“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 June, 2014
Because the Transformers 4 opening didn’t blow the roof off the summer, it’s kind of a non-story at this point. The idea that critics kept a $99m opening 3-day (or slightly better) from being a $115m opening 3-day is kinda idiotic. (Likewise, the idea that an A- Cinemascore rating from the hardcore Friday night audience means much of anything is also kinda idiotic.).
But what is interesting is a summer without a $100m+ opening. This is after two straight summers with two $100m openings each. There is no trend story in bouncing this off of the $200m Avengers launch or the $160m for the last Nolan Batman. But the question of whether there is a new glass ceiling on domestic box office is worth considering.
On the other hand, Tr4 is the record-breaking fourth $90m+ opening this summer, with only half the summer gone. And it’s the record-breaking fifth $90m+ opening for the year, with half a year still ahead of us.
After many years of calling “bullshit” on doom & gloom coverage of the domestic box office, this is the first quirk that really makes me wonder if the studios have finally “perfected” the system into diminishing returns. Of course, the international business is booming and all movies over $100m are now international-first.
The real test will be Summer 2016, with 2 franchise films that should be expected to open to over $100m (assuming the head-butting butt-heading is avoided). Long way away. Next summer, there is Avengers 2, for which any opening under $150m will generate shock and horror in the media. (It will probably be a better movie than the first and drop off a little on gross, as the tradition goes.) But if it’s the only 9-figure opening next summer, it will be more evidence of a plateau.
Of course, there is already Transformers 5 hum… which would be a disaster for Bay’s legacy. It’s time to drop out for Mike. He maxed out, I believe, the possibilities in Tr3. And 4 feels like he took every gag he ever decided not to do in earlier films thrown in, bringing his Pain & Gain pal Wahlberg in for some box office heft and a mega-payday. Directing a 5th film would confirm every overly unkind thing said about Bay over the course of this franchise.
There is also no replacing Bay as a director if the next film – there will be a next film or 3 – tries to continue with Bay’s style. If any franchise is clearly up to carrying over to a significant change in style, it’s this one. Lord & Miller already made theirs… in Legos. But you know, Edgar Wright would be a brilliant choice. If they could talk Brad Bird into it, that would be a huge win. And this could be the chance to get Michelle MacLaren a big opportunity to change the game.
This summer feels a bit like Summer 2005, when there were a lot of $200m movies, but only one $240m+ film a year after there had been three. Not coincidentally, that is also the year when the. New York Times and Sharon Waxman launched the false alarm about the end of theatrical and did it often enough to infect both media and real moviegoers. (Lots of manipulation to make the lie/crap reporting appear true. Ugly. As the box office rebounded, they/she changed the stats used so as to keep selling the tale they wanted to sell after making the commitment to the meme. Weapons of Box Office Destruction.)
Not a lot else exciting at the box office this week, as studio hid their babies from big, bad Transformers. The two successful launches were on 8 and 5 screens… Begin Again and Snowpiercer. But the numbers were strong more than thrilling.
With all due respect, this is not the domestic opening Paramount had been hoping for. It’s a very strong opening, no question… but it may not hit $100m and if it does, it will likely nudge it softly. This is the first Transformers movie to open on a Friday, which suggests—especially with this just-above a few other summer openings start—that Paramount knew that the box office explosiveness of the franchise is now fading, at least here at home.
The first Transformers feature was at $36.7m on opening day (a Tuesday, with early shows that started before 10p on Monday). Transformers 2 opening day was $43.2m (a Wednesday, boosted by early shows on Tuesday). And T3 had a $62m opening day (on a Wednesday).
God bless Rob Moore and company for trying to sell the media monkeys on the idea that this was a great domestic opening. I have no idea where the film’s numbers will end up being over the weekend. But as is the norm in this situation now, the domestic box office is not the real focus. But there seems to be a bit of dancing around on the international numbers also… which also look very strong… but not eye-popping, especially when you factor in the changes in the Chinese theatrical.
China reportedly represents $30 million of the $80 million international being reported as of Friday, $20m of which is “new” since the last film in the franchise. So 33% of the reported 42% growth internationally so far is in China alone. And, of course, China allows US distributors about half what other countries do in rentals. So on the net books, it’s about a 19% increase in international coming back to Par so far. Again… very good. Just not quite what is being reported on the numbers around town.
I expect Transformers: Age of Extinction to take a hit domestically (which is not any more about reviews this time than in the last 3 incarnations). It will almost certainly become the #1 film in the US this summer, though the bar of $256.8m set by Lego and Cap 2 may be too much to expect. The big money will come from overseas and the $771m international haul from the last film in the franchise will be the minimum target.
Of course, all of these numbers still blow away the top worldwide of 2014 so far, Cap 2‘s $711 million. I would not be shocked if Tr4 turned out to come up just short of the billion $ mark. (Nor will it be shocking if it does… or even passes $1.13 billion.) It would be shocking if it didn’t get to $900 million.
We will see.
Transformers is a monster. It’s not a dog now. I’m not suggesting that at all. But it’s not the behemoth, breaking records and taking names, that some saw coming after a solid, but not exceptional summer to date. One summer is not a trend. But we could be seeing a new normal developing. And Transformers may be as much a part of that as everything else has been in this summer.
Also in the “good, but let’s reserve judgement” ranks are the two strongest new indies, Begin Again and Snowpiercer, which should end up around $23k and $14k per screen. Lots and lots of publicity on both these films… and a long way to go.
I felt a distinct sense of déjà vu when I started seeing the eruption on Twitter over Gary Oldman’s Playboy interview remarks. You see, I have been down this road with Gary before.
The year was 2000. Rod Lurie had made his second film, The Contender, which had been picked up by DreamWorks SKG. It was the year after American Beauty, so DreamWorks SKG had an Oscar glow and though Gladiator was their big show pony, Lurie being ushered into that company was a very big deal. Joan Allen was an immediate big-time contender to win Best Actress. And there was strong buzz around Gary Oldman for Best Supporting Actor, playing an ultra-conservative, buttoned-up Senator.
Lurie, who is a friend, re-cut the film based on notes and time in the cutting room with Steven Spielberg. And he was thrilled.
But when Oldman saw the re-cut, he claimed that his character had been politically simplified to the point of it being an offense. He claimed it became a caricature of a rightie instead of a nuanced portrait. And he went on the war path. (Others have indicated that his performance was not cut at all, making it rather confusing as to why he went ballistic.) As the story was told to me, he actually called Spielberg an anti-Semite and spat out some other rage connected to Spielberg’s religion. He also went right after the head of marketing at the studio, Terry Press, calling her—as I was told the story—a “fucking midget cunt.”
Immediately, the Oscar push by the studio shifted to Jeff Bridges, which was charming as The President, but in a light role, hardly up in position to compete with the heavy dramatic turns by Del Toro, Phoenix, Finney, and Dafoe (or Oldman, for that matter). But DreamWorks got him nominated and everyone loves Bridges, so no controversy created—in what I still think of as a big old “fuck you” to Gary Oldman.
In the Playboy interview, Gary doesn’t choose to tell the story, which is a sign of sanity and learning. No need to kick an old hornet’s nest. Because it got worse. A lot worse.
The decade before The Contender, Oldman got acclaim for Henry & June, JFK, Dracula, True Romance, The Professional, The Scarlett Letter, The Fifth Element, Air Force One, and he even got played to class up dreck with Lost In Space. He got acclaim for other performances too, but these were the 8 films released by major studios or their releasing arms. He was either the lead or one of the three top names on 7 of the films (the odd one out being the first).
Then came The Contender… in a role that Gary not only assumed would bring him his first Oscar nomination (a shocking omission, though that’s a different conversation), but also allow him to control his future, which at the time, included becoming a box-office star. He told me at the time that he was frustrated by being the guy they didn’t hire for many roles that he wanted because he just wasn’t a big enough name.
He had already shot Ridley Scott’s Hannibal for then-major MGM when this all hit the fan. But he would make only three movies in 2001-2003… none for a Hollywood studio. His first film back at a studio was in a minor supporting role in the third Harry Potter film. He continues to work only for WB and only in supporting roles in 3 more Potter films and as Jim Gordon in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy.
In 2009, he got to play a 2nd lead in a horror film (The Unborn) for Rogue, a division of Focus, which was a division of Universal, but being run by what is now wholly Relativity. And no coincidence that the writer-director was David Goyer, who had worked with Oldman on the Batman films. He also got to play—on a motion capture stage— three roles in Bob Zemeckis’ A Christmas Carol. The ice was finally melting… made even more apparent because Zemeckis was a protégé-then-compatriot of Spielberg’s.
Oldman finally got back to where he was in 2000 as the bad guy, #2 only to Denzel, in WB’s The Book of Eli. He played another bad guy in Red Riding Hood for WB. And then, finally, he got to play a lead in a film released by a major studio arm for the first time in a decade with Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy… and with it, his first Oscar nomination.
So what happened to Gary Oldman, arguably one of the finest, most interesting actors of his generation, for a decade?
As suggested from before it actually became so clear that Oldman had hit a career wall and hard… Mr. Spielberg is what happened to Gary Oldman.
Now, Spielberg happens to be Jewish. But he also happens to be one of the 10 most powerful people in Hollywood, full stop, and has been for decades. Every studio has been in business with him. Every studio looks forward to being in business with him in the future. So when you make an enemy like that, you have a big problem. And Gary Oldman’s mouth turned Spielberg into an enemy. And Gary Oldman turned from sure-fire Oscar contender into bit player… an esteemed bit player, but mostly a bit player… for a decade.
Gary is no fool. (He’s actually incredibly smart.) And when he was out with Tinker, Tailor, he offered this tidbit, loaded with subtext, on the way out of our interview.
In the last year or so, he’s had a small hit with the RoboCop reboot, he’s making plans to direct his second film, and he’s out promoting his top-of-the-call-sheet turn in Fox’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes and BOOM, here comes the Playboy interview.
Oldman and his consigliere, Doug Urbanski, have responded to their fuck-up much more effectively this time around (and certainly more effectively than Lars did), quickly sending/releasing a note to the ADL…
“Dear Gentlemen of the ADL:
I am deeply remorseful that comments I recently made in the Playboy Interview were offensive to many Jewish people. Upon reading my comments in print—I see how insensitive they may be, and how they may indeed contribute to the furtherance of a false stereotype. Anything that contributes to this stereotype is unacceptable, including my own words on the matter. If, during the interview, I had been asked to elaborate on this point I would have pointed out that I had just finished reading Neal Gabler’s superb book about the Jews and Hollywood, An Empire of Their Own: How the Jews invented Hollywood. The fact is that our business, and my own career specifically, owes an enormous debt to that contribution.
I hope you will know that this apology is heartfelt, genuine, and that I have an enormous personal affinity for the Jewish people in general, and those specifically in my life. The Jewish People, persecuted thorough the ages, are the first to hear God’s voice, and surely are the chosen people.
I would like to sign off with “Shalom Aleichem” — but under the circumstances, perhaps today I lose the right to use that phrase, so I will wish you all peace
I don’t think Gary Oldman is an anti-Semite.
In fact, I think the Playboy interview gets his personality pretty perfectly. He has strong opinions. He doesn’t abide fucking about. He will take shots at people with words that are not right for polite company. He can be quite vain. But his mind is as fascinating as the mind of any character he’s played.
And I completely get what he was trying to say—what he said—in that interview. Did Mel Gibson need to be run out of town for saying something beyond idiotic when he was drunk? Not in my opinion. But, on the other hand, when it became public, it became a public issue and being seen as a bigot and/or a punchline devalues a person significantly as a public personality.
The Alec Baldwin conversation is completely appropriate for Oldman to bring up. Baldwin is a a guy who does not appear to be a homophobe, but who grew up in a culture when “fag” was a light insult, thrown around without much attached to it. Does it mean that, in fact, one is using someone’s sexuality as an epithet? Yes. Is it okay? No. But is it the level of discourse that should bury a 50-year-old man’s career?
I just got into this problem this last week when I referred to the Transformers franchise as “Trannies,” as I have since its beginning. The consensus is that this is unacceptable in 2014. And while my intent was not to insult the transgender community… yeah… okay… I get it. The thing is, when I am writing for an audience it’s not just about me. And there is something infuriating about not having the freedom to speak/write as you like and to be taken at face value by those who might read other things into your words.
Really, the most frustrating thing about Gary Oldman in that interview is that he respects Charles Krauthammer.
And I don’t buy the argument that the interview clips were out of context and that is the problem. Because in the full interview, he says what he says and the interpretation of the words is not confused. What is unfortunate is that many people can’t get past what he said to hear what he meant… with which most people would agree.
Defending people for what some people understandably consider hate speech, even if you think—and I basically agree—that it becomes pitchforks and torches instantly, and out of proportion, is just a bad idea for a public figure. Especially if you are paid based on the public’s perception of you. And he knows that.
Personally, both as a consumer and as someone who asks people to talk to me as a career, I don’t want people to self-censor to the point where all we get are platitudes. We are choking on platitudes. And I think that is what Gary was trying to say.
If you want to listen to Gary be as honest as he could be without drawing outside of the lines, his interview from January 2012 is below. He is quite skilled at it. But sometimes, I guess, he just forgets.
And so it goes…
Think Like A Man Too drops a little more than 10% off its predecessor’s opening weekend, even though a $29.6m launch for a movie that’s relatively cheap is still a winner. The question is, how much of a winner? Even if Too drops 20% off of the original’s total gross, it will still bring in $77 million, which should make the film profitable while in theatrical. So no one is regretting making the movie. But, of course, the hope was to increase the box office by 20% or more, which would have put the film over the $115m worldwide mark, and according to the budget estimate on Mojo, given the film more than 2x is production and P&A costs in rentals (money coming back to the studio)… and there would be even more money in post-theatrical. Anyway… this doesn’t stop the Kevin Hart love parade. But it does keep the level of celebration in check a little… until the next one.
Jersey Boys hit unlucky 13(.3)m according to Klady’s estimate (which btw, is based on Rentrak numbers, not just on studio reports). As noted (late) yesterday, this is a reasonable Director Clint Eastwood opening. But without stars and without a great movie, I think there is a good chance that this could end up being Eastwood’s weakest grosser since Blood Work‘s $26.2 million in 2002. And international is unlikely to come to the rescue, given the Americana of the film, though Blood Work‘s $5.6 million international is the only international figure for Eastwood under $30m since 2000… so with Eastwood’s careful budgeting and a conservative marketing budget, there is a glimmer of hope.
Good weekend for holdovers. Last weekend’s 2 newcomers bother held right around 50%. Now the onus is on Dragon 2, in particular, to pick it up from there. Maleficent had the best hold amongst wide (1000+) releases, unique in the marketplace and pushing the girl power story at the box office. (Personally, I wish young girls had a better film to watch.) The Fault In Our Stars is already looking a bit burnt out, though a very successful run that should pass $100m domestic and $200m worldwide once the World Cup gets out of the way. (Speaking of which, Divergent just hit $150m domestic this weekend and will now close out its theatrical run.)
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is going to have to wait a few more days to become the 2nd $200m domestic movie of the summer. Both it and X-Men: DoFP are going to be over $200m domestic and $700m worldwide, though the tsunami of Transformers 4 is coming for both. However the #1, #2, #3 of it works out, these 2 films and Captain America 2 will all end up within single digit percentage points of each other in the $700m worldwide club. But I expect Trannies 4 to crush the trio’s successes with gusto. The trajectory of the series suggests that even a fall-off could mean a billion dollars for the film. With $770m in international alone the last time out and Mark Wahlberg thrown on top of the franchise to keep it all forward-moving, the review-proof franchise seems ready to clean up in what has felt like a light-impact summer. Also in position to take advantage of the summer’s sleepy energy are Apes 2 and, yes, Guardians of the Galaxy, which stinks of boom or bust.
I definitely get the sense from people that they are looking for something truly 4-quadrant to go see… which doesn’t speak to Transformers, but does speak to the lack of a single across-the-board, recommend-it-to-everyone, summer movie. I was feeling Fault and Edge in this way, but now see that Fault must be a little too tough for the girls (if she only have vampirism instead of cancer) and Edge is still being eaten by the gimmick and Mr. Cruise. Both have decent-sized audiences, but deserve bigger ones… and they aren’t coming. There are some interesting, potential hit movies coming… but none of them feel like that solid all-audience love fests that, as everyone keeps saying, studios just don’t (want to) make anymore.
On the indie side, it’s a mixed bag. Noting too commercially exciting, but lots of modest success with some good films. The biggest grosser of the indie companies is Chef, released by Open Road, with $16.9 million and going. That said, Open Road is more commercially oriented than arty and the film is a pick-up. Second on the list is Fox Searchlight’s Belle, a wonderful film that was driven by BFI and picked up by Searchlight. The film is at $9.2 million and has never been on more than 525 screens. It’s also the top female-directed movie of this summer. It also deals with race without beating you to death with the issue. (Not-So-Subtext: Go see it!)
Music Box has done really well with Ida, $2m so far. The Weinsteins generally stay away from the summer heat, but The Immigrant has done critic-driven business and Radius has had 2 theatrical films with Fed Up and Supermensch. A24’s duo of Obvious Child and Teh Rover have gotten disproportionate press attention and modest theatrical success. And Roadside Attractions has found an older audience for an early-fall love story with Words & Pictures, which is nearing $1.5m.
It isn’t until you get past the Indie Top 10 that you see VOD leaders IFC and Magnolia, which suggests to me that the balance that these two distributors struck between theatrical and VOD is being challenged by (mostly) newcomers. This is not to say that Magnolia & IFC are not still doing well. But dissatisfaction from filmmakers (60 theatricals this summer so far have done under-$200k while 18 have done more than that) and a lot of new competitors entering the market each year, means there is still a lot of shaking out to do.
(Correction, 7:57p – I had written that Fed Up and Supermensch were hybrid theatrical and VOD. They are both currently in theatrical only.)
The closing number says it all for me.
This is not a spoiler.
There is a curtain call… pretty much identical to the one on Broadway and on tour. All the performers come out… not to bow, but to get their moment of adulation. And Clint Eastwood stages it as one might expect from a movie adaptation of a Broadway musical. And for a moment, you get the energy, the sweat, and the exhilaration of live theater.
But after two hours of slogging through the theatrical gimmicks that have no viable place in a motion picture and the limited drama of the story as told on stage squeezed to within an inch of its mundane life, it feels more like a “fuck you” to the audience than a cause for celebration. Clint knew all along how a skilled director might make this movie… and he wasn’t willing to give you any of it. Not a thimble.
And even at the end, Eastwood becomes the first guy who ever hired Christopher Walken for a musical (and he is not in it nearly as much as his percentage of press opps suggest) and didn’t get him to dance… at all. He does a little arm movement in the end. He may be aging and he may be creaky, but the guy is as expressive with his body as he is with that voice and those eyes… and no, sorry, Clint ain’t indulging your pleasure, you mook. (The only moment of real life and energy I felt in this movie, aside from this closing – which, by the way, Papa Maudlin shows up to spoil in the very end – is a joke that Walken, in his mob boss character, does, responding to a list of bad behaviors by another character. It’s smart, funny, and you actually have to make a connection to get it… and the audience did.)
Vincent Piazza, the pro from out of town, was good as Tommy DeVito… but not great because no one was allowed any shot at being great in the way the film was made. John Lloyd Young, as Frankie Valli, is not a movie actor… not terrible, but not very interesting. I liked Michael Lomenda pretty well… but he is in a thankless role. Erich Bergen, as Bob Gaudio, reminded me of someone… or some different someones… or something… still not sure. The performance was solid, but we spent way too much time looking at his hair. And Mike Doyle, playing the producer Bob Crewe, seemed to be playing “theater gay,” not gay… and not a serious guy. The women were remarkably forgettable, except for Renée Marino, who seemed interesting as the woman in Valli’s life… until she was playing histrionics against a cold fish and felt like she was in the road company of the show. (She is probably great on stage.)
I only saw this show on stage once. So I can’t be sure that Mr. Eastwood took the show’s book and just filmed that. But it felt a lot like that. Aside from having exterior locations, there seemed to be almost no effort to turn this stage show into a movie.
I am not a fan of jukebox musicals, but I enjoyed my night of theater seeing Jersey Boys. It was unabashed. It moved like Bong Joon-Ho’s perpetual non-stop train in Snowpiercer. The sets moved. The lights moved. The actors moved. There wasn’t a minute to catch your breath. And the music was live, which is a very different experience than it is watching music sung on screen.
Even in the films that had performers singing live on set before Les Mis claimed to have been the first, the nature of watching a filmed performance is undeniably different. Also, when someone like Joaquin Phoenix or Reese Witherspoon or Jamie Foxx amazingly embodies the spirit of a performer on camera, there is a lot of room for forgiveness about how much the actor really sounds like the original legendary singer. But here, you have a cast of unknowns singing… so they better be amazing… and they were not that amazing. They are talented. But do I ever need to hear any of them sing again (see: Jennifer Hudson… or Beyonce’ for that matter)? Decidedly not.
It’s an ugly looking movie… but really, not my biggest issue.
I was lost by this film long before this moment, but this is a good example of what went so very wrong for me. The legendary Brill Building. Eastwood’s camera, via fx, scales the front of the building, looking into the windows, floor by floor. The people in the windows seem to want to represent some of the great hit songwriters of that era. But two things happen. 1. The camera moves so quickly, we have no idea what we’re seeing until we have already passed it, and 2. You can’t make out a single familiar tune coming out of any of the windows.
It was one of the few concessions to making this feel like a real movie… and it was thrown away like Eastwood wasn’t really so sure about this crazy idea. Deeply frustrating.
Oh, did I mention… the film is almost without a score, except for some hauntingly spare Eastwood-esque piano/guitar background music in the third act. This is a movie that went through one of the great eras of music in which there is a picture of a Sinatra album, but no Sinatra music. Etc. And on the big Valli hits… some of the arrangements seem slightly off, which has to be intentional… but drove me nuts.
Normally, I would be anxious to return to a movie I was this disconnected from when it was directed by a director I so dearly love (most of the time). But I don’t think I missed anything. This was not a mistake. I am not confused by the movie. Eastwood meant to do this. And it was painfully boring to sit through. It wasn’t the overwrought miss of Flags of Our Fathers. It wasn’t the complex emotional rollercoaster missing the station where it let the audience in of Changeling. It wasn’t the almost-there, but just not ballsy enough to make a great movie come to life of J Edgar. This was a badly conceived adaptation because it didn’t adapt… it didn’t get in the spirit of the material… it was inert in a way that no Frankie Valli hit ever was, not even after you heard it for the 200th time.
Jersey Boys is the kind of movie in which characters die in and the audience isn’t crying… they aren’t even considering shedding a tear… they’re just waiting for another song, hoping to alleviate the boredom.
I hated Mamma Mia! But I completely get why people loved Mamma Mia! to death. And I take Phyllida Lloyd at her word that the hacky direction of the film was intentional… that it was a hacky romp… a Greek vacation musical as shot by middle-aged tourists with Handy-cams. And you know what? I will stop when I see a number from that movie on the TV, whether it’s way over the top camp or the gloriously hideous singing of Pierce Brosnan. It’s like hearing an old disco song you hated back in the 70s and are now happily nostalgic about. There was such joy in putting up that show in that barn – Streep and all – that it’s ugly beautiful.
Jersey Boys desperately needed to enjoy itself a little… or a lot. With Scorsese off the table, Des McAnuff would have been a much better choice. A guy like Rian Johnson or Joss Whedon would have been an inspired choice. Sayles would have made a much better movie. Soderbergh would have killed it! Etc, etc, etc. But WB took the safe road, came in on time and budget (presumably, as Eastwood always does), and made a golem.
We’re gonna box office like it’s March!
The opening for Think Like A Man Too is very good… just not an improvement on the first. In fact, given that Friday numbers are still estimates (shhh… don’t tell anyone… the truth would require a lack of false authority), the numbers are close enough to be statistically identical. Does this mean that we’re looking at a $33.6 million weekend? Possible… but no one actually knows until it happens. (EEK!)
Jersey Boys, which might as well have been made by The Wooster Group for all it cares about its audience’s pleasure, had all the signs of a mid-summer dump by Warner Bros. Historically, Clint Eastwood holds a lot of sway on how WB publicizes and markets his films. So maybe there was a more exciting push that never happened. But given the material, the raw stuff to make great spots may not exist. All that said, the film should be one of Eastwood’s best 5 openings ever as a director. I didn’t realize until I just looked it up that Eastwood’s best opening weekend as a director is $18 million for Space Cowboys, though Gran Torino did $29.5 million on its first wide expansion. And he’s only had two $40m+ grosssers in the last decade (9 films). So the box office on Jersey Boys will be right in line with Eastwood’s directorial resume. The project, originally bought by Graham King for Scorsese about 7 years ago, right after The Departed, never came together (would they have Benjamin-Buttoned Leo for Valli?) and Eastwood was a safe choice… though he took the musical – not the music – out of the show, damning it to footnote status.
The rest of the Top Ten is enjoying a weekend of nice holds so far, with the worst being a completely reasonable 2nd Friday vs 1st Friday drop for 22 Jump Street with 55% off, which probably leads to something more like 50% for the weekend. The film passes $100m domestic today.
DWA has to be a little concerned about How To Train Your Dragon 2 is still a few million ahead of the original after 8 days in the market, but is trending down while the original had some of the strongest legs DWA has had. If Saturday is anything like Friday, the original film will pass the 9-day box office number for Dragons 2 and that trend will not turn. We’ll see. The one advantage that Dragon 2 has is that it has 2 more weeks before any direct competition, from Earth To Echo, and then 2 weeks later, Planes 2, neither one of which should shake the world. So we’ll see.
Maleficent has been leggier than I imagined and $200 million domestic is looking well within reach. Foreign – aside from China – could hit $300 million this weekend. China could generate a huge number for the film. And Japan is still pending. So $600 million worldwide is not a long-shot.
The Fault In Our Stars, the weepie that launched a thousand trend pieces, will get close to the $100m domestic mark this weekend. But oddly, after starting with $26m on one day, will feel a bit faded and frustrating in the end… though highly profitable. What will be fascinating to watch is these kinds of film suddenly going from underdogs to overdogs and the additional costs that stem from that. Will the industry overindulge, underindulge, or just price the goose laying golden eggs to death? Time will tell.
X-Men: Days of Future Past has now doubled any previous X-Men movie (aside from the not-X-branded The Wolverine, which X-Men: DoFP is still ahead of by almost $200m) and will, in fact, pass the $700 million mark that I suggested early on was the real first-level goal at Fox for this film. So good on them. I underestimated the film.
It’s also worth considering – as X-Men, Spiderman, and Captain America has each generated $100m in the Chinese market – that Chinese grosses currently return half (or less than half) of rentals vs grosses to American distributors compared to the other international markets. Given the big numbers, this is no small rounding error in box office coverage. When you are looking at the billion dollar hits, $25 million in rentals not coming in from China is not a huge deal. When the biggest movies of the year (so far) are returning under $350 million against budgets of $200m-plus and marketing budgets well over $100m worldwide, $25m is pretty significant (7% of theatrical net or more).
No real excitement on the indie side this weekend. The top per screen film is Coherence, from Oscilloscope. Described by the studio as “part cerebral sci-fi and part relationship drama,” I must admit, it wasn’t even on my radar (even though I love Oscilloscope).
I expect numbers for Obvious Child, The Signal, and The Rover tomorrow.
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22 Jump Street has a terrific opening. 5th best of the summer. But here’s the rub… and I like this stat a lot more than #2 R-rated comedy opening… it is the 7th biggest opening in history for a movie that cost under $100 million to produce. Keep in mind that it is the #108 opening of all time, so 101 and of the 108 biggest openings are for movies that cost in excess of $100 million. So if you want to know why “they” keep making these giant films, there you go. “They” prioritize opening weekend, in a bad habit that accelerated wildly when DVD sell-thru was a massive cash cow and all any studio wanted to do was to get to that Home Entertainment money as soon as possible. The studios, now in that mindset, can’t get the perspective to see that there is more big picture value in longer, perhaps slower theatrical runs. But that is a conversation for another day…
This is Lord & Miller’s 2nd $60m+ opening this year. The two films are the #6 and #7 openings for the year so far… and the only such openers with production budgets under $160 million. That makes Miller & Lord the most valuable human commodities in Hollywood (at least this side of the Avengers 2 crew) right now, as it has often been with comedy filmmakers or comedians, who can deliver big numbers with much lower budgets. This is Eddie Murphy/Carrey/Sandler/Ferrell/Stiller/Apatow at their hottest. The trick now for the guys is to not get to ambitious about budget. Keep the budgets under $80 million without demanding too much coming off the top before real-life profitability, and they will be able to make whatever they want whenever they want for a long time to come.
The opening for How To Train Your Dragon 2, which couldn’t manage 3x its Friday opening, was disappointing… but nonetheless is getting beaten up worse than it deserves. It’s DreamWorks best opening since landing at Fox a couple of years ago. And the sequel suffers from the same problem that got the original off to a slow start… it seems a bit scary for the little kids.
And while some of the parents of under 7s discovered Dragon over time the first time around (4 years ago), many of them are dealing with the issue and the choice for the first time now. And in the Netflix era, the catalog of older movies can be overwhelmed by a ton of options for kids and parents of kids. So the old (10 years old) notion that people who didn’t found something the first time will be primed for the sequel because they will see it at home a million times is not quite as true anymore.
All that said, the film did improve on the first film’s opening and we’ll see where it goes from here.
On the indie side, The Weinsteins are still doing well with The Immigrant, as Open Road is with Chef. But A24 has a strong double dip with The Rover, which leads in per-screen, and Obvious Child, which is doing an even more impressive $7890 per on 18 screens.
Heading to a graduation this morning, but wanted to note the sarcasm of the headline, which refers back to the stupid idea that any box office performance crushes another just because one followed the other.
It’s not 100% clear who win the weekend. The lean is to to Jump Street because it should play very strong on Saturday… while Dragon should have a big jump on Saturday. Only time will tell…
11:42a – Back.
So let’s look at the movies as sane people would look at them… individually, based on their specific situations…
22 Jump Street has gotten overwhelmingly strong word of mouth from media already. It is a sequel. It comes on top of The Lego Movie for Lord & Miller, which is why you have seen so much emphasis on that dynamic duo from all kinds of media that normally don’t bother with directors.
So it opened about 25% better than Neighbors. It opened 25% less well than opening day (a Thursday) on The Hangover: Part II.
In other words, excellent opening… not a game-changer… best comedy opening of the year. Yay! After this weekend, the word of mouth will define the multiple.
Now… How To Train Your Dragon 2. Could be the biggest DreamWorks Animation opening since Shrek Forever After in 2010. If not, should be right around the opening for 2012’s Madagascar 3. Easily the biggest at Fox. If media portrays this as a bad opening, they are doing DWA a serious disservice… not to mention their readers who prefer knowing what is actually happening.
Yes, this is far off of the Despicable Me 2 and Monsters University openings last summer. Of course, those were 2 of the 5 biggest openings in animation history. “It’s news if it’s new to you” is not supposed to be the journalistic standard. Opening day is a 50% improvement on the first film of the series. And this is a bad event? Come on.
The delusion that all the success and failure of all movies is somehow connected is one of the great myths of box office coverage of the last decade or so. There are fair comparisons and unfair comparisons. We can argue over which fit each situation, but one cannot legitimately create a battle between an R-rated comedy sequel aimed at high school kids and up with an animated sequel aimed, primarily, at under-13s and their parents.
More to come…
Four of them have each grossed over $300m worldwide so far.
Two more are over $100 million… so far… with a third well on its way. And all three of these films are almost sure to be over $200 million worldwide when all is said and done.
Domestically, there has not yet been a $200 million grosser, though X-Men: Days of Future Past should be there by the end of this next weekend, passing the current #1 summer film, Amazing Spider-Man 2… which should get to $200m by June 23. Godzilla also still has a shot at the landmark.
There are also three more likely $200m domestic films coming in the next 5 weeks (Dragon 2, Trannies 4, and Apes Rise 2). So perhaps that particular concern can be put to bed by the media about now. However… there were two films over $350m domestic last summer… and it’s not clear at all whether we can hope for more than one this summer.
But gross is an external marker. Profitability is what this is all about. One thing we know for sure… the two current $600m+ worldwide grossers (Spidey & X-Men) will be profitable. Neighbors at $225m and The Fault In Our Stars (currently at $75m) will be very profitable. Maleficent is likely to get to black (perhaps better) and Japan will pretty surely put Godzilla into the black. The relatively inexpensive Million Dollar Arm should also find black ink internationally, when it finally lands in countries like India. Edge of Tomorrow was a bit soft opening domestically, but the international numbers are strong and word-of-mouth should be strong, so I expect that film to be profitable too. (And please note, I am taking non-theatrical revenues and marketing costs into account.)
So what’s going to lose money? Blended… even with a lower-than-usual budget for Adam Sandler. Money loser. A Million Ways to Die in the West… money loser.
That leaves the last 3 films, which are all non-studio wide releases: Chef, Mom’s Night Out, Legends of Oz… and without access to the deals involved with the distribution of these films, it’s impossible to know who will make money and who will lose money.
How does the first third of this summer compare to the same period last summer? Pretty even. There is no Iron Man 3 this year. That is the only legit argument against this early summer. But aside from that, pretty even. This year, we’ve had 2 more wide releases… but this year’s additions are at the bottom of the box office chart, so that variation is negligible.
2013 had seven $100m domestic grossers from this period… so will we.
Middle-grosssers, which used to be $80m or so and are now in the low 100s, are running a bit hotter this summer so far. The over-200m films will have similar numbers. But again, we’re missing the mega-smash at the top of the summer.
Seven of Summer 2013’s $100m+ domestic grossers happened in the 2nd third of the summer. I only count 5 (Jump 2, Dragon 2, Trannies 4, Tammy, Apes 2) that seem to be sure $100m grossers in the next 6 weeks… maybe Sex Tape too. But is there a Despicable 2/Monsters 2/Superboy triple play (over $900m dom) in there? I don’t think so. We’re short one.
In some ways, the box office is counting on Transformers 4 to be this year’s killer app… $400m domestic and a billion worldwide. And it may do just that.
ONE LAST THING…
Did the summer start on May 2 with Spider-Man?
Not so much.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier legitimately planted the flag on the first Friday of April.
But was it really the start of the summer movie season? No. Because even though Rio 2 also did well in April, there was not a rush to release expensive movies in April. The first great April push was The Scorpion King, which disappointed in 2002. The next landmark April release was Fast Five, which opened the weekend before May and did $209m domestic in 2011. We also saw 2 other $100m domestic grossers in April 2011 … which led to… traditional April silence (no $100m domestic grossers) in 2012 and 2013. And now, Captain America.
The answer seems to be that there is wide open space in April and if you treat it like an event opportunity and you have a movie whose marketing connects, there is big money there. (Cap will pass Lego this week, it seems, to become the #1 domestic grosser of 2014… until Transformers eats it alive.)
Fast & Furious 7 has plopped down on April 10, 2015. April 3 is still open for either Cap 3 or SuperBat.
Would the box office results change much for Cap 2, Spidey 2, and X-x is they shifted slots this year? No one can really know. Cap will probably win the domestic war against the other 2, but lose to both internationally. Would the Fox and the Sony films have done better domestically with more space?
That is the only question of the confrontation currently scheduled on Opening Day 2015. Yes, having both films on that date will hurt both films. Personally, I think that Cap would be much worse hurt than BatSupes. But as some have noted, Marvel can afford to take the hit more than the still nascent WB/DC superhero push.
It’s an interesting moment. Three distinctly different movies released on two June weekends with somewhat overlapping demographic targets that happen to also be the best three studio movies of the summer so far. There will have been 14 films released on 1,000 or more screens this summer as of Friday. Fifteen if you include Captain America: The Winter Soldier as summer… which we probably should now. But that’s another column.
Edge of Tomorrow is a strong entry from Doug Liman, who is nine years away from his amazing run of Swingers, Go, The Bourne Identity, and Mr. & Mrs. Smith. In terms of pure filmmaking, this is easily his most complete work. The visuals, though massive and CG-driven, are restrained. The situation is overwhelming, not the imagery.
The movie is much more sophisticated than the advertising, which may explain part of the problem with the domestic gross (though I expect word-of-mouth will generate a strong multiple). Cruise at first appears to be playing a Tom Cruise character. But the premise of the movie breaks him down. He is not a trained soldier and he sucks at it. The premise of the film—coming back from death over and over and over again—allows him to become a soldier… and a man. In that regard, the film is, indeed, a bit like Groundhog Day, but the “joke” of the idea isn’t that he is stuck, but that he has an opportunity to not only save his own life, but to save the world… very different stakes. And a very different film. (For the most part.)
The role was not an obvious one for Cruise. Unlike the other change-it-up roles that he’s played in recent years, this guy will never become “Tom Cruise.” Even when he improves as a fighter —a lot—it’s not that Eastwood beat when the hero finally looks toward the camera and you know that he cannot lose. Cruise’s growth here always feels tough… because he plays it that way. But it’s also the screenplay. Emily Blunt’s hero soldier is also not what she seems on the surface… and not just as a function of story. That is not to say that she becomes The Girl in the film. She is something other than we have seen on film before.
In terms of storytelling, The concept of repetition is quite brilliantly done. It never feels “that gag again?!”. This requires deft timing and some very smart filmmaking.
The problem with the movie – and it’s not the kind of problem that sinks the film, but simply reduces the level from “epic” to “solid” – comes when the gimmick goes away in the third act. One of the thing that really, really works about the first two acts is that the film isn’t trying to do too much. It doesn’t push to force you to have relationships with characters that won’t be key to the film. But when the central gimmick stops, the movie suddenly seeks to rely on those audience-character relationships that were not well established. And at that point, it’s really too late to make the connection. As a result, the film becomes a much more conventional mainstream action movie. Still good. Still handsome. Still well acted and made. Just not… GREAT. And great those first two acts were.
I have paid absolutely no attention to the production history of this film. Doug Liman has always been known to be brilliant… but also loose with budgets and schedules. As a result, he is making, this, his seventh film, for his sixth studio. But the film feels like a mature work from a mature, responsible filmmaker. Even what was game-changing about Bourne sometimes felt haphazard… that skittish-horse energy was great. But then Paul Greengrass came in and made Doug’s great ideas (which the studio fought and was wrong to fight) whole.
Edge of Tomorrow is a wonderful piece of filmmaking, it really reminds us how great this filmmaker can be, and I look forward to more from Liman. And it’s my favorite work from Cruise that isn’t a big, broad character (see: Tropic Thunder and Magnolia).
The Fault In Our Stars – This is not my genre. Except… it’s everybody’s genre. The great weepies in movie history reach beyond the narrow audience that usually contain them. Love Story was the biggest ever in 1970. The Notebook remains a cultural touchstone 10 years later (and it made Nicholas Sparks a genre). Ghost in 1990. An Officer and a Gentleman in 1982. All “surprises.” All blockbusters that became date movies as much as chick flicks.
The Fault In Our Stars reminded me so of Love Story… except here, our “Jenny” is not the only one who is ill. Our “Oliver” is dealing with illness as well. This time, “Jenny” is “Hazel” and “Oliver Barrett IV” is “Augustus.” And the end, while not specifically clear, in inevitable. But love means never having to say you’re sorry. And few things are more beautiful than love in the face of inevitable loss.
The director’s first film, Stuck In Love, barely got a release and I, for one, missed it entirely in its Toronto International Film Festival run in 2012… even with Jennifer Connelly as bait. But we’re going to see a lot of Josh Boone from now on. He is not a flourish guy. But he has made a movie loaded to the gills with intimate, genuine, beautiful performances. We’ve all seen a lot of Laura Dern and Willem Dafoe… but they feel almost reborn in this film. The perfect flaws of Shailene Woodley’s face are on intimate view, over and over again. And this Ansel Elgort kid… embarrassingly beautiful.
And then the words – thanks to Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber and novelist John Green – start coming out of their mouths and they always feel full of the pain, fear, tension, and love of the situation, but never false. And what could be easier to hit a false note with than a girl who is dying and the people – ill and not – who surround her. It’s freakin’ minefield. But somehow, the mines never blow. And you never feel like you are watching/listening to filmmakers walking that field.
In the end, this is a classic uber-weepie. If you aren’t crying from the love story, you are crying from the pain of children and the parents watching them, or the small indignities they all suffer. You know that a traditional happy ending is not an option. But the pain is the pleasure.
Shailene Woodley breathes iconic life into this character in a way she hasn’t before. She wasn’t the lead in The Descendants. She was a strong #2 character in The Spectacular Now, but it really was the boy’s story. There is a lot going on around her in Divergent. But here, you see into this young woman’s soul – or you feel you do – in scene after scene after scene. You watch her considering what is happening around her, before she speaks or acts. And she makes it look effortless. Ali McGraw got an Oscar nomination. Rachel McAdams did not… Demi Moore did not… Debra Winger did.
Shai was not really chasing Jennifer Lawrence because she is so not Jennifer Lawrence. She is something else. And as J-Law has gotten opportunities to breathe life into her personal humanity, within characters, now Shai has gotten the same.
It’s a weepie. It can’t be something else… a genre more respected. But it does what it does quite perfectly.
22 Jump Street – Chris Miller & Phil Lord. Phil Lord & Chris Miller. What the fuck?
These guys have made 4 movies… hit, hit, mega-hit, big-ass hit.
What is their problem?!?!
As I sat in the theater laughing, laughing, and laughing at 22 Jump Street. I started thinking about how they make this work. Because they ain’t David Fincher. They have a couple of signature camera movies – I think – but they are pretty straight forward. (Yeah… we saw how Caroline Alda got cut out of the arrival at school and the pick-ups on the Sony lot in the Mexican sequence). And I think that is the trick.
They just decide what it is they are trying to do… and they do it.
Sounds easy, right? But when you watch as many movies as I do, you realize how hard that is.
Their screenplay ideas are not ornate… but they get incredibly complicated… and somehow don’t shake the audience loose. 22 Jump Street tells the audience dozens of times that this is just a more expensive version of the first film. And it is… but it isn’t. It is what happens when most big-laugh comedic directors hit it squarely.
One move that I found myself thinking about was hiring Jillian Bell. She plays a very funny roommate to a character in the film. And the obvious choice for the role? Rebel Wilson. Now, maybe they tried to get Rebel and she was unavailable or uninterested. But I am betting not. There were other “cranky college girls” who would would know from TV shows or wherever who could have been hired. But I think they invested in The New. And though you might recognize Jillian Bell, you will not know her name… until after seeing this movie. And that was right for the film.
On the flipside, they grabbed Peter Stormare for a minor role… but they have the taste to hire Stormare.
With all four films these guys have directed, I had no idea how they were possibly going to capture my imagination. (And that’s even with staring at a bunch of Lego Movie storyboards before they went into production.) And every time, they have grabbed me. And surprised me. And made me laugh. And shocked me with their fearless goofiness.
By the fourth time, you realize something really special is happening. (As though the grosses of Lego didn’t do that.)
There is not a lot of reviewing reviewing to do here. The budget is clearly higher. The camerawork is better. But it’s about the performances. Tatum & Hill have this down to an art (and Jonah is one of the story authors). Supporting cast is strong. Ice Cube gets a bit more to do and kills it. There are more fun cameos. But it’s really all about how these two build a joke on camera. They get it. They top it. Then they get the hell out before you get stop laughing.
For me, it’s the best wide-release film of the summer so far.
And you don’t have to wait until the end of the credits to enjoy extra fun. Don’t watch the credits… dare you!
I will have to write more later… but The Fault In Our Stars should be regarded as the most significant opening of this season. It’s impossible to predict the weekend final, but there has been no May or June opening with this strong a start without a budget over $100 million… ever. Ever.
The closest are The Karate Kid and Bruce Almighty (which some reports had crossing the $100m mark on production costs). But this opening day is more than 25% better than either of those.
And it seems a bit lazy to just throw it into the same pile as Twilight and Hunger Games, which have strong genre elements in the mix.
I just have to say… it’s a wow.
And… $25m or so for a Tom Cruise opening is not quite the disaster it’s being made out to be. It’s Cruise’s 2nd best opening in 7.5 years… so if you expected a ton more (his best was $10m more), you would be living in the past. That doesn’t make the budget any more comfortable for the producers. But if the film is as good as many seem to feel it is, would it be shacking if it got to $100m domestic? And given Cruise’s strength overseas, could there be $200m or more there? Of course, if the film cost $200m, that’s still a problem. But for Cruise, it would be just his 2nd $300m ww grosser since 2007.