Hey, I’m back, sort of, with weekend box office results

I’m still keeping busy and enjoying the tail end of the Los Angeles Film Festival, which wraps in just a couple of hours, but I thought I’d see how quickly I can give you all at least some of this weekend’s genuinely fascinating box office results as gleaned from both Anne Thompson and Nikki Finke.

Toy Story 3

Well, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the Pixar formula — i.e., dollops of laughter and heart (what a concept!) and now a dash of 3-D ticket prices — has once again worked wonders and “Toy Story 3” took on all comers, earning an estimated $59 million for Disney in its second weekend. Meanwhile, it was also a good weekend for the eternal appeal of low humor and, it seems Adam Sandler, at least when accompanied by four other comic known quantities of varying degrees of box office hotness. It was clear that the scatological-joke loving masses were only encouraged by, I’m guessing, entirely correct godawful reviews of Sony’s “Grown-Ups.”

Perhaps also reflecting a dearth of comedy right now, the film actually was a personal box office best — not adjusted for inflation — for Sandler, earning $41 million. Personally, though I like him in actual quality films like the, I think, severely underrated “Funny People” and the brilliant “Punch Drunk Love,” I’ve never gotten the comic appeal of Sandler, going back to his SNL days, and can’t even remember gong through a phase where I found farts inherently hysterical, so I can only throw up my hands here.

Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz in
On the other hand, there is little joy in the five or six buildings the Church of Scientology owns on Hollywood Blvd, as the Tom Cruise (and Cameron Diaz) action comedy vehicle, “Knight and Day” earned an estimated $27.7 million. Not bad, actually, except considering Cruise’s far better past performances back in the day when stars like him could routinely “open” a film and, according to Finke, the budget for the film was either roughly $117 or $107 million, depending on whether you calculate tax breaks. In other words, Cruise’s thetans might take longer to clear.

In other news, I’m happy to say, that things are hopping on the indie scene. The new wartime documentary “Restrepo” and the Duplass Brother’s enjoyable entry into the semi-mainstream, “Cyrus,” are both doing quite well, as are other newish films.

On the other hand, the controversially violent “The Killer Inside Me” appears to be suffering, perhaps, from an older indie audience that might be turned off by the fuss, which some say has been exaggerated to a certain degree and appears to have surprised its skilled, if highly uneven, director Michael Winterbottom. Interesting how an adaptation of a once obscure fifty-eight year old pulp novel can still raise hackles. Also shows that while a perception of too-little blood and guts can harm a horror film, a perception of too much can perhaps harm even a “hard R” thriller/drama. Advice to the suits: know your audience.

As usual, Indiewire has the indie scoop.

  

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Rainy days and movieland Mondays… (Updated)

…Can really get you down. Especially if you’re a deposed big time executive.

* Marc Shmuger and David Linde are both now former honchos at Universal. As reported in the show biz paper of record, having a far better and busier Monday are Adam Fogelson and Donna Langley, from the marketing and distribution departments respectively. As for the why, I’m sure it can mostly be summed by a number of fairly expensive/high profile box office disappointments/flops including “Duplicity,” “Funny People,” “State of Play,” and the one that got almost no respect from anyone (except Roger Ebert), “Land of the Lost.”

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Still, you can trust Nikki Finke to find a more down and dirty side (Shmuger was “‘The Schmuck'”! Poor Linde was “collateral damage”) while Anne Thompson provides her usual sober assessment and notes that the real killer might have been the lack of any apparent “tentpoles” coming any time soon.

* On a similar note, the Rich Ross ascension at Disney is starting to look like a sure thing amidst an overall shake-up — or at least that’s what they’re saying today at Variety. We’re told to expect “a greater emphasis on tentpoles and family fare.” Not a surprise…gotta have them tentpoles.

UPDATE: Ross’s promotion is official. Anne Thompson has the press release.

* Nikki Finke also has an item to gladden the heart of our own Chris Glotfelty. “Paranormal Activity” has had what the Finke terms “freakishly good” business with $15,000 per screening averages (matching the amount I’m seeing reported as the film’s budget…very spooky!) in a special midnight-only engagement in 33 cities Thursday through Saturday, which means some theaters were making those numbers not only at midnight but even on a day when most people had work/classes the next morning. The film will be expanding into a regular release in 40 cities on Friday.

After reading a few reviews and seeing some comments online in addition to what Chris wrote, I have to say that in the wake of so-called “torture porn” and considering that filmic horror has, long ago, sometimes gone to places so horrible and extreme an awful lot of us won’t even consider following (and I don’t just mean silly gorephobics like me), it’s nice to see you can still scare an audience, including hardy souls like Chris (and supposedly Steven Spielberg), to death with not much more than a big, slow build-up and some very inexpensive atmosphere and basic special effects. Is it possible that our filmgoing innocence still lingers?

* Work on the “Arrested Development” movie continues. Yay.

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Box office victory for “G.I. Joe”; “Julie and Julia” attracts many ladies of a certain age

Not a lot of big surprises at this weekend’s box office. “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra” apparently did even better than some expected in the “flyover” or “heartland” areas (this is supposedly where “real Americans live,” which is nice to know as a coastal fictitious American). As per the trades, it made an estimated $56.2 million this weekend, several million better than $45-50 million number I repeated last time.

For those of us (me!) seeking a cloud in Paramount’s silver lining, Nikki Finke does offer that the studio actually predicted a round $60 million earlier and that the film’s $175 million budget is just a tad on the high side. (That’s a minimum of 17 smallish budget studio films that could have been made for the same price tag.)

Finke has some doubts that the movie will hit $300 million or be profitable all on its own, though merchandising here is obviously a possible financial bonanza for toy maker Hasbro. She also has some doubts about the foreign market in light of sentiment abroad opposed to U.S. militarism. It might be tempting to say then, that Barack Obama is the best friend Paramount has here, but Finke points out that “G.I. Joe” came in at #2 in Australia, once the third most enthusiastic member of “the coalition of the willing” under Bush-esque rightwinger John Howard. She also expects it to be blown out of the water by the apparently entirely non-brainless “District 9” next weekend. I never thought I’d say this, but from Nikki Finke’s mouth to God’s ears.

Meryl Streep and Stanley TucciMeanwhile, the culinographic “Julie and Julia” also performed pretty much precisely according to expectation and pulled in a satisfactorily satiating estimate of $20.1. According to a “rival exec” Finke quotes, the dual memoir dramedy had one of the oldest demographics he or she had ever seen, which I guess makes sense considering you have to be over a certain age to have watched Julia Child regularly on television. Finke also says the audience was almost exclusively female, despite the fact that we all like food that tastes good. In any case, those whose dating preferences includes middle-aged and older women now know their next film-going destination.

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“G.I. Joe” to enforce age (and gender?) apartheid at box office (updated)

It’s hard to tell from the wilds of deepest North Orange County, but I’m guessing that Hollywood’s in a mild state of shock following the very unexpected death of John Hughes, without a doubt one of the most influential writers and directors of the past two-and a half decades. Nevertheless, life goes on and the box office is the fact of life in the film business.

And so it is that, Lord help us all, “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra” seems poised to take this coming weekend’s chase for the green fairly effortlessly. Indeed, the always jovial Carl DiOrio of The Hollywood Reporter expects something in the neighborhood of $45-50 million. As mentioned here before, the actioner hasn’t been screened for critics, an increasingly common studio ploy that is nevertheless still somewhat rare for a film as high profile as this one.

Variety‘s Pamela McClintock, though not setting any numbers out for us, remarks that the action/sci-fi flick and toy/game marketing device is:

…sparking strong interest among both young and older men, as well as some curiosity among younger femmes, according to tracking.

Why any sensible young person of either gender should be interested in this film eludes me, but I guess we’ll have to see if there’s enough insensible ones from both to make this film more than a young male bastion. I should also add that some critics in the online and foreign press have managed to somehow see the film despite Paramount’s non-screening decision, and the Rotten Tomatoes numbers are less dismal than you would expect. Still, in my estimation, the best reviews lack all conviction while the worst are filled with passionate intensity, though the rough beast we call the teenage populace will not be stopped from slouching towards the Plex-ville. (My profoundest apologies to Mr. Yeats.)

Intriguingly, while both Variety and THR say “Joe” will be deploying to 3,500 screens, Box Office Mojo has the film in over 4,000 theaters. The cinematic Powell doctrine, anyone?

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Is the “Funny People” box office take half full or half empty?

Like so many things in life, the meaning of the weekend gross for the Judd Apatow/Adam Sandler “serious comedy,” “Funny People,” is a matter of perspective. On the more cheerful side, we have the trades, which typically enough are accentuating the positive, noting that the somewhat risky project, at least by modern mainstream film standards, was actually #1 at the box office, even if the amount it took the lead by was less than mega-spectacular.

The Hollywood Reporter (actually the AP as carried by THR) thinks that Judd Apatow is living in the best of all possible box office worlds:

Movie audiences have taken a liking to Adam Sandler’s more serious side…[“Funny People”] grabbed the top spot at the weekend boxoffice with a $23.4 million debut.

Variety takes a more measured, but still somewhat upbeat, tone:

Adam Sandler’s “Funny People” has topped a moderate weekend box office with $23.4 million at 3,008 playdates.

Nikki Finke, however, has a different way of seeing things. Here’s her headline:

‘Funny People’ No Laughing Matter; Opens To Lousy $8.6M Fri And Worse $7.4M Sat For Disappointing $23.4M Weekend

La Finke goes on to point out that Universal has been lowering expectations from Sandler’s usual $30-$40 million openers to a more modest $25 million, and fell a bit short of that.

Jonah Hill, Jason Schwartzman, and Adam Sandler kvetch over turkey It really does come down to your frame of reference. In my weekend preview post, I mentioned the Sally Field/Tom Hanks starring “Punchline,” which I think is a better point of comparison than any particular Apatow or Adam Sandler film, including 2002’s “Punch-Drunk Love,” simply because of the subject matter, the more-serious-than-you-might-expect approach, and the level of star power. That movie got similarly mixed reviews but was one of 1988’s lowest grossing films, despite the presence of two bankable stars. Two small differences: one had laughs, the other doesn’t, and Sally Field was not ever thought of as a great comedian, “The Flying Nun” notwithstanding.

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