There’s way too many Bernardo Bertolucci films unreleased on DVD. Where is Before the Revolution, Partner, The Spider’s Stratagem, La Luna or Tragedy of a Ridiculous Man? Not on DVD stateside, that’s fo-sho. Criterion, I’m looking at you. But if we were at a bar, I might look at Criterion with some guff for a second, but it would pass. I can’t get mad at you. There’s no way. I’m excited about the Blu-ray release of The Seventh Seal, I hope it sends me on a Bergman tear. That would be fun, in its own way.
WORD OF MOUTH
I often poo-poo the term word of mouth when it comes to movies, mostly because people want to use it in regards to franchise pictures (not Franchise Pictures, nothing could help Balistic: Ecks vs. Sever – not even Kaos), or in the summer. There is a possibility for something to play long in the off season, but that’s because competition is weak. But The Hangover is said to play, and when I say play I mean play. The problem is that it doesn’t have name players. Ed Helms is probably the best known of the leads, mostly for The Office, which other than Steve Carrell (“years later”) has not launched anyone, and he had The 40-Year-Old Virgin in the can before that aired. So there’s a ceiling for this weekend, and it’s going to have some troubles getting much over $20. Which in any other season might be a victory.
Here’s the problem: In summer there tends to be the first weeks of May, where you can have a lot of multiple prints, and hit high numbers because there’s no real competition (especially the first week, where you can more prints in to clean out the April detritus), but there tend to be two major releases every week for the rest of the summer. This week there’s two wide releases from Universal and Warner Brothers, next week there’s a wide release from Sony and Paramount, on 6/19 there’s one from Sony and Disney, the week after new pictures from Warner Brothers and Paramount, and then for 7/1 there’s a new picture from Universal and Fox. That doesn’t include Fox’s 1000+ print run of My Life in Ruins, or Universal (by way of Focus) with Away We Go. All the majors have at least a picture, and Paramount, Sony, Universal and Warner Brothers have two pictures going wide.
Now, there’s two types of theaters, stand-alones and competitive markets. Competitive markets can – in some ways – help long plays. Look at (in this case) the Hollywood areas where El Capitan, The Arclight and The Chinese have 22 screens between them. All Disney product goes to the El Capitan (unless they’re overbooked), but Arclight and the Chinese fight for titles. This means that the Arclight can play the Japanese film Departures, and the Chinese has three prints of Terminator, two of Dance Flick, and two of Wolverine. This market would mostly be called a 50/50 (it wasn’t for a while), which is the best case scenario for a competitive market, and this also means that studios split A-titles evenly between them. Arclight has Pelham, and the Chinese has Year One (both Sony titles). Since the Chinese got Terminator, odds are that Arclight will get Harry Potter. But when studios have super A’s (like Lord of the Rings) that can be split over seasons (if they have a Rush Hour 2), or over a year (one theater gets Two Towers, the other gets Return of the King). theaters will try and show their superiority, so sometimes the split isn’t even, and will go 70/30 or something like that. Then the good theater will get more of the A titles and the lesser theater will get the B or C titles. This never works out as planned, though, as I remember in 2001, Miramax thought Jay and Silent Bob Strikes Back would be their A and The Others their B, while Paramount didn’t believe in Jackass when it came out, and ended up as one of their strongest pictures of that year.
In a stand-alone, you’re generally talking ten to twelve screens. There was a push for 24 or 30 screens at one point, but that fad died because home video and that it’s really only good for a number of multiple prints. These days, theater companies mostly want to build eight to sixteen screens, because that’s all a market can bare. So let’s talk about a twelve screen. There tend to be two major releases every week in summer (sometimes one, sometimes three, generally no more, though an off season might see five wide releases). That means the average time in a market is six weeks, without including second prints. But this fits as the video window is some time between three to five months. Every film gets two weeks guaranteed, unless it’s a total stinker (and some major films will do less than $600 in an opening weekend) and studios might allow for a split schedule for the second weekend (rare). Four weeks tends to be the general standard. But where there used to be a sliding scale in terms of percentages for theaters (starting with a 70% or 60% and then going down each week), now there’s more aggregate deals due to the front loaded nature of movies.
Of course, the studios have odd pressures. Spielberg or Lucas could – at one point – dictate how the film held, and even the screen it was on (remember The Phantom Menace) to guarantee the long play, but that doesn’t happen as much any more. And it also depends on how the studio feels about the film. They can bury their films, even if they gave them a chance. Joel Silver may have been able to exert certain pressures when he was on top of the industry, but – say – if the studio he’s working for no longer has an interest in his contract with them, they may intentionally fuck a film of his, and set up a situation where a film by him gets played into their next release. There’s always some studio politics in play. This can also apply to films that are doing horribly. The industry is based on relationships, so you might hold a shitty Warner Brothers films for an extra week over a film that is doing better business if it gets you abetter percentage on a film everyone knows is going to do business.
But if a studio only has one picture in the market, they can beg, borrow, steal, and sometimes play bad cop to keep a film on screen. But if they’ve got multiple pictures, they often have no problem playing Sophie’s choice with their children. And though The Hangover may weather My Sister’s Keeper, in six weeks the new Harry Potter comes out, and Warner will likely sacrifice a print doing well of The Hangover or Sister for a second, third or fourth Potter.
But six weeks is usually as good as it gets these days. Audiences know that prints take wear and tear due to most theaters being run by young people who 9/10 don’t give a poop, and know that a print on week five might be problematic. And, depending on the area, there are still dollar theaters. If you live in the right areas (like Portland, Oregon) there are beer theaters, so if you haven’t caught a film by week five, if you wait a little bit longer, not only can you watch the film on the cheap, you can drink while you do it.
The Hangover will need word of mouth, because the weekend ceiling is $30. It will be interesting to see if it can find it.
PREDICTIONS WILL HAPPEN, THEY ONLY HIT AND RUN
Holy shit is this a good weekend for movies in Los Angeles. There’s Katherine Bigelow at the Egyptian with Near Dark and Point Break. The New Beverly has A Friday the 13th night on Friday and a Clu Gulagher triple feature on Saturday. Rian Johnson will be hosting screenings of The Brothers Bloom at the Sherman Oaks Arclight on Friday and Sunday, and at the Hollywood Arclight on Saturday (deets here). If you haven’t seen The Brothers Bloom, you’re missing one of the best films of the year, easily, and it expands to 25 more locations this weekend. If you’re like me and in love with Rachel Weisz, this is like shooting heroin (in a good way), because this is her most Lombard of roles (I don’t use the Carole Lombard comparison lightly). On top of that, if you’re in the LA area, Johnson is a great raconteur, so it’s all win-win-win, though I don’t think Devin will be hosting any of the the Q’s this time.
For the rest of the states and such, Up is still king, The Hangover plays, but not that well, and Land of the Lost opens. But all may lose to the power of My Big Fat Greek Wedding‘s follow-up My Life in Ruins. That shit is hot.
Pump it up, if you don’t really need it, pump it up, before it gets beat up:
1. Up – $42.5 Million
2. Land of the Lost – $30 Million
3. The Hangover – $21.5 Million
4. Night at the Museum 2: Requiem - $13.3 Million
5. Drag Me to Hell - $7.1 Million
If Terminator or Start Trek lap the Raimi, it’s because you’re a bad person. See you Sunday.