Well, the election is almost over, so that will soon be out of the way, and then we’ll really be in the movie season. Bond and those Twilight vampires, and The Punisher 2: More Punishing, and Yes Men, and… aw crap. David Fincher, take me away.


Summit Entertainment has a franchise, and it could mean big business for them. Though it will not offer the money of a Blair Witch Project in terms of return on investment, Twilight – if it hits – should be able to keep them going. But what have they got? They’ve been around for a while, they’ve done some co-production, and handled international sales, but their major launch as a distributor was last year with P2. Then earlier this year they had Never Back Down, which did solid business for must have been a very cheap production, and Penelope, which had been sitting in a can for two years.

It’s hard out here for a pimp, and getting going is all the more difficult as a start up because either you’re relying on independent arms to help with the marketing and distribution, or you’re hiring people who aren’t working year-round like people at Universal or Warner Brothers. And if you hire a full time staff, they’re going to get jittery in the slow seasons with nothing to do. Or look at internet porn. Either or.

Having worked with companies like that, who may have an out of the park runaway smash like a My Big Fat Greek Wedding, or a Memento, you’re also dealing with people on all sides of the business who do not take you seriously. If you’re a runt, and your film isn’t performing to expectations, well, you’re going to get fucked. And you don’t have the insurance of a larger company, nor do you have the leeway those companies have because you know Warner Brothers is going to be around, so treating them with respect is taken for granted. With a company that means nothing, even getting paid back can be a struggle, because you might not be around long enough to collect.

And even with a title like Twilight, something that has a guaranteed audience and the hope of getting to or over $100 Million, you’re still not commanding respect because that may be all you’ve got – theater owners are happy you helped them sell some popcorn, but a multiplex needs year-round business. Artisan had their Blair Witch, and invested that money in films like The Minus Man, Novacane, The Way of the Gun, and Blair Witch 2. All of which can be found for less than a dollar on eBay. They got swallowed by Lionsgate, which has Saw and Tyler Perry to keep them warm at night, but that’s not much.

Being an independent may mean you have certain freedoms, but you also don’t have an industry to fall back on. Companies like Warner Brothers, Universal, Paramount, they have pictures that have cost $50-$100 Million dollars that they know stink and won’t make money. They can give up on these films and not have to sweat it. They have too many like that and someone gets fired (with a hell of a golden parachute). Whereas a Summit will have a picture like Sex Drive, and even though I like it and it was cheap, Summit seems to have dropped the ball, and it will have to find its life on home video. But even if that was a ten million dollar investment, with P&A they’re going to struggle, and they’re not in a position to lose money and not worry. If they had a hundred million dollar picture, they’d be sweating every step of the way. So they’re also not going to necessarily attract the best talents (though Sex Drive seemed a pretty smooth operation, and it turned out well), and as a relatively small business, they’re going to have a lot of sweat on them when it comes to the little things.

Over the last thirty years, the arm of independant distribution has dried up. Regional cinema exists solely in the sense of filmmakers like Tyler Perry (who is a business unto himself) in that he attracts an audience that may only come to the theater when it has a film with Tyler Perry’s name in the title. But even so, small ompanies might be able to eke out films and a living making films set in the south with local talent. Now, there’s no second bill to fill. And so those strange films that didn’t have studio distribution have folded, while mini-majors like New Line, or Orion or Canon have been absorbed or folded. Newmarket distributed both Memento and The Passion of the Christ, and they haven’t been up to much, while the majors haven’t changed much in over eighty years (MGM and UA are still kicking even, even in their current form).

And then there’s the economy. I feel for these people. It’s not easy. It’s not easy at all.


It’s an off week, and so a shit film with some violence like Max Payne has a clear shot of taking the weekend. The only way it doesn’t is if W ends up beating all expectations. People are suggesting a $10-$12 weekend, I think it will go a little higher. The Secret Life of Bees sounds like Bee Season, which is a truly terrible film. But this is totally different and has Bringing Down the House‘s Queen Latifah, and Hounddog‘s Dakota Fanning. Sex Drive putzed its marketing, and didn’t get people excited. This is the sort of film that could become a cable favorite, and deserves better. Oh well.

So, let’s get down on it:

1. Max Payne - $17.5 Million
2. W – $15 Million
3. Beverly Hills Chihuahua – $10.9 Million
4. The Secretive Life of Bees - $6.5 Million
5. Body of (every time I close my eyes) Lies - $6.4 Million

Sex Drive should get to around $5 Million, but Quarantine should top it. Sad panda. And join me for Sad Panda Sunday on… Sunday.