The Hot Blog Archive for November, 2017

Weekend Estimates by Justice Served Soft Klady

Weekend Estimates 2017-11-19 10AM

The pathetic opening for Justice League is as simple as, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on you. Fool me three times? No, thanks.”

Warner Bros.’ effort to make the great fortunes that comic book movies could offer with the DC brand has been a disaster with intermittent bouts of mastery. Donner, Burton and Nolan are the masters. The studio learned the lesson that a strong, clear voice was important in building a solid franchise run. Richard Lester split Superman II with Donner and they all got lucky…. but the Donner vision would never have delivered a disaster like Superman III. Schumacher took Burton’s vision too far and crashed the franchise. Nolan came in to WB and took Bryan Singer’s X-Men model and topped it.

Then Jeff Robinov, who had overcommitted to Zack Snyder for three straight money-losing films before handing him the keys to the franchise the studio was counting on becoming the foundation of the entire studio as Harry Potter ended. The instinct to hand the keys to a single artist with a clear vision was the right one. But they picked the wrong artist.

Somehow, they were smart enough to stop making Bryan Singer Superman movies after one. And Green Lantern got the single shot. But Snyder got three.

And now, it’s over.

Warner Bros probably won’t lose money on Justice League. But they will come close.

They probably were hoping that they could convert inside of one movie from Snyder to Whedon with the same success as Donner to Lester. But instead, they got schizophrenia. And they got it so strongly that it came across in the marketing.

If I were Warners, I would put Superman and Batman on ice for two or three years and build a base. Keep the budgets tight. Build character over CG extravaganza… which leads to the next Wonder Woman. Do the Flash movie with Stephen Chbosky and Ezra Miller. If there is a good story for Cyborg, find it. Make the Batgirl movie. Try Catwoman again with a fresh take. And I guess, yeah… if you have a young, fresh take on Batman or Superman, for a price, do it.

I still want to see the The Dark Knight Returns done the way Frank Miller did it… bitter old guys. Or find the kind of director who would pair Gyllenhaal and Phoenix as Superman and Batman.

Just hire Lord & Miller and let them do whatever the hell they want inside the DC Universe. Hand Sofia Coppola or Greta Gerwig whatever character they want to make an intimate piece about being a superhero. Let’s see what the Safdie Bros can do with a villain on a $10 million budget. Let’s see Soderbergh’s $50 million Justice League.

In other words, shake it up. The characters will maintain their intrinsic value. Let DC be cool… for a minute.

DC remains the most squandered asset in all of moviedom. And Lucasfilm just tied up Rian Johnson for the next 5 years. AT&T is coming. Let it roll.

In other news, Wonder opened really nicely. Look at the Top 20 and except for third weekend of Bad Moms 2, find me a movie on more than 300 screens that women might want to see in large numbers. That would be Wonder.

Speaking of screen count… there are only eight films on 1000+ screens this weekend. Last year, on “this” weekend, 13. Overall the studio movie count hasn’t change much this year.

Disney -3 11 to 8
Fox +2 12 to 14
WB +1 16 to 17
Sony +3 19 to 22
Par -4 15 to 11
U -2 16 to 14

But release dates are in need of deep analysis. The August abandonment and the glut on too many weekends is of great interest. There are two limited releases in the Top 9 this weekend. They are two success stories of different colors. Lady Bird expanded to 238 and stayed over $10k per screen. A24 is pushing it out faster than Moonlight, and to bigger numbers as well. We’re a long way from the domestic total, but I’d like Lady Bird to get past $30 million before Oscar nominations and to crack $45 million if Greta Gerwig gets a directing nomination.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri did similar numbers to the second weekend of Lady Bird, but on more screens. Ironically, it was Searchlight that made Saoirse Ronan more marketable with Brooklyn and they now have a challenge with the brilliant 3 Billboards, which has great actors who have limited box office pull. A24 has to wait for the Saturday after Thanksgiving to start mining the benefits of Saoirse hosting Saturday Night Live. Her not being this last weekend’s host probably cost $3 million or more at the Thanksgiving weekend box office. But I have a feeling they will make up for it.

Roman J Israel, Esq did nothing to help itself with a four-screen release this weekend. 5000 or 6000 people saw the film. Meaningless sample. Paramount did this with Fences last year and did almost exactly double the gross. They didn’t need it either. But in their case, it was the weekend before Christmas and they probably would have had a hard time getting 2000+ screens they wanted with the Rogue One opening.

Roughly 500 people saw Mudbound in a theater.

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Friday Estimates by Waiting For Supe-ot Klady

Friday Estimates 2017-11-18 at 8.33.42 AM

(Did anyone see the earlier version of this post before it disappeared?)

Of 54 movies that have had a Friday opening of $38 million or more, only 4 failed to crack $100 million for the 3-day… 2 Fast/Furious films (#6 & #8), a Potter (Azkaban), and the most recent Godzilla.

So why are outlets projecting that Justice League will come up short of $100 million?

My guess? Because they were told to by Warner Bros.

It is possible that Justice League will, indeed, come up short for the weekend. Telling writers that it will be under that wire softens the blow if it happens. But more so, if the movie does pass $100 million, the idea has been in place that $100 million is a positive mark for the film… a surprise from Friday to Sunday morning. Writers will spin themselves.

Of course, underlying this is the fact that Justice League is a disaster for Warner Bros. opening to just over $100 million, as opposed to $130 million-plus. A Wonder Woman opening for the movie where the whole thing is meant to come together is a failure.

And WB has my sympathy as I watched their marketers struggle for months with signalling to audiences that Superman would be in the movie while trying not to tell audiences openly that Superman would be in the movie. It is a reminder, long before marketing, that Zack Snyder is an arrogant fool as a producer and that whoever greenlit the idea of killing Superman and then pretending he wasn’t in Justice League while DC was still struggling to find its commercial footing should probably be fired.

Regardless, the manipulation of box-office writers is a process of managing expectations for a group that isn’t all that interested in thinking for themselves. Problem isthat these ideas get repeated to the public ad nauseum with almost no detail. And with weekend box office, who really cares? Right?

But the problem is bigger than box office. Studios forget that every time they manipulate the truth for a small gain in marketing, they are feeding a monster that will come back to haunt them later. Box office has become a game. But so have reviews. Every time a quote whore gets quoted, studios are devaluing criticism and legitimizing the simplistic aggregation of Rotten Tomatoes. Don’t misunderstand me… nothing wrong with Rotten Tomatoes. It was a great idea and it offers a service that can be used in a positive way. But it can also be abused. And lately, studios have felt threatened by that RT score. That leads to efforts to manipulate the RT score… which is where madness lies.

Harmless lies or harmless thoughtlessness is not harmless.

Being moorless when things are bad gives you room to maneuver. Being moorless when things are good makes your success seem smaller than it is. Either way, choosing to work the fringes of truth does not actually empower studios. It is the corn syrup of Hollywood.

Wonder is the biggest opener for Lionsgate, aside from the Saban-controlled Power Rangers output deal, since Madea Boo! in October 2016. And I expect it will be leggier than anyone imagined because of a dearth of product aimed at female audiences and pre-college-age kids.

Expansions for Lady Bird and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri went well.

No idea what Sony was thinking with the four-screen run of Roman Israel, Esq… but it didn’t work. It worked for Fences last year… but Fences is a whole different kettle of fish.

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BYOHeroes: Justice League Spoilers Welcome Here

Philtrum
[“Uncanny philtrum” via Mark Harris/Twitter.]

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Erasing Spacey

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BYOGG

Here come the Globes: The august members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association says Get Out is a comedy.

What’s going to be the next strange moment in the unfolding awards season?

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Weekend Estimates

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Friday Estimates

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Kristen Stewart’s COME SWIM (17’58”) From Refinery 29

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BYOB: It’s Not Just For Harvey Anymore

byob ck moore

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Rian Johnson Gets His Own Trilogy

Good, right?

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Fresh Ideas In Hollywood? Start With Executives!

I was in the middle of writing a piece about the studio landscape this week and BOOM!, down goes Megan Colligan.

I expect that she leapt before she got whacked. Not shocking. New chiefs tend to clear the decks and bring in people who were part of the success that got them the job. Plus, Colligan was stuck with Brad Grey’s decade of horrible decisions, reaping the benefit of Grey overspending on Paramount Vantage, over-delivering on movies that didn’t deserve so much attention but which got it because there was so little on the slate, and smashing into walls trying sell Shinola, pretending all the time that it wasn’t really shit. Rise and fall… and she will rise again soon enough.

So. For new chief Jim Gianopulos, the marketer with whom he had great success would be…

Anyone? Anyone?

And there is the problem.

Who is in the top slot overseeing film at the six majors?

Tom Rothman, Jim Gianopulos, Stacey Snider, Alan Horn, Donna Langley and Kevin Tsujihara.

Donna Langley has survived many sales and nukes at Universal and has been there a long time. Kevin Tsujihara is the newbie, has been on shaky ground from Day One and It isn’t enough to change that, and is about to face a new owner.

And then, you have the history of leadership in the film business going back over 20 years still running four of the majors.

And when there might be an open slot, who do the owners cling to?

Oren Aviv, Peter Chernin, Dick Cook, Brad Grey, Sherry Lansing, Bill Mechanic, Barry Meyer, Amy Pascal.

New Business, Mogul-ing, Retired, Dead, Retired, Producing, Retired, Producing.

Who is the one person who hasn’t run a big show that people are still obsessed with? Elizabeth Gabler… because she keeps saying, “no.”

Scott Stuber is at Netflix. Mary Parent is at Legendary (for now). Where did Donald Tang go when he wanted to reboot Open Road? Rob Friedman.  And where did Friedman go for a head of marketing? His old young EVP from Summit, Jack Pan.

In the immortal words of The Joker, “This town needs an enema.”

With due respect to an excellent career by Jim G, he’s never had success in the top job as a solo act, so why assume that he will be able to fix all that is wrong with Paramount? Remember, they are cash poor and every time some company goes on an asset search, it’s “thumbs down” on the Paramount/Viacom B asset base. Paramount has a wonderful history, but a lot of their assets don’t seem ready to convert to The Now. Library is excellent, but probably the fourth or fifth best out there. The cable networks are tired. TV is not the powerhouse it once was. And Jim G’s boss wants to spin straw into gold. Is Jim G going to take a big swing, chancing a strike out?

Wyck Godfrey: The Hire says, “No.” It says that Paramount is going to be chasing what didn’t work out for Jim G at Fox. This is not an indictment of Wyck Godfrey. He is a producer of significance. But will his Paramount slate ever hit anything better than a double? Can a studio thrive on that?

We are at the very beginning of Fox demonstrating Stacey Snider’s voice. The biggest thing she can bring is stability and a safer work environment (which the Murdochs will have to support… and should).

Horn is overseeing the multi-pronged Disney IP machine. And the new chatter about Disney buying Fox would put Stacey Snider in place to fill Alan Horn’s space on retirement, which would kinda be perfect for another decade-plus.

Warner Bros is a troubled studio, even with a run of success in the last few months. Some people on top are incredibly talented, but internal politics have overwhelmed any vision for years now and it shows. And now, the shadow of AT&T is hanging over what, just a decade ago, was the Big Movie capital of Hollywood that also played well to the middle movie range of comedies and dramas… with much of the same executive talent making that happen.

I was not a huge Jeff Robinov fan, but at least he knew where he wanted to go.

Tom Rothman is in “prove it” space at Sony and Jumani better kill. I am not telling you anything that everyone doesn’t know… though some assumed his career dead months ago. Rothman has a vision. Lots of people don’t like his vision. But he has a real track record and he hasn’t tended to lose a lot of money. But he has over this last year… so we will see.

And Universal is pretty much golden about now. The internal ranks, with as much change has happened, have been remarkably stable through five ownership changes. Comcast isn’t going anywhere. The studio plays to all fields. Marketing is like a rock (not without flaws, but solid). And aside from the now-stalled monsters relaunch, they have avoided disaster for a number of years now. And it seems that the bosses at Comcast are happy with what they own.

With Colligan’s exit, the 3/3 balance of male/female marketing chiefs is in play. Strauss and Goldstine aren’t going anywhere. Pam Levine is freshly set at Fox. Blair Rich is good at WB for now… always a potential “it was marketing” target if things go flat again over there. And Josh Greenstein lasts if Rothman lasts… JUMANJI!

Who is left for Jim G?

Tony Sella? Tomas Jegeus? Paul Hanneman?

It’s funny. Because every once in a while, Hollywood reaches for something new. And you get MT Carney… an everyone goes back into the same hot tub for a decade or so.

And that is why change is hard. It’ is hard. It’s risky. And this industry loves playing the same record over and over and over again.

Meanwhile, the media is OBSESSED with change. Change is good. Not change is bad. To the point of dementia.

Somewhere in the middle lies sanity.

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Weekend Estimates by Sore: Kladnarok

Weekend Estimates 2017-11-05 at 10.02.10 AM

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Friday Estimates

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Jodie Foster on “The Silence Of The Lambs” at BFI Southbank (38’42”)

Pretty much covers the subject in a rich 40 minutes.

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A THOR: RAGNAROK Thread, Not Limited To Spoilers

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The Hot Blog

Quote Unquotesee all »

“I never accepted the term contrarian. I think that’s offensive, frankly. And my response to that is: if I’m a contrarian, what are other reviewers? What I strive to do is be a good critic, not somebody who simply accepts the product put in front of me. I guess it scares people to think that they don’t have any originality; that they don’t have the capacity to think for themselves.

“There’s a line a lot of reviewers use that I don’t like at all. They say ‘accept the film on its own terms.’ What that really means is, ‘accept the film as it is advertised.’ That’s got nothing to do with criticism. Nothing to do with having a response as a film watcher. A thinking person has to analyze what’s on screen, not simply rubber-stamp it or kowtow to marketing.”m

“To me, everything does have a political component and I think it’s an interesting way to look at art. It’s one way that makes film reviewing, I think, a politically relevant form of journalism. We do live in a political world, and we bring our political sense to the movies with us – unless you’re the kind of person who goes to the movies and shuts off the outside world. I’m not that kind of person.”
~ Armond White to Luke Buckmaster

“One of comedy’s defining pathologies, alongside literal pathologies like narcissism and self-loathing, is its swaggering certainty that it is part of the political vanguard, while upholding one of the most rigidly patriarchal hierarchies of any art form.”
~ Lindy West