The Hot Blog Archive for June, 2018

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

I am not a California fruit loop. No one read my aura and told me what to do. But it is funny how life tells you things, if you are willing to listen.

I bought my Mustang just before we launched Movie City News. After an accident in late 2017, I kept it and cared for it and wanted it to last forever… but I finally had to say “goodbye” to that little beauty. It was time.

The company I started online with in May 1997, TNT (and roughcut.com), has been sold. The company I worked for over a couple years just before that, EW, was sold off years ago.

DP/30 hit 100,000 subscribers recently.

Donald Trump’s ascendance has reconfigured my daily life experience of the entire world and my own life.

In 1997, the sequel to Jurassic Park landed. This year, the sequel to Jurassic World lands.

The Star Wars re-releases happened just before The Hot Button launched… and we are still talking about frickin’ Star Wars.

No studio head from when I started remains in place at the same studio. Only Stacey Snider actually reflects the top slot from back when. (Donna Langley was, I believe, a couple steps below at the time… behind Scott “Netflix” Stuber and Mary Parent on the food chain at the time.) Rothman took over for Mechanic, then they added Jim G. Alan Horn was at Castle Rock and is on his second studio life since then. Toby Emmerich was “the music guy” around New Line, but would work his way up.

I can’t even list the marketing and publicist regimes I have watched come and go and come again over these years. It’s a family tree that would cause a heart attack in the most hearty genealogist. (Michael Moses taking the big seat at Universal this week… another landmark with decades of history for me.)

There are many more signals coming my way. Like the proverbial broken arm, I see them every day now that I am of a mind to see them.

I never wanted to be a journalist, telling the stories of those who do things. Certainly not a critic, a job I have learned to respect deeply for a very small number of people who take it seriously (not just take themselves seriously).

I became a film critic because Roger Ebert wouldn’t book me on his show while Gene was out unless I called myself a critic. I always considered my ability to break down a film a skill that was useful for other purposes… as part of something else. But when I put on the robe, I quickly found that an illogical amount of power could be had in a role that I have never seen as being as influential as some others do.

I was always judgemental of writers who broke “the rules” of being a journalist or a critic, though it hadn’t really occurred to me that it was being done as an act of impotence, not of power. I could feel and identify that power quite early. Others could not. And when they did, they usually changed their tunes, but remained in denial of the damage they had done when they thought they were unimportant.

Power is one of the great insanities of Hollywood. Scoreboard is scoreboard… and everything else is just madness. The most powerful are the most insecure and the ability of a mouse to bring down an elephant is shocking. And I am not talking about heroes like Rose McGowan and Asia Argento and Jessica Chastain and the many others fighting the good fight against sexism or the many fighting against ingrained corporate racism. I’m talking about ego and agony.

I have long believed that Hollywood is a canary in the coal mine of various industries and even the political world. I know it sounds insane, but Nikki Finke and her influence for a short period was similar to Trump taking out the Republican candidates in the primaries. Fortunately, she was empowered by one guy with a fat checkbook and she finally couldn’t help but to burn that bridge as she has burned every bridge in her life for decades. But the only power she ever really had was to threaten to expose people in a way they did not want and to color their lives with abusive language. And Trump has abusive tweets and nicknames.

I have long said that she never got anyone a job, helped a movie (aside from The Women, which then went on to flop badly), or got anyone fired. One very smart, savvy person at one studio made an impassioned argument about how Nikki cost one exec his job… but that was because he was still drinking the Kool-Aid of the person who had used Nikki as his spear to take this other person out.

America will soon (even if it’s 6 years somehow) be in a post-Trump America. And the post-Nikki Hollywood entertainment media landscape does not fill me with hope for out nation’s happy future. No one has ever been able to match Nikki… because no one is as shameless as Nikki. But man, do they try!

More than the amount of junk food that dominates entertainment journalism in 2018 (and there has been plenty over my 20+ years in this game, some created by me), it is the degree of fear and kicked-in control mechanisms that have really made my work untenable.

When I started online (EW carried its own kind of power), my relationship with the studios was a partnership. We weren’t equal. And I never gave up my right to be brutally tough. But I was not out to kill anyone. I was out to seek truth, as best I could. And in response, I was offered a lot of truth. There were moments of extreme bullshit. But usually, I could see why the exec offering that was doing it out of fear and self-defense and even if they were in my way, I was personally sympathetic.

My life was always 20% or so off the record. And that number grew, eventually passing the 50% mark. It wasn’t about protecting friends that I had made (real ones or movie ones), but about playing fair. Like anything else in life, we all know where the line is almost all of the time. Sometimes, it gets blurry. But dinner chat informed my insight and never landed in print. After a while, I came to fully understand that even in private conversations, it was often necessary to maintain the privacy of others, even on what might seem to be trivial matters. As I noted early, the skin gets rather thin in this industry. And people do love to gossip.

I can trace the end of a few relationships to moments in which I wrote the truth, but was treated as though I broke a confidence.

Then, as now, it was easier to dethrone someone than to get them into that seat.

But I can also measure up the women and the men who understood what I was up to… who prized truth… and who were willing to take the slings and arrows of my sometimes outrageous written fortunes, knowing that I was just as likely to embrace them in a warm hug the next day.

When did it start to turn into something else?

2006.

That was the summer when box office went from being a sleepy village of people with a real interest and the intent to be truthful to being a commodity, as commodified by Finke and Drudge.

But then… 2009. Penske buys Finke. The mirror of this was Sheldon Adelson Gets Behind Trump.

Like the last presidential election, the serious implications of this event were enhanced great by timing. Newspapers were shitting themselves. And they were right to do so. And online media wasn’t much more comfortable. Nikki Finke, whatever you thought of her work, was getting paid. And depending on who you asked, she was getting paid a lot or a small personal fortune. And, whatever her work, she was instantly iconic because of that money. Some of the best minds covering media got sucked into believing the lies she built around herself.

When I started online, people were afraid of Ain’t It Cool News. For a moment, people were afraid of the madness of Jeffrey Wells. But Finke was different because everyone suddenly wanted to be like her. They wanted her profile. They wanted her money. They really didn’t pay attention to her abuses or her slowly selling out to every single studio in town. This is not even a judgement of Nikki. This is the nature of doing business the way she did business. And Penske supercharged it.

In the 9 years hence, Penske has spread his pixie cash over a big chunk of entertainment media, especially on the industry side. Variety, IndieWire, Wenner Media, Fairchild. Journalism was teetering on the edge of the cliff for a long time. I don’t think he meant to push it over the edge. But over the edge it went.

And with it, trust between the two sides of the journalistic effort.

The problem is not that studios can’t trust most outlets to do what they want. The problem is that studios can now happily live without anyone who does not do what they want. And they do.

Moreover, the money in journalism isn’t in journalism. It is in proximity to talent (on both sides of the camera) and the ability to manage and exploit it.

Like universities changing their focus to encourage students who can get student loans to cover their entire tuition (see the excellent doc, White Tower), media has adjusted its ambitions to encourage relationships with advertisers who, more as sponsors than as ad buyers, can pay the bills.

And journalism has disappeared, replaced in most cases with people of limited insight (some very experienced… and still blind) opining about everything. Even the most simple of math exercises, box office, is dominated by opinion and expectations over any serious analysis of the numbers.

To be fair, I was the first asshole in the internet era asshole pit. When I launched The Hot Button in 1997 and more in depth in 1998, there was nothing online like it. Blogs did not exist. I knew a fair amount about a lot of things and I knew how to research what I didn’t know.

But I could also be a prick. I was susceptible to little man’s disease, worrying more about upping my profile than the consequences at times. I wrote some stupid stuff. I wrote some really smart stuff. Still, as noted before, I built strong relationships that lasted a long time, many still going strong.

I never wanted to compete with AICN. I never wanted to compete with Wells. I didn’t want to compete with Nikki back in her day. I don’t want to compete with what the trades have become. I have sought out relationships that would allow me to do the work I want to do within other organizations, but time after time, they have been felled by a bad fit or someone whose feelings I hurt long ago or the basic fact that almost no one really knows what they want in this topsy-turvy media world. (I will give Jay Penske big ups on that count… he knows what he wants and is undeterred by realities good or bad.)

What do I want?

I want to keep loving movies. I want to support movies I love. I want to support great filmmakers. And I want to use the experience and knowledge and simple brain power every day that I can in my life.

I want to work hand-in-fist with the executives who I have known and respected for years and for those I do not yet know, finally free to help me get down to the absolute truths of situations glorious and grotesque in order to help them be even better at what they do.

The world is not just made up of movies and filmmakers that I love. I am excited by the idea of solving the puzzle of movies and people that are part of the commerce of movies too. I want to help companies whose work I don’t like figure out how to get people like me to love their work. I want to get down into the blueprints and process documents and find an answer that someone else might not. I want to argue both sides.

Of course, there is a list of things I will not do. I am not interested in being a part of anything that I consider to be intentionally damaging. I would not participate, for example, in hiding sexism or racism or indifference to those things. But I would be happy to help build roads to correcting those issues that are not as scary as that transition can sometimes be for the old fashioned. I will always be a voice for transparency. But that doesn’t mean I don’t believe that everyone deserves a legitimate degree of privacy.

I have come to know, in my heart, that in order to improve things in this moment in time, I need to go into every situation without being a threat (accurately or not) to expose the truths to which I am allowed special access. I need to be able to make the argument to do the right thing – when that is the issue – without the freedom to win points with an audience when my best efforts are rebuffed. That is the nature of this beast.

To do this, I need to end my public-facing life and take it all private. I need to work for the other team, if they will have me.

It’s a new life.

I’m 53 years old. And it’s time for the next act.

I will keep doing DP/30 for as long as I can, as I don’t see it as a conflict with anyone. If a client wants one, they can probably get one. I love doing them. And I think they bring value to the audience.

I don’t know what the immediate future will bring for Movie City News. Laura Rooney and I gave birth to this thing almost 16 years ago. Ray Pride has been my editorial partner for years. It is still a viable business and website, but the right circumstance to move it forward has not shown itself.

But I need to start signing NDAs and doing the work I hope will take me to a very late retirement. I am raring to go.

This means that I cannot ask you, as readers, to trust that you are getting my full-throated opinion and that I am not showing bias for a client or friend. And I have always been 100% clear that I could never sleep at night mixing and matching my reality for people who trust me to be honest. But it is hard, so hard, to say “goodbye.”

It’s been an honor. I thank you for your attention and from many of you, your participation.

I don’t think this will be the last Hot Blog entry… but I needed to say it out loud.

And away we go….

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Weekend Estimates by Mr. Credible

Weekend Estimates 2018-06-17 at 10.02.09 AM

Fourth time there have been 3 $150 million openings in a year. (150 is the new 100.)

About to be a record-breaking 4 $150m openings in a year… and all before July 1.

I don’t actually expect a 5th, given the poor opening of Solo and the lack of a Star Wars film over Christmas. However, we will tie the record for $100 million openings before July 1 with 5 next weekend. And I see 4 potential additions to that during the rest of the summer and 4 more in the fall/winter. Obviously, not even half of those 8 will make the mark. But the annual record is 8 and that is well within reach.

Theatrical is dying. Kids don’t go to the movies. Etc, etc, etc… blah, blah, blah…

I can’t say this enough times – and you won’t hear me say it many more times in public – the future is coming… subscription access to virtually everything is coming… and theatrical window will, above all, be the way success is defined in the future of movies. Streaming services, of which you will subscribe to a group, not unlike the cable bundle, will tout their successes and numbers only to keep subscribers from churning. Someone will try to charge a premium for early access in 2021 and the experiment will fail. There will be no YouTube Red in the future, but people will pay for subscriptions to get YouTube access overall… and life will go on. If you want it, you will pay for it in some manner.

And the only way to pay for Avengers movies and Pixar movies, etc, as we know them now, will be theatrical. Eyeballs will be cheap. Dollars will be – as they really are now, though people are all in a tizzy – the way things are measured. And the difference between a movie that premieres on Disney Family Streaming and a Pixar movie will be the billion dollars that the Pixar movie adds to Disney’s coffers. And don’t think that money is minor. Figure 100 million households in America paying $10 a month for Disney Family… that’s $12 billion a year. One movie improving revenues by 8.5% is major. And if you think Comcast is leaving behind the $370 million for Fifty Shades Freed‘s spin-off stepchild, you are wrong.

We are all too distracted by the shiniest, most expensive objects. The giant movies are great and highly profitable in all windows. But the middle business is business too. And when the film/tv business gets capped – nearly permanently – by what is currently being touted as the disruption of streaming, it will matter even more. For a lot of companies, a $24 billion cap on annual revenues across 200 million paying households worldwide is a step up. But when there is nowhere to go from there, they will all chafe.

The Incredibles 2 not only broke the record for an animation opening… it smashed it by $45 million.

Decent hold for Ocean’s 8, following a decent opening. A successful movie, even though it is not very good. As I have said a thousand times, succeeding with mediocrity is the real test of growing opportunity in Hollywood for women and POC. (By the way, I expect “POC” will be seen as a glib diminutive sometime in the next couple years.)

Tag is not It. But it felt somehow appropriate that a mediocre movie that is so Toby Emmerich, sold with such mediocrity, opened on WarnerMedia’s opening weekend to such a mediocre number. I know that the people employed by Warner Bros are capable of better on every level. But if you look hard at the last couple of years, there have been some very beautiful weeds, but the garden is pretty lame. How much will change how quickly at the studio that seems on a collision course with a Best Picture win and a surprise smash with Crazy Rich Asians to compliment a run of mediocrity or outright flops. (I so want to believe in The Meg.)

And Gotti goes into the potty. Though, I have to say, $1.7 million for what looks like an endless disaster is a tribute to Travolta working the movie. And some loonies will attribute it to MoviePass’ involvement… which will be deeply misguided.

(More to come…)

53 Comments »

Friday Estimates

Screen Shot 2018-06-16 at 4.01.12 PM

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Hot Button Rules of Thumb (first published in 2006)

Top 10 Hot Button Rules of Thumb

I just ran into this list, posted somewhere 8 years ago.

There is really only one specific change. In item #2, the DVD market has changed and international has become a much more significant force. I would still say that $150m domestic is still not a blockbuster, but often the start of a road to more than $300 million in returns to the distributor and/or funders. These days, a blockbuster starts anywhere between $200m – $250 domestic, depending on expected international results. There were 11 films over $200m domestic in 2012 and 13 in 2013. And in most cases, production costs of the films in that range have gone up substantially as well.

TOP TEN HOT BUTTON RULES OF THUMB

1. Great Media Outlets’ Standards Are Less Stringent When The Subject Is Entertainment And That Sucks.

2. $150 Million Is No Longer A Blockbuster In Theatrical… But Right Now Represents The Start Of A Road To More Than $200 Million In Returns to The Studio In Most Cases Thanks To The New DVD Market And Expanded International Theatrical Market.

3. Successful Movie Advertising Sells One Idea At A Time… And There Actually Has To Be An Idea Worth Selling.

4. The Story Of The Moment Is Almost Never The Real Story.

5. There Are Very Few Journalists In Entertainment Journalism.

6. Talent Is Your Friend Until It’s Time For Talent Not To Be Your Friend.

7. Reviewing Scripts Or Test Screenings Is Selfish And Immoral… You Do Not Know What Effect Sticking Your Nose Into Process Will Have And More Often Than Not It Is Negative.

8. Opening Weekend Is Never About The Quality Of The Movie.

9. There Are Things I Know And Things I Don’t Know And Sometimes They Change.

10. Love What You Do And Do What You Love Or Get The Fuck Out.

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Top 10 News Stories – Hot Button, Dec 2017

Top Ten Movie News Stories of 1997

There was lots of movie news this year, but not much that will be remembered. Here are the 10, in inverse order, that I think will be.
10. Death — Death is always a major story. There were some big ones this year (in alphabetical order): Chris Farley, Samuel Fuller, Burgess Meredith, Robert Mitchum, Dawn Steel, Jimmy Stewart and Fred Zinnemann. And my father, Sidney. You’ll always be with us, whatever the format.

9. DreamWorks starts releasing movies — Spielberg, Katzenberg and Geffen cut the red tape and the result was The Peacemaker, Amistad and Mouse Hunt. Tough out there, huh boys?

8. Star Wars — The 20th anniversary release proved that the franchise is still the biggest with over $250 million for the trio in North America alone. Now Fox has the inside track on the prequel, due Memorial Day weekend, 1999. And though it’s a sure bet to gross well over $500 million, that’s nothing compared to the billions in merchandising. Start lining up now.

7. Disney vs. Fox’s Anastasia — Fox was the home of paranoia as Disney released the same seven-year-old re-release that they do in early November and the same new film that they do every Thanksgiving. With Anastasia doing just $50 million domestic, who won the war? Sony’s I Know What You Did Last Summer, which dominated the pre-Thanksgiving fall by giving audiences what they wanted instead of trying to fight an entrenched franchise.

6. The Return of Julia – Bankable women movie stars are almost as rare as producers who can balance their own checkbooks. The return of the redheaded, smiling, big-opening Julia Roberts in My Best Friend’s Wedding is a triumph for the entire industry. You can never have enough major movie stars. Just don’t greenlight Mary Reilly 2 by mistake.

5. Black filmmakers — As the studios were getting out of the business of making relationship films with major white stars, young black filmmakers were filling the void. Ted Witcher‘s love jones, Kasi Lemmons’ Eve’s Bayou and George Tillman Jr.‘s Soul Food all made their mark at the box office with strong stories and compelling characters. Meanwhile, Set It Off director Gary Gray got a greenlight for The Negotiator, the first film ever directed by a black director with a budget over $40 million. It’s about time.

4. Titanic — The saga of the budget. The PCP-laced seafood chowder. The delay from the July release date. The bad press. The reports of a $300 million budget. Entertainment Weekly’s generous rewriting of history, reducing the film to an almost palatable $200 million. The mob at the Japanese opening. The success. What a story! And the eight or so Academy Award nods ain’t gonna hurt either.

3. Studios rebound critically/Indies subside — Last year, the Academy Awards were so independent that even the media couldn’t tell the nominated stars from their publicists. This year, the studios are back. Miramax will be pushing Good Will Hunting, but aside from that, expect a studio landslide of nominations. What happened? Better movies overall. And the more good movies, the more likely that the ones form the major studios will be recognized.

2. Warner Bros. in flux — After being the most stable studio in town for years, the WB has suddenly become The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight. Batman and Robin, Fathers Day, Mad City and Steel all made my Ten Worst list (coming this weekend). And L.A. Confidential, the favorite for the Best Picture Oscar, underperformed badly. So who got fired? Marketing President Chris Pula, perhaps the savvyest guy around. Another dead messenger. Another screwed up studio.

1. Sony Succeeds — This was the biggest surprise of them all. Hit after hit after hit came from the failed tenure of former film chief Mark Canton. A record breaking $1.25 billion year with more than 20 percent of the domestic going into Sony pockets. And Godzilla is still awaiting its Memorial Day 1998 monster release. Last month, new movie chief John Calley announced a load of projects poised to get rolling, amongst the very first of his tenure. We’ll know if they worked sometime in 1999. Meanwhile, where’s Mark Canton? Heading back to the Warner Bros. fold. It’s a small world after all.

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My First Online Column. June 6, 1997

take one


 

Whole Picture

Chapter One: The Truth
“YOU WANT THE TRUTH?! YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!!!” — Jack Nicholson, A Few Good Men

Jack Nicholas So, you want to know how show business really works? OK. Let’s start at the beginning. Attributing the quotation above to Jack Nicholson is a little like crediting your 6-year-old nephew with coming up with “Allllll- righty then!!!”

Jack Nicholson is an actor. A great actor. And the magic that he does, in cahoots with a whole lot of help, is to make you feel that he was really upset and reacted to Tom Cruise. But he didn’t. Not really.

Demi Moore See, Aaron Sorkin wrote a play that ran on Broadway and probably a dozen guys said those words eight times a week in various productions, but Rob Reiner went to the theater one night and liked what he saw, so he and his partners at Castle Rock, who had a lot of cash lying around from Japanese businessmen (see: Sony), who knew virtually nothing about how to make movies (see: Peter Guber/Jon Peters), bought the feature rights to the film and Reiner, who decided to direct Sorkin’s screenplay based on his play, talked Cruise into being in the movie, which led, in part, to Demi Moore and Nicholson joining the cast and then, one day, 80-odd people got together in a giant empty sound-proofed box (a soundstage) in Los Angeles that had a set in it designed to look like a real military court in Washington, D.C., and after they did a master shot (generally, all the actors doing the entire scene from start to end), Tom did his close-ups and then Jack did his close-ups and on some take, Nicholson said those words and the performance was great and the sound was good and there was no dirt in the gate (like hair in the projector at the movies) and Reiner said, “Print,” and the lab didn’t screw it up and the editors (Academy Award nominees Robert Leighton and Steve Nevius chose the close-up and spliced it together and every one of about a dozen people agreed that it worked and the composer (Marc Shaiman) created the mood music and the film was test-screened and audiences went wild when Nicholson went off and they used it to sell the hell out of the movie, which led you into a movie theater where you bought popcorn and Coca-Cola products and generated enough profit to convince Ted Turner to buy Castle Rock.

Run-on sentence, you say? Artistic license, I say.

And besides, you’re missing the point. THAT was the shortened version of how Jack ended up arching his brows and making your heart beat faster. I didn’t mention the screenplay development, the casting of secondary roles, the pre-production, the lighting, the electrics, the costumes, Demi Moore‘s bust in that uniform, the publicists, the caterers, the foley artists, the trailer producers and hundreds of other steps that help make magic.

John Cusack Magic. That word. Sleight of hand. Illusion. It’s the little things that you barely notice. Hair that doesn’t move in a stiff wind. Characters who never pass wind. Wind that blows at the moment the lovers part. It’s perfect skin and Joe Pesci‘s hairline. It’s perfect teeth and airbrushing so heavy that actors are unrecognizable (Minnie Driver and John Cusack are great-looking people, but who are those people in the Grosse Pointe Blank ads?). It’s photographing an actress only from the left side because she’s more Wicked Witch than Dorothy from the right. It’s Dennis Quaid‘s voice in Dragonheart … OK, that wasn’t so magical. But you get the point.

It’s also Tom Cruise.

Tom Cruise Absolute magic, that guy. Most of you will go to the movies to see him no matter what the movie is. That’s why he’s worth $20 million a picture to nervous studio chieftains. Because almost every time out, 3 or 4 million of you will pay for tickets the first weekend his movie opens. That’s movie magic. But what the hell do you really know about Tom Cruise? Almost nothing. He has charisma. He makes good choices about who he works with. Just look at his last dozen directors — Cameron Crowe (Jerry Maguire), Brian DePalma (Mission: Impossible), Neil Jordan (Interview With A Vampire, The Crying Game), Sydney Pollack (The Firm, Tootsie), Ron Howard (Far and Away, Apollo 13), Rob Reiner (A Few Good Men, When Harry Met Sally), Tony Scott (Days of Thunder, Crimson Tide), Oliver Stone (Born on the Fourth of July), Barry Levinson (Rain Man, Diner), Martin Scorsese (The Color of Money, GoodFellas) and, most recently, the Howard Hughes of directors, Stanley Kubrick (Eyes Wide Shut, 2001:A Space Odyssey). Only three of the dozen haven’t been Academy Award or Golden Globe nominees, and those three directed Cruise in mega- hits Mission: Impossible, Top Gun and Cocktail. Magic.

Tom Cruise Cruise also has the most powerful publicist in Hollywood by his side, Pat Kingsley of PMK. Bad buzz about homosexuality, Scientology, marital problems and “the squeaky voice machine” (A Scientology invention to make Tom’s voice more mellifluous, reportedly added to the equipment list of Far And Away) have all melted into the background as true-life tales of Tom saving lives, Tom defending Nicole and Tom winning a Golden Globe have taken center stage, no matter what the vultures of the press (me included) might prefer (it makes our job so much easier). Magic. Almost enough to make Tom … well … tall.

The truth is made of A-cup breasts and 3 feet of duct tape. It’s 49 years old and dates 23-year-olds. It can’t eat dairy and it’s two months late on its BMW lease payments. The truth was a high-priced call girl before she started playing virgins in the movies and became your bedroom fantasy for seven bucks a crack instead of $300. Like the old joke: A man asks a woman to sleep with him for $1 million and she says “yes.” Then he says, “Well how about for $5?” Offended, she says, “What do you think I am?” He responds, “I know what you are. We’re just negotiating the price.”

So now the real question: Can you handle the truth? If you can, I’ll write it for you, as best as I can, every week, right here. You want to know how the studio system really works? I’ll tell you. How is advertising designed to trick you into going to bad movies? I’ll tell you. How does Oprah‘s weight get the cover of the tabloids and a gay TV actress get the cover of Time? If you believe the tabloids got scooped, go to another site now. If you know better and want to know more, stick around. Hang with me and I’ll give you The Whole Picture. Bookmark it, baby! Questions? E-mail me, and I’ll do my best. But first, some answers: 1. Yes, they’re implants. 2. No, you can’t get paid for that, unless you can figure out how to light it. 3. Maybe, but I’ll need blood work results first.

 

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Weekend Estimates by Sex Flip Klady

Weekend Estimates 2018-06-10 at 10.48.02 AM copy

Hard to really analyze the Ocean’s Eight opening. It feels… about right.

It’s not explosive. It’s not a step backwards for a franchise idea. It will be profitable, but insignificant financially. The “empowered” movie of the summer still looks to be Crazy Rich Asians, which WB tagged to Ocean’s “prints.”

If Sandra Bullock is as smart as she has been, she will take this franchise by the horns and find a young, clever screenwriter or screenwriters to write a movie worth making with this remarkable group of actresses. Or get some old hands in there who know their way around this kind of material. Talk Edgar Wright, who loves women and loves a good puzzle, into doing it. Or get Amy Seimetz to direct a script from Glazer and Jacobson and Ed Solomon. Bullock made a not-so-great film with David Gordon Green… but go get David and the people he works with to make something more indie. Or Richard Linklater. Write something that Chivo would consider directing (but pass on, because he is Chivo) and then get a great DoP who isn’t Chivo (maybe Peter Andrews?). Maybe get serious about the difference between a 50-year-old woman and a 25-year-old woman… which would give the movie something more interesting than just another heist. Just whatever you do, don’t make another mediocrity… because Ocean’s 8 is one and it is mostly on the script, which has nothing to say except “take this ride you are so familiar with you could call every beat out and get 85% of it right.” Y’all gathered one of the groups of actresses ever assembled for a movie and didn’t give them anything much to do when all the audience wants to do is to love them. Frustrating.

Solo dropped, in its third weekend, pretty much like Deadpool 2. Nothing extraordinary there. But the soft start makes that normal trajectory an ongoing disappointment. That should put Solo around $190m at this time next weekend and past $200m domestic. But not by a lot.

Meanwhile, Deadpool 2 is on track to pass $300m domestic and around $700m worldwide. The film’s budget roughly doubled the original’s… but they could have spent more and didn’t… which is a huge win.

Hereditary is easily A24’s biggest opening ever (by 48% over The Witch) and once again shows the upside of publicity-centric, targeted, relatively inexpensive marketing. The story for this film will get more interesting, as it is more accessible to wider swaths of the potential audience than was The Witch, which did about 3x opening. Lady Bird is A24’s #1 domestic hit, with $49 million. Can Hereditary threaten that? It would be unusual for a horror film and the summer is getting to its strongest run of films now, but… who knows?

Hotel Artemis wanted to rely on the John Wick audience to make the connection… which doesn’t actually exist. Drew Pearce, who wrote-produced-directed, is hot in Hollywood. But less so today than last Sunday. He assembled a remarkable cast… but whether it is the fault of the movie (haven’t seen it) or just the marketing, no one seems to have known or cared.

Adults are clearly hungry for something worth seeing, with strong numbers for RBG, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, Hearts Beat Loud and the re-release of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Meanwhile, quickly fading MoviePass had its second weekend and first expansion for American Animals, which will have to stretch to get close to $1.5 million domestic, in spite of MoviePass pumping it hard to its membership of (allegedly) 3 million. To be fair, it’s in the same space as The Orchard releases The Dinner and The Overnight. Does this suggest that MoviePass has a future in distributing movies? No. The Orchard curates an interesting set of films and relies heavily on VOD and streaming sales to profit. MoviePass is a company built on the idea of theatrical. And the stock, which peaked at $38.86 in October is now selling for 35 cents a share. So….

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Weekend Estimates 060318

Weekend Est 2018-06-03 at 3.47.45 PM

Keeping it to myself…

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Friday Estimates by Still Solo Despite The Media Han On Its Head Shoving Down

friday estimates 051218

Deadpool 2‘s second Friday off 77% from its f1rst Friday
Avengers: Infinity War off 70%.
Guardians 2 off 70%.
Spider-Man: Homecoming off 73%.
Pirates last Memorial Day off 73%.
X-Men: Apocalypse the Memorial Day opener in 2016, off 75%.

Solo off 77%… THE SKY IS FALLING!!!!

Tthis is an annual occurrence. Every summer, in the last couple decades, there has been a summer movie or two that has gotten overpraised and anointed falsely and a movie or two that has gotten slaughtered by the media for no apparent objective reason. It’s never the movies that are truly the most loved or the most disliked. It’s usually the step down in both categories.

I would love to tell you that there is now a formula for killing a franchise. But no. Look to the more traditional answers on Solo and you will find the much more likely culprit(s).

The Marvel, Zach Snyder DC films, and X-Men films are instructive… because you can’t build a consistent trend line on them. There are some simple consistencies, but they all get crushed by reality in various ways. For instance, the standalone Wolverine movies undergrossed the X-Men films… until Logan outgrossed X-Men: Apocalypse. Or Wonder Woman nearly doubled the domestic gross of Justice League. Or Black Panther, the fourth Marvel movie in less than a year, almost doubled the domestic gross of any of the other three and then Avengers: Infinity War did similar business just 2 months later.

Just because you don’t understand what happened doesn’t make it magic.

I am not suggesting that there are easy answers. Except for this one: look at the movie and how it was sold. And look at the movie and what story LucasFilm decided to make and whether it had any real connective tissue to the trilogies from which it was spun.

Deadpool 2 is not going to do Deadpool business. However, it will be an R-rated comic book movie that does $600 million worldwide. Fox marketed the crap out of it and it probably niche’d itself a little more and suffered the tyranny of the not new. Deal.

Adrift will be well into the top half of STX openings. Could it have been more? Probably. But Woodley seemed someone M.I.A. in the process of pushing the film and the quirks of the movie kept STX from going, as it probably should have anyway, the full “this is woman, hear her roar” on the marketing. Here’s a hint… men were never going to go.

The disaster of the summer to date, for me, is the sub-$3 million opening of Action Point. How do you kill a Johnny Knoxville movie about, essentially, Camp Jackass? Paramount found a way. I will pay to see this movie, because even though I find the “smash Johnny in the balls” thing obnoxiously childish, the movies have always made me laugh. They are low-rent crap and they know it and they don’t care because they are honest and having fun being idiot boys. And it may be the worst of all the Jackass-y movies… doesn’t mean that you need to signal it to the audience with bull fight marketing. There are 23 Rotten Tomato reviews of the major studio release on 1,682 screens… 57 for American Animals… 31 for Breath, which as best I can tell is only playing at the Angelika in NY. Someone chose not to do their job here.

Speaking of American Animals, nice number per screen. Should be a $25k per screen for the weekend on four, around $110k for the weekend (aka 10,000 people seeing the film). For MoviePass, which was hoping to spark off of this film which they bought partial rights to, the gross is unhelpful and even if every one of the ticket buyers was inspired to see the film and pay by MoviePass, that’s less than half a percent of MoviePass subscribers seeing the film and the loss on every ticket almost equal to the film rental being paid back to to the company as an owner. They were always going to lose money on this title, but the low tipping point where this adventure might have gotten interesting for the investors/stock market was somewhere around a $2.5 million gross (10% of subs)… but really $5 million for it to be at all impressive, representing 20% of subs (assuming 100% of viewers are MoviePass subs) being driven to a movie because of being a MoviePass subscriber.

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BYOB: Where’s Your Thrill

summer movie screen

Summer upon us. What’s next, what’s next??

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“Because of my relative candor on Twitter regarding why I quit my day job, my DMs have overflowed with similar stories from colleagues around the globe. These peeks behind the curtains of film festivals, venues, distributors and funding bodies weren’t pretty. Certain dismal patterns recurred (and resonated): Boards who don’t engage with or even understand their organization’s artistic mission and are insensitive to the diverse neighborhood in which their organization’s venue is located; incompetent founders and/or presidents who create only obstacles, never solutions; unduly empowered, Trumpian bean counters who chip away at the taste and experiences that make organizations’ cultural offerings special; expensive PR teams that don’t bring to the table a bare-minimum familiarity with the rich subcultural art form they’re half-heartedly peddling as “product”; nonprofit arts organizations for whom art now ranks as a distant-second goal behind profit.”
~ Eric Allen Hatch

To me, Hunter S. Thompson was a hero. His early books were great, but in many ways, his life and career post–Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail is a cautionary tale for authors. People expected him to be high and drunk all the time and play that persona, and he stuck with that to the end, and I don’t think it was good for him. I always sort of feel mixed emotions when I hear that people went and hung out with Hunter and how great it was to get high with Hunter. The fact is the guy was having difficulty doing any sustained writing at all for years probably because so many quote, unquote, “friends” wanted to get high with him … There was a badly disappointed romantic there. I mean, that great line, “This is where the wave broke, the tide rolled back … ” This was a guy that was hurt and disappointed and very bitter about things, and it made his writing beautiful, and also with that came a lot of pain.
~ Anthony Bourdain