The Hot Blog Archive for August, 2018

Friday Estimates – Felt Falls To GlamAsians

Friday Estimates 2018-08-25 at 10.51.34 AM 651

464 Comments »

Friday Estimates: Modestly Rich Asians,

Friday Estimates 081818

Hollywood have given all the love it can give to Crazy Rich Asians, but the movie still has work to do to find a big mainstream audience. There is nothing wrong with a $23 million 3-day or even a $20m 3-day, especially after $8.8 million was siphoned off on Wed/Thurs. But… let’s be adults about this. The film is going to have to find a strong post-release word-of-mouth gear to get close to $100 million domestic. And that is the magic boundary. There is absolutely nothing about the film that makes it less accessible to whites, blacks, middle easterners, eskimos, greeks, etc. It is a 18+ family comedy that every ethnic group will find familiar. But I am afraid that in all the celebration of finally making an “all-Asian” movie at a studio, the studio forgot that they had to tell the rest of the audience why it was relevant to them. And I am not suggesting that the ticket sales were “all-Asian,” either. I am just saying that this movie opened as you might anticipate opening a mid-August studio comedy with some cultural standing. This is the number you would have gotten from a Julie & Julia or an Eat Pray Love. But the buzz around this movie was bigger than those. So you wonder why the 5-day isn’t more like $40 million. I know that some will be upset that anyone rain on the parade. And this opening is by no means bad. But greatness is measured, with a very commercial movie, but its box office as well as the quality and the cultural significance.

I haven’t seen Mile 22. This number is good considering the fairly soft sell and the terrible reviews across the board. On the other hand, if you look at Mark Wahlberg’s recent box office history, his status is dimming a bit when he is not attached to an existing franchise or sequel. He and his people should be taking a hard look at why this is and what they can do. Working with Peter Berg is never a bad idea, especially when the actor connects so well. But they need to find something that just plain wins. He needs his Taken. Or he needs another Scorsese infusion, which the Ridley Scott film was not. He has a great 3rd act waiting to happen. But time for a rebrand.

Good weekend at the art houses. The Wife, We the Animals, Juliet, Naked, Blaze will all do at least $10k on 2 – 4 screens each.

66 Comments »

Friday Estimates: Meg Eats, Slender Man Thin, BlacKKKlansman Burns Gently

Friday Estimates 2018-08-11 at 12.04.25 PM

The Meg will likely be the biggest opener of the summer for Warner Bros, with a number in the low 40s. The most striking thing about this is that WB put out such an unambitious summer slate by their historic standards. They should have a much better fall/holiday run. But even looking at next summer, one wonders if we will ever again see the studio flex all that muscle it used to show off constantly. Still… Crazy Rich Asians next weekend… so it could be a heavy August slate of wins for WB.

Slender Man arrives with a whimper. Will Screen Gems ever develop a strong post-Clint voice?

And BlacKKKlansman has a mixed launch. Strong for Spike and in this 1500-screen range, solid for Focus. But it’s still a $10 million launch focused in all the locations that are expected to be strong for this film. Expansion is not going to change the trajectory. So you can look at it as Spike having a single day that is better than the total grosses of his last 3 films. Or you can look at it as his best opening, with the exception of Inside Man, in the last 15 years. Or you can look at the opening as stronger than a couple of Focus’s other 1500 screen openings, The Ice Harvest and The World’s End, which are both beloved films. Or you can look at it as the Florence Foster Jenkins or Hell or High Water of this summer. Or you could see it as a $25m domestic-grossing disappointment. It’s all about perspective. And this opening allows for many variations in perspective.

Nice single screen opening for Skate Kitchen… which everyone should try to see on a big screen, though it will be a hip movie to watch on phones for many years to come.

35 Comments »

Weekend Estimates: Oh Pooh! The Audience That Dumped Them

Weekend Estimates 2018-08-05 at 10.55.23 AM

For those who wrote (snicker, snicker) about how the “Wonder Woman weekend” was a lost opportunity earlier this summer, we present The First Weekend Of August. home of 2016’s $134 million opening of Suicide Squad. This first weekend in August, the Top 17 movies grossed $134 million.

Reality is not complex on this issue. There are a few weekends (14 or so) that offer, most often, more opportunity. And there are a few weekends (3 or so) that offer, most often, less opportunity. And then there are about 35 weekends or so in every year that are absolutely neutral.

But even weekends of opportunity offer nothing remotely close to a guarantee. And the same is true of the “dead” weekends.

If it were somehow ready and Captain Marvel was not a piece of the puzzle and Marvel decided to fill the Star Wars hole in December, they could put Avengers 4 on the first weekend of December, forever considered a dead zone, and open the film to $200 million or more.

Avengers: Infinity Wars abandoned “the first weekend of the summer” this year and won… and you can expect them to do it again, though they will wait until January or so to shake out anyone thinking of trying to steal April 26. And like the traditional “best weekend” that was Memorial Day every summer and evolved into “the weekend before Memorial Day” (before being supplanted to the less crowded first weekend of May), “the start of the summer” will become the last week of April for all films moving forward.

This is all loaded down by superstition too. WB will release a horror film on “It Day” this year and sit on the date for It: Chapter 2 in September 2019, leaving completed film in the can for more than 6 months because somehow, they think that the film needs to return to that slot. 100% fear based. The sequel can’t open or total out much better than the original ($124m/$328m), no matter where it is released. But if they move it to the summer, where there is more opportunity, and the film underperforms the original, the studio will be accused of making the mistake of moving it. And if WB leaves it in exactly the same place, at a cost of a few extra million, that complaint is voided. This is not a WB issue. It’s every sequel.

When they move Solo to summer and fail (by SW standards), everyone screams about breaking the release rhythm. But the reality is, they just didn’t do a good job selling the movie and then the movie itself was not what people had been hoping for when they hired Lord & Miller and it flopped. LucasFilm Queen Kathy Kennedy grabbed hold of the double-edged sword. She wasn’t happy with the work by Lord & Miller, right or wrong. But the safe bet would have been to let the movie go on and let everyone blame them if it was bad. So on some level you have to give her credit for making the very hard choice. But the flipside – and not all that unusual – is that she could have let the movie she didn’t love move forward and it could have hit in a way she could not see… and then she could get all the money and take credit. (None of this reflects on Ron Howard, by the way, who came in an did the profession work he was asked to do.)

This is the insanity of the film business. Commitment to deep, true feelings and passions are absolutely in play. But cynical “let’s not stick out neck out too much” is also in play. The “brave” thing can be the wrong thing. And the by-the-book choice can be the right thing. And very few people outside the immediate circle of the film are going to know… including some people who are close enough to know the true stories and still don’t understand what happened.

Using the Solo example, Kennedy took the riskiest path, which she saw as the safest path. 50 people (or fewer) can offer any real opinion about whether her view of the Lord/Miller work was accurate or premature or just wrong. And the “risky” path of just letting it play out as it was going was less risky for her and Star Wars, but also may have led to a triumph that she could not predict st the stage the film was at when she pulled the plug. Taking the path she took has shaken faith in the entire franchise (which is silly) because she went traditional, reshot most of the movie, and still couldn’t get close to the bullseye. Combine that with other Hamlet moments in the production of the re-booted franchise’s first 5 films and there is perceived trouble in River City.

And then there is the biggest safety error when the project was being reconsidered mid-production… a couple scenes with Jabba The Hut and Boba Fett could have been worth 100s of million at the box office. They were expending a ton more money anyway, so why not give up on multiple “Solo” spin-off movies and just give the audience what you know they want? So much safer. But again… Kathy Kennedy took a giant risk and didn’t pander. And audiences kicked her ass as, in some part, a result.

There are a million – almost literally… maybe literally – choices along the road to putting a big movie on the big screen. You can fail at virtually any stop on the chain. And you can overcome failure in virtually any part of the chain with a triumph in another part of the chain. The rules are clear… and utterly irrelevant… and everything. No one knows anything, as The Great Goldman wrote.

Will The Meg explode into theaters next weekend? You can look at tracking and guess. Or you can tell me how it feels.

Whatever they are saying publicly, people at WB are sweating today, wondering if they have done everything they could do to open that film. People love the materials… but will that get them into theaters? If it opens soft, no one will question the date. If it opens better than expected, people will question the date. And that is the eternal conundrum. Both failure and success bring questions that are hard to answer. The only thing that doesn’t is when, as happens a few times a year, something does SO WELL that everyone just bows. Get Out, Wonder Woman, It, Black Panther, being the latest ones. Me? I would argue that those super-sized successes each had a very different path to their super-sizing. There is no group lesson.

But in Hollywood, almost everyone is trying to sell their cow for magic beans.

And really, who can blame them?

This weekend, no magic in the beans. One disaster out of three… but from a company that was just sold and is deeply demoralized.

Nice holds helped along by the soft newcomers.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post topped per-screen numbers… and this next week, the talent will be out selling the weekends to come for FilmRise. An unusual choice. Bold. And how things work in much of the indie promo these days. #NOKA

146 Comments »

The Hot Blog

Quote Unquotesee all »

This is probably going to sound petty, but Martin Scorsese insisting that critics see his film in theaters even though it’s going straight to Netflix and then not screening it in most American cities was a watershed moment for me in this theatrical versus streaming debate.

I completely respect when a filmmaker insists that their movie is meant to be seen in the theater, but the thing is, you got to actually make it possible to see it in the theater. Some movies may be too small for that, and that’s totally OK.

When your movie is largely financed by a streaming service and is going to appear on that streaming service instantly, I don’t really see the point of pretending that it’s a theatrical film. It just seems like we are needlessly indulging some kind of personal fantasy.

I don’t think that making a feature film length production that is going to go straight to a video platform is some sort of “step down.“ I really don’t. Theatrical exhibition as we know it is dying off anyway, for a variety of reasons.

I should clarify myself because this thread is already being misconstrued — I’m talking about how the movie is screened in advance. If it’s going straight to Netflix, why the ritual of demanding people see it in the theater?

There used to be a category that everyone recognized called “TV movie” or “made for television movie” and even though a lot of filmmakers considered that déclassé, it seems to me that probably 90% of feature films fit that description now.

Atlantis has mostly sunk into the ocean, only a few tower spires remain above the waterline, and I’m increasingly at peace with that, because it seems to be what the industry and much of the audience wants. We live in an age of convenience and information control.

Only a very elite group of filmmakers is still allowed to make movies “for theaters“ and actually have them seen and judged that way on a wide scale. Even platform releasing seems to be somewhat endangered. It can’t be fought. It has to be accepted.

9. Addendum: I’ve been informed that it wasn’t Scorsese who requested that the Bob Dylan documentary only be screened for critics in theaters, but a Netflix representative indicated the opposite to me, so I just don’t know what to believe.

It’s actually OK if your film is not eligible for an Oscar — we have a thing called the Emmys. A lot of this anxiety is just a holdover from the days when television was considered culturally inferior to theatrical feature films. Everybody needs to just get over it.

In another 10 to 20 years they’re probably going to merge the Emmys in the Oscars into one program anyway, maybe they’ll call it the Contentys.

“One of the fun things about seeing the new Quentin Tarantino film three months early in Cannes (did I mention this?) is that I know exactly why it’s going to make some people furious, and thus I have time to steel myself for the takes.

Back in July 2017, when it was revealed that Tarantino’s next project was connected to the Manson Family murders, it was condemned in some quarters as an insulting and exploitative stunt. We usually require at least a fig-leaf of compassion for the victims in true-crime adaptations, and even Tarantino partisans like myself – I don’t think he’s made a bad film yet – found ourselves wondering how he might square his more outré stylistic impulses with the depiction of a real mass murder in which five people and one unborn child lost their lives.

After all, it’s one thing to slice off with gusto a fictional policeman’s ear; it’s quite another to linger over the gory details of a massacre that took place within living memory, and which still carries a dread historical significance.

In her essay The White Album, Joan Didion wrote: “Many people I know in Los Angeles believe that the Sixties ended abruptly on August 9, 1969, ended at the exact moment when word of the murders on Cielo Drive traveled like brushfire through the community, and in a sense this is true.”

Early in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, as Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt’s characters drive up the hill towards Leo’s bachelor pad, the camera cranes up gently to reveal a street sign: Cielo Drive. Tarantino understands how charged that name is; he can hear the Molotov cocktails clinking as he shoulders the crate.

As you may have read in the reviews from Cannes, much of the film is taken up with following DiCaprio and Pitt’s characters – a fading TV actor and his long-serving stunt double – as they amusingly go about their lives in Los Angeles, while Margot Robbie’s Sharon Tate is a relatively minor presence. But the spectre of the murders is just over the horizon, and when the night of the 9th finally arrives, you feel the mood in the cinema shift.

No spoilers whatsoever about what transpires on screen. But in the audience, as it became clear how Tarantino was going to handle this extraordinarily loaded moment, the room soured and split, like a pan of cream left too long on the hob. I craned in, amazed, but felt the person beside me recoil in either dismay or disgust.

Two weeks on, I’m convinced that the scene is the boldest and most graphically violent of Tarantino’s career – I had to shield my eyes at one point, found myself involuntarily groaning “oh no” at another – and a dead cert for the most controversial. People will be outraged by it, and with good reason. But in a strange and brilliant way, it takes Didion’s death-of-the-Sixties observation and pushes it through a hellfire-hot catharsis.

Hollywood summoned up this horror, the film seems to be saying, and now it’s Hollywood’s turn to exorcise it. I can’t wait until the release in August, when we can finally talk about why.

~ Robbie Collin