Box Office Archive for July, 2009

More Bad Box Office Spinage

The LACMA story got me looking over some of the LA Times and I ran into a story by Ben Fritz about Monsters vs Aliens “underperforming overseas.”
Interesting.
But misleading.
Fritz found a stat that is accurate. DreamWorks Animation has had a great run of films going more overseas than domestically. And sometimes, it’s crazily out of proportion. Do you know how much Madagascar 2 made overseas, having made $180 million here? $422 million flippin’ dollars. Better than 3.3x more. Massive.
Kung Fu Panda did $420 million overseas and “just” $215 million here.
But here is a key variable that Fritz didn’t consider. The release date.
Because of piracy, animation now opens, for the most part, day-n-date or within a couple of weeks worldwide. Monsters vs Aliens is the domestic champ for an animated spring opening. That’s good.
But moving onto the foreign box office, aside from the Ice Age films, poor Monsters vs Aliens is the highest spring-release overseas animated grosser in history with $177 million. More than Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who! or Robots or Meet The Robinsons or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. That’s three different studios trying the spring and not matching DWA on this film. There is only one other spring animated release to gross as much as $50 million, The Road To Eldorado… and it also did less overseas than in the US, in spite of the involvement of Ken Branagh and Elton John.
Even Fox decided to move Ice Age 3 to the summer. And sure enough, less than a month into its worldwide release, the film is already the highest grosser of the series with another $50 million (or more) in theatrical gross to come… a little behind at this point domestically and a bit ahead in foreign over Ice Age 2‘s complete run.
Fritz is right and smart to argue that the 3D run domestically may have inflated US grosses to create the unusual US over Foreign ratio. But the notion that AvM underperformed overseas is not too reasonable, given the release date.
The real question for Katzenberg that may/should come up is, “Why are you still releasing animated movies in the spring?”
The answer may be that MvA did so well here. It may be that there is too much competition from Disney/Pixar and others in the summer and November. It may be that the studio is obliged to deliver spring content in the Paramount distribution deal (there are March releases scheduled for 2010 and 2012). And maybe a sequel to MvA will pop like Ice Age did ($206m to $456m international from the first to the second film).
But this kind of question is why all Pixar releases are now summer releases. There is just more money out there in other release periods.
And the stock analysts – including the one who brought this “worry” for DWA up – remain a bunch of bloody idiots. How can a bunch of smart people who have nothing to do but to analyze a narrow industry sector be so wrong so often? It truly boggles the mind.

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Universal's Bad Summer

Yes, Universal has had a bad summer.
Yes, there have been rumors about executive changes all summer.
No, none of this excuses shoddy “journalism”by long-time veterans who, after all of these years, still don’t understand how box office works. (Yes, Sharon Waxman… you.)
Public Enemies grossed more than $4 million last weekend and still has a shot at $100 million domestic. In any case, it is already the #2 Michael Mann film all-time domestically, behind only Collateral with $101m. The international box office, which is cited without any factual clarity, was $25 million going into this last weekend… and the film has opened in only 10 non-domestic markets, including just one week in the two major non-NA markets it is open in, the UK and France. The film is pretty much a lock to outgross Mann’s previous best in the both countries. (Collateral did $15m total in the UK and $11.5m in France… PE opened last weekend to over $9 million in the UK and $7.5m in France.)
Now… does $200 million or so worldwide make Public Enemies a good investment with a negative cost of over $100 million? Not so much. Make that argument. But please… be fair.
You can paint Bruno as a disappointment… but you can’t paint it as a money loser. Please… be fair.
Drag Me to Hell… disappointing numbers… but a money maker. Please… be fair.
And the one real financial loser, Land of the Lost. But it has only opened in 5 markets outside of North America. Please… be fair.
Finally… let me be very clear… Market Share In 2009 Is A Measurement For MORONS.
Buena Vista’s overall gross for the year – and thus market share – is more than a third off of Paramount’s. But with nine releases this year, every single one will be profitable.
At this point, BV is pretty obviously having the second most profitable year of any studio – WB is #1 thanks to Potter, the very profitable The Hangover, and some holdover NL titles – even though it is #4 in market share.
The only stat nearly as stupid – and popular – as Market Share is Tickets Sold. Mentioning either, in 90% of conversations, is an admission that you really have no idea what you are talking about and don’t care to know.

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Weekend Estimates by Klady – Hampsters & Wizards & Panties, Oh My

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Not too much to think about here. (But I’ll find something.) Potter’s second drop is estimated to be 3.6% worse than Phoenix, which is the series’ previous top earner by the end of the second weekend. Half-Blood is still $14m ahead of any other P-flick, but as I have droned on about, it will all equalize and $285m – $295m will put this Potter right in line with the rest domestically.
Meanwhile, the film is well over $400m overseas, where it is now likely (anticipating the overseas weekend numbers) past Transformers ROTLF and is now behind only Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs in the race for top international earner of the summer (as expected).
The Ugly Truth opens about $6.6m behind The Proposal as the #2 rom/com opening of the summer. The number continues to set K-eigl’s box office range. (I know… sexist… but it’s funnier than K-Heigl, which was where I was first going.) Like her real life tabloid drama or not, she is having the movie career that Lindsay Lohan was supposed to be having about now.
And by the way… the opening is $3 million less than Bruno, and is being estimated to do 2.4x the Friday gross vs Bruno‘s 2.1x Friday. Yet Ugly is, properly, being seen as a successful opening. What’s the difference? Media preconception and bias based not on journalistic analysis, but bandwagoning against SBC’s movie. Meanwhile, the 3rd weekend hold of Bruno improved, in spite of the film losing 864 theaters. The worldwide and domestic gross look to be about half of Borat in the end.
G-Force is Disney’s third $30m+ opener this summer, a stat with which they join WB and Fox. (The three $30m+ers for both Fox & WB were also $40m+ers.) It’s another one of those movies, underestimated, but a strong earner… slightly bigger opening than BH Taco Bell Dogs.
Speaking of Fox, Ice Age 3 is making a slow run to $200 million, which will give this summer six $200 million films, keeping the season from being the first summer not to have six $200m+ movies since 2006. The standard of five-per was set in 2005, then to six in 2007. You can point to increasing ticket prices if you must, but the $200m threshold is still – since eclipsing $100m as the key stat – an achievement of note.
For those keeping count…
*The Proposal is Sandra Bullock’s all-time best domestically and will be behind only Speed as her 2nd biggest worldwide hit.
*Up is locked in as Pixar’s #2 domestic hit, about $50m behind Nemo… foreign has barely started rolling out yet.
*X-Men Origins: Wolverine is only about $44 million behind X2: X-Men United worldwide with about $20 million more to be anticipated overseas, making it one of the most profitable films of the summer.
*Night At The Museum: Battle of The Smithsonian was about 1/3 off of the first film, both foreign & domestic. And that was the profit margin Fox was hoping to cash in on by doing the sequel. Still… with nearly $400 million worldwide, it is hardly a disaster and will (just) scrape its way into the black via post-theatrical revenues.
*Angels & Demons is a similar case, off about a third worldwide, still grossing over $475m ww… and even closer to black ink. Not what they hoped. Not a disaster.
The story of Summer 2009 is, as it has been before, the utter destruction of the movie middle class. There have been 25 studio releases so far this summer. 11 have grossed more than $100 million with 3 more with that number in sight. Of the other 11, you have three legitimate flops (Land of the Lost, Year One, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past), four legitimate lower-budget minor successes (Bruno, My Sister’s Keeper, Drag Me to Hell, Orphan), one overly expensive programmer that is waiting on foreign to determine if it loses a lot (The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3), and three widely released, but overt studio dumps (Dance Flick, Imagine That, I Love You Beth Cooper).
Of all of those, excluding the dumpers, the only two films that were really targeting the domestic middle-class of movies (around $80m) were Bruno and Pelham. The two stars that would have also been within range of expectations, but overperformed, were The Proposal and the phenom, The Hangover. (Hangover will triple Todd Phillips’ prior best domestic grosser and double his prior best worldwide.)
If studios won’t commit to making profitable movies based on domestic grosses between $60m and $80m, they are making a suicidal mistake. With all the money being spent, no more than five films will have profits – in reality – of over $100 million this summer. And we will see more than a dozen movies with grosses over $300m worldwide. There is a major disconnect there. And that is the business that The Business is chasing these days. Oy.
AND… The Hurt Locker expanded by 144 screens, to 238, and did a very respectable $1.4 million. And we’re still running a bit behind Sunshine Cleaning.
Historically, this is how it goes from here in, roughly: 500 screens next weekend, $1.9 million gross. 650 screens the next weekend… $1.65m gross. 750 screens the next weekend… $1.4m gross. And we’ve cracked $10 million… but the movie is on the way out. $900k… $700k… $400k… $200k… $120k…. $50k… $25k…. DVD. And the film grosses under $15m domestic.
I am beating a dead horse here. This was a very good weekend, but Summit’s strategy isn’t going to change. And really, they are right at this point. It is virtually impossible – given that it’s the summer – to change speeds in a real way at this point in the release schedule. Still, I find it endlessly frustrating that a movie that would have been well served by a big sampling will not be seen by many people under 40 until it lands on cable and it gets discovered by an audience that will be blown away by the craftsmanship and cool of the film.
And with that – unless some real news happens – I am done whipping this horse until awards season…

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Friday Estimates by Klady – G-Ugly

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OHMIGOD! THE TWITTER EFFECT HAS KILLED HARRY POTTER!!!!!
Zzzzzzzzzzzz…
After all, Transformers: ROTFL only dropped 51% from first Friday to second… and Potter is off 64% And we all know how horrible Tr2 is. So Potter much be much worse. Bring on the endless feature stories about “What Really Happened To Harry Potter!”
This is yet another example of how media twists details into the stories they really want to write. Yes, details need to cooperate a bit. If Bruno had gone up in its second weekend, no doubt, they would have written about how Americans are so homophobic that they LOVED Bruno. Instead, we got a parade of experts explaining one thing… how little they actually know or care about understanding the box office.
Last week at this time, P6 was ahead of P5 by $18.5m… now it’s $14.5m. And in the end, it will land somewhere in The Potter Zone between $290m and $305m. But we can look to the Potter films as an interesting case study about how box office is evolving. The series is huge and amazingly consistent. And the first film, still the biggest by $25m domestic, took 15 days (that includes the 3rd Friday) to get to where this one has gotten in 10 (which includes just the 2nd Friday).
That is to say… in the course of 8 years, a mega-movie has shortened its box office cycle by a full week. Part of that was adding the Wednesday opening to ease the load on that first 3-day.
The flip side is that the Top Potter, #1, doesn’t pull ahead of all the other Potters until Day 45, when you compare the daily box office of all these films. But if you look at the weekly numbers, Potter 1 has the best weeks of the Potters from Week 4 on… by a couple of million in every subsequent weekend, but sometimes by $5m and $6m. $19.8 million in Week 6 is amazing. That’s $5m more than domestic #2 all-time The Dark Knight did last summer. That’s not a slap at TDK, but an acknowledgment of how things keep changing.
This is where Joe (in this case, Average Joe) asks, “So what?” And the answer is that none of this really does matter to Harry Potter or Batman or Spider-Man. In fact, the weaker the mega-film, the better frontloading is for its box office run.
But like Reagan’s trickle-down theory, the frontloading and all the ramifications of it trickles down to movies that are not so fortunate as to have massive numbers while frontloading and could do very well with legs.
Half of Orphan’s screens this weekend seem to be coming out of the theater counts of The Hangover and My Sister’s Keeper. The other half are, appropriately, coming out of – it seems – I Love You, Beth Cooper. Up gave up 37% of its screens this weekend.
Even Bruno, which coughed up 31% of its screens this weekend, is an example of the cost of frontloading. The film was teh #5 movie Monday (ahead of The Hangover), #6 Tuesday, and #7 on Wed & Thurs… adding over $900k every day of the week. Losing a third of its screens on Friday, it’s Friday was about the same as its Thursday… which is horrible for films that kept their count… and even with Twitter-victim Bruno, would surely not have happened had it not lost all those screens. Say the loss of screens – encouraged by the way films go in and out of theaters now and increasingly every year – costs the film $1.5 million this weekend and $2.5 million over the week. As you roll through the next 4 or 5 weeks of this films run, you’re looking at $5 million more that it might well have made and won’t. That’s 7% or 8% of the film’s domestic total.
10% may not seem like a lot to you… and studios have left that much or more on a lot of movies – perhaps a majority – on the table in recent years. But part of that was that DVD was around the corner, promising big bucks. These days, that 7% – 10% is looking like a lot of money. But the system that’s in place is still moving forward based on the old (in this case, a decade old) idea of what was best.
Anyway…
G-Force and The Ugly Truth are perfect examples of films that were underestimated by tracking because of their audiences. Kids love pooping, talking rodents and women want to be taught by Gerry Butler until they can turn the tables and teach him a few things. Both studios did a great job hitting their targets. And Sony may get a break next weekend as Adam Sandler and Seth Rogen front the new Apatow. Women like Apatow films and Leslie Mann in them in particular, but even though Funny People will likely win that race next weekend, Ugly may well siphon off 20% or so of the Funny audience next weekend, who stick with the pure chick flick while waiting for word of mouth… via mouth… or text… or Twitter… or the phone… or even at the literal water cooler.
Box Office Mojo has The Hurt Locker at $390,000 for Friday in its expansion to 238 screens. That should mean the film’s first $1 million weekend. That’s good. Now, let’s see if Summit is prepared to build on that.

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Box Office Hell & The Ugly G-Force Spot

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Bad Release Date The Real Ugly Truth?

Sony has a bit of a dance coming up. The next three weekends have their The Ugly Truth – a film with all the potential box office of The Proposal, though reviews will likely be rougher – followed by Universal’s Apatowian Funny People, followed by what may be the crown jewel of non-R-rated comedy this summer, Julie & Julia. Can Sony squeeze enough out of The Ugly Truth in two weekends, one against Sandler and Apatow, before launching Streep & Adams? This is beginning to look like a strategic release date mistake. It’s not that they won’t open Ugly to the mid-20s. It’s just that there may be no room for it to do any more than $65m total in what is suddenly a massive competitively moment for comedies that appeal to women.




Poll results after the jump…

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Weekend Estimates by Klady – Potent Potter

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Not too much more to look at here. Potter is where is was headed. Ice Age 3 rolls along, ahead of the first two films after two weekends and slightly ahead of Tranny2 for the weekend (as it probably really was last weekend), and Transformers: ROTFL is in line to break into the Top 10 all-time domestic with more than $400m, but likely not the worldwide all-time Top 15, which starts at $870.8m.
Bruno fell hard and is still probably looking at between $70m and $80m domestic… which is, ironically, where Fox felt its top on Borat would be. Not a cash machine, but still profitable for Universal.
It is not a direct defense of Bruno, but it is worth pointing out that these steep second weekend drops are becoming more and more standard. This is the ninth drop of more than 67% this year… the record for a year is ten. Five of the nine steep ones were opened on 2750 screens or more. None of them were opened on fewer than 1250 screens.
I understand the argument that “people just don’t like the film,” but I don’t see a natural Bottom 10 list in any of the years biggest drop lists. This year, it is (in order of the drop, worst to less worst): Friday the 13th, Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience, Bruno, Miss March, Notorious, Year One, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li, and Watchmen.
Using another measure, there have only been 13 films that have opened over $50m and done less than 2.5x opening. Three have already happened this year. There were two last year and three in 2007. There were only 5 in cinema history before that. But even looking from last year to this year, the numbers are not pretty. Quantum of Solace (2.49x open) and The Incredible Hulk (2.43x) were rough, but Fast & Furious (2.19x), Wolverine (2.1) and Watchmen (1.9x… the big release record holder) are harsher.
Looking past those mega-openers, there have been 59 releases of over $20 million that have done less than 2.5x opening. 22 of them were in the last two years… 11 this year already, compared to 11 last year. 9, in 2006, was the ignoble record before that…7 is the next worst showing. See the trend? Bruno has a real chance of being the film that sets the new record for futility in the name of 2009.
In years past, this increase in front-loading was a problem, but less of an issue as DVD revenues rose. With DVD dropping off, the erosion in opening multiples continues… but now it represents actual lost revenue, not cannibalization by another revenue source.
The Hangover holds are, like Wedding Crashers before it, astounding. It might not have enough time to play out, but based on the current trajectory, it could actually pass Up to become the second highest grosser of this summer. Remarkable.
Speaking of Up, it looks pretty well ensconced in the #5 all-time animation slot, about $45m behind #4, Shrek The Third, and #2 amongst Pixar titles only to Finding Nemo. International numbers are just starting to come in, as the film hasn’t opened in many of the biggest markets.
(%00) Days Of Summer positioned as an indie play? Yeah. Kinda. Already discussed. Same with The Hurt Locker. Humpday at 5… well… bless us, every one… Magnolia just isn’t a theatrical-first-priority releasing company right now…

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Box Office Add…

Klady estimates The Hurt Locker at $199k on 93 screens yesterday.
Last weekend, the 3-day was almost exactly 3x Friday. $600k would take the overall gross to $2 million.
The trajectory for this year’s current exclusive-and-widening box office champ, Sunshine Cleaning, saw it do $671,618 on 64 screens, then $1,274,007 on 167, then peak at $1,807,164 on 479 in its 4th weekend before it started sliding back down, even with another screen expansion. That said, it went from $4.7m total on that peak weekend to $12.1 million in the end.
Locker is in its 4th weekend and this expansion will take it to double the domestic total that Sunshine had was when ended that $672k weekend (wknd 2). That part is good. But Sunshine as at $10,494 per screen in that expansion and Locker is at around $6500. That part is not so good.
What Summit needs now is to figure out how it’s going to get the film to its $1.8 million weekend, it’s $25m weekend and beyond.
The thing about this film is that if there is a big enough sample, it will start selling itself. But the danger of the slow rollout without a lot of money behind it is that the sample is strong in a few markets and no one has any idea what the movie is in the markets you have to hit when you get over 150 screens (and really, not even that wide).
The hard part for the distributor is that as they expand and numbers are good, but not sensational, a self-fulfilling prophecy starts to take over and an undersupported film in a bust market just can’t break through. That is not to say there is not a lot of risk for the distributor. There is. And financially, it is all their risk. But without bold choices, the rewards will sometimes pale against what was really possible. The Hurt Locker is not Once. Teens will love it. But they have to see it to love it.

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Friday Estimates by Klady – Potted

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Harry Potter is doing…. Harry Potter business. Taa Dah!!!
The reason – again – why all the hysteria and premature projection around box office… all the throwing around of electronic ticket sales numbers as though they mean anything other than how many people bought tickets for a popular movie in a way that is still growing in popularity itself… and the idea that tracking can be taken seriously as a way of guessing how high a film will open in these cases of enormous popularity… all absurd on their face. It’s bad information. And while no one is yet spinning this Potter opening as disappointing, but you can bet that irrelevant comparisons to Transformers 2 will fly.
As I pointed out yesterday, “An $80m 3-day, which is what I think the max is, is still $20 million more in the first 5 days than any Potter yet and the #6 5-day gross of all time.” That is about where we seem to be headed. It’s a great number. It will or will not lead to being the biggest Potter film, though as box office is going these days, probably not. It will likely end up right about Goblet & Phoenix… maybe a little closer to Sorcerer’s Stone. But $290m is about The Potter Domestic Number now.
Flip side, Bruno is now paying for doing the midnight Thursday shows with an 80% Fri-to-Fri drop and the perception that the media is now invested in selling. The weekday numbers were only off about 15%… until Harry Potter ate the movie world. The Potter Effect is real. The Twitter Effect is BS.
As of last night, Bruno was about $4m behind Borat. By the end of the weekend, he’ll be running about $16m behind Borat‘s first 2 weekends. That’s off by a third… but that’s about what I expected from Bruno before numbers started rolling in… an $80m – $90m domestic movie with the possibility of something bigger. So again… to me, similar to Potter. Reporting is good… hyping expectations so you can report disappointment, not so much.
The (500) Days of Summer opening is strong indie stuff, though for me, it points back at the problem discussed yesterday with the Hurt Locker approach. Fox Searchlight has spent a ton for this opening. They are opening on 27 screens, but the machinery of Searchlight has been humming along as though it was an 1800 screen opening. No, they aren’t spending full-out on TV. But they are buying TV. And at a venue like The Grove, here in LA, the “outdoor” placements are pretty much at the same level as Harry Potter. The studio is comfortable that the expansion will catch the box office up with the media spend because they believe in the word of mouth. It is a painful reality of non-wide-release distribution that the risk that Searchlight is taking is what is necessary to create a “grass roots” hit… like the US funding guerillas, the idea is not for anyone to notice that the flair has been paid for.
Good for Searchlight.
One last note… remember the Ice Age 3/Transformers 2 showdown that Tr2 won by miraculously beating the family film 3 days out of the first five by just enough to be #1 for a second weekend. IA3 is now 17 days old… and those 3 days of Tr2 being ahead remain the ONLY days in which Tr2 beat the week-fresher IA3. Hmmmm…
One more last note… today, Public Enemies will become the #2 all-time Michael Mann domestic grosser. Again… what were people expecting? The film even has a shot at Mann’s #1 grosser, Collateral, at $101m domestic.

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Box Office Hell – Half-Blood Harry & The Potted Prince

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Keep in mind the $80 million that Potter already has in its coffers after 2 days. An $80m 3-day, which is what I think the max is, is still $20 million more in the first 5 days than any Potter yet and the #6 5-day gross of all time.

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The Big Question Of The Weekend Box Office Is…

… NOT whether Harry Potter will smash any records, bur whether the expansion of The Hurt Locker will be effective.
Clearly, Summit wants it to work. They talked to Bloomberg and argued that this painfully slow expansion – without much television advertising support – is the best way to go. The journalist even compared it to Slumdog Millionaire or Gran Torino. This is, simply, factually inaccurate. Besides the fact that both films were spending millions in TV buys even before the films expanded – and in the case of Torino, the expansion was in weekend 5… to 2800 screens – both films were definitively chasing Oscar during Oscar season. I argued then as I would still argue that Torino could have opened wide from Weekend One and perhaps grossed even more. But the choice to roll out slow was an Oscar play… in some ways to avoid being seen as “just” a commercial film.
But let’s dig deeper…
A total of 25 films that initially opened on fewer than 100 screens earned as much as $5 million at the domestic box office last year. 12 of the 25 were released in November or December, every single one strategically pursuing Oscar. Of the other 13, only 5 got to $10 million domestic (U2 3D, Rachel Getting Married, The Duchess… all under $14m… Kit Kittredge ($!8m)… and WB/NL’s Appaloosa, the only $20m movie, grossing $20.2m.
Appaloosa went to 1045 screens in Weekend 3, Kit Kittredge went to 1843 in Weekend 3, The Duchess went to 1207 screens in Weekend 4, Rachel Getting Married never got past 391 screens and never had a weekend of more than $1.5m, and U2 3D never got past a 686 screen/$1m weekend.
I’ve looked back over the last 5 years, looking for exceptions to my sense of fearing this strategy. I found some documentaries, like Sicko and An Inconvenient Truth. But with features, the only films I could consider were Broken Flowers (Bill Murray comedy with sex, following Lost In Translation, $13.7m), Napoleon Dynamite ($45m), and Garden State ($26.8m). But Broken was on over 400 screens and Garden was at over 650 screens by Weekend 4.
So really, Summit is trying to play the Napoleon Dynamite card… except that they aren’t in partnership with MTV on this film and they aren’t getting millions and millions of dollars in cross promotional advertising every week targeting its very specific audience.
So… what’s the downside?
Well, Summit could play their word-of-mouth game so close to the financial vest that they taint their truly great movie to a degree that costs it an Oscar nomination next January… even with 10 nominees.
The Oscar landscape is littered, year after year, with movies that should have been there but were not. And it is why there is the fall pile-up of Oscar hopefuls. Historically, the summer and spring movies that make it are movies that have very strong box office.
Would In Bruges have been a Best Picture nominee last year if there were 10 nominees? Maybe. Or maybe it would have been kept out by Wrestler, Torino, Defiance, Visitor, and Rev Road. That is the game of roulette that Summit seems willing to play with this film that is more beloved by those who have seen it than any movie but Slumdog last year.
And maybe it will work out. This is, again, a terrific movie. And word of mouth will get Academy members to watch it on DVD, even if they don’t see it now.
But you have to go back to 1996’s Secret & Lies to find a film that hadn’t grossed $15 million at the time of nominations that was not a December release. And if this expansion to 93 screens this weekend doesn’t hit $1 million, we are very likely looking at a film that will not get to that number in domestic release… unless Summit decides to release this very commercial film in a more commercial way… or lightening strikes.
My hopes are with Summit, but more so, with the film.

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What Was Your First Clue?

I just saw a post that said that Harry Potter 6 would open huge. Wow. Glad we had that info from MovieTickets.com and Fandango to tell us that. Or maybe it is the most obvious opening in the movie business today.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – $77,108,414 – 7/11/07
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets – $88,357,488 – 11/15/02
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone – $90,294,621 – 11/16/01
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – $93,687,367 – 6/4/04
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – $102,685,961 – 11/18/05
Please note, the one Potter films whose 3-day is under $88 million is Phoenix, which is also the only film prior to this new one to open on a Wednesday.
Please also note that Phoenix was the 2nd highest Potter domestic gross in history (2nd only to the first of the series) and made more in its first 5 days than any other Potter film by about $20 million.
Anything under $135 million in the first 5 days will be a disappointment to WB. Anything more than $140m will be a new franchise record.

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Why I Hate Trending: Episode 488

“The Saturday decline for “Bruno” is the second biggest in modern history for a movie that didn’t open on a holiday weekend, according to BoxOfficeMojo.com, behind only the hugely anticipated “Twilight.”
It’s difficult to discern whether audiences’ dislike for “Bruno” stemmed…”

LA Times
Whoa there, cowboy.
If this is the analysis that indicates that Bruno is disliked, then Twilight is disliked, right?
I’m not even saying that Bruno is NOT disliked (though I think the drama about its Saturday drop is wildly overblown). I’m just saying, how do smart people who actually have the facts in front of them disregard them so easily to make a point that, it seems, they decided to make before they started writing?
And everyone following that ill-logic is just as guilty, if not more.
This is exactly the fight I get into all the time. Shortly, someone will start writing a comment about how I am defending the movie because I liked it or some such spin on what I am saying. But that is utterly irrelevant. The numbers are the numbers. If Twilight is a big hit, how does one use a stat about it as a way of condemning another movie? It’s insane on its face… even if the negativity turns out to be right.
Joe Leydon used to ask in here, “If early numbers turn out to be right, why are you so upset about them?” And the answer remains the same… because they are very often not right. And the impact of a bad number can be felt beyond its life. Now we have multiple outlets guessing at numbers on Friday afternoons, based on east coast matinees. The Wrap even wrote a whole piece that hinged on east coast matinees being the last time that movie marketing mattered in a movie’s life. (Moronic.)
This is all premature box office ejaculation.
It starts with the bastardization of tracking into a guessing tool for weekend box office… which is not and never was its intent. It is extends to extrapolation based on less and less actual information, sites desperate for attention and, in the most successful at getting that attention – Nikki via her career-making Drudge links – just rewrites the history as the facts change through the weekend. In this case, it went from “could hit $50m,” to “will hit $40m” to “could hit $40m,” to “‘BRUNO’ IST BIG: $30.4M Weekend Opener>” Uh huh.
Bruno – which may or may not make 3x opening, but which is guaranteed to be a more profitable movie than $400m worldwide grossers like Star Trek or Terminator Salvation – had its “downfall” set by hyperactive full-weekend projections based, first, on the Thursday midnight screenings, then Friday matinees, then more complete Friday estimates, then Saturday estimates, then CinemaScore (oy!) ratings, and finally, weekend estimates… which were $4 million higher than Borat, but which are still being portrayed as a disaster… even before we know what the weekdays, much less the all-important second weekend looks like.
Month after month after month, we see exceptions to the rules as well as ongoing shifts in our rote expectations of how box office will evolve after the first weekend. As I have noted before, we are seeing more films opening well but doing less than 2.5x opening than ever in history.
But we have all become so caught up in pretending we know the facts before we get them that the news is no longer the news… it is the tonal interpretation of news based on our pre-existing bias and, often, ignorance.
Like I say, Bruno could end up being a $60m domestic movie. Not likely. But shit happens. But aren’t journalists in the business of waiting for the news to happen anymore? Don’t we have a responsibility not to be reckless about how we cover our beats?
More and more, the “journalism” in this medium becomes about placement. The electronic ticket sellers are out there selling “news” based on, but not acknowledging, their narrow swath. Paul Degarebedian, now working for the ever-desperate Hollywood.com, is out selling himself as an expert (which overwhelms his actual expertise at times). Screen International is considering who to sue first when they get “scooped” by their own information, repurposed by other sites without acknowledgment. Corporate publicists are placing “news.” Studios are placing “news.” Freelancers who come up with implausible, but well-written theories are selling “news.” And a variety of alleged journalists are out there selling themselves in the guise of having some kind of insight into “news,” when they just have some more gossip to throw out there.
Whatever happened to actual news?
No one cares. It takes to long to happen.
Blech.

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Weekend Estimates by Klady Lays Down Mit Bruno

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Okay… let’s get into the blame game for Bruno only topping Borat‘s opening by $4 million after an opening day about $5 million ahead of Borat…. yawn…
People love being negative. This strong opening does suggest that, once again, there are people who just aren’t interested in this kind of comedy. And those people, it seems, are the people that the film mocks, not gay America or the city folks.
As I noted in my review, I think the only place for Sacha Baron-Cohen to go now is to a conservative character who rips into liberal America with all the gusto that Borat and Bruno savaged the flyovers. We deserve the abuse and the hours of free time on Fox News couldn’t hurt at the box office. His biggest challenge will be being funnier than The Yes Men.
But Bruno opening a bit better than Johnny Depp and a bit lower than Sandra Bullock painted as a negative is really about the media Emineming itself.
Notable on the weekend are the tiny drops estimated for both The Proposal and The Hangover. I think it is fair to say that some people voted with their wallets, going to comedies, but not Bruno, choosing more traditional boy and girl comedy fare instead.
And my comment yesterday, that I wasn’t so sure The Hangover would hit $250m, was turned upside down by this hold. It will. And WB won’t have to drag it like Superman Returns out to get it there.
The Hurt Locker expansion to 60 screens went pretty well. In terms of a real screen count – Bruno surely had more actual screens than the 2756 count… not the case with most indies – the film was behind only Humpday‘s per-screen on 2. On the other hand, the much less enthusiastically received Away We Go had a better per-screen when it expanded to 45 screens. I would love to be able to say that I see this great film cracking $10 million – re-release will be unlikely come January, as the film will surely already be on DVD – but I am not hopeful. Still, an Oscar nomination could ease the pain and earn the expenditure by Summit back in DVD… something much less likely for a more mainstreamed film going through the same cycle.
Did I mention I Love You Beth Cooper? No? Fitting.
(Correction to typos, 12:22p)

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Friday estimates by Klady – July 11, 09

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ADD, 9:58a – Klady has The Hurt Locker doing 172k on 60.
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Transformers:ROTLF passed the first film’s total at the domestic box office yesterday. The first film had another $70 million in it after this point (third Friday) in its run.
Bruno‘s opening day is about $5 million ahead of Borat‘s. Of course, Borat was opened on a limited number of screens… less than a quarter of the count this weekend. Still, the expansion in both numbers seems about right. This movie will serve its audience well, but there is a cap to the number of people who want to see this kind of film. A similar 1/3 bump for the weekend puts it around $35 million… though it will probably do slightly better than that.
$4600 per screen on 2 is a good start for Humpday, but not overwhelming. Perhaps it needed more Twittering. Magnolia just isn’t a theatrical-first releasing company anymore. $3 million is about their high range and that doesn’t happen much. The best a picture like Humpday can really expect is about 50 screens at a time and $1.5 million. And when you think about it, for a picture made this way, at this price, and with the anointing of Lynn Shelton, there can be no complaints from the film’s makers. But when you look at it as a symptom of indieWOOD, it still has to make you wonder how often the end results will ever overwhelm the means again.
Up is really petering out now. It would be an audacious choice by Disney to pull it from theaters soon and then relaunch in late August with an eye on a 2 or 3 week run. It is the rare film that could draw a crowd based on a “remember how great it is… come back and experience it on a screen one ore time” sell.
The Taking of Pelham 123 is about over too. The $60m domestic and change is not horrible, given the talent involved. Not good, but not horrible. $80 million is about what was realistic for these two actors, given that the film’s premise, in spite of Tony Scott, couldn’t quite get people feeling like it was a real action movie, but more like a drama. This is one of those rare cases where I think critics hurt, not by negative reviews, but by setting a tone that wasn’t overcome by marketing. And it has to be said, John Travolta’s personal loss was the film’s loss, as Travolta remains one of the best salesmen for his movies in the business. The difference between the perception of “hit” and “flop” here was about 40%. If Travolta could have raised the opening numbers by 15%, that alone could have boosted the final domestic number by a multiple of that.
My Sister’s Keeper may not seem like much, but it is a modest success and Cameron Diaz’s strongest dramatic outing as the frontwoman, passing up In Her Shoes yesterday on its way to $40m+ domestic. Diaz also has a strong foreign position, so the film could end up close to $100m worldwide, which would be a hit indeed. (Or it could flop… one never knows, do one? but probably not.)

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Box Office

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“The word I have fallen in love with lately is ‘Hellenic.’ Greek in its mythology. So while everyone is skewing towards the YouTube generation, here we are making two-and-a-half-hour movies and trying to buck the system. It’s become clear to me that we are never going to be a perfect fit with Hollywood; we will always be the renegade Texans running around trying to stir the pot. Really it’s not provocation for the sake of being provocative, but trying to make something that people fall in love with and has staying power. I think people are going to remember Dragged Across Concrete and these other movies decades from now. I do not believe that they will remember some of the stuff that big Hollywood has put out in the last couple of years. You’ve got to look at the independent space to find the movies that have been really special recently. Even though I don’t share the same world-view as some of my colleagues, I certainly respect the hell out of their movies which are way more fascinating than the stuff coming out of the studio system.”
~ Dallas Sonnier

“My first objective relationship in life was with the camera. I didn’t understand anything but then I realized the camera is my friend. It doesn’t lie to me. It doesn’t manipulate me. It only reports what I’m doing. And therefore, for me to work with a camera and the camera to be directed by an artist, a craftsman, someone who knows what he or she wants, I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
~ Elliot Gould