The Hot Blog Archive for July, 2015

Paramount & The Stupidity of the Short Distance Runner (Pt 3 of 3 – Does This Matter?)

“It’s the future!”

“Stop fighting it. It’s stupid to leave a space between theatrical and Home Entertainment.”

“The future is digital! The future is change!”

No film has ever grossed $50 million in direct digital sales.

But surely, one will someday.

The simple question is whether the film industry is willing to risk the theatrical exhibition industry’s future to find out.

Th simple idea that seems to elude many is that while specific events can be manipulated (or have natural momentum) to expand the marketplace for a time, the overall market is finite. And the trend line in film entertainment continues to head towards a subscription-based universe and away from a la carte. But there are reasons why people make a la carte investments in movies. Getting out of the house and getting relatively inexpensive entertainment is a part of it for every age. For under 30s, there is a real excitement about seeing something early. And for people over 30, there is word of mouth that drives interest.

VOD for independents has been important because there is a functional cap on distribution. There are only so many screens and so many ad dollars and though “prints” are cheaper these days, only so many prints under an indie budget. VOD expands the market for these films.

This is not the issue with wide studio releases. Very little of the market is out of the range of a wide release. VOD is an extension of the theatrical release, not a needed expansion.

So what is the benefit of VOD for wide release major studio films? Well, the internal perception of those pushing the agenda is that it will expand the market. Also that because the return is slightly better, per unit sold, on VOD, that it will be more profitable. However, the fact that one person or 10 people can watch a rented film makes this imaginary concept dubious.

Let’s say 14 million people went to Harry Potter 7b in the US and Canada the weekend it opened, generating roughly $85 million for WB. The dream of day-n-date is that 20 million completely different households would so want to see the Potter finale on their home TVs that they would pay $30 to see it, maybe see it twice or three times, on that weekend, and generate $450m – $500m for WB. The prayer continues that the home revenue would not affect the theatrical.

Harry Potter‘s finale is the uber example and even there, the numbers seem iffy. No doubt, millions would buy VOD for it, many of whom had never purchased VOD before. No doubt, many more millions would see the film on TV that weekend, having been unlikely to see it in a theater. But what is the actual balance? How much cannibalism? And how much long-term (other non-theatrical) cannibalism? And would the home number be 20 million or 10 million or 5 million?

The biggest question, to me, remains, how much cannibalism will it take to start shutting down theaters? My estimate is, broadly, about 20%.

But it gets worse…

Because by taking the focus off theatrical exclusively in the early days and adding VOD whose pricing is controlled nationally and not by region, all of a sudden price competition becomes a part of the movie business. And that is a disaster waiting to happen.

The idea of discounting slow theatrical days or matinees has never been an issue for me. But when it becomes studio specific or “quality” specific, all of a sudden, there is a class system that causes potential viewers to question their spending. Never good.

But wait… I am discussing day-n-date in depth, when this effort by Paramount is not for day-n-date.

Why? Because the creep will creep… it always does.

But let’s go back to the deal on the table. Two weeks after a movie goes to under 300 screens, it can go into Home Entertainment distribution. Is that really such a big deal?

Well, firstly, it’s a moving target. So consumers can’t really follow it. They will only know when something is put in front of them. “Hey… if no one went to see it, you can see it really soon!” Great sales pitch, eh?

You wanna see April release Furious 7 on your TV in mid-July? Sorry. It’ll be another month. Avengers, too! But Aloha, you’re good to go.

The more the industry complicates its release patterns, the more likely consumers are to move on to some other kind of entertainment, especially when it’s still a minimum of 6 weeks since the giant push of theatrical. And with that thought, studios will shake their heads and say, “You’re right… let’s work to make it four weeks.”

That’s why I am discussing day-n-date. That is the fantasy… the Eden… the apple.

I have been saying for a very long time that I expect the future to offer only two distinct windows. Theatrical and post-theatrical. There will obviously be variables in post-theatrical, but those will be financial hurdles, not opportunity hurdles (for the most part).

I think that NATO and its members should absolutely be willing to go down the road with The Studios on shorter windows for lower-grossing product. I makes sense. If they can share some of the upside and downside, that’s a good business. The trouble, of course, will be that it could be very damaging to indie distributors who now are able to get that material for a price and make a reasonable profit. As we saw with indie, the majors will be more than happy to come in and trying to put that money in their portfolio too (until they get bored and/or frustrated).

But on bigger movies, I would be discussing widening the theatrical window, not shortening it. How can you make theatrical legs longer and more profitable for both sides? How can the line be more clear between theatrical and post-theatrical?

Paramount told the Wall Street Journal that a survey they did indicated that people were not aware of the 90-day-window. Of course they aren’t. No one has told them about it. No one has to… no one should. But who hasn’t heard a friend or many friends say, “I can wait for the DVD” or for it to come on cable. I would bet nearly everyone has. When the industry signals to audiences that the theatrical experience isn’t important, it becomes less important. This is simple human nature. The industry spends scores of millions on practically each film trying to convince people they HAVE TO GO SEE IT NOW and then, our of the side of their mouth, they say, “Ehhh… it’ll be available cheaper and more easily soon.”

Where is the highest revenue per person? Theatrical. Where is the indication that you lose a lot of eyeballs on a popular movie because it takes time to get to Home Entertainment? There is none… just the gut feeling that they shouldn’t be paying for more ads to sell it.

Follow The Money. Always.

Part 1 – Getting Here

Part 2 – What Paramount Is Doing

4 Comments »

Paramount & The Stupidity of the Short Distance Runner (Pt 2 of 3 – What Par Is Doing)

So… today’s announcement via the Wall Street Journal (also here, if you don’t have a WSJ subscription) is about how Paramount is breaking the windows system and how this is a game changer.

Our usually very smart friends at the Wall Street Journal seemed so anxious to ring the bell for the revolution, that they didn’t notice what was actually being spun before their eyes.

The two movies in play here are both throwaways for Paramount. Both have been delayed more than six months from original release dates… the Paranormal movie will be released a full year after its intended release. This is marginal product. (I actually liked the idea offered in the trailer for the Paranormal film… but when you start showing your secrets, you also must know that the joke is played out.)

And what has been negotiated is what the majors have not been able to do because of their relationship with exhibitors in the past… created early VOD. It’s not quite at day-n-date VOD yet, but the freedom to do this with movies that have little theatrical upside is understandably attractive to the majors. These companies have been – especially Sony Classics, Searchlight, and Focus – squeezed out of a revenue opportunity because they are in the families of the majors.

In the case of Paramount, they created Insurge coming off of the success of Paranormal Activities in 2009, hoping to capitalize. They suffered diminishing returns. And now they are doing two things. They are, indeed, creating a framework in which majors can, in some cases, do earlier VOD in partnership with theatrical. And I think that this is good.

On the last Paranormal Activity film, Paramount brought in 87.5% of the gross by the end of the first two weekends. This is the box office nature of many horror films. I get it.

From there on, it was drops in the 70s every week. And Paramount dropped it to below 300 screens for Weekend 5. So it would be available for VOD on Weekend 7, according to this plan as offered in the WSJ. By then, the film was doing less than $50k a weekend and yeah… it was over.

But when Poltergeist fell under 300 screens, earlier this summer, they were still generating over $200k a weekend. Hot Pursuit, $100k. Tomorrowland, $400k. There were four major studio releases on under 300 screens last weekend with per-screen grosses over $1000.

And the way studios have worked historically – and if you have any doubt that the shortening window was created with intent by the studios themselves, you need to educate yourself – is that they push for Shortened Window Creep until they realize that it is costing them money. It’s happened a couple times in the last 20 years that I have been following this closely. Big hard pushes for day-n-date and then… silence for a while. But then they forget again. There are real financial ramifications to shortening the theatrical window.

By the way, comparisons of this proposal to the Tower Heist stand-off are simply idiotic.
1. Tower Heist was an expensive movie and a major release.
2. Universal did not engage exhibition in talks before announcing their intentions.
3. The idea there was day-n-date for premium pricing, which is not what is happening here at all.

Paramount told the Wall Street Journal that they hope to have the same deal that they are planning to announce soon for these two throwaways for all of their films. But Rob Moore also told WSJ (he must have been on the phone to keep the reporter from seeing his smirk), “If no other exhibitors agree to the new terms, Paramount will still release the movies with just those two chains, said Mr. Moore, potentially forgoing millions of dollars in box-office revenue.”

I call “bullshit.” Again? BULLSHIT!

AMC and Cineplex have about 550 theaters in the US and Canada. That’s about 10% of the theaters in the US and Canada. (Stats by NATO.)

I assume that Sumner Redstone’s National Amusements will join in with their 1500 screens (not sure how many theaters that is).

But are Will Ferrell and Ben Stiller, amongst many others, going to be happy with their distribution opportunity being shrunk by 85% so the studio can chase a shorted post-theatrical window? I wonder how Skydance and other funders who are in business with Paramount will feel about this line in the sand. You tell me.

But even if other major exhibitors agree to this arrangement, it gives a lot of control to the distributors… control that they have proven that they will abuse in pursuit of an idea.

It wasn’t long ago that a major distribution chief openly noted that studios were intentionally leaving millions, even 10s of millions, on the table for some movies just to get to the Home Entertainment gold mine that was DVD.

Last weekend, Insidious Chapter 3 dropped 72%, grossing just $558k towards its $51.2m total on 651 screens. Will it drop under 300 screens this weekend? Probably not. Maybe just over. But if the option was there to get it to VOD and other post-theatrical earlier, given where the film is now, could change that. All of a sudden, it is strategy. And if it takes one or twho weeks out of the theatrical run of that film, who cares (goes the saw)?

That is how you get a slow, steady creep that changes moviegoing behaviors. That is how movie theaters end up closing. And once they are gone, they are not likely to come back.

Of course, maybe Rob Moore believes his pitch lines. “Our expectation is that total revenue will rise and the theatrical revenue will be relatively unaffected, if at all.” I guess he hasn’t really looked at the years of data coming from the independent world and its VOD strategies. After years of swearing by day-n-date or slightly delayed VOD, we now see indies experimenting with – gasp – theatrical ones without an artificial end date seeking to maximize revenues for the titles that have a legitimate chance of generating bigger numbers.

Paramount, it seems, is a company looking for an edge, as it struggles to find a clear voice as a studio. This makes Paramount very dangerous. They can roll the dice.

Part 1 – Getting Here

Part 3 – Does This Matter?

3 Comments »

Paramount & The Stupidity of the Short Distance Runner (Pt 1 of 3 – Getting Here)

The revenue model for movies has changed. Repeatedly.

Never as dramatically as in the last 50 years, the second half of the history of the theatrical motion picture.

Early 60s – TV Changes the Face of Theatrical
Late 60s – The End of The Studio System
Early 70s – The Corporatizing of the Studios
Mid-70s – Birth of Home Entertainment via VHS, primarily rental
Late 70s – Wide Release Expands
Mid-80s – The Multiplex Revolution
1989 – Sell-through VHS Launches in Earnest and Batman has the biggest opening weekend ever with $40 million
Early 90s – The Megaplexes Show Up
1995 – Batman Forever has the first $50m opening weekend
1996 – DVD launches, sell-thru first
1997 – Netflix launches DVD subscription service
1997 – The Lost World: Jurassic Park has the first $70m opening weekend
1997 – Fox sells of a big chunk of Titanic to Paramount to reduce risk.
Late-90s – The Bankruptcy & Rebuilding of The Theatrical Infrastructure
1999 – George Lucas funds the second Star Wars trilogy out of pocket and hires Fox for distribution
2001 – Harry Potter has the first opening weekend over $73 million… with $90 million.
2002 – Spider-Man marks the start of the CG Revolution and the first $100m+ opening weekend
2003 – The first international opening weekends over $100 million (Matrix 3 and Rings 3)
Mid-00s – DVD revenues start dropping for new film content, but DVD overall still bouyed by library content
2005 – Warner Bros uses Legendary for partial funding of Batman franchise, starting with Batman Begins
2005 – Bob Iger takes over at Disney, acquiring Pixar, but starting a strategy to fund only animation and existing franchises in-house.
2005 – Paramount makes a deal to distribute DreamWorks Animation titles for a fee
2007 – The first domestic opening over $150 million (Spidey 3)
2007 – The first international opening weekends over $200 million (Pirates 3, Spidey 3)
2007 – IFC introduces and refocuses its model on day-n-date VOD
Late-00s – DVD revenues plummet overall… still significant, but no longer dominant
2009 – Disney shifts strategy and acquires Marvel, intending to fund all animation and Marvel films in-house.
2009 – The last movie year in which more than one entry in the annual box office Top Ten is not a franchise, remake, or animated film
2009 – Once again, Fox sells off a large chunk of a very expensive Jim Cameron film, this time to a funding group, not another studio
2009 – Avatar makes a huge impact on the bottom like with 3D, becomes, by far, the biggest grosser of all-time
2010s – Domestic theatrical suffers minor annual drops while expanding international market grows
2011 – Netflix splits DVD and streaming fees, announcing streaming primacy moving forward
2011 – The first international opening weekend over $300 million (Potter 7b)
2011 – Harry Potter ends, marking the last franchise funded exclusively in-house by Warner Bros for the time being
2012 – 3D starts to fade in a significant way domestically, though still has impact internationally
2012 – Disney acquires Lucasfilm, putting another big bullet in their “All Franchise” strategy
2012 – The first domestic opening over $200 million (Avengers)
2015 – Three $145m+ domestic openings in 10 weekends
2015 – More than 1 film in a year grossing $1.3 billion worldwide for the first time ever (three films, #5, #6 & #7 to ever achieve that level)

I am sure there are landmarks that some of you hold dear that are not included… or that perhaps I simply forgot to include. But this should offer a pretty good look at the change mania of the last 50 years, but even more significantly of the last 25. Using much broader categories…

VHS Creates Home Entertainment
Wide Release becomes dominant and the theatrical window shortens to get to Home Entertainment revenue quicker
Sell-Thru DVD explodes the idea of windows and studios start scheming openly to shorten theatrical, which quickly becomes bigger than theatrical
Sell-thru DVD starts to slide significantly
Two major candidates to replace DVD revenues emerge… streaming and international.
People won’t pay for VOD/PPV in huge numbers, much less at the higher prices studios fantasize about
Indie business finds that while the math on VOD doesn’t work for major studios, it can work great for their revenue model
International grows massively, supported by governments, including China

Simpler? (Too simple, really, but here goes…)

REVENUES
70s… 90% theatrical
80s… 60% theatrical
90s… 45% theatrical
00s… 40% theatrical
10s… 55% theatrical

Again… too simple, not only as there are many variations on the theme, but also because where the theatrical and non-theatrical revenue is coming from has changed dramatically in each decade. Just as a”for instance,” the DVD Revolution was really from 1998 – 2008 or so… where the cash cow was just plain milked to death and produced so much that studios really did have a hard time losing money on movies. So in the late 90s and early-to-mid 00s, the theatrical percentage of revenue dipped down into the 30s. But then the international growth started kicking in around the same time DVD started fading.

Things keep changing. Things will keep changing. People get very upset about the status quo, as though the industry is set in cement. It is not.

Part 2 – What Paramount Is Doing

Part 3 – Does This Matter?

1 Comment »

The Male Director Challenge: 2009 (Year 10 of 15)

Another year of 7 new directors under the boundaries of this survey.

Grosser #20 Taken – Pierre Morel – Part of the Besson crew. Made the epic B-13 before this. Studio pick-up.

Grosser #26 G-Force – Hoyt Yeatman – FX guy gets FX movie.

Grosser #27 District 9 – Neill Blomkamp – His homemade short got a ton of attention and support and it transformed into his first feature.

Grosser #29 Couples Retreat – Peter Billingsley – Former child actor turned film producer takes his shot at directing.

Grosser #30 Paranormal Activity – Oren Peli – They made the film for nothing… sold it to Paramount… rest is history.

Grosser #42 Zombieland – Ruben Fleischer – Short film maker, best I can tell.

Grosser #45 Hotel for Dogs – Thor Freudenthal – Made short films that led to this low-budget opportunity.

2 Comments »

The Male Director Challenge: 2008 (Year 9 of 15)

Seven in 2008 is right at our average for new directors of films that made the Top 50 grossers of the year (leaving out animation).

Grosser #11 – Sex and the City – Michael Patrick King – Series director.

Grosser #13 – Mamma Mia! – Phyllida Law – Stage director.

Grosser #21 – Four Christmases – Seth Gordon – Doc filmmaker who had also made shorts.

Grosser #26 – Journey to the Center of the Earth – Eric Brevig – Major FX guy given a shot at an effects movie.

Grosser #37 – What Happens in Vegas – Tom Vaughn – Made Starter for 10 for Picturehouse.

Grosser #39 – Cloverfield – Matt Reeves – A JJ Abrams pick, had made The Pallbearer for Miramax long before this.

Grosser #50 – Forgetting Sarah Marshall – Nicholas Stoller – A comedy writer who had worked with Apatow on a TV series.

The Male Director Challenge: 2007 (Year 8 of 15)

An unusually thin year for newcomers with 4.

Grosser #5 – Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – David Yates – A very veteran Brit director steps in to a well-established franchise

Grosser #25 – Blades of Glory – Josh Gordon/Will Speck – A mystery to me in terms of detail, though associated with Ferrell and McKay previously.

Grosser #42 – Stomp the Yard – Sylvain White – White had made a three-quel for Columbia that went direct-to-video, which was a big business back then… got this shot with Screen Gems.

Grosser #46 – TMNT – Kevin Munroe – Video game guy gets special effects film.

1 Comment »

The Male Director Challenge: 2006 (Year 7 of 15)

Seven new directors whose films made it into the domestic Top 50 in 2006.

Grosser #10 – The Pursuit of Happyness – Gabriele Muccino – Experienced, successful Italian director.

Grosser #16 – Borat – Larry Charles – Seinfeld producer, came to the project with Sacha Baron Cohen.

Grosser #29 – Nacho Libre – Jared Hess – director of Napoleon Dynamite gets first studio assignment.

Grosser #31 – Eragon – Stefen Fangmeier – FX-turned-director.

Grosser #32 – Monster House – Gil Kenan – his UCLA animated short drew Robert Zemeckis’ eye and this job.

Grosser #36 – V for Vendetta – James McTeague – The Wachowskis’ 1st AD.

Grosser #40 – Step Up – Anne Fletcher – Adam Shankman protégé, former dancer/choreographer.

1 Comment »

The Male Director Challenge: 2005 (Year 6 of 15)

2005 was a banner year for newcomer directors whose non-animated films were in the top 50.

Grosser #2 – The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – Adam Adamson – The director of Shrek goes live action for the first time.

Grosser #20 – Flightplan – Robert Schwentke – Success as a German feature director leads to this Disney production.

Grosser #21 – Saw II – Darren Bousman – Co-wrote the film. Got the directing gig.

Grosser #28 – The Ring Two – Hideo Nakata – The director of the original Japanese Ring films and many more.

Grosser #29 – Constantine – Francis Lawrence – Major music video and commercial director.

Grosser #30 – The Exorcism of Emily Rose – Scott Derrickson – Directed Hellraiser: Inferno for The Weinsteins, leading to this low-budget Screen Gems film

Grosser #35 – Sahara – Breck Eisner – Directed a low-budget feature and a few TV movies/episodes… and his dad ran Disney.

Grosser #38 – The Amityville Horror – Andrew Douglas – Brit music video and advertising director who did a doc before getting his shot.

Grosser #43 – The Family Stone – Thomas Bezucha – Directed and wrote a big gay market (and fest) hit, Big Eden, and then wrote this film that landed at Fox and which he got to direct.

Grosser #46 – White Noise – Geoffrey Sax – Directed dozens of UK TV shows and features, including the at-the-time very hot “Tipping The Velvet.”

Weekend Estimates by Still The World Klady

Weekend Estimates 2015-07-05 at 8.56.22 AM

Jurassic World has become the kind of movie phenom that we only see in America every few years. The conversation about heels has faded and the conversation about “winning” four weekends in a row is the story.  The film made less in its 4th weekend than Avatar or Marvel’s The Avengers, but is out ahead of both in total gross after 4 weekends. So only time will tell on those records. The film will pass Titanic‘s domestic gross in the next couple weeks.

Inside Out is still playing strong also, still in position to become Pixar’s #2 domestic grosser of all time and a sure bet to finish no lower than #3.

Openers Terminator: Genisys and Magic Mike XXL are fighting different battles than the two smashes above them on today’s chart. T5 is looking to reboot the franchise and was always going to count heavily in international, though the soft domestic isn’t helpful. And MMXXL, even with a higher budget, is still low budget and even if the drop in domestic is mirrored overseas (they hope for the opposite), the film will be profitable.

(more to come…)

73 Comments »

Friday Estimates by Modest Fireworks Klady

Friday Estimates 2015-07-04 at 8.42.17 AM

For reference…
Wednesday/Thursday numbers
Terminator: Genisys – $15.5m
Inside Out – $15.2m
Magic Mike XXL – $15m
Jurassic World – $12.9m

So, a lot of opening heat for Magic Mike XXL  and Terminator: Genisys followed by less. This is the double-edged sword of Wednesday openings, though in this case, it is wildly complicated by the Saturday U.S. national holiday. On one hand, you get your core to show up early. On the other hand, your ability to expand past the base is inhibited by the holiday.

In any case, $30 million and change for MMXXL in 5 days is still a win for a relatively inexpensive film and it should show strong summer legs. $45 million-ish for Gen T over 5 is not so thrilling and the reviews and buzz don’t seem likely to inspire a second wave.

Holdovers Jurassic World and Inside Out continue their mighty runs. Pixar is going to win the weekend, but the dinos have won the war.

Melissa McCarthy is about to have her fourth $100m grosser in five years. It’s amusing to read people hypothesize about the power of women at the cinema, but Melissa McCarthy is a phenom of funny, not gender. Kristen Wiig may get the finger snaps, but Melissa McCarthy is a bona fide box office star and Wiig has not become one… at least, not yet. McCarthy’s power resembles that of Will Ferrell at similar points in their movie careers.

In indieville, there are some decent results. Dope is almost done and Me & Earl & The Dying Girl are slot by slot, as M&E continues a slow expansion. I’m fascinated by the perception out there that Dope did poorly. It did more than Whiplash without the months of passionate love being expressed or the Oscar run. What it didn’t do is Kevin Hart or Top Five numbers. But I don’t know how a movie with no stars (of the black community or the rest of stardomland) and no apparent street cred was expected to do more. It would have had to become a phenomenon. And that just didn’t happen.

Amy is killing it with $60k per screen for the 3-day on five, showing the public’s continuing interest in experiencing music docs in theaters.

24 Comments »

BYOB Holiday Weekend

byob4thofjuly

The holiday weekend is upon us… kind of, as people slide into the 4th of July Saturday with a variety of vacation plans and work avoidance schemes.

The first Magic Mike opened to $39 million. However disappointing, the Terminator franchise continued to open at over $40 million the last two times in spite of John Connor’s #2 and #3 and I suspect John Conner #4 will do likewise. The question is, how much is enough for this franchise? That involves international box office, where $250 million seems to be the floor. And we still have Jurassic World and Inside Out, which have distinctly wider audience bases, sure to do another $50 million+ combined, even with Saturday fireworks.

The best July 4 weekend based on the Top 12 grossers was 2013’s Despicable Me 2/Lone Ranger-topped holiday (7/5 – 7/7). $112 million from those Top Two films. I don’t think Terminator Genisys and Magic Mike XXL will quite get there, especially with the Wednesday openings and the R- and hard-PG-13 ratings. However, the next two on that 2013 weekend (The Heat/Monsters University) did $45m combined and I think IO/JW will beat that number and but the Top Four for this weekend over the Top Four from that weekend.

After the Top Four, 2013 offered four more films with at least $10 million for the weekend. And that is where this weekend should fall short. Ted 2 is the only film that really has a shot at the 8-figure mark outside of the Top Four this weekend. And it could miss the mark. (Max could be very sticky… but a drop under 25% seems unlikely… especially with a patriotic Saturday holiday.)

The next biggest July 4 weekend was 2011 with about $30 million less than 2013. This weekend has a shot at that record, though, again, the Saturday holiday works against the three-day. Box office analysis of July 4 weekend offers one of the roughest projections, because of the various days of the week the holiday falls on and the variety of national holiday days (or lack thereof). It’s a bit more like late December than most summer analysis, though without as much weekday muscle.

Anyway… enjoy it all. I’m going to try to do so myself, with my family and a lot of pool time.

12 Comments »

Review-ish: Magic Mike XXL

mmxxl

The reason I don’t feel that a fuller review is needed here is… come on… it’s Magic Mike XXL. Nothing hidden (unlike the first one, which snuck a pretty damned good Steven Soderbergh movie in over the G-string party).

Though I gather that Soderbergh cracked wise on the set from behind the camera (a lot) and he/she cut it, this is director Gregory Jacobs’ and writer Reid Carolin’s movie, combined with indulging the returning cast’s urge for more screen and character time.

The movie is not as serious, but it’s more fun than the original. And the traces of why are all over. Channing Tatum is Channing Tatum… funny, gentle, hunky, and dancing his ass off. But the first revelations of the film are in the supporting cast, where Matt Bomer really has his best big screen role ever and delivers. Joe Manganiello offers his most relaxed, most Joe performance ever, allowing a twinkle in his eye at time when he is not just talking about the size of his manhood. And as they tease Kevin Nash for not being able to dance, they could have teased him for not being able to act… but he threads the needle here, toning it down and bringing a lot more to the film than his comic book physical frame. Nice expansion of Adam Rodriguez’s status and Gabrielle Iglesias gets his laughs.

And then there is… Jada.

McConaughey was irreplaceable. Not only the great performance, but the odd status as Mr. Beautiful and Mr. Serious Actor all blowing up around the same time and McConaughey, who never really burned, but still rising like a phoenix. Everything about this worked for and with him.

But Jada, in a different way, is in a similar place. More famous in recent years as a parent and wife, it wasn’t clear who she was as an actress lately. And this performance answers all those questions. Sexy as hell, mature without apology, smart, sassy, smarter than the boys, managing her character’s emotions in clever ways, she is a show stealer.

The film is a parade of dichotomies. It is sexist in a hundred ways, as will be argued on social media. But it also likes women. The film objectifies men. But the men are high on being objectified. In some ways, some of the stripping stuff is aggressive to the point of assault. But everyone is smiling and happy.

I don’t know how to parse all of this. And as a white male, no one really wants to read me parsing it.

Should having Channing Tatum’s crotch stuck in her face and his head rubbed against her vulva be enough to turn Amber Heard’s frown upside down? I don’t know… but outside of her beauty and Kristen-Stewart-esque ambivalence, we don’t get much more from the character.

Is a penis too large for most women what Andie MacDowell’s character should aspire to in her 50s? You tell me. (I would likely get blasted by feminists for either answer… or trying to answer the question at all.)

Is the subtext of Kelly & Michael that the women who watch really want Strahan to rub them? If not, it may be from now on.

The film is very into racial balance, if not gender balance. Not only a strong black woman with a meaty part as a powerful figure, but a nearly black-only night club, a decent amount of racial balance at The Big Show, and balance of people of color (five of 10 characters, by my count) in the performing crew. Huzzah.

All I really know is that everyone seems to be having a good time on screen and We are having a good time watching them.

And anyone who isn’t having a good time really shouldn’t be in the theater… you knew you weren’t good with it before you got your ticket.

The structure of the film is simple… road trip comedy for two-thirds, giant strip event for one-third. I don’t have a great need to see men strip… but the inventiveness of the distinct sequences—Rob Marshall will be envious—makes it fun. The variety of women pulled into participating is one of those things in this film where you can see a bit of self-awareness. (There is a young lady running around in a bikini and a helmet at one point in the film that should be forever remembered as one of the film’s great non-sequiturs.) But I got over that.

Ultimately Magic Mike XXL is, I think, what a lot of people expected Magic Mike to be when it came out. And I’m pretty sure there’s nothing wrong with that.

7 Comments »

The Hot Blog

Quote Unquotesee all »

“What Quibi trying to do is get to the next generation of film narrative. The first generation was movies, and they were principally two-hour stories that were designed to be watched in a single sitting in a movie theater [ED: After formats like the nickelodeon]. The next generation of film narrative was television, principally designed to be watched in one-hour chapters in front of a television set. I believe the third generation of film narrative will be a merging of those two ideas, which is to tell two-hour stories in chapters that are seven to ten minutes in length. We are actually doing long-form in bite-size.”
~ Jeffrey Katzenberg

“The important thing is: what makes the audience interested in it? Of course, I don’t take on any roles that don’t interest me, or where I can’t find anything for myself in it. But I don’t like talking about that. If you go into a restaurant and you have been served an exquisite meal, you don’t need to know how the chef felt, or when he chose the vegetables on the market. I always feel a little like I would pull the rug out from under myself if I were to I speak about the background of my work. My explanations would come into conflict with the reason a movie is made in the first place — for the experience of the audience — and that, I would not want.
~  Christoph Waltz