The Hot Blog Archive for September, 2015
So The Maze Runner series is the mini-me of the Divergent series which was the mini-me of the Twilight series. Well, kinda. The thing about Twilight that keeps studios chasing the dream is that even with a solid base, the series expanded from the first film to the second by 50% domestically and 100% internationally. It settled in and the variations moving forward were minimal, but it did make that leap. Divergent didn’t. And now, Maze Runner hasn’t. And though it is at a much bigger number, neither did Hunger Games. And really, though also at a biggest number, neither did Harry Potter, although there was a sharp uptick for the finale, which was both cumulative excitement and timed to the explosion in international box office (including China).
So, class, with this base of information at our disposal, what should studios assume will happen with book-based series with hardcore audiences? Right. What you see on that first episode is what you are going to get, which some variations from film to film. But with Potter more of a family phenom, Twilight was the first of the tween and cult adult series and its trajectory can be looked back upon as out of the ordinary. If your budget level means that the gross for the first film will suffice to make all of the films in the series profitable or highly profitable, great. If not, don’t be chasing butterflies.
Also in this category of “good luck with that” is the massive leap of the Fast & Furious franchise, which is giving false hope to many executives who are now desperate to believe that they, too, can raise their flagging franchises from their slide. And now, also thanks to Universal, Jurassic. I predict that some studio will have to write off $75 million or more sometime soon trying to make this maneuver work. Personally, I think Jurassic is reasonably explained by a 14-year layoff in the franchise, allowing the dino craze of the first Jurassic generation to fall away and then return as well as for CG to take a giant leap forward since Jurassic launched it, essentially, in 1993. People were ready to LOVE realistic dinosaurs chasing humans again. Jurassic replaced Godzilla as the great tale of human hubris creating a monster that would come kill us. And it continues to own that turf, as comic book movies are really only about supers.
As for why Fast & Furious doubled worldwide box office from #3 to #4, then against (nearly) from #4 to #5, then again from #6 to #7… well, someone serious will have to write that book someday. If I were to guess, I would say that the evolution of the international box office, the Americana feel of the material combined with a diverse ethnic cast, and again, the comic book movies, which make F&F look restrained in comparison (faux real) are the core causes. But mostly, I shrug. Fascinated shrug, but a shrug.
So, four paragraphs later, I guess its time to note that Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials was 7% off the first of the series on opening weekend. In other words… the same.
Black Mass‘ $23 million can be parsed in many ways. It’s no Mortdecai, but it is almost exactly Once Upon A Time In Mexico, a Depp-driven film from 2003. It’s no Transcendence, but it didn’t open as well as Public Enemies, which was considered a commercial flop.
Box Office Mojo has no “Mafia” categories under genres, but it does have “Irish.” And there, Black Mass opened right between The Departed and Road To Perdition, both of which cracked $100 million.
Everest did well per-screen, but no avalanche. Universal chose to open the film on just 545 screens, which is profoundly confusing given the downer elements of the film, which may be daring filmmaking, but tends not to be very commercial. If ever there was a “get them in there on opening weekend” film that wasn’t because it is a pure stinker, this was it.
Whatever the screen count, this was Universal’s first single-digit opening since February. One has to wonder about the date.
FUN FACT: This year’s The Visit is the biggest opening for a September release in the entire history of Universal and will soon be the second highest grosser (passing The Rundown & The Kingdom).
Pre-2000, Universal positioned movies in September that were interesting, like Sea of Love, The River Wild, Sneakers, and All of Me. But since then, it has been a place for movies, including some good ones, to die quietly. It’s not a dumping ground. But there just isn’t much upside. That rule can be broken (see: Moneyball, a Sony release), but it is rare. And even Moneyball and Burn After Reading and other smart films that “better than expected” in September don’t break out to huge numbers. The Equalizer cracked $100m last year… but mostly family films thrive with September releases.
Captive escaped from Paramount. There must be a story. I don’t know the story. I don’t care to know the story. See you on EPIX, Captive. (Not really. I don’t get EPIX.)
Sicario opened to an estimated $65k per screen on six. Strong. For some reason, Box Office Mojo doesn’t have American Sniper and Inherent Vice yellow-bolded, apparently causing at least one trade to misreport that the film had the biggest per-screen opening since The Imitation Game. And those two titles show the weird meaninglessness of opening weekend per-screen averages. One did $8m domestic and one did $350m domestic. Sicario will be somewhere in between. And when the “actuals” land, there is a good chance that Sicario will actually be closer to the $59k per-screen of Ex Machina, which did $25m domestic… which is, I would guess, about where Sicario ends up.
Please note… I really like Sicario. I think it is worthy of serious consideration for many awards. Still, box office is made up on numbers, not fantasies and spin.
An amazing thing happened at the festivals this last couple weeks…
Okay, perhaps nothing is an exaggeration.
But mostly, nothing.
Movies being seen changes things. Nature of the beast. But the only thing within a country mile of a revelation coming out of the Venice/Telluride/Toronto running of the bulls was Room. And in the long run, it is hard to be sure whether it is really an awards players aside from the central adult performance by Brie Larson.
Going through the Gurus Top Ten of (then upcoming) festival movies…
The Danish Girl delivered pretty much exactly what was promised. There is some critical pushback, which will become irrelevant as soon as the film is seen by Oscar voters. Some writers have reacted to a solid Alicia Vikander performance as though they thought that she wasn’t much of an actress before or that they didn’t understand the emotional depth of the Ex Machina performance. She is, as I have been saying for 2 years now, a sensational emotional actress (who cannot do “silly” well at all… perhaps she will grow into that).
Steve Jobs, which only showed at Telluride, is my top title of the moment… but I am not 1000 Oscar voters. We’ll know a lot more after more screenings and NY, but critics – as always – will not decide the awards fate of this film. Real people with votes to offer, sitting in movie theaters, will.
If there is an Argo this season, it’s Spotlight… though I personally like this film better than Argo. It is solid, hard-not-to-like classical movie making. Spotlight is the movie that will be there, never wavering, through the entire season, waiting for voters to tire of the trendy movie of the various moments of the season. Not the likely Best Picture winner… but sure to be in the Top 5 conversation until the very end. And if it wins, I will not be shocked.
Black Mass has some critic love… but mostly, “it’s okay” kinds of responses. Depp may be nominated (Globe nod is a mortal lock), but cannot win for this performance.
I managed not to see Trumbo in Toronto… just timing issues. But did you hear the giant explosion when it screened, changing the award season instantly? No? Neither did I. A nomination nominee.
Suffragette was something everyone wanted to happen at Telluride. Meryl Streep was in great form. It’s lead, Carey Mulligan, is about to drop her first. Year of the Woman and all that. But then we saw the movie. And Carey Mulligan still has a shot at a nomination. Maybe a couple below-the-line nods.
The Martian is terrific. Could be nominated. Under some circumstances, it could end up winning. But probably not. Ridley Scott is so good and does such complex work here which doesn’t demand that you praise his magicianship, this film could easily be written off as “just a good commercial movie.” It’s more than that. It’s better than many expected. But like Spotlight – a lot less commercial a movie – it could end up in the mix at the end by simply lingering and being well liked. It’s really up to Ridley and Matt and the great supporting cast. If they show up and let people compliment them and enjoy the love, it could work out surprisingly well.
The new Michael Moore, Where To Invade Next, is evolutionary, not revolutionary.
Beasts of No Nation is a beautiful, very tough movie that would have had a hard time getting top tier distribution as a festival film. Maybe Weinstein… but it would be a tough call. It will get a lot of attention because of Netflix. More people will see it. That is a win. Screen count will make the film seem like a Netflix movie… and that will keep it at bay. Could be an interesting Indie Spirit player.
The Walk hasn’t opened New York Film Festival yet. We’ll see.
Reactions were muted positive (or negative) for Our Brand Is Crisis, I Saw The Light, The Program, Legend, Truth, and Demolition. None of them turned into serious Best Picture candidates at the festivals.
Paramount bought the Charlie Kaufman/Duke Johnson film, Anomalisa… which has some juices flowing. But it’s a puppet movie… and it’s the Academy, Jake.
That was a lot of detail leading to… not much has changed in the last two weeks.
That said, here are the 13 titles already released or premiered at festivals that I think still have a shot (huge or tiny) at a Best Picture nomination.
Disney: Inside Out
Focus: The Danish Girl
Fox: The Martian
Fox Searchlight: Brooklyn, Youth
Open Road: Spotlight
Sony: The Walk
Sony Classics: Son of Saul
Sundance Selects: 45 Years
Universal: Steve Jobs
Warner Bros: Max Max: Fury Road
Weinstein Co: Carol
And here is the thing…
By my count, there are more than 10 films that have not been widely seen or premiered that have a legit shot at joining and/or superseding this list. The only titles already out here that would be really shocking if left out of the Best Picture nominations list are Spotlight and Steve Jobs. I am not saying they will be the only ones… but they could be the only ones. So the door is pretty wide open.
Of course, one of those two films could end up winning and then The Media could continue to push its festival narrative, even if this year’s festival would be incidental to either film having won.
But unlike any year in recent memory, after Venice and Telluride and Toronto, it really feels like the season has barely shown itself.
42nd TELLURIDE FILM FESTIVAL ANNOUNCES 2015 PROGRAM
Twenty-seven new feature films to screen in the main program
Danny Boyle, Adam Curtis and Rooney Mara to receive Silver Medallion Awards
Telluride, CO (September 3, 2015) – Telluride Film Festival, presented by the National Film Preserve, today announced its official program selections for the 42nd edition of the Telluride Film Festival. TFF’s annual celebration of artistic excellence brings together cinema enthusiasts, filmmakers and artists to discover the best in world cinema in the beautiful mountain town of Telluride, Colorado. TFF will screen over seventy-five feature films, short films and revival programs representing twenty-seven countries, along with special artist Tributes, Conversations, Panels, Student Programs and Festivities. Telluride Film Festival takes place Friday, September 4 – Monday, September 7, 2015.
42nd Telluride Film Festival is proud to present the following new feature films to play in its main program:
– CAROL (d. Todd Haynes, U.S., 2015)
· AMAZING GRACE (d. Sydney Pollack, U.S., 1972/2015)
· ANOMALISA (d. Charlie Kaufman, U.S., 2015)
· BEAST OF NO NATION (d. Cary Fukunaga, U.S., 2015)
· HE NAMED ME MALALA (d. Davis Guggenheim, U.S., 2015)
· STEVE JOBS (d. Danny Boyle, U.S., 2015)
· IXCANUL (d. Jayro Bustamante, Guatemala, 2015)
· BITTER LAKE (d. Adam Curtis, U.K., 2015)
· ROOM (d. Lenny Abrahamson, England, 2015)
· BLACK MASS (d. Scott Cooper, U.S., 2015)
· SUFFRAGETTE (d. Sarah Gavron, U.K., 2015)
· SPOTLIGHT (d. Tom McCarthy, U.S., 2015)
· RAMS (d. Grímur Hákonarson, Iceland, 2015)
· MOM AND ME (d. Ken Wardrop, Ireland, 2015)
· VIVA (d. Paddy Breathnach, Ireland, 2015)
· TAJ MAJAL (d. Nicolas Saada, France-India, 2015)
· SITI (d. Eddie Cahyono, Indonesia, 2015)
· HEART OF THE DOG (d. Laurie Anderson, U.S. 2014)
· 45 YEARS (d. Andrew Haigh, England, 2015)
· SON OF SAUL (d. Lázló Nemes, Hungary, 2015)
· ONLY THE DEAD SEE THE END OF WAR (d. Michael Ware, Bill Guttentag, U.S.- Australia, 2015)
· TAXI (d. Jafar Panahi, Iran, 2015)
· HITCHCOCK/TRUFFAUT (d. Kent Jones, U.S., 2015)
· TIME TO CHOOSE (d. Charles Ferguson, U.S., 2015)
· MARGUERITE (d. Xavier Giannoli, France, 2015)
· TIKKUN (d. Avishai Sivan, Israel, 2015)
· WINTER ON FIRE: UKRAINE’S FIGHT FOR FREEDOM (d. Evgeny Afineevsky, Russia-Ukraine, 2015)
Additional Sneak Previews may play outside the main program and will be announced through the Telluride Film Festival website over the course of the four-day weekend. Visit the TFF website for updates: www.telluridefilmfestival.org.
The 2015 Silver Medallion Awards, given to recognize an artist’s significant contribution to the world of cinema, go to filmmaker Danny Boyle (TRAINSPOTTING, SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE) who will present his latest film, STEVE JOBS; documentary filmmaker Adam Curtis (THE POWER OF NIGHTMARES) who will present his latest work, BITTER LAKE; and actress Rooney Mara (THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO) who will present CAROL. Films will be shown following the on-stage interview and medallion presentation.