The Hot Blog Archive for April, 2018

On Bill Mechanic’s Break with the Academy

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BYOB: What’s To Love About The Theatrical Experience

Formative stories all the way up to how moviegoing treated you the last time out of the house…

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Weekend Estimates by Tax Day Klady

Friday Estimates 652 2018-04-15 at 9.40.48 AM copy

A Quiet Place was not #1 this weekend, but even if it had been #1, it’s irrelevant. It is easily the bigger box office story of the weekend. A 35% drop in a second weekend that, 1) comes after a $30m+ opening weekend, 2) is not influenced by a holiday weekend, and 3) is not an animated film is extremely rare.

A Quiet Place is #1500 on the big chart of great holds at Box Office Mojo. But there are only 84 movies ever that opened over $30 million and held 65% of the number the next weekend. Twenty-seven of those are animated films, which are stronger holders than any other genre. Twenty-three had second weekend on Christmas, New Year’s or Thanksgiving. That brings us down to 37 titles. Fifteen more are summer releases.

Of the 19 films still on the list, only seven had openings over $40 million and only four launching with over $50 million. They are American Sniper, Gravity, The Martian and now, A Quiet Place.

You may argue that I am being too generous to this film’s numbers, but every standard I have used has been pretty broad and reasonable. Holding better over a holiday weekend is to be expected. Animated films have a unique place. And the bigger the opening, the more challenging a 35% hold becomes.

There are amazing holds like Star Wars VII, Jurassic WorldBlack Panther and the nine other films with $100 million openings that held 50% or better the second weekend. But it is easy to undervalue the performance of A Quiet Place too. When I guessed that it would be a $150 million movie, others thought I was being too ambitious… turns out I was being too conservative. It is $20 million+ ahead of last year’s biggest thrillers, Get Out and Split, after two weekends, suggesting that $200 million domestic is a legit possibility.

Now… Rampage. Meh. But take away the films in which Dwayne was not a lead (aka, not on the one-sheet) and was not animated and is not a sequel and this is his third best opening. Now, adjust with Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle and GI Joe: Retaliation, which were both really reboots based heavily on The Rock’s star power… so Top 5. But, Top 5.

Yes, WB was aiming at San Andreas, not Central Intelligence. But anyone foolish enough to expect F&F numbers deserves to be beaten about the head and shoulders. And of course, the film is already right at $150 million worldwide in its first weekend… which is why Dwayne is one of the few worth the money these days.

Truth or Dare is another Blumhouse win, albeit a small one. Cost nothing. Universal spent a ton on outdoor and modestly on very targeted TV and an aggressive online campaign. Smelled of direct-to-Netflix. But much better than that, financially.

Fox Searchlight is managing Isle of Dogs carefully, but successfully. The expansion from 554 to 1939 screens was more abrupt than Grand Budapest, but less so than Fantastic Mr. Fox, which went from four to 2,033. Dogs should land right between the two previous Searchlight forays with Wes domestically. There is no sign that the strained complaints about cultural appropriation have taken a toll (aside from the ads losing their Asian flair).

Blockers will be (unfairly) used as a cautionary tale over lunches for the next month. It’s done fine. But it hasn’t gotten a second wind. It could easily do 3x opening. But it has not become America’s obsession… especially with young women, where it was expected to explode by many. One wonders whether A Quiet Place, albeit in a very different genre, took its wind.

Amazingly, Sony Animation has its sixth $100 million domestic grosser with Peter Rabbit. Done now, but $300 million worldwide is nothing to hop at. Expect a sequel.

Kino has a hit with Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami. Maybe it could have been bigger. I am surprised that I was never invited to see the film before release (or get a link). I am a slave to the rhythm and it would have been high on my watch list.

And Sony Classics has another quiet cashflow film with The Leisure Seeker, very low profile, but also very low-priced for the domestic release and already over $2.3 million.

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Friday Estimates by Giant White Monkey Klady

Friday Estimatest 2018-04-14 at 1.12.44 PM

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Friday Estimates By Len Klady COMMENTS CLOSED

Screen Shot 2018-04-14 at 9.56.47 AM

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RIP Milos Forman

Milos Forman © 2018 Ray Pride

The President Of Iceland pokes Milos Forman, White House Of Iceland, 2009 Reykjavík Film Festival. (Photo © 2018 Ray Pride.)

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Weekend Estimates by Quiet Klady Blocker One

Weekend Estimates 2018-04-08 at 9.44.30 AM

A Quiet Place delivers more than double the tracking estimates and gives Paramount its first true hit in a long while, greenlit by Team Grey before he left the studio. More in line with its tracking, Blockers opens to “the 20″ and will look at word-of-mouth to define the degree of its success. Opening also-rans are Chappaquiddick and The Miracle Season. In limited, WB scores with Pandas on 33 IMAX screens, while Amazon, in just its second solo release, gets $43k per on three with You Were Never Really Here.

Tracking is an important and valuable resource. As much as it got the A Quiet Place opening wrong, it also gave Paramount the tools to market the movie to get it to this number.

The two times you ever hear wide discussion of tracking is when writers bring up “expectations.” You should read that word as “I have been told this by someone with a vested interest and they are trying to spin the story before, during or after the actual event.” But tracking is one of those things that isn’t meant to be discussed in public. It was not created or implemented widely for the purpose of setting a betting line.

Like political surveying, tracking is an art as much as a craft. We, the public, are offered hard numbers and few even linger on the “+/-3 pts” that is offered as the public mea culpa to the realities of surveying a percentage of people to get a result reflective of the mass. Tracking is meant to tell distributors, first, whether people are aware of the movie that is coming; then, how to decipher who the audience is (and who the audience might become), how strong the passion is for the movie, and where pockets of strength and weakness are around the demos and the nation.

When you see a political survey, you should be conscious of the soup that the surveyor created to come up with that result. Trump’s approval numbers from Rassmussen are not lies, as such. But they are manipulated to be higher than anyone else’s numbers by adding more areas and people who are Trump supporters. That manipulation can be as subtle as gerrymandering is complex. The work of Nate Silver, on the other hand, seems to swim through the moat of surveys and their variables to tell us what result seems the most true. But all the public seems to be capable of processing is the broadest ideas about numbers. People berate the polls about the 2016 presidential election, which Hillary Clinton won by 2.1%. But she lost the Electoral College race by 13.8%.

How is that possible? How does that make sense? Well, you have to dig deep into the numbers… and still guess. I can give you a dozen legit reasons why Hillary Clinton lost on the numbers side alone. 70,000 votes out of 129 million total presidential votes (.05%) change sides and that flips three states and we have a different president. It was that close. But that 13.8% Electoral number looks so much larger. And Nate told us she was 80% certain to win!

Turnout in a political election is the great unknown. Who will show up and vote is much more challenging than “who will they vote for” in projecting wins and losses.

In movie tracking, knowing who will actually leave their house and buy a ticket and who is just really enthusiastic about a movie is, likewise, an impossible ingredient. Companies use history and intuition to make their highly educated guesses. But there is always that window of real people behaving in the quirky way that people will.

And that is fine.

An aside about Oscar prognosticating, even more steeped in guessing, as there are so many fewer data points available. The fact that the awards season gets managed down to a very small group of titles and potential nominees, with so many accurate assessments is shocking on some level and a tribute to the lazy vulnerability of most people, even very smart and experienced people, as well as a reminder that there are standards that changes slightly, but are shockingly consistent and keep us from more revolutionary change.

This is true of tracking, too. It’s not just “we took a survey, here are the numbers.” The numbers are cooked in a stew of traditional stats work and movie industry history with a fair amount of intuition from people who have proven they have that gift. And they are cooked with the goal of finding the facts that will help the distributors’ marketing departments do their jobs. It’s not nefarious. But that bottom line of “what’s the number going to be?” is too bright and shiny for people to see past. And it’s not just civilians who can’t see past it… it’s many execs as well, who are misusing tracking.

No one loses when tracking is low. Jobs are lost when tracking is high.

And remember, even on a $50 million opening, the subject group is about 5 million total. Out of 250 million in the United States. Out of 26 million frequent moviegoers and 125 occasional moviegoers (between two and eleven theater visits a year). We can argue at a bar over whether Movie X is going to appeal more to the frequent or infrequent… or whether it will draw people who go to only one or two films a year. But when your job is to make that call and to estimate an opening gross based on that guess and to get it within 10% of the actual opening because someone in power who really doesn’t understand the number is going to be breathing down your neck… well…

You know what is important? For the stats companies to figure out who is most likely to see A Quiet Place on opening weekend, which is allows Paramount to tailor their message towards that group and to shore up other groups with more closely targeted ads that will appeal to their peculiar resistance.

But if media didn’t make it all about the guessing game and the horserace on Sunday, they would have nothing to “report” and nothing to draw clicks. And to be fair, if media was at all seriously interested in the details, the studios wouldn’t offer them up openly because the threat of extra detailed judgments then occurs and who wants to be watching your back all the time instead of doing your job?

So… Great opening. This is the biggest opening for Paramount since Star Trek Beyond and it is a bigger opening than Interstellar and you have to go all the way back to War of the Worlds (2005) to find a bigger non-franchise opening at the studio. It’s hard to categorize the film, but it would be the #3 Supernatural Horror opening of all-time (as per Mojo) and #2 behind only It as the first of a series.

Blockers had a nice opening. The number is identical to The 40-Year-Old Virgin, which Judd Apatow not only produced, but directed. Only Amy Schumer stands between a month of strong holds and Melissa McCarthy.

Black Panther hits 666 this weekend… millions domestic, that is. Third place all-time domestically, passing Titanic. Domestic #2 Avatar is a box office bridge too far. But wow.

$1.3 billion worldwide for Black Panther worldwide, which shows that international audiences are not unwilling to see Marvel do Black, but it would be wrong not to note that Black Panther is the lowest percentage performer internationally of the $1.3 billion and over club. It is also the weakest international performer in that high echelon of Marvel movies by a couple hundred million, while it is easily their highest domestic performer. History is often wrongheaded, but much less often wrong factually.

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Friday Estimates by A Quiet Klady

Friday Estimates 2018-04-07 at 8.04.43 AM

A Quiet Place is one of those stories where good things happen and no one can take credit for “tricking” the audience into showing up. Tracking had the film’s opening 3-day at about what it madae on Friday (with the now-presumed and incorporated Thursday night).

So what happened?

My guess is women. A Quiet Place is about a family trying to survive with the females and male of equal – but different – importance. Young women have been, at different times, a huge audience for horror-thrillers and this film may have tapped that audience in an unexpected way.

It is also possible that the film is playing like a classic horror film and will go flat through the rest of the weekend. I hope this isn’t the case: I think it will rebound with word-of-mouth if that is the case… but I wouldn’t rule it out.

But this film has gone from what looked like a nice little hit to a potential cash cow. This will be Paramount’s biggest non-franchise opener since Interstellar. And the sequel is set up in the film.

Blockers will be the #1 comedy opening of 2018 to date… but that’s damning with faint praise. The #2 is $17 million for Game Night, which cumed domestically at $66 million (a strong multiple for these days). Blockers will open in the low 20s, though it may find very strong legs as word-of-mouth lets out that it is more na up-sexualized John Hughes film than a chick Porky‘s. (Yes, I know the word “chick” is trouble… please allow for context.)

Another film that reads genre but is more than it appears to be is You Were Never Really Here, which will do something around $60k per screen on three this weekend. It is a demanding, tough movie about a man of violence who is on the edge of self-obliteration… for some a non-starter… for me, a masterpiece by Lynne Ramsey, based on the novella by Jonathan Ames, with an Oscar-level performance by Joaquin Phoenix.

A24 opens Lean on Pete to over $10k per screen.

Entertainment Studios opens Chappaquiddick to a modest $5 million or so, which is about enough to make it to profit, all in.

And The Miracle Season goes onto the heap of Christian outreach films that didn’t reach many Christians.

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RIP Steven Bochco

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Weekend Estimates by Not So Ready Player Klady

Wknd Est Corr 2018-04-01 at 11.51.35 AM

What was WB expecting from Ready Player One? Not G.I. Joe: Retaliation. But that is what they got. We can dress it up as Spielberg’s best opening in a decade, but bet dollars to donuts that its second weekend won’t outgross Lincoln‘s second weekend in wide release ($25.7m on half as many screens). They surely weren’t expecting to get Batman v Superman numbers… but not Clash of the Titans numbers? And when is a Tyler Perry movie not a Tyler Perry movie? When Tyler Perry isn’t in it. Also opening, God’s Not Dead 3: One Too Many. And Isle of Dogs expands to 165 screens… to strong, but not quite Wes-tacular numbers.

[Correction: Ready Player One estimates: $53.6 million.]

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The Hot Blog

Quote Unquotesee all »

“I had a knockoff Michael Kors bag that said MLK instead of MK. Jada told me that I shouldn’t have knockoff stuff. I told her that my philosophy is, Whatever the bag costs, I should be able to keep that amount of cash in the bag. If it’s a $300 purse, I have to put $300 in cash in that purse. I do not want a bag that is more expensive than the cash I have to put in it. Things are going good for me now, so I am graduating to your Fendis and your Guccis. But I better have the cash equivalent, or I’m not buying the purse. And if things start to go wrong, I’m going right back to my knockoffs. When you’re somebody like me, who’s been homeless, clothes are not that important. Clothes are not a roof over my head, food in my ­stomach, my family’s health—that’s what money is for. But fashion helps get more money. So, we ride.”
~ Tiffany Haddish

“It’s the job of the artist, to exploit connections. You see, I speak on behalf of the world of the artist without hesitation! People don’t realize that the part of the playwright is finding something for people to talk about. If you are writing about a historical episode, or two characters in ‘Hamlet,’ you have a structure for free.”
~ Tom Stoppard