“Let me try and be as direct as I possibly can with you on this. There was no relationship to repair. I didn’t intend for Harvey to buy and release The Immigrant – I thought it was a terrible idea. And I didn’t think he would want the film, and I didn’t think he would like the film. He bought the film without me knowing! He bought it from the equity people who raised the money for me in the States. And I told them it was a terrible idea, but I had no say over the matter. So they sold it to him without my say-so, and with me thinking it was a terrible idea. I was completely correct, but I couldn’t do anything about it. It was not my preference, it was not my choice, I did not want that to happen, I have no relationship with Harvey. So, it’s not like I repaired some relationship, then he screwed me again, and I’m an idiot for trusting him twice! Like I say, you try to distance yourself as much as possible from the immediate response to a movie. With The Immigrant I had final cut. So he knew he couldn’t make me change it. But he applied all the pressure he could, including shelving the film.”
~ James Gray
The Hot Blog Archive for October, 2013
Not a lot of new intel this morning. Bad Grandpa was extremely front-loaded and Saturday didn’t see an expanding audience. No shock. Still a mighty open for a very inexpensive film. Gravity is still strong. Captain Phillips is the mini-Lincoln of the fall so far… who’d a thunk it? If The Counselor is projecting $8m, expect it to be more like $7.7m in “actuals” tomorrow. (Don’t worry… or get excited… Cameron Diaz won’t be taking a job washing cars anytime soon.)
Cloudy 2 got to $100m. Deserved better. Carrie finally got to the $25m to which people thought it would open.
12 Years A Slave is clearly expecting another strong after-church Sunday. Also from Searchlight, Enough Said holds strong and will become Nicole Holofcener’s highest grosser ever sometime this week (probably on Friday). Blue Is The Warmest Color does okay… but hardly overwhelming. $2m – $3m is probably the cap for this one in theatrical… will depend on the curiosity factor as the film rolls out outside of the big cities.
Even this needed some better writing. Great, great idea beautifully executed in production, but only feels about 75% of the way there to my eye.
The show this season has been very professional. It doesn’t feel like some of the car wreck seasons. But the level of the writing feels uninspired, almost like the writers are holding back the stuff they say to each other in the writing rooms that reflects anything really mean or angry. Even Update was pure vanilla this week.
Gravity will close in on $200m domestic and pass $300 million worldwide this weekend. Don’t cry for me, Jackass Grandpa.
The only thing more profitable for Paramount this last decade than the Jackass brand is the Paranormal brand… and mostly because the horror films are so incredibly cheap. Johnny Knoxville may never become a successful mainstream actor (though I think he could, if he really focused on that), but he is the biggest star that Paramount has. Imagine what he would do with Jack Ryan of Mission: Impossible!
The other newcomer is The Counselor, which you could tell from a distance Fox thought smelled funny. They will be fortunate to get to $9m this weekend. My perverse nature is to want to go back to see it again, as any film that is so consistently reviled, especially coming from an often-great filmmaker, must have some redeeming feature I didn’t notice the first time around. But it might just be what it seems to be… a beautiful mess that didn’t force its novelist/screenwriter to conform to the demands of film soon enough in the process. (I gather that the working relationship between Scott & McCarthy was not always 100% smooth. Ahem.)
I took the whip to the LA Times yesterday over a messy, nasty, poorly reported (or edited or both) story about 12 Years A Slave yesterday and nothing about the box office changes my take on story.
That said, Friday was not a hugely encouraging day for the film’s box office future. The per-screen will end up between $12k and $15k on 123 screens… which is good. But it doesn’t scream out “big numbers to come.” It keeps the ultimate story of the film’s business life blurry.
There are not a lot of good comps for this. For one thing, it’s October. There are pretty much no examples of this expansion tactic being used in October. It’s usually, start in November, expand in December… or December to January. Searchlight’s Sideways started in November, didn’t expand to 100+ screens until December and then finally went wide in January. A long expensive road. Michael Clayton, which is one of the few October openers priming the pump with a release in the teens, went to over 2000 screens in its second weekend.
One hates to limit this to a comp to another movie focused on the Black experience, but Precious went 18 screens to 174 screens and the per-screen on both weekends was significantly higher. It was November. And it had Oprah power. When The Weinstein Co put out The Butler by Lee Daniels this August, with Oprah power, it went wide right out of the gates. And it worked.
For me, the problem I have feared for the film since Toronto was that the peak of passion by the media was so high then that there was no place to go but down… with a release date a month away. It’s just really hard to convert. That is why so many Toronto films with commercial aspirations open almost right out of Toronto or wait until late Nov/Dec to go theatrical.
How much media has attempted to ghettoize 12 Years A Slave, as the LA Times did (knowingly or not) by focusing on what might keep adult, especially female, audiences from going to the film instead of the reasons people get so much out of the film? I have no idea. I don’t read every paper in every city where the film is now open. How much of a factor in box office is media? At this level of release, it can be quite significant. And most of the media response has been glowing. But the role of media remains a curiosity. And in the end, when the film goes wider, Searchlight’s marketing skill will be the driver, more so than media.
Let’s see what happens. I don’t think anyone associated with this film ever thought it would do Lincoln business – no one who made Lincoln did – or even crack $100m domestic. But $40m – $60m domestic is about where the target was/should have been. Still doable.
For a positive comp, look to The Queen. Opened off of Toronto and NYFF, in exclusive for 4 weeks, until this same 2 October weekends, expanding to 99 screens “last week” and then 152 screens “this week” in 2006. At the end of the 99 screen weekend (its 4th), it was at $3.8m total. 12 Years will be at about $3.2 million after 2 weekends. The Queen had only one weekend over $3 million, which was the week after Oscar nominations. But it had 16 weekends with grosses over $1 million, the first on October 15 and the last on February 25. Those are some long awards legs. $56m domestic. And that is the track that Searchlight and New Regency are surely hoping 12 Years A Slave will take.
The news in arthouse releases this weekend is blue… Blue is The Warmest Color. 13 screens. About $7500 per (they now hope). It’s a long movie, so that is a factor in this narrow a release. Media continues to obsess on sex – on either side – though the amount of graphic sex in the film is only slightly higher percentage of the film than the scene with Sharon Stone crossing her legs in Basic Instinct. In fact, if you took all the rough sex stuff in that film and figured out the percentage of sex to screen time, it would be more sex than Blue. But I guess media was all aflutter about that peek-a-boo moment too. And these days, you get to see Rosario Dawson’s stuff in Trance and no one seems to care… or Scarlett Johansson going the full monty in Under The Skin causes little stir (which is actually as it is intended in the context of the film). Personally, I think the excitement – positive and negative – around Blue is because the sex is not only graphic, but actually sexy… the way your first tumbles in the back seat were sexy… and you’re either pleased with that, offended by that, or offended that others – perhaps those heathen of the opposite sex – are pleased with that. Regardless, the theatrical run of the so-much-talked-about film looks like it will be modest. In the theatrical business, sex doesn’t tend to sell so well. In the VOD business… through the ROOF!
There is an ancient story which agents, execs, journalists, and wannabes throughout Hollywood will tell their children tonight as they go to sleep. Here is the translation that my great-great-grandpappy, Plainas Noseonface, left to me:
So there is this hack journalist who wants to get across the river to fame & respect. And there’s this billionaire who thinks he can get them there together. So they agree to make their way across the river. As they cross, the hack journalist invites worker bees (expensive ones, but the hardest workers of all) onto the billionaire’s back, where they thrive on the fumes of all that money. And as they work, the worker bees let off a scent that makes the hack’s ego inflate as others mistake their scent for hers. As the hack’s ego gets bigger and bigger, it weighs on the billionaire’s chapped ass. But the billionaire has a big money-back and enjoys the attention. People think he must be really smart.
Halfway across the river, there is this busted-ass publication hanging from a branch. It’s near death, but it was once very, very famous. So the billionaire invites the publication onto his back as well. (He’s kind of a fame whore.) In order to make room for the publication, the hack journalist’s ego has to be deflated a little… but the hack doesn’t much like that idea. As they swim, the publication gets healthier – even as the billionaire removes limbs in a haphazard way – taking up more and more of the billionaire’s money-back.
The hack really hates this. The billionaire assures her that he can see the other side of the river and they are almost there, but the hack knows better. She knows that he doesn’t really know where the other side of the river is. Neither does she, but with her giant inflated ego, she figures she has just as good a chance to get there as he does.
Hack: I don’t need you anymore. That THING over there is taking up too much of your back. Don’t you know that I am what is important?
Billionaire: You are very important to me, hack. But that thing over there doesn’t call me up screaming at 3 in the morning.
Hack: You knew what you were getting into when you took me on this ride.
Billionaire: I did. And it was fun. But I am a young billionaire and that makes me very, very smart and very, very handsome and you can’t make me any more famous or rich and I don’t fuck fossils, so get off of my back, literally.
Billionaire: You know what I meant!
Hack: You meant “figuratively,” you fucking imbecile!
Billionaire: Here’s $1000… shut up now.
Hack: I’m going to get off your back, literally, if you don’t do what I want!
Billionaire: Yeah… and give up your brand and all your worker bees?
Hack: I don’t need you. I don’t need them. I am still big… the internet has gotten smaller.
Billionaire: I don’t get it.
Hack: Get what?
Billionaire: Call me later… I have a meeting at The V.
Hack: I will not!
Billionaire: Sorry… can’t hear you over the poor people on Wilshire! Bye! (click)
So hack journalist starts to poke the billionaire with a stick until he throws her off his back. That way, she has just as good a chance to get where she is going AND she gets to play the victim.
But without the worker bees emitting their scent, the ego that is carrying hack journalist across the river begins to deflate. Hack is drowning on her own Twitter feed. An multi-millionaire swims by and picks her up out of the water. But she knows that she will have to kill him in time. (Much easier to poke a millionaire to death than a billionaire.) Maybe he will build a boat with a former friend turned enemy whose billionaire may also have lost patience. Probably not. All those sexist pigs in the world would just call them hacks. But mostly, she’d getting too old for this shit.
Nonetheless, she will try with all her might to become important again. Why? Bad childhood, probably. But that’s another story. Right now, it’s her nature.
Meanwhile the billionaire, the publication, and the worker bees continue to wander around the river. The worker bees can just fly away when their contracts end… or not… they’ll be fine. And the publication… well… time will tell. Billionaire will probably get bored in time. Publication will never be as exciting as the insane hack journalist. So he’ll find another toy. Because that is his nature.
Note: If you tell your child this story and they can’t ever sleep again, call a doctor. And keep calling doctors until you find one that will write a scrip for children’s sleeping pills without requiring an examination. Won’t take long… it’s Hollywood.
Abdellatif Kechiche’s Open Letter “To those who wanted to destroy ‘Life Adele’ ” (aka Blue Is The Warmest Color)
(Translated by Google w/ minor editing, as best I can do – French original appears here)
Abdellatif Kechiche: “To those who wanted to destroy” Life Adele ‘”
Abdellatif Kechiche | Filmmaker
The film was released. In the climate of foul rumors that have tainted, but it came out. I can speak a little.
Today, the chance of life or destiny are, as everywhere in the world, I have the happiness to “represent the French Cinema”: its values, creative freedom, emancipation traditions, in addition to the scope story to the screen. In some countries, for these same reasons, because of these same values, the film may not be broadcast. In mine, France, which I am proud to exalt, through my films, this aspiration of the youth of today has the freedom to love and live in the art and modernity, “Life Adele” is the victim of a form so pernicious that it does not say his name… censorship.
Before Cannes, while editing my film, in a letter to the minister of Culture, Aurelie Filippetti, I addressed the need to initiate a debate on the state of health of French Cinema. An honest debate, frankly, with all the professionals. A debate without cheating, without deception.
I was raising issues which interest the whole profession, I mentioned a number of disorders and traumatic experiences which I had to suffer as a professional and personally during my career as film director. My letter had been read. I received a bland response.
Ms. Aurelie Filippetti was courteously coming to greet and congratulate me on the Croisette, in the same time, I had to face a series of articles in Le Monde insiders containing many slanderous allegations. All of these items targeted me at the worst possible time for me and my film. An incomprehensible situation and a real press campaign against me. A charge so violent that I can now say with certainty, and cinema professionals are well aware, that if my film had not been rewarded in Cannes, I’d now a film director destroyed, as they say, a dead man .
The attack starts muted, with the publication in Le Monde of an earlier article co-authored by the benign-appearing Aureliano Tonet and entitled “The tests against the Abdel Kechiche shows”. During its preparation, I heard a investigation that wanted to make this reporter, for to draft the article in his capacity as head of culture.
This “investigation” was supposed to be my “method of installation.” I know Aureliano Tonet. He knows I request that we write to Abdellatif not “Abdul.” He also knew that I opposed any extension of my methods of work during the act of creation, that I was overwhelmed by the closure of the film and I would not give him access to the editing room. He therefore felt free to proceed in advance, with impunity, to what was the real purpose of the article published a sort of survey of personality DEEMED Edifier readers about my character and thus prepare the minds and popularizing the term “method Kechiche” a good word that would make floras. This article was published in the paper edition of the World May 15, 2013, when opened the Cannes Film Festival. He claimed on the form a “laudatory portrait.”
(The rest after the jump)
Read the full article »
I would argue, always, that world premiering a movie at a film festival with limited media access is a terrible idea if you are trying to get into the awards race—specifically Oscar—unless you figure out a way to embrace all of the awards press and mainstream media in the US at the same time or earlier.
Why? First, because by avoiding the mainstream festival circuit in early September (Venice/Telluride/Toronto), you are putting a target of presumed limitations on your film to start. In other words, if it is so good, why can’t it compete with the number of big movies at the big September festivals.
But that is a problem that can be overcome by a strong showing at New York in late September/early October or AFI in November. The New York Film Festival, in particular, has stepped up as a launching pad in the last two years, premiering 3 awards chasers in both of those two years, after having their first world premiere in quite a while with The Social Network in 2010. (In 2011, NYFF opened with Carnage, which was at Venice, but not at Toronto, and closed with The Descendants, which had launched at Telluride/Toronto.)
Second problem is, the media that cares about such things—whether they claim to or not—is then anticipating the first screenings of the film. So you drop it into London and then make American writers who are not in London via the handful of outlets that have UK correspondents, or are willing to pay a freelancer to review an important movie out of the country, wait a couple weeks. Until today, only three films had actually put American writers in this position… and all three were soft at the box office and in the awards game, in spite of being quite good.
Going back to NYFF for a moment, two of the three films premiering at NYFF this year chose to go the smart route and played their films pretty much at the same time for L.A. writers, avoiding any delay or bad feelings. The third was screened in NY and LA before and during the week of Toronto, also avoiding conflicts. Two of the three films got mixed reviews, but interestingly, there is not a lot of negative energy out there for the two mixed films. Any negativity was somewhat diffused.
Back to London, this is only the 11th London Film Festival to take place in October. Before that, it was in November and not a player of any kind in the award season. Moving to October gave the film festival an opportunity for world premieres that connect to the American award season that it really didn’t have before.
In 2008, Frost/Nixon opened the festival without screening in the U.S. and never quite recovered. Was this because of the London premiere? That seems silly. But it certainly one of the factors that took away from anticipation of the film in a crowded field where every edge counts.
(By the way… for those of you who are given to Harvey negativity overhype… that is his real secret… every stone turned… every idea worth trying tried. Lots of people work their asses off in this game and The Movie is The Movie is The Movie, but relentlessness is a powerful thing.)
In 2009, Fantastic Mr. Fox opened the festival, but Fox Searchlight took the opportunity to junket the film in London, bring a lot of press overseas, and to stay ahead of the negativity. Closing the festival that year was Nowhere Boy, a movie I quite like, which never got off the ground in the U.S., even though its star and director have both been hot commodities since.
No World Premiere until 2012, when Newell’s Great Expectations closed London and never really opened in the U.S.
And now, Saving Mr. Banks.
Everything in the anticipation of award season suggests that this film will break the curse of awards movies premiering at London and not even getting nominated. Maybe such things just don’t really matter anymore. Maybe Tom Hanks and the joyous return of Emma Thompson to a movie lead, and Disney in every way helps this title rise above those that have crashed and burned (surprisingly and not) in the past.
Pretty much positive reviews from both trades (which I didn’t read enough to do anything but ascertain whether the reviews were positive or negative for the purposes of this piece). Presumably positive stuff from others (whose reviews mean even less). And now, two and a half weeks of waiting until a real consensus can begin to exist.
The subtext here is that while people will get irritated by being forced to wait, causing some negativity where none was needed, there is a worse problem…
Problem Three: Will anyone care in 2.5 weeks? Has the balloon stayed inflated, not being burst by London reviews, but not rising in importance in this period either? Ambivalence is the only award season killer as deadly as hatred/discomfort.
In the end, if Disney effectively plays to Academy members, nothing that happens in the press will matter. That is another advantage of launching late in the season. You don’t have to feed the maw for month after month. But if people aren’t getting buzz from London that makes them really excited about seeing Saving Mr. Banks right NOW… well, the movie has lost. In this case, the loss may be incremental. But so are the margins in Academy nomination voting.
(The full list of London openers and closers since 2003, from the BFI, after the jump)
Gravity. Getting into a bunch of people who don’t see 3D movies about now.
And Gravity is now the highest grossing movie in history to open in October… 3 weekends in.
Kinda amazing that the only movie likely to beat it before Thor 2 (aka “Thorer”) is Bad Grandpa… which will be the subject of many “world is coming to an end” pieces next weekend when the Jackass brand scores $30m and change and Sandy drops to $24 million or so.
The success of the fall that isn’t getting enough headlines is Captain Phillips, holding strong in its second weekend, not set in space with amazing 3D effects, but on boats with Somali pirates. This should shut off the faucet on “movies for adults” whining… at least until next weekend. As it seems to always be the case, the first release after a studio’s top markietng spot was emptied (in this case, Sony’s Marc Weinstock) turns out to be a hit at a surprising level. Of course, even with a studio marketing chief at 100% power, Scott Rudin movies are relentlessly piloted by Scott Rudin and his chief award season strategist, Cynthia Swartz.
It’s a little odd that we now throwing blood on genre movies that open to $16.4 million, but not only has $20m become a pretty clear standard for a successful genre opening, but it felt like Carrie should be something more. It wasn’t.
I am sad for The Fifth Estate. I am friendly with Bill Condon, but that’s not my issue. It’s a good, smart, audience-engaging movie. It isn’t a spectacle. And it just never got traction… even if the Time Magazine cover meant you had traction when we were all younger… at least 5 years younger… more like 10. This is exactly the kind of movie that will have people wondering why they missed it when it first arrived in theaters. It wasn’t an easy sell from the start… not a lot of “torn from the headlines” hits… mostly torn from old headlines and allowed to simmer for a long while.
As noted yesterday, the 12 Years A Slave opening doesn’t tell us a lot about what its box office future will look like, but it puts it right in the box office launch area that screams “Oscar nominee!” (even if everyone int he media was already screaming the same). The number is slightly higher than you would expect from the Friday number, but my guess is that Searchlight is anticipating a lot of people going from church to the film today.
The box office analogy to Gravity that you never hear is 300, yet both were visual groundbreakers and both will/will have hit $150m domestic on their 16th day of release. Only five films got to the landmark faster outside of summer and the holiday window: The Hunger Games, Alice in Wonderland, The Passion of The Christ, Oz The Great & Powerful, and Fast Five.
The firing squad arrival of The Fifth Estate is a shame. Caught in between Gravity and 12 Years A Slave, just as it was in the September festival zeitgeist, a movie overtly about current ideas just never stood a chance. Assange was last year’s story and people are clearly as anxious to see a film about him as they’d be to see a feature about Mitt Romney, the Gangnam Style guy, Seth MacFarlane hosting the Oscars, Steve Jobs or that thing, you know, remember, that thing that was so cool, it’s right on the tip of my tongue…
The standard for horror movie openings is $20m, set by Screen Gems a decade ago. Carrie won’t get close. Personally, I think they – as others have – thought they had better publicity cards in their hands than they did. The only press Kym Pierce seemed to do was slavishly devoted to rebuilding her image… which will be (unfairly) torn down even further after this opening. Chloe Moretz coming of age was not a story… even as images of her covered in not-really-menstrual blood are all over town. Julianne Moore, who is a goddess of the screen, is playing an Oscar-nominated role (as was Moretz) and outside of geek press, you would hardly know she was in a new movie. Sony should have been looking past the geeks – who showed up, pretty much – and taken it to the adults. Not only is this part of our history, but there are real conversations to be had about this film… about bullying… about young women coming of age in this culture. But instead, it felt like just another knock-off. And maybe it didn’t deserve better. But no great marketing or publicity relies on what the film actually is, but rather sells the public on the idea of what the world might want it to be. Can’t always pull it off, but this one – perhaps because of the transition at Sony – felt like a by-the-numbers coulda, shoulda situation.
12 Years A Slave is looking at about $40k per screen on 19. I am proud of Fox Searchlight’s choice to release it as they see fit and to not pander to the 2 screen $100k+ press-bait weekend that they could have had. This number is actually much more impressive. If you look at the list of “comps” that fit, you see Precious, Lincoln, Black Swan, and Up In The Air having similar opening screencounts and doing much bigger per-screen numbers. But all of those Academy chasers also opened at least a few weeks further into the hype as well. American Beauty did $54k on 16 screens (albeit in 1999). Then you get to Mystic River, Michael Clayton, Dances With Wolves, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Lost in Translation, Good Night & Good Luck.… all right in there with this opening number in limited. This may seem like I am only picking Oscar-nominated or winning films to mention, but there really aren’t any “comps” that fit were not only Oscar chasers, but failed to get nominated. There are others that were more impressive in the 20-40 screen range (No Country For Old Men, The Descendants, Milk, The Blair Witch Project), but releasing this way requires a lot of confidence and clearly Searchlight has it and clearly it is deserved.
Nice hold for Captain Phillips, with a lot of stuff floating in the water.
Also launching this week with awards aspirations were All is Lost and Kill Your Darlings, with the Redford art movie doing slightly better than the Harry Potter art movie. Really, it is unfair to turn either film into the sum of its media cliches, but Maureen Dowd and Dan Radcliffe’s open-faced charms have taken us to a new place. Both are looking at $11k – $12k openings per-screen on 4/6 screens. Neither is a world beater. Neither precludes success in expansion. I doubt there was a market with either film that didn’t also include 12 Years… and Gravity… and for that matter, in this demo, 5th Estate. So let’s not close any doors on these two films.
Are we supposed to mention FilmFocusDistrict’s $2k per-screen opening this weekend… or is that a write-off that shouldn’t scare the producers of Dallas Buyers Club at all?
Oh yeah… and Stallone & Schwarzenegger had a movie open. $10m is not a disaster. Not a hit either. Whatever happened to Ah-nuld’s real sklil as a movie star… selling the excrement out of his films? “$10m opening is for puny movie stahhhhhssss!”
Looks even more gloriously goofy than ever…