Tag: Lew Wasserman

No surprise: “Alice in Wonderland” earns all the mad teaparty crumpets

Alice in Wonderland

There really isn’t that much to add to the news that, as reported by Box Office’s Mojo’s weekly chart, “Alice in Wonderland” suffered only a reasonably modest fall-off of 46.6% from its mega-boffo opening weekend, which meant that the latest from the Disney, Tim Burton, and Johnny Depp marketing triumvirate earned a stellar estimated $62 million this weekend. Anne Thompson and her recently added resident box office guru, Anthony D’Alesandro, report that this is a record for a non-summertime second weekend for a film. It’s certainly not that different from the expectations I discussed on Thursday.

As for the newer releases, it was something of a rout. I  like D’Alessandro’s elegant description:

Four distribs attempted to counterprogram against the Disney title this weekend based on the misguided notion that Alice was strictly family fare.  However, rather than nipping away at Alice’s audience, Alice sliced off theirs.

“This is the quintessential four quadrant movie, playing to adults at one time of day, families at matinees as well as couples,” gloated Disney distribution president Chuck Viane.

In other words, it didn’t matter what age or gender you were this weekend, most likely your first choice was “Alice.” It also performed the rare feat of scoring both the biggest gross and, with the aid of those inflated 3-D ticket prices, the best per-screen average of $16,631.

Still, people did see other movies. The marketing for “Green Zonefooled persuaded enough viewers that it was similar to the wildly successful “Bourne” pairings of star Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass to earn an estimate of roughly $14.5 million. That might not have been so bad if “Green Zone” hadn’t cost an exorbitant reported $100 million. Conservatives, who have roundly bashed the film as anti-American, will no doubt be claiming victory over the terrorist-loving communists of Universal.

I didn’t quite have the guts to come right out and say it, but I sort of suspected that the raunchy-but-romantic comedy, “She’s Out of My League” was being overly downplayed in some of the prognostication last week and I was right, sort of. The film failed to break into double digits, but its estimated $9.6 million take was enough to put it in the #3 spot for the weekend anyway. Considering that’s just under half the film’s budget, newcomer star Jay Baruchel may not be the year’s break-out comedy star, but he will live to be the girl-friendly geek, a funnier David Schwimmer, if you will, for another day. Indeed, the film seemed to do best with younger women.

I did come right out and wonder why anyone would want to see “Our Family Wedding,” a film which THR‘s Jolly Carl DiOrio seemed to think would do significantly better than “League” — despite being in significantly fewer theaters and, if most critics are to be listened to at all, sucking. My antennae were apparently a bit better than usual and “Wedding,” did, in fact, come in below the other new releases, and the fourth week of “Shutter Island,” to hit the #6 spot with a lackluster $7.6 million estimate for Fox Searchlight. Hopefully, the budget was nice and low.  The good news is that that Rotten Tomatoes rating I linked to above has actually climbed dramatically since Thursday, from an embarrassing 4% to a merely bad 18%.

Doing a bit better, though still no doubt disappointing Summit Entertainment, was the romantic drama “Remember Me” from director Allen Coulter of “The Sopranos” and “Hollywoodland.” Just enough young girls remembered that Robert Pattinson was the “Twilight” heart-throb to make the weepy with the widely derided ending an estimated $8.3 million in the #4 spot. Considering the armies of teen-and-tween-aged girls in love with Pattinson, it’s a result that seems almost as pale as the dreamy young Brit’s vampire make-up.

The Further Adventures of Ari, the Agent

If you’re like a lot of people, myself definitely included, you kind of wish “Entourage” were all about Ari the agent. The lovable a-hole played by Jeremy “insert sushi joke here” Piven.

I’ve got no “in” with the producers of the show, who may already feel they have enough Piven in their lives, but Ari Gold’s famed real-life doppelganger, super-agent Ari Emanuel, has apparently pulled off the kind of power-consolidating coup that would no doubt have his fictional equivalent furious with envy and heaping extra abuse on his long-suffering assistant, Lloyd. The short version is that his agency, Endeavor, has taken over the venerable, but declining, William Morris — once by far the world’s best known agency — and reportedly fired many of its staff while hanging on to most of Endeavor’s.

It’s just slightly like Marilyn Manson staking over Capitol Records. And, oh yeah, one of his brothers runs the White House, whose tough/manic rep could probably be the basis of an entertaining cable series of its own.

I’m an old-school guy who feels that it’s kind of an inevitable travesty that agents like Emmanuel wield as much power as they do, even if it’s now less than what they had not so long ago; I largely blame them, in part and as a group, mind you (I don’t want Ari mad at me!) for the steep decline in the quality of mainstream studio “product” since the early eighties. Of course, it’s not just agents who are behind the “filmed deal” school of moviemaking, it’s also lawyers and producers. Two more widely beloved professions.

Moreover, the references to ex-super agent Michael Ovitz, who maybe did more than anyone to enshrine a new level of douchiness as part of Hollywood culture in his day, don’t warm my heart. On the other hand, at least Ari and I have similar politics. Still, the problem of movies-as-deals rather than movies-as-movies goes back at least as far as original super-agent Lew Wasserman, who as questionable as he often was, was really only filling a power vacuum left by the decline of the studio system, and his work occasionally certainly resulted in some great movies too. (Oh, and by the way, was a purported liberal who wound up helping ex-actor Ronald Reagan to become president. Thanks for all your help to the cause, Lew.) Let’s face it, complaining about agents in Hollywood is a little bit like complaining about L.A. traffic — it’s an inevitable part of existence, an unavoidable flaw in the local ecosystem, until we figure out something better.

There’s much more to be read via Kim Masters, Sharon Waxman, and the New York Times. Anne Thompson also has a very good piece up on last week’s “Produced By” conference, including comments from Clint Eastwood, which I think is sort of related.

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