when I write about the 2-month strategy of a film like A Christmas Carol, suggesting that the opening wasn’t the car wreck the media made it out to be. And some will suggest that I am conversely too hard on a movie like Salt. ACC’s ultimate failure to make good on the long-view strategy means cutting it apart after it’s done. Salt was built to be a quick, big hit. There are things I am right about and things i am wrong about, but more than anything, perspective is what I beg of people. The goals a movie sets for itself are a dominant issue in any film’s box office story.
This is also why I see the media’s willingness to spin Inception as an adult drama, when it was clearly made and sold as an action blockbuster with a brain, as a big gift to WB. The film is a hit… will probably do significantly better overseas… and deserves the praise it gets. But when you get into box office chatter and it is compared to dramas instead of action films, it makes me laugh. (But it is rarely compared to The Blind Side, which made as much domestically with a straight drama that cost less than 20% of the Incept-o-budget.) Charlie St. Cloud is a teen-appeal drama, opening to the low end of studio summer openings. But the hope is that it will do a chick-flick multiple, like Letters To Juliet, and be a nice, small, cheap hit for the studio at around $60m domestic.
WB can’t be thrilled with this opening for Cats & Dogs 2. Even with a strong children’s Saturday, this opening – with the benefit of the 3D bump – will be at least 20% off of the original film’s opening… and this budget has to be up more than 20% from the first film. Simply put, the film’s marketing was missing a funny line from a talking chihuahua. The first time out, the premise that dogs & cats had a secret life was front and center and compelling. Here, 9 years later, the message was unclear about everything except for cool CG of animals talking… which amazingly, is not enough anymore.
But this point for 3D haters… even a weak opening will make the 3D conversion on this film a profitable choice for WB. Until studios are convinced that they are actually losing business because they are releasing in 3D, $5m a picture for conversion is a no-brainer… even if it sucks. But this film is not the tipping point, as there is no reason to think that without 3D, this film wouldn’t have opened to a $3m Friday… uglier. Grownups is winding down now, but it will likely end up being Sandler’s 3rd biggest film in his career. He still doesn’t sell overseas, but he is a machine here at home… nearly unstoppable by anything other than on occasional urge to be taken seriously.
One of the sad parts of paying attention to the coverage of the film world is that I hear the same crap over and over and over again. Some of it is just seasonal cliche’. Some is annual. Some of it is just The Dumb repeating what they hear, unable to chew ideas and type at the same time.
So today, when a friend sent Joe Queenan’s WSJ screed, idiotically entitled, “The Worst Movie Year Ever?” and sub-headed, “Coming soon to a theater near you: absolutely nothing you want to see. Why Hollywood keeps trying to sell us on pointless sequels, lame remakes and the stardom of Shia LaBeouf,” I just had to roll my eyes, dig in, and start laughing at Queenan’s old man, get-out-of-my-seat ranting.
Of course, the first moronic element of any “Worst Movie Ever” pig squeal is the notion by the author that his/her taste is the defining idea of what is best and worst. Then there is the truly stupid notion that Hollywood can even be adequately addressed as “Hollywood,” a usage that suggests the monolithic “they” that does everything as a group with one focused purpose designed to irritate the author. Tag onto that the posturing that minor irritations are major components of how “they” think.”
I’m not saying that Queenan is not right to complain that there isn’t much quality out there – and hasn’t been for most of the year – for a thinking adult to enjoy at the movies. I get that.
I also get that the movies get worse every year after most of us hit 30… when the willing suspension of proportionate movie passion tends to stop. This doesn’t mean that we stop loving movies. But that excitement of consuming it all and finding something to love in the worst as much as the best tends to fade when we learn the value of a dollar, get tired on nights we used to go out on, and take on life responsibilities that keep us aware that the real world is still going on outside the dark room full of strangers.
But like anyone who is trying to sell an overstatement, like “Best Comedy Of The Year,” timing is important. He refers to Oscar movies, for instance. Last year at this time, two of the ten nominees had been released. The Hurt Locker was not doing much business and Up was the animated hit. This year, Toy Story 3 is a likely nominee in a field of 10 and on top of that you have commercial hits for adults that will be in the race, if not in the ten – Inception and Shutter Island– plus indies that are doing as well or better than Locker last year, like The Kids Are All Right and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
Oh, wait… foreign language doesn’t count for Queenan. How very old man of him.
Foreign language films are a vibrant and growing part of the indie film culture. In terms of “what’s playing,” it is completely reasonable to include those films in how one sees the film year.
But back to the Oscar movies… my point… they are waiting just around the corner. Get Low opens in NY this weekend. The biggest hit for adult women, I suspect, Eat, Pray, Love, opens in a couple of weeks.
Will films like Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and The Other Guys play as well with smart guys like Queenan as it does with boys? Probably not. Will that make them CRAP? No.
But will The American, The Town, and Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps in 3 of 4 September weekends be good enough to start turning Queenan? Probably.
And so, the answer to Queenan’s petulant question… NO. This is not the worst year for movies ever. It is not a sensational year so far. It doesn’t help that the March movies they used to run for adults have been replaced by mega-budget 3D crap. But c’est la vie.
Movies get worse every year… when you are always looking back.
But the really good movies are as good as ever and a wider range are available than ever before… if you choose to look forward.
In Part 1, we talk about the early days of his life and his first films: The Incredible Shrinking Woman, DC Cab, St Elmo’s Fire, The Lost Boys, Cousins, Flatliners, Dying Young, and Falling Down.
And we haven’t shot Part 2. Joel is shooting a new movie on the east coast. Someday…
The only comparable non-animated summer hold to Inception‘s second weekend – even if the studio percentage ends up being 2 or 4 or4 percent off – is The Hangover. (Hangover had a better hold, but off a smaller opening… which balances out.) Clearly, a lot of people were convinced that if they wanted to go see a summer blockbuster this weekend, seeing the new Angelina was not as important to them as seeing Nolan’s much talked about film.
I still think there has been a pretty strong overstatement in the press about how this film is doing. And that is, no doubt, self-fulfilling. It doesn’t hurt that, like Avatar, Titanic, and others, there is not much else in the marketplace that can be recommended by word of mouth. There is, no doubt, a you-have-to-see-it-and-decide-for-yourself element.
Regardless, a very strong hold, a very good movie, and a happy story for people who want something out of the summer that isn’t completely brain dead entertainment.
Meanwhile, Jolie’s Salt opening was well off of her Wanted opening… and that was the target for Sony to hit, no? Still, a solid opening.
Perspective counts, of course. Salt is a much cheaper movie than Robin Hood and Sony is not in flux. Yet, when Robin Hood did the same number… and what is likely to be a significantly bigger number worldwide… the word “bomb” was being thrown around. In the end, the bottom lines on these two movies will look pretty similar, unless Salt ends up being unusually leggy.
Sony is definitely seeing dividends by having the only real non-animated comedy in the marketplace since it opened, Grown Ups. Dinner For Schmucks has a real opportunity on that score and it will be interesting to see how that film affects Sandler’s. It seems like every year that the summer isn’t overloaded with comedies, the studios forget to do very many at all… and then you get a pile-up like Schmucks and The Other Guys opening back-to-back. With Get Him To The Greek, that makes only 4 straight comedies all summer long… and all four are from franchisers Sandler, Farrell, or Apatow. (Carrell has his feet in both Farrell and Apatow worlds… though perhaps Schmucks lands under Roach’s jurisdiction.)
Focus has an interesting road ahead with The Kids Are All Right. The biggest grosser not to hit 1000 screens in the US this year is Summit’s The Ghost Writer, which had its only $2m weekend with 819 screens. Kids outdid their high this weekend on just 201 screens. The trick to get to and surpass Ghost’s domestic total of $15.5m is getting another big jump out of Kids when it does leap to 800 screens next weekend. A $5 million weekend next weekend and you’re looking at (500) Days of Summer numbers, or better. If the film plateaus on expansion, say $3.5 million, and you start thinking maybe the low 20s. If it stays at $2.6m or drops, the audience has been well mined and high teens starts to look good. This is a film, regardless of your politics or personal feelings about the film, which should be rooted for every bit as much as Inception, in terms of it being a personal piece that is being given a real shot by Focus based on great performances and a respect for adult audiences.
Here is what you were being asked to buy on a Friday afternoon…
For $10 million or so (as alleged by The Wrap), Ryan Kavanaugh has purchased a walking-dead entity that released 16 movies in 4 years of business, and this now makes him a “real” studio mogul.
Can’t we see what’s in front of our faces? Relativity is a producer on over 20 films this year. This year alone they have made more movies than Overture made in its entire 4-year run. Ryan Kavanaugh was already a much bigger mogul than the Overturians… and has his personal fingers in more films than anyone in town.
Can he sustain? Is it a house of cards? What’s the long play? All reasonable questions that I still find myself asking.
But while guys like Patrick Goldstein are trying to make it sound like he uses a Ouija board to pick his movies based on something he read in a magazine, Kavanaugh has told me, rather directly, that his Ouija board is really a strong foreign sales position in which he claims 70% of the funding on every movie he now makes is guaranteed by pre-sales in 103 countries. Not very new fangled.
Ask me about the Overture sale and I will tell you this… Kavanaugh hired some talent and got them and some product at a bargain basement price. These players may or may not stick with Relativity. Relativity may or may not end up being an ongoing theatrical distributor. But he was the lead player here, not the guy somehow lucking his way up the ladder.
And ironically, if the three movies Starz now has release rights to include the pay-tv rights – which I assume they must – then Relativity can more than pay for the “acquisition” from the NetFlix rights alone.
In other words, Starz seems to have, basically, paid Relativity to take Overture and its ongoing employment contracts and responsibilities for releasing these three movies as in a baseball trade… Starz may have gotten some cash, but Relativity got a lot more in value than what it paid, but it also takes on some responsibilities.
As someone unnamed former Overturer told The Wrap, “The company’s not being sold, it’s being wound down.”
Yeah. Pretty much.
And what a nice story it will be if the Overture team does great things for Relativity and they live happily ever after. But it doesn’t have to be that way. There is no assurance at all of either group being fully committed to the other.
But somehow, because the press release said, in graph 4 of its press release, “
Inception will win the weekend… but only because Salt is looking soft. Inception will have the 5th best second weekend of the year and pretty much in range with 2 or 3 other titles. In other words, completely admirable and solid, but nothing to write headlines about. And I don’t expect much of a % jump over the weekend, which would normally reflect a bigger drop on Friday because it’s opening day, because of the Midnight screenings last Thursday.
$240m or so domestic is nothing but excellent, but it can be overstated. And now, it’s probably time to start thinking about the sequel, which could take the premise, make a less heady piece, and double the box office.
Back to the Salt mine… I think Sony got nervous when it looked at the tracking and decided to stop selling story and just sell Jolie running and shooting. Perhaps that is all they had to go with at that point. And if they were finding that the campaign wasn’t locking in, they had to go somewhere.
Perhaps the problem was that Ms. Jolie was being a bit precious about her availability. One 30 second killer clip and a few slots on TV might have flipped the switch. But instead of being at The View, Angie was at ComicCon on Thursday, pushing the one crowd already in pocket. Hmmm…. Ramona and Beezus… really? Did Fox mean for this film to leak out onto 2719 screens. Because it feels like it escaped, as opposed to being released. No doubt, I have not watched my share of Nickelodeon or Disney Channel this week. But what looks to be a sweet film, pretty much heading for the same niche as WB’s Flipped. due in 2 weeks, had less general presence on opening weekend than the Reiner film, two weeks out. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice only gets scarier for Disney. It now looks like it won’t get to The Last Song‘s domestic gross. The only real option now – a cheap one – is to release 2 or the lengthy clips (the 6 minute variety) to try to get people surprised by what they missed. They’re past “giving it away.” So… throw it out there… nothing to lose now… and if they can get a parent or two amused, they could get to $70 million.
$380m domestic looms for Toy Story 3, the $400m mark assured over the course of the summer. It’s finally opening weekend in the UK, followed by France next weekend and Germany the weekend after. Those countries will likely push the film’s international gross over the $400 million mark as well, making it the 4th animated film in history to reach that mark That said, Shrek 2, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, and Finding Nemo‘s worldwide numbers, all over $268m, are likely beyond TS3’s grasp.
And with the 3D Bump… okay… yawn… we all get it… Twilight: Eclipse is still slightly ahead of its predecessor, day-for-day, but is slowing faster. The concern now for Summit is that foreign may not match New Moon, which is unusual in successful sequels. Of course, every studio would love to grapple with that kind of problem. They get to make movies that are disliked by everyone except for the target audience, on a budget, which outgross Iron Man and its sequel worldwide. Unfortunately, the gravy train has only got two more stops before Summit has to go back to finding its first non-vamp $100m domestic grosser as a company.
Pretty strong opening day for the Orlando re-release. 140 people per theater took the time out to go see an 18-year-old arthouse classic that played, in its day, for eternity. Life During Wartime opened better, but that could just be 1000 people who still wear Dollhouse t-shirts and have been waiting on this release for a year already. Speaking of which… THAT would make a great revival about now. 15th anniversary next year… no new DVD in over a decade… Blu-ray launch… influential movie… I like this idea.
I’m not at ComicCon… and couldn’t be happier.
Thing is, it is no longer an insider event in any way. It is all marketing, all the time. And that’s fine.
But why would I care?
Why would anyone who is interested in doing journalism care anymore? There is, by design, not a single drop on news to be had. Just press releases, like El Grande Guillermo doing La Mansi
Bulging males eyes (etc) aside, this image from Driving Angry needs no further dimensions to get attention. The situation is both maximized and MAXIMized to an effect as old as the first well-shaped leg and the male sense (false or real) that the woman attached to it might be in The Coalition of the Willing.
You can neither make beautiful, great movies without risk as you can make babies without sex. Risk is part of the artistic process. That’s why I like performance, because performance is walking a high wire.
~ Francis Coppola
“Probably the most heralded movie I’ve ever been in was Forrest Gump. While I was sitting on the park bench, I asked Bob, ‘Is anyone going to care about this guy?’ He said, ‘I don’t know Tom. It’s a mine field. It’s a fucking mine field.’ So when it works, you just say, ‘We dodged all the mines.'”
~ Tom Hanks