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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AskMen’s Great Male Survey names the summer’s best movie: “None.”

It’s that time of year again, fellas — yes, AskMen.com has compiled the data for its annual Great Male Survey, crunched the numbers, and published the results. If you want to put your finger on the pulse of what dudes are thinking, look no further — and if you’ve been feeling like this year’s crop of summer blockbusters is one of the least exciting to come out of Hollywood in recent memory, you can at least take solace in the knowledge that most of the guys who responded to the survey agree with you. Yes, it’s sad but true: When asked to name the movie of the summer so far, 39 percent of respondents answered “None.” Here’s how it all broke down:

Q. What has been the best summer movie of 2009 to date?
39% – None
28% – Star Trek
21% – Transformers II
08% – X-Men Origins: Wolverine
04% – Terminator Salvation

Not exactly good news for the folks who depend on cash registers ringing at the cineplex — and it doesn’t get any better for the rest of the summer, either. When asked to identify the film they were most eagerly anticipating, 26 percent of respondents answered “Public Enemies,” whose generally lukewarm reviews and good-but-not-great box office returns have been something of a letdown for Universal. In second place, with 22 percent? That bastard “None.”

Q. Which forthcoming summer 2009 movie are you most looking forward to?
26% – Public Enemies
22% – None
18% – Bruno
18% – G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra
16% – Inglourious Basterds

So guys aren’t happy with what has been in theaters this summer, and they aren’t happy about what’s going to be in theaters — so where’s the silver lining for Hollywood? Well, if you’re in the network business, or worried about warding off the TV ratings drift toward streaming Web content, you’ll be happy to know that although 75 percent of respondents listed their computer monitor as the screen they spend the most time in front of, 49 percent of them still watch their favorite TV series the old-fashioned way: Episode by episode, as it’s broadcast live. You might be hearing about TiVo, Hulu, and TV on DVD all the time, but if the jump away from live TV is happening, it’s occurring more slowly than you might think.

The worst news, as it turns out, is for the PR flacks that work for Barack Obama and Paris Hilton — the male and female celebs that respondents named as the public figures they’re most tired of hearing about (although, to be fair, Obama tied with — you guessed it — “None”). Overexposure, plain old dislike, or blind button pushing? You decide — and make sure you check out the rest of the Great Male Survey to see what guys are thinking about cars, sports, and entertainment!

  

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Brüno earns his umlaut

On Friday I wrote the following:

There’s obviously general agreement about the numbers, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this one proved the prognosticators wrong either by making a lot less or a lot more money than expected.

Well, the only person proved wrongish was me. The only surprise was that that there appear to be absolutely no surprises as Sacha Baron Cohen and director Larry Charles’s “Brüno” is projected to have made $30.4 million to top the weekend — just slightly exceeding the pre-opening estimates. The slightly bad news for Universal is that the film had a rather large drop off in its second day at the box office. Variety calculates it at 39%, Nikki Finke says 37%. (I can’t check who is right because Variety isn’t giving a complete breakdown of the daily performance, and may be working with slightly different numbers than Ms. Finke. I also suck at math.) In any case, it does show an increase over the “Borat” numbers. Also, this kind of film is a bit cheaper to make than some others, possible lawsuits notwithstanding.

Christian Bale, Public EnemiesNo big surprises further down the rankings either, with “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs” breaking the $100 million mark with $28.5 million in its second “frame.” That’s an ice-cool $120.6 million so far for the family flick. If I may copy the Variety house style, “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” made an automatic $24 million for a Gigantor-sized $339 domestic total, with THR/Reuters proclaiming it “easily the biggest movie of the year.” (Well, I’m still hoping for a surprise.) and “Public Enemies” knocked over the public to the tune of $14.1 million. Nikki Finke is reporting that competing studios are talking down the star-driven gangster movie’s chances of hitting the $100 million mark.

Critics and the public were, for a change, speaking with one voice and gave a box office D-grade to the week’s second wide release, the high school comedy, “I Love You, Beth Cooper.” The adaptation of a novel by original author Larry Doyle and director Chris Columbus matched its dismal critical performance with a seventh place showing, netting a paltry $5 million despite being in 1,858 theaters.

  

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“Manhattan Melodrama” – a Friday night movie moment

With “Public Enemies” entering its second weekend in theaters, and inspired by a brief but typically wonderful post on Myrna Loy by cinephile superstar Campaspe, a vintage trailer for the legendary last movie seen by John Dillinger just prior to his death seems fitting.

“Manhattan Melodrama” starred thirties A-listers Clark Gable and William Powell, in the first of his many films opposite Loy, but is not often seen these days in comparison to later films featuring any of the three. Nevertheless, it’s grand, ultra-corny Hollywood entertainment of the most egregious sort. (Glenn Erickson suggested the title should really be “Manhattan Fairy Tale,” and he’s not wrong.) MGM was always the studio of excess glamor and wholesome values, and they brought that even to a gangster picture. Abandon cynicism, maintain your irony, and check it out some time.

  

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Will “Brüno” stimulate hot moviegoer-on-box office action? (Updated)

Okay, so a lot of things have changed in this country with regards to attitudes towards gays, but just how will America deal with the envelope-pushing antics of Sacha Baron Cohen’s latest creation? “Brüno” has already offended a few in the gay community, but is also certain to be utterly avoided by America’s sadly larger homophobic community. As far as I’m concerned, just how this obviously risky material will fare is anyone’s guess, since from all accounts “Brüno” is no cuddly “Will and Grace” or “The Birdcage” and really puts its confrontational money where it’s transgressive mouth is, however comically presented. It’s R-rating has been deemed by Roger Ebert and many others as “very, very hard.”

Reviews are positive, more or less, but critics are somewhat divided. Ebert liked it a lot. Owen Glieberman awarded it a fairly rare A-. Anthony Lane of The New Yorker, however, was less amused and trotted out a variation of the “queerface” meme some were concerned with a few weeks back. On the other hand, as I’ve discussed at my other blog home in another context, Lane’s statements are often, to be extremely easy on him, ill-informed. Joe Morgenstern, on the other hand, makes his point simply enough: he doesn’t think it’s funny, just kind of gross.

Hollywood Reporter box office prognosticator Carl DiOrio is fairly high on the film regardless, calling about $30 million or more for the Larry Charles directed stunt comedy. Pamela McClintock, his opposite number at Variety is saying it should debut in vicinity of Baron Cohen’s prior out of the box hit, “Borat,” at somewhere near $28.5 million. Apparently, the logic here is that Cohen’s now far greater fame will be canceled out by subject matter/content that some audience members who liked the earlier film may just want to avoid this time around. There’s obviously general agreement about the numbers, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this one proved the prognosticators wrong either by making a lot less or a lot more money than expected.

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