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byob marhc washington


Weekend Estimates by White Panther Klady

Weekend Estimates 2018-03-18 at 10.27.25 AM

This week, as last week, the story is less the performance of the “next #1″ hopeful than the remarkable family hold of Black Panther. The overall drop of 34% is excellent. But the real story is that Saturdays have become Black Panther Day in the weeks since its opening.

Opening weekend, Panther was down on Saturday but mostly because of Thursday grosses, which are now reported as part of Friday grosses, and the big must-see audience that flocked to theaters on Friday. But in the four weeks since, 65% up on Saturday from Friday, 85%, 83%, and 55% this weekend. This weekend’s Saturday bump was more in line with Beauty & The Beast‘s bumps last year… but those 80s… and even that 65 is pretty amazing for something other than animation. For instance, the last Avengers movie – already franchise-established as ki-ffriendly – had Saturday bumps only in weekends three and five,  and only because of big openings ($69m and $55m) that depressed Friday sales.

Besides families, you could also stake a claim that Panther plays male/female stronger than most superhero movies and that it has also had unusual muscle as a Saturday date night choice.

Tomb Raider failed to manage 3x opening Friday, keeping it from the elusive (and so meaningless) weekend crown. While BP leapt 55% on Saturday, Tomb Raider was down… but it wasn’t because Friday was SO HUGE. We haven’t see a Friday number aside from Panther over $10.25 (A Wrinkle In Time) since 50 Shades Ender on February 9 ($18.4m). No… these soft Saturdays are a combination of product that excludes some demos (at least over that first weekend), little-to-no family appeal, and overall limited excitement. Get up over $15 million on Friday and we start to look at the opening day making a Saturday bump a challenge. But at $9m? No.

I would also guess that we will find that women didn’t come out in big numbers for Tomb Raider, as black audiences did not make a special space for Wrinkle (in that case, I think, the less frequent moviegoers used up by Black Panther for a while).

Blaming Black Panther for Tomb Raider not opening better is spin. 100%. If WB had found women who wanted to see a sleeker, less sexualized Tomb Raider, they would have added at least $10 million to this haul. But they didn’t. And as far as I can tell, the pitch to women started way too late to make an impact. Tomb Raider was never going to be Wonder Woman. Vikander shows a charm that she really hasn’t before (much more effective than Man From UNCLE). And more than Angelina Jolie having a natural Lara Croft body in skin-tight, sheer fabrics and lips like a human caricature, Vikander’s Croft is a physical underdog who just works harder and thinks harder (and gets luckier) than everyone else (aka everyone male). The marketing didn’t convince me any more than it seems to have convinced women. (And the film is imperfect.) But seeing the movie did convince me. And that’s not Black Panther‘s fault.

And as much as I like Walton Goggins as an actor, he was never going to put a single butt in a seat as the villain opposite her… and that was a big chunk of the sale. Christoph Waltz can’t be (and shouldn’t be) in every movie, but they couldn’t get a Sam Jackson or Jeff Goldblum or Kurt Russell or Michael Keaton or Jason Schwartzman or Michael Cera or Jamie Foxx or someone who would unterst an audiences? (To be fair, first thought in this notion was Chris Walken as added bait in The Rundown… which also failed to open.)

Now, Jesus as your leading man… also, no guarantees. So when I Can Only Imagine, which is religious, but does not feature Jesus as a character, opens to $17 million, more than 4x any prior Roadside Attractions opening, you know they targeted and found their audience. Following 2014’s dual religious smashes of Son of God and Heaven Is For Real, we have seen eight-figure openings for War Room (2015), Risen, Miracles from Heaven (both 2016), and The Shack (2017), but this is the strongest over that period. There have also been 50+ small distributor misses and a half dozen studio-level releases that opened to under $7 million. In Christian numbers there seems to be a formula that works and a market to be reached with the right pitch and the right amount of money. $17 million is a very strong number here.

Love, Simon is a win on principle for the gay community. At the box office, not so much.  $11.5 million isn’t a rejection. And ultimately, it won’t cost Fox that much to have made the movie. So if it is a breakeven with a purpose that has to count as a win.

I am a Focus fan. But what the hell was anyone thinking about putting an Entebbe movie in theaters in 2018? 838 screens tells you pretty much everything you need to know. I can’t think of anyone who would be a much better choice for an Entebbe movie than José Padilha. And it is a Working Title movie, which i assume obliged Universal to release the film domestically. But if ever there was a movie that, just based on the material and how many times we have been here, should have been sold off to HBO… Are there Comcast rules about selling anything off to Netflix? The avenue of overpayment was likely not in play. And politically, Israel is the victim in the Entebbe story and that pushes against today’s dominant social discussion (without prejudice either way by this writer in this context). This is a great idea for a challenging, talk-after-the-movie Padilha arthouse movie.

Also opening in the Top 20, Raid from Eros… which with $5410 per screen on 78 is a hit for the micro-distributor.

Jumanji: Welcome To the Jungle cracks $400m domestic… Nice expansion for The Death of Stalin… nice per-screen for Flower on 3… Keep The Change delivers for Kino.


Friday Estimates by Tomb Panther Klady

Friday Estimates 2018-03-17 at 8.17.54 AM

Tomb Raider takes the top slot. Will it hold through Saturday, where Black Panther has been extraordinarily muscular?

Panther will pass $600 million domestic this weekend, whichever slot it lands in. Tomb Raider is on course for $85 – $100 million domestic and will rely on international to make it a financial hit or failure, regardless of whether it is the #1 movie in America this weekend. (I am on record saying that Tomb Raider will get a sequel either way… and it should. Hard to open, but a movie franchise with a lot of potential with a very human female lead. It’s an imperfect movie with strong bone structure.)

The surprise of the weekend is I Can Only Imagine, based on an inspirational Christian song, rolled out by Roadside for Lionsgate, and on its first day outgrossed any opening 3-day weekend in Roadside history. Last year, Lionsgate released Christian entry The Shack to $16.2 million. Imagine‘s opening day is 13% better, leading to the projection of an opening 3-day of $18.1 million… which would be the seventh highest open in this niche, on just 1629 screens, which is less than half the count of any of the films ranked #1-#5 and well being #6 (3048 screens).

Roadside’s highest grosser is Manchester By The Sea at $48 million domestic. I Can Only Imagine is likely to top that.

Love, Simon – or at least the pitch – seems anachronistic in the year after Call My By Your Name and even the return of “Will & Grace.” But I am told that I am being too much of a sheltered straight guy and that the world needed a basic rom-com.

A Wrinkle in Time has a modest Friday 2 drop… but no recovery in sight.

Peter Rabbit will pass $100 million this weekend. Red Sparrow will check out with less than Game Night. (Ouch)

And in the per-screen fight, The Orchard’s Zoey Deutch-starrer, Flower, smashes the $10k per barrier and will be somewhere around $25k per on 3.


Weekend Estimates

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Hear This…


Friday Estimates by Wrinkled Klady

Friday Estimates 2018-03-10 at 9.05.36 AM

A Wrinkle in Time opens soft against expectations. But in the Disney category of off-brand brand movies (Pete’s Dragon, The BFG), it is doing well. The comp that fits best is the Alice sequel, which opened to a $9.7m Friday in 2016 and had a $27 million weekend.

What elements have gone into this opening? Weak reviews versus The Oprah. Black identity angle versus the Black Panther wave, which could have exhausted the filmgoing interests of infrequent black moviegoers for a few months. A limited amount of quality family film content versus a second trip to Panther, which has found a strong place with family audiences, including little kids.

My sense going into this month was that Disney was going to ride the Black Panther wake with this film, knowing they had a not-good movie that had some beautiful images to use in the sell, as well as a sense of the moment. But that may have backfired by Panther being so big that it consumed the entire moment. Or maybe we would see the same result or worse at another time. More of a history with Wrinkle will offer a clearer guess… but like so many things in this magical business, it will be only an educated guess. (First person who mentions Rotten Tomatoes gets a kick.)

Black Panther will likely win the weekend. After an explosive launch, the big story of this film domestically is the power it has shown on Saturdays versus Friday numbers. A 65% bump in weekend 2 and 85% last weekend. Split the difference and Panther will do $17.5m today and $11m on Sunday for a $37.5m 3-day and a $558.5m domestic cume.

Disney kicked in with the international cume early this weekend, with a $20m China launch to announce reaching the $1 billion mark. That Chinese open seems to be close to Thor: Ragnarok. But Panther may still s come up short of domestic in international numbers.

Aviron is one of the new distributors trying to find its thing. Its second release is a sequel to the 2008 Rogue release, The Strangers. Turns out no one was waiting breathlessly for the sequel and will show up only modestly for this weekend’s horror entry.

Red Sparrow is not a pretty picture. It’s running about double the mother! gross, but it cost about 2.5x as much. International is stronger, but it seems clear that if Jennifer Lawrence wants to the audience to follow her to new parts of her personality as an actor, she is going to have to find ideal vehicles or slow it down and work smaller roles in bigger movies. It has to be a very odd thing to have the kind of power she has and to have to seriously consider how she walks through this very delicate moment in her career at the age of 27. But that is a champagne problem. I am rooting for her.

Whatever the magic trick to opening Gringo (STX), which is a fun action comedy that is maybe too complicated to easily sell, or The Hurricane Heist (Entertainment Studios Motion Pictures), which sounds like an early 1980s HBO movie, the young distribution companies making the effort couldn’t find the answer.

I would bet good money that Tully will be one of my favorite movies of 2018. But Focus has to be conscious of how they play it,  and Gringo‘s failure to launch should make them nervous. Charlize off-key – which I love and still think Young Adult is one of the great films of the decade – is a hard sell.

Also hard to sell was Thoroughbreds, which should have been laid off to A24 somehow, because Focus has struggled to get traction for a movie they seem to like a lot. A 549-screen release screams, “We give up.” You know what Focus film last opened to a count like this? Book of Henry. Focus also dumped The Zookeeper’s Wife, the most successful grossing opening in the 500-plus screen range last year, taking $17.6 million domestic. Universal seemed to lose the thread on Everest in 2015 and a 545-screen opening, but then expanded to over 3000 screens the following weekend and wound up with a $43 million domestic cume (but likely making a profit, thanks to international). And going back to 2010, Focus opened the international doc, Babies, to 534 screens, doing $7.3 million which is very strong for a doc. Those are all the positive stories. Mostly dumps and re-releases in the 500 range in the last decade.

The Death of Stalin will be the per-screen champ of the weekend, a film that would be more loudly championed before we knew Armando Iannucci so well. It’s a Marx Brothers movie set in the political hysteria upon the death of a real life monster. I don’t know where this will sit with me in the big picture of 2018, but something woudl be missing from my year if I didn’t see it. You will laugh hard. Some jokes will miss. Some will go over your head. There will be nothing else like it this year.


BYOB Oscar 2018



Weekend Estimates by Oscar Boy Klady

Weekend Esitmates 2018-03-04 at 9.10.07 AM

Black Panther pounces on $500 million domestic. Red Sparrow estimates a $16.8m launch, which is #7 among seventeen 2,000-screen openings this year. It’s a weak J-Law open in that the other two in this range were Christmas releases, giving them a big advantage over the first weeks. Death Wish is a bad movie that manages not only to poke at open wounds in America, but to do it in a way so generic as to make it insulting to those being killed on America’s streets.


Saw Death Wish. It was so bland that I watched a few minutes of a movie I utterly despise – Hostel II – to remind myself of Eli Roth having had ambition as a misogynist prick at one point. Now, he is… unbleached paper.

I don’t know the history of the script, but I know that Joe Carnahan is not Mr Bland. Even if they felt compelled to avoid a lazy use of race, the film might have been better had our antihero been mistaken about race and turned in the process (while slaughtering people) or if he had a chip on his shoulder about being rich or something… anything… ANYTHING.

I don’t like hateful movies. But boring non-committal movies are even worse.

Boring weekend at the box office. Seven of the nine Best Picture nominees are still in theaters. Here’s how they looked this weekend.

OScars bo 2018-03-04 at 9.34.48 AM

The real story here is that “small” movies did a strong amount of business. This is the legacy of the expanded field (5+). The field is laid out almost exactly as the noms would probably have been had we been in a year with only five nominees. Dunkirk and Get Out, plus Shape and 3 Billboards, and either Lady Bird or Darkest Hour. Would that have made anyone feel better? Would anyone have been happier with Call Me By Your Name and Phantom Thread left out?

Of course, in a five-film race, maybe Universal would not have gone wild selling Get Out. A24 might not have had nominees three years in a row… or any… and likely no win for Moonlight. The Spielberg of The Post may have been more aggressively positioned. Et cetera. Lots of moving parts.

It’s endlessly fascinating that many of the people who are most passionate about The Academy picking “better” films are also into going back to 5 BP nominees, which would retard their interests more than anything else they could do.

I am going to watch E! for the first time in years, just to see how people deal with Seacrest. It reminds me of the moment after Fallon messed up Trump’s hair so adorably. “Are we still doing Fallon?” was a popular question. Tonight, will they do Seacrest or will they go to the anorexia queen or skip E! completely?

Have fun…



BYOB OScar preshow


Friday Estimates by Red Spare Ol’ Klady

Friday Estimates 2018-03-03 at 10.38.21 AM

Black Panther… still cruising. Floating with the other five phenomena that have done similar numbers (four, really, as The Force Awakens dwarfs them all). There have been six $600-million domestic grossers. Avatar and SW:TFA are the only two that have a 7 or better in the front of their ultimate number. Will Panther beat Avengers? Who cares? #1 or #2 all-time Marvel movie is an indistinct distinction. The success is profound either way.

Jennifer Lawrence is a true movie star. She is a lovable figure with an undeniable kind of power who draws a crowd to watch. The question is, how does she navigate what has undeniably become her Eddie Murphy problem? Which is to say, she is a powerful underdog figure who now has power. How many times can characters in movies underestimate her? Yet it is that underestimation and her ability to overcome that draws us to her. You can drink too much and fall up the stairs and say outrageous things in real life and be charming, but in a movie, that feels contrived. And at $20 million a movie, it’s hard to hide in plain sight.

The problem with Red Sparrow is not that Jennifer Lawrence isn’t good in the movie. And Francis Lawrence did a great job behind the camera. The problem is that 90 minutes of Jennifer Lawrence being abused and passive is not the $20 million Jennifer Lawrence. And really, neither was the one in Passengers. Nor the one in mother! (for which she didn’t get paid the big bucks, but you get my drift). It’s almost as though, in making choices, Ms. Lawrence is digging deeper and deeper to be vulnerable enough that she can come back.

She is 27 years old.

She is rich beyond a lifetime of need.

I believe in this actress. I believe in that person. And I look forward to seeing new work from her for the rest of my life. Taking a year to get a breath and consider what she really wants to do moving forward is the smartest move possible. No one is going to forget her. And no one is going to pay her $20 million for her next film. (Don’t weep to much for her. $10 million-$15 million is still likely.)

Bruce Willis has insight into the problem of becoming a huge movie star and no one really wanting to see anything but the same trick as you get older. I haven’t see Death Wish, but I guarantee that Jacques Audiard’s Dheepan – on Netflix – is a better version. But only Wes Anderson has been insightful enough to find the other Bruce Willis, around whom there is no mayhem, these days.

Game Night is not being resurrected by word of mouth. The bottom line, in this could-be-a-remake-of-the-failed-Rough-Night, is that while you can see many wonderful ideas in this film, John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein are not competent film directors. They can become competent. And they have the other esthetic skills to be better than that. But until they can stage a scene around a table, none of the trick shots are going to matter and the amazing cast they had will not get all the comic wins they earned on the soundstage.


Weekend Estimates by White Leonard

Weekend Estimates 2018-02-25 at 9.11.03 AM

Black Panther shows remarkable resilience from a 45% drop on Friday to estimate 3.7x the Friday gross over the weekend and a record $108 million second weekend. Game Night holds through the weekend and there are some hopes that it will play leggy and do more than $50 million total domestic. And Annihilation is flat over the 3-day, with arguments ramping up amongst film writers.

Well… that was a remarkable Saturday explosion. A 65% bump from Friday to Saturday is pretty much unheard of outside of children’s films, which have soft Fridays. And indeed, there may well have been a big rush of younger kids showing up Saturday after word-of-mouth let parents know Black Panther was safe for the little ones. It is the 2nd best 2nd Saturday ever, behind only Star Wars: The Force Awakens and ahead of #3, Avengers, by over 10%.

This has to up the estimate of the final domestic number on the film… and to some degree the international. Perhaps $1.3 billion is now the floor, not the ceiling. But it’s still early to really know.

Reported demographics remain abut the same. 33% black, 37% white, 18% hispanic/latino, 7% asian, and 5% “other.”

One-third black means about $133 million at the box office or about 12.5 – 13 million black ticket buyers (given add-ons and an adult lean). That’s about half the entire total of frequent and occasional black moviegoers in America, though I’m sure that part of the number is also infrequent moviegoers (1 or 2 times a year). This is a remarkable show of muscle. I’m not 100% sure how the industry responds. After all, history tells us that recreating a phenomenon – with any group or every group – is no mean feat. I would expect WB/DC to put a black Green Lantern film on speed dial immediately. And I would expect a $15 million – $20 million payday for Michael B. Jordan in the next year.

The film is also, obviously, huge with white audiences and all the others. (But more on that yesterday.)

Game Night found an audience as the only wide release comedy in the marketplace and really, the only wide comedy since Pitch Perfect 2 and Father Figures back on December 22. So really good date. Some pretty good reviews. But still kinda soft. I haven’t seen the movie, so I can’t explain the movie vs marketing variable fully. But from the outside, the marketing was pretty blurry. Maybe it will play for a while, as the filmmakers’ previous Horrible Bosses did.

Annihilation is causing fights amongst film critics and writers. Is it a great movie that was dumped. Is it a problem movie that was unsellable? What would it have been like if it went straight-to-streaming? Bottom line is that it will make as much as Ex Machina and perhaps a little more. But while that was a great win for A24, this one is less so for a big studio like Paramount. The film also cost more than double what Ex Machina did.

Fifty Shades Freed is doing well… but not nearly as well as the first two films… though it may catch up with #2.

Jumanji is still chugging away towards $400 million domestic and just short of $1 billion worldwide.

The Greatest Showman will pass Chicago domestically. Probably not Grease. But worldwide, the way the international market has expanded, it will pass both worldwide. Beauty & The Beast and La La Land stand in the way of the top 2 slots. That means that the top 3 musicals ever were released in the last 14 months… which means??? More musicals?

Both Searchlight Best Picture contenders are shedding screens, but holding well anyway. Interestingly, after falling behind Shape of Water, Three Billboards has now moved ahead this weekend – for this weekend, Shape remaining ahead by $5m or so – and is the top Best Picture contending grosser this weekend. Does that mean anything? Impossible to say. Both films are also quite close to the box office gross at the time of the awards of 12 Years A Slave. Also probably irrelevant.

BP contenders 2018-02-25 at 10.24.26 AM

As noted before – and all rules are made to be broken – no film in the top 3 grossers amongst Best Picture nominees has won since the expansion beyond 5 said nominees. Twice the #4 has won (Argo and The King’s Speech). Last year was the first time the bottom grosser at the time voting ended won the Oscar.

Does box office matter in Oscar voting? Not like it used to… not at all. And so it goes…


Friday Estimates by T’Klady

Fri Estimates 2018-02-24 at 12.47.07 PM

Okay… Black Panther.

The definitive answer to how super-huge Black Panther will be in the box office pantheon will come from foreign ticket sales. Domestically, it will be Top 10 and maybe Top 5 all-time. There have been 32 billion-dollar worldwide movies. Black Panther will make it 33. Only two of those billionaires have been under 50% foreign (The Dark Knight – $46.8% – and Rogue One – 49.6%). Black Panther may avoid the under-50 group, but it doesn’t look like it will be by a lot.

Some want the massive box office success of Black Panther to stand as proof of something other than itself, as well as Marvel’s unique place in the market. This is as wrongheaded in success as it is in failure.

Likewise, the international success (relative to domestic) of Moonlight and 12 Years A Slave is the norm for Best Picture winners, the only exceptions since The Expansion to five or more Best Picture titles are Spotlight, which was less than $2m off, and Argo, the only BP winner in these last that had a wide release.

But successful and failing movies have their orbit and they don’t tend to fit (or create) trend lines, which was a different story during the DVD era. International box office has become much more significant than DVD sales and the complications of selling movie theater tickets worldwide are very different than selling DVDs were.

Attitudes about race vary across the globe and to deny that is counter-intuitive. But that is no excuse for blithely backhanding every film starring primarily black talent. Aside from a few star directing names, virtually no one buying tickets really cares whether the person behind the camera is male or female, black or white. But having perspectives other than white male behind the camera makes good business sense on its face, just like having new talent . Neither argument is heeded often enough and getting a job directing a studio movie for the first time remains a rarity.

Black stories have value in the marketplace and not just with black people. This is an undeniable truth, but not the only truth.American theatrical films, for almost the entire existence of distribution, have all-white as the norm and anything off that was “a variant.” But America and the world have changed. And Hollywood is super-slow to make change without a financial gun to its head.

It’s hard to imagine – especially if you are under 40 – but DVD is only 21 years old. And the decision to make the format into a sell-through item instead of a rental was the first major paradigm shift in film business history that was was not driven by impending financial disaster. Cable and VHS before it were also voluntary, but those business models were  designed to fit the industry as it existed, not to change the landscape dramatically. Sell-through DVD changed everything within a few years, as DVD revenues outpaced theatrical box office and priorities shifted in every phase of making movies.

DVD was a boon, for a while, for black cinema in America as well. There was a lot of money out there for black movies, as in all genres. When the DVD business started to crater, studios saw disappearing revenues in every area of their business and adjusted their risk/reward analysis. But this narrowed “safe” choices, certainly beyond logic. But they were working backwards, focused on lost revenue, not building new revenue. That is the nature of working backwards.

The film industry did, actually, go backwards for black talent.

Then the pendulum started swinging toward both black talent and women.

In 2008, there was Twilight, Sex & The City, and Mamma Mia!. Two of the three were directed by women and all three were extremely profitable. I believe that Mamma Mia!, with a tiny budget and a $610 million worldwide gross, was the most profitable movie of that year.

So what happened?

Sequels to all three films would be directed by men (albeit some really gentle, kind men). The Twilight franchise made an absolute fortune, S&TC couldn’t find its way to a third film (although the second underperformed the first, it still made money). And Mamma Mia! 2 is arriving this summer.

In 2017, Wonder Woman would be seen as the gamechanger. We’ll see. The game still needs changing, but not just on the highest-profile films – where much of the credit can go to the franchise game – but in the middle of the industry. The slow reemergence of the black industry really started in 2009, with Fast & Furious, which was directed by a Taiwanese American and didn’t have any black leads, although the returning Vin Diesel calls himself a “person of color.” But the success of that film, reviving the franchise for Universal, which had Tokyo Drift, set up Fast Five, where the additions of The Rock, Ludacris, and Tyrese in major roles changed the game.

In 2012, there was Denzel’s biggest film without a major white star (the still growing Ryan Reynolds), over $200m worldwide, Safe House. There was, despite racial controversy and Leo, Django Unchained. There was Men in Black III, which reminded us of Will Smith’s star power (even though it was fading). And there was the rise of Kevin Hart, with Think Like A Man.

2013 was a slightly down year for “black films” at the box office, with Fast and Furious 6, 42, 2 Guns, and The Best Man Holiday the only Top 50 movies that year. There was a nice tag, however, with 12 Years A Slave winning Best Picture.

2014 saw four Kevin Hart movies, including his Ice Cube team-up for his first $100m grosser (Ride Along) and a hit sequel (Think Like A Man Too). Guardians of The Galaxy featured actors of color, albeit covered in other colors. Denzel revived The Equalizer with director Antoine Fuqua for Fuqua’s first $100m domestic hit. Annie was re-booted as a black musical. Let’s Be Cops was a surprise hit for the New Girl team of Wayans & Johnson. And The Rock flexed his Hercules, which more than doubled its domestic gross overseas. That’s seven of the top 50 domestic grossers that year. 14%. Plus Selma and No Good Deed over $50m domestic.

2015 was led by Furious 7, then Straight Outta Compton, San Andreas, and Creed in the Top 30 (13%), with two of those films directed by black directors. Add another 2 Kevin Hart films (Get Hard, The Wedding Ringer) rounding out the Top 50 (12%).

In 2016, Suicide Squad, Moana, Hidden Figures, and Central Intelligence (should ID4-2 be included) all cracked $100 million domestic. 13% of all $100m dom grossers. The Magnificent Seven, Ride Along 2, and Boo! A Madea Halloween added to the Top 50. (14%) Those last three were directed by black directors as well. And Moonlight won Best Picture.

And last year, it was Get Out, Kong: Skull Island, and Girls Trip in the $100m club (9%), though two of those films were hugely profitable with big grosses against small budgets, both directed by black directors. The Hitman’s Bodyguard and Baywatch rounded out the Top 50. Close by were Dark Tower and Tyler Perry’s Boo 2! A Madea Halloween.

Now, Black Panther… the killer king of black box office, taking its place with the very top box office hits of all time. And unlike some of the bigger hits of these last seven years, it has impeccable racial credibility. It’s not relying on Dwayne Johnson or Will Smith as the star, though it is worth noting that 9 of the last 15 years have had a black man (Will Smith) or a mixed race man (Dwayne) as the biggest star in the world. The director is black. Both writers are black. The cast didn’t include a big name white star for safety (wonderful as Andy Serkis is chewing the hell out of the scenery as a South African). And the story – almost the entirety of the film – is set in Africa.

Ryan Coogler gets a free hand to do as he wants for at least a couple films (more if he does the sequel). Stars are being made. Some irrational resistance will be broken.

But the war for inclusion is not being fought at Disney, where they have been embracing both black directors and female directors in the last couple of years in a way that they never had before and that is still unique in the industry. The war will be on the $30 million comedy or drama, where rising black directors (who are not one of the handful already well established and on a lot of wish lists) are not always being considered.

As with women, the challenge is that there are 4 or 5 now-name directors of color who make a film every 2 or 3 years. They may not care to chase commerciality, even when they have had real commercial success. I would love to see Steve McQueen’s Bond film with Michael Fassbender as Bond and a female villain who is much smarter and morally complex than Bond, but I don’t see it coming. Barry Jenkins took his free pass and is adapting a James Baldwin novel. Malcolm Lee can probably get any comedy he wants, but is an unlikely as for a $200 million production.

This is similar to “the Kathryn Bigelow problem,” as the brilliant director doesn’t want to work endlessly and her ambitions for depth in her work have become more important than hit status for her. If she is the de facto leader of the movement for women, does she need an $800 million grosser to help? Or does doing weighty work move the bar?

Anyway… this turned out to not be much about weekend box office. But Black Panther will probably be disappointing – in context only – internationally… and we really shouldn’t give a shit. It will be a massive hit everywhere. And it’s about the blackness. And it is about the Marvelness. And it is about a terrific movie. (And yes, I know some of you don’t think it is that great, but while the car chase isn’t Billy Friedkin, it is always wildly inventive and wonderful in a very different way than the gritty realism we all also love.

* * *

Game Night is not a disaster, but not a smash. $50m looks like the cap unless it takes off in some unexpected way. What was WB selling? I wouldn’t mind seeing it. But the call to action was very, very soft. Horrible Bosses, which was nicely leggy, had some more star power, but it also had a really clear idea. This one seems to be the comedy version of The Game… kinda…. sorta… maybe.

And Annihilation is an interesting movie that is getting dumped on 2,000 screens, right after the failure to launch mother!. I don’t know whether there was a better box office answer. The great Ex Machina did $25 million without ever having a $3 million day. But that was A24 and their ad spends are not like Paramount. It is hard for a major studio to release films that way and to be satisfied. Success in that way almost looks like failure because the special skill of studio marketing is scaling things up. But maybe a thinker like Annihilation is really meant to gross $30 million max and to become a legend in post-theatrical.


Black Panther: The Math, Objectively – Part 2, Opening Weekend

Okay… huge number.

Tracking was low. Not a shock. When you get past $100 million, tracking is mostly a crap shoot.

As it turned out, Disney did itself a great service by letting the film stew in its strong media reaction for what seemed like a week too long in a very soft early 2018 movie market. This is the first legit blockbuster coming into the market since Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. And what was always expected to open around $100 million then took off as a major cultural event.

People were inspired to see this film, not wanting to be left out of the conversation over the weekend at at the office or at school on Tuesday.

$235 million 4-day.

What does that mean in basic box office math?

I think $100 million or so. 10 million or so people going to Black Panther that would not have been expected to go to any character-launching comic book movie, even a well-reviewed one.

And if I had to guess – and I do – I would guess that the expected black American audience of about $47 million for a $235 million opening was more like $90 million here.

Looking earlier at the BP math, I would assume that half of that number represents about 85% of all domestic black frequent moviegoers and half of that number is likely made up of occasional and infrequent domestic black moviegoers. An extremely strong turnout in both categories.

But those numbers still would leave Black Panther as a massive out-sized opening amongst non-blacks (whites, Hispanics/Latinos, Asians), pulling in $145 million or so, about $25 million more in non-black audiences compared to an opening like Deadpool or Suicide Squad. That’s 17% above in non-black ticket sales vs the huge openings mentioned.

There will be someone out here who thinks I am undercutting this opening. But I am not. Not at all.

Eliminate the black box office bump and you are still looking at a Top 12 all-time opening. Everything that anyone suggests regarding culture shift is just as true (or just as untrue, if you don’t subscribe to the notion) with $45 million less than the actual 4-day number. The idea that the specific number was critical stopped being an issue around a $150 million domestic launch.

Internationally, still unknown. What we do know is that the $169m opening weekend from about 70% of the international market will likely lead to no less than $550 million internationally. And we know that this could as much as double to $1.1 billion internationally. There is no way of knowing for another week or two.

Still, it seems impossible for Black Panther to come up short of $1.1 billion worldwide by the end of its theatrical run. $600 million domestic and $500 million international seems like the bottom. $1.3 billion and a spot in the all-time Top 10 Worldwide (until the next Avengers movie and Jurassic World 2, at least) would not be shocking at this point.

The argument floating out there that these sensational numbers will change how “Hollywood” and particularly the international theatrical market see “black movies” is a more troubling conversation. A look at the list of billion-dollar worldwide movies quickly make clear that these massive commercial events do not change the market very much. You could make the argument that Marvel’s overall success has prompted more efforts to make comic book films, but I don’t think that is any real cultural shift. The evolution of the technology and Marvel’s successful navigation of storytelling seems more the story. We don’t see the influence of the Cameron films or the Rings films or Pirates or Transformers or even the physical slapstick of the Minions reflected in what has  been produced since. There has been some Twilight imitation and maybe it begat The Hunger Games, but the failure of the genre beyond those two series proves the point, perhaps.

Under 30s are a lot less racially discriminating than their parents everywhere in the world and that the bias was even greater at the international box office than here in the U.S. Fear of The Other in America is excessive and paranoid. While still dead wrong, the sense of threat is more real in much of the rest of the world. Some will tell you that this is a myth perpetuated by a small cabal of film buyers clinging desperately to their racist ways. I do not believe this is so.

Seventeen of Will Smith’s twenty-three films have done more than 50% of their business overseas. And the few that haven’t usually contained very American content.

Denzel had a consistent run of 50%+ overseas from 2006 – 2010… but hasn’t seen the better side of 50% since 2011, whether in dramas or action movies, with name co-stars or not. His best performance ever overseas was 65% with Déjà Vu, which had no major white co-star.

Eddie Murphy cracked 50% overseas with just 7 of 23 of his live-action films.

Dwayne Johnson is over 58% overseas in the last decade with everything except his straight comedies. (Baywatch, however, did 67% of its revenue overseas.)

I don’t believe there is a “we won’t see movies with black people” blockade overseas. Comedies have a hard time overseas, period. Big action movies play everywhere, regardless of race… and in many cases, better because of casts that are international and racially inclusive.

And dramas are complicated. They are complicated for all American movies that don’t have big movie stars… and for many that do.

12 Years A Slave did more than double its successful American gross overseas. 70% of total box office. Look at the cast of the film of all colors and nationalities and how their dramas did overseas, since and before, and you see a lot of films that didn’t do a whole lot of business in America or overseas, the exceptions being the few dramas set internationally. (This is particularly a Brad Pitt thing… and you wonder how consciously he makes the choice to set his dramas outside of America.)

This is what I do think Black Panther will change. Michael B. Jordan will be, if he so chooses, an action star who does business worldwide. Lupita Nyong’o and Letitia Wright will get opportunities they may not have otherwise gotten in colorblind casting and will be able to fund indies on their names. Danai Gurira will be a curiosity who directors will want to figure out and may or may not find a career as an action star who is also female… and black. Winston Duke and his big smile, deep voice and 6′ 5″ frame will work every day he wants to work for decades and may turn out to be the multi-faceted actor that Forest Whittaker has been or perhaps “just” the next Bill Duke (who I love to watch) or maybe he is John Lithgow waiting to happen… who knows? This is a terrific cast and they now have box office cred and the world will be their oysters for a few years and they will do what they do.

I would hate to see Ryan Coogler sucked into another franchise. He has the wherewithal to get something about which he is passionate made now and he can be comfortable that if he loses every dime the film costs, he can do Black Panther 2 and get a $10m+ payday. So he is set for a while. I want to see his next hard-to-get funded passion project made by Fox 2000 as they segue into Disney.

Much of the team under Coogler are established veterans. Hannah Beachler is fascinating and quirky and she may have the biggest upside caused by this film as she has the least feature experience. Others, like Rachel Morrison and Ruth Carter are already well-known crushers.

This is how I see change in the film business. Seed the field. Success breeds opportunity. The more seeds, the more success, the more colorblind (and gender-blind) the industry appears to become.

The future that is really interesting is someone like Lisa C. Satriano, Black Panther‘s first AD. Does she want to direct? She’s done a lot of big movies as a first.

Claudia Castello co-edited Coogler’s first two films and did some work on Black Panther… and cut two more films coming out this year. Will she become one of the hot name among editors with these credits?

Seed the field.

Black Panther was always likely to be a winner. It wasn’t expected to be this big. But the fact that it is a winner, combined with the high quality of the work by Ryan Coogler and the people he hired is what will put another brick in the wall of change. $1.3 billion or $600 million? It’s great to go big. But James Wan hasn’t caused Hollywood to start recruiting for mega-movie directors in Malaysia. It just doesn’t work that way. Things are changed by the people in the fight, not by the details of the gross.

The success of Black Panther makes things better for those who were already well placed in the industry and makes room for people who are still getting started, even if they already had a foothold. No distributor in Europe is going to book a $20 million drama starring and made by people of color because of Black Panther. But they may be more inclined to book the Lupita Nyong’o drama or the Danai Gurira sexy actioner directed by Steven Soderbergh or Ryan Coogler’s next film that is more like Fruitvale Station than like Creed. Those are 3 wins. And if even just 1 of those 3 hits, that is another win, squared.

And that is how the movie world changes.


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