The AV Club, and I believe Nathan Rabin have made the Manic Pixie Dream Girl a cinematic type that has become cliche. It’s the fantasy woman who hangs around a mopey dude to bring him out of his shell. The real version of this has been essayed on the Chud message boards, and in life over and over. It’s the story of a brassy girl who starts dating a passive male and then ends up walking all over him, and usually ends the relationship by either cheating on him or stealing large sums of money. In the middle, there may be suicide threats. Devin recently had a story idea stolen from one of his articles and turned into a pitch. I would like to see this movie myself, though I think they made it at least once. It was called Sid and Nancy (twitter followers: Sorry about the re-runs. Ever feel like you’re being cheated?)
WHY ACTUALS AND WEEKDAYS DON’T MATTER
In terms of box office there are forrests and there are trees, and the causal spectator – even the invested, involved type – rarely gets to see the trees. But box office is often a tree-level battle and studios have to pick their fights. A theater region (say where all films coud play) can range from three screens to sixty, but all films have shelf-lives, and where there used to be one screens that could play a smash hit for so long they could get in legal trouble with another studio when they couldn’t ditch a hit (say Star Wars) for the next film in line (Say, Close Encounters), now every market tends to have multiple screens so people can see everything as soon as possible that isn’t a limited release, mostly because of how home video has changed. But like politics there is still some holdover from the olden times, and so you still have some towns across the country where screens in regions are limited and there’s no need or desire to upgrade.
During the summer season, a three or four screen often doesn’t have too many problems. There aren’t that many majors, and in markets such as this, a two or three week run is going to be good enough. Wolverine was good after three weeks, and by then you’ve got T4 and Night at the Museum 2. In a situation like that, you’d probably have to tell Paramount that they’re locked into coming off Star Trek for Up, but there may be an argument if Angels and Demons is done after two weeks. (the four would then be Trek, T4, Museum 2, and Up, a three screen, you’d lose Trek for Memorial Day). But Paramount would be buying themselves a week, as Trek would likely have to go for Land of the Lost (two week picture) and Warners would likely have to give up T4 for their own The Hangover. In a four screen market, Sony would have to chose between Pelham and Year One for the market, and if the company has a number of smaller screens, you’d split up (perhaps, depending on Sony) who got what. Pelham might go to one market and Year One the other, with Pelham favoring Urbaner markets, because of Denzel. Or – seeing as how Sony seems to feel about Year One, they may just try and put Pelham everywhere. In a four screen, you’d probably fuck over Paramount on Imagine That (though you might give them a couple of dates, or you might have blocked out The Hangover, because it was a hard R, and planned for the kids film) and ditch Museum for Pelham, and you’d probably give Disney the screen of Up for The Proposal if the latter is tracking. And trust me that most studios know if it’s worth it to get into a limited market with their picture, and what would make money. They may know it better than the theater. The ground level is very well mapped. If this is looking like stereo instructions, I apologize.
When you’re dealing with smaller markets, the summer gets mapped out as such. Films have a two to four week shelf life and that’s it.
Come Monday morning, unless it’s a holiday (and if it was, you may have had conversations on Friday), exhibitors come in and look at the numbers. There are no estimates for theater people, because they are getting their numbers from their own people. A film may do better in one market than another. In Portland, Oregon – because it was filmed there – Zero Effect played longer than anywhere else. Certain regions respond to films like Fight Club or High Fidelity or Hedwig and the Angry Inch stronger than others. But then there is a studio’s global position, and sometimes holding a picture is more important than opening one if it means losing a screen. Jusr as killing a profitable film for a shitty one also happens from time to time.
When actuals come in on Monday, by the afternoon, the deals and decisions have already been made and squared away. The difference between The Hangover making $44 million and $45 million, the difference between being the #2 or #1 picture is irrelevant. As are weekday numbers, which tend to suggest what the weekend told. Even if Star Trek picks up on a Wednesday for no apparent reason (say fans decide to go on Wednesday because of a message board or some such thing), if it’s leaving the market, it’s leaving the market.
And, at the end of the day, sum totals and hitting certain plateaus are only of interest to the studio for marketing purposes. The Hangover plays, it’s going to be one of the year’s big films, even if it doesn’t crack the year-end top ten, because it was obviously bigger than films of that type should be (Step Brothers, Talladega Nights, Old School), though it won’t be the social phenomenon that Animal House was because word of mouth doesn’t exist as it once did. Yes, people will be quoting fat Jesus, and all sorts of other one liners from The Hangover from now until a while (how long did Austin Powers lines last? Side note: should Michael Scott start quoting it? Could they get away with that sort of self-reflexivity?) But at the end of the day weekday numbers just add to the total, and actuals only make the case after the fact. Mostly, they tell you what was evident from the weekend: it played, or it didn’t. A huge Monday or Tuesday tends to exist because people either heard about it after the fact, or couldn’t get in. But those numbers themselves – like actuals – have no effect at all on the whole, except in advertising.
TAKE ME TO PREDICTIONS, I’D LIKE TO SEE LA, I’M THINKING OF YOU
Two films enter, one film leaves. The Taking of the Pelham 1 2 3 and Imagine That open this weekend. The former is a glossy Tony Scott production, and should do a smidge better than the poorly everythinged Deja Vu, whilst the latter is another Eddie Murphy film that seems to ruin his street cred. I think The Hangover should be able to take it. It’s interesting to note that the two films opening this weekend are toplined by black men. Are we post-racial? Cinematically, yes.
On the microphone, I come correct:
1. The Hangover - $30 Million
2. The Taking of the Pelham 1 2 3 - $28 Million
3. Up – $27.5 Million
4. Imagine That – $10.7 Million
5. Land of the Lost - $7.5 Million
I might be going low on Imagine That, but I feel like people are way more into the Pixar, while The Hangover and Pelham should battle for the top slot. I’m predicting a less than 1/3rd slide for The Hangover, because not everyone went opening weekend, and I feel that there’s going to be a better hold for it. Such also means that the picture should cross $100 Million this weekend, which is big for the movie and everyone involved. To say the film will be in profit is an understatement. We should also expect some think pieces on this phenomenon, and what it says about rowdy boy pictures, and Vegas.
I got some great praise last week about this column from some unexpected industry people. Such motivates me more than anything else. But praise in general makes this operation (such as it is) appealing to me, so thanks for that. See you guys Sunday.