I got the Evil Dead Blu-ray. It would be definitive if it included the original commentaries (from the laserdisc and DVD releases), but instead it has a new one only. If it had the other commentaries it would be definitive. Lame.



CELEBRATING FAILURE – THE FIVE BIGGEST LOSERS OF THE SUMMER

1) Expectations - Okay, that was easy, but apathy hit early. You can blame it on the movies – and though there were some big winners this summer – you can blame it on the alcohol, but to be fair there were a number of films that could have been hits had they been better. Though in no way is a film like Iron Man 2 a loser, it feels like a film that could have done more business, and there’s a number of pictures that should have been able to coast on reputations or pre-sells… or something. When you look at a lot of the numbers it all feels a bit underwhelming. Is the quality so much different from Sex and the City 1 and 2 that the gross should be separated by over fifty million? The A-Team felt like a quality summer action movie, Eat Pray Love looked like a return to form, MacGruber deserved better, etc. Though in the end the numbers aren’t that bad, the money spent on the misses – even the supposed production numbers -makes this a very meh summer. And other than Inception and Toy Story 3 there wasn’t a lot of genuine enthusiasm for the successes. But good enough has often been good enough (cue Cindi Lauper) for the summer. And missing from this year were the surprise hits like District 9, or Inglorious Basterds, The Hangover or – to a more Inception parallel – Star Trek. Or even the first Iron Man. I guess a film like The Karate Kid played to its audience well, but, but, but… Part of this is also that hitting $100 Million means so little. It meant something to District 9 - which was rather cheap ($30 Million supposedly, but it was also was heavily marketed), but when a film like Robin Hood makes $100, it’s still not a hit when it cost $200+ to make and distribute.

2) The Bruck - I have an ambivalent relationship with Jerry Bruckheimer and his late partner Don Simpson. I often “appreciate” their films more than actually like them. I respect their panache and polish, but they made stupid movies (sometimes – rarely – gloriously so), and their best work is when they stuck by a director. But this summer both Prince of Persia and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice bombed domestically, and will likely not make enough internationally to get into the black. Next year offers Pirates 4, which may also be a disappointment. Like Joel Silver – the yin to his yang – these waning years are depressing as these were the primary movers and shakers of their era, and it’s sad to see them flailing, but you can’t fault audiences for not going to either of these films.

3) 3-D - Avatar was a phenomenon, Alice in Wonderland made a billion dollars, and both Toy Story 3 and Despicable Me did tremendous business. But it was used as a saving throw for The Last Airbender, and a lot of the sloppy conversion jobs like it have been underperforming. The format didn’t seem to appreciably help Piranha or Cats and Dogs 2 or Step Up 3-D. More films have been shot for format, so we won’t see as many rush-jobs as we did with Airbender, but a gimmick is a gimmick. There are too many films in the pipeline to see complete disaster, and some my hit, but if we see films like Guliver’s Travels, Tron: Legacy, and The Green Hornet underperform, well, then, time to find some other thing to exploit.

4) 20th Century Fox - So far their best title of the year is Date Night. This summer brought The A-Team, Knight and Day, Marmaduke, Predators, Ramona and Beezus, and Vampires Suck. Some of these – like Predators - might turn a profit through international, but they didn’t have a single winning title, and most are losers, or break-evens at best. Of course, Fox is coming off of Avatar, which made the majority of its money in 2010, but this was a point blank terrible summer for them. Universal may have had a number of troubled pictures, but they also didn’t do too terribly with international on Robin Hood, Despicable Me was a huge hit, while MacGruber was relatively inexpensive. No studio shit the bed like Fox this season.  

5) Art House Hits - The Kids Are All Right did almost $20 Million. Cyrus made $7 Million. Winter’s Bone made over $5 Million, I Am Love did $4.5 Million. Though these numbers aren’t bad unto themselves, these are the winners. Now much of this is what is called – by David Poland – “Dependant cinema” where it’s funded by a studio, but at best these are minor break out hits. Foreign language titles are making little inroads (the release of A Prophet earlier this year – an excellent film, for sure – did $2 Million). Though this is in no way a new trend, the lack of alternatives or interest in them suggests that Hollywood is right, and the relative failure of a crowd-pleasing subtitled film like Soul Kitchen means that something is no longer working as it did. There is a dwindling middle class and lower class in cinema, and the harder it gets to make smaller and medium budget movies, the less interesting cinema there will be. That’s it.

A WEEKEND OF LABOR PREDICTIONS

Machete leads the dogs days. Going the Distance delayed a week, but it didn’t catch on, and The American is being slipped into theaters. This is for the 3-day.

1. Machete - $13 Million
2. Takers - $10 Million
3. Going the Distance - $9.5 Million
4. The Last Exorcism - $8 Million
5. The American - $7.3 Million

And then Sunday I’ll teach you about abolition.