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Weekend Estimates by 100 For A Girl Klady

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Wonder Woman is estimating just over the $100 million mark, which could end up being a little high or a little low. Either way, a strong debut better than any of the non-Iron Man standalone character Marvel launches. Not as Wonderful, Captain Underpants closed out the DreamWorks Animation run at Fox with their second lowest opener after delivering their second best opener just a few months ago. The two arthouse winners for the weekend were A24’s The Exception and IFC’s Band Aid.

Wonder Woman is estimating at just over $100 million. Might be more. Word of mouth is strong. Media push is strong.

The key stat, to me, is that this is the best launch of a superhero standalone ever. Iron Man was $98.6 million. And Superman and Batman both launched a generation ago. Did women push Wonder Woman over the top here? The Norse god, chemically enhanced human icicle, and guys who hang out with raccoons, people of non-human skin tones, and tree demos clearly didn’t change their games, although audiences proved they wanted to see all of those films.

This is certainly more proof that the female moviegoing demo is more than commercially viable… as Hollywood is already fully aware, given the summer of all buddy comedies being about female buddies. Next serious mission is to have more women work on these films.

On the arthouse side, Band Aid opened this weekend and if you take a gander at the imdb page, you will see a remarkably high percentage of women working behind the camera… choices worth supporting. (A DP/30 with the filmmaker and co-star lands next week.)

Captain Underpants crapped the diaper. Tra-la-la!!!! The end of the Fox distribution deal with DreamWorks Animation ended not with a bang, but a whimper. The 6-12 set LOVE this movie. I have personally spoken to many of them about it and my son was at a Captain U birthday party yesterday where he saw the film a second time. Butt (hee-hee… read the books) the demo didn’t deliver enough to make this a strong play for DWA. I think a TV version for Netflix would be a home run, however… much more so than Turbo (a movie I liked), which had no serious underlying IP. Dav Pikey’s books are not going away. Generations would watch that show.

Pirates drop was okay… based on a weak start domestically. It’s this summer’s, uh, Pirates of the Caribbean.

Baywatch also held okay… based on a weak start domestically.

Alien: Covenant is looking like the last sequel before Alien. International no longer seems likely to save this prequel series.

Everything, Everything is the surprise success of the summer, even with $28 million in the bank. WB spent nothing, nothing (relative to their norm) to push it out and it will be a moneymaker and, it seems, a strong library title.

Besides Band Aid, the other $10, 000 arthouse movie this weekend is The Exception from A24.

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Friday Estimates by Wonder Klady

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Wonder Woman isn’t hampered by sexism. Nor does it seem to be buoyed by gender empowerment. It’s opening as one would expect – perhaps a tick or two better – the first standalone non-Batman/Superman DC character film.  Up around the $100 million mark after an effects-heavy campaign that audiences liked.

There will be a lot of debate about the details, and that’s fine. But this opening is what one really wants to see for “female-led films” with “female directors”… parity.

There are moments in Wonder Woman that will thrill female viewers in particular, though I felt that same tingle down the spine that those women probably felt when “Paradise Island’s” warriors went into action en masse against the Germans. For me, it was, in no small part, because it was cool to see women fight like that. And I suppose, when one gets down to it, the rush was fresher, but not dissimilar to the rush one gets when seeing “the good guys” go into a major battle with “the bad guys” in any good movie.

Wonder Woman is a big step for women in film mostly because it is not that big a step cinematically. We were not experiencing the arrival of David Fincher or Christopher Nolan or Brad Bird. In a weird way, it reminds me of the feeling of seeing Ant-Man after all the mess with Edgar Wright leaving and Peyton Reed taking over. Loyalty to Wright made the whole thing seem precarious (and we still love Edgar), but Reed delivered a movie that was not only as good as was expected, but above expectations. I don’t know what Michelle MacLaren would have delivered or how much better it might have been (or about what she and WB conflicted), but Patty Jenkins, who stepped in late in the game, delivered a movie that works well. (For my few objections, see the review.)

Warner Bros will be crowing about how this film will out-open all of the standalone Thor and Captain America films (Civil War being a mini-Avengers film). And they should. They deserve to enjoy the win.

This would be a good time to point out that even though the Zack Snyder DC Universe has been shat upon critically up until now – deservedly so – this opening makes them 4 for 4 with $100 million domestic openings under Snyder’s supervision… a better streak than Marvel. $117m. $166m, $134m, and now, just over the line, but still likely $100m and change. I loved Ant-Man and Doctor Strange and neither opened to $100 million or very close. The real question will be whether Wonder Woman can top Strange’s $677m worldwide.

This weekend’s #2 is in Underpants. (Ewww!) The final Fox release of a DreamWorks Animation film is Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie, which with an opening around $30m will likely be the last epic movie. (We’re in Mr. Peabody & Sherman territory, financially.) It’s a shame. Having read all the “Captain Underpants” books (thanks, kid), I think they made a mistake by sticking close to the origin story and not going as wild as the series goes. On the other hand, I guess that the successful book series has a natural age boundary that will never lead to giant grosses. I hope that Universal and DreamWorks make more films from the series for Netflix at a lower budget. There is a lot of room for creativity.

Meanwhile, Pirates 5 thumbs its nose at you, as it likely passes $600 million worldwide this weekend, with only $100m and change of that gross domestically.

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Review: Wonder Woman

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Wonder Woman is a very likable movie.

But it was also a very likable movie when Marvel made its kissing cousin, Captain America: The First Avenger in 2011.

Before I get into that, where spoilers live, and the ending, which I found a little tragic, a spoiler-free overview.

Gal Gadot is very pretty. She has a limited range as an actress. This leaves most of the emoting to Chris Pine, who does a nice job. Gadot is at her very best when being funny or posing dramatically. (I also liked her in Keeping Up with the Joneses, although she leaned on a very specific note.)

The movie starts with a semi-animated story set-up.  (Meh.) Then we are into Princess Diana’s childhood, from a scruffy little 7-year-old to a preteen to a woman. It is all well done (CG waterfalls seemed a little cheap at times) and a pleasure to see women fighting and behaving in the ways the movies have shown us men behaving for 100 years.

Of course, how a dark-skinned, deep brown-eyed, raven-haired girl came from the blondest cast in the history of cinema is never explained. (Guesses one might make in the film are never fulfilled.) Perhaps the funniest thing is listening to a range of actors, great and stuntwomen, try to approximate Gal Gadot’s middle-European Israeli accent to mostly comedic effect. People are all over the place. Gadot’s accent never gets much more definitive (seems to be her actual accent), but the cast around her stops trying to match it after the first act, which was blessed relief.

Still… funny accents and all, the time on the island is pleasant. I never bought Connie Nielsen and Robin Wright as sisters. It felt like watching a stunts designed to show that women could do stunts just as well as men. But when the group goes into battle mode, they are as compelling as any period action movie you have seen.

Gadot’s Wonder Woman really comes to life once Steve Trevor arrives. Clever pseudo-innocent sexual banter that was nicely played and written (though I think they went for one penis joke on the island that the audience wasn’t getting – “That tiny thing tells you what to do? ” – shortly after one joke that they did). In many ways, this is the real beginning of the story, the origins on Themyscira Island (later dubbed Paradise Island with no fanfare) playing like a prologue (within establishing bookends).

After arriving in London, Diana Prince does a lot of fish-out-of-water schtick. And it’s pretty terrific. Diana is a walking emancipation proclamation for women and this plays charmingly, not archly. After all, she is 100% right and she is in situations where if a modern woman showed up, these things absolutely should have been said.

Second act, Trevor and his sidekicks (The Howling Commandos gone Euro-variable) go on the big mission.

Third act, the complicated plot merges with Diana’s lingering stuff and the film becomes much more traditional, much less clever, and ultimately, confused. There is strong emotional work by Chris Pine here, as he walks the tightrope between macho and metro skillfully. Never slips.

I will discuss the ending in the Spoiler section… though I will tell you that it didn’t spoil the movie for me.

There is a lot that can be picked apart in this movie. The three or four ideas that would take this from a good movie to a great movie are all attempted and none of them land. It’s not easy. Very few entries in this genre manage to hit even one big idea solidly. So don’t over-read this complaint. But it should be said. It’s also not particularly special as filmmaking. Patty Jenkins delivers by-the-book work, which I would say is every bit as solid as the work now being done by the Russo Bros., who have a big imprint on the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Like the spin-off films of Marvel, the material here is inherently better and less constricted by The Money. Ms. Jenkins’ deification may be a bit overstated (or a lot), but she should see plenty of offers at major studios moving forward.

Best of all, this is a breath of fresh air in the Zack Snyder DC rage oeuvre.

Wonder Woman is a solid character, although it isn’t clear that the charms of this version of the character will appear in Justice League or other modern takes. Maybe she will be as good as this. Maybe not. The character will be, after all, 70 years older… and not frozen in ice for most of it like Captain America.

But basically, it works well. Huzzah.

SPOILER SECTION

There are two major oddities – aside from the accents on the island – in Wonder Woman. The reflection of Captain America: The First Avenger and the very end of the movie in which this iconic natural feminist finds her power not in herself, bit in the emotional connection to a man.

The Cap Connection first…

Obviously, the origins of Diana Prince and Steve Rogers are different. One is naturally gifted with superpowers from royal/godly blood and the other takes a serum that gives him his powers.

One opens in current day with the military finding a frozen Steve Rogers, thawing him out, and telling his origin story. The other opens with Bruce Wayne finding a chilly Diana Prince and giving her a gift that makes her warmly recall her origin story.

One has a villainous Nazi with a normal face that is transformed into a red skull as a result of his madness for more power. The other has a villainous German sith a normal face that is transformed into a glowing, oddity as a result of his madness for more power.

There is also a diminutive evil genius behind the villain. In Cap, it’s Toby Jones. In Wonder Woman, it’s Elana Anaya, one of the great beauties of Almodóvar, for whom she was also partially masked (The Skin I Live In). It’s one of the flaws of this film, albeit not a deadly one, that the clearly intended correlation of a woman who is working for evil vs the first female superhero never comes to fruition or is even discussed.

Both films have a band of sidekicks. Here is it a Mediterranean, a Scotsman, and a Native American far from home. In Cap, it was The Howling Commandos, led by a Irish American and featuring a black man, an Asian, a Frenchman, etc.

Diana Prince and Steve Rogers are both goody two-shoes whose do-right fervor is a bit overstated. Both have a doomed military romance. (Her with Steve and him with Peggy.)

I’m sure there would be more examples if I sat and obsessed on it another few hours. Don’t want to. Feel free to e-mail or tweet me your additional examples.

The second big issue is what I have long called “The Glory Issue.” The brave black men of the military in the film Glory explain that they are fighting for their country, not for the white man. But when do they make the big, heroic, deadly charge up the hill? Right after the white leader dies.

In this film, what allows Diana to access the deep internal power she has been told she has but has not reached throughout the film? The death of Steve Trevor.

She spends most of this movie teaching the men how to be better people, leading the way, high on a horse of moral stringency… and then, it’s the boy who gets her over the hump.

(And let’s not even get into whether they did, as it were, hump. It’s hard to imagine that they first blush of sexual rapture by a women in her late 20s (or so), alone with a man she is in love with, is going to stop with a kill or some dry humping. It’s almost as though the movie was afraid to let her have her sexuality because it would, somehow, diminish her power even further.)

And if you had any doubt about how he fit into her worldview, she quotes him verbatim and sends a note to Bruce Wayne specifically referencing Trevor.

And on top of this, the whole Ares thing is just a flat tire. I assumed, watching much of the movie, that he would turn out to be her parent. But… no. At least, not in this cut. And he isn’t the key to human evil either. So… who cares?

As far as the physical confrontation between the two… zzzzzzzz.

Love David Thewlis. Didn’t care to watch him a second longer… and I could watch an entire series about his “Fargo” character this season. Just another “so what?.” And another man who is somehow defining the emotional life of the ultimate powerful woman.

If you are reading this, I hope you already saw the film. Would love to know if it bothered you too… and if, like me, you still had a good time… just wished it was a better time.

“I used to want to save the world, this beautiful place. But the closer you get, the more you see the great darkness within. I learnt this the hard way, a long, long time ago.”

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The Netflix Thing, June 2017 (The Movies, Part 1)

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With all the screeching and squealing about Netflix at Cannes, I decided to take a look at what the Netflix “movie” business really looks like this year… not by posturing, but by the detail of what actually exists.

Netflix intends to “release” (meaning on their service, some potentially in a handful of theaters) 50 non-doc feature films in 2017. That total is on the streaming service; ten features are scheduled to be shown at iPic premium theaters around Los Angeles and New York City.

Fifty features. That’s more than double the number of scheduled releases planned by any American theatrical-first wide-release distributor.

Using IMDB, I counted 53 non-doc 2017 “film” titles due from Netflix.

Three are at Cannes (Okja, The Meyerowitz Stories, Rodney King)

Three have a major star (War Machine, Bright, Sandy Wexler)

Two are currently out with notable marketing (Handsome, Berlin Syndrome)

Four may be lingering in your mind (Mudbound/Sundance, Win It All/SXSW, Wet Hot American Summer: 10 Years Later, The Most Hated Woman in America)

Of the other 41, four debuted at Sundance in January and have already been released by Netflix (I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore, Burning Sands, Deidra & Laney Rob a Train, The Discovery). Another three purchased at Sundance are due sometime this year (Fun Mom Dinner, iBoy, To The Bone).

34 movies to go… some of these will be higher profile, some will not… some have well-known actors or directors, some do not… some will turn out to be great, some not… but here is the list:

1922, #REALITYHIGH, 6 Balloons, A Futile & Stupid Gesture, Alias Grace, Amateur, The Babysitter, Bill Nye Saves the World, Blame!, Clinical, Coin Heist, Come Sunday, Death Note, Gerald’s Game, Girlfriend’s Day, Happy Anniversary, Je ne suis pas un homme facile, Juanita, The Land of Steady Habits, Little Evil, Milada, Mute, My Happy Family, Naked, Our Souls at Night, Private Life, Pup Star 2, Sand Castle, Shimmer Lake, Small Crimes, Spivak, Take The 10, What Happened to Monday?, You Get Me.

There is nothing wrong with this list of films. It has high-profile, high art and high ambitions. It also has low-profile, low art and low ambitions. But it is also instantly apparent what this group of films is not… revolutionary.

Amazon is no more revolutionary. Nor HBO. Or Hulu. Or whomever.

Being a big spender is not a revolutionary idea. And the truth is, in terms of making/securing exclusive product for their network that is between 85 minutes and 180 minutes long, Netflix is still not a very big spender.

I would estimate that the ” Netflix films” of 2017 are costing the company around $500 million overall to get to digital air. Contrast that with the billions they are spending on series and acquisitions annually and it seems almost minor. They are investing about half what most majors do annually on “films” and about 20% of the Disney spend.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

But let’s maintain perspective on the whole picture.

In that long list of 34 films, it is likely there are none of which you have yet heard (unless personally connected). But most of these are both content for now and the seeds of the future. Netflix is building a legacy of filmmaker who are happy to have done business with the company and are that much more likely to come back again to do business. Smart. Netflix is not the originator of this idea either.

Amongst these titles you probably haven’t heard of, there are some that have a hook that you will probably connect to along the way. There is a Redford/Fonda movie, a Duncan Jones, a Tamara Jenkins, a McG, a Joshua Marston, a David Wain film about NatLamp’s Doug Kenney and an Alfre Woodard starrer directed by Clark Johnson. I am happy all of those films – even the McG – got a chance to happen. Some of them may well have landed elsewhere, but many might not have.

But the illusion that no one makes this kind of movie or that kind of movie anymore is false. The economics of particular genres have changed. And they continue to shift. As I wrote in a piece about the summer releases, the genre that is missing from this summer is the male buddy comedy… while there are three female buddy comedies. This does not mean the male buddy comedy is over. Things change. Every change is not a revolution.

But with the relentless stream of think-pieces about how major studios are killing cinema, keep in mind that with the exception of a title or two per year, Netflix is not pushing a model that is going after the studio business. Netflix “film” is competing, almost exclusively, with the indies.

And the indie business already has a thriving day-n-date VOD business. Like Netflix “movies,” most of the films released by indies do not get a substantial theatrical airing, if at all.

So why is there so much chit-chat about Netflix disrupting the theatrical model?

Netflix wants distribution freedom for, basically, three movies this year. (Remember… a foreign-language Oscar play for Okja starts with getting South Korea to nominate the film.) Mudbound (a Sundance hero), Bright (a reported $90 million Will Smith/David Ayer movie), and The Meyerowitz Stories (primarily an Oscar candidate for screenplay).

Mudbound could be desirous of Lawless-type numbers, which that film did by opening wide (2888 screens) and generating 94% of its $37m domestic take in the first 4 weekends.

No Noah Baumbach-directed movie has ever been on as many as 800 screens or grossed as much as $8 million domestic, so the release of The Meyerowitz Stories was always likely to be limited, but still, will potentially compete with indies that still release theatrically.

And Bright is a full-out sci-fi-tinged Will Smith action movie. A major would release it into 4,000 theaters on 10,000+ screens on opening weekend. Assuming AMC-Wanda and perhaps Regal are still willing, Netflix can open Bright to about a third the number of screens it needs for what would be considered a proper opening on a very wide release.

Putting aside Suicide Squad and its Bat/Joker-connection, the top opening for Will Smith in the last 5 years was $54 million for Men In Black III. A third of that is $18 million. How much would it cost Netflix to release Bright to $18 million, which is probably a high number. And if more than half of America has Netflix and probably over 90% of those who would see all but the rarest movie on opening weekend, who is going to pay to see Bright in a movie theater the same day it arrives at home?

In many ways, the industry would be well-served by Netflix trying this distribution experiment. If the opening weekend number was, say, $5 million in 1200 venues/3500 screens at a cost of, say, $20 million to advertise, that would slow the day-n-date argument for a while.

Exhibitors would, no doubt, fear that Bright would open to $50 million and make the argument about theatrical being cannibalized by day-n-date appear false, opening the floodgates of theatrical’s decimation.

But here’s the thing. This is R&D for Netflix. It’s worth taking the $20 million hit to see how the film would perform if available on all platforms on the same day. At a traditional studio, that might get someone fired.

What is R&D for Netflix is the entire kettle of fish for most studios. It’s just not as complicated for Netflix, which doesn’t have layers and layers of responsibilities and revenue streams that studios work in for their releases.

Every movie a studio makes is an individual risk-reward scenario. Losses seems to vanish in a strong year for the overall slate, but in may ways, each movie is its own business in the studio world, benefiting from some shared costs. Netflix needs each subscriber to hit about .250 with one strong memory every 3 or 4 months, which represents the three or four times a year when people think about whether they subscription is worth the money. People may complain about being overwhelmed by the amount of content on Netflix, but if you are choking on content, you are feeling that your value consideration is being well fulfilled.

If a studio bats .250 in a year, even with a big hit, the bosses are looking for a new studio chief after they have fired/blamed the head of marketing.

Of course, again, Netflix’s film program, as it stands now, is not producing many movies that are seen as legitimate contenders for significant theatrical launch. In all but a few cases (perhaps only one this year), the ambition level for theatrical would be, at maximum, in the realm of the indies… where day-n-date VOD already exists, with the acceptance of exhibitors, and a history that doesn’t demand R&D.

So the idea that exhibitors should change their position on day-n-date to service what really comes down to a single Netflix film seems like a giant, dubious ask.

COMING TOMORROW
The Movies, Part 2: Profitability and Disrupting The Indies

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Rebooting the 80s

I saw a headline, then read a story this last weekend, which snarkily telegraphed that we were running out of 1980s hits to reboot/remake/sequel-ize.

Like so many of these pieces, it left things out to make its point stronger.

To start, six of the top 20 grossers of the 1980s were already sequels, four of which were sequels to originals released in the same decade.

If you look at the 1980s Top 10 (domestic)…

1. E.T. – $359m
2. Star Wars: Jedi -$253m
3. Batman – $251m
4. Beverly Hills Cop – $235m
5. Ghostbusters – $229m
6. Raiders of the Lost Ark – $212m
7. Back To The Future – $211m
8. Star Wars: Empire – $209m
9. Indiana Jones 3 – $197m
10. Indiana Jones 2 – $180m

The only thing that jumps out? Spielberg refused to make a sequel to E.T.

That and Beverly Hills Cop, which was a straight action comedy that did mega-business. The specific comparison in 2010-17 would be The Hangover II ($254m domestic), but I wouldn’t be hard-pressed to make the comparison to Deadpool, which I don’t believe did $363 million as a comic book movie, but as a hard-R comedy about a fish out of water.

Here is the 2010-2017 Top 10.

1. Star Wars: The Force Awakens – $937m
2. Jurassic World – $652m
3. Marvel’s The Avengers – $623m
4. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – $532m
5. Beauty and the Beast – $501m
6. Finding Dory – $486m
7. Avengers: Age of Ultron – $459m
8. The Dark Knight Rises – $448m
9. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire – $425m
10. Toy Story 3 – $415m

Two Star Wars, two Marvel, two Pixar, a Batman, a Jurassic reboot, a Disney animated remake and a Hunger Games.

Avatar, which opened two weeks before 2010 is not on the list. But unlike E.T., will be sequeled… eventually.

Two Star Wars sequels in both decades.

A Batman in both decades.

I prefer the first two Indiana Jones sequels to the Marvel hits… but they live in the same genre, especially given the evolution of technology.

Pixar and the rise of the animated movie to the top of the box office roster didn’t happen in the 80s. The Little Mermaid, with $84 million domestic, was the top=grossing animated film of the 80s, representing the first life out of Disney in the Katzenberg/Eisner era that would lead to where we are today.

The Jurassic franchise didn’t start until the 90s (also a CG issue) and remains the only traditional sequel Spielberg has directed, as Indiana Jones was meant as a movie serial, not just an homage to serials.

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast didn’t exist in the 80s. And The Hunger Games was a designed series, the first of which just misses the Top 10 for this last 8 yeses with $408m.

When you get to the Second 10 of the 1980s. That is when the difference between then and now starts to show.

11. Tootsie – $177m
12. Top Gun – $177m
13. Crocodile Dundee – $175m
14. Rain Man – $173m
15. 3 Men & A Baby – $168m
16. Roger Rabbit – $156m
17. Fatal Attraction – $157m
18. Beverly Hills Cop II – $154m
19. Rambo 2 – $150m
20. Gremlins – $148m

Tootsie sticks out like a green thumb there. No sequel. No sequel likely. Though there is a Broadway musical on the way.

3 Men & A Baby, which was quickly sequeled, also jumps out. Two TV actors and a B movie actor and boom, a huge hit of its time.

Comedies dropped out of the high end of theatrical in this decade, more so than drama, which didn’t have the same foothold. (And I won’t include The Martian in this category.)

2017 (to date) – Going In Style – $44m
2016 – Central Intelligence – $127m
2015 – Pitch Perfect 2 – $184m
2014 – 22 Jump Street – $192m
2013 – The Heat – $160m
2012 – Ted – $219m
2011 – Bridesmaids – $169m
2010 – Grown Ups – $162m

Only Ted cracked $200 million, when a consistent rise in box office would suggest there should be a few $300 million comedies, and certainly $250m comedies.

There is a legitimate argument that comedies have, on the high end, suffered from not scaling to the CG-driven era, thus not being theatrical must-sees. On the other hand, comedies have been a stable money maker at much lower budgets than CG-mania movies.

But back to the Second 10 discussion… here is the 2010-2017 list:

11. Iron Man 3 – $409m
12. Captain America: Civil War – $408m
13. The Hunger Games – $408m
14. Frozen – $401m
15. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 – $381m
16. The Secret Life of Pets – $368m
17. Despicable Me 2 – $368m
18. The Jungle Book – $364m
19. Deadpool – $363m
20. Inside Out – $357m

Three sequels in the 80s, four sequels in 2010-2017.

Three first-films that will be sequeled in the 80s, six in the 2010s.

Rainman and Fatal Attractions are dramas in the Second 10 in the 1980s. None in the 2010s.

But unlike comedy, the dramas are tracking more to a fitting scale. American Sniper did $350m domestic and Inception did $293m. But if you took away all the films that were heavily CG-reliant (CG animation and superheroes) and limit the franchises to one title each, the 2010-2017 Top 10 feels a lot more like the 1980s.

The Dark Knight Rises
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Furious 7
American Sniper
Skyfall
Inception
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2
The Hangover Part II
Maleficent
Fast & Furious 6

Not far behind (over $200m domestic), The Martian and a number of films that could have been done without heavy CG (mostly), Ted, The Apes movies, Cinderella and Logan.

I am not arguing that the mix hasn’t changed. It has, a lot. But the assumptions about why and how (exactly) are often wrong and more an emotional reaction than based on fact.

History is a funny thing. Gone With The Wind was initially released as a wildly expensive road show release, charging multiples of what a normal movie cost at the time (making estimates of ticket sales rather iffy). Jaws never was on 1,000 screens. Star Wars, in its initial release, was never on 1,100. Yet these two movies are held up as the parents of wide releasing.

What was the first film to reach 2,000 screens at once? Beverly Hills Cop in 1984. 3,000 screens? Mission: Impossible in 1996.

And in the 21 years since, exhibition has changed drastically, making the screen count in 2017 into a venue count, a count that tells you almost nothing about wide release patterns.

Just lingering on 2010 for a moment, here are the movies that weren’t Top 20 box office titles but would be unsurprising as remakes in 2030: The Other Guys, Salt, Black Swan, The Expendables, Date Night, The Social Network, The Book of Eli, The Fighter, The Town, Unstoppable, Eat Pray Love, Dear John, Knight & Day, Easy A, Dinner for Schmucks, Tooth Fairy and more.

The paranoia is that no one will ever make movies like Easy A or a Date Night or The Fighter — remakes or originals — in the future. But that underestimates the way movies evolve and imitate… as these pictures reflected films and filmmakers long dead.

We are already well into the 2000s in terms of replicating old IP.  The Mummy, Ocean’s 11, Jurassic Park, The Fast & The Furious and Dr. Dolittle are 2001 titles in play for theatrical films this year and next.

The industry is changing. It is always changing. But the tendency to prefer overstated nostalgia for the good ol’ days that were really not that different remains an eternal irritation. Next thing you know, media will be running stories expressing surprise that Cannes will not dominate the Oscar race this year. Oy.

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Weekend Estimates by Klady of the Carbs & Beans

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Pirates 4 off of Pirates 3 – 27%
Pirates 5 off of Pirates 4 – 31%

The compass is not taking us to what Disney’s heart desires.

But they have a different compass for international.

$349m, $643m, $654m, $805m, $208m and counting…

Holy Johnny Depp’s paycheck!

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Friday Estimates by NoWatch of the IP Klady

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56, 43, 35, 23. See a pattern here?

Those are the opening days of the first four Pirates movies. The first film had a Wednesday open and a $14m first Friday.

Domestically, Pirates is over at this scale, what with a $40 million star in the lead. Internationally, Disney is hoping not to care what happened domestically.

Paramount had an ugly Baywatch launch, weaker than Dwayne’s (and Wahlberg’s and Bay’s) Pain and Gain. I don’t think it’s just because of the movie’s flaws in filmmaking, but because of the concept, which was well-reflected by the marketing. Do you make a Baywatch movie that embraced the spirit of the show, which includes prurient titillation, but always keeps a lid on it. or do you focus on dick jokes and over-the-top action that doesn’t work as action? They’ll be hoping for international to make the pain go away.

Len typo’d in last week’s opening number in for Alien: Covenant. I believe the correct number is around $3 million and a drop of over 75%. More pain. More looking to international.

I hate “sky is falling” pieces. The sky isn’t falling. But you can be sure that a lot of studios execs are dirtying their Depends as what worked before is not working now. Some of these titles aren’t just off domestically, they are way off domestically. A lot of movies being made by Hollywood driven almost exclusively by international potential. But American moviegoers aren’t taking up the slack when they aren’t interested. There are too many other entertainment options.

What hasn’t changed is that people will go to the movies in huge numbers if they see something  they want, even when the movie is iffy. Sequels are not dead. IP is not dead. But more and more, studios are getting smacked for reaching behind their grasp… when they knew full well they were doing just that in the first place and closing their eyes and hoping for the best. Open your eyes, folks.

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Roger Moore Keeps The British End Up No More

roger_04Roger Moore was my first James Bond.

Live and Let Die was my first Bond film in a movie theater. I don’t recall whether I had seen Goldfinger or Dr No on ABC TV (Bond movies were a broadcast TV event back then). I think I had watched “The Saint” in black & white. But I loved — and love — that movie. Moore… Kotto… Geoffrey Holder… Jane Seymour. Sharks. Literally blowing the bad guy up.

Scaramanga’s Third Nipple and Hervé Villechaize weren’t played for comedy in The Man With The Golden Gun.

But there was something about The Spy Who Loved Me‘s combination of Barbara Bach, who was filthy-sexy in a way that previous Bond girls were not, and Jaws, who was not presented as funny, that somehow became Peak Bond and sent Moonraker into self-satire. Perhaps it was Moore’s age, then 52, and that Lois Chiles – even with the name Holly Goodhead – seemed to be smarter and more inherently capable than Bond. And they set big action in space. And of course, Richard Kiel’s Jaws was played for comedy in that one.

The final three Roger Moore Bond films were dragged along behind the car. Forgettable villains were cast (as casting was so critical). Moore was still a very handsome man and we were so familiar with him that we accepted that we didn’t really believe he was stronger and faster than everyone else. More of the stunts were done behind masking of some kind.

A View To A Kill was the end, with a great Duran Duran song, the amazing Grace Jones (though on the heels of Conan The Destroyer, which made the magic of who she is seem used up), and the first great Christopher Walken hair performance. But Bond seemed ready for retirement.

And Roger Moore, who would work to near the end (he is a voice in Guillermo del Toro’s Netflix series, Trollhunters), never chose to become a man in his 60s or 70s or 80s in front of the camera. Unlike Sean Connery, he seemed to have no urge to prove himself as any more of an actor than his decades of worldwide stardom suggested he was. No dying, no balding, no crying.

And so, he will be forever young, whether as Bond or as The Saint.

Roger Moore is the first James Bond to die. Sean Connery will be 87 this August. Lazenby will be 78. Goldfinger expected Bond to die… but these guys seem to live forever.

May Sir Roger Moore rest in peace.

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Review: Baywatch

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I was looking forward to some good, dumb summer fun.

And Baywatch has its moments.

But it’s taken down by an undertow of overthinking, over-raunching, and generally a complete miss of what made this series so absurdly popular for so long.

This is the bane of the IP-generated movie era: What do you do with the nostalgia? Do you embrace it fully? Do you mock it? Do you parody it broadly? Or do you split the difference between the three possibilities and miss the mark by an embarrassing distance?

Honestly, Baywatch is not as terrible as its massive failure suggests. There are still moments and this cast is aces, from top to bottom. And this makes the failure to be simple, stupid, joyous summer fun so very frustrating.

What were they thinking when then made a R-rated version of Baywatch when the only nudity was a not-funny dead-guy’s-penis joke and the other almost sexual thing is a guy somehow getting his erect penis and scrotum on the wrong side of a chaise lounge’s slats… which is not nearly as funny as they think it is (spending two full minutes on it).

There are breasts in bathing suits, low-cut dresses and wet suits. But the jiggle jokes are less overt than on the TV show. I didn’t need to see a bare bosom in the film… but I didn’t need the dick jokes either. And it’s not like they are smart, sly, insightful, ironic dick jokes. They are just dick jokes.

The core problem is that the idea of the movie is just not interesting. An endlessly recurring theme is that the lifeguards think they are police when they are just lifeguards. This never pays off. Never.

If you are extremely spoiler-sensitive, you can drop off now, but here is the primary storyline (aside from Zac Efron coming of age)… A super-hot Indian woman whose only clothes require tape to keep her breasts from falling out owns a beachfront hotel and wants to take over other beach front hotels because, somehow, this will make her drug smuggling (which never takes place on the beach) easier and is happy to torture or kill anyone in her way to they-were-hoping comic effect.

That’s it.

It makes no sense. But it offers bodyguard types big and mean enough to fight with Dwayne Johnson four or five times during the film. It must have been intended to offer a sexual tension with the villain… that is not longer in the film, as it appears that superhero Dwayne is a sexual eunuch in this R-rated film.

This is that place where I make a suggestion that sounds like I am telling the filmmaker what to do. But I am not. I am offering an option that would have been better than what was there. There are a million solutions and this is just one. But… MAKE A CHOICE. You could have The Rock sleeping with all the Baywatch beauties in a completely matter-of-fact way… of course people this good looking who are always running in bathing suits and have co-ed showers end up having sex… no big deal. OR he is mourning for his great love and has put all of his energy into Baywatch for years, but he is about to explode sexually. OR he is sexually insecure even though he is the toughest man on earth. WHATEVER. Make a choice.

It is one of the sad parts of the Baywatch effort that they created a very smart, capable, physically gifted female character of color (Ilfenesh Hadera)… then make her both a clitoral eunuch and the character with the least amount of story amongst the lead characters.

The film splits the other two screen melters (Alexandra Daddario and Kelly Rohrbach) into romantic dyads that are signaled clearly from the very beginning of the movie. And this is a shame. Both of these young women turn out to have real skill as comedians. Daddario is reminiscent of Alison Brie, a little younger (4 years) and on a slightly different track. She actually breaks away from the bombshell imact of here turn in HBO’s “True Detective” by being smarter than her objectification here. Rohrbach is what they are always hoping for when they cast a model to play comedy.

Again, the issue of the screenwriters and director making a strong choice is an issue for both of these actresses’ characters. Daddario’s Summer plays hard to get… so why not make it really hard for Zac Efron’s character and play with the line of sexuality. Rohrbach is on track to end up with the comic relied nerd… so take it to the next level. What if The Beauty really wants it from The Beast and he keeps on being unable to deliver? It’s almost there in the film… but it shies away. As a character, she is completely matter-of-fact about his penis, which is not seen but is played for jokes throughout. Why didn’t they really do something with that idea?

This entire movie is like the middle, boring part of a joke… like no one wants to get to the punchline.

Or go a different way. I don’t see the point of making this PG-13 movie into an R by saying “mutherfucker” a lot and showing a dead man’s penis if you aren’t going to make it a real R (like Horrible Bosses).

Sad to report that Seth Gordon, with his fourth major studio film here, still directs like an episodic TV director… single, single, single, boring 2 shot, single. There are shots that actually don’t match. Forget about getting a sense of space in any of these action sequences. Everything is a close-up and a jump cut. The guy makes character comedies, but he doesn’t know how to help his actors thrive on screen…. even though he has had some success. The fact that he ha overcome his limitations as a director in his films tells you how great he is at casting.

The unnecessary complexity of the story structure, given how simplistic the ideas were, really kept a great cast from flying here. I was even willing to put up with the Josh-Gad-wannabe (Jon Bass) by the end. But the movie doesn’t know what it has going for it and what is just meaningless complication.

By the time we got to the outtakes over credits, I was ready to leave… didn’t feel that the film had earned the right to be so self-amused.

If you are satisfied by a few laughs and looking at beautiful people for 2 hours, go for it. It’s not going to enrage you. As I noted earlier, it gets uglier by dissection, but it’s bland and beautiful enough not to hurt. But it could have been so much more.

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Obama Photographer Pete Souza Shoots “A Day In The Life Of Frank Underwood”

President Frank Underwood at Foggy Bottom Metro station in Washington, D.C., May 22, 2017 Photo © 2017 by Pete Souza

President Frank Underwood at Foggy Bottom Metro station in Washington, D.C., May 22, 2017
Photo © 2017 by Pete Souza

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“Twin Peaks”: A Place For Spoilers

Falling into a dream: the main credits of the new series.

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Weekend Estimates by Alien Trouble Klady

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This is a terrible result for Alien: Covenant. I thought they had found a strong, clear voice for the marketing about a month ago. Problem is… the movie didn’t open while the voice was strong. It opened an entire month later. In today’s movie marketing universe, timing is more important than ever. And when your campaign is “Run. Hide. Pray.,” sitting around waiting for the movie to open in a month and change later is clearly problematic.

I wasn’t sitting in meetings. I’m no expert on the A:C campaign. But you can see this all around.  a few studios now go for a very short marketing window compared to a decade ago, as little as a few weeks. And others, like Sony’s current Emojis campaign, push awareness as much as two months out.

Every time I see a Netflix ad for a show that isn’t on yet, I think of what a waste it is because a service that is based on instant call-to-action is not making its product available when it is calling me to action. There is so much content, the idea of anticipating all but a few shows/movies for more than a month is impossible. I would have watched the Brad Pitt/David Michôd war movie three times by now if it were already on Netflix. But I don’t even notice the ad (or remember the release date) after looking at billboards for a month.

I don’t think there is an easy answer. Star Wars and top-shelf Marvel is about the only stuff that could clearly open with virtually no marketing window. Someone needs to take that risk and do a 10-day campaign for a movie that can actually open. The imagination only lasts that long. It could work. But the irony is that a shorter marketing window might not lower costs, as the audience is so widely dispersed. You can find sports-loving men or pre-teen girls in specific spaces, but for a three- or fourquadrant movie, trying to push awareness and want-to-see in 10 days is an intimidating prospect. I get that.

And the question of whether Alien: Covenant got what it deserved goes back to the wrong-headed idea that opening weekend is about the film itself. It never is. Very, very rarely you can see a Sunday effect… almost never. The sales job for that opening weekend is done by Thursday night (earlier, really) and what is going to happen then is going to happen. (Tracking is wrong often because it is an imperfect art… again, not unlike trying to find every viewer in a short marketing window. Tracking is great for awareness, not so great for likely ticket sales.)

I think that Fox can be comforted by the idea that they did everything they could do to open A:C. The question is, for me at least, whether doing everything is still the most effective way to sell some movies, especially IP-driven films where awareness is not the big problem.

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Threads: Del Toro, McQuarrie, Mangold, Johnson et al.

Twitter is a lovely river when thread creates what participant James Mangold calls “a lively artistic banter among friends.”

This is only a sample. Listen in for a bit.

It began with a question from Christopher McQuarrie to a few colleagues:


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“I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how many recappers, while clearly over their heads, are baseline sympathetic to finding themselves routinely unmoored, even if that means repeating over and over that this is closer to “avant-garde art” than  normal TV to meet the word count. My feed was busy connecting the dots to Peter Tscherkassky (gas station), Tony Conrad (the giant staring at feedback of what we’ve just seen), Pat O’Neill (bombs away) et al., and this is all apposite — visual and conceptual thinking along possibly inadvertent parallel lines. If recappers can’t find those exact reference points to latch onto, that speaks less to willful ignorance than to how unfortunately severed experimental film is from nearly all mainstream discussions of film because it’s generally hard to see outside of privileged contexts (fests, academia, the secret knowledge of a self-preserving circle working with a very finite set of resources and publicity access to the larger world); resources/capital/access/etc. So I won’t assign demerits for willful incuriosity, even if some recappers are reduced, in some unpleasantly condescending/bluffing cases, to dismissing this as a “student film” — because presumably experimentation is something the seasoned artist gets out of their system in maturity, following the George Lucas Model of graduating from Bruce Conner visuals to Lawrence Kasdan’s screenwriting.”
~ Vadim Rizov Goes For It, A Bit

“On the first ‘Twin Peaks,’ doing TV was like going from a mansion to a hut. But the arthouses are gone now, so cable television is a godsend — they’re the new art houses. You’ve got tons of freedom to do the work you want to do on TV, but there is a restriction in terms of picture and sound. The range of television is restricted. It’s hard for the power and the glory to come through. In other words, you can have things in a theater much louder and also much quieter. With TV, the quieter things have to be louder and the louder things have to be quieter, so you have less dynamics. The picture quality — it’s fine if you have a giant television with a good speaker system, but a lot of people will watch this on their laptops or whatever, so the picture and the sound are going to suffer big time. Optimally, people should be watching TV in a dark room with no disturbances and with as big and good a picture as possible and with as great sound as possible.”
~ David Lynch