This sneak peek of the disputed Watchmen movie just went up online. No, not on Warner Bros’ site, but on News Corp’s MySpace, the sister company to 20th Century Fox which as of last week appears to be winning its lawsuit for distribution rights to the film because of copyright infingement. I’ll post a status update after the video:
So SAG leaders continue conducting their education campaign about the Strike Authorization Vote despite the ballot delay and upcoming January 12th-13th National Board meeting which could deep-six the idea. The following is the first in what is described to me as a series of responses to members’ questions at recent Town Hall meetings. Its major point is SAG executive Director Doug Allen saying a strike “will not shut down the Industry”. Then what’s the point of a strike?
Know the facts!
Will a SAG TV/Theatrical strike “shut down the Industry?” NO WAY!
If the SAG National Board is authorized to call a strike, we all hope a strike will not be necessary. But, if the National Board decides to call one, it will not “shut down the Industry.” Why not? Because the National Board’s decision would have no effect on work done under the Guild’s other contracts.
In the event of a TV/Theatrical strike, work done under other SAG contracts would continue to be governed by those contracts, not the TV/Theatrical contracts. That means jobs in commercials, basic cable, video games and industrials would continue during a TV/Theatrical strike. Also, jobs would continue on more than 800 independent movie projects by producers not associated with AMPTP companies, and on more than 800 independent new media projects under SAG’s new media agreement.
A strike of our TV/Theatrical contracts would be a serious step we hope to avoid, but even if the working actors on SAG’s National Board were authorized and ultimately voted to call a strike,
WB Vows To Fight Fox Over ‘Watchmen’: Both Sides Continue To Be At An Impasse; No WB Plans To Move Release Date…
UPDATE: Warner Bros just issued this statement after today’s status conference in federal court in Los Angeles to determine how to proceed in the Watchmen case after Juge Gary Feess concluded that Fox is entitled to summary judgment on its copyright infringement claim and has the right “at the very least” to distribute the motion picture set for release in March. I’m told that Warner Bros is looking for leverage to help it in negotiating with Fox:
“We respectfully but vigorously disagree with the Court’s ruling and are exploring all of our appellate options. We continue to believe that Fox’s claims have no merit and that we will ultimately prevail, whether at trial or in the Court of Appeals. We have no plans to move the release date of the film.”
BEST DOGGONE CHRISTMAS WEEKEND! PG Pictures Rule: ‘Marley & Me’ $51.6M, ‘Benjamin Buttons’ $39M, ‘Bedtime Stories’ $38.6M, ‘Valkyrie’ $30M
SUNDAY PM: Marley stayed top dog! That’s because, understandably, family fare was what post-holiday moviegoers wanted this 4-day holiday weekend. So all Top 10 films were PG or PG-13 rated. Attendance on Christmas Day was enormous, with the top two pics setting all-time records for the holiday. Even the cold and snowy weather cooperated. Good thing too because Hollywood had been hotly anticipating the Christmas Day openings of five high-profile movies with potential to be blockbusters (because Christmas releases on average have a 6.9 multiple). Only one movie’s debut disappointed. Overall, it’s looking like a jolly $190 million 3-day weekend, up 5% from last year. Here are very early numbers for the Top 10 with Oscar-buzzed films below:
1. Marley And Me (20th Century Fox)
$37M 3-day weekend… $51.6M 4-day holiday
Hollywood underestimated the built-in audience for this pic based on the bestselling book. Expected to be runner-up, it easily held onto No. 1 all weekend in 3,480 theaters. (I hope the pooch had first-dollar gross.) When it comes to North American filmgoer favorites, don’t ever bet against a dog movie. Remember how well Beverly Hills Chihuahua debuted earlier this year? Marley‘s strength was in the middle of the country and in the south, and clearly its female-driven audience brought their boyfriends and husbands and families and Kleenex. Concern that moviegoers weren’t adequately prepared for the plot denouement, not even hinted at by the pic’s marketing, proved not to be a problem. Fox needed a hit film after a lousy summer and fall littered with losers. Chalk up one in the “win” column as well for both Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston.
2. The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button (Paramount)
$27.2M 3-day weekend… $39M 4-day holiday
This pic could have scored more if only its running time hadn’t been 2 hours and 47 minutes long. Still its box office was bigger than expected in 2,988 dates, proving skeptics wrong that this would be “Hollywood’s most expensive art flick”. The Brad Pitt-Cate Blanchett starrer directed by David Fincher was strongest on both coasts and mostly female driven. But its heavy marketing for a hefty price succeeded in delivering both moviegoers and awards buzz. (Studio boss Brad Grey feels a special obligation to try to win an Oscar for his former management client Brad Pitt and their once joint production company Plan B.) Strong word of mouth could push Benjamin Button to a great multiple through the holidays.
3. Bedtime Stories (Disney)
$28.1M 3-day weekend… $38.6M 4-day holiday
This had been expected to lead the pack this weekend since it was Disney-branded family fare starring Adam Sandler with the widest release of 3,681 plays and its 99-minute running time allowed for extra screenings daily. Blame all those kiddie matinees and their half-price tickets. Or the awful reviews that hurt word of mouth. Still, the pic’s grosses were big — just not big enough to qualify as this holiday season’s Night At The Museum, which made $575M worldwide.
4. Valkyrie (MGM/UA)
$21.5M 3-day weekend… $30M 4-day holiday
This didn’t flop like Tom Cruise’s other film for UA, Lions For Lambs. But Valkyrie‘s Fri-Sat-Sun grosses were less than his opening weekends for even his least successful action pics like Collateral, The Last Samurai, and Vanilla Sky (and not adjusted for inflation or higher ticket prices). So Tom’s star power continues to dim. But it’s still much brighter compared to the dark place where Valkyrie was a few months ago. What with Cruise in Nazi war movie, directed by Bryan Singer still living down his underperforming Superman Returns, with an ever-changing release date, the pic was a Hollywood joke. But $60M worth of smart marketing turned it around. Sure, Hollywood analysts don’t see how this pic will earn out unless it’s a blockbuster overseas where Cruise is still considered a huge star. (Lions For Lambs did 3x its domestic take overseas.) But Valkyrie tracked well with males aged 16+ and stole away the weekend’s guy audience.
5. Yes Man (Warner Bros)
$16.5M 3-day weekend… $22.4M 4-day holiday… cume $49.8M
The studio is pleased with this comedy’s hold and thinks it can get to $100M domestic. I say it’ll be a struggle. The real suspense is whether Jim Carrey gets a payday on this film. (See my previous, The Worst Talent Deal Ever?)
6. Seven Pounds (Sony)
$13.4M 3-day weekend… $18.2M 4-day holiday… cume $39M
Sony certainly did what it could to hype this pic, short of giving away the plot twists. With the same star and same director but without the happy ending, the film was no Pursuit Of Happyness juggernaut at the box office. But it was down only 10% from its weather-hurt opening last weekend. Now there’s a limit to how much fans will support Will Smith’s downer film choices.
7. The Tale of Despereaux (Universal)
$9.4M 3-day weekend… $11.4M 4-day holiday… cume $27.9M
This earnest mouse toon keeps playing very young. But is it too young for parents?
8. The Day the Earth Stood Still (20th Century Fox)
$7.9M 3-day weekend… $10.6M 4-day holiday… cume $63.4M
Well, some people are seeing it. Unclear if they’re liking it, however.
9. The Spirit (Lionsgate)
$6.5M 3-day weekend… $10.3M 4-day holiday
Not every comic book can become a hit movie. Movie analysts didn’t expect much life from this adaptation of Will Eisner’s graphic novels despite a flashy marketing campaign. Lionsgate shouldn’t have tried to brave the Christmas competition.
10. Doubt (Miramax)
$5.7M weekend… $7.1M 4-day holiday… cume $7.5M
Strong cast, heavy TV ad rotation, and big award nominations created wannasee for the expansion into 1,267 venues.
As for other Oscar-buzzed pics: Fox Searchlight’s Slumdog Millionaire directed by Danny Boyle came in 13th place with a 3-day weekend of $4.4M and 4-day weekend of 5.8M Friday on 614 plays. Its new cume is $19.6M. Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino for Warner Bros was #15 despite playing in only 84 theaters for the best Top 20 per screen average. It took in $2.3M for the weekend and $3.1M for the overall holiday. Its new cume is $4.2M, but look for the pic to pop when it goes wide into 2,400 theaters on January 9th. Revolutionary Road starring Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio debuted on 3 screens for $67K Friday and and $66K Saturday for a $192K weekend that scored the highest per screen average of $64K set all year. Paramount Vantage expands it into the top 15 markets next week. Focus Features’ Milk directed by Gus Van Sant and starring Sean Penn on 311 dates earned $570K Thursday and $670K Friday and $64K Saturday for a $1.8M weekend and cume of $13.5M. Imagine/Universal’s Frost/Nixon directed by Ron Howard made $$1.9M for the 4-day holiday from 205 runs for a per theater average of $7,179 and new cume of $3.7M. The Weinstein Co’s The Reader with Ralph Fiennes and Kate Winslet can’t build any steam with $178K and $205K from 116 venues for a slow per screen average. And Fox Searchlight’s The Wrestler starring Mickey Rourke playing in 18 theaters maintained an excellent per screen average with $381K for the weekend and $515K for the overall holiday and a new cume of $900K.
Oscar ballots go out today from the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences to its 5,810 members and are due back on January 12th. Nominations will be announced January 22nd with the Academy Awards telecast held February 22nd. I know people love to endlessly speculate about who’s going to get nominated, and who might win, but I must say this year’s Oscars is shaping up as rather suspense-less. According to my AMPAS voter gurus who constantly talk to other Academy members, consensus already is forming around Fox Searchlight’s Slumdog Millionaire for Best Picture. Also, I don’t know why opinion is focusing on Cate Blanchett in The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button over, say, Meryl Streep in Doubt for Best Actress. And Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight for Best Supporting Actor is considered a lock. I’m told by Academy members that David Fincher would have a better shot at Best Director for Benjamin Button if only he wasn’t considered such a jerk (yes, that factors in unless a pic is the absolute frontrunner), so Slumdog‘s Danny Boyle is the favorite. Which means the only real mystery surrounding the Oscars is the Best Actor category with Sean Penn for Milk, Frank Langella for Frost/Nixon, Clint Eastwood for Gran Torino, and Mickey Rourke for The Wrestler all seen as having an equal chance to win. My insiders say Langella may have the edge right now among the older voters, and Penn with younger voters, but …
Fandango’s MOST ANTICIPATED BLOCKBUSTERS FOR 2009
According to Men:
1. Star Trek 23%
2. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen 17%
3. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince 14%
4. X-Men Origins: Wolverine 9%
5. Terminator Salvation 7%
6. Watchmen 7%
7. Angels & Demons 5%
8. Public Enemies 3%
9. G.I. Joe 3%
10. New Moon 3%
According to Women:
1. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince 25%
2. New Moon 15%
3. Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen 11%
4. Angels & Demons 9%
5. X-Men Origins: Wolverine 7%
6. Star Trek 6%
7. Public Enemies 5%
8. Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian 4%
9. The Lovely Bones 3%
10. Where the Wild Things Are 2%
How sad that these deaths always come in threes…
Eartha Kitt who came from South Carolina cotton fields to become a reknown actress singer, dancer and actress, has died at age 81. She played the lead female role opposite Nat King Cole in St. Louis Blues in 1958 and in the 1990s appeared in Boomerang and Harriet the Spy. But who can forget her as Catwoman on the Batman TV series in 1967-68: she made sexy span all racial lines. But her legacy may lie in the fact she was one of the most outspoken political activists in showbiz — she spoke out against the Vietnam War while attending a White House luncheon hosted by Lady Bird Johnson — and her career paid the price for it.
Harold Pinter, the Nobel Prize For Literature winner, died at age 78. His film credits include 22 screenplays, most notably 1980′s The French Lieutenant’s Woman.
Robert Mulligan, who passed away at age 83, directed many of the movies that the world has come to love by never letting sentimentality become mawkish or manipulative. A frequent collaboraor with producer Alan J. Pakula, their credits include To Kill A Mockingbird, Love With the Proper Stranger, Up the Down Staircase, Inside Daisy Clover, and Baby The Rain Must Fall. Among other films he helmed were Summer Of ’42, Same Time Next Year, Clara’s Heart and most recently The Man In The Moon.
I’ve just learned tonight that the Fox Filmed Entertainment brass, because of the holiday, didn’t even know they had won! The New York Times’ Michael Cieply was first to get hands on today’s five-page written order issued by Gary A. Feess, a Los Angeles-based judge in the United States District Court for Central California, stating how he intends to rule soon in the closely watched case. I broke the news in August when Feess denied a Warner Bros motion to dismiss 20th Century Fox’s legal battle over the rights to develop, produce and distribute a highly anticipated film based on the graphic novel Watchmen written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Dave Gibbons. Fox was seeking to enjoin Warner Bros from going forward with the project and releasing it in March 2009, and Feess back then refused to deep-six Fox’s lawsuit filed on February 12th. Everyone assumed there would be a trial starting in late Janury over the legal issues because Feess at an earlier hearing said he believed one was necessary to settle the case.
But now Feess has abruptly done an about-face, saying he has reconsidered and concluded that Fox should prevail. So Feess intends to grant 20th Century Fox’s claim that it owns a copyright interest in the Warner Bros pic. “Fox owns a copyright interest consisting of, at the very least, the right to distribute the ‘Watchmen’ motion …
Xmas Weekend Predictions: ‘Bedtime Stories’ $40+M, ‘Marley & Me’ $30M, ‘Benjamin Button’ $25M, ‘Valkyrie’ $22M
WEDNESDAY PM: Big movies, big stars, big holiday weekend, and, if the weather cooperates, there’s a certainty of big box office grosses. But there’s still more snow and ice storms forecast for up and down North America threatening to lower yet another weekend’s movie ticket take overall and prevent 2008 from having a banner year. Here are Christmas weekend predictions:
#1. First up, Disney’s Bedtime Stories starring Adam Sandler, kids, gumballs… C’mon, this is gonna be huge, and it’s got the widest release of all five pics. Who cares about the awful reviews? The pic looks like fun for kids and their parents, and it’s only 99 minutes long. The very strong family tracking looks a lot like this holiday season’s Night At The Museum, which also starred a funnyman to draw in general audience (Ben Stiller), had stinky reviews, but made $575M around the world. Playing in 3,681 theaters, Bedtime Stories should open to $40+M over the 4-day holiday, according to my box office gurus.
#2. Right behind it is 20th Century Fox’s heavily marketed Marley And Me based on the bestselling book. All my movie analysts don’t dare bet against a dog movie. (Remember how well another PG pic about a pooch, Beverly Hills Chihuahua, debuted earlier this year? How about $29.3M on its opening 3-day weekend, all for the cost of canine food.) This is undoubtedly Owen Wilson’s comeback pic. The movie is tracking big with females of all ages, and well with (Old Yeller-fixated?) …
With five films opening on Christmas Day, and Brad Pitt, Adam Sandler, Owen Wilson, and Tom Cruise slugging it out, pre-sales really count:
Fandango Top 5 Online Ticket Sales (as of 12/24/08, 1:00 PM PT)
Marley & Me (Twentieth Century Fox) 26%
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Paramount) 15%
The Tale of Despereaux (Universal) 11%
Bedtime Stories (Disney) 6%
Valkyrie (MGM) 5%
So alongside The Black List is The International Watch List, which just came out with its 2008 roster. It’s an unofficial list of the American film industry’s favorite foreign feature and short films from the past year according to the judgment of over 50 US film executives and their assistants were asked to vote for up to five foreign feature films and five foreign short films. The International Watch List includes all the features and shorts that received two or more votes. Considered were foreign features and foreign shorts released in theaters internationally or shown at an international film festival in 2008, and directed by a foreign filmmaker. The stated aim of The International Watch List is “to highlight new filmmaking talent from abroad, to inspire creativity and spread the word about the international favorites of the year”:
The International Watch List 2008
LET THE RIGHT ONE IN
by Tomas Alfredson
(Cinetic Media/Christina Bazdekis)
Oskar, a fragile 12-year-old boy, is regularly bullied by his stronger classmates but never strikes back. The lonely boy’s wish for a friend seems to come true when he meets Eli, also 12, who moves in next door to him with her father. A pale, serious young girl, she only comes out at night and doesn’t seem affected by the freezing temperatures.
by Pascal Laugier
(ICM/Nathan Ross & Robert Lazar)
Young Lucie is found half-naked, filthy, starving and nearly catatonic, unable to describe the horrors she has endured. Hospitalized, she learns to function once again with the …
So Warner Bros filed in LA Superior Court seeking $49M over its agreement to give CBS options to order its Two And A Half Men for a 5th and 6th season. CBS, which airs the series, agreed that if it exercised those options and the show was a hit, the network would pay back at least some deficit financing incurred by Barry Meyer and company over the first 4 seasons as well as pay premiums on the 5th and 6th year license fees. There’s no question that 2.5 Men has, by any measure, been a hit for Les Moonves et al for the last 4 years as well as broadcast TV’s No. 1 sitcom. So Warner Bros wants its dough, claiming that CBS has refused to pay even a portion of what was agreed. Oh, I love it when Big Media stop colluding and start to sue one another. I’ll read through the lawsuit later for any juicy bits.
On what planet does The Washington Post reside? The paper actually claims in a recent article about Oscar publicists that “because Barry Dale Joseph is working on Slumdog Millionaire, the slumdog underdog, already nominated for a Golden Globe, has become the favorite.” Reality check: sure, his real name is Johnson (not Joseph), he works for ID PR, and he’s an okay flack. But he reps Fox Searchlight films so the guy is already working with frontrunner gold at awards time (like past pics he’s done Oscar campaigns for, Juno and Little Miss Sunshine). Now, let him turn barely talked about In Bruges into a winner – and I’ll be really impressed.
I don’t know who did this video, but it’s making the email rounds:
Wednesday, January 7 – 7:30 PM
THE AMERICAN CINEMATHEQUE AT THE EGYPTIAN THEATRE PRESENTS:
4TH ANNUAL FOCUS ON FEMALE DIRECTORS
This shorts program celebrates cinema pioneers, actresses-turned-directors, cutting-edge animators, music video helmers, documentary filmmakers, festival darlings and the brightest stars emerging from film school.
– Kirsten Dunst’s Welcome (USA, 2007, 13 min). Winona Ryder stars in this haunted house story for Glamour Magazine’s “Reel Moments” short film series.
– Isabella Rossellini’s Green Porno (USA, 2008, 3 min). A unique look at the sex life of bugs.
– Patricia Riggen’s Family Portrait (USA, 2004, 28 min). A Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner, this documentary from the director of Under the Same Moon revisits two people who were photographed by Gordon Parks in 1968 for Life magazine.
– Amy Axelson and Kimberly M. Wetherell’s Why We Wax (USA, 2007, 20 min). A funny, yet incisive documentary about getting rid of the hair down there.
– Nicole Mitchell’s Zoologic (USA, 2007, 4 min). A 2008 Student Academy Award winner about a very fussy zookeeper.
– Lana Kim and Andy Bruntel’s C’mon Baby (USA, 2008, 3 mins). A stop-action animated video for former Pavement frontman Stephen Malkmus.
– Ioana Uricaru’s The Sun and the Moon (USA, 2007, 13 min). A meditative, atmospheric portrait of a distant culture, shot in gorgeous black and white.
– Myna Joseph’s Man (USA, 2007, 15 min). Two sisters explore their sexuality in this student film by one of Filmmaker Magazine’s 25 New Faces of Independent Films 2008.
Discussion with …
The decision by SAG president Alan Rosenberg and executive director and chief negotiator Doug Allen to delay the Strike Authorization Ballot originally scheduled to start January 3rd should be recognized as the smart move to make now when SAG’s solidarity is splitting down the middle. It is a mature recognition that both sides on this issue raise valid points and deserve to be heard before anything with the word “strike” on it is considered by members.The “Yes” camp believes that actors will be stuck with what is inarguably a lousy deal undermining residuals not just for the next three years but perhaps forever given Big Media’s historical refusal to contractually revisit new technologies. The “No” camp thinks that a Strike Authorization will inevitably lead to an ill-timed strike in this economic recession and that SAG should join the other Hollywood guilds in 3 years to try to negotiate better terms with the AMPTP.
So what was supposed to be a January 24th weekend National Board meeting has now been moved up to January 12th and 13th. It’ll constitute one of the two plenary face-to-face confabs held each year. The NY Division and the Regional Divisions should have no trouble traveling to the Hollywood division’s backyard with so much advance notice. The point of this decision to delay is to ensure a fair airing of all views. (It even takes into account the “No” vote petition supposedly signed by ”well-known” actors even though the list includes no mechanism for verifying the
Snow Cools Off Hot Holiday Box Office: ‘Yes Man’ Cold #1 And ‘Seven Pounds’ #2; ‘The Wrestler’ Posts Best Screen Average
SUNDAY AM: The weather outside is frightful – snowstorms, followed by more cold and snow, in the Midwest and East – on this weekend before Christmas. So very early numbers for the three big movies opening in wide release in some major markets Friday and Saturday looked severely lower from Hollywood predictions. To give you an idea, here are top DMA percentage changes from last Friday: New York -45%/wk, Philadelphia -18%/wk, Toronto -45%/wk, Detroit -32%/wk, Boston -81%/wk. Box office analysts are calling the weekend an absolute disaster weather-wise that’s down over 41% compared to last year.
Everyone expected yucks to trump tears at the North American box office where comedy has been mostly king since Thanksgiving. So no surprise that Warner Bros’ Jim Carrey derivative laugher Yes Man (which is a deadringer for the funnyman’s 1997 Liar Liar) opened with $6.5M Friday and $6.6M Saturday in 3,434 theaters for what was a low $18.1M weekend since the weather did not improve (includes Sunday estimates). Can’t Carrey find new material? Meanwhile, it’ll be interesting to see if Carrey can lay claim to any real coin on this pic’s performance. (Read all about it in my The Worst Talent Deal Ever?) Another risky move was Will Smith choosing this melodrama Seven Pounds for Sony with its downer story that reunites the star with his Pursuit of Happyness director Gabriele Muccino. But the experiment produced Will’s worst opening since …