The Hot Blog Archive for June, 2017

Review: Spider-Man: Homecoming (spoiler-free)

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There are many things about Spider-Man: Homecoming that are right. The cast is right. The director did fine. The idea of keeping the film grounded in working-class, culturally mixed Queens is smart.

But the movie quickly informs us that this is not a Spider-Man movie… it’s a Marvel Cinematic Universe movie in which Spider-Man is going to be a loser, however charming he is. He will do heroic things… but from beginning to pretty much the end, the joke is on Peter Parker.

I have already encountered the “it’s appropriate to the MCU” and the “well, Tony Stark is the adult and Peter Parker is a kid” arguments. So… okay. Yeah. I hear you.

But what keeps me from signing on is… every other MCU side character movie. Marvel hasn’t done this to any other character in their introduction. And anyone who understands the long history, including but beyond Marvel, of hero movies, must intuitively understand that the journey of the young hero is filled with pratfalls and missteps, but a successful hero must being imbued with some real dignity.

Peter Parker is on such a short leash in this film… and the leash is held mostly by Jon Favreau, not Robert Downey, Jr, whose priorities are – again, intuitively – shown by the three days he worked on this movie.

Starting again… Peter Parker is on such a short leash that he is never really given agency. How many times can you do the “waiting for him to return my text” gag before it stops being a clever side gag and starts to define Peter Parker?

There is a potentially great twist at one point in the film – not going to spoil it – and I was actually excited by the possibilities… really a set up for a great William Goldman-esque turn in the film. And sure enough… all roads lead to the same place in this movie. It’s not about Spider-Man. He is just a spin-off character in the MCU here.

Don’t get me wrong. I still really like Tom Holland as the new Spider-Man. I love the idea of him really being a teen. But there just isn’t any difference between Peter Parker’s impulsive behavior in the first act and the third act… except for more serious music.

I should have know trouble was afoot when my favorite piece of new movie music recently – Mike Giacchino’s symphonic version of the old Spider-Man theme – is played over an expanded Marvel stamp at the front of the film, not in the movie.

And my issues are not just with Peter Parker.

This is the most racially mixed major movie you might ever see. But by the end credits, the three-POC-in-top-10-cast-list standard set by CAA this week is not met… even though there are a lot of well-known actors of color. They are, mostly, wasted. Laura Harrier is good and beautiful and should be considered one of the film’s five leads. Jacob Batalon is Filipino-American and also Top 5. After that… not so much.

Anyone who watched FX should be horrified to see Bokeem Woodbine playing Vulture’s #3 stooge and Donald Glover playing a laconic drug dealer (I think that was the illegal activity he was participating in…. not 100% clear). Complete waste of two great actors playing two-bit criminals.

Tony Revolori plays the high school asshole, Flash. Okay. Choosing to be color-blind or color-ful. Hannibal Buress as the basketball coach? Oy. Wasted… regardless of gender. Martin Starr gets more to do… but not a lot.

I like the idea of an urban color spread that matches the reality of the city. But since race doesn’t really exist in this film (except as a distraction), it feels calculated when it should not.

Zendaya gets some good laughs. But she is definitively a secondary character. And how many times can you make the joke that every man in the neighborhood wants to pull off Aunt May’s granny glasses and get into her high-waisted pants before it becomes gross?

But it’s often entertaining. Tom Holland is very likeable. His sidekick, Batalon, is extremely likable. But Spider-Man’s great power changes in practically every scene. He is a lightweight at the start. He is a lightweight at the end. He is not protecting anyone he loves… except in one section, where he is the one who puts people he cares about in direct danger, not any bad guy.

Spider-Man is not a teen taking great responsibility in the face of great power in this film. He is – and this really is ironic – a super-contractor. He saves, to various degrees, a boat, an elevator and an airplane.

This movie does what you never, ever do with a hero… it makes mock of him, his skills, and (mostly) his intentions. Not once or twice to soften him up and to get him pointed in the right direction… constantly. If you find yourself wondering why there is a car chase with Spider-Man driving, in the middle of a Spider-Man movie… it was so they could get off a good joke about Spider-Man in suburbia a few minutes earlier. That is what this movie is. An overly broad comedy that is not as smart or insightful about being young/growing up as a Lord/Miller or an Apatow film… with a cool suit and a bunch of actors we really, really like.

All the way back in 2002, Spider-Man changed the face of comic book movies forever. First $100m opening. Highest domestic grosser of all-time at the time. And most importantly, the first true CG-driven comic book movie that made the unbelievable feel believable.

Sony, who had something to gain from allowing Spider-Man to be part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, just allowed Marvel to make their superstar into a supporting player.

Even the bit at the end of the credits… no Spider-Man. And it’s a meta-joke, not an advancement of either Spidey’s story or the MCU.

Joking about your franchise usually the first sign of a dying franchise. But more importantly, they gave more agency to the Guardians… to Ant-Man… to Dr. Strange… all of whom got knocked down before they came to their 3rd act heroics.

I don’t know whether this movie will do more business than the $707 million worldwide that Amazing Spider-Man 2 did. It could. Lots of Iron Man and Captain America being sold by Sony right now. And maybe the character will go somewhere interesting in his next movies, Avengers 3 and 4. And then Sony will get to make another Spider-Man movie… and they will hope to do as well as Thor: Ragnarok.

A piece of business.

Suckers.

34 Comments »

Weekend Estimates by A Midsummer’s Day Klady

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Sorry about that wrong chart…

Nothing much different than yesterday. Every film seems to have had a slightly stronger Saturday than normal. Is that a function of no NBA Finals, MLB All-Stars, and a generally lazy weekend before the holiday? Maybe. Is WB jockeying for position over Disney? Maybe.

Want to see a place when Rotten Tomatoes may have really mattered at the box office? The Beguiled had soft reviews and while audiences showed up at its four screens on Friday, the rest of the weekend was relatively soft. The Big Sick has glowing reviews (and a cast willing to work screenings) and showed up strong on Friday… and got stronger over the weekend. The question, as far as RT goes, is whether this was just a function of the New York Times and LA Times reviews in the two markets where it opened. But I believe that for small films – and really, for big films too – there is a vibe created, that includes reviews and feature stories and RT, and the audiences of these kinds of films pay attention.

It’s also worth noting that The Big Sick is an Amazon movie, bought at Sundance. They choose to work with the traditional windowed model (in this case, in partnership with Lionsgate). And you may notice that Amazon is not the story the media focuses on when it comes to this movie. So the question… Is it better for the company when, as with Netflix, every story about their movies leads with the company and its philosophy? Or is it better when Amazon is in the background as part of a happy success story? I suspect that each company would actively advocate for the benefits of their particular strategy.

This from Team 3D, regarding Transformers – “The highest performing 3D countries internationally include China (99%), Russia (58%), Germany (86%), Hong Kong (41%), and The Netherlands (100%). In the United States, 34% of the film’s $69 million opening came from 3D performances.”

The 3D business isn’t going away. But its scale is now minimized in the domestic market. Transformers 5 still did 67% of its worldwide opening weekend in 3D. A film doing 1/3 of its business in 3D is a solid win now. And in the places where the numbers are over 80%, it is a function of limiting the options of ticket buyers, not choice. Ironically, the most consistent domestic 3D market is kids’ movies… though under 6s are really not mature enough to sit still, leave the glasses on, and enjoy the benefits for which their parents pay extra.

By the way… in the hit indies of summer category, the two big winners so far are A24 with It Comes At Night and Bleecker Street with Megan Levey.

55 Comments »

Friday Estimates by The Last Klady (if we are lucky)

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Again with the shrinking domestic IP franchise.

This will happen many, many more times in the next 5 years. And eventually, we will all have to act like grown ups and discuss worldwide box office and the post-theatrical market in a serious way from opening day of any movie that costs more than $40 million.

If anyone tries to tell you that Paramount didn’t know this was coming, domestically, they would be spinning you. Transformers 3 did $50 million less than Transformers 2 domestically. Four did $90 million less than Three. And now, Five will do $90m – $120m less than Four.

This is not a complicated trend line.

The Fast & The Furious, on the other hand, is a bit more complex. The original was surprisingly successful. #2 down. #3 further down. Then BLAM! #4 bigger than the original. At the same time, the international gross nearly doubled the previous best. Then the franchise hit the accelerator both domestically and internationally for 3 straight films. The most recent film, #8, was down for the first time since #4, in both categories. So is this the trend moving forward? Or was the rise so high with #7 ($1.5 billion) that it was an anomaly and the franchise will now settle in around the $1 billion mark for a few films?

But Transformers? Domestic is 100% clear. And international is the question. Will it keep growing and get past $950 million international this time? Or will it start to stall?

If you adjust China for limited return to the distributor on the Yuan spent at the box office, the international growth stalled on the last movie already, as China doubled its footprint. Transformers 3 did $165m in China as part of $771 million making the “real” international gross about $690 million. Tr4 did $320 million in China, $858m total… making the “real” number roughly $698 million. So about the same.

More importantly, while China box office expanded, the rest of the non-domestic world contributed $538 million on Tr4, down from $606 million on Tr3.

This time, China could go up to, say, $360 million, but to stay even internationally, the film still needs to do $510 million elsewhere… and the trend suggests that the rest of international will be under $500 million this time, regardless of quality.

And that is how you get a $900 million-plus worldwide grosser feeling like something is wrong.

If China drops instead of rises or the rest of international drops down below $400 million, Transformers 6 is coming right on schedule without a second thought.

Paramount only starts flinching in a real way when, given the China asterisk and the Spielberg cut, the worldwide gets down to $700 million or so, especially if nearly half of that is the Chinese box office. But no Bay Transformers movie has fallen that low. And this is quite unlikely to be the first.

2017. What a racket!

Wonder Woman passes $300 million. Looking good to pass Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice domestically in the next couple weeks as the top DC Extended Universe title. International is less likely. But could happen. As far as the summer goes, Guardians wins by way of the head start that being the summer launch movie gives a film.

On the indie side, The Big Sick is the big per-screen leader, with $26k per screen yesterday and date night ahead of it. Also looking well is The Beguiled, with just under $23k per screen on 4.

32 Comments »

Rotten Tomatoes, Movie Openings & Reality

La Tomatina

There have been 131 wide-release summer movies in from 2014 until now.

The film highest-ranked by Rotten Tomatoes (99) opened to $4 million. The one lowest-ranked by Rotten Tomatoes (4) opened to $5 million.

In many ways, we could stop right there in this analysis, because this dichotomy is the reality of pretty much every way I have parsed the Rotten Tomatoes vs Box Office Opening story that has become the Trend of the Month since Baywatch opened so much below expectations.

Let’s start with Baywatch before looking at the bigger picture, since that is the film which became the center of this conversation. Broadly, the film was tracking (a marketing number that is meant to let marketers know what kind of traction the film is getting, not for guessing opening numbers) at around $38 million for the 5-day weekend (as Paramount made Thursday a full day opening, not just late shows, which they had on Wednesday after 7).

Reviews hit on Tuesday morning. And they weren’t pretty. The Rotten Tomatoes number ended up at 20% Fresh, 80% Rotten. Tracking done Tuesday night and Wednesday showed a drop from the $38 million projection (which also took into account what trackers claim was a surprise RT score). And indeed, by the end of the 5-day, they were at $27.7 million.

So the question… did the scathing reviews on Tuesday cause a 29% drop in the opening 5-day gross for Baywatch?

Tracking is often wrong (though studios seem to have a loving, but gauzy memory of a time when it was always right). And there aren’t a ton of examples where the tracking changed so dramatically in such a short period of time. If fact, after talking to a number of the tracking firms about the issue, no one could offer any other films that fit this profile.

This is where it gets tricky. Tracking is not just a straight survey (not that any survey is “straight” as all managed surveys are dependent on the audience that can be reached and the demographic balance that can be created). Tracking companies take everything into account in estimating a gross, including the Rotten Tomatoes score.

Complicating this, tracking has become media fodder in a way it never should have. It is meant to be marketing guidance. But now, marketing departments don’t only have to respond to their bosses when the numbers miss, but they have an onslaught of often-hysterical media attention.

I have said for decades now that the only real influence that critics have on the opening of a wide release movie is when there is nearly-unanimous negativity. I do believe a film can be destroyed. But I do not believe a film that has a strong base for opening in the 30s or better can be “destroyed.”

The consensus – no one who pays close attention to this, and to whom I have spoken, disagrees – is potentially 10% – 15% damage.

And within that potential damage, there is a wide array of categories in which negative RT scores appear to mean absolutely nothing. Specific groups mentioned include African Americans, women (especially under 24), and action movie fans.

And the idea of RT ratings helping a movie is nearly nonexistent. There are experiential call-outs, like Get Out and Wonder Woman… but the examples are rare and seem more about confirmation bias.

In fact, the only group that seems to play close attention to RT scores are white males, 18-45. Surveys suggest that the percentage of men in that demo checking RT before deciding on going to a movie has grown from 26& to 36% in the last couple years. And that seems like a big chunk of the audience.

But then it gets blurry again. How many of those men checking RT are buying tickets? And for what kind of movies? How often?

There are about 27 million people in the U.S. and Canada who go to the movies more than once a month. Cut that in half for the age demo, then in half again for males. So your entire frequent male moviegoer 18-45 potential audience for Baywatch is 6.75 million people.

I have no idea how much of the opening weekend audience for Baywatch was those guys. But if they made up half the opening weekend audience, that is about 20% of the group showing up on opening weekend. Did this movie ever seem like it was strong enough to pull 40% of the demo out to the movies in the first weekend?

Also… The Rock. Big star. Maybe the biggest right now. But in comedies? Not so much. He only had four as the lead before Baywatch. None opened to more than $22 million. Maybe Central Intelligence confused the survey ($36m opening)… but Kevin Hart matters.

Baywatch did $23 million by Sunday night. That seems like the right number… unless you think Zac Efron is equivalent to Kevin Hart. It seems like a positive if you consider that the movie is not well liked (5.8 on imdb user ratings.. another terrible measure but for lack of a better easy example). Bad movie, horribly reviewed, and Dwayne Johnson still delivered his number for a comedy.

Further, the film’s advertising was clearly pushing hard on one quadrant. “Beaches aren’t ready” isn’t going to draw women with a pun on “bitches,” nor are adults likely to be drawn to the film based on The Rock’s wingspan and horny teen jokes about women, plus the film was R-rated (not that teens can’t find a way in when they want to). Worse, neither the ads nor the film took advantage of the nostalgia for the show that exists, however much people are embarrassed to admit that reality.

So, when you have a one-quadrant movie and the one quadrant that pays serious attention to Rotten Tomatoes is the one that is going to deliver most of your opening, yeah, I see what Paramount was feeling on Tuesday after opening.

And of course, the entire thing is more complicated than even this analysis.

Who came up with this idea of a Baywatch movie… who developed it… who greenlit it… who thought The Rock was The Answer… who decided not to have any female nudity… who decided to have multiple dick jokes… who decided not to make the action more in line with The Rock’s hits… who decided to underplay the female storylines… who decided to focus the sell to young men… who determined that an effort to get women interested in this film (aside from the abs of the top two names on the call sheet) was futile… who decided to throw away the family audience… and a thousand other decisions that led to opening day.

I’m down the rabbithole here.

Then there are other measures when looking at the whole summer. Of the 10 summer wide-releases that did 4x opening weekend or better domestically in the last five summers, six are Fresh and four are Rotten. And of the 10 worst multiples (pre-incomplete summer 2017… 1.5x – 2.2x) there are 3 Fresh films. This group includes both $100m+ openers RT90 Captain America: Civil War and RT25 Suicide Squad.

It is easy to drown (again) in a sea of figures. But the bottom line seems clear… better to be well-liked than not. If your film is universally disliked by critics, it will – as it has forever – make a dent… but it may not define your film’s fate if audiences disagree.

There is little, if any, indication that the speed of media or Facebook or Twitter, etc, is changing opening weekends. Friday-to-Saturday-to-Sunday numbers seem to be consistent, within genre lanes, no matter what the RT score.

Rotten Tomatoes, which has become a simple way to think you are getting a critical consensus, is not irrelevant. But it is one piece of the puzzle. There seems to be a pretty clear line to be drawn between the RT numbers and biases that already exist and are then confirmed by the RT number.

Rotten Tomatoes reflects the world it surveys. People only argue that it influences, positive or negative, in extreme moments. And I believe it only influences in even fewer occasions than when it is given credit/blame. Nothing in two weeks of discussing the matter suggests otherwise.

When “everyone” hates your movie, that tends to leak into the whole process. It’s an infection. And you know… in many high profile cases, it just doesn’t matter.

Paramount has another high profile movie opening this week with a nightmarish (or is it Knightmarish?) RT rating. There was a low-70s opening was projected weeks before reviews. It may slide into he mid-60s. And maybe that will be, in part, critical influence. But if you want to make that the story, you have to explain whytwo2 of the previous four Transformers films opened over $100 million domestically with RT scores in the teens.

Everyone wants answers. And everyone wants them NOW.

Sometimes the first stats turn out to be correct. But for the most part, short window determinations are missing a lot of important information. I like my big trend analysis to start with three years/seasons of information. Anything less and you may look like a fool next year.

This doesn’t mean that short-window trend analysis can’t be interesting an valuable. But only in the smallest ways. For instance, the Lord/Miller firing from Young Han seems to directly fly in the face of what happened at WB with Wonder Woman and with what Marvel is doing aggressively in the continued expansion of its universe of films. The trend, which has not had time to play out, has been successful so far. LucasFilm is going to stick to its knitting and to stay on-brand at all costs. This could be a success or a failure regardless of the bigger industry trend.

Nobody knows anything. Love you, Bill Goldman. Stay fresh.

7 Comments »

WTF? Lord/Miller Latest Disney Victims?

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Every time it begins to look like Disney is about to cross the bridge to figuring out how to avoid a Sophomore Slump in its all-mega-movie universe, another kick in the balls…

Here is what I know about Chris Miller and Phil Lord… they have directed four movies… all but the one sequel was underestimated by its distributor before release… they are four for four… as relatively young veterans in this business (42), they still connect to young people and they have a sense of how to connect with adults as well.

Here is what I know about Disney: they would rather put out pre-chewed mediocrity than to take risks with their extremely valuable IP and have fired a slew of interesting directors to maintain that safety.

Kathy Kennedy is a powerhouse. She has kept many of the biggest, most important, beloved trains on the tracks for decades. She is also 64. She has had her moments of zen. Munich, The Diving Bell & the Butterfly, and Persepolis appear back-to-back-to-back on her page… so she is not just Spielberg and she is not only mainstream. She has more in her game than that. But is she playing not to lose instead of playing to win?

Disney is more important than their box office success right now. Other studios are chasing their model, but they have limited success because there is no better IP than Marvel-Lucasfilm-Pixar-Disney Animation. Universal has been #2 in Magic-IP-Land lately because of Jurassic Park-Illumination. But studios have proven they can live off one great piece of IP for a long time. Sony was driven by Spider-Man for years… Paramount is now Transformers with bouts of Mission: Impossible and Star Trek (and Brad Pitt’s Plan B, the promise of which helped keep Brad Grey in the job for extra years until its recent move to Annapurna)… WB and Potter (which DC is starting to look like it will replace).

When these key pieces of IP end or fade, it is a seismic event and people who seemed invincible lose their jobs. At studios that don’t have the stability of a reliable franchise or two, turmoil always seems to be rising (bosses are like my mother, they’re never satisfied).

This is not to mock the IP urge. It is real. It is not new. And it makes sense for an ongoing business, which, like it or not, studios are.

Disney is the leader in integrating women and people of color into the directing chairs amongst major studios. I have meant to write about this before, in a positive piece about Disney, with shame cast upon other majors.

Patty Jenkins made Wonder Woman after they fired Michelle MacLaren. So WB got there first. But now… Ava Duvernay, Niki Caro, Anna Boden and Jennifer Lee all have movies in 2018 or 2019. Add more diversity with Ryan Coogler and Black Panther. And remember that Disney also puts out one-third to one-half the number of films that other majors release in a year.

So Disney is not The Evil Monolith. They are not completely inflexible. They don’t just hire for mediocrity.

Still… Niki Caro hasn’t made it into production on her Mulan. When she pushes her (appropriate) agenda of equality and sensitivity and female empowerment, we’ll see how that plays. This is the same Disney that is making Aladdin with a director (Guy Ritchie) who tip-toes near the “isn’t that funny” notion of bloke-y racism in all his films.

Anna Boden with her directing partner Ryan Fleck is on Captain Marvel, under protection of Marvel Studios. And though Marvel pushed out Edgar Wright, they did replace him with another iconoclastic director who made a very good, off-brand Marvel film (that still feels a bit like what we would have expected from Edgar, oddly).

Marvel also seems to be pushing the off-brand side movies hard with Thor: Ragnarok, which with Taika Waititi, a Maori Ashkenazi, who seems to be making the first Marvel film bending a core Avengers character into an off-brand story and style. It seems that Marvel also allowed Coogler all the rope he could have asked for in making Black Panther off-brand and distinctive.

Pixar is John Lasseter and will be John Lasseter until John Lasseter leaves… probably on a gurney, decades from now. He is the 9 Old Men of now. A couple of those nine in John is also running Disney Animation.

But Lucasfilm… Two mediocre Star Wars films so far. We all hope and expect that Rian Johnson will raise the bar in December. But as the film is in the Core 9, we should also expect that Rian’s brilliance will show in the margins, more than in the center, where the next director (back to JJ-level mediocrity) has already taken the baton for #9.

Of the two 3.0 Star Wars films that have been released, we already know that Rogue One was “saved” by Tony Gilroy… shot in some part by Tony Gilroy, even though Gareth Edwards was given the full credit.

Thing about Young Han is… Wonder Woman. Guardians of the Galaxy. Dr. Strange. Ant-Man.

IP Machine Shops are figuring out that the way to keep the engine running is to have some bits that aren’t 100% canon. Loosen up, people.

Star Wars is a mature bit of IP. Its power is remarkable. But everything can be killed by misguided, well-intended management.

The laugher of the week was that Book of Henry could get Colin Trevorrow dumped from Star Wars IX. The opposite is true. He knows how to get in line and do what the bosses want, as he did for Frank Marshall (aka Kathy Kennedy’s husband and long-time producing partner) and that is what Kathy Kennedy appears to expect from her Lucasfilm directors.

Unlike others sucked into the Disney machinery, Phil Lord & Chris Miller have other places to be. They are not only good at what they do, they are amongst the leaders of their generation of creative players. As writers, producers and directors, they have risen above the fray in almost everything they have done over the last decade, even when the projects have failed.

Lord & Miller are not Spielberg. They are not the top flight of making visual feasts. But they have an uncanny feeling for the nerve. They are not the first to rise and like everyone else, they will stall at some point. But I would count on them getting back up and working through the problems. Their ego does not demand fealty. They want to collaborate.

This brings me to the people who probably feel the most screwed over this week… the actors that Phil & Chris brought on to Young Han. Alden Ehrenreich has been though a LOT in his young career. And he will be fine. But do you think Donald Glover and Thandie Newton and Phoebe Waller-Bridge came on a movie like this without a lot of faith in what the directors were doing? And Bradford Young, who can (deservedly) write his own ticket these days?

It’s become a big, ugly cliché, but this is why we can’t have nice things.

What the Lucasfilm Team is forgetting is that no matter how off-brand Lord & Miller’s movie would have been – and they shot eighty percent of it already, for cripe’s sakes… how off could it have been? – it was the movie that people under 50 were most looking forward to… and many of us over 50.

It would have to be bad, not non-canon, to disappoint. After all, we have indulged mediocre canon so far in this adventure. Really mediocre. And it hasn’t killed the brand. But a big part of the illusion that we should all stay excited is the idea that there is ambition in these films. And today, that illusion died a little bit more.

R.I.P.

22 Comments »

Bring Your Own Surmise: Young Han Solo

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Any good guesses what just happened?

“The untitled Han Solo film will move forward with a directorial change.

Read the full article »

55 Comments »

Weekend Estimates by Klady 3

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The wide newcomers uniformly are failing to estimate 3X Friday, while the top holdovers (wonderful and wrapped alike) are. Ugly weekend… kind of. The only out and out failure amongst the 4 top new films was Rough Night. Cars 3 is about international and merchandising. All Eyez on Me overperformed expectations, strong vs costs. 47 Meters Down came from a new distributor, meeting ambitions. And… Rough Night.

At this point of the summer last year, there had been eleven $20 million summer openings. This year, eight. Last year by this time, three $50m+ openings. This year, four. Last year, two $100 million openings by now. This year, also two.

What do those numbers mean? Not much. Mostly that the sky isn’t falling. And more subtly, that summer is a marathon, not a sprint.

Another series of numbers: 14, 12, 14, 19, 12, 18, 13, 15, 17, 17. That’s the number of $100 million domestic grossers in each of the last 10 summers (starting in 2016). Clearly there has been a slowing in the number of films hitting that bar.

On the other hand… 36, 46, 61, 32, 49, 55, 41, 36, 26, 35.

Those are the numbers of $100 million international grossers for the entire years in the last decade. And you can see the opposite trend. There are about 45 $100m international films a year in each of the last five years to 39 in the five years before that.

Last year, only three of the 14 $100m domestic summer grossers failed to do $100m internationally (Bad Moms, Central Intelligence, Ghostbusters).

On the flipside, there were eight summer movies that did less than $100m domestic, but did over $100 million internationally… six sequels, as well as Warcraft and Me Before You.

So what’s my point? This summer feels down. It feels like we have been drowning in IP, though the truth is that we have only had four actual sequels to date. (There were 11 sequels last summer and by the end of this summer, there will also be 11.)

Guardians, Vol. 2 is fine, thanks. Overall, it is up about 10% from the first, almost equally from domestic and international.

Alien: Covenant about doubled its domestic gross internationally and is now at about $215 million. China is still to come.

Pirates: Dead Men Tell No Tales is at $650 worldwide and will soon pass the first Pirates. But the billion-dollar hopes (three of the four previous films did over $950m ww) are gone. And China doubled its gross from the last film… but still, China gets the 20% return asterisk, making the overall haul about $70m less impressive.

Cars 3 is too soon to tell… but Cars did $218m internationally, which was less than the domestic gross and Cars 2 did $371m, which was two-thirds of the overall worldwide gross. So, a tale of two very different box office grosses in an evolving worldwide box office standard. 2 was off $50 million from the first… and there is a good chance that 3 will be off as much from 2. What will happen internationally?

The IP films that are perceived domestic bombs are having success internationally. Baywatch is already at $120 million worldwide. King Arthur grabbed $100 million internationally, though the film is still nowhere near black ink… $75 million writedown at the very least. And Tom Cruise’s international juice is giving the finger to Variety and those who want to hang him out to dry. The film is near $300 million worldwide today, $239m international. There is still a good chunk to get before the film is out of the red, but international has protected the studio from a legitimate disaster.

As for the new films? June gloom. It used to be the norm, then there was a run of a few years when the slot offered up Man of Steel, 22 Jump Street, and Jurassic World. But last year in this slot wasn’t pretty and this year, a little worse.

I coincidentally mentioned 22 Jump Street. In the three years since that release – this same weekend in 2014 – the only other $50 million opening that Sony has delivered was for James Bond (Spectre). Paramount has had five $50m+ openings in that same period. Fox has had seven, Warner Bros eight, Universal nine, and the insane run at Disney has acccounted for 17 $50m+ openings in these last three years.

This is why Amy Pascal exited the top movie job at Sony… not e-mail. And now, Tom Rothman is 28 months into his tenure and while much of it can be put on Ms. Pascal’s plate, the studio is still bleeding. Spider-Man is coming… but success will be credited to Marvel (even though word is that Marvel is not happy with Sony/Rothman). The Dark Tower has dark prospects. And the next real light at the end of the tunnel is Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle in December. Baby Driver may overperform. Flatliners could overperform. But these aren’t game-changers for a studio.

For all the complaining about Tom Rothman, he did well for Fox. He had a good run and you can moan all you like, the numbers are the numbers. But the numbers are the numbers at Sony too… and there is not enough movies on the schedule that suggest big hits are coming. What is next summer for Sony? A Will Ferrell comedy. Okay. But Barbie? Slenderman? Next fall is kinda loaded (if the dates are made), but another 16 months is going to be a white knuckle ride if that is the expectation.

About eight months ago, Brad Grey did a presentation that was, essentially, an attempt to convince everyone that he had a vision for the future of Paramount. But it wasn’t very convincing. And he was out (apparently not because he was mortally ill).

Tom Rothman is an enthusiastic film lover. He needs to convince his bosses that he has a vision for the future. And it would probably behoove him to convince the rest of Hollywood. No one wants to go to a studio where your one movie is the thing that is needed to turn the place around. People want to take their most commercial projects to the places where the tide is already high and they can get all the benefits of that… and if magic strikes, be the big hit everyone wants.

Sony should have dumped Rough Night or spent some money to try to fix its inherent big-ticket flaws. I truly believe that they could have turned the corner, cutting the film to the bone and then shooting for three weeks with someone like Paul Feig or Apatow guiding the process. There is near-consensus that the film stops dead when the guy gets killed. So go the full Weekend at Bernie’s or make trying to get rid of the body funny or let them get comfortable with the body as a symbol of their empowerment. SOMETHING! Get some more Demi and Ty Burrell in there. De-pathetic the second act Jillian Bell. Give Scarlett the on-screen make-over. And I’m not even saying that the director couldn’t deliver this. She just needed a much, much stronger third act. This is, mostly, a movie on a stage. Invest another $10 million to make it work well enough to sell or push it to Amazon or Netflix and take your loss. That’s all I’m sayin’.

All Eyez On Me is a hit, given its circumstances. It’s not a huge number. And it will drop a lot next week. But it’s a win. Tupac passed away before the explosion of international… so no idea how it will play there. Maybe France? UK?

47 Meters Down did better than I expected. Entertainment Studios’ first film. They seemed to spend more on publicity than advertising. Smart. I don’t have the numbers, but I can’t believe they expected more.

And The Book of Henry is a classic smash-hit-post-partum present to a director. Focus spent bupkiss on this one and it was probably the right choice. Film Festival opening night in place of a premiere. Etc, etc, etc. A non-event. Looking forward to seeing it on Starz. I bet it’s underrated… and still not a project that was ever going to find an audience as broad as the 569-screen release it got this weekend.

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Friday Estimates by Lenpac Shaklady

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It’s starting to feel like one of those summers that will only get interesting on the back end.

Transformers, Despicable 3, The House, Spidey, Apes, Dunkirk, Detroit… there’s a lot coming out in the next couple months and Guardians 2, all of six weeks ago, is already ancient history.

Cars is a franchise that the media could not care less about. Reviews are always mixed-to-negative. The grosses are never huge, especially domestically. But it is a merchandising cash machine for Disney, as well as Lasseter’s baby, so on it goes. Only thing interesting (barely) about this opening is that it is almost the same Friday number as the first film in the series.

All Eyez on Me is the niche audience smash of the month. It will be the second biggest musical biopic opening ever, around half of Straight Outta Compton‘s. The Rotten Tomatoes obsession will be dented by the 24 score and the big opening. But the pros know this is a niche moviem and niches don’t pay any attention to RT scores. (I will tackle the whole issue of whether anyone decides based on RT scores in some depth this coming week.)

47 Meters Down is a modest debut success for Byron Allen’s theatrical distribution entity, Entertainment Studios. Mandy Moore is lovely and all, but she’s never opened anything. The distributor spent, but not insanely. And got a result that could not realistically expected to be any better.

Rough Night. ROUGH! Not a surprise. Tracking has not been pretty. But still… ouch. I don’t have a clear idea of how it could have gone any better, considering the movie they released. The film is as disjointed as the advertising. And while, perhaps, you could construct a clear idea with a lot of careful cutting of spots (comparing it to the clearly shaped ideas of The Hangover is insulting to The Hangover), it is a tough assignment when the moments that are fun are the five great actresses riffing. Still… you have to go back almost a decade to find a Scarlett Jo opening quiet this bad. (Zoo was a Christmas eve open… others—not her—in the lead).

I am confused by the Focus dump of The Book of Henry directly after premiering at a film festival. The people at Focus are smart, but this feels like they were looking for cover for the inevitable bomb. Did it need to be an inevitable bomb? In a sane world, it would have been distributed outside of the Universal/Focus family and maybe found a softer berth. As for ramifications… stop it. This movie was, essentially, part of Trevorrow’s pay for Jurassic World and with a $10m budget, would not likely have been made otherwise. Nothing to see here.

In the $10k per-screen exclusive release universe, the doc Hare Krishna! The Mantra, the Movement and the Swami Who Started It All tops the weekend while The Journey, a docudrama about internal conflicts in Northern Ireland politics, will also score.

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What Did John J. Avildsen Movies Mean To You?

First reactions online (especially on Twitter) to the passing of the director of The Karate Kid, Lean on Me and Rocky have been emotional. What did his movies mean to you, from childhood, later?
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Review-ish: Rough Night

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Rough Night really doesn’t need a review.

The film takes five appealing and funny actors, starts down the road of a very broad (no pun intended) comedy, and then stops dead in its tracks with the absolutely accidental death of a guy who they think is a stripper.

Didn’t put a “Spoiler Alert” there, as the fact that he isn’t the stripper they were expecting is not telegraphed, but sky-written. And that doesn’t get corrected for what seems like forever… which stands in as an example of what is wrong with this movie.

The comparisons to Peter Berg’s directing debut, the much-debated 1998 Very Bad Things (I was not a fan) don’t seem apt to me, as that film was never positioned as a wacky fun comedy… pitch-black in tone from stem to stern. Yeah, dead sex worker.

Rough Night, on the other hand, is very much a “slightly uptight grown-up woman gets her goofy groove back after a weekend with her crazy friends” comedy for the entire first act… and that is when it (mostly) works. It’s a disjointed mess, pushing gags over story, but with these women, it is fun.

Then, as soon as the “stripper” is killed, in an utterly silly, innocent way, it turns into a “how would women behave if they killed a stripper in Miami by mistake, but a couple of the friends had something to lose if they called the police, so they slowly melt down” drama, much more akin to Netflix’s “Bloodline” than Weekend At Bernie’s.

As I sat in the theater, I wondered, “Is this the female identification movie that women want to see and I just don’t get it?” I don’t think anyone needs to see that. I truly love watching these women do comedy. But as soon as you flip the switch to drama, you need great writing and a solid story… and this film has neither.

A couple moments stuck out.

“Stripper” is bleeding heavily from his head and it is about to get on the white carpet that one of the characters mentioned not wanting to stain. So what is the solution? Towels! They make a big deal out of staining the towels for a second, but towels. Perfectly sane choice. And boring. It doesn’t raise the comedy level. It doesn’t raise the drama level. It’s just what you would do. Not good comedy. Not good drama. Just… so what?

Great visual gag in the second act when the ladies decide to move the body away from the house. All they have access to is a Smart Car (or whatever tiny vehicle it is). The car is so small that the corpse is sticking out of the sunroof with his arms out of the windows. Funny image. But it is only that because we don’t get the process of putting him in the car… or the need for all four (the fifth is napping) women to be in the car at once… or on what planet they think a cop wouldn’t pull them over… or anything much more than the visual gag, which also comes in the middle of these women seriously trying to figure out how to rid themselves of the body.

I am willing to eat most of the wacky comedy coincidences in the script, even if they make no sense. It’s not a documentary. When anyone gets control of a bad guy and then tosses the gun away within reach, you know the bad guy is coming back with that gun. Movie Cliche 4369. I can live with that. And the lack of backstory that would enrich the story… unfortunate loss, but I so like these women.

But you need to pick a tone unless changing tone is going to be brilliant. Demme’s Something Wild went to a deep, brutally dark place in the third act after a lot of whimsy and sexy romance. But some of the most memorable moments in cinema (and Ray Liotta’s career) came out of it.

Before I stop, one beat that I liked a lot and thought would have been brilliant if it was played out. In one of the beats, the amazing Ilana Glazer, who plays a character who seems up for pretty much anything (though seriously lesbian), goes from trying to seduce a cop to knocking him out after he feels her up. There is so much going on there. The flip from passivity to aggression. The thought about what she would do if she knew the guy was a stripper, not a cop (again… no need to SPOILER ALERT, as you will see it coming a block away). The power of a small woman being able to knock a large man out with one good shot to the head. A lot of her character is right there in a 15-second bit…if you fill it out a bit. But instead, it was another gag that made little sense, but that you would forgive happily if it made any sense.

In a weird way, Rough Night is like a failed Midnight Run, where the story was complex, often right at the edge of credibility, but just kept on surprising you and within a minute made sense at every turn because the characters were so well-drawn and… well… because it made sense. Take any big gag in Midnight Run, set it aside from that film, and you get a “will the audience believe that?” in a development meeting. Here you have five strong performers with pretty clear characters and they stay on the rails pretty well… until you get to the major event of the film and then it becomes oil and balsamic without a piece of bread to force them to stay together in one place.

I won’t even start on the outsized amount of time put into one relationship that isn’t critical to the movie’s outcome.

This is The Summer of The Missing Producer. Love or hate IP films, there are better ones and worse ones. There is good and bad in Wonder Woman, but the creative producers let that script hold together in a way that made for one of the best films of the summer. But Baywatch? Snatched? King Arthur? Plenty of talent involved… solid foundations (however well worn)… but at some point in each film (some from the casting stage), these ideas are blown into the ether and there is nothing holding things together besides isolated jokes, abs or other body parts, great cinematography, excessive scoring, and the fact that you already paid for your ticket.

Gotta get better… right?

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“Twin Peaks” SPOILER Zone

Anyone reading write-ups of the episodes now that six of eighteen episodes are out in the world? What are the best theories? What are the things that should never get explained? Elements of Eraserhead, pieces of Lynch’s never-produced “Ronnie Rocket” screenplay and outtakes from Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me have echoed into the unfurling narrative. Does Lynch’s one-minute Lumière tribute short, Premonitions Following an Evil Deed, tell us anything?

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Weekend Estimates by Second Weekend Klady

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Remembering Adam West

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(From a 1962 episode of “Perry Mason.”)

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Friday Estimates by Mummy’s Boy Klady

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So the question of the week seems to be whether The Mummy will, somehow, be affected by its uniformly lousy reviews. And so far, so minimally off tracking. In other words… not a trend.

What has been unique this summer so far is the unanimity of harsh negativity for so much product. I will be doing a fuller analysis of this next week when I am back at my desktop.

More to come… probably…

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The Hot Blog

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“There’s a mass belief that if you’re texting, you’re somehow not interrupting the conversation—you’re not being rude. It’s an illusion of multitasking. I started filmmaking when people didn’t expect to have a phone on set, when it would’ve been seen as unprofessional to pull out a phone. Phones have become a huge distraction, and people work much better without them. At first it causes difficulty, but it really allows them to concentrate on what they’re doing. Everybody understands. I’ve had a lot of crews thank me. With a set, we’re trying to create a bubble of alternate reality.”
~ Christopher Nolan

“I’ve always loved films that approach sound in an impressionistic way and that is an unusual approach for a mainstream blockbuster, but I feel it’s the right approach for this experiential film. Many of the filmmakers I’ve admired over the years have used sound in bold and adventurous ways. I don’t agree with the idea that you can only achieve clarity through dialogue. Clarity of story, clarity of emotions—I try to achieve that in a very layered way using all the different things at my disposal—picture and sound.”
~ Christopher Nolan