“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 August, 2015
What can one say about the last week of August?
There have been exceptions. Focus, for a while, carved out nice adult/awards business with films like The Constant Gardener and The American. Then there was Inglourious Basterds. There have been horror and boy action movies (a new Transporter is coming next weekend, for the unusually late Labor Day holiday), but the end of August is generally a dumping ground.
There is no big ambitious title this weekend. Next weekend, there is a strong “adult” title in A Walk In The Woods and (as noted) The Transporter Refueled. So it will look better than this. But for now, a faith film is up front. War Room is not a massive success in the category – there were films at $60m and $90m domestic last year – but it is a solid number for an inexpensive film.
Tri-Star has been, in part, a service-deal division for Sony Pictures… then they gave it to Tom Rothman, who has now taken over the big studio and seems to want to keep using Tri-Star as his Sony version of Fox Searchlight. So the service deals need to go. But this is a solid business for Sony. Sony Faith should exist. Not only will it give a stable platform for these films, but I think it will help business. The two big hits last year both had “God” in their titles. I think a brand that lets that audience movie know that a movie specifically for them is coming would make the sell a lot easier. Anyway… TriStar’s last faith film, When The Game Stands Tall opened to about a third less on its Friday, but looking for a comp, it suggests that War Room should stay stable over the weekend and do somewhere between $10.5m and $11.5m.
Straight Outta Compton is now the biggest musical bio-pic ever, but the heat is subsiding. Still, $150 million domestic (plus) is an epic success. And foreign should be interesting.
No Escape is a title that sounds like it should be premiering on DVD, no? I’m actually amazed that 250,000 people went to go see it yesterday. I know more about the film from Twitter than I do from advertising. Always a bad sign for an opening weekend.
I feel almost cruel mentioning We Are Your Friends. A wide release that won’t get to $1,000 per screen is… well… painful to look at. I have a strong feeling that this summer’s ugliness at WB was intentional… take the hit… relaunch in the fall… because WB has had the kind of summer than is so below the level at which this studio has worked for decade after decade than I can’t believe it is anything else. This was worse than the cycle catching up with a studio. It was an overstuffed 11-release summer in which the only films that performed reasonably were San Andreas and Max. Mad Max: Fury Road was the best film of this summer… but underperformed at the box office. There were some good titles, some terrible titles… some unsellable titles and some pretty sellable ones, that didn’t sell. Brutal summer. Looking forward to Black Mass. I would bet that WB is too. The hard part is that with Johnny Depp, the film needs to do $100m domestic to be seen as a success. Doable… but not a cake walk.
In the indie market, not only is nothing looking at $10k per screen, none of this weekend’s releases will get to $5k per screen.
There were also three wide openings last year on this date (last year, the Friday was August 22); If I Stay, When the Game Stands Tall, and Frank Miller’s Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. Friday numbers, respectively, were $6.8m, $2.9m, $2.6m. Two of three of those numbers were significantly down this Friday. Of course, every movie is its own journey, but blaming the date won’t work. Blaming the holdover isn’t realistic either. The second Friday of Straight Outta Compton is delivering a bigger number than anyone expected before the opening last week, but it’s no second weekend monster, sucking all the air out of the market. It is more than last August’s fourth Friday of Guardians or the third Friday of TMNT. And M:I5 is still doing business. But no excuses. Probably not the best idea to throw three youth-appealing, R-rated films that weren’t strongly pre-sold into the market on the same day. Lionsgate was, no doubt, hoping for Zombieland… which opened in October against The Invention of Lying and Whip It.
Two exclusive release openings over $10k per-screen this weekend. Grandma, from Sony Classics, will do over $20k per on four. And Learning To Drive, from Broad Green, will do over $10k per on four.
The holdover for Straight Outta Compton was… fine. The film crosses $100 million domestic today. Clearly a big hit. Percentage of drop will fall into the 50s for the weekend. This weekend’s numbers… pretty much a non-story outside of the bigger context. [edit re: weekend tally]
And Learning to Drive is an adult pleasure too.
And there are a bunch of recent holdovers “for adults” worth the time: Mr Holmes, Amy, The End of the Tour, Tangerine, The Look of Silence, Listen to Me Marlon, Meru, amongst others. (I haven’t seen The Diary of a Teenage Girl.)
And there are still some good big, recent studio movies out there worth catching… Straight Outta Compton, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, Trainwreck.
Ice Cube’s biggest opening.
Friday alone makes this F. Gary Gray’s biggest opening.
Biggest musical biopic opening ever… again, just on the Friday gross alone (passing Walk The Line‘s $22.3m 3-day).
Opening day is almost $5 million more than 8 Mile.
I am not remotely surprised that this film opened big. But anytime a film opens on top of a category, it’s a big deal. And politically correct or not, one of the things this film is connected to is race. It may be bigger than race, as rap became and still is… but race must be addressed.
This will be a bigger opening than any from Denzel or any non-animated or lead opening from Eddie Murphy or Samuel L. Jackson. Two or three Will Smith films and Rush Hour 2 are the only “black lead” movies I can find that are likely to have had a bigger launch.
This is a bigger opening than any Vin Diesel film prior to the fifth Fast & Furious movie (and the three since). Probably the same as regards The Rock (Dwayne Johnson), whose biggest non-FF-5-6-7 is this summer’s San Andreas domestic opening at $55 million.
With this kind of opening, $100 million domestic is inevitable and there is a good chance of passing $150 million.
(For the sake of this next bit, and sanity, I am going to leave off Marvel, Star Wars, Star Trek, Avatar, Fast & Furious, Matrix, Mission: Impossible, Scary Movie, Batman, Transformers, and animated films…)
Will Smith has had twelve $100 million-plus domestic movies as the lead. Eddie Murphy has had nine. Morgan Freeman has also had nine (as lead or a major, marketing-critical supporting character). Samuel L. Jackson has had eight. Denzel and The Rock have each had five. Queen Latifah has had four. Chris Tucker, Danny Glover, Martin Lawrence have each had three. Ice Cube, Vin Diesel, Idris Elba, Cuba Gooding Jr have all had one. (I’m sure someone has have been left out on this quickly-gathered list… please send amendments.)
Straight Outta Compton will pass the gross of more than half of these films domestically. It is a major event.
Not a major event, at least not in a good way, is The Man from U.N.C.L.E., a movie Guy Ritchie got to make because WB owed him for two Sherlock hits, looking for a third, and as a platform to try to sell Henry Cavill, the Superman with whom they are, uh, embedded.
How bad is this number? It will be a reach to get UNC to a 3-day gross that matches the single opening day of the weaker-grossing of the two Sherlock movies ($14.6m).
This looks to be the seventh Warner Bros movie to open to less than $15 million this summer. SEVENTH. Out of nine wide releases.
Warner Bros, in some quarters, thinks I am mean to their studio. But I would never expect this result from what has been one of the best marketing teams in the industry. They wildly overloaded their summer and the result has been a bloodbath. Not everything will lose money, but it’s pretty ugly. Even their biggest hit, Mad Max, is almost universally seen as underperforming.
I am waiting on the Brooks Barnes article explaining why this is all part of the big plan and everything is okay. And indeed, everything may be okay. This is a cyclical business. But MAN… this summer hurts to look at for them.
Fantastic Four got body-slammed going into its second weekend.
Foreign – or lack thereof – is still a story to watch in the next couple months on Ant-Man.
Ricki & The Flash‘s slow expansion claim is a flop, adding 25% more screens and still losing 41% from opening Friday. This will be Meryl Streep’s lowest grosser since Lions For Lambs in 2007. It deserved better… but they never found the marketing hook for this one… too many perspectives in ads… and almost never the one the film was really about.
Trainwreck is the happy holdover this week, as it continues its march past $100m domestic… probably at the end of next weekend.
On the indie scene, Mistress America opened well on four for Searchlight, with $7600 per screen for Friday only. Nothing else looks to crack the $10k per screen barrier in limited this weekend. Given the screen count, it is a much stronger start for Gerwig/Baumbach than either Greenberg or Frances Ha.
Fantastic Four (2015 edition) is a terrible movie. Most of the critical world seems to be able to agree on that.
But what has raised my hackles this weekend (and still, today) is the coverage of Josh Trank’s career-suicide tweet of August 6, 6:43p. 18 minutes later, I responded “Wow. That was close to suicidal.” No doubt, many others responded likewise. Surely a number within Trank’s personal circle. Within an hour, it was a story.
Here’s where I got cranky about the whole thing.
Everyone who covers the movie business – and is paying attention – knew that there were serious problems on Fantastic Four going back to January, when reshoots were being scheduled.
But amazingly, none of the mainstream media outlets seem to have written (that I can find online) about the reshoots after Fox claimed that it was a 3 or 4 days of pick-ups and no big deal.
Everyone who covers the movie business – and is paying attention – knew that Josh Trank didn’t quit his Star Wars spin-off movie, but was removed, causing the movie to be pushed back a year.
But amazingly, most of the mainstream media allowed Trank and those around him to spin the story that he was just exhausted from making big movies and needed to work on something smaller. Even those who dug a little deeper to find displeasure at Fox didn’t push much further than Trank being aloof. But there are a lot of directors who are not only aloof, but are brutally difficult, who keep getting and keeping jobs. Still… the hint of discomfort was enough.
Everyone who covers the movie business – and is paying attention – knew that Fox was treating Fantastic Four like a rare exotic flower that had to be handled with extreme care.
But amazingly, most of the mainstream media outlets held their powder when tracking suggested that the film would open to neat $50 million domestically.
And then… The Tweet.
Some foolish people (notably, the shockingly bubble-gum Steven Zeitchik of the LA Times) have rationalized the tweet into a clever ruse to distance himself from a movie and successfully put the blame elsewhere.
But here on earth, that tweet was nothing less than a cry for help. I don’t know anyone who thinks Trank is anything less than very smart. He has been stretched on the emotional rack for 8 months-plus, not only on this film but with the Star Wars thing too. The tweet was a slip after a long time holding it in, not just a reaction to a terrible Rotten Tomato score.
There are only three recent (last 20 years) examples of suicide by bad-mouthing your own film that I can recall. Tony Kaye blew his entire Hollywood career by attacking American History X in public in 1998. Kaye (who still makes a lot of money shooting commercials) has not made a movie funded by American money since and has only made a self-funded doc (the masterpiece Lake of Fire) and Detachment, funded overseas (perhaps by Kaye himself) and getting a 15-screen, $72,689 grossing release in 2012.
Gary Oldman spent a decade in movie jail after getting into a public battle with Steven Spielberg over The Contender in 2000. In a performance assumed to be a lock for an Oscar nod, Oldman not only didn’t get nominated (Jeff Bridges getting the nod, presumably in his place), but would only be allowed small supporting roles (like Sirius Black or Jim Gordon) in studio movies until the British-made Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy arrived in 2011.
Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia meltdown at a press conference in Berlin (2011) hasn’t had a direct effect on Von Trier because his films are funded internationally and he doesn’t depend on the U.S. But this is the third famous self-immolation:
And here is Gary Oldman on the Von Trier situation:
And this is my beef with how the media is covering the current situation with Trank…
We, collectively, ignored the problem, continuing to push Fox’s agenda and Trank’s agenda and Disney’s agenda until Trank broke in public… and now, it’s “Fry Josh Trank Week,” which is easy to do because he broke and he exposed himself and suddenly, ripping him a new one is on everyone’s “go” agenda.
Now I’m not saying that everyone in media is trying to hurt Josh Trank. There is a degree to which this is news, especially combined with the box office failure of the film. But there is something about the carnival feeling about it that makes me very sad and a bit angry.
Moreover, I like and respect many of the people covering this story in depth this weekend and now, this week. We all have jobs to do. And if it’s new to you, perhaps it feels like news.
But it’s not enough to say that it’s more grist for the mill and that Trank brought it upon himself and that if you want to become the director of $100m+ pop films, you are putting yourself in harms way. All these things are true. But those things are all finger-pointing and none of them consider our own (as media) complicity in the building up and tearing down of human beings.
Is anyone going to do a serious look at what is happening inside of Fox in the the last couple of years? No. Is anyone going to write a tough piece on the tone inside Lucasfilm before Star Wars launches in December? Not a chance. When is the last time you saw tough words about Colin Trevorrow in a mainstream news piece? Roughly the day before Jurassic World blew up the box office?
I guess what I am saying is… the news doesn’t tend to change much. Josh Trank tweeted… 4 days ago. He broke the cone of silence. But was the feelings expressed in his tweet a surprise to anyone who covers the movie business and is paying attention? No. Did the tweet suddenly change why or if he was dumped or leapt from Star Wars? No. Did the reshoots become more extensive because Trank tweeted? No.
The story on August 6 at 6:43p was almost exactly the story that was there on August 5.
So is it really okay for journalists to slap themselves on the back for digging deep the next day? For getting tough only after a tweet removed the cloaking mechanism that everyone chose to pretend blinded them until The Tweet?
I am not comfortable with that. And this causes some people to call me names and hurl insults. So be it.
Each time I read a piece that starts with some jaunty paragraph about all of this, I keep flashing on Josh Trank… who screwed in many ways… but is the only human being really suffering this agony today. Everyone else, more savvy, with publicists playing easier hands, has somehow left this poor schnuck holding the bag all by himself. And the media is participating in this. He’s guilty. Guilty as hell. But of what? What is a fair cost? Is it the job of the media to dole it out?
I don’t even know that there is a right answer. But I do know that as journalists, we are supposed to be asking those questions… when the story is big yet the story is also only 137 characters long.
Part of the most of the reporting of Fantastic Four‘s box office that you see this weekend will be colored by the guesses that were made in the last couple week’s about what the film would open to this weekend. There are a lot of reasons for this film to misfire at the box office. And in one of the rarest events, the influence of critics may actually have caused some people to stay away, as a near unanimous (9% on Rotten Tomatoes) dismissal of the film is one of the few times when critics can influence the box office of a wide release. Sadly, it doesn’t work the other way, as the 99% RT score for Shaun The Sheep doesn’t seem to have helped much, nor the 92% RT rating on The Gift nor did the 93% rating on Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation keep it from a 59% Friday-to-Friday drop in its second weekend coming off a just-okay opening.
But the critical influence is not the only problem here. The ads. The tone, altogether lacking humor. The limitations of an origins-only movie on the marketing, which tried to pretend that there were other adventures to come.
Essentially, this is a pre-Marvel Studios kind of opening for a Marvel character movie. There were a few cases of Marvel comic openings before Iron Man‘s 2008 premiere that opened better. But there are few films in recent years that so clearly point out the before-and-after of the CG-driven comic book movie… including why they have have arrived in such numbers in the last 7 years. The first Fox Fantastic Four was in 2005, after Spider-Man, but when Fox was becoming the place that understood comic book movies better than anyone else, led by X-Men, Daredevil, and Fantastic Four. Aside from the #1 Marvel character – Spidey – they were doing best at this game… which was not that sensational, which was keeping the parade of CG comic book movies in line, really. Then Iron Man. And that didn’t really change the math – as there had been $100m Spider-Man openings and the then last X-Men opened to $100m – until Avengers brought good-not-game0changing Cap and Thor numbers together with Tony Stark and things exploded.
Now, a $57m Ant-Man opening is rationalized, as though it was disappointing… as that is the weakest Marvel Studios era opening.
The big question is whether if this Fantastic Four opening was, say, $40 million instead of mid-20s, that would be enough to launch the trilogy that Fox seems to have been considering. The answer, unless this film had very strong legs (which would would not), is no. And international would need to be so overhwhelming – like 3:1 at least – to change that.
So this is a movie that was walking dead and got, in the last week, deader.
Fox marketing lied about what it is in the ads as much as anyone could, really. Didn’t work.
Some more critics could have given it a pass. Didn’t.
Could, as Josh Trank suggests, this have been a different movie, leading to different ads and different reviews? Possible. But every indication I have heard is that Trank’s version would be even more self-serious and thus, appealing to some critics, but even more difficult for the marketing team to make look like something broad audiences wanted to see.
And maybe it would be nice to have seen Josh Trank immolate with the movie he really wanted to make and not a studio-manipulated one. But it seems pretty clear that Fantastic Four was destined to flame out, get clobbered, stretch patience, and become invisible form the day someone decided that a moody, broody FF was the way to go. Great for the Blade series, which was made on a relatively small budget with relatively low expectations. But while CG has allowed Marvel Studios to make comic book movies that actually look like comic books, the real spice that has made that machine run is humor…. self-mocking super humor.
And so it goes…
So Mission: Impossible- Rogue Nation did a bit better over the weekend than expected, at least in estimates, which is good. Another $85m overseas… also good. Now the movie needs to do the work. The Fantastic Four numbers are going to be interesting. The two previous films opened in the high-50s, even with nasty reviews. It would be surprising if this one doesn’t do likewise. The week after, also theoretically in the way of strong legs for M:I5, I expect The Man From U.N.C.L.E. to underwhelm at the box office… I’d love to be wrong, but I haven’t seen an ad that convinces me yet, and I am a fan of Armie’s and a deep believer in Vikander. That said, there is plenty of elasticity for M:I5 to do 4x or even 5x opening if the audience reaction is super-strong. It really is on the film.
Vacation is not all audiences ever wanted. In a 4-tier summer for wide releases ($90m+, $45m-$70m, $22m-$34m, and $5m-$17m), Vacation is in Tier 4 with every other comedy except Spy and Ted 2. Amazingly, Warner Bros owns this tier with 6 of its 11 entries this summer. WB only has 2 non-Tier 1 openings this summer, both in Tier 3. And Dan Fellman seems to have paid the price.
Ant-Man continues to track about $10m behind the first Captain America, seemingly heading to around $165m domestic. The film will crack $300m worldwide this weekend and has really only started its international run, so it has a real chance at outdoing Cap worldwide when all is said and done.
Trainwreck is heading to and just past $100m domestic.
Mr. Holmes cracks $10 million and is now Top 5 for Roadside Attractions all-time.
Seeing Mad Max: Fury Road fighting to catch up with and pass (barely) San Andreas on domestic box office is painful. I’ll be rooting extra hard for a Best Picture slot for the film, as it deserves the respect, even if audiences didn’t offer it.
As noted yesterday, strong limited starts for The End of The Tour (or according to Vulture, The End of the Affair), The Best of Enemies, and Listen To Me Marlon.
Remember how Max Max: Fury Road‘s opening was a disappointment? This opening for Mission Impossible – Rogue Nation is pretty similar. This one will open to a few million more. But it’s that same kind of feeling… good movie… why aren’t more people leaping to get to the theater? I mean, San Andreas will out-open it. San-F-ing-Andreas. It’s been so long since that title has been bandied about, it’s as though it never happened.
Mission will outgross Max 4 both domestically and internationally. But this is the era of box office in which we live. It’s not about the CG and comic books… it’s about international box office. Every Mission movie has done more international box office than any Max, M:I 4 doing more than double what Max 4 has done. So count on that. And with Chinese funding, Mission will hope to take its all-time international high ($485m) and push it up over $650 million on international alone, making a domestic gross around $175 million moot.
Still… not a sensational domestic opening. Better than the first three, but even with the last film doing strong business and being great, there seems to be a glass ceiling on this franchise (not dissimilar to Star Trek, though that series reset its ceiling with JJ Abrams).
Vacation, which was moved into an overripe 11-film Warner Bros summer, is, box office-wise, a slightly stronger sequel to Hot Pursuit. It’s turning out that the only true hit of Warner Bros summer is, amazingly, the aforementioned San Andreas, which did $467 million worldwide. Was this summer a Dan Fellman strategy that got him fired? Possibly. But it doesn’t seem like him. Nor does Sue Kroll’s marketing team seem this incapable of selling their wares. But Sue won this battle and now has Dan’s seat at the table in addition to her own from which to watch The Man From U.N.C.L.E. close out their sad summer with a (make flatulent noise). Better times ahead.
Drops around the Top Ten were pretty standard, except for Paper Towns, which started out soft and dropped like a stone yesterday. Between this and Me And Earl And The Dying Girl, Fox needs to be shaking its collective head and wondering how they got to these flops from last summer’s The Fault In Our Stars giddiness. Don’t feel too bad… SummitGate is trying to figure out the same thing about the Divergent series vs Twilight.
The happiest news at the box office weekend is in limited releases of The End of the Tour, The Best of Enemies, and Listen To Me Marlon, which did, respectively, $10.9k, $3460, and $4700 per screen yesterday. Tour is not at the top of the A24 list of limited openings, but it is a solid start. And those are good numbers for the docs. For Enemies, the number is better than The Wolfpack or Dior & I, which each did over $1 million theatrically and is along the lines of The Salt of the Earth. It’s not going to be Amy… or even Citizenfour. But it will do very well for a doc.