The Hot Blog Archive for September, 2011

Lars von Trier Is At It Again!

It does kinda look like him, doesn’t it?

Happy New Year to the tribe.

(yarmulke tip to MoJoe & CBA)

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BYOB 92811

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The “Nazi” & The “Victim”

I’m pretty sure than Manohla Dargis and I come down around the same place on Von Trier’s Cannes “Nazi incident” and Polanski.

So I have avoided writing about her piece on the issues of both men. As she writes in the piece and is certainly true, trying to have a rational, respectful conversation on the subject of either man can be treacherous. I also don’t think that by writing about them in the same piece, she is equating their alleged crimes… though there are those who would hold Von Trier lower for using the phrase “I’m a Nazi,” than they would hold the admitted child anal rapist. I don’t get that… but that’s why it’s a slippery conversation to try to have.

As the piece keeps on getting sent to me, I decided to write something.

The real issue of the piece is not Manohla’s position on either man, but the odd balancing act of the art and the artist. My position is that they are separate issues. No one was more supportive of The Pianist as a movie than I. But I was also completely aware, especially when talking to talent connected to the film, that the man who brilliantly directed the film was not only a fugitive from the US Government, but showed a clear lack of inclination to take any responsibility for the act he had committed here in Los Angeles.

That is my personal beef with Polanski. That is why I tend to use the modifier “child anal rapist” at least once when I bring up his name. Because that is what he is. That is what he’s done. He is also a victim of the Jewish Holocaust and of one of the ugliest spree killings in US history. He has been through more than I am likely to ever go through (touch wood) and more than most Americans, including me, can ever really conceive of living through.

For me, that makes the smugness around the rape of Samantha Geimer all the worse. He, of all people, should know better.

And then, when it comes to his apologists, I have no patience. Some of my best friends are Roman Polanski rape apologists. But I find the answer to be right in my Jewish training from childhood. Never forget. And I will never forget this about the man.

But finding forgiveness for him is not impossible. It’s not even a huge reach. It’s simply a matter of him being contrite about his actions. Just a bit. Something other than blaming everyone else, from the judge to the media and turning his bad act into a whining lie about his victimization.

We live in a world in which people really are victimized by the criminal system. Happens often, though almost never to the wealthy and powerful. Just look at the Memphis Three, who served decades in jail for crimes they didn’t commit. And they got out! The guy in Georgia who seemed to have a lot of exculpatory evidence and still got the lethal injection… barbaric. So for me, Mr. Polanski fleeing the country because the judge shot his mouth off about sentencing, even though Polanski had a high-priced legal team that was unlikely to allow any change in the plea agreement to stick for very long, is, to me, a mockery of people who are truly vulnerable in the legal system.

And what the apologists always seem to forget is that Polanski’s very brief pleaded sentence was a travesty in and of itself. 90 days for drugging and anal rape of a 13-year-old? If the worst case scenario had come true and Polanski had gone to prison for 8 – 10 years… would that really be a breach of our standards for child rape in this country? Does anyone really believe that if he hadn’t been a wealthy studio director that he would be getting anything less than 5 years in jail for what he admits to having done?

All that said, it has been a long time. The victim does seem to have moved on and has said as much. He did settle with her without a civil case. Most of the excuses are reasonable.

My problem is the arrogance. My problem is that the conversation often crosses the line into blaming the victim. My problem is that people choose to forget when they want to forgive.

But as Manohla points out, I think it is ridiculous to accuse someone who appreciates his work of somehow being supportive of child anal rape. I loved The Pianist. I liked The Ghost Writer. And my only concern about Carnage is that I think he may be a bit ham-fisted with comedy and the comedy of this piece was, on stage, very subtle and smart. But I hope to love the film.

There is some buzz on a hagiography of Polanski playing at the festival in Switzerland in which, apparently, Polanski shows some guilt for his victimization of Samantha Geimer… though word is that he equates it with the media victimizing her as well. BZZT! Wrong. Just admit you did wrong and stop pointing at the consequences of your actions as your cross to bear.

As for Lars von Trier…

Here is the videotape…

I completely get the Von Trier oversell. “Child Anal Rapist” is not too far from him calling himself a Nazi.

He is a passionate, brilliant artist. He is also a giant child with serious mommy issues.

But I completely get the broad, cartoonish use of both “Jew” and “Nazi” in his ramble. Most people from the Middle East don’t love when I say that we beige-skinned people are all – including myself – sand monkeys. My point, when I throw that one out, is not to diminish anyone… but to point out that those of us with blood originating in that region share something greater than borders. This is also why I make fun on my Persian friends being so angry about being called Arabs. Jewish, Muslin, Christian… whatever. We may not share culture in full, but we share that sandy birth.

And I would argue (or is it “rationalize?”) that the exclamation of “I am a Nazi” is 3 steps ahead of the media in front of him, as he must have been certain that anything he said that wasn’t 100% politically correct and involved Germans would eventually come out as him being painted as a Nazi sympathizer.

The Susanne Bier jokes were the kind of lines you only use in a small circle of friends, which could include Susanne. She’s not got the greatest sense of humor about herself, but it’s not hard to imagine Lars saying exactly what he said about liking being a Jew until he met Susanne to her face… and her being bothered for herself, but not for Jews in general.

The whole thing was, in my opinion, a tempest in a tea pot. Even the Albert Speer thing… doesn’t anyone remember the Speer-sympathetic TV movie of Inside The Third Reich, in which Speer was a wide-eyed young architect who just went along with Hitler in order to see his architectural dreams come true, only to realize at some point that he’d fallen into the horrors of Nazi Germany? He was a less complex version of Alec Guinness in River Kwai, but with a German accent in that movie. I believe that LvT, at that point trying to edit himself, was basically saying that he liked Speer’s work… and makes clear that he has no love of Nazis.

Seriously… do you think that LvT doesn’t admire the grandeur of the Nazi regime And seriously… does anyone really think he has anything positive in his heart or mind when it comes to the Ultimate Solution? You really have to want to take him out of context.

I would add now that I have long felt that the Von Tier as misogynist trope was wildly overstated. As he matures and we see his women in the last two films, his issues with his mother have become much clearer, and his vision of women as being more powerful than men is obvious. He clearly fears that power. But hate it? Nah.

We did a Melancholia DP/30 at Toronto… first of 3 or 4, I hope. And we didn’t get to talk about Lars’ mother issues much on camera. But afterwards, we were shooting the excrement and it seems that if you get Lars talking about his mom, it’s a good 2 or 3 hour conversation at the bar. That shows in the film. Rampling and her daughters Dunst & Gainsbourg are remarkably rendered.

And with that… let the argument rage on… since opinions will vary… and no one is an idiot for having one… even if it doesn’t concur with mine. (smiley face emoticon)

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3D Rubber To Meet $ Road?

I own 5 different kinds of 3D glasses. But I have never taken glasses to a 3D screening because I have no idea what 3D format it will be in. I’ve seen movies in multiple 3D formats in the same multiplexes, so I can’t even target a specific multiplex with a specific format.

So the idea of being required to bring 3D glasses with me to the movies, even though I don’t have to pay for them, seems absurd on the face of it.

And even though there are programs to have ticket buyers pay for their own glasses in some other countries, I’m pretty sure that the studios know that adding another cost to the 3D experience is likely to send more and more people to 2D screens to see even visual event movies like The Amazing Spider-Man and Men in Black III.

Rory Bruer, head of distribution for Sony, told The Hollywood Reporter, basically, that they expect the exhibitors to start footing the bill for the glasses. And in that regard, I have to say, this is pretty much a slam dunk of an argument for the side of the exhibitors.

(Note that Sony was PISSED when the Home Premiere story was leaked during CinemaCon last April. They want to keep these kinds of negotiations private, as a rule. I don’t think Sony was the source for the Hollywood Reporter break of this story. They have put Bruer on the record, the heat focusing on him… but don’t think it made them happy to do so.)

This is a lot like the “Home Premiere” short-window, premium-priced program that launched and died earlier this year… but unlike that fight, it could be argued as to whether the offering would drive customers to skip the theatrical experience. In this case, there’s no mystery involved.

3D was pushed out by the studios with an eye to raising ticket prices and profits. Exhibitors were willing participants, also benefiting from the 3D bump. But the studios, not the exhibitors, control the flow of 3D content and they overdid it dramatically. As a result, there has been consumer pushback against 3D in all but a specific range of movies. Real questions of whether 3D is now scaring audiences away from some titles are swirling around the industry.

So what do the studios do? Well, starting with Sony, they decide to try to leverage the biggest 3D titles… one which seem likely to be popular in 3D with ticket buyers… to squeeze the exhibitors in a new way. Remember, for all the anti-3D sentiment in the media lately, 6 of the top 7 summer movies in North America were in 3D.

Interestingly, Disney, which will be first out of the summer box with The Avengers, isn’t the front studio for this… much as they sat out the Home Premiere debacle. It may be a corporate position or it may be because they are unclear about whether Avengers will be in 3D, as early reports that the film would be shot in 3D were refuted by Mark “Hulk” Ruffalo at ComicCon.

Regardless, the first certain big summer title in 3D will be Men in Black III (it seems that Universal has decided not to convert Battleship to 3D), so that’s the target. Exhibitors want lots of bodies buying pricey popcorn and soda over Memorial Day weekend.

After that, it’s Par/DWA (Madagascar 3), Disney/Pixar (Brave), WB (Jack The Giant Killer), Fox (Prometheus… and later, Ice Age 4), Sony again (Spidey) and another Disney (Step Up 4). Universal is the only major going without 3D (unless they convert Battleship) next summer. Sony Will Smith & Spider-Man… the only other studio with as big a 1-2 3D punch next summer is Fox, with the Ridley Scott psuedo-Alien prequel thingy and the fourth Ice Age.

The big question is whether Sony will threaten exhibitors with pulling their two big titles from theaters that refuse to either take on the costs of the glasses or to push them on to consumers. A very dangerous game of chicken. And indeed, if the half-dozen exhibitors that Sony and everyone else needs to have to launch a mega-movie hold the line, this will not happen. And if they give in, the smaller distributors will be bulldozered over in this conversation.

Ironically, the AMPTP position on all of the deals they make in their favor with unions has been that those deals cannot be revisited in future negotiations. These companies see no such problem when they are trying to improve their margins.

But the biggest problem for all of these players is little talked about and a standard screw-up. The format battles do not make all this a flexible situation. Exhibitors made 3D choices early in the format’s revival and the best format choices now available are not the most widely used. The “winner” is not the public or the films, but the best salesmen a couple of years ago.

The urge to save money on 3D on the exhibition level could reopen the whole field. And I would be happy to see that. MPAA & NATO need to get serious about having a private conversation about consumer preferences in 3D. Which systems do people prefer? Which ones might actually discourage future 3D ticket buys? Does wash-n-reuse work for both sides? Etc, etc, etc.

This discussion should be the basis for a real examination of improving the 3D experience in any way they can, to their own benefit. Unfortunately, it feels as though we have already seen it deteriorate into one side trying to screw the other side, in reality or just perception, already.

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It’s Time For The Carloses™!



Every year, Hollywood looks to one man to deliver the highest profile award you can purchase for the cost of a table full of roasted chicken at the Beverly Hilton.

They are called The Hollywood Film Awards. But that’s just fancy wrapping. These are The Carloses™! Created by Carlo de Abreu to line his personal pockets, the man who claims that he used to be a secret agent (if you find my dead body, look for him!) has flown his flag high enough and long enough to become an institution… the kind where people walk aimlessly in a circle with blank stares on their faces.

Unlike The Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which is a 80-something person game of “lick us, love us, luxury us,” or National Board of Review, which shows a lot of movies to a lot of retired people before a handful of organization leaders have a meeting out of Broadway Danny Rose and decide how to spread things around, Carlos takes it to a whole different level. How do you win an award from his “organization?” You get Carlos to say, “yes.” Or he gets you to say, “yes.”

Carlos takes people to lunch, a few a week for a few months, trying to get their opinions of the best way to shadow the eventual Oscar nominees. (I used to be one of those people.) But in the end, it basically comes down to, “Ehhhh… yes… I am giving your person an award. How many tables will that be?”

And yet, there is that thing in this town where people just do what they are used to doing. Doesn’t matter that everyone knows it’s a joke or that there is zero real benefit to any awards campaign. Egos are fed. And Carlos, in a true move of con man genius, understands talent. Part of the game is awarding below-the-line talent so their above-the-line stars will show up to honor them. Sheer genius. Same with other awards, where Carlos sometimes gets The Cow for the price of giving The Milk an award.

Here are last year’s winners…

Can you spot the two Oscar nominees out of these 12 excellent actors?

Yet, smart publicists still get sucked into this vanity fair every year. And not-so-smart journalists play along, all too happy to have enough bite from the trough.

Like all awards, in the end, people being honored feel honored. So God bless them and may they all be happy.

At least this way, they don’t have to have lunch with Carlos.

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MoreOn Netflix

I’ve written about this so much that I have tried to deal with recent events on Twitter only. But there are now stories on stories on stories, so I figured I should state my opinion as clearly (and concisely) as possible.

NETFLIX & DREAMWORKS ANIMATION – Nothing really new going on here, though I am shocked that the New York Times has become so enamored of Netflix that they run virtual press releases without asking any of the hard questions that have become clear in recent months. There is nothing significant here. Netflix is playing over retail. No one else is. They can’t afford retail for STARZ Disney & Sony deals. So not happening. DWA is a smart attempt to plug that dike. But 24 movies will not change the game.

Few people believe that the deal is really $30m per movie. But there is a real chance that the deal is $60 million a year, which would represent 2 new movies each year as well as the 24 film library (not all of which is immediately available, btw). The price is high for Netflix, but would be the rare exclusive in their library. The vast majority of other deals are non-exclusive.

While the New York Times positions this as a comeback, it is much more of a desperation play. But it does confirm, yet again, what I have been saying, which is that Netflix’s biggest problem right now is not pricing, but content perception. They have gone from the perception (however false) that they are the Everything Everywhere company to being the Lots Of Stuff, But A Bit Like Cruising Through 300 Cable Channels And Not Really Wanting To Watch Anything company.

This deal should cut the stock price of Netflix and raise the stock price of DWA, which is being overpaid. Also, the issue of when films start streaming on Netflix is, it seems quite likely, well after the DVD window. So paranoia about this cutting into DWA’s DVD business is probably unfounded.

NETFLIX & INDIES – indieWIRE is running its second piece on Netflix abandoning the indies in the last couple of weeks.

Again, it has nothing to do with wanting the indies or not wanting the indies. Netflix has spent itself into some serious trouble and they are hoping that international expansion will save them. But even the relatively inexpensive buys, streaming and hard DVDs, like Criterion Collection, are money that Netflix cannot afford to spend right now. They need to overpay for DWA by not having Criterion anymore.

The sad part, for small distributors, is that they ask so little of Netflix that having it pulled away is really painful in some cases. The margins are very narrow in that business and losing 5% of revenue means something real to these companies.

Anthony Kaufman has it wrong when he mentions “the long tail” because this IS a function of the long tail, not a cleaving off of it. The long tail expands, conceptually, to broaden access, which it has done. But it also narrows the financial value of each specific item on the tail… which it is now doing.

The fantasy of The Long Tail was that it would be a Communistic ideal… that everyone would be able to live modestly as things averaged out. This was always ridiculous when it came to films because the cost of production is not easily scalable. In other words, films that are happy to be selling Netflix under 100 copies are okay… but the longer part of the tail, between that and Mid-Indie level and above, were happy to have something, but not paying the bills with what they were getting from Netflix. The problems in the sell-thru DVD business have been taking their toll for a while. The dream was that Netflix streaming would raise the bar and be another revenue producer. But instead, their ambition to be in the thicker part of the tale is not only failing to come true, but these films are being squeezed even further into the thinner part of the tail.

No matter how good your indie film is, the perception of its value on Netflix is based on marketing, the same as a theatrical opening is. A great unknown doc is “more filler” to most Netflix customers.

The longtail still exists for indies. If you want to stream for free, there are plenty of places to go. But the fantasy of the long tail for film, which was always pie in the sky, is no longer gaining believers. It’s hit the wall. And as with so many other things – and think Anthony was saying this as well – when times are tough, the wins go to the biggest profile, least needy partners.

This all goes back to the piece I wrote last week… someone needs to get some big bucks in their deep pockets and start the commune of the indie players’ fantasies. There is a business model that can work… it just requires a lack of raw greed on everyone’s part. If there are 10 different places streaming indies with differing proclivities, it will remain an untenable market. The niche needs a target. And I still think that SnagFilms and Ted Leonsis’ deep pockets would be the best way to go. They’ve spent a good amount of money and this would be an even bigger investment, but I truly believe that they could get a base of subscribers of over 5 million within the first two years after making themselves the place to go with your small, quality films, giving them greater cache with the higher profile indies. Think of the platform just for domestic screening on foreign films that haven’t been over here.

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BYOB 92711

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DP/30: Weekend, writer/director Andrew Haigh

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The Numerical State Of Indie Distirbution

After writing about the sales at Toronto that were mostly steam, I wondered how the indie distribution scene was looking. So I decided to take a look. All the numbers in this piece are as of this week. So some companies may have more hits or distribute more films this year. Yes. But I think you’ll get the general sense of things…

Six non-studio distributors have had at least one release this year-to-date that grossed over $20 million domestically.

To my eye, that is a new tier of distribution. Let’s call them The Mid-Indies: Weinstein Co, Summit, Relativity, Lionsgate, FilmDistrict, and CBS Films. Only one of these companies, Liongate, existed before 2005. Open Road is being built to be in that category. And Roadside Attractions delivered for The Conspirator, the $11.5m domestic grosser that is their all-time high.

Combined with The Dependants (Fox Searchlight, Focus, and Sony Classics), this is now The Middle in the movie business. Quality drama, smaller genre, and high-aiming doc & foreign language. And it looks pretty healthy. (Sony Classics has the top Dependant grosser to date this year with Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris and its $54.4m gross to date.)

Summit, Weinstein, and Lionsgate are the only non-Dependants that have been over the $100m domestic mark with a film. And through these years, it’s just been two for the Weinsteins, one for Lionsgate (with the Miramax F9/11 pick-up not really their film to claim), and the 3 Twilight films for Summit with 2 more to come. Those moments are great and glorious, but not the business model.

The high-flier amongst The Mid-Indies this year has been Relativity’s Limitless, which did $79.3m domestic.

You hit your first independently distributed title not released by this group at $5.2 million… IFC’s big doc number for Herzog’s 3Doc Cave of Forgotten Dreams. I tend to pair IFC and Magnolia as The VODers, though IFC is a bit more aggressive about theatrical than Magnolia is. They have four $1m+ releases this year compared to Magnolia’s one. Regardless, both share the VOD model and the greatest success so far in exploiting that model.

The fourth group I would note are the True Indies. These are companies that release at least three movies a year, hover between $1000 and $5 million per picture and more often than not expect to do under $10 million a year total in domestic theatrical.

This year, 16 distributors had at least one film grossing $1m, but none as high as $5.2 million: Codeblack, Rocky Mountain Pictures, Anchor Bay, Eros, Freestyle, Goldwyn, Music Box, Newmarket, Palladin, Reliance Big Pictures, Producers Distribution, Shorts International, SMODcast, Visio, UTV, and Zeitgeist. But of those 16 distributors, 8 released just one film this year, really qualifying as ongoing True Indie distributors.

Thing is, the companies that are real ongoing True Indie distributors haven’t have the big wins that some of the one-offs have, Outside of the Majors, Mid-Indies, the Dependants, and the VODers, the top distributors were Codeblack with $5.2m for its one release, Kevin Hart: Laugh at My Pain, and Rocky Mountain Pictures with it’s one release, Atlas Shrugged. The highest grosser in this True Indie class is Anchor Bay’s $1.2m for Kill The Irishman.

This tells you a lot about where the theatrical business is for the smart, proud, and often veteran companies. If $1.2m is the best you can hope for after 9 months of the year have passed, the risk/reward in chasing theatrical with marketing dollars is leaning the wrong way.

Add to the group of 7 from two paragraphs above another 20 distributors who release at least 3 films a year, none of which has grosses as much as $1.2m domestically: Abramorama, Alive Mind, China Lion, Cinema Guild, Film Movement, First Run, Image, Indican, International Film Circuit, Kino, Lorber, Monterey Media, Nat Geo, Oscilloscope, Phase Four, Rialto, Screen Media, Strand, The Film Desk, and Variance Films.

These 27 companies are the True Indies. To date this year, they have grossed a combined $30.3 million domestic.

So that’s my sense of things. Four major versions of indies, plus the self-distribution players and one-timers. Four very different sets of ambitions.

All in, 30 indie films so far this year grossing over $10m. 78 indie films at $1m or over. 277 indie films under $1 million. 184 of those indie films under $100k.

Tough business.

(Edited, Sunday 11:20p – Correction on distribution of The Conspirator.)

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Weekend Estimates by The Klady King Redux

(apologies for the production error that had the Friday chart up for the last hour…)

Oh, how the box office shifted like quicksand this weekend. Oh my. How could anyone have known what was coming?

DUH!™

Nothing really surprising happened in the Top 3 this weekend. Kids movies are almost always weakest on Fridays, stronger on Saturdays. Movies for adults are almost always better represented by the Friday number.

Meanwhile, if just Killer Elite or ABduction had opened this weekend and not both, that one film would have been a lot closer to the Top 3.

The surprise of the weekend really is Dolphin Tale. Was it a Christian audience showing up in greater-than-normal numbers? Home schoolers? Or was it just a hole in the market? It’s been over a month since Spy Kids 4 and Dolphin is the first new film for kids – as Lion King is a re-release – in that period. The film is part of Alcon’s output deal with WB… much like the (more) surprising The Blind Side.

There’s nothing particularly significant to be read into Taylor Lautner’s debut in ABduction. Lionsgate can conjure up $11m from its core demo of action boys without too much sweat. (ironically, the failure of Warrior to find that opening number was probably about anxiousness about throwing a quality film to the dogs. Talk about the film being about something that kicking ass and advertising that followed, probably kept it from a better opening… neither emotional enough to get women to attend or kick ass enough for the boys. But the lack of a pure MMA sell has probably kept the door open for Nick Nolte and Tom Hardy to make runs at Oscar nominations.) The question of the weekend is… is Lautner a Statham?

Well… the question of what Statham is gets answered overseas more than in the US. The key titles are the Transporter series, which did (according to Mojo) $18.6m, $42.1m, and $77.3m overseas each. He’s also been a key supporting player in a bunch of big international hits, like Snatch, The Italian Job, and The Expendables. The big difference between Lautner and Statham – besides talent & charm – is that Statham worked his way in slowly and built, with small movies as lead and bigger movies in support and then, Transporter pushed him over.

Of course, obviously, this weekend showed that Statham is still not a guaranteed home run. Killer Elite is not a great Statham opening, but it’s not a bad one either. If you look at the films that he has carried up front, aside from Transporter, the high is $11.4m to open The Mechanic and the low is $5.9m for The Bank Job.

What Lautner still has over Statham is potential. I don’t personally believe in it, but as long as you don’t get crazy and start spending big money on movies built around his brand, you never know. And we don’t know yet what ABduction will do overseas, where there is a big Twilight audience and some stars are made even if they never become big grossers at home. The opening here is better than Jon Cena has done. So there is that. Jury is out.

On Moneyball, this is pretty much a normal Brad Pitt opening. Is this a 3x opening movie, like Burn After Reading or a near 5x opening movie like Benjamin Button? No one knows. We do know that they sold Pitt ahead of all things and got the Pitt open. We know that critics like the film. And we know that the audience is older, which bodes well for legs… but that George Clooney is 12 days away in The Ides of March. We’ll see.

Has Disney announced that it’s extending the Lion King run yet? If not, expect it to happen soon. The only downside is that the Blu-ray is coming out on October 4.

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Just To Be Clear…

I will have nothing to say about Real Steel because Don Murphy has been stalking me – never offering a reason why – for the last six months or so.

I don’t know why Don keeps reading me, even though he has been clear that he feels I am meaningless, ignorant, and a liar. But he does. And felt compelled to send a paranoid rant by e-mail in response to a comment I wrote about “kids movies.”

He also wrote to tell me that I “have been the most horrible, lying, backstabbing person I have dealt with in half a decade.” Wow. I can’t speak to horrible, but pretty sure that anyone who has ever dealt with me knows that I don’t lie, unless it is to spare someone’s feelings, and I tend to be a front stabber on the occasions when I feel so compelled. I can’t think of anyone in this town to whom I have actually been mean or nasty who didn’t hear about it, in detail, from my mouth first.

That said, I am fascinated by the lies that are made up about me. Honestly, I don’t know why anyone would bother. (The exceptions being Nikki, Jeff, Roger Friedman, the late, great Andy Jones, maybe Sharon Waxman, and now, Don.) I can be distant and certainly arrogant about opinions. I know that I have hurt many feelings over the years, but it’s always been about my opinions about the work. So why that leads to people making up shit about me… I don’t get it. Seems so cowardly and childish. Call me a name. Punch me in the face. Don’t hide behind made up gossip.

But I digress…

Don really, really, really doesn’t want me to see Real Steel and if anyone at Disney or DreamWorks even speaks to me about the film, you’re in BIG trouble. So do us all a favor and don’t. No loss.

I don’t hold Don’s sociopathic behavior against DreamWorks or Disney. They are businesses and they have money at risk. And who the hell would want Don Murphy in their office, foaming at the mouth over me… a person who has never done anything to harm him, but is still the target of his unrelenting ire? They should be Don’s bestest friends ever… at least until mid-October. Then we can get back to discussing the Oscar push for your good movies.

Or as Don would say…

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The Blur Of Indie Sales: TIFF ’11 Edition

Did You Know… there are only 20 distributors who have grossed $5 million or more this year domestically?

That’s not for one film. That’s for their entire slates (which are, sometimes, just one film).

6 majors, followed by Weinstein, Lionsgate, and Relativity, followed by Focus, Searchlight, Film District, and Sony Classics. Then Summit, CBS, Roadside, IFC, and Goldwyn. That takes us to 18. EROS and Rocky Mountain Pictures – home of, respectively, Bollywood and Atlas Shrugged – fill out the 20. Magnolia hovers at $4.4m so far.

Now… with all the chatter about the 30+ sales at TIFF this year, there were a total of 6 buys by companies in those 20 that generate major dollars. Searchlight bought Shame, CBS bought Salmon Fishing in The Yemen (which seems to be the high sale of the year at $4 million), Lionsgate bought two films, one with Roadside (Friends With Kids) and the other on their own, You’re Next, The Hunter, and IFC grabbed Your Sister’s Sister and for their new IFC Midnight division, The Incident. (It’s also been misreported that Abel Ferrara’s 4:44 Last Day on Earth and Free Men were bought at TIFF. Both were bought before TIFF and announced during the fest.)

Just under that distribution level is Magnolia, which picked up The Hunter and two films for its Magnet division, God Bless America and Goon.

Those nine buys probably represent about $9 million spent… or about the bill for Sony’s 3 junkets at the Ritz Carlton. (I kid!)

I count about 20 other verifiable domestic buys. (TIFF seems to have counted, for instance, picking up a major sales agent as a sale.)

The oddball of the group is Sundance Selects, which has distributed some of its titles through sister company IFC, most notably Herzog’s Cave of Forgotten Dreams, easily the biggest doc of the year so far not released by a stunting major studio. They picked up Herzog’s new doc, Into The Abyss (not in 3D), as well as Winterbottom’s Trishna, and French-Canadian superstar-French-chick-flick Beloved.

That puts us at $9.2 million.

Amongst the rest, there are distributors I adore… like Oscilloscope, which picked up Andrea Arnold’s Wuthering Heights… which is exactly the right place for the film.

There are veteran distributors like Freestyle Releasing, now six years old… with just 9 releases of over 500 screens. They picked up Nick Broomfield’s Sarah Palin –You Betcha!. I’m not sure they’ve ever released a doc before.

Music Box, which had great success with the Girl With… films. Tell No One, and Potiche this year, will try to score big with what seems to be their first English-language release, Terrence Davies’ Rachel Weisz-starrer Deep Blue Sea,

Millennium bought Oren Moverman’s Rampart. Sigh.

Since Avi Lerner took over First Look four years ago, they have released 14 movies, 2 of which cracked $1m. One was the Werner Herzog Nic Cage-starrer Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans ($1.7m) and the other was Transsiberian ($2.2m). Now they are going to take another run at distribution with Mark Gill. Great. The one shot this movie really has is Cyntia Swartz getting Oscar heat around Woody Harrelson.

Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisition aka SPWA, nee’ SPWAG, picked up Midnight Movie hit, The Raid. That could mean a variety of things in terms of eventual domestic distribution. But there is also a chance that it will never get domestic distribution because Screen Gems is already planning a remake.

After that, things get blurry, as the distributors are aspiring more than established as theatrical distributors.

Cohen Media Group picked up The Lady and The Awakening. They also have a film in distribution now… their first film. But they have it in a nice theater in LA and another in NY, so… who knows?

Liddell Entertainment picked up Killer Joe. Liddell has distributed six movies… but none of them themselves. One – a horror/thriller – went out through Freestyle, and three have gone out or are coming out via Roadside (including Albert Nobbs). The sixth is a sequel to the horror film, but has no release date or distribution deal that I can find. As a production company, Liddell has done deals with The Weinstein Company and Open Road as well, so look for the company to set up this film somewhere else for distribution.

ATO Pictures picked up two films… which fits, as they have only ever released two films before. They were unable to get traction for Kevin Spacey in Casino Jack and grossed just over $1 million. They got $665k out of the John C. Reilly-starrer, Terri. So now they have The Oranges, a Hugh-Laurie-led celebrity fest comedy and the environmental doc, Last Call At The Oasis.

As far as I can tell, Kino Lorber has never released anything on as many as 20 screens in the US themselves, but did pick up Elles.

Here are the rest of sort out… they all seem to be holding companies or library acquisitions companies that aren’t likely to do theatrical releases unless they can find someone else to invest their efforts and cash OR they have no history at all.

Indomina Group – Life Without Principle
MPI – Americano
Palisades Tartan- This is not a film
Shoreline – Generation P, Always Brando
TLA – Beauty
WWE Studios – The Day

So… make of this what you will. I would bet that some of the bigger distirbutors will pick up some stragglers before the next months pass. Sarah Polley’s film is sure to find a home. Dark Horse will land. The Eye of The Storm, Chicken With Plums, Violet & Daisy, Intruders, etc, etc. They will all find homes of some kind.

Even just focusing at the top tier, kinda light. Two big sales… one because it was $4 million and one because Searchlight picked up a great, but tough movie. IFC, Roadside, and Magnolia are – and I don’t think they’d be offended – in a somewhat different business. And after that, it’s a battle, even if you closed a deal.

Some sales are better than no sales or no 7-figure deals at all. But the market has spread out and most of the deals being touted are just not what those of us who love some of these films would like to see a healthy distribution atmosphere delivering.

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