The Hot Blog Archive for December, 2010

Slumdog Gingerbread House

Genius. (thanks to G for the image & title)

Will 2011 Be A 3D Car Wreck?

Gulliver’s Travels is the beginning of the end of live-action studio 3D, with the exceptions of much more selective titles moving forward…

When you start breaking down 2011 in 3D, it gets a little more interesting. More than 30 titles in 3D are now on the schedule.

Jan/Feb seems like a big danger zone. Sony is more hopeful about The Green Hornet, though so far, the campaign is not clicking outside of the geekiest of us all. The Bieber concert film is a question mark… more Miley or more Jonas? And Summit returns to Cage as Franchise, his second film in 6 weeks. Does anyone need to see a car film in 3D? We’ll see.

The Green Hornet – Sony – 1/14/11
Sanctum – Universal – 2/4/11
Gnomeo and Juliet – Miramax – 2/11/11
Justin Bieber: Never Say Never – Paramount – 2/11/11
Drive Angry – Summit – 2/25/11

The March-Summer offers 10 premium 3D titles and one Screen Gems floater. Disney has the next Zemeckis-style animated film, followed a month later by Fox’s attempt to replicate the Ice Age franchise with Rio. Mars Needs Moms has the tougher road.

Summer is when things get interesting. Pixar and DWA has near-locks with the animated Kung Fu Panda 2 and Cars 2. You also have two franchises that will do huge business with or without 3D, Pirates and Potter. How much will 3D add to the gross? It will be interesting to see… and almost impossible to judge clearly. If, for instance, Pirates does $350m domestic… is that seen as $70m of found 3D money and the film would have been the weakest Pirates without it… or is this a reboot that should be happy to have that… or did 3D prices inhibit the film from another 10 million people coming to the movie theater? Alternately, it could be the biggest of the series… but is that 3D or Depp or the overall quality of the film or… what? No one can know for sure. But whatever the number, watch the theories fly.

Then… 3 new superhero franchises; Thor, Green Lantern, Captain America. The first question is whether the summer will be kind to three new second-tier superhero franchises… not to mention the non-3D X-Men, Apes, and Cowboys & Aliens entries, which all lean heavily on that area of genre. Can any of the three 3D entries do any better than the two Hulk films did domestically… which is about $135 million? Will 3D make that number $160m? Is that enough? Is 3D a real issue for these films?

That leaves Smurfs 3D, which is a kids movie, but is also a reboot. Will it be a Chipmunks or a Yogi? And how will 3D play into that?

The truly fascinating choice would be for Warners to make Potter 7B as accessible in 2D as in 3D and to see how the numbers worked. Would people choose to go more and pay less?

Getting into August and the fall months, 3D becomes a big blur again. Summit’s 2nd and 3rd 3D releases arrive with The Darkest Hour and Paul W.S. Anderson’s version of The Three Musketeers. Hmmm…

Dimension goes back to the well with Spy Kids 4, the second in the series in 3D. The first one was upfront on the 3D resurgence and did quite well. WB also has a kids film, the first chance to see Morgan Freeman in 3D with Dolphin Tale, a variation of Free Willy.

But the parade of 3D horror/thrillers is another question mark. Is it like the animation world, a core audience plus the 3D bump or will this group discern? Fright Night, Final Destination 5 (aka FD5: Suckers!), another Pirahna movie, a Shark thriller from Relativity,

The holiday season brings us back to an overload of family product in 3D. Three “straight animated” films from DWA (Shrek spin-off Puss In Boots), WB sequel Happy Feet 2, and Sony Animation’s Arthur Christmas all in three weeks of November.

Then back-to-back-to-back, you have Scorsese’s first 3D film, a family thriller (Hugo Cabaret), the hybrid animation Chipmunks 3, and Spielberg’s first entry into the digital realm with a hybrid of animation techniques (The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn). The two films from the auteurs sound like they have a similar tone. Add into the complicated mix that Spielberg’s War Horse, a live-action family drama with awards aspirations, will also open in December.

Looking at it all, I would guess that the craze inside the studios is going to end this year. WB already dumped out of 2 big films (Potter/Sucker Punch) and I suspect we’ll see more of that. I also imagine that we’ll see fewer titles that are not “event films” trying to pad their pockets with the 3D bump.

But the problem remains… 3D is a tool, not an answer. The problem that I expect next December, for instance, will be a parade of high quality films of a similar tone all piled up in on month. Same with the load of animation in November. And whichever films pay the price – and some films will – it won’t be 3D’s fault, but rather, overloading the marketplace. The franchises are franchises and the product that isn’t franchise will need to be sold smartly and heavily… just as in a world without any 3D at all.

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Weekend Estimates by Little Gulliver Klady

Little Fockers is off, 5 days in, about 32% from Meet The Fockers. Size does matter.

Meanwhile, True Grit opened about 34% better than any other Coen Bros 3-day before and could well be past $75 million domestic by the end of next weekend which would mean a new domestic box office record for the brothers in 12 days or less. (No Country is at $74.3m domestic.) This pretty much guarantees a domestic total of over $100 million, probably before Oscar nominations are even announced.

It’s worth noting that for all the shrying about Westerns as a dead genre, the last two unironic westerns that grossed over $100 million – actually, there are only two – both won Best Picture. It’s been 18 years. Hmmm…

Tron Legacy is kicking along and will have passed $100 million at some point next weekend, if not on Thursday. $130m-$150m is looking like a viable domestic total for the film. Looking back at Tron‘s 1982 gross, it was #22 for the year with $34 million. This year, #22 is at $103 million as of right now… may end up being $110m or $115m. So Tron Legacy with be, on paper, an improvement on the success level of the first film. International numbers are a different conversation, in which Tron Legacy will surely beat Tron by a whole lot… a very different box office field overseas 28 years later.

Narnia: Dawn Trader’s Christmas Day dream of Christians audiences coming to the film’s rescue didn’t happen. There was a bump, but not a jump. Walden Media started the campaign to blame Fox for even the existence of the film via willing web sites on opening day. I can’t say that I know what the deal between the two companies really is on this movie and who will lose what amount of money. All I do know is that Fox Marketing didn’t turn the trick here at all – and it does make Oren Aviv’s campaigns for the first and second film look rather good – AND Walden Media is successful about 20% of the time as a production company. They are smartly retreating to the Benji-level of the business, where they can make profit on most titles and may even hit on out of the park by surprise now and again.

Speaking of a Fox flop, Gulliver’s Travels is a classic car wreck, which the studio saw coming month ago and just had to go through the paces to release. Greatness is getting some extra mustard on that hot dog. Not here.

As ever, the conversation is “Wither Fox?” And 2011 looks more like 2009 than 2010, with 5 strong-looking sequels/prequels (X-Men, Wimpy Kid, Big Momma, Apes & Chipmunks), what should be two strong family films (Rio, Popper’s Penguins), a couple of silly comedies, a trio of chick flicks, and returns from Andrew Niccol and Cameron Crowe. The only big ticket items are the sequels. Obviously, there is no Avatar or any hope of Avatar there. But neither do there seem to be fatty A-Team/Knight & Day/Wall Street 2 kinds of titles that bring massive expectations and tough profitability pictures if they don’t work just right.

But I digress…

The Fighter came back stronger over the weekend, but it is a second wide weekend and even throwing another $1 million on top of the gross to make up for Christmas Eve day, the drop was still about 21%, which would be solid, but not especially strong for this grouping of films. Expect $45m-$50m by the end of the holiday. Looking for a comparable number, the one from Wahlberg’s history that jumps out at me is Three Kings. Go figure. Similar release, similar 2nd weekend drop. I like the film to do slightly better business and much better at the Academy Awards… but interesting to consider (and debate) the O. Russell reflection.

Tangled passed Megamind as the #5 animated title at the domestic box office released this year. The next tier is HTTYDragon’s $217m… which isn’t at all likely.

But let’s take a look at the remarkable year in animation. I would say it was a little overcrowded, but still.. four $200m domestic grossing animated films in one year. And if you want to look at the one area where 3D really is working for the box office, it’s here. All four $200m domestic grossers were in 3D, as were all four of the other wide-release animated films this year (no counting Yogi Bear). It’s ironic that the place where price point would seem most significantly altered – increases on kids tickets and more group movie visits with kids – is the place with the least price resistance. Even with too many films in that marketplace, it is a closed eco-system.

Speaking of 3D, as we go into the year of the most titles scheduled in 3D and the year I have predicted will kill off the trend for live-action 3D releases, Gulliver’s Travels will be the first true 3D disaster for a major… the first to not cover the cost of a relatively cheap conversion with the 3D bump to ticket sales. More on this in another entry.

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Christmas Eve Estimates by Grinch Klady

Again, the theme I see here is more movies doing better without the massive hit(s) eating the marketplace.

This is what The Industry must confront, on some level. Lower overall numbers but more films able to get to profitability based on a lower price tag… or chasing the big gold ring of $500m+ grosses. It’s a double-edged sword, as we saw into the studio foray into the indie business. The lower the potential profit, even with success, the less motivated the big corporations are to keep funding the effort. (As in, “Wouldn’t this $200 million a year generate more money if it were used in the microwave division?”) But it’s the chase of The Big Movie that has made the film business the vast wasteland that some allege it to be.

It’s all too easy to get bogged down on the individual performances of these movies… even more so by obsessing on domestic box office first and last. A massive hit or a number of 8-figure losing bombs can change the dynamic for a studio, but mostly, it’s a portfolio business. There’s time enough for counting when the dealing’s (or the quarter’s) done.

True Grit is much more important to Paramount’s bottom line, since they financed it (and yeah, brought in a partner), than is The Fighter, on which they are in an output deal. But the distribution deals on Paramount’s spread sheet have been, in recent years, a more important business for the studio than their produced product. Grit will have a direct effect on the bottom line, but Fighter can prove to producers that you can bring a challenging movie to Paramount and do better with it there than at other studios.

Don’t pay attention to the man behind the curtain… unless you are interested in what the real bottom line is.

Ho ho ho.

(And though it’s a lump of coal in the stocking… Little Fockers has to feel like a holiday dagger as Comcast gets closer to taking over at NBC/U. The marketing was horrible. Showing clips from the old movies as your main push is like telling people they should stay home and watch their old DVDs of the first 2 films. But a marketing department has to work with what they have and you have to wonder just how bad a mess the movie is – I haven’t seen it – that the only bits worth bringing to the pitch are the Very Old “I have my eyes on you” and fake period pictures of Old Fockers. “The Godfocker?” Really? So what that would signal to a new boss might be, “Production can’t even milk a smash hit for a few new gags that can make a great trailer and TV spots.” There is nothing easy about a third film in a series… everyone is in charge and no one wants to be caught pandering even though every single person is doing it for the check. But if you’re a company under duress and you decide to greenlight another overpriced film, you at least have to be willing to fail… or you will most surely fail. Ya?)

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‘Twas the Night Before The End of The Business

‘Twas the End of The Business
(with apologies to Clement Clarke Moore)

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the town
ticket buyers weren’t stirring, from Fockers on down.
The product was hung in the theaters with care,
in hopes that the next surprise cash cow soon would be there.

The execs were nestled all snug in their beds,
while visions of Scar-Jo freed, giving them head.
And Indie in ‘disarray, and VOD crap,
had just settled their brains praying for new mousetraps.

When out on the roof there arose such a clatter,
They sprang from their beds to see if Cher’s face had shattered.
Away to the window they flew like a Flash,
Their iPads were useless, and where was their stash?

The moon shined so bright, the execs were afraid
their ceo bosses would see the mistakes they had made,
when, what to their wondering eyes should appear,
but a Powerpoint slide show and the eight points they feared.

With a little old driver, such an excellent flack,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Jack.
More rapid than eagles, his rhetoric came,
and Valenti shouted and called them by name:

“Now Windows! Now Sell-Thru!
Now, Front-loaded and Pricing!
On, 9-Figures! On, 3D!
On, Shared Costs and Blitzgreed!
To the top of the mountain!
To the MGM fall!
Now think away! Think away!
You’ve all lost your balls!”

As dry heaves that before wide releases fly,
When contracts call for big P&A, losses mount to the sky
so to a darkened conference room the execs they flew,
with the sleigh full of problems, and Valenti’s ghost too.

And then, in a twinkling, no longer aloof
the prancing and preening of each of these goofs.
As they sat in their seats and each turned around,
Into the room Jack’s Spirit came with a bound.

He was dressed in his suit, perfect from head to foot,
and his rage was apparent with each step he took.
A stack full of memos he had flung on the desk,
and he looked like a cop about to make an arrest.

“Windows – dumping one for another! You’re throwing out money!
Spent DVD sell-thru cash, every dime like some dummies!
Theatrical dollars drawn too tight like a bow,
And price points keep dropping, and down they will go.
Nine figures each film is insane behavior,
And you’re smoking the crack if you think 3D’s your savior.
You sell off your risk… profits too, what a trick!
And Wall Street laughs at your stocks, while buying Netflix.

He was tiny but mighty, the angriest elf,
and some laughed when they saw him, they were fooling themselves.
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
soon let them all know he still knew more than them.

They spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
and checked out their spread sheets, and felt like some jerks.
The blueprint they’d built with its day-n-date flows,
Would turn movies to TV, once differentiation goes.

Jack sprang to his car, to his team gave a whistle,
And for a moment they thought that they’d avoided a missle.
But He heard them exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,

“But folks want it now. If they want it, it’s right!”

Box Office A Ho Ho

As I continue to try to pump out some more weighty year-end stuff, box office caught my eye this morning.

With a $32.2m Top Ten gross, the day before Christmas Eve is down by $13.5 million in the Top Ten this year from last… but considering the lack of a single mega-hit, like Avatar or Alvin & The Chipmunks 2, the box office did rather well, really.

Those two films – and Alvin beat Avatar that day last year – represented $35.2 million of the $45.7m total gross for the day, 77% of the gross. Those were the only two films in the marketplace with a daily gross of over $2 million. Yesterday, there were six such films.

We are also less reliant on the 3D bump this year, with 3D films representing about 26% of the gross yesterday and about 44% last year. If you figure the 3D bump at 25% of ticket prices for those films, that was $11m added to last years day-before coffers and $3.8m this year. That alone makes up more than half the difference from last year.

Yet, my guess is that you will read a lot of stories about the box office being down that use it to bolster the false claim that bad things are happening in exhibition. And the ultimate irony of this is that the argument will be used – incorrectly – to talk about the “broken” system… when in fact, the spread of better box office for more movies and a lack of a mega-movie is exactly what all the doom sayers say that they want, more balance.

Other points of interest…

Little Fockers is off 40% from the last one and is yet another reminder of going to the well too many times, slightly less of a drop than Sex & The City 2’s 47% opening day fall, but not pretty.

Tron Legacy is only a few million behind King Kong‘s 7-day number, though it’s also significantly behind Kong’s day-before-Christmas-Eve gross… so hard to read… $200 million is still realistic, but it’s getting a little more distant each day.

Hard to get a read on True Grit‘s opening so far. Not bad. Not sensational. But enough to get word-of-mouth rolling.

Black Swan passed The Fighter in daily gross the last two days, in spite of 42% fewer screens. More importantly, Swan finds itself at almost double the gross of Up In The Air after the day-before-Christmas-Eve after very similar slow December release strategies. Those who have argued that Swan isn’t capable of finding a mainstream audience might be forced to reconsider.

Tangled is already at $137 million and still running a little hotter than The Princess & The Frog was last year. Look for the domestic total to pass $175 million by the end of the holidays, which would make it the #3 non-Pixar Disney animation title of all-time. Yes, 3D… yes, ticket prices… but still, after years of slumber, even at the stupid price tag, you have to be impressed (especially since the big production cost isn’t an on-screen stunt… it’s just a good animated movie doing very good business compared to recent Disney history.

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BYOB Ho Ho Ho

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Oscar Stuffing

A last Gurus look for 2010… back in 2011.

And 10 Weeks To Oscar wonders:

The thing about The 2010 Race is… there is no clear choice.

There is no dominant box office smash to be the Goliath. There is no extreme underdog to be the David. The only franchise that might demand to be honored for its history is animated.

But some film has to win!

With no obvious winner, everyone really does have a chance.

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Rabbit Hole, writer David Lindsay-Abaire

Toy Story 3, director Lee Unkrich

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The Social Network, cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth

American Masters on Jeff Bridges

Watch the full episode. See more American Masters.

BYOB Horror Show

When it drizzles in LA, the world stops… or in this case, my internet stopped. Yeah, it’s fiber optic from ATT… and a half inch of rain killed it. Oy.

Meanwhile, DP/30s piling up… hard to compose on the iPad… and the town is shutting down…

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The Hot Blog

Quote Unquotesee all »

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