“The Reign of the Na’vi IV”

The humans of Yes, if this weekend at the box office were a movie, it would be a less than super-imaginative sequel. Once again, “Avatar” ruled at the U.S. box office. As seen on the mighty weekly chart of Box Office Mojo, James Cameron‘s mythic, politically pointed, science fiction adventure once again took the crown with an estimated $48.5 million for Fox. That’s a drop of only 29.2% in its fourth box office weekend, following a huge and long prior holiday weekend. No doubt helped out by those premium 3-D and Imax ticket prices, it also enjoyed the nation’s highest per screen average at about $14,173. In the relatively short time I’ve been doing this, I don’t think I’ve ever seen that happen on a movie’s fourth week.

As reckoned by the Mojo, “Avatar” is the now the #1 domestic moneymaker for 2009 and the #7 cinematic cash cow of all time, with a very definite bullet considering its signs of considerable ongoing strength. In others words, this is a movie people actually enjoy, not merely tolerate because it offers enough explosions to distract them for a couple of hours.

On the other hand, just to keep things in perspective, adjusted for inflation, “Avatar” is still a 56 steps down from the all-time ticket seller, “Gone With the Wind.” On the other hand, lest James Cameron should be threatened by any momentary bouts of untoward humility, at least in terms of raw cash he really is box office king of the world right now. “Avatar” is already the #2 grosser of all time at $1.331 billion, $500 million and change behind “Titanic” — written and directed by you-know-who. Can I still wish Cameron had brought in a competent wordsmith/dramaturg to smooth out the very rough edges on both films?

As for the second and third place positions, we had another photo-finish in which Warner’s “Sherlock Holmes” narrowly edged out Fox’s “Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel” by a rodent hair. The world’s greatest literary detective brought in just a hair more than an estimated $16.6 million and the musically inclined woodland creatures managed an estimated $16.3 million. With the holiday weekends at an end, they both exhibited more typical drops for typical Hollywood product, with “Holmes” dropping by 54.6% and “Chipmunks” by 53.7%.

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“Avatar” tops a weekend of holiday box office bounty

If you’ve been following the horse-race over at Nikki Finke’s place, you’ll know it’s been a very long holiday weekend of box office ups and down. However, for those of us who can wait a day or two for the results, it’s actually somewhat simple.

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James Cameron‘s super-expensive 3-D extravaganza for Fox, “Avatar,” emerged as the victor of a three-way battle for the top prize with an outstanding second-weekend estimated take of $75 million and an absolutely minuscule drop from it’s first weekend of 2.6%, according to Box-Office Mojo. The Hollywood conventional wisdom has it that most science fiction films drop by at least 50% on their second weekend. Clearly, this is not most science fiction films and the fact that people are waiting to see this one in 3D and paying extra for the privilege is not hurting. So, as I’ve alluded to often enough, the word of mouth on this thing is something else. However, as always, I await the backlash as some folks plunk down their extra-heavy 3D ticket price and fail to have a religious experience.

Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law as Holmes and Watson, or some version thereofSecond place, of course, was Guy Ritchie’s unorthodox action-comedy take on probably the oldest genre franchise in the biz, “Sherlock Holmes.” The Robert Downey, Jr./Jude Law team-up loosely drawn from the late 19th/early 20th century works of Arthur Conan Doyle defeated “Avatar” and all-comers on its record setting Christmas opening. It then fell a bit and earned a still whopping estimated $65.38 for Warner Brothers, a company that certainly has some experience with franchises. Better yet, this one is in the public domain, which means fewer folks get a share in the wealth.

Fox’s “Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel” actually beat “Avatar” by a couple of million on its early opening day last Wednesday, but fell sharply on Christmas Eve and rebounded the rest of the weekend, for a very healthy estimated third place showing of $50.2 million. Critics may detest it; parents may barely tolerate it, but, to paraphrase the old blues song, the little kids understand (or don’t know any better). The film’s total estimated take starting from its early opening is just a tad over $77 million.

Considering it’s a Golden Globe-nominated sex comedy presumably aimed at a very grown-up audience — not only because of the average age of its stars but also because it’s R-rated, Universal’s “It’s Complicated” has generated the critical equivalent of a shrug, with our own David Medsker coming down on the very much negative side. That doesn’t bode extremely well for this sort of movie, which can use all the critical and awards help it can get.

Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin in Still, this weekend’s rising tide managed to lift this boat to the tune of an estimated $22 million or so, which is really not bad for this kind of film. Or, it wouldn’t be because Nikki Finke claims the budget was $80 million, which is way high for this kind of movie  and suggests to me that it’s possible stars Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin, and Steve Martin let their agents negotiate extra-hard for a big pay-day because they were perhaps less than wowed by the film artistically. Universal just doesn’t seem to be cutting itself any breaks lately.

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Another touchdown for “The Blind Side”

First of all, my apologies for the pedestrian football metaphor in my headline tonight, but all the good ones have already been taken. Add to that the fact that, with my knowledge of sports, you’re likely to end up with “‘The Blind Side‘ hits a grand slam'” or “‘The Blind Side’ scores a 3-pointer.”

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Be that as it may, the up-beat social issue/sports drama starring Sandra Bullock did indeed do extremely well this week. Taking a look at the Box Office Mojo chart, the $29 million film earned a very nice estimated $20.4 million for Warners and Alcon Entertainment in its second weekend and has so far earned a really terrific total amounting to roughly $129,264,00 so far.

As a comparison, my favorite movie of the year (that I’ve seen…I’m way, way behind), “Inglourious Basterds,” was considered quite the success. With a $70 million budget, after 16 weeks it has earned $120,467,000 for Harvey and Bob Weinstein. “2012” cost $200 million to make, a rather obscene sum that was unthinkable not so long ago, and in four weeks in wide release has earned a mere $148,787,000. I haven’t seen “The Blind Side,” but it just makes me happy that a modest movie about people is proving, I think, to be significantly more profitable than at least one pretty obviously bloated spectacle.

As for that other movie about teen vampires, werewolves, and waifs, B.O. Mojo’s Brandon Grey is here to tell us that “The Twilight Saga: New Moon” dropped another 63% this week. However, it’s opening week take was so stunning that meant it still took in a respectable estimated $15.7 million for Summit. It’s total domestic bankroll at this point is about $255.6 million and, as per Variety‘s Pamela McClintock, the worldwide total for “New Moon” is $570.1 so far. All that, with a budget of only about $50 million for a fantasy film. The “Twilight” films might not be seen by anyone as great cinema, but they are pretty awesome business.

Some bad guy in For you schadenfreude fanatics, Nikki Finke reminds us that both “The Blind Side” and the “Twilight” franchise were placed into turnaround by Fox and Paramount respectively. However, it’s always possible that those other studios would have found a way to mess up those pictures or their marketing, so who knows how things would have turned out with different studios?  In any case, no one wins all the time.

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Think Finke

One item I skipped over recently that I don’t want to ignore forever was the recent New Yorker profile of Nikki Finke, complete with an illustration of her from “Love and Rockets” cartoonist Jaime Hernandez. Finke’s response was a nasty — even by her standards — megasnark smack down of the article which basically had her bragging about how she hates the venerable magazine these days, how she, various industry types, and Harvey Weinstein supposedly  manipulated the content of the article, and how she claims to have played editor David Remnick and writer Tad Friend in a way that the legendary Finke could, of course, never possibly be played.

Nikki Finke as drawn by Jaime HernandezMaybe it’s my lingering demi-illness throwing me off, but am I to understand that I’m to applaud Finke for doing the same thing she regularly attacks people for doing with regard to manipulating the press? Or is it okay to manipulate, but not to be manipulated? Does it only take one to tango? Or is it just cool to be as nasty as you can possibly be? It sure seems to work for her commenters. It’s as confusing as the time she counseled me not to be a “hater.”

Of course, when we’re dealing with someone as apparently mercurial as Finke, the levels of double and triple meanings in a post like hers are so deep as to basically cancel themselves out. While it’s level of absolute metaphysical truth is impossible to discern, personally, I think Friend’s article does a pretty good job of capturing the appeal and power of Finke and the sort of inherent meanness of so much of the business side of Hollywood which, all to often, Nikki Finke seems to celebrate.

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Another Friday night news dump

I’ve been distracted wrapping up another project, but a few things of note did transpire to cap off this doozy of a week while I was otherwise absorbed.

* Both Variety and Nikki Finke are reporting that Miramax, the once groundbreaking “mini-major” founded and eventually sold by Harvey and Bob Weinstein that was named after their parents, Mira and Max, is being downsized/restructured by Disney. Meanwhile, grinning Disney Channel head Rich Ross is apparently a near-certainty to step into the void left by the departed Mousehouse chair, Dick Cook. I’m not sure why, but I have a funny feeling about this.

* Finke also has word that The Hollywood Reporter (aka THR) may well become a weekly as well as going behind a ‘net “wall.” If so, that’s going to leave a heckuva void for someone to fill online. If Finke has any visions of empire, this could be her moment — but she can’t do that alone. Personally, I’ll miss the video versions of the box office prognostications of the man I call “jolly Carl DiOrio.” He just seems so happy when he talks how well movies are going to do each week.

* THR has details on the 1993 settlement between Roman Polanski and his now adult victim. The odd part is that the records here don’t show whether or not Polanski ever paid it. If he didn’t, the woman is one extra-forgiving lady. I suspect he did.

* I’m not quite a diehard member of his cult, but I’ve always had a soft-spot for director John Carpenter (“The Thing,” “They Live,” “Escape from New York”) since seeing the original “Assault on Precinct 13” — a clever combination of Howard Hawks “Rio Bravo” and George Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead” with gang members replacing frontier desperadoes and zombies. His latest project, reportedly called “Riot” deals with another relic of my childhood, Arnold Shapiro’s “Scared Straight.” I’ll never  forget how shocked I was to hear F-words coming from my TV set. Who knew that one day cable TV would make that a near daily occurrence.

Now, I was the kind of kid who freaked out if a teacher even looked at me in a cross fashion. Nevertheless, it definitely worked on me as I’m here to tell you that I’m pretty sure I’ve never committed a felony, even by accident, though it’s always possible I’ve forgotten something. On the other hand, my parking ticket past is thoroughly checkered.

Anyhow, the latest news on the project via Krystal Clark at ScreenCrave is that Nicolas Cage, who was at one point attached, has likely left the project and the same may also go for Carpenter. Could’ve been fun, I guess.

And now a moment of vintage Carpenter.

  

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