Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Box Office’

Cowboys tie Smurfs

August 1st, 2011 No comments

 

It’s a Tie: The Smurfs win!

As the summer movie season heads into its final month, the preliminary box office report is in for the past weekend, and the winner is… “The Smurfs.” But wait… Didn’t “The Smurfs” tie with “Cowboys & Aliens” at a reported $36.2 million each for their opening weekends? Well, technically, they did. But Sony and Columbia’s animated, 3-D, kid-oriented feature outperformed for its opening, while Jon Favreau’s “Iron Man” series follow-up underperformed. And there’s always the ‘liar’s poker’ aspect of preliminary box office – frequently it turns out that the margin between a ‘tie’ or even a $100,000 ‘squeaker’ finish is far wider than studio ‘estimates’ suggest. In other words, sometimes people inflate figures to enhance their company bottom line. Gee, when did artifice, insincerity and self-interest creep into Hollywood business? Oh, right – never mind. [As this post was being completed, the final numbers came out for the weekend: “Cowboys & Aliens” $36.4 million, “The Smurfs” $35.6 million.]

Favreau got smurfed like nobody’s business

“Cowboys & Aliens,” which cost $163 million to make, is writer/director Jon Favreau’s “Iron Man 2” follow-up, and producing partners Universal, DreamWorks, Reliance and Relativity were depending on Favreau’s mojo with fanboys to drive the film’s opening. The movie participated at Comic-Con last weekend, and its stars Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford have been grouchily honoring their publicity obligations, but this project seems to have fallen on Favreau’s shoulders, and getting gang-smurfed at the weekend box office probably came as a rude surprise to him. It doesn’t help matters that “Cowboys & Aliens” was shot in (apparently now passe) 2-D, so it did not get the 3-D premium coin its diminutive blue Belgian competitors enjoyed. Western films, in general, have been poison at the box office in the last few decades, with a few notable examples like last year’s remake of “True Grit” or 1990’s “Dances With Wolves.” Just a handful have made it past the $100 million dollar B.O. mark, and “Cowboys & Aliens” will have a tougher time making it there now that it has opened lower than hoped. Let’s face it, though: “Cowboys & Aliens,” a genre mash-up, is about as much a ‘Western’ as next year’s “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” can be called a ‘Lincoln biography.’

The (small) Blue Man Group

It’s pretty clear Sony’s marketing machine revved-up and ‘got its smurf on’ in a big way. In addition to a huge advertising campaign, the company pacted with Build-a-Bear, FAO Schwartz and McDonalds to grow awareness of the film among the Smurf set. Neil Patrick Harris dilligently performed his PR duties with a smile, appearing across the TV channel spectrum. As a result, the $110 million production resonated with youthful audiences, who, accordingly, dragged along at least one parent to pay enhanced 3-D prices for their tickets. Tellingly, “The Smurfs” was on 355 fewer screens than ‘Cowboys,’ so the final B.O. totals should be interesting, to say the least. The end result was a happy weekend for director Raja Gosnell and the folks at Sony and Columbia – at least until the final B.O. figures come out. [See the end of the first paragraph for ‘Cowboys” narrow margin of ‘victory.’]

‘America’ comes in third; ‘Love’ loses big…

Last week’s number one film (it opened at $65 million), “Captain America: The First Avenger,” slipped dramatically (62%) into 3rd place, with $24.9 million, but its box office take (and B.O. stalwart Harry Potter – see below) bested the only other film opening last weekend, the adult-skewing “Crazy, Stupid, Love.” Disapointingly for Warner Brothers, ‘Love’ brought in only $19.3 million from more than 3,000 screens, earning it 5th place  for the weekend, behind the ‘boy-wizard-who-could,’ Harry Potter. Although it claimed most of the adult audience (and a more-than-half female audience), “Crazy, Stupid, Love” simply couldn’t beat the world’s love affair with Potter, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2” earned $21.9 million over the weekend, giving the final picture in the Potter series the notable achievement of being its first of the Potter franchise to make over $1 billion at the box office. ‘Hallows Pt. 2”s domestic total is $318 million, but the film has earned over twice that overseas, with $690 million (and counting!).

Coming Soon: Even More Remakes!!

If you haven’t gotten enough of Hollywood’s ‘creativity’ in terms of re-inventing (exploiting?) franchises they already own, get ready for next weekend’s “Rise of Planet of the Apes,” from Twentieth Century Fox, starring graduate degree record holder James Franco. In the alternative, if quality adult drama appeals to you, there’s “The Whistleblower,” starring Rachel Weisz.

See you at the movies!

Summer Movies: And… They’re Off! (by 28%)

April 11th, 2011 3 comments

The 2011 movie season has started, albeit tepidly. This weekend’s box office was buoyed by a 3-D holiday animated film, “Hop,” which garnered about $21.5 million, but the remaining films in the top five hovered around the $11 to $12 million mark in terms of box office returns. It’s more evidence that the habits of moviegoers are changing – as a result of technological developments as well as economic instability – and the movie industry itself is undergoing a paradigm shift akin to the changes in the music business in the last decade.

Good News, Bad News…

The numbers are in, and it’s not good: the take at the movie box office is down a whopping 20% since the beginning of 2011. And, to make matters worse, that’s the good  news. The bad news? Attendance is down even more, having slipped 28% so far this year. Hollywood doesn’t seem to be helping: its sequel, prequel, remake and reboot-heavy schedule for 2011’s prime movie turf has already been lacerated by critics and fans alike. The few strongly-anticipated films can be counted on one hand – two, if you’re a superhero fanboy. Discussing the potential for this summer’s tentpole films, movie mavens Peter Guber and Peter Bart singled out the July 4th weekend-opener “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” as one of the summer’s rare sequels with real audience potential, and pointed towards J.J. Abrams’ Spielberg-tinged “Super 8” as another film with positive ‘buzz’ among distributors and moviegoers. Not so definite were the prospects for the fourth film in the ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ series, “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides,” which loses franchise stars Keira Knightly and Orlando Bloom this go-round, replaced by Penelope Cruz and Ian McShane, along with Dame Judi Dench and a new director: “Chicago” helmer Rob Marshall.

Big Film, Little Film

What seems clear is that the entertainment industry is going through a great metamorphosis. And it’s not just movies, but all media ‘platforms’ in general. With few exceptions, today there are no studios making theatrical genre fare like the Universal and Warner Brothers programmers of old, or MGM‘s old-fashioned frothy romances or musicals, apart from a specialty distribution unit like Sony’s Screen Gems, which releases “Underworld” and “Resident Evil” sequels with regularity, while sneaking in a popular musical like “Burlesque’ every once in a while. But these movies are small films, basically, and Screen Gems has a firm understanding of its core audience: they are teen moviegoers who have grown up on a steady supply of vampires, werewolves and action fare, with the occasional musical (“Country Strong”) thrown in for good measure. As a result, the company has had few missteps (“Death at a Funeral” was a rare recent misfire), and has made a lot of money for its parent company. Other studios tried with specialty units, but none has had the staying power – or success – of Screen Gems.

Sony continues to make tentpole movies, of course, but they have acknowledged the need for belt-tightening – their retooling of the “Spider-Man” franchise is a perfect example: when the budget of “Spider-Man 4” passed $250 million, the studio began to think in terms of a newer, less costly take on the story – and cast “The Social Network” star Andrew Garfield as its newer, younger Peter Parker. Even a successful studio like Sony needs to deal with the realities of the present: fewer people are going to see movies in the theater, so it’s helpful for them to know who those theatergoers are and give them the movies they want to see, and it’s also important to find a way to distribute their product in every possible way to multiply potential revenue streams. Because let’s face it: when business is down 28%, it’s time to lower margins, tighten belts, and look for new ideas… The studios can implement the cutbacks – but where are they going to find new ideas?

 

Who ARE you People?!

February 25th, 2011 No comments

For Bards blog has reached a milestone of sorts – it’s turned the page on its first year, and is moving full-speed ahead into its second.

Some Numbers

During the last year, I have written 79 blog posts which have been read by thousands of readers from 65 countries. Not surprisingly, English language-speaking countries account for a substantial share of this traffic, especially since I have relatives (and many close friends) in the United States and the United Kingdom. But that can’t explain why For Bards blog is popular in Australia or New Zealand, where I am delighted to have discovered a loyal readership.

 

It has been fun as well as educational to write For Bards blog during the last year. Many of the posts dealt with the business end of show business, discussing weekend box office numbers or the changing of the guard at one studio or another. Other posts discuss the creative process, or writing in general. But some of my favorite posts have been more personal, like the series of posts I wrote about “My Favorite Week,” when I was lucky enough to hang out with horror movie icon Vincent Price, or relating the ongoing drama of MGM in “Dyin’ Lion?,” which gave me a chance to reminisce about the studio in earlier troubled times. But when the public speaks, its voice must be heard: the #1 most-read post on For Bards blog the last year? It was a relatively innocuous post about big budget releases – but its title must’ve been irresistable to search engines: “Is that a Tentpole in your pocket? (Or are you just shoring up your slate?)” It certainly proves one thing – Madison Ave. is right: (implied) sex sells! From here on in, I’ll try to work something smarmy into every title…

I Hear You

Many readers have been kind enough to leave comments on For Bards blog – and I am always happy to hear from fellow writers and/or film fans. I’ve also learned a great deal about spam: it’s a tool used by some to direct ‘hits’ to their own websites (or sites they advertise on). I’ve learned how to deal with industrial spam while continuing to offer readers a chance to comment. So don’t hesitate to share your opinion (or movie suggestions) – just don’t be surprised if a spam-laden ‘posting’ never appears… I have my ways!

Shameless Plug

My contributions to For Bards blog are linked to my website Forbard Story Services, and both sites have received a good deal of cross-traffic over the past year. As a result, Forbard Story Services has been fortunate enough to help a number of writers with their screenplays, stage plays, teleplays, treatments and other writing projects.  It is always exciting to offer perspective and constructive analysis to writers, and the coming year holds a great deal of promise for more of the same. I encourage writers to keep up the hard work, since Forbard Story Services is ready, willing and able to help.

So, who ARE you people?

Who are For Bards blog readers? They’re writers, they’re movie fans, they’re my voluminous family… They’re also residents of the Maldives, Ivory Coast, Denmark, Slovenia, South Africa, Argentina, Burma, China, Brazil, Russia, and 55 other countries… In other words, they’re lovers of film and writing from around the world. And I look forward to continuing to write about those subjects as For Bards blog moves from its infancy into toddlerdom. In the meantime, thanks to ALL of you for reading For Bards blog!

Bilbo’s new boss, Leo sizzles & ‘Apprentice’ fizzles

July 27th, 2010 1 comment

 

 Picking up ‘The Hobbit’ – again

As a searing heatwave gripped most of the United States, news came out of Hollywood that should give some Tolkien fans hope that the long-gestating “The Hobbit” feature film(s) are getting back on track. In an announcement that took no one by surprise, Peter Jackson revealed that he will take over the directing duties on “The Hobbit,’ following Guillermo del Toro’s departure as director over scheduling conflicts, despite del Toro’s having already dedicated almost two years to pre-production planning. Executive producer Jackson was presumed to be the frontrunner for the directing gig, but his plate is fairly full these days as well, with several projects in development and a commitment to produce the next two ‘Tintin’ movies for Dreamworks. Despite the change in directors, however, the project still faces challenges as producing partner MGM endures mounting financial woes and remains for sale with few, if any, real potential buyers. 

Cerebral Cinema

The #1 movie at the box office in the US for the last 2 weeks has been the Leonardo DiCaprio starrer “Inception,” the latest brain-teaser from Christopher Nolan, who has made a reputation for himself of turning out movies that are smarter than the average audience. His breakout film, “Memento,” was a breath of fresh air in terms of storytelling, literally turning the plot on its head as the story unfolded backwards; even though others have used this device before (Harold Pinter wrote “Betrayal” ‘backwards, and Martin Amis’ “Time’s Arrow” uses a similar technique in prose narrative), Nolan layers his story with false leads and ambiguities which results in a truly unsettling and intense experience. “The Prestige” also plays with audiences’ perceptions while setting its tragic tale of  magician one-upmanship in Victorian-era London. Now Nolan has created “Inception,” a dream-within-a-dream-within-a-dream puzzle involving industrial espionage, hallucinatory ‘reality,’ and a team of mind-bending operators who can literally become the men (or woman) of your dreams. In ‘Time’ magazine, veteran film critic Richard Corliss suggests seeing the film twice, since viewers will be challenged by the complexity of the story. In a summer of dumb 3-D fare and middling sequels, Christopher Nolan’s “Inception” is welcome indeed.

Audiences to ‘Apprentice’: “You’re Fired!”

The phenomenal success of James Cameron’s “Avatar” in late 2009 and early 2010 skewed results for the tracking of box office receipts (just as “Titanic”‘s success had done a decade earlier). Clearly an aberation, “Avatar”‘s profits raised expectations all around Hollywood that the box office was booming despite a flat-lining economy. As a result, lots of 3-D movies were rushed into production (or, in some cases, like “Clash of the Titans,” were retroactively engineered in 3-D), and some did quite well, like “Alice in Wonderland,” “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs”and “Shrek: Forever After,” but 3-D fare alone could not immunize the domestic box office from the economic downturn or a series of underperforming films – or even worse – downright flops.

Since May, the box office has seen a series of high-budget missteps, starting with “Prince of Persia,” followed by “The A Team,” “Killers,” “The Last Airbender,” “Predators” and now “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.” The latter, a Disney picture, had a very ‘soft’ opening last weekend, coming in at #4 with $9.6 million behind “Despicable Me,” which has already been in release for several weeks . Even before ‘Apprentice’ opened, it was the object of negative ‘buzz’ in Hollywood due to its low tracking numbers. Tracking numbers are the result of audience polling which hint at a film’s potential popularity and success or failure. In light of “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”‘s low figures, its poor opening weekend performance should surprise few. In fact, overall domestic box office receipts are currently 4% lower than they were one year ago. With fewer (but more expensive) movies to see, higher ticket prices and a real dearth of originality on the screen, is it any surprise that people are going to see “Inception,” a movie that makes them think? 

Who knows? Maybe ‘thinking’ will be the next trend to catch on in Hollywood, like 3-D. But 3-D came and went once. This thinking thing? It’s practically a first for Tinseltown…

‘Ass’ Kicks ‘Dragon’

April 20th, 2010 No comments

For the second time in two weeks, the order of the reported #1 and #2 weekend films has changed. It’s not surprising, given the closeness of the two amounts; “How to Train Your Dragon” reported an estimate of $20 million, while the presumptive #2, “Kick-Ass,” reported $19.8 million in weekend box office receipts.

Of course, that’s ONLY if you believed the studio estimates… And that’s not always the best thing to do. Because sometimes (like twice in the last two weeks!!) the studios ‘fudge’ their numbers. So, in the end, “How to Train Your Dragon” actually made $19.6 million – meaning someone at Paramount fudged the total by $400K. Ironically, “Kick-Ass”‘ estimates were spot-on, remaining at $19.8 million.

Of course, ‘Dragon’ remains popular at the box office, having taken in $158 million domestically, and the 3-D version represents about 65% of that total. Fanboy flick “Kick-Ass” should continue to do well for the next week or so, but then it (and every other film in the marketplace) will run into the “Iron Man 2” buzzsaw when Paramount’s tentpole picture opens on May 7th.

Liar, Liar…! ‘Dragon’ on Fire?

April 19th, 2010 No comments

 

 It was another squeaker at the domestic box office this weekend. And another extraordinary round of B.O. estimating, Liar’s Poker style…

According to “Daily Variety,” new release “Kick-Ass” won the Friday ‘frame’ of the weekend, with $7.5 million, while two other films, “Date Night” and weekend opener “Death at a Funeral” were in a virtual Friday tie, with $5.5 million each. It would suggest a tough battle between niche markets to take the weekend. BUT – there’s always the inevitable Hollywood third-act twist (… or IS THERE?)!

Gotta hand it to those distribution dudes… they really know how to wring the suspense out of a weekend. So, as the dragon-smoke clears, and those estimates are faxed in (or emailed in – who knows? With the occasional ‘accuracy’ of some of these numbers, maybe they’re sent by Ouija board…), a new box office champ is crowned – sort of. Last week’s ‘surprise’ repeat #1, “Clash of the Titans,” slipped to the number 5 slot, supplanted by ANOTHER 3-D film, “How to Train Your Dragon,” in its 3rd week of release. As a reminder, ‘Dragon’ opened in the  #1 slot, but quickly fell to #3 in its second week. Its buoyed finish may have something to do with the higher price of 3-D movie tickets – or a particularly bold ‘bluff’ in the Liar’s Poker game of weekend film gross estimating. 

Kick-Ass still

And here’s the rub… ‘Dragon’ beat out “Kick-Ass” to take the #1 weekend slot – but only by $200k. In ESTIMATED dollars. So, I think you know where this is headed… If, as happened last weekend, one studio (or more) got ‘generous’ with their estimated weekend take, the order of #1 and #2 would certainly change… And “Kick-Ass” would open at #1, which is undoubtedly what Lionsgate, its studio, wants. PLUS – and this is one of those ‘only in Hollywood’ scenarios, Lionsgate is mired in a nasty takeover bid by Carl ‘Destroyer of Worlds’ Icahn, and having a number one picture at the box office would be a big boost to the beleaguered mini-major.

As for the rest of the liars at this poker game, “Date Night” and “Death at a Funeral” finished at #3 and #4, with $17.3 and $17 million respectively, but with only $300k between them, it’s anyone’s guess who the ‘real’ #3 and #4 are. Unless they substantially underreported, “Clash of the Titans” should definately have a lock on fifth place, with $15.8 million.

WE’RE #2!! WE’RE #2!!

April 13th, 2010 1 comment

  

 Well, ‘the final numbers’ are in for last weekend’s box office…

AND GUESS WHAT?!

Somebody played ‘liar’s poker’ with the estimates – so to speak. Because in the final analysis, much-derided (but apparently popular) “Clash of the Titans” retained #1 position, while the pretender to the box office throne, to coin a phrase, “Date Night,” dropped to #2 when their estimate of $27.1 million actually turned out to be $25.2 million. That’s nearly $2 million off… Is it studio spin – or really, really bad addition? I think anyone who understands how the movie business works knows it’s the former and not the latter.

 

For its part, “Clash of the Titans” was relatively conservative in its ‘upward’ estimation, coming in with a final box office draw of $26.6 million, versus their weekend estimated total of $26.9 million. Even still, having the movie hold on to the number one slot for another week is a feather in actor Sam Worthington’s cap, and you can bet his agent is already using the ‘corrected’ box office chart as proof his client sells movie tickets.

 

Getting credit for the most accurate ‘estimating’ is “Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married Too,” which presented an estimate that underreported the movie’s gross by a mere $17 thousand.

 

And MGM underreported as well – and Disney over-estimated, so “Hot Tub Time Machine” and “Alice in Wonderland” switched positions on the box office chart, flipping Monday’s reported #6 and #7 films: now the Lion’s on top of Alice, to conjure a strange image. 

Liar’s Poker, indeed. Gotta love Hollywood – it embraces artifice not just in its films, but in its bookkeeping as well! 

Is Third the NEW #1?

April 11th, 2010 No comments

The conclusion of ” My Favorite Year” will be posted soon… In the meantime:

 

Well, the weekend box office numbers are in, and they’re a perfect example of what I call the ‘liar’s poker’ potential of film distribution. Every weekend movie theaters report box office estimates on a daily basis starting on Friday, to the studios (or their distribution companies) whose films they are exhibiting. As a result of these ‘numbers,’ as they’re called, the studio/distributor comes up with an estimated total of what the film did overall each day and total for the weekend, which is considered Friday to Sunday. By early Sunday morning, the “numbers are in…” and the studios/distributors announce how their films ‘did’ at the box office. Industry insiders, media and other cinema pundits get the numbers first and attempt to make sense of them, generating buzzworthy articles about record openings – or utter bombs. (Think: “Clash of the Titans” for the former, “Pluto Nash” for the latter.)

But there’s a problem. Because the reporting of ‘numbers’ are left in the hands of mere mortals like you and me (no ‘Titans’ to be found in Distribution, alas…), ‘mistakes’ can be made. And by mistakes I mean exagerations, errors of scale, mathmatical miscalculations, providing for inflation, unconscious prevarication and/or out-and-out lying. There have been times when the ‘number one’ and ‘number two’ pictures for the weekend have been reversed in order after the ‘final numbers’ come in on Tuesday, but to the distributors and studios, it’s the sizzle, NOT the steak they’re selling. More often, the second, third and fourth pictures jockey for reality, but occasionally it’s clumps of pictures fighting it out for position. And that’s precisely what this weekend’s numbers suggest.

The number one film of the weekend (according to “Daily Variety”), was 20th Century Fox’s comedy “Date Night,” with $27.1 million. Directly behind was the aforementioned “Clash of the Titans,” which reported a total of $26.9 million (and which was called ‘cheeseball’ recently by Jeffrey Katzenberg in a ‘Variety’ interview when he disparaged the film’s post-engineered 3-D process as a way simply to cash in on a craze). The films’ two hundred thousand dollar difference is small enough to be ‘corrected’ after Tuesday’s final numbers, but it does imply that one film triumphed over the other at the weekend box office.

BUT WAIT – There’s more…. The #3 picture for the weekend was Dreamworks’ “How to Train Your Dragon,” with a reported estimated total of $25.4 million. Doing the math, that means that there is less than $1.7 million separating the #1 picture from the #3 picture. That is certainly enough for someone playing ‘liar’s poker’ with box-office receipt numbers to manipulate the order of finish. AND – to complicate things, the next tier of films ALSO ended up in a close finish. “Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married, Too?” ended up with a reported $11 million,  but the Miley Cyrus-starrer “The Last Song” finished only 10% behind, with $10 Million. Who’s bluffing – and who’s holding the cards?…

The films rounding out the remaining four films also clump up, suggesting studio distribution guys were working overtime with their calculators massaging totals for a ‘Hollywood’ happy ending. The #6 and #7 films, respectively, were “Alice in Wonderland” with $5.6 Million and “Hot Tub Time Machine” with $5.4 million. Bringing up the rear was a virtual tie between Sony’s “The Bounty Hunter” and Fox’s “Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” with $4.3 and $4.1 million each, respectively. Again, we’ll just have to wait until the REAL numbers come out on Tuesday…

But who knows? Maybe everybody told the complete truth this weekend and there was no ‘liar’s poker’ at the box office. Stranger things have happened. If it happened in Hollywood, there was probably someone nearby to spin it into publicity gold!