The Hot Blog Archive for August, 2017

BYOO (Bring Your Own Opinion)

By William Hook [CC BY-SA 2.0]

By William Hook [CC BY-SA 2.0]

At Bulldog’s suggestion, for a different sort of give-and-take: A sentence or two about the last four movies you saw and where/how you saw them… Go!


Dee Rees Addresses Sundance’s L. A. NEXT FEST

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Weekend Estimates by Klady: Creation

Weekend Estimates 2017-08-13 at 10.15.42 AM copy

Annabelle: Creation is off about $2 million from the opening of the first Annabelle, which is almost exactly how much The Conjuring 2 was off of The Conjuring. Ahhh… consistency. Dunkirk holds strong and while summer is ending and September is loaded, there is no other major IMAX event coming for six weeks. Nut Job 2 is 3. The Glass Castle manages near $5 million on only 1,481 screens, which is good, because they are spending less on ads. Baby Driver crosses $100 million. And Ingrid Goes West and Good Time battle to be sexually undefined leader of the exclusive launch.


This discussion feels trivial today… especially since it’s not an interesting moment to discuss box office.

It’s time for a summer wrap-up, but that will wait for the middle of the week.

Be well, all.


Friday Estimates by Klady: Creation

Friday Estimates 2017-08-12 at 9.09.48 AM

It’s been an uninspired summer and this is an appropriately uninspired weekend to close it out.

Annabelle: Creation will win easily. As The Conjuring 2 opened to within $1.5 million of The Conjuring, Annabelle 2 looks like it will open within $1.5 million of Annabelle.

With Dunkirk holding strong at #2, this is the first time in at least a decade (I stopped my research with 2007) in which WB has had the #1 and #2 movie on a weekend.

The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature could crack $10 million, but won’t come close to the surprise success of The Nut Job.

If The Dark Tower opened bigger, a 62% second Friday drop wouldn’t be bad. But…

Girls Trip is slowing, but still pushing along to $100 million sometime in the next five or six days.

Spider-Man: Homecoming passes $300 million domestic, which neither Amazing Spider-Man movie did, but it is lagging behind both ASMs worldwide. Worldwide will likely pass ASM2 worldwide, but not ASM.

The Glass Castle tiptoed out and will do about $3k per screen on 1,461.

Detroit, in its second weekend, starts the weekend out of the Top 10, likely to gross less than $4 million for the 3-day.

Ingrid Goes West and Good Time roll out well in exclusives, with Good making a little more on four but with Ingrid doing a better per-screen on three.


Tipping Point: The Streaming Wars Are About To Start (in 2020)

The pieces are coming together.

Disney is the first to announce that it will launch a proper studio streaming-app business in 2019.

The non-renewal of the deal with Netflix will “open up” $450 million or so for the streamer… but the number is irrelevant to both Netflix and Disney, although all the headlines seem to find this the most important angle.

Netflix can do a deal with another studio, though the price will be higher.

But Disney is going after the future. Completely guessing at a number here, but… $8 a month… 10 million subs in the first year… almost a billion in gross revenue.

$5 more a month for ESPN? Add 5 million more subs and we’re at $2.34 billion. (And ESPN drops to 60m cable/satellite households. About $3.6 billion annually.)

$2 more a month for Marvel and $2 more for Lucasfilm. Let’s say those two entities drive another 5 million subs in that first year. The streamer is now generating over $4 billion a year.

And that’s just the first year or so, with only about 40% of Netflix’s penetration.

I think $17 a month for those services (including ABC, Disney films and Pixar), is a doable number in the current marketplace. It will eventually be high… but that’s down the road. Things get more complicated down that road. Cable and satellite will find a way to re-assert themselves. Consumers will have a lot more options.

Who’s next in the pool? AT& T seems like a sure bet. They have a more complicated portfolio than Disney. For instance, they own DirecTV, which generates over $30 billion a year. Still, the interest in keeping revenues at the satellite provider high hasn’t kept DirecTV from offering a streaming bundle product, DirecTV Now.The big trick they have to figure out is how to keep the numbers up among the top tier of spenders, who pay $150 a month-plus for service.

Add to this mix Warner Bros film and TV content as well as HBO (which already has a $15 a month streaming option), Cinemax, and streamer Warner Archive, while also hoping to keep monthly numbers going up or even remaining stable.

Of course, there is also the potential for heavy cost savings for the DirecTV brand, if they slim down. The spend a fortune paying the channels they carry. This is a big complication moving forward for both AT&T and Comcast, as a big part of their spending and revenue is based on paying competitors for broadcast content while the current trend is leaning on selling your own created content as exclusive.

Comcast is already the most integrated business in the game, bringing in individualized companies, rather than isolating them. For instance, you can get Netflix through your Xfinity cable box. Comcast has also developed a much more complete system of video on demand for broadcast on their system than, say, DirecTV, where it is still more sporadic.

Like Disney (unlike the planned AT&T/Time-Warner combinaton), Comcast has a major broadcast network. All three have studios that produce both film and television. AT&T/Time-Warner will have the biggest library to work with once the merger lands, but Disney may have the must-subscribe library, with the power of family films, ESPN, Marvel and Lucasfilm. (Stories suggesting that Netflix might keep the Marvel or Lucasfilm packages for more years seems truly foolish for Disney, even if there seems to be some upside in cash money. If they are serious about launching streaming, they need to launch with full aggression.)

The upside for Netflix is that as the studios (and the broadcast and major cable networks with them) build out these standalone options, the plateau Netflix is on can expand from the mid-50 million subs to the ubiquitous 100 million subs. Netflix can keep spending about where it is now and double their domestic revenue. This would still make their stock price significantly too high for the real value of the company, perhaps even more so because the market would now see the massive competition landing on the company’s doorstep.

Other major content producers will follow the lead. Fox is the most obviously analogous to Comcast, AT&T, and Disney as they have a broadcast network, cable nets, big film and TV businesses, and the biggest library of the last three major studios. Financial concerns at Sony and Paramount could propel those companies into a more aggressive position than their current status would befit.

Also, this movement could force another reconsideration of Viacom reconnecting Paramount (etc) and CBS. If the price point does become $15, selling CBS, Showtime, Paramount and Nickelodeon as standalones is not happening. Even if the base price is $8 a month, the real world is not going to pay these companies $32 a month for their content, which represents only about 20% of what is out there.

The giant question that remains: How will Comcast and AT&T combine the new not-really-a-la-carte universe of On Demand (expect a new name to be coined soon) and their traditional cable and satellite businesses, which represent over 75% of American households right now? Every 10 million households subscribed is about $8 billion a year in gross revenue. A skinny package that cuts the monthly cost to consumers in half may be a solid foundation for most American households and the future of these delivery systems with a-la-carte purchases adding to that total.

But if Comcast has their gross cable revenue cut in half and then every buyer pays an additional $15 a month for NBC/Universal, they are still 25% short. Hard bridge to cross. Is the uptick in home internet service where them make up (and/or exceed) their original revenues?

AT&T is more complex, already in the process of trying to expand its home internet position, leveraging the DirecTV audience to wire as many homes with their broadband services as DirecTV has subs. Comcast’s position, in this case, is a bit better than AT&T’s as change is hard and AT&T likely needs to make up the shortfall indicated above with broadband revenues (unless they have a bigger idea).

And then there is the next evolution. Even if the price for each major studio and the connected cable nets, broadcast nets, etc, is $15 apiece, there are six of them and we are at $90 a month for the complete package… before adding Netflix, Hulu and Amazon. That makes it $120 a month. Now add all the cable nets, like FX and AMC, nickel-and-diming, but still adding on. The average spend on what comes to America’s TVs is not going up to $150 a household anytime soon.

And so, bundling will begin. How much will people pay to not have commercials? Maybe an added $30 a month per household is realistic (if you include broadcast TV). How does that get cut up? Is there going to be enough for those broadcasters?

There will be those who will be happy to overpay. (Same people who the film industry fantasizes about when discussing collapsing windows.) But the average spend is going to be under $85 a month for most households for many years to come. So how do you cut up the pie when streaming comes to shove?

That is the next big story.

For now, Disney is the tipping point. If they fail early on (and separating out Marvel and Lucasfilm could cause that), the evolution will slow. If they are a hit, the evolution will be like sound in film… virtually overnight as everyone chooses to eat the financial costs to avoid being shoved out of the business completely within a few years.

It’s gonna be fun. It’s gonna get ugly. And in about 10 years, consumers will have the most access for the most reasonable price in the history of filmed entertainment. A price will be paid. That is what this next decade will be about… who pays it and how much it hurts.


Disney And Netflix In Several Short Tweets (updated)

Disney  logo Netflix_Logo_DigitalVideo_0701


“9/11″‘s Back With A Second Trailer, Now With More Charlie Sheen Explanation Than Ever

After the overwhelming response to the trailer for Charlie Sheen’s 9/11, the filmmakers release 9/11! Part Deux. You have been warned.

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Weekend Estimates by Numbers in Black Klady

wknd Estimates 2017-08-06 at 10.32.27 AM copy

The weekend went from bad to worse, as The Dark Tower turned out to be front-loaded, managing only 2.5x Friday for the weekend and Detroit, great reviews and all, managed only 2.8x Friday. Kidnap did 2.7x Friday, but that was expected, given its genre. Meanwhile, holdovers Dunkirk, The Emoji Movie, and Girls Trip were all over the 3x Friday line. The Weinstein Company had a strong start on four screens for Wind River, delivering over $40k per.

Friday is about expectations, which has not been a good thing for movies or journalism. And 3-day estimates are about gaining perspective over a full launch of a film.

Neither was pleasant this weekend, especially for two of the three newcomers. The Dark Tower, which may have been inexpensive enough not to cost anyone at Sony their job, couldn’t get to a $20 million opening. You have to go all the way back to 1998 to find a first week of August without a $20 million opener. Snake Eyes and Halloween: H2O. Memories light the corners of my mind.

Still, even with the weak weekend, The Dark Tower is the #2 Stephen King opening of all time. A big chunk of that is timing, as 28 of the 41 Stephen King adaptations launched more than 20 years ago, when opening weekend wasn’t the studio-created obsession that it is now. (The hysteria about shortening the windows didn’t come from audience preference. It’s been driven this way for decades now.) Still, 1408 is the only $20 million opener and The Green Mile is the only film to gross over $72m domestic. So dream as we might about the master of thrills, one of the greats of the past two generations, delivering big hit movies, history tells us otherwise. Could this change, in what is really the third wave of King movies? Sure. It might explode. But more likely, The King Fantasy will continue to be fool’s gold. Some really good, memorable films made throughout. But more niche product than mass product for moviegoers.

$10 million for Kidnap is a win for the new distributor. It suggests $25m at minimum for theatrical, which should more than cover the careful marketing and give the film a bigger price tag in post-theatrical. Lots of existing distributors would be happy with this number for a not-so-great film with a star who doesn’t have a ton of opening power.

And Detroit. Just couldn’t close the deal. Part of the failure is the reality of a hard movie. A lot of it is misunderstanding what is hard about the movie. I covered this thoroughly yesterday.

Dunkirk continues to roll. It’s turning out that the closest Nolan comp is Batman Begins, though Interstellar seems close as well. Both suggest high 180s is where the final domestic is headed. There is already another $180m in the bank from international.

Girls Trip is slowing down, but has $100m domestic well within its sights.

Spider-Man: Homecoming is going to crack $300m domestic next weekend. International is well behind the Amazings, but China could make up the difference all by itself.

The two $10k per-screeners this weekend are Wind River and Columbus. With $40k+ per, the door is open for Wind River. But we have to be patient to see how they expand.


Friday Estimates by Excelslinger Klady

friday Esitmates 651w 080517

This is a crazy weekend.

First, The Dark Tower. With due respect to everyone who wants to kick the guy, this is why Tom Rothman survives and thrives (with thriving at Sony to come). He took a Stephen King book that the King Cult loves and he looked at the numbers. The Green Mile is the massive anomaly. It grossed more than double any other Stephen King-based film ever worldwide. 1408 is the second biggest hit, although it was sold more like a traditional horror/thriller than a Stephen King adaptation. Aside from those two, no other Stephen King-based film has grossed over $62 million domestic or $50 million international (and 1408 “only” did $133m worldwide).

So… would a $150 million effects spectacular based on a Stephen King book have been a smart bet for Sony?

The real question will be international. Can the film do $100 million or more elsewhere? If so, it’s a hero. But even if it does $50 million, the budget on this film keeps Sony safe from significant loss. And if you are harboring a fantasy that they could Mummy it, which is to say, have Tom Cruise draw $300 million-plus internationally… well… Passengers.

The punchline is that this opening suggests that Tom Rothman will survive The Dark Tower and while it will not make him super-hot, it will get him to Jumanji after a summer with two hits, a breakeven or better (TDT), and a small loser (Rough Night).

And when It opens to this number or worse, watch it get celebrated as succeeding over its head. (Truth is, It should open better than this… but we’ll see.)

Kidnap is a direct-to-video movie if ever there was one. Yet here it is, David Dinerstein’s Aviron Picture’s first theatrical release, opening to around $10 million and likely to gross at least $25 million domestic on minimal marketing spend. This follows Entertainment Studio’s 47 Meters Down, which somehow grossed $43 million domestic.

With A24 and the launch of Neon getting all the (deserved) media love, there is a new strain of distributor emerging. (Worth noting that four of the six $10m+ domestic grossers for A24 were genre films.)


Another new distributor, as Annapurna puts it out there. Great team of industry veterans. Strong movie. Strong reviews. Dud opening.

If the rest of the weekend goes well, they will open to about the same as Girls Night.

Some have argued that the date is wrong. I would agree that was a miscalculation if they thought they could be the Hell or High Water of this summer. However, World Trade Center ($19m), The Butler ($25m), and a lot of black-audience-targeted movies suggest the opportunity is there. But the argument, which I consider absurd, that Kathryn Bigelow was an inappropriate director for this film because she is white, held back any momentum in selling to the black audience, without enough time for more than a few selected mea culpas by Bigelow. And I think the marketing was ambivalent about race as a focus in the sell of this movie.

Detroit – which was never going to be an easy sell, released to huge numbers – needed a longer runway. The excitement of “Kathryn Bigelow’s next movie” isn’t that of Christopher Nolan… but it does exist in a very real way. And that is what carried anticipation through the summer. It was seen as The Closer.

First problem… the movie turned out not be about the riots. Team Annapurna knew this. Like any other audience, critics don’t like to think they know what they are getting and then being surprised. And although the Rotten Tomatoes scores suggest otherwise, many writers I spoke to said the film gave them whiplash.

Second problem… when the actual movie came into focus, it was hard as nails. You have to let people – even professionals, if not especially professionals – know that this is coming. Moreover, you need to set the table for the emotional response. Non-horror movies do not do well when the word-of-mouth is, “It’s painful to watch.” You need to turn that to, “It hurts because we are still going through this today in America and across the globe.” That takes time.

Third problem… the “white writer, white director problem” is one I hadn’t anticipated. (Maybe that is a reflection of white privilege, but while I understand that some stories are so steeped in black culture as to make a white reflection of them off-putting, this doesn’t seem to be one of those stories.) But as it started to show, the film needed champions in the black culture… champions who should have been lined up for months, even before the issue was brought up in the press. Kathryn Bigelow has been an earnest supporter of more diversity in the directing ranks for years. Where were the people who she fought for when she needed some support? And if they were signaling a problem a month ago, the team should have taken very different, more transparent actions to save the commercial release of the film.

Fourth problem… what the hell was up with that last second exclusive release last weekend? I’m sure there were plenty of good arguments for it, but it was almost assured to fail because it wasn’t really marketed and the 50,000 people who saw the film aren’t enough to create the kind of word of mouth that will push wide release numbers. What it does is muddy the waters. I would have felt a lot better about them pushing the wide by two weeks, to go to 100 screens this weekend, then 200 next weekend, then wide, rather than to throw a tiny amount of chum in the water early that won’t attract a big fish.

Fifth problem… the movie and its public face. I love the movie. But who did the opening animation? I bet it was a black artist. Perhaps a prominent black artist. Why don’t I know that? Why doesn’t everyone know that? And if it is am imitation of some black artists, Bigelow screwed up. It draws attention to itself as ethnic art… so either do it right and talk about it openly or don’t do it.

I’m glad the marketing shifted to “What happened at The Algiers” 10 days ago… but that was 10 days ago. Until then, you would have thought it was a series of stories taking place during the frenzy of the riot.

It is one of the most basic ideas of movie marketing that you need to have a clear sell. I have seen very few campaigns over these last 20 years that switch focus or tone and work out well.

And the truth is, we will never know if the movie would have opened or done better if the push was clearer and more aggressive, as I have suggested here. Hindsight isn’t really 20/20. We all just want to believe that something is 20/20.

But Detroit deserved better than an $8 million opening.

Nice limited per-screens for Wind River and Columbus.


Review-ish: The Dark Tower (spoiler-free)


It’s not as bad as people made it out to be.

You’re going to read that a lot.

And it’s not. But it is bad. And I am not going to do the normal work of reviewing to explain why. It’s the choices made before they rolled a frame of film that killed this thing, not the choices of the film itself. (And God knows, not the f-ing budget… another hundred million would have made it worse, not better.)

I will even make a list, so editors at entertainment journals can understand it. (You know who you aren’t if you aren’t one of those.)

In order:

1. Not R-rated – This is a movie about absolute evil vs the last stragglers, who hope to save everything. Sorry. McConaughey walking around saying “Stop breathing” in his most deadpan voice is not EVIL. Hundreds of people die in this movie, from central characters to faceless bodies, and you feel nothing. Why? Because they played it PG-safe.

It’s not Peckinpah, Verhoeven or even early Schwarzenegger where the body count had a scent of irony. This piece is as earnest as earnest gets. And every body that falls needs to be unpleasant for the audience.

1a. McConaughey miscast for the PG-13 version – I imagine McCanaughey would be great as an R-rated devil. At some point he (and the movie) reminded me of The Devil’s Advocate, where another great scenery chewer fucked, literally and figuratively, with Charlize Theron’s mind and body. McConaughey could make that fly. But taken down into a low-key register, he is the stiff that he was in his early movie star career, before they released the “alright, alright, alright” in him again and made him someone you love to watch. (Ironically, one of the performances of his that I love in a film that wasn’t beloved was EdTV, where Ron Howard – producer of this film – released Matthew’s goofball as well as Harrelson’s.)

So… they deballed the material. They copied the mediocrity of the Indulgent… Indigent… Indigestion… whatever it is called and that Fox thing with Logan Lerman… neither of which had burned up the box office… and then they cast seriously dark and interesting actors who would never be allowed to deliver on what they really can do… and then they put the script in the hands of…

2. Akiva Goldsman – I was tempted to make him #1. Goldsman’s career has been on the same timeline as my journalistic career and I have tried… God knows I’ve tried… to figure out why anyone has hired him in the past decade. He must be SO great in the room. Also, he is a professional. He knows where the i’s get dotted and the t’s get crossed.

But he is an epic mediocritician. (Coining that word. Send me a dime when you use it.) A Beautiful Mind and Cinderella Man were lovely movies… both of which probably would have been better with a more passionate writer. But awards and money and Ron Howard and God bless. But since 2005? Not only bad movies, bur bland as the day is long. You want to protest white male privilege in Hollywood? Start there.

I’m sure he’s a great guy. But this year has brought us, as a writer and producer, Rings, Transformers 5, King Arthur, and now The Dark Tower. No career should survive this. He has made tens of millions of dollars in the last 15 years. Retire him. It was beyond over five years ago. I love Fringe, so maybe he’s able to do TV. But his name on your movie is the first sign of creative failure on an imdb page.

And I hate writing artists off. It’s a horrible thing to do. You never know when magic will rise from the dust of defeat and with a writer, you never know how much to blame they really are. But Goldsman was on Poseidon, Jonah Hex, both terrible Da Vinci Code movies, and now this year of epic mediocrity. Enough already. It’s not like he fails from trying to be interesting. His movies are all like watching DogTV in the late night “make your dog sleep” slots.

And again.. nothing personal. Sure you’re a great guy. You have been very successful. Please, go do something else.

3. There really is no #3 – The failure of The Dark Tower is a failure of imagination… not a failure of finance… not a failure of casting… not a lack of effects… not the idea they took from Stephen King (and I haven’t read the book).

It’s GOOD versus EVIL and a teenager is going to be drawn into the multi-dimensional battle because he is special. We have seen in a million times in a million variations. So how do you make this fresh? How do you make it fun?

What was Nikolaj Arcel’s vision? No idea. And I’m not reading any of those trade stories, giddy with the prospect of embarrassing people. But knowing some of his other work, I bet he had a vision. And I bet it wasn’t a PG-13 movie.

On the other hand, it seems Arcel has made this movie before. It was called Island of Lost Souls and here is the synopsis:

14-year-old Lulu moves to a small provincial town with her mother and younger brother. One night, her brother is struck by a beam of white light – actually the spirit of Herman Hartmann from the 19th-century. To her despair, Lulu realizes that Herman has possessed her brother, and the two of them are whirled into a fevered adventure. Joined by Oliver, a rich kid, and Richard, a disillusioned clairvoyant and inventor, they take on the dark, supernatural forces gathering over the town – evil from deep in the land of the dead, determined to take over the world and see them die.

Do I want to watch this to see if it is as mediocre as The Dark Tower? No. I want to believe it is better (on 20% of the budget or less).

So maybe he is #3. I am being kind. (Met him. Like him. Liked A Royal Affair. But….)

That’s pretty much it. I am completely open to a good new version of the same-old same-old. I’d rather have some serious originality, but if you do “expected” well, okay. This movie just made every wrong decision about what it wanted to be when it grew up. And maybe they will be thrilled with another Percy Jackson… which was a Tom Rothman creation at Fox.

Not me.

(P.S. Someone please give Katheryn Winnick a role where she can be beautiful and funny and super-smart and tough. I was really hoping that she would get to act in this film… but no. Shame is a powerful emotion that we never got to see her play. She is stuck being blonde and pretty. Someone please give her a role as rich as Lagertha while still allowing her to be all the other things she is.)



kidnap Dark Tower step Detroit

Are you spending any cold cash at the box office this weekend? A/C is nice in August.


The Hot Blog

Quote Unquotesee all »

Dear Irene Cho, I will miss your energy and passion; your optimism and joy; your kindness towards friends, colleagues, strangers, struggling filmmakers, or anyone who randomly crossed your path and needed a hand. My brothers and I have long considered you another sibling in our family. Our holiday photos – both western and eastern – have you among all the cousins, in-laws, and kids… in the snow, sun, opening presents, at large dinner gatherings, playing Monopoly, breaking out pomegranate seeds and teaching us all how to dance Gangnam style. Your friendship and loyalty meant a great deal to me: you were the loudest cheerleader when I experienced victories and you were always ready with sushi when I had disappointments. You had endless crazy ideas which always seemed impossible but you would will them into existence. (Like that time you called me and suggested that we host a brunch for newly elected mayor of LA, Eric Garcetti because “he is going to president one day.” We didn’t have enough time or funding, of course, only your desire to do it. So you did, and I followed.) You created The Daily Buzz from nothing and it survived on your steam in spite of many setbacks because you believed in a platform for emerging filmmakers from all nations. Most of all, you were a wonderful mother to your son, Ethan, a devoted wife to your husband, and a wonderful sibling and daughter to your family. We will all miss how your wonderful smile and energy lit up the room and our lives. Rest in peace, Irene.
~ Rose Kuo Remembers Irene Cho on Facebook

“You know, I was never a critic. I never considered myself as a film critic. I started doing short films, writing screenplays and then for awhile, for a few years I wrote some film theory, including some film criticism because I had to, but I was never… I never had the desire to be a film critic. I never envisioned myself as a film critic, but I did that at a period of my life when I thought I kind of needed to understand things about cinema, understand things about film theory, understand the world map of cinema, and writing about movies gave me that, and also the opportunity to meet filmmakers I admired.

“To me, it was the best possible film school. The way it changed my perspective I suppose is that I believe in this connection between theory and practice. I think that you also make movies with ideas and you need to have ideas about filmmaking to achieve whatever you’re trying to achieve through your movies, but then I started making features in 1986 — a while ago — and I left all that behind.

“For the last three decades I’ve been making movies, I’ve been living, I’ve been observing the world. You become a different person, so basically my perspective on the world in general is very different and I hope that with every movie I make a step forward. I kind of hope I’m a better person, and hopefully a better filmmaker and hopefully try to… It’s very hard for me to go back to a different time when I would have different values in my relationship to filmmaking. I had a stiffer notion of cinema.”
~ Olivier Assayas