The Hot Blog Archive for February, 2013

3-Day Weekend Estimates by Die Klady

I’m not sure if there is much more to say about Die Five. It won’t do as well as Identity Thief domestically… but it may well double the worldwide take. Boom goes the old bald guy.

Speaking of ID Thief… it has another full month before another major comedy shows up… which is a huge advantage for the film. It could actually end up around $140m domestic at this rate… maybe higher.

The bad news story of the weekend is a domestic gross on Beautiful Creatures that, when it maxes out, won’t come close to covering the ad buy. WB is batting .222 since the summer, though the success of Argo and The Hobbit (passing $300m this week) in many ways covers for the many small flops along that road. Without Argo, even Hobbit wouldn’t make this look okay. Personally, I am hoping for a great run from WB through July. Man of Steel scares me, but who knows? Maybe it will be great.

It looks like Sony Classics has once again found their Spanish-language market for the opening of No, the terrific Oscar-nominated film. Really go0d opening on 4 screens. And a nice number for The Gatekeepers – nominated for Doc – as well.

And it’s nice that there is a market for the awards-xnominated shorts out there. The number, on 305 screens, is not huge. But it’s not nothing… especially in light of online availability of many of the shorts. Looks like Shorts International will do a couple of million dollars by the time next weekend’s show starts. Well done.


Friday Estimates by Klady

Weird weekend.

A Good Day To Die Hard is doing decent business… but not great business.. not Die Hard business. Of course, they are opening in February, not the summer. Why? I have no idea. The $33m that Die4 opened to is quite doable in February. ID Thief opened to $34m just last weekend. Or perhaps it is a dump in the most advantageous position to put a film they knew was trouble. Or were they just getting crummy old domestic out of the way so they could go out and chase what has been a $200m+ international franchise the last 2 times out… Mutha Russia indeed. But don’t be too shocked if this is the lowest domestic grosser of the franchise… and still over $250m worldwide… profitable.

Safe Haven is a movie with two stars, neither of whom (aside from a supporting role in the Transformerses) have ever been in a movie that opened to over $16m. But the star of the movie is Nicholas Sparks and the actors are about as important as the people on the covers of a romance novel. The author has a glass ceiling, but these movies tend to be made on the cheap and deliver $40m-$60m domestic each time, with $80 as the extreme high. They also have a lot of ongoing value for a very committed Home Entertainment segment… women who like to exercise their tear ducts. Safe Haven could well end up doing what Hans Gruber could not, beating out John McClane.

Escape From Planet Earth is another piece of low-end animation released by The Weinstein Company. It’s their fourth shot, as best I can tell, and it will be closer to the top of their success (Hoodwinked) than the $3m and $4m openings of the others.

And the horror show of the weekend is Beautiful Creatures, which seemed to be EVERYWHERE… but is being seen by almost no one. From my perspective, a really clear case of “What The F–K Is It?” syndrome. Is it an Emmy Rossum movie? Is it about some girl who kinda looks like Emmy Rossum? I am an Alden Ehrenreich fan, but almost no one knows who he is. And just throwing Jeremy Irons and Emma Thompson at a mess still leaves a mess.

Warm Bodies is a bona fide hit for SummitGate… half the buzz of The Perks of Being A Wallflower and triple the business (or more). It moves into Summit’s Top 10 all-time and Top 5 aside from The Twilight Saga this weekend.

Meanwhile, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters is heading to $50m and Mama to $70m… and you wonder, if these numbers aren’t good enough, what would be good enough? If $50m for a pulp horror/thriller or $70m for a scarefest – domestic alone – isn’t okay, how does this business work?


Random Video: Driving While Stoned In Washington State


BYOB: February 15, 2013


Does Failure Of F/X Houses Signal Danger For Mega-Movies?

David S. Cohen, one of Variety’s surviving smart writers, wrote a fascinating piece this week. You should read it yourself, but to sum up, the notion is that f/x houses cannot survive the squeeze on pricing demanded by the studios or the feast & famine run of mega-budget-movies that are seen, by some, as the best hope of the studios.

My position on these mega-movies, formerly known as “tentpoles” – which spoke to a time when studio branding had real value and a single giant movie could create value for smaller movies placed around it for months before and after – is that more than 1 or 2 of them on your slate each year is a “live by the sword, die by the sword” proposition.

But the math keeps changing.

DVD, in its sell-thru heyday, made losing money on movies a rare event. Even so, there was some misunderstanding in the media about the goals that came out of that, short-term, which was to be the most profitable, not just to survive. But the margins have plummeted as DVD has been moving to its end over the last 4 years or so, meaning that it is now possible to lose money on any movie. Standing in for sell-thru DVD is a growing foreign market and crazy dollars added to the market by streaming. Of course, in a sane world, the new revenues would be added to the already black-inked pile. But Hollywood being Hollywood, the new revenues are being seen as an opportunity to gamble more aggressively, in no small part because the foreign part of the cash pile has shown the most interest in the bigger, dumber product. (Let’s not get into reality… that a movie like The Intouchables is a mega-hit in France and the some other countries and that China’s taste for melodrama is massive and Lifetime should be trying to release Chinese-language remakes of all of its “films” into that market.)

We now live in a six-studio/distributor universe and each of those companies seems to want to make 3 or 4 (or more) mega-movies a year now.

And so, as Cohen explains it, there were 4 big vfx companies… which recently expanded to 10… and with the amount of competition, the pricing dropped, making profitability a serious problem that was not balanced by pride and quality, recently leading to 2 bankruptcies (Digital Domain and Rhythm & Hues) and real questions about what happens next.

(Interestingly, Cohen does not address the sale of LucasFilm to Disney. Did Kathleen Kennedy look at the books at ILM and decide that the future was bleak for the company as a leading stand-alone effects shop? Is owning ILM Disney’s hedge against the fates of the 8 major independent fx companies?)

The problem I have with Cohen’s summing up is that it assumes that studio demands for more and more work for less and less realistic amounts of money is a given… and that as a result, only government subsidies and low pay can support the future of the studios’ mega-movie strategy.

I see this very differently.

I see the ongoing spends for visual effects, which become cheaper to produce each year, but which then leads to a race to break new ground, which is where a lot of the mega money is spent, as flexible. Yes, I concur with whoever is quoted in Cohen’s articles that the studios know the margins and are doing everything they can to choke all profitability out of fx.

On the other hand, if the big effects companies just say, “no,” and refuse to put themselves in the position of eating R&D costs to the studios’ benefit, sanity can prevail. The problem is, you have the bosses at these effects houses killing their own companies and staff to deliver their sequences to the studios to whom they are just a bunch of fucking vendors. (I am not saying this is true for the creative teams directly working with the effects houses. That’s macro and it’s a love-fest. I mean the business end of the studios.)

It’s classic labor stuff. The boss wants the costs on making the widgets to drop another 3% and how that is achieved isn’t really to big a concern. The difference is, the “worker” in the fx scenerio is a company, not an individual. And the widget is very complex… it’s not minimum wage work. So if the studio is saying they want an fx sequence to come in at 20% less than the fx house wants, which leaves less than 5% profitability if everything goes according to plan, if the fx company says, “yes,” they are entering into an agreement to fail… not for the studio, but for themselves and their employees.

And if that leads to other companies picking up that work at the lower, unworkable prices… well, do you belong in that business?

As for the studios and their mega-movies… as much as directors and producers live and die in arguments about effects shots and spends, The Avengers 2 or Amazing Spider-Man 2 or whatever is not going to suffer with audiences because there are 10% fewer fx shots. Have you ever heard anyone coming out of a effects-heavy movie saying, “They needed like 200 more effects shots to really make that movie work”? Anyone?

Interestingly, the “gotta keep moving forward, no matter how much we are getting screwed” has been the same disastrous mindset that has made Hollywood’s above-the-line talent unions a negotiating disaster. The way of “fixing it later” is, as Digital Domain and Rhythm & Hues have shown, is bankruptcy. Because the movies just keep rolling along.

In my opinion, being in the business of making $200m+ production budget films more than once or twice a year is very, very dangerous. We have learned that one or two disasters can no longer bring down an entire studio… but if you’re gambling like that 5 times a year, you could lose three or four times… and then… who knows?

But the fx studios being squeezed? The studios would tell you, myopic as it might be, that this is a “them” problem and not an “us” problem. The studios, if confronted by anything less than a movie missing a release window by more than six weeks or so, will just readjust. After all, their first weapon is 2 minutes or less or any given movie.


From The Ol’ Alma Monster


Oblivion Trailer

turns out to be The Wall-E Warrior.


Wreck It Ralph LIVE!

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Invisible War Ad Running In Washington DC


My Favorite Films/Statues From The Olly Moss Oscar Poster

You can find and explore and purchase the full poster here


Weekend Estimate by Side Identity Klady

And so, the big ballsy comedy opens. The number is right between Norbit and 50 First Dates. Seth Gordon just keeps having bigger openings, even though there is a distinct lack of directorial skill on display. He is the new Shawn Levy. Levy has improved. Hopefully, Gordon will, too. In the meanwhile, he clearly understands what sells and makes movies that follow that path.

On the flip side, Soderbergh 2.0 closes its theatrical run with Side Effects. I haven’t seen the film (or contributed to the large pile of Soderbergh interviews), as it did its thing in LA while I was still in Sundance. Does this film define where the VOD line is and/or should be? I think it might be. There is enough heat to make the film a draw, but not quite enough to get a ton of people out to see it. I don’t choose to indulge VOD much, but I would have paid to watch this one this weekend. Getting to a theater… not so easy, as a parent and old guy. We got a sitter and went out for dinner on Friday… but even though it was playing in Los Feliz… didn’t close the deal for the wife. I know that sounds personal, but the gross and the personal and the sense that there is some really good VOD bait… well…

Hobbit hits $300m domestic next weekend. Silver Linings Playbook will go into Oscar weekend with $100m+ in the bank.

Lincoln looks like it will remain the top grosser of the Oscar movies domestically. Internationally, Django and Les Mis will both kill it.

Not much going on in arthouse land, though The Gatekeepers looks like it will be a doc hit.


Friday Estimates by Wacky Comedy Klady


DP/30: Mark Boal Talks Zero Dark Thirty (1 of 2)

Pi: Simpsons Style

The Hot Blog

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon