The Hot Blog Archive for May, 2014

Friday Estimates by Kladeficent

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The big Maleficent question is, who is going to this movie on Saturday… the same crowd as Friday or The Kids? Lego Movie opened to $69m after a $17m Friday because the families showed up in force on Saturday. If that held similarly true for Maleficent, the Mal could get close to this summer’s high standard, the $90m opening. If that is not the case and families with kids under 15 are afraid of the film, the opening will be more in the $65 range. It’s really that broad a potential range. And as I am writing this from Seattle, Disney is no doubt checking matinee numbers from the east coast, hoping to see an uptick. This is one of those rare cases in which mid-Saturday reporting could actually be of value.

67.9%, 77.1%, and 71.5%. That’s how much Cap 2, The ‘zilla, and ASM2 were off on their 2nd Fridays. X-Men is off an estimated 68%. So what does it mean? Not a lot. This is a pretty 2nd Friday standard drop, as you can see. Benefiting from the holiday weekend last weekend, X should end the weekend near $160m after two, which would make it the best 10-day number of the year so far. Still, the biggest battle remains overseas.

If I were going to peg Die Western to another opening, it would be The Internship from last summer, which opened to a $6.5m Friday and ended up with $45m domestic.

Amazing Spider-Man 2 should slog its way to $200m domestic while Godzilla may not quite get there. Like all the other big films so far this summer, the real story is the rest of the world.

The Other Woman hit a kinda shocking $80m, proving that women will go see crap just like men.

And this weekend, Neighbors will pass the point of doubling any previous Nicholas Stoller movie and is the #2 all-time live action Seth Rogen movie, behind only Knocked Up. Ann Hornaday may demand that the National Guard go Code Red.

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Weekend Box Office Analysis

memday3Len Klady seems to be on an unexpected hiatus… but now that I am back in the U.S., I thought I would take a quick look at the numbers, as I am reading them on Box Office Mojo.

X:Men: Days Of Future Past is the 4th $90m-plus opening of the last 7 weekends. This is a significant event. The record for the most $90m-plus openings in an entire year is 4, so this matches that record, with at least 1 more such event likely this summer and as many as 3.

This is already record-breaking in that in the 4 previous occurrences of 4 in a year (the last 4 years), at least one of the openings took place in November. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 guarantees that the November trend will continue, though perhaps Interstellar can make it 2 occurrences of a $90m+ opening in November for the first time in history.

Now… that said… X-Men ain’t what Fox was hoping for. It is right in line with X2 and the first Wolverine film, not the opening that X-Men 3 had, and not the over-the-top opening that they were chasing when they decided to make a movie with what seems to be the biggest cash investment in Fox history. (On Avatar – as with Titanic – they sold off a big chunk of, protecting/limiting their investment. How much of this film is being paid for by Dune is unclear… but my understanding is that Fox’s bite is bigger than the ultimate on Avatar.) (P.S. If you feel compelled to now tell me what is the media take on the budget of this film, don’t embarrass yourself or those claiming that the budget on this film was $200m. I’m not even repeating the high figures I have heard bounced around, which are truly outrageous… even more so if they are true.)

This is exactly the kind of movie that Tom Rothman avoided making forever… the mega-expenditure chasing the mega-gross. One of the notable things about X-Men has been that the budgets have been relatively low, making them profitable in spite of what has seemed to be a glass ceiling for this franchise. X3 got a bit out of control because of changes to the team late in the game and the urge to pump up the CG on a very short schedule. But this one intended to be massive from the start… an answer to Avengers. But unlike the Marvel-made behemoth, this one is as strong as Wolverine, not Robert Downey as Iron Man combined with the ideal Hulk (after 2 attempts that didn’t take).

It’s the weakest opening of the four $90m+ openings, though the hope is that it will be #1 in the group over 4 days, given the holiday. Still… it won’t be much more over 4 and it will still be well behind the $123m domestic for X3, which also opened over Memorial Day Weekend.

On the other hand… not a complete disaster. And this is now how box office reporting goes in the summer. The same was true last summer. The domestic media plays this silly game with the studios of setting, lowering, whining about, attacking expectations on domestic, not quite willing to report publicly that domestic box office, while important, is not the primary piece of the puzzle. Then we play the “real budget” game, which is actually defensible by studios, as the hideously simple-minded reporting on box office by most outlets makes it all a big game that can’t be dealt with honestly by studios – not that they have ever liked talking about real budget numbers – because they would get crucified by some series of idiots who are always angling for the negative story.

The advertorialization of movie coverage – not just box office – is a loss on both sides of the media/industry relationship. Truth is a major causality.

Anyway…

The four $90 million-plus openers will all pass $400 million worldwide. Captain America: The Winter Soldier has already passed $700 million. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is at $674 million worldwide, is sure to pass $700 million, and has a legitimate shot at passing Cap 2 worldwide before all is said and done. Godzilla is over $300 million worldwide and should get to $500 million without too much sweat, thanks to Japan and China. And now X-Men: Everyone? $262 million and counting. $500 million is their realistic minimum (counting all ancillaries) for breakeven. It will get there. Will it get to $600 million or $700 million? The history of this franchise says, “no.”

This is the irony of bringing back Bryan Singer to make this film. His films are slower and more serious than most other comic book films. He is not a master action guy… never has been… not once. He was great for X-Men and Fox. He, I believe, created the opportunity that Christopher Nolan took and made one of the early billion-dollar franchises from. But to make an Avengers-level box office machine here, Fox needed a director who makes those kinds of movies. Don’t worry about reviews… this was about money… and Bryan Singer, who has shown real gifts as a filmmaker, is not a cha-ching guy.

It feels weird to suggest that Fox dump the director from the next franchise film after he made a movie that will likely gross somewhere around $550 million. Singer’s never passed $410m worldwide before. But they need a Joss Whedon. And truth be told, the quality of the film may be lessened… but Whedon has a great ear for pop. And pop is money.

The news is much worse for Adam Sandler, who, even with former good-fortune co-star Drew Barrymore, bottomed out big time with Blended this weekend. Leadership at Sony must be giggling to themselves – those who are left since the That’s My Boy car wreck – happy not be taking the heat this time around.

The “Sandler is over” meme will be starting again. And it will try to explain away the Grown Ups 2 number ($247m worldwide) from last summer. But the answer seems to be that THIS version of Adam Sandler is done. Fart jokes and shit jokes and 47-year-old men just don’t go together for most people. And lovable as Drew Barrymore is, it’s been a full decade since she has led a movie to a better opening than this… for her, this is a really good number. In fact this is her #5 all-time opening as a non-animated lead and 2 of the other 4 were with Sandler. So… sad.

Godzilla‘s drop is not shocking.

I would have expected Neighbors to hold a bit better, given the lack of comedies in the marketplace, but it is already Nick Stoller’s biggest film by a mile and it is in range to become Seth Rogen’s biggest non-animated worldwide grosser ($37m away).

I already got in ASM2… won’t catch up with Cap2 domestically, but may well become #1 worldwide until Transformers passes it.

Chef had a nice expansion for Open Road.

And Heaven is For Real continues to chug along…. over $85.8m domestic now. Amazing.

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Cannes Review: Clouds of Sils Maria

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I kinda love Clouds of Sils Maria. At its best, it is a female version of My Dinner With Andre. At it’s weakest, it is still interesting.

The premise is pretty basic. A famous middle-aged actress (Juliette Binoche) is offered the role of a middle-aged woman who becomes the (willing) victim of a 20something. The twist is, she played a version of the 20something a couple decades earlier in the role that launched her acting career.

This gift of self-examination – particularly needed by someone in the bubble of being a successful actress – is offered by the original writer (and apparent director) of the first play… but he dies before he can narrate the older actress’ journey into perspective. So she is alone with this.

Her sidekick is her assistant. And that’s when the movie gets interesting, because not only is the sidekick reflecting the actress’ ideas about youth, but she is played by Kristen Stewart, who aside from the details of “the play,” is in real life the living embodiment of a Juliette Binoche of 25 years ago. So every exchange is steeped in the reality, even if Stewart is playing an assistant in the film.

Adding another layer is the young actress who has been hired to play the 20-year-old character that the older actress had played. Chloë Moretz plays the actress… whose story is very much a reflection of the hysteria around Ms. Stewart in recent years, albeit more venal as an individual. Or is she?

It is one of my disappointments of the film that there is not more time with Kristen and Chloë, as characters, because I felt that the film spoke to how things have sped up. What took 2 decades to go from Binoche’s character’s view of life as a famous actress, inherited by Ms Stewart’s character, took less than a decade to transform into what Ms. Moretz’s character lives and represents.

There is a beat in which it seemed apparent that Ms. Moretz’s character wanted paparazzi attention after a tragedy near her… but Assayas pushes off of that a bit, perhaps to try to make the eventual revelation of her cynicism more of a surprise. But for me, that was a mistake.

Stewart’s character is filling multiple roles, symbolically, here. But the one as a reflection of what Moretz’s character may wake up to in a few years, the next even more aggressive/abusive/self-trapped person behind her, closing even faster.

I have had the opportunity to chat with Kristen Stewart a couple times before Twilight and a couple of times since. I have never felt like the genuine person is being hidden. There is a lot going on in her world… and she has been tardy… and she seems genuinely unhappy being poked at by those near her and at a distance… and she may even be a brat at times, don’t really know. But I like the person I’ve met. And I like this performance as much or more than anything I have seen her do. She reads as the person I have met, having been given that room by the screenplay and Assayas, and Binoche. It often feels like a beautifully lit document of two women to whom ideas are important, who respect each other, and who are worldly, each at very much their own age.

Chloë Moretz’s performance is also quite interesting, as she does eventually turn to her bag of (excellent) tricks. But before she does, she tones it way down… but is playing someone who – I think – is living a performance.

Of course, Binoche has become sublime. Every moment feels like someone you know and want to know better. She offers signs of her age, but still can bring the youthful energy at will. Apparently, this story was her idea… and good on her.

By choosing Olivier Assayas to work with, she not only found a director who can manage the male gaze without it becoming a leer, but he is not timid at all about, really, going without men of significance in the film. There is a dead man, an aging male star, an agent on an iPad, and a variety of male figures who do not define the women in the film… as all too often, female characters do not have a real effect on the men leading films.

I don’t think this is going to be the most popular of films with Cannes audiences. It doesn’t click off every box. But I really enjoyed watching every moment of it. The discussions in the film should be discussions we all have about art and artists much more often.

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Cannes Review: Foxcatcher (spoilers)

I don’t really want to review Foxcatcher. The script is solid. The direction is beautiful. The performances are topnotch.

I’m not really sure how much more I can say about it that is of value.

I can say that I don’t think it is at all about the corrupting nature of money. The money is really beyond the point. John DuPont was a sad, inconsolable rich kid. But the point is not that he had power from his wealth, but that he could never use the wealth to make himself happy and to some extent was trapped by his perception of his position.

There is some drug use, but my feeling is that this is about vulnerability, not power or being out of control. The film infers a possible sexual subtext to the wrestling that wrestlers insist is untrue all of the time. But is there a problem created by the drug use? Well… only if you take the inference of an unusual, abusive sexual incursion under the influence. But even if you go there, that incursion is a breach of the parental relationship, not a “drug problem.”

The following is my take on the story in the film. I am not usually one for retelling the story in a review, but I feel like so many reviews are suggesting that it is some other movie, I feel compelled, if only for my own sanity…

Foxcatcher is a movie about desperation for parental love. The two men at its center, Mark Schultz and John DuPont can’t fill the hole in their lives… Schultz’s caused by the death of his parents at a young age and DuPont caused by his unforgiving mother.

Schultz has a gold medal, but it’s not enough in many ways. DuPont is one of the richest men in the world, but is not interested in being what his mother wants and has found an affinity for a passion she deeply disrespects.

But if DuPont can lead his men to an Olympic gold medal, maybe she will finally respect him. And he knows what Mark Schultz needs (or thinks he needs)… a parental figure who is not his older brother, allowing him to individuation.

DuPont’s money isn’t really important to Schultz. It allows him some space, but DuPont’s mind-fuck is about making Mark feel special, capable, and powerful aside from the older brother who has overshadowed him all of his life.

And for a while, it all works. Mark wins the World Championship. But this does not convert Mrs. DuPont to seeing her son more kindly. DuPont needs more. So he insists on bringing Dave Schultz into the fold.

Ironically, DuPont’s wealth, which meant next to nothing to Mark, is everything to Dave. He has a wife and family to raise.

But once Dave, a natural leader, enters the picture, DuPont dumps his friend/son Mark. It’s every abandonment nightmare that Mark has ever had. And he shuts down.

In turn, DuPont starts to seek parental attention from Dave, who is a leader and otherwise superior in every way – except financially – to DuPont. This intensifies when DuPont’s mother dies and then again as it becomes clear that, even for money, Dave cannot pretend to respect DuPont the way he seeks.

This inevitably leads to DuPont killing his mother – as then embodied by Dave – and Mark being forced into independence, though forever to be haunted by his brother and DuPont as the tale becomes legend.

The movie is really missing the coda of where Mark is today. Is he still living in the shadow? Has he freed himself to some degree? Somewhere in the middle? Disconnected? It’s not my question to answer.

There are many wonderful things in this movie. And I am sure my view will evolve… not necessarily to thinking it something I don’t think it is now… but there is a richness to it that is of great value. But the movie reviews I read right after its screening were, to my eye, of some other movie altogether.

And so it goes…

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BYO Godzilla

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BYOB – May The 16th Be With You

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Cannes Review: Mr. Turner

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Mike Leigh’s Mr. Turner is a movie about an artist who is past his moment of greatest glory. A biopic only in that it rests on a historic figure in art, this is not a film about Turner’s inspiration or his method or his history. It is about the other side of the mountain, the apex of which Turner reached before the first shot of this film.

The recent film I was most reminded of stylistically is The Grand Budapest Hotel, in which the canvas of the film was both sublime and irrelevant. Inhabiting this director’s world, instead of Wes Anderson’s Rube Goldberg madness and hyper-real characters, is Timothy Spall’s grunting and grounded Turner and the tiny group of supporting players in his life, as subtle as Anderson’s are explosive.

Like the concierge at the center of Grand Budapest, Turner is a well-established force of nature in his world. But our story (without Budapest‘s flashbacks) starts with Turner’s creeping awareness of being past his prime, increasingly unsettled, starting with the loss of his father… his greatest fan and deepest enabler. The void created by the loss of the one person he truly loves sends him deeper into solitude and fear.

He finds peace (and great light) In the home of Mr. & Mrs. Booth. The Mr. instantly embodies the strong father that Turner never had, though there is no real relationship and he Mrs. will become Turner’s lover/mother, the next only person he will ever love.

Turner is a man, In this film, who wants it both ways… everything both ways. He both wants to humiliate an artist who is working in his milieu and to reassert his power to those around him. A dab of red paint serves both causes. He wants to sell his work, but also wants to secure a place in art and national history for all to see for free. He seeks to both criticize his peers and to defend them against glib criticism from others. He seeks his deepest love under an assumed name.

Even in his work, after having achieved name-brand status, which matters deeply to him, he pushes further into less literally representational art, driven as much by spite as a clear aesthetic goal.

Leigh works with Dick Pope for the tenth time, but reportedly the first time on digital. One of the central themes of the film is the light… more so than in any previous Leigh film. We see the world from Turner’s perspective… the hyper-magical light as he saw it and then recreated it on canvas. And it is magnificent.

Spall is amazing. But Spall is almost always amazing. The parade of Leigh Company Actors is here, each a delight. Whether it’s the near-silent performance of Dorothy Atkinson as the housekeeper and occasional sex partner, Hannah, or Marion Bailey as the wise Mrs. Booth, who has already buried two husbands, or briefs appearances by Lesley Manville or Ruth Sheen… all a pleasure to watch.

But the question of how you identify yourself on that downslope, fighting and fearing and succumbing to time… even from that highest perch… makes the experience of the film a rich, challenging, rigorous one.

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Cannes 2014: Grace of Monaco

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Olivier Dahan is inarguably a genius. He is also, perhaps less clearly, a madman.

I was expecting to tweet, perhaps Vine, a quick reaction to Grace of Monaco, but the film defied my urge to a quick, clean reaction. It is glorious, magical, inspired… and missing… something. But I have a powerful urge to revisit it – which my afternoon schedule unfortunately disallows, for now – to try to get a better handle on it.

The premise starts out blurry and comes into focus as the story develops. While watching the early scenes, I found myself giddily looking forward to the plunge off the side of the road, an inevitable mixture of high camp and advertising level photography. But while it is repeatedly foreshadowed, he moment never arrives… and by the middle of the 2nd act, I was no longer looking forward to it. Dahan starts out with hyperbolized Sirk, mixed liberally with Hitchcock (who owns the 2nd act and the entire score), and slowly tones it down, perhaps even underplaying the melodrama while still maintaining the visual style.

The question about the film for me, is whether the equation really adds up. But the pieces along the way are pretty glorious.

Nicole Kidman gives one of her best performances here. She has been pushing away from her movie star tricks for the last couple of years and this role really demands layers of self-awareness that are heretofore unseen in her roles. She’s been playing rawness lately, chasing more natural performances, but this is a role that doesn’t allow that freedom. Kidman’s Grace is almost always performing on some level.

And in the few moments of raw vulnerability, Dahan likes to shove the camera right in Kidman’s face, not only in close-up, but cutting the top and bottom of her face. We can see the veins in her eyes and the (tiny) pores in her skin. Yet, as with so much of the performance, Kidman’s stillness pulls us in.

The running gag about Kidman (which I always felt was wildly overstated) was that Botox had ruined her acting. Watching these close-ups, I almost felt as though Dahan was telling Kidman’s critics to fuck off and watch her act with her eyes alone.

Great supporting cast. Tim Roth has an unforgiving role, but I still loved watching him. Robert Lindsay was nearly unrecognizable and great as Ari Onassis, begging the question of why the great movie about Onassis has never been made. Paz Vega is a surprise as Maria Callas. Roger Ashton Griffiths does the best on-camera Hitchcock ever. Seriously. Never seems to be working for a second. Dead on. Gotta love Parker Posey working with a dry stick right up her ass. Derek Jacobi doing the aging queen of grace is a tickle. And Langella is both perfect and effortlessly purring as the father confessor.

But this movie is, in the end, all Dahan and Kidman. For better and worse.

By the end, I got it. All in. But it took half a movie to get me there. Is that a flaw or a virtue?

Likewise, having not seen the rest of the footage, I have no idea if Harvey Weinstein is right or being an ass. The movie is only 1:40, so it’s not a length issue. And I’m not sure it can be “fixed” because Dahan’s style is so idiosyncratic. Or that it needs to be fixed.

Besides faces, just the level of Dahan’s taste and skill is in evidence in scene after scene. Obviously, he has collaborators who are also adding and are skilled (like editor Oliver Gajan)… but some of the cutting is so well designed that you have to assume it was shot to cut that way.

Anyway… I have a feeling that this film will “improve” with time. Could be wrong. But I walked out of the first screening of Cannes 2014 feeling like I’d been presented with a real movie. And I was happy.

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Cannes 2014: Opening Day

I have long been of the opinion that Cannes is an indulgence to US press. Starting my third year covering the festival, I have to say, nothing’s changed that opinion.

But like Telluride, it’s a lovely indulgence.

It’s the most civil film festival of the biggies. The schedule is loaded, but manageable. The town is touristy, but sanity is just blocks away. The weather, for which I am missing L.A.’s first severe heatwave of the year, is coastal cool and sunny, with bouts of rain.

And oh, by the way, the movie selection of world premieres is world class. Even when they suck, they are challenging and worth the pain for lovers of cinema.

The competition element is the least attractive element of Cannes. Of course, it is the most written about because that is what journalism looks like these days. There are many fine exceptions to this rule, including the New York Times, which could care less about the game, but loves to consider the players.

I am a bit of a monk at film festivals. I see a lot of people I know, like, and love. But if I could sit in those dark rooms for 18 hours a day, IV-drip feeding me, I would be happy.

This year, for the first time, I have a producer with me for DP/30. So I hope to see films and then just show up for interviews and embrace the talent. That could be my only improvement on 18 hours in a theater. Ten hours and 3 or 4 hours talking to filmmakers about their work. I hope it plays out well.

But for now, it’s a decent night’s sleep (as defined by the father of a 4-year-old), some bread, some cheese, a coffee with creme, and a beautiful, sunny morning on the Croisette.

It’s definitely an indulgence. No Oscars will be secured here. No box office (or even distribution) in America assured. No one outside of The Bubble will care much what happens here.

But the power of cinema will be celebrated, if not by the media or the hordes taking endless photos or the publicity machines, by the movies themselves. There is no avoiding that. The power of cinema is more powerful than the parade.

And so, once more I indulge.

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Weekend Estimates by The Neighbor Two Doors Away Klady

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It’s funny that Universal is touting Neighbors as the 2nd best R-rated comedy opening (behind Ted), when it is even more impressive as the 3rd best original (aka 1st or 1st in a series) comedy opening (behind Bruce Almighty and Ted)… and all three of those films were released by Universal. This is really a strong suit for the studio over this last decade-plus. And it’s not just these at the very top of this list, but the many surprising openings over $30 million along the way, including The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Bridesmaids, Couples Retreat, and Knocked Up.

The flipside is that as passionate and publicity-first the studio is about comedy when they have a winner on their hands, it shows how some comedies may not be very good when the studio chooses not to show their hand early and often. But we’ll know how true that is in about 19 days.

Great number for a lot of people. It won’t get as much shock and awe as it deserves. And it reminds us once again about just how amazing that Bruce Almighty number was 11 years ago. Bruce is still the biggest opening for an original comedy by about 25%. That’s truly remarkable.

Amazing Spider-Man 2 was off 59%, which is pretty normal for a $90m+ opener. Captain America 2 was off 57% with similar competition from the total box office of 3 movies opening against its second weekend… though none of those competitors were after the same demo as Cap, while Neighbors is right on top of the Spidey demo. Worldwide total on A-Spidey 2 is at $550 million.

Four nice holds from the films between Spidey and the 2 new entries into the market. The Other Woman, Heaven Is For Real and Rio 2 are servicing very narrow constituencies that clinging to their estrogen, religion, and childhoods. Cap 2 is still doing nicely on word of mouth.

I would normally wonder if Moms’ Night Out and Legends of Oz made enough to get back thier marketing spends, but in these cases, the marketing was so light, I’m not too worried for them. I assume that the dates for the first films from Tom Rothman’s TriStar were announced last week so no one would assume that he had anything to do with the Moms dump. And Legends of Oz… oy.

And The Grand Budapest Hotel passed 2 milestones this weekend. It became the #1 Wes Anderson domestic grosser, passing The Royal Tenenbaums, and it has now doubled the gross of any previous Wes Anderson film at the worldwide box office for Anderson. Great win for both Wes Anderson and Fox Searchlight.

Paramount is doggedly pushing Noah to the $100 million mark domestically… one more week there.

And in limited releases, there were four films over the $10k per-screen mark this weekend. Jon Favreau’s Chef opened on 6 screens and pulled in a strong $33k per. Amma Asante’s Belle expanded to 45 screens and will do just over $10k per. Pawel Pawlikowski’s Ida did $12.5k on 8 screens. And Gia Coppola’s Palo Alto did $19k per on 4.

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Friday Estimates by Uptight Dude Next Door Klady

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Excluding animated voice performances… Neighbors‘ opening day is a bigger opening day than any Seth Rogen opening… bigger than any Sandler opening… any Apatow opening as producer, director, or writer… any Will Ferrell opening. Bigger opening day than The Hangover… but not Hangover II. The only original comedies with stronger opening days are Ted and Bruce Almighty. Add in Sex & The City if you like, though it’s obviously not a real original. And Jackass 3D. That makes this – unless I am missing something – the 6th best comedy opening day in movie history… which is really something.

As usual, there are plenty of box office ignoramus’ out there – one very special one back at Deadline – who think of it all as some zero sum game of who beat which film and why. Of course, had Neighbors been opening against the second weekend of Captain America 2, a month ago, it would have been Cap2 on its 2nd Friday by nearly the same margin… but because of reporting bias, Cap 2 (as other movies would have been) was hailed as winning a triumphant 2nd weekend and Amazing Spider-Man 2 is being pissed on. I know some of you are bored to death with me deconstructing poor reporting, but until editors and reporters start reporting box office with some semblance of objectivity, I feel compelled to keep pointing out what bullshit a lot of it is.

And when Godzilla wins next weekend, it won’t be crushing Neighbors or Amazing Spider-Man, but succeeding on its marketing merits… which is pretty much the story at least 47 weekends a year.

Speaking of the other box office hits of the last 6 weeks, Captain America 2 (the current box office #1 of 2014) should end up at just over $700 million worldwide, almost $250m of that coming from the domestic box office. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (the current box office #2 of 2014) will pass $500 million worldwide this weekend, about $140m of that domestic. ASM2 is looking like it will come in a bit behind Cap domestically. International is still open to interpretation. Time will tell.

The only other openings over 1000 screens were dumpers, really. Mom’s Night Out and Legends of Oz. Both sound like Vegas sideroom shows, no?

Open Road has a small hit in Chef, which will have a per-screen near $25k on 6 thanks to aggressive grassroots marketing, emphasizing a web presence, in-person appearances around the country, and a stellar supporting cast. The real scene stealers in the film, however, are Amy Sedaris and John Leguizamo.

Coppola brood release Palo Alto is also doing nice exclusive business, with a $15k+ per-screen for the weekend on 4.

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BYOB 050714

byobhumpday

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Are Subtitled Films A Problem For Americans? Wrong Question.

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This question has been addressed twice in recent weeks. Most recently it came from Anthony Kaufman in indiewire with The Lonely Subtitle: Here’s Why U.S. Audiences Are Abandoning Foreign-Language Films. At least that silly overreaching title is better than the one suggested in the URL: “Why U.S. Audiences Are Abandoning Subtitled Films Now More Than Ever. ”

As anyone who has read me over the years knows, there are few things for which I have more disdain than a piece claiming to be an explainer when it explains, in a completely myopic, single-focused way, something that isn’t actually happening.

That original title, to be fair, was clearly meant as a direct attack on Scott Foundas’ piece, Why U.S. Audiences Are More Comfortable With Subtitles Than Ever. Scott, in my opinion, oversold his thesis. But while overreaching, I felt a degree of sincerity… not so much a statement of fact as a prayer that things are getting better.

All I really have to add is math. Not biased, trying-to-prove-something math. But simple facts. You can judge for yourself.

All I really did for this was to pull all the grossers over $100k in the US last year and all of the domestic grossers over $100k in 2004 and pared the lists down to the foreign language films. It is possible that I have 1 or 2 included that should not be, or eliminated that shouldn’t have been. Honestly, I am not going to spend hours checking each of the 129 films that are included between the two years. Here are the numbers I have…

In 2013, 62 foreign language films (significantly subtitled, even if there is English spoken) over $100k domestic, grossing $114 million total.

In 2004, 67 foreign language films (significantly subtitled, even if there is English spoken) over $100k domestic, grossing $140 million total.

That’s a 23% drop. That’s not nothing. But it’s not terribly shocking either. And it doesn’t account for the increased revenues coming in from VOD.

Also, a lot of the revenue last year came from India, as distributors like Yash Raj and Eros have really stepped up that business in North America.

Both years had foreign language outliers. In 2013 it was Instructions Not Included, with $45m domestic. In 2004, it was Hero, with $54m domestic.

This discrepancy points out the most obvious change. In the Top 15 US-released Foreign Films of 2004, you had Miramax, Fine Line, Warner Independent, Sony Classics (3x), Fox Searchlight, and Paramount Classics. More than half the films were coming from subsidiaries of the 6 major distributors. In 2013, your Top 15 still have 3 from Sony Classics and 1 from The Weinstein Company… and 1 from Lionsgate.

Is 15 too odd a number for you? Let’s make it 30. Add another 2 Sony Classics movies, 1 more Weinstein, and a VOD-driven Radius-TWC from last year. In 2004, you would be adding a Miramax, a United Artists, and a second Fine Line title.

Add this in… ThinkFilm and Magnolia were responsible for another 3 theatrical titles in that Top 30 in 2004. The comparable companies now – Magnolia and IFC, not driven by VOD – had a total of 1 film in the Top 30 of domestic box office foreign-language grossing indies last year.

If you’re wondering, the gross of #30 last year was $489k. In 2004, $1.1 million.

So yes, something has obviously changed. But the question of just what the change is and why is not as simple the American tolerance for subtitles.

Why didn’t Miramax, Fine Line, Warner Independent, Paramount Classics, or ThinkFilm release any foreign language films last year? Because they are all out of business.

Why didn’t Fox Searchlight release a foreign-language film last year? The only two foreign language films they have attempted in the 5 years since Slumdog Millionaire were both Hindi action movies with modest returns.

How about The Weinsteins, now in their 9th year post-Disney? Their biggest foreign-language grossers were just in the last couple of years. The Intouchables did $10,2 million domestically. And The Grandmaster did $6.6 million domestic… almost dead in the middle of their 97-film history. (Three more to 100… will anyone celebrate?) #3 is Kon-Tiki, which drops down to $1.5 million. Haute Cuisine is #4 with $218k. There are a couple more with less than $250k combined.

So the answer is… they got out of this part of the business. They built Miramax heavily on the selection and promotion of foreign language. And in the last decade, they simply didn’t think it worth the effort, as businessmen. (I am sure they love many foreign language films and filmmakers.)

The Weinstein Company releases SIX foreign language films in 9 years in business. One was the biggest grosser in French history. The next was from Wong Kar-Wai and had mighty Megan Ellison fronting the film. The other 4 grossed just over $2 million combined.

Anthony Kaufman did address the issue that “Companies that serve(d) as their champions have downsized, retrenched or disappeared.” But I think he – like so many – suffer from an inability or unwillingness to say it straight… the deep pockets got out of the business, making it hard on audiences, not the other way around.

It’s all good and well – and thank God they are there – for relatively tiny distribution companies to push out more foreign language films than ever. But the nature of driving all content to a significant number of consumers remains the same. Unless you have a great niche, like Yash Raj does, it takes money to make money. You have to be in it to win it. Pick your cliché.

There was just a Twitter conversation a couple days ago with someone from Cinema Guild saying that VOD was not, their opinion, creating a glass ceiling for indies. I disagree. I think that VOD has been good for the smaller distributors, who need revenue from wherever they can get it. But slowly but surely, we are seeing a flooded market with audiences that have no motivation to go to the movies, except to specifically go to the movies… the habit, not the movie. Of course, there are exceptions annually. But screens are harder to come by, more companies are less likely to spend on marketing, and it feels like even the hits are smaller hits. But this is not just a foreign language problem. It’s the entire indie market.

Tom Bernard may be 100% right that Oscar is the #1 driver – one of the only drivers – of foreign language titles in the U.S. But that was not always the way. I can’t point the finger at Sony Classics because they have made the investment in Almodovar, Haneke, Zhang Yimou, and others… serious commitments. Some of the films they distribute are just pieces of business. But they really get out there and fight the fight for most of their films and build those relationships with filmmakers.

And I can’t blame IFC and Magnolia for building out as they see fit. A24 is willing to swing for the fences. There are so many good and passionate film distributors. But money is money is money.

What is missing, to my eye, are exhibitors who are willing to take a big risk and to do a deep dive into foreign language. 300+ titles a year on 6 screens in NY, Chicago, LA, Austin, Seattle, etc. What is missing is a good streaming company going 100% foreign or 100% documentary. For there to be a future, the future must be invested in so that people can develop the habit… then a little luck with a few titles that blow up.

The question of whether Americans like or dislike subtitles… whether U.S. audiences are abandoning foreign films… pure bubble stuff. Because we in the bubble have a unique perspective. Real Americans who pay for their movie tickets are not being included in this conversation because they are not being sold foreign language films on a wide, consistent basis. They don’t have the opportunity to be trend-makers… they can barely see the hit indies that are released before they are yanked out of theaters (if they ever got there).

Why wasn’t The Intouchables a bigger hit in the US, as it was across the globe? In great part because Harvey Weinstein was more interested in the English-language remake than he was in making a lot of money on the domestic release of the French-language film. It never played on as many as 200 screens here. Maybe it would have gone wider had it been nominated. Same thing happened with Shall We Dance?

All things are not equal. Someone will eventually start mining the massive resource that foreign language films are. But it’s going to take deep pockets and patience… and not from the audience.

After that, we can discuss what the audience wants or doesn’t want.

(Okay… so not all facts… facts and then a rant. But you should still take the facts and decide for yourself, no matter what I say.)

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Going To Cannes 2014: An Internet Access Story

So… I know this is all too Jeff Wellsian… but I also know that a lot of people wrestle with this… and I feel like I found a very happy solution for the first time after wrestling with it for years.

After years of using old phones that can be unlocked by ATT and mi-fis and whatever, I finally figured out something that works with both my AT&T 10g group data plan and my travel needs without costing a fortune.

It started with an investment. I paid full price for an iPhone 5s. Ironically, this became a more attractive option as AT&T implemented two new programs. First, the new $0 down plan turns out to be one of the most expensive ways to buy a phone. Second, with a push to get people onto the 10g data package, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to have phones from multiple carriers, as reducing from the 10g package to a smaller data package ends up costing money (unless you are going to have fewer phones/tablets). And AT&T is actually competitive on pricing with everyone else in this 10g offering.

Those two things taken into account, the $850 for an unlocked phone that works on AT&T (and on T-Mobile) is not really that much more expensive than the subsidized phone options.

And here is the real kicker. T-Mobile offers a worldwide unlimited data and text plan for $80 a month, including up to 5g of tethering worldwide. And it is a month-to-month plan.

So here is my gambit… buy the new phone… put it on my AT&T plan… sell my old iPhone 5, which returns about $200 against the cost of my new phone (bringing the difference in cost to a locked under-contract AT&T phone to just $200)… then get a month on T-Mobile for just $80, as needed, and go. No phone changing. No insane bill at the end of a two week trip. 20 cents a minute for talk, which is okay by me, but could be improved upon somewhat with other methods, if you so choose. And as a friend pointed out, I could just audio call from Facetime (with iPhone users) or Skype audio with pretty much anyone and not pay extra for phone calls at all.

When I get back to the states, I pop out the T-Mobile sim card, pop in the AT&T, cancel or suspend my T-Mobile plan… and I’m done.

No more messing around. No more changing to another phone. No more crazy bills. Next time I need it (hello, TIFF), pop in the T-Mobile sim and ramp it up for that month.

This is how much of the world has done this for the last decade or so.

Ironically, I was telling this story to a friend in Amsterdam and he told me that his new iPhone 5s is his first under-contract phone ever… because for the first time, in The Netherlands, there is a deal that makes it significantly cheaper to have a phone under contract. Go figure. We finally get some freedom over here and they get more tied up where they have been free for years.

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Weekend Estimates by ASK1

Weekedn Estimates 2014-05-04 at 10.23.41 AM

The lowest total domestic gross on an opening of $90 million-plus is X-Men: The Last Stand‘s $234 million. The best domestic gross for a film opening over $90m and under $100m is Transformers: Dark of the Moon‘s $353m. So you have a domestic range of about $100 million. No one knows the answer to where it will land. It’s already got $275m in the bank overseas, so the absolute worldwide minimum is (logically) $500 million… which is slightly above breakeven (taking all nontheatrical revenues into account) on a film of this cost. Odds are, it will do another $200 million internationally, which, in the conceit of this conversation, is $90 million of profit on the film.

Remember last summer, when everyone decided to agree that World War Z was profitable after grossing $540m worldwide… even though it cost considerably more than ASM2 (and embarrassingly more than the Box Office Mojo budget estimate). Remember Man of Steel doing $688 million worldwide last summer and, as Zack Snyder’s 3rd profitable film, was hailed as a massive hit. That film cost about what ASM2 cost. So let’s see if coverage of the box office is objective or not. (It’s a rhetorical question. It mostly is not, like most film coverage these days.)

Personally, not a thrilling opening. Not a black spot either. It’s the 7th best Summer Opening Weekend since Spider-Man in 2002… 1 step into the bottom half. I have long said that one of the favorite media misreads about the movie business is that people vote negatively. Of course, this is occasionally true. It’s rare, but Transcendence happens. People vote with their dollars (and awards votes) in a positive way. People rush to see a movie on opening weekend because they are excited. There just wasn’t the highest level of excitement for Amazing Spidey 2. Writers are rationalizing the event in many ways, but no one answer is the right answer. How much of it is about Amazing Spider-Man and how much is it about Captain America scratching that itch a month ago? It’s pretty much impossible to make a rally good comparison to Amazing 1, which opened off a weekend, going into the July 4 holiday, and this launch. But they don’t seem wildly dissimilar.

ASM2 will likely become the 64th all-time $700 million worldwide grosser. Boring. Exclusivity now starts at $900 million (29 current members in that club). So success is all about how it is presented… and how the media “decides” it will play. Captain America 2 will likely gross a bit more than Amazing Spidey 2… a little… but one is likely to be forever remembered as a massive surprise success and the other will be remembered as a disappointment. You will be hard=pressed to find a showbiz story about how Roland Emmerich’s 2012 grossed more than any Marvel movie except Avengers and Iron Man 3… but you will read many about how White House Down defined flop for a year.

Again… I am not telling you that this is a great barn-burning opening. Just noting the lack of perspective in some of the coverage. Won’t be the first time this year… won’t be the last. And when people ask me, “Who cares?,” I respond that the reason I do care is that I hear civilians gacking up B.S. box office memes all the time. They read or hear a misleading notion a couple of times and they assume it’s true. Sad.

Not a lot else out there to write about. Noah is crawling to the $100m line domestically… one… million… to… go. $330m worldwide… which makes it a lot better, though still below expectations. (Again with the expectations!!!)

Over 100,000 people paid to see Transcendence this weekend in North America.

Belle did almost $25k per screen on 4 this weekend. A decent start. Ida did $17k per on 3. A nice serious indie start.

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