“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 January, 2017
Split holds strong and will be Jason Blum’s second franchise (wasn’t one… is now) to crack $100m domestic. A Dog’s Purpose did well… but didn’t explode with families on Saturday, muting the celebration a smidge. Hidden Figures is holding like a champ, passing $100m, though it is still chasing La La Land, which is $2.5m ahead. Resident Evil: The (Alleged) Final Chapter had, by a good bit, the worst opening of the series… but the international is where the money is and Sony knew that going in. Gold barely opened. CBS and Lionsgate really pushed hard for Patriots Day, but haven’t found the hook, even for the Peter Berg audience. The Salesman leads at arthouses, likely to open well before Trump’s Muslim ban, but surely buoyed by Farhadi’s inability to come to The Oscars, scoring $22,900 per screen.
There’s not a whole lot more to dig into here than in the brief above. Was A Dog’s Purpose hurt by the bad publicity drummed up by TMZ and PETA? Maybe. A little. But not a lot. The only real argument that it had any effect at all is if you believe it was going to blow up surprisingly large because of the dog-loving audience. That didn’t happen. But was it going to happen either way? I have no idea.
Jason Blum has created (with others) a cash-cow genre for studios large and small, but Split looks like it will be his biggest success, especially in a mature segment. His top domestic grosser is $108m and that is sure to be cracked by Split by post-Super Bowl weekend.
xXx: The Return of Xander Cage is another nail in the coffin of studios chasing old IP of mediocre value.
Toni Erdmann was considered the likely Oscar winner for foreign language. But The Salesman is now looking like it might be the rarest of Academy events… a straight-up political vote in defiance of Donald Trump.
Split becomes a monster for Universal, likely to hold off the family film, A Dog’s Purpose, also from a happy Universal, scoring early in 2017 with 2 non-franchise films, reminding the industry that IP is not the only way. Resident Evil 6 doesn’t care much about the soft US opening. Their grosses have been 80% international the last 2 films, both over $195 million. La La Land and Hidden Figures both pass $100m domestic this weekend, buoyed by Oscar noms. Even with a nice expansion bump, Team La may be a little disappointed that the bump isn’t bigger. They’ll live. And the weeekend bump may well be bigger than the Friday. Gold fools.
Split kills it in a multiple of xXx: The Return of Another Old Mediocre Franchise. Hidden Figures holds strong while La La Land sees its first traditional dip, though it will be looking for Oscar nominations Tuesday to turn that around next weekend. The Founder rolls out like a franchise its financiers don’t really believe… to mediocre results. The only movie of any size release to do better than $6200 per-screen was the #1 film, a sure sign of a soft weekend.
Last year, the only $40 million horror opening was for The Conjuring 2 in the summer. Last year, there were only five originals that opened over $40 million (Deadpool, Zootopia, The Secret Life of Pets, Trolls, Moana) and the only one that was live action was only barely an original. The #1 original opening last January was 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi with $16.2m and only Kung Fu Panda 3 opened to more than Split.
The opening for Split remarkable. Was it helped by the Women’s March and men free to head to the theater on Saturday? Does it change the face of theatrical cinema? Obviously not. Would it have been well-served by a day-and-date VOD opening? No. It would have cost this title tens of million of dollars in profits. And if Universal is honest about it (not that anyone will ask them), they know this. Split could do Paranormal Activity numbers all around. Huge profits… in theatrical and post-theatrical. This is why windows matter. Studios will fail if they try to cherrypick box office losers for day-and-date. The theatrical system will collapse in time. Very, very dangerous.
xXx: The Return of Xander Cage continues a clear string of soft results for IP for which there is minimal demand. xXx did $271 million worldwide. The sequel – a better movie, but without Diesel – did $71 million worldwide. Now… the question is, will international territories save this from the ash heap of movie history? Allegedly, it has scored $50 million in its first weekend overseas. Triple that and this film will be within range of profitability, maybe.
Hidden Figures‘ strong holds continue. It’s a terrific audience movie, no matter how poorly directed and how many opportunities for improvement were missed. And I expect an Oscar nominatios for Best Picture on Tuesday, and it will then pass $100 million next weekend.
Also headed over $100 million then is La La Land, which took a funny smack on “Saturday Night Live” this weekend about people getting angry at friends who don’t love the movie 100% (https://youtu.be/abn6cPxrc5w). The film took a 42% hit this weekend, which may or may not have been affected by the Women’s March, but isn’t shocking. Expect an expansion and a big uptick next weekend.
The Founder snuck out like a Big Mac fart this weekend. I like the movie more than a little. Others don’t. But either way, TWC didn’t push too hard. In an era of IP obsession. With the biggest restaurant chain in the world as the center of the film.
Terrible weekend in arthouses overall. The high mark was $6,970 per-screen. Only six films over $2000 per-screen outside of the Top 10. Yick.
Appropriate that Split multiplied the #2 Friday grosser. Universal delivered one of those half-dozen-a-year campaigns that is ubiquitous. Festivals. Great outdoor. Couldn’t use an OTT without McAvoy’s mug showing up. Probably tight on straight TV buys, using publicity to make it up. And massive results. Perhaps last summer’s second Purge sequel was the inspiration. The result, so far, is identical. Very impressive.
xXx: The Return of Xander Cage continues the string of flops in the “why exactly are they making a sequel to a movie that wasn’t really a hit?” genre. Vin Diesel is a massive star… in one franchise and one franchise only. We have learned this three times. Until he finds another gear that people like, he is Chris Tucker. Deal with it.
Hidden Figures has a nice hold. La La Land has its first normal drop. No doubt, they are looking to Oscar noms on Tuesday to stem the slow bleed next weekend.
The Founder flounders… because they didn’t really try. “They” is not TWC staff, but the bosses, who treated the film like a bastard child and that tone leaked into everything thy did to sell (or not sell) the film.
No 10k per-screen titles at the arthouses.
No hiding Hidden Figures this weekend. With an excellent 11% drop (with the help of an 800-screen increase), it is the only $20 million 3-day grosser this weekend. Also revving the engines this weekend with the top per-screen in the Top 10 was La La Land, expanding 333 screens, about half of them IMAX, popping 42% (plus, not minus) from last weekends 3-day and closing fact on $75 million domestic. Sing and Rogue One had good drops, helped as the whole chart is by estimates in the middle of a holiday weekend.
The most eye-popping stat on the board is the 19233% increase for Live by Night, but not enough pop for WB, which still only got a $5.2m weekend out of its Ben Affleck period thriller. Also changing dramatically, Patriots Day, which went wide and got a modest $11.9 million for its effort.
Top English-language-market per-screen was 20th Century Women, which A24 is parsing cautiously, hoping to get a bump from Oscar noms in 9 days.
Newcomers The Bye Bye Man, Monster Trucks and Sleepless were somewhere between “meh” and “moan.”
Have to run this morning, but Hidden Figures has a good Friday-to-opening-Friday hold. The expansion helped. But I would expect the 3-day drop to end up in the teens. Bye Bye Man is on the old Screen Gems measure… $20m is a big win… $14.8 million is okay, but no champagne. CBS can’t be thrilled with the Patriots Day expansion, even with a 10,000% jump. It’s still looking at less than $25m cume at the end of the holiday 4-day. Timing is brutally hard given the amount of politics and American discussion every day in people’s lives since the election. La La Land has a decent expansion… this one including IMAX screens. Expectations are so high for this one that perspective on box office is a little skewed too. It’s not about winning or losing… it’s about how big the win will be. Sleepless and Monster Trucks are similar, except one will lose $100 million and the other won’t.
It’s possible. The holiday schedule mixes things up. But Rogue One has not previously done 3x Friday over a 3-day weekend, and the estimate this weekend is 3.6x Friday for a $100,000 ‘win” over Hidden Figures… Which is estimating 2.9x on Friday. You tell me, which film will be more affected by playoff football? Which estimate feels more realistic?
Rogue‘s run at #1 is surely over next weekend. Hidden Figures should hold strong on the 4-day MLK holiday and the expansion of Patriots Day should win the weekend. So maybe Disney wants to get one more “#1 film in America” set of media pieces today and tomorrow morning.
Rogue One has now cracked the barrier of half of what Episode VII did last year domestically. Internationally, it is running at about the same pace. The film will pass $1 billion worldwide and do slightly more than half what VII did. Some will tell you that this is shockingly strong. Others will tell you that it’s a bit of a disappointment. But it’s a win, either way. And I do expect Young Han Solo, or whatever it’s actually called, to be bigger than this because it will be both Star Wars AND something fresh, as opposed to filling the crack between movies, which is great, but doesn’t encourage repeat viewing from fans who are not obsessed.
Hidden Figures? A $25 million movie that ends it first wide weekend with $25 million at the box office? Already won. And this looks to be a really big win for Fox. I expect it to be between $80 million and $100 million when it gets to its first weekend as a Best Picture nominee. Figures and La La Land will compete to see which gets the biggest Oscar bump, a phenomenon that has faded badly recently. Fox made this work last year with The Revenant, which did $117 million after nominations… although nominations were 10 days earlier last year, 21 days into the Revenant run. This season, Hidden and La La will both be over a month into their runs before nominations are announced. (which, by the way, is HORRIBLE planning by The Academy).
Sing is creeping up on the original Despicable Me domestically… though I would bet against Illumination trying the December slot again anytime soon.
Underworld: Blood Wars opened soft. International awaits.
La La Land doubled its screen count and stayed even. I gather the decision involved stats that suggested that they would get a similar bump next weekend, even with an expansion weekend under their belts. Hope so for them.
The hideous Passengers is still chugging towards $100m domestic and $250m (or better) worldwide. So… it still may lose some money, but those who were ready to hang Tom Rothman from the Columbia rainbow will have to put away the pitchforks and torches for now.
Here is an Oscar Best Picture chaser chart…
Hidden Figures pops, although I suspect that longterm, there is more upside than this. The Help has almost the same number on opening Friday. Of course, here it is after 12 days in limited release (25 screens) and back with Help, they opened on a Wednesday, siphoning off some of the Must-See. Still, I can see Hidden Figures accelerating, not only on word of mouth, but on MLK weekend. And then… Oscar nominations that the media seems to be finally be accepting as likely.
Slapping myself on the back, I noted way back at the 12-minute presentation at TIFF in September that Figures and Jackie were the only two events that stood out from Venice/Telluride as award-significant in Canada. All that Figures could do to keep itself out of the Oscar race would be to stink. And it doesn’t. The star power of the three leads and Costner and a great story overcome flaws. But this is an audience film, bigly. As it’s turning out, Jackie is hanging on to a reasonable hope of being nominated while Figures is surging as one of the two really “fun” films of the Oscar season.
The other opener this week is almost as retro as Hidden Figures. Underworld hasn’t had a new entry in five years. Kate Beckinsale and her spandex skin haven’t aged a day… But the domestic audience for this franchise may have aged out. This opening will be the worst of the franchise, including the Rhona-Mitra-For-Kate moment in 2009. But here is what makes it interesting past this weekend: the international on the 2012 film, with Beckinsale’s return, was double any other in the franchise’s history, just under $100 million. So if they can duplicate or improve on that, Sony will be very happy indeed, even if the domestic is meh.
The only other real change on the board is the La La Land expansion, from 750 to 1515. I’m sure there was demand from exhibitors. I’m not sure I would have chosen this weekend. La La ain’t The Revenant, which went wide the weekend after New Year’s last year. Even American Sniper waited until MLK weekend to go wide two years ago. American Hustle and Black Swan are also bad comps because they went wide in December, riding the holiday. I would have suggested waiting until next weekend, getting the MLK and the Globes wins benefits to expand. And, of course, this expansion is not over. A $7500 per-screen is still quite nice and the movie is already in the black (considering all revenue streams), but another week of anticipation wouldn’t have killed anyone.
Drops on the rest of the chart all make sense for this weekend.
This category is not about underseen films so much as films that just have a weird aura of “meh” around them… in my view, unfairly. Some did good box office. Some did almost nothing. This is not a list of films that I wish made more money. It’s when you are at a dinner party and the title comes up and there are (to me) a surprising number of shrugs or distinct punches thrown in their direction.
Before the list, there are three titles that I have not seen that may fit in this category: 10 Cloverfield Lane, A Bigger Splash, and The Accountant . Another title seemed destined for this list, but found its way to the light, and that is The Lobster, which still splits rooms, but certainly gets its due now.
The 15 Most Underrated Films of 2016 (in alphabetical order)
The BFG – A boundary-pushing work by Spielberg that straddles the line between reality and the visual feel of a children’s book, in the tradition of Jumanji and in many ways, Avatar. For my money, we have never seen a human mo-cap effort as effective and emotional as Mark Rylance’s giant. Is it still a children’s fairy tale? Yes. It was never going to be E.T. because the giant is Elliott and the live child is the extraterrestrial. And the imagery was not “normal” with an oddity in it. All that said, not a picture that deserved to be dismissed by so many.
The Brothers Grimsby – Really f-ing stupid. Yes. No question. And as profane as the day was long. But I laughed a lot at this raunchfest. Would make a great double feature with Sausage Party, which was equally realistic. This spoof of James Bond films by way of The Man In The Iron Mask (or here, the man in the adult diapers). How does one rate a movie in which the climax is based on explosives being shot directly into the lead character’s rectum? Well, either that – and the sexual absurdities that swing both ways and maintain the general tone of a two-hour long fart joke – makes you laugh or it does not. I expected nothing… but I laughed, quite a lot.
Deadpool – I know. Massive hit. Some good reviews. But I still feel that there is a lot of head shaking out there. There is a lot about the movie that makes no sense. But the team make sweeping anachronistic choices with the material and the thing held together. It didn’t become Team America, where there were moments of unforgettable glory, but the movie didn’t really work. This movie works. And it deserves real respect… not just for its box office.
Denial – This film did okay at the box office. Okay with critics. But it is better than that. At the center of the film is a performance by Rachel Weisz that challenges in that it is dead-on bringing to screen the real Deborah Lipstadt… who is a character of a style that turns a lot of people off. But that was not only the truth, but a part of what makes this movie excellent. Tom Wilkinson and even Timothy Spall, as The Holocaust Denier, have it easier. Their characters are quieter. Spall’s David Irving is particularly suited to this moment in history, committed to his lies without flinching… like the president-elect. There was nothing easy about selling this film and as I noted earlier, they did pretty well. But this film will be much better remembered in time
Dheepan – Won at Cannes after being shown late in the festival (aka, after most of the media had left) and got kicked in the male private parts for its trouble. But a great movie. Jacques Audiard – who should more often be compared to an international filmmaker who is getting due credit this year, Paul Verhoeven – is a consummate master of serious sociopolitical drama combined with genre. Dheepan is a serious look at the troubles of immigration in the UK… combined with Death Wish. It is a remarkable, painful, angry, scary, truthful film. Take a look at it without the “did it deserve to win Cannes” weight hanging on it and see.
Indignation – This Phillip Roth adaptation by James Schamus got some rave reviews and did pretty good business. But again… not good enough. It’s a complex, frustrating story that chooses not to explain itself at every turn with some great, great performances.
The Light Between Oceans – Derek Cianfrance made 2016’s great weepie. But it’s more than that. It’s a film that takes its time to linger in spaces with broken people who are trying to navigate right and wrong and finding a way to love in the deepest of ways. As with all Cianfrance films, there is more to get into than one story. He loves layers. And you could really break this movie down into any one of 4 or 5 stories. But the reaction to this film was kind of like if you narrowed Sophie’s Choice‘s entire weight down to only The One Choice. As I have said many times, it isn’t that hard to make an audience cry or scream. But to have them take themselves into that space where they are truly empathizing with those characters, however unlike them in fact, that is movie magic.
Louder than Bombs – I love this movie. It just gets me. Deep emotion. Brutal intellectualism. Characters desperately seeking answers that they don’t really know they are even seeking. The third great performance of the year by Isabelle Huppert. The best work I have ever seen from Jesse Eisenberg. This is not a film that answers every question. It asks you to do a lot of the work. But I found it deeply fulfilling.
Maggie’s Plan – A bonbon from the generally tough filmmaker, Rebecca Miller. Clever, witty idea. Wacky, Fun performance from Julianne Moore. Gerwig. Hawke. The ascendant Travis Fimmel. You could feel the push-back after it premiered at Toronto. I still don’t know why. I thought Miller did what Woody Allen hasn’t done these last 20 years… moved the New York rom-com into an interesting modern place.
Nocturnal Animals – The problem with being seen as Oscar bait is that people expect something other than compelling, original, thoughtful entertainment from your film. And I think that is the case here. From the audacious opening of large, naked women dancing unabashedly for our amusement and fascination to the extreme schizophrenia between the story and the story in the story to the mad performances of Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Mike Shannon and the Quaaluded sexuality of Amy Adams here, this is the kind of hard-R mayhem that I could imagine being held up as the very highest of low art. It’s never camp. But it’s never, as a film, as sharp-edged as the precision imagery of Tom Ford. It’s not even to be compared to Verhoeven’s work, which has a relative softness and does have campiness. It’s a singular piece of filmmaking. And that alone should be thrilling more “big thinkers.” I am still surprised how much it sits with me.
Pete’s Dragon – David Lowery is an artist. There is no mistaking it, even in a big studio movie like this with an animated dragon at its center. Lowery aims at the heart and hits the mark, over and over and over again. A beautiful movie and I only wish that every kid will end up seeing it, in whatever format, and feel its pleasures.
Silence – I haven’t written about this film because, really, I don’t feel ready. What I do know is that I feel the film and felt the film more watching it the second time. There is so much going on in this material. And I feel like the more “entertaining,” really meaning “more violent” version of this film would have been made by Scorsese in years past. But what is here is not just beautiful shots or great acting moments The effort to connect with God courses though the veins of this film and makes the audience as uncomfortable as the priests, who are also witnesses more than victims. I fear this is one of those films that will be forgotten for decades and rediscovered by another generation as one of the lost masterpieces of my generation of film writers and critics, much less audiences. More when I go back the third time… and fourth…
Snowden – Oliver Stone’s best movie in years because it is his first film that isn’t selling a political position in forever. I have never been as convinced about Snowden’s position in stealing secrets he committed himself not to expose as when I watched this film that wasn’t trying to force feed me him as an angel. However hard it is to listen to him, Joseph Gordon-Levitt committed to a character that was often uncomfortable to watch and hear and gives a great performance of both range and subtlety. I don’t think anyone really wanted a political film this year. Too much real life to deal with. But those who missed this missed a good one.
Why Him? – Not brain surgery. Unlike Meet The Parents, this film is based around a paranoid father of a potential bride who is dead wrong about his wannabe son-in-law. James Franco plays a wide open, giant-hearted character and never shows a moment of cynicism. He may be crazy and dumb about some things, but he is love embodied by man. And as the family comes along, they all get their great moments. So does Cranston. This is just a really likable piece of entertainment and too many people are just assuming it is a junky money-grab rip-off. Nope.
Zero Days – You really have to go back to Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room to find a Gibney doc that tells such a technically complex story and makes it so understandable. This movie is already on Showtime, so more people have a chance to see it. But it is perhaps the most important doc of this year regarding world politics and for some reason, it just isn’t catching on with the big talkers. I love many other docs and get the draw… but man, this is the right film at the right time and I just don’t get the lack of traction. It’s not perfection personified. But it is such a rich vein of information about the digital culture. Watch it.
It’s hard to describe exactly what makes a DP/30 interview one of my favorites. Honestly, I am already questioning my choices as I push “publish” on this entry. There are so many other DP/30 interviews from this year (I’m not including Celebrity Conversations on the list) that I love for so many odd reasons. Mica Levi fascinated me for every minute I was in the room with her. Casey Affleck took me to unexpected places, which is air to me. Finally got to sit with Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg and they were wide open. Greta, Jessica, Brolin, Frears, Juno… all regulars on the show who I would travel to talk to any day of the week. (Again, just the DP/30 list… the year wouldn’t be the same without regulars shot for Ovation this year, like Amy Adams or Felicity Jones or Nicole Kidman or Mike Shannon.)
Shot Alden Ehrenreich for the 2nd time… the first being for his debut… and he is a good guy on his way to being a big star. Refn is always wild. Finally got Colin Farrell and Cliff Martinez and Sarandon and Fenton/Barbato and Gillian Jacobs and Miles Teller and Kate Beckinsale and Tracy Letts and others I never really expected like Tori Amos and Shawn Levy and the fascinating Kyra Sedgwick. And that doesn’t even start on the directors: Damien Chazelle, Barry Jenkins, Pablo Larrain, Ken Lonergan, Denis Villeneuve, Garth Davis, Garth Jennings, Jeff Nichols, Bayona (still to be published), and Tom Ford, amongst others. And the amazing couple the work together, writing, directing, producing movies and are likely to have the first Oscar grace their home this February. And documentarians.
I get to talk to a lot of incredibly talented people about work that moves them deeply.
But there is something about these 15… something truly unexpected… something silly… something real… something that stuck with me in a different way.
The only one of these shot by Ovation is the hour with Jeremy Irons, which will air it a 23 minutes at some point, but which I intentionally made an hour. Expect longer interviews in 2017.
The holidays did the job they were meant to do, though there were no truly positive surprises. Strong numbers for Rogue One lead the way. Sing delivers strong numbers, but not up to Illumination’s recent history, although it is already past Trolls. (Moana is ahead of both.) Passengers‘ $61 million seems okay… until you look at the movie’s cost. La La Land has the best per-screen of any film in more than 25 venues, with 750 runs. Hidden Figures and Patriots Day seem primed for strong January expansion.