EXCLUSIVE: I understand that New Line veteran Russell Schwartz is already signed to become President of Theatrical Marketing. And Marvel veteran Dana Precious is in final talks to assume the newly created position of President of Creative Advertising and Research. Both Schwartz and Precious will report directly to Relativity‘s President Tucker Tooley. ”It is a coup for Relativity to get both Russell and Dana who have overseen some of the biggest movies in recent years,” according to a source close to the studio. Relativity hopes to make the formal announcement early next week. The news follows criticism inside and outside Relativity of the handling of movie marketing by Terry Curtin – culminating in this weekend’s flop film pickup Paranioa. “Relativity is losing confidence in its marketing head,” a source close to the studio told me this morning when weekend box office results were announced. “Granted it is an incredibly crowded and down marketplace, but marketing should have at least opened the film to $10 million.” Curtin is leaving the studio with an uneven record since 2011 with highs of The Immortals and Act Of Valor and lows like Mirror Mirror. Schwartz and Precious will jointly oversee all aspects of markeing campaigns for Relativity’s growing film slate which includes Luc Besson’s action comedy The Family, Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s directorial debut Don Jon, Jimmy Hayward’s upcoming animated buddy comedy Free Birds, and Scott Cooper’s Out Of The Furnace. “Relativity has a strong slate in the second half of 2013 and early 2014 so they wanted to get a team with Russell and Dana’s track record and experience,” a source tells me.
EXCLUSIVE: Relativity Naming New Film Marketing Team; Russell Schwartz And Dana Precious In, Terry Curtin Out
Beverly Hills, CA – Nominations for the 83rd Academy Awards® will be announced on Tuesday, January 25, by Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences President Tom Sherak and Oscar-winning actress and Academy member Mo’Nique.
Sherak and Mo’Nique will unveil the nominations in 10 of the 24 categories at a 5:30 a.m. news conference at the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills, where hundreds of media representatives from around the world will be gathered. Nominations information for all categories will be distributed simultaneously to news media in attendance and via the Internet on the official Academy Awards website, www.oscar.com.
Last year Mo’Nique received her first Oscar nomination and win for her supporting performance in “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire.” She currently hosts her own late-night talk show, “The Mo’Nique Show,” on BET.
Academy Awards for outstanding film achievements of 2010 will be presented on Sunday, February 27, 2011, at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center®, and televised live on the ABC Television Network. The Oscar presentation also will be televised live in more than 200 countries worldwide.
EXCLUSIVE: Daniels is coming off two Academy Award nominations for his last film, Precious, including Best Director and for Best Picture. He also won Best Director Award at the Independent Spirit Awards for what was his second film as director, the Helen Mirren-Cuba Gooding Jr-starrer Shadowboxer was his debut. This is a surprise move, as his WME reps have pretty much tied down his next film after months of work. Daniels is likely to helm The Butler for Sony Pictures Entertainment, with Denzel Washington attached to play the title role of Eugene Allen, an African American servant in the White House over 34 years who had a unique perspective on the civil rights struggle and was invited back after retirement to witness the inauguration of the first African American president, Barack Obama. Daniels has been rewriting a script by Recount‘s Danny Strong. Laura Ziskin is producing.
Daniels is also attached to the independently-financed Selma (The Weinstein Company is prepared to come aboard as distributor), which is based on the life of Martin Luther King Jr., with Plan B producing. WME also closed a deal to attach him to a remake of the 1957 pic Nights of Cabiria. Daniels, who started his career as casting director on Purple Rain before moving up to produce such films as Monster’s Ball and The Woodsman, has also been circling the Kander and Ebb musical The Scottboro Boys, which just ended its Broadway run.
HBO has acquired the U.S. TV rights to the Israeli documentary Precious Life, which is an official selection of this year’s Toronto Film Festival. The documentary, about a four-month-old Palestinian boy from Gaza who was born without an immune system and required a bone marrow transplant that could only be done in an Israeli hospital, was directed by Israeli broadcast journalist Shlomi Eldar and produced by Ehud Bleiberg and Yoav Ze’evi. It will premiere on HBO in 2011.
EXCLUSIVE: While Precious director Lee Daniels continues to wait for financing to mobilize on the Civil Rights drama Selma, he has closed a deal with Sony Pictures Entertainment to rewrite and direct The Butler. The Laura Ziskin-produced drama is based on Eugene Allen. A servant in the White House over 34 years, Allen watched the eight presidents he worked for wrestle with and finally stem the tide of segregation. The film is based on a series of articles written on Butler by Wil Haygood. After Haygood’s first article, the long-retired Allen was invited to be a guest at the inauguration of the country’s first African American president, Barack Obama, bringing his experience full circle. The first draft was written by Recount‘s Danny Strong.
Daniels will begin re-writing immediately and I’m told the picture could be ready to start before year’s end–Daniels has gone as far as approach Denzel Washington about the title role–if Selma doesn’t finally get its funding together quickly. The film, about Lyndon Johnson, Martin Luther King and the marches that led to civil rights reform, might finally be verging on happening. Deals aren’t closed, but it looks like Harvey Weinstein’s The Weinstein Company will commit $8 million in funding for domestic distribution, with Pathe matching that amount and taking foreign. Daniels’ WME reps have lined up an equity investor–I’ve heard Skyline Pictures–to provide the remaining funds for a budget that is $18 million, after location rebates.
While Precious grossed …
It’s pretty much what you would expect a Family Guy Emmy mailer to be – outrageous and funny. After dressing up Stewie as President Barack Obama last year under the “Vote For Change!” slogan, it’s dad Peter Griffin’s turn as cover boy this time as the lead from Precious in a tongue-in-cheek take on the poster for the dark feature about an overweight Black teen girl abused by her mother and impregnated by her father. The “Celebrating Diversity” theme is carried on inside with a list of all writers on the animated show grouped by ethnicity/sexual orientation: “Family Guy – written by 8 WASPS, 6 Jews, 2 Asian and 1 Gay.”
Being outrageous helped Family Guy land its first best comedy series Emmy nomination last year, the first for an animated series since The Flintstones in 1961. (Other tag lines featured on last year’s Family Guy Emmy mailer included: We peaked 3 years ago, so by your logic we should get an Emmy now; You have to vote for us — we did a holocaust episode; and Family Guy with Tina Fey… Not really, we just want an Emmy). No doubt the Family Guy writers, who are behind the show’s Emmy campaigns, are hoping for a repeat, possibly matching on the TV side what their inspiration, Precious, accomplished on the film side earlier this year: six Oscar nominations, including best picture, and two wins.
Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire won Best Feature and a total of 5 awards tonight at the 25th Film Independent Spirit Awards. (FYI, The Hurt Locker can’t be nominated because it was shown at film festivals in 2008 before it found a distributor.) Comedian Eddie Izzard served as Master of Ceremonies at the late-night show at LA Live’s event deck in downtown Los Angeles. (No, it did not take place by the beach in Santa Monica this time around.) Here are all the winners:
BEST FEATURE (Award given to the Producer)
Precious, Producers Lee Daniels, Sarah Siegel-Magness, Gary Magness
Lee Daniels for Precious
BEST FIRST FEATURE (Award given to the director and producer)
Crazy Heart – Scott Cooper, Robert Duvall, Rob Carliner, Judy Cairo, T Bone Burnett
JOHN CASSAVETES AWARD
(Given to the best feature made for under $500,000; award given to the writer, director, and producer)
Humpday directed by Lynn Shelton
Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber for 500 Days of Summer
BEST FIRST SCREENPLAY
Geoffrey Fletcher for Precious
BEST FEMALE LEAD
Gabourey Sidibe for Precious
BEST MALE LEAD
Jeff Bridges for Crazy Heart
BEST SUPPORTING FEMALE
Mo’Nique for Precious
BEST SUPPORTING MALE
Woody Harrelson for The Messenger
Roger Deakins for A Serious Man
BEST DOCUMENTARY (Award given to the director)
Anvil! The Story of Anvil, directed by Sacha Gervasi.
BEST FOREIGN FILM (Award given to the director)
An Education directed by Lone Scheerfig
ROBERT ALTMAN AWARD
(Given to one film’s director, casting director, and its ensemble cast)
A Serious Man — Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, Ellen Chenoweth, Rachel Tenner, …
EXCLUSIVE: Newcomer Gabourey Sidibe has been fielding calls non-stop from agencies since her debut in director Lee Daniels’ Precious, which landed Sidibe a Best Actress Oscar nomination this past Tuesday not to mention a current BAFTA Best Actress nomination. She also earned Best Actress nominations for Golden Globes and SAG, and won the National Board of Review’s Female Breakout Award. I’m told she will be repped by a team led by UTA Board member Tracey Jacobs who met her for the first time two weeks ago. “They spent a couple hours talking and totally hit it off,” says a source. Prior to Precious, Sidibe’s acting experience had been limited to some college theatre and no formal training. A friend suggested she to go to the open call where she met casting directors Billy Hopkins and Jessica Kelly. Two days later, Hopkins and Kelly introduced her to Daniels who cast her in the title role after one meeting. Sidibe will continue to be repped by manager Jill Kaplan at Principal Entertainment.
Nominations For 82nd Academy Awards: 9 Each For ‘Avatar’ vs ‘Hurt Locker’; 8 For ‘Inglourious Basterds’, 6 for ‘Precious’ & ‘Up In The Air’, 5 for ‘Up’; So Who Got Robbed?
UPDATE: Let me say from the outset that, for Best Picture, Star Trek was robbed. So was Invictus. And (500) Days of Summer. And The Messenger. And A Single Man. And Coraline. Meanwhile, the only real tension on March 7th will be whether Avatar or The Hurt Locker, and James Cameron or Kathryn Bigelow, and Meryl Streep or Sandra Bullock, take the Oscar. The rest of the marquee categories are shoo-ins (Jeff Bridges, Mo’Nique, Christoph Waltz, The White Ribbon). Which is a tad more uncertainty and excitement than the world’s most boring broadcast has experienced in years past. Maybe ratings will be up…
The studio scorecard shows Sony Pictures Classics tied with The Weinstein Company for most nominations, 13. Overall, Sony had the most nominations with 18 (including 13 for Sony Classics) but only 1 for a film developed in-house, Fox was next with 14 (including 3 for Fox Searchlight), The Weinstein Co had 13, Paramount 12, Universal 11 (including 2 for Focus Features and Working Title Films, and 1 for just Focus Features), Summit Entertainment 9, Disney 8, Warner Bros 7, and Lionsgate 6.
Here is the scorecard by film: “Avatar” 9, “The Hurt Locker” 9, “Inglourious Basterds” 8, “Precious” 6, “Up in the Air” 6, “Up” 5, “District 9” 4, “Nine” 4, “Star Trek” 4, “Crazy Heart” 3, “An Education” 3, “The Princess and the Frog” 3, “The Young Victoria” 3, “The Blind Side” 2, …
’2012′ Dominates For $225M 5-Day Launch Worldwide; ‘Xmas Carol’ Holds Well; ‘Precious’ & ‘Fantastic Mr. Fox’ Play To Packed Theaters; ‘Pirate Radio’ Sinks
SUNDAY AM UPDATE: Sony Pictures announced today its 2012 opened as a runaway No. 1 with $23.6 million Friday (including $1M in Thursday midnights) and $24.8M Saturday (+5%) from 3,404 theaters, with the studio expecting another $16.6M on Sunday. That’s a $65M domestic weekend and $160M international Wednesday through Sunday launch (with 2/3s of the 100 territories releasing day and date starting Friday, including North America). So it’s on its way past $225M worldwide for its first 5 days. That’s big for a PG-13 popcorn pic that’s neither a previously established brand or franchise or bestselling novel. Yet another in a long line of signature Roland Emmerich films featuring world destruction, this catastrophe film was anything but at the box office and became Sony Pictures’ 8th #1 North American film this year. Opening weekend exit surveys showed the audience was 52% male and 48% female with 45% under the age of 25. Despite dismal reviews, the film received an “A” Cinemascore for moviegoers under 18 and a “B+” overall. It’s exceeding expectations due to an aggressive marketing campaign that went into overdrive 6 weeks ago that included sneaking a key 2-minute sequence of the film’s special effects featured in the film as well as aggressive Internet searches surrounding the Mayan prophesy. But don’t forget that the disaster pic’s production budget was at least $200M and that Emmerich receives 25% of the gross. (see below).
Disney’s A Christmas Carol from Robert Zemeckis showed an excellent hold for No. 2, down just -25.7% from a week ago …
HAPPY HOLIDAYS? NOT FOR STARS: Carrey, Clooney, & Cameron Open Soft This Weekend; ‘This Is It’ Holds Firm; Big Debut For Oscar Buzzed ‘Precious’
SATURDAY PM/SUNDAY AM: If there’s a Christmas-themed movie opening in November, then it’s the official start of the holiday box office. (Hey, no studio waits for Thanksgiving anymore…)
1. Disney’s A Christmas Carol. You know it as Charles Dickens’ novel, but Disney had a problem with title rights, so now it’s their pic. Hollywood predicted the 3-D family film to make at least $35M and possibly $40M this weekend because of its wide release into 3,683 theaters domestically, including 2,035 3-D locations and 181 IMAX screens). But the Jim Carrey starrer (he plays lotsa roles, including all 3 ghosts) directed by Robert Zemeckis (who used the same motion capture technology as Polar Express and Beowulf) made only $31M after opening with an underperforming $8.9 million Friday and a Saturday kiddie bump of $12.9M (+43%) despite the higher ticket prices. Nearly three fourths of the gross came from 3-D, while IMAX made 14.5% of the cume, or $4.5M. It was Bob Zemeckis’ biggest opening 3-day weekend ever. Exit polling showed the audience makeup was 51%/49% under/over age 25, 15% teens, and 47% male/53% female. “Poor reviews coupled with the ‘too dark for kids’ attitude may really be hurting the opening,” a rival studio exec told me Friday night. “Throw that in with the possibility that they just might be a bit too early with the Christmas theme, and you have the possibility of a really lackluster …
Remember the good ratings for David Blaine’s ABC magic special a couple of weeks ago that we felt would spur more magic programs? A&E Network picked up Don’t Trust Andrew Mayne, a new unscripted series featuring magician Andrew Mayne. The series, which will premiere January 13 at 10 PM with back-to-back episodes, has Mayne performing illusions designed to help people get even by teaching a lesson to those who’ve wronged them. Mayne employs anything from explosions to disappearing cars and slight-of-hand, with one large illusion and five smaller illusions per episode. They include cars “melting away”, iPhones winding up in a “pickle” and someone’s precious motorcycle getting shot out of the sky. Don’t Trust Andrew Mayne is produced by Joke Prods., with Joke Fincioen, Biagio Messina, Mayne and Mary Jaras exec producing.
Along with Saving Mr Banks, which closes the London Film Festival on Sunday night in its world premiere, producer Alison Owen‘s credits include a lot of movies with women’s names in the title. They range from Temple Grandin to Elizabeth, Sylvia, Tamara Drewe and Jane Eyre. Many of those, Owen said in a keynote address today, she made because she was drawn to material that explored themes that she was exploring in her own life at the time. Although it’s got a man’s name in the title, Saving Mr Banks is no different. In the film, Tom Hanks plays Walt Disney as he tries to convince Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers, played by Emma Thompson, to let him turn the beloved nanny’s tale into a film. Owen admitted that at first she thought she was making it because of her kids, but soon came to realize it was really a film for her dad. “As we developed the story, I remembered Hannah Minghella… telling me how Amy Pascal always used it as a trick question for prospective interviewees or writers — asking them who Mary Poppins was about. And the answer, of course, is not Julie Andrews, or Bert, or the children — but Mr Banks.”
In a wide-ranging discussion today, Owen, who is also founder and managing director of UK-based Ruby Film and Television, also touched on the importance of story and keeping movies alive. Below are excerpts from her address:
“‘After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the things we need most in the world.’ That’s a quote from Philip Pullman.
I believe that to be true. I have to, really – I’ve spent my work life so far finding stories, telling stories, making stories.
But I’ve spent my life telling those stories in the movie business. And, as we keep hearing from various dark brooding media outlets, movies are seriously under threat. There’s many a Cassandra out there touting the death of the movie industry, as we know it.
Buried near the end of a lengthy Michael Fassbender profile in the November issue of GQ, writer Zach Baron gets the Oscar-buzzed actor to explain why he has no plans to do the campaign circuit this season for his supporting role as the vicious slave owner in 12 Years A Slave.
“I’m going to be busy working. I just don’t really have time. (Campaigning is) just not going to happen, because I’ll be in New Zealand. I’ll be on the other side of the world. You know, I get it. Everybody’s got to do their job. So you try and help and facilitate as best you can. But I won’t put myself through that kind of situation again. It’s just a grind. And I’m not a politician. I’m an actor,” Fassbender said of the whole Oscar process, which seems to grow every year and includes numerous Q&As, luncheons, meet-and-greets, private screenings, film festival tributes, presenting at endless awards shows, well-timed talk show appearances, etc etc. Many artists who suddenly find themselves the object of an all-out Oscar campaign find this part of the job even more grueling than making the actual film. And by the time the Oscars roll around they are spent.
Campaign or no campaign, in Fassbender’s case it may not matter. He’s very likely going to get nominated — and could win — for Best Supporting Actor and I think that’s a scenario whether he lifts a finger or not in doing the usual rounds. The film and the role are so strong it’s hard to imagine the actors branch ignoring him. Now after the nominations it could change, especially in a tight, competitive race where every vote counts.
EXCLUSIVE: Sony Pictures today releases Paul Greengrass‘s Captain Phillips. It’s a reminder why, if you follow auteurs like I do, you can’t beat this time of year. Just last week, I was as astonished by Alfonso Cuaron’s 3D marvel Gravity, especially after covering its twists and turns when Angelina Jolie dropped out and Universal let it go; when no studio would touch it until Warner Bros’ Jeff Robinov took a shot; and even then, casting was difficult and none of the studios co-financing partners wanted to share the risk on a film with an $85 million budget and two actors floating in space. It seemed like only Cuaron believed in this film, and good for him that it’s minting money.
There’s nothing like the resolve of an auteur-level filmmaker. I’ve felt it on Ang Lee’s Life Of Pi, Christopher Nolan’s Inception, Michael Mann’s Heat, Peter Jackson’s The Lord Of The Rings, Francis Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, Mel Gibson’s Braveheart, Alan J. Pakula’s All The President’s Men, Curtis Hanson’s L.A. Confidential and Martin Scorsese’s Mean Streets and Taxi Driver. That brings me to Greengrass, who left me feeling the same way with Bloody Sunday.
I’ve told my readers that every year I read his pitch for United 93, the 2007 film about the heroism of passengers who lost their lives wresting control of a plane and crashing it in Pennsylvania before terrorists could slam it into the White House or the Capitol Building on September 11, 2001. I read it every year because to me, it is a compelling example of pure artistic passion, burning desire and urgency. Readers asked me to publish the United 93 pitch last time I mentioned it, and so I asked Greengrass if I could. Not only did he give Deadline permission, he graciously set the stage and explained why this document sprang from him like a torrent. If you stay with it, what you’ll get here is a glimpse into the creative process of a writer/director who plays the game on the highest level, and who raised his game here. I still can’t believe United 93 got made by a major studio with no stars and a tragic ending everyone knew was coming. But as you will see, Greengrass was not to be denied.
“I remember it vividly,” Greengrass told me, about the day he wrote the United 93 pitch. “I wrote it in the aftermath of 7/7, what we call the bombing of four tube subway trains in London. I had wanted to make [United 93] for awhile, but I hadn’t gotten the courage to do it. Now, 7/7 it wasn’t as large a loss of life as 9/11, but at the time it looked like it could be of catastrophic proportions. I was in my office and somebody came over and said, you need to put on the television. They first say there was a bomb in the subway, then it’s two, three and four, or three subways and a bus. You get the little ones off to school, but my son, who was a teenager at the time, was out and about. I remember speaking to his mom. Like so many people did that day, you have that terror for an hour or two. He couldn’t have been on one of those, could he? Turns out he’d gone to a friend’s house, and he was fine. But for a couple of hours…I remember later that day saying, I’m going to write this thing. What is going on in our world is so intense and so frightening and so throwing the axis of our world off, that I must explore it. I must find a way of talking about it. I’ve got to go to the heart of it, where it began, and what I’ve got to do is say, what does it mean? I’m not interested in what people tell me it means, I’m not interested in what politicians tell me it means, I’m not interested in what we fear it means. As best we can, if we can make a film and start at the beginning, the struggles for the control of an airplane. That was the heart of it. What does that mean for our world? And next day, I wrote that document. That was July, and we sent it out and I was shooting that film by the end of the year.”
Flight 93 Treatment
What does it mean?
That’s the question we ask ourselves over and over again. Does it mean war without end? The onset of a new fascism. A shadow over all our lives.
Or is it instead a chance to renew our vows or patriotism? Of heroism. A chance to write a burnished page in history.
Perhaps it’s a wake up call. An event so calamitous that it forces us to acknowledge the fire raging outside. Makes us engage with the world. Drain the swamp.
Or was it just a chance event. Something terrible and unrepeatable that lacks meaning beyond itself. We mourn, remember the victims, but draw no lasting conclusions.
I doubt it.
I think we all know that somehow, in some way, it changed things in our lifetime forever.
* * *
There’s lots of ways to find meaning in the events of 9/11, especially as we move towards next year’s fifth anniversary.
Television can convey events as they happen. A reporter can write history’s rough first draft. Historians can widen the time frame and give us context. Politicians can seek to ride the waves of emotion. The best of them can lead us too. Religious leaders divine spiritual meanings and give us comfort. There are many ways…
Well I make films and I believe they have a small part to play, too. And I also believe that sometimes, if you look clearly and unflinchingly at a single event, you can find in its shape something precious, something much larger than the event itself…the DNA of our times.
Hence a film about Flight 93.
In a nice boost for its increasing awards season profile 12 Years A Slave has just won the People’s Choice Audience award from the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival. (Full winners below.) It’s a good omen for Oscar as such recent Best Picture winners as The King’s Speech, Slumdog Millionaire, American Beauty, and Chariots Of Fire were also winners that went on to take the Oscar for Best Pic. Several nominees have also been the recipient of the Toronto honor including last year’s Silver Linings Playbook and Precious among many others. Fox Searchlight will begin a slow rollout of Slave on October 18. The film, which debuted at Telluride Film Festival to loud buzz has generated much Oscar talk for director Steve McQueen, star Chiwetel Ejiofor and supporting players Michael Fassbender and newcomer Lupita Nyong’o. Tree Of Life team Brad Pitt (who has a supporting role), Dede Gardner and Bill Pohlad are among the producers. Runners-up for the People’s Choice were Philomena and Prisoners.
The Square took the People’s Choice for Documentary while Why Don’t You Play In Hell won for Midnight Madness section and When Jews Were Funny took the Best Canadian Feature honor. Ida won the International Critics Prize (Fipresci).
The fest closed Saturday night with the World Premiere of Life Of Crime, a very black comedy based on Elmore Leonard‘s novel The Switch. The film stars Jennifer Aniston in a change of pace role as an upper class wife who is kidnapped for ransom by an inept group of criminals led by John Hawkes. Tim Robbins plays her philandering husband who refuses to pay to win her freedom. The film is directed by Daniel Schecter. Leonard, who died last month at the age of 87, has an Executive Producer credit representing the last film version of his many works in which he was involved. In remarks before the film rolled at the Roy Thomson Hall (where one observer said it “played through the roof”) Schecter spoke about Leonard. “Elmore has always been my storytelling hero and I hope this film can be a worthy tribute to him. One of my many dreams has always been to adapt one of his great novels into a feature… If I can leave you guys with one thing, please go out and buy one of his books. And if you’re not hooked after one chapter, I’ll be a monkey’s uncle,” he said.
‘Insidious 2′ Stuns As Sept’s 2nd Biggest With $41M For Year’s 2nd Best Horror Pic; De Niro’s ‘The Family’ Forgotten For $13.9M
SUNDAY 9:30 AM, 5TH UPDATE: No surprise that a genre scarer did so well on a weekend frontloaded by Friday The 13th. But grosses flattened Saturday because of what my sources say was the big Mayweather vs Alvarez fight which scored big TV ratings from Las Vegas last night. That cooled what initially was hot total moviegoing this September weekend to $95M, only +10% over last year’s.
Regular readers know that I believe online domestic pre-sales are a more accurate indicator of a movie’s box office opening strength than traditional tracking. So it’s meaningful that FilmDistrict’s PG13 and 2D Insidious: Chapter 2 (released into 3,049 theaters) trended as Fandango’s top horror pre-seller of the year. And the grosses produced by Blumhouse horrormeisters Jason Blum and Oren Peli on just a $5 million budget were indeed record-breaking: an impressive $20.1M debut Friday (including $1.5M in Thursday’s late shows and Friday’s midnights) and $13.4M Saturday for a $41M weekend. Pic now becomes 2013′s 2nd biggest grossing horror opening behind The Conjuring and sets 2nd largest September debut. (Only 3 live-action movies in the past decade have ever opened over $30M in this traditionally slow month. Sony Pictures Animation’s Hotel Transylvania did $42.5M in September 2012.) Weekend was double what FilmDistrict was expecting and another winner for CEO Peter Schlessel who tells me he credits distribution chief Jim Orr and marketing czarina Christine Birch for the huge weekend. Sequel overwhelmed the first installment’s $13.3M. Here are more stats: Blumhouse now becomes the first production company to have two movies with budgets of $5M or under gross over $30M on opening weekend in the same year. With The Purge and Insidious: Chapter Two, Blumhouse has produced 2 micro-budget films in the past four months that grossed over $30M in their opening weekends. Combined, the two movies will have earned over $65M on their opening weekends with combined budgets of $8M. Yowza! Despite tepid critical reviews, audiences gave the Insidious sequel a ‘B+’ CinemaScore for James Wan‘s direction of the cast of Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne in Leigh Whannell’s screenplay. FilmDistrict’s marketing campaign targeted a younger audience (15-34 year olds) and focused on females during cable draws like ABC Family’s Pretty Little Liars and the genre’s growing Hispanic market. The studio created customized Latino creative exclusive content featurettes, radio and TV spots as well as hosted a Miami Press day. The film’s trailer launched with The Purgeand continued via Comic-Con, paranormal conventions, the Vans Warped Tour, and exposure at Six Flags. Exit polling this weekend showed audiences were 52% male/48% female with 62% under the age of 25/38% age 25 and older. Internationally, Insidious 2 opened #1 in the UK, traditionally the second biggest market for horror films after the U.S., with a bigger opening than recent hits like The Conjuring and The Purge.
This other weekend’s new release was Relativity’s and Europacorp’s co-financed and co-produced dark adult comedy The Family (3,091 theaters). It stars Robert De Niro. Michelle Pfeiffer, and Tommy Lee Jones directed and co-written by Luc Besson and executive produced by Martin Scorsese in yet another unnecessary and derivative gangster pic. With a disappointing ‘C’ CinemaScore from audiences and tepid critical reviews, this R-rated pic opened with a so-so $5.3M Friday and $5.3M Saturday for a $13.9M weekend. That’s smack in the middle of what Relativity was low-balling but no Red which in 2010 opened to $21.7M and also was aimed at older males and females. “We are pleased with the result and the film’s performance. The point is that the movie cost $30M and it’s going to make back half its budget in opening weekend,” insisted a Relativity exec – not taking into consideration P&A or the usual 3X formula. But stars are supposed to deliver openings above $20M and this movie had 3 big names who can’t draw audiences anymore on their own. This is only De Niro’s second biggest opening over his past 10 non-Meet The Parents franchise pics. (Limitless, another Relativity film, was #1.) Going to the gangster well again and again just diminishes him. Relativity’s Ryan Kavanaugh took a producer credit: but surely he couldn’t have fantasized yet another De Niro cash grab with lousy reviews would do any awards business? Michael Caleo of The Sopranos co-wrote based on Tonino Benacquista’s novel Malavita. Since Relativity recently revamped its in-house marketing and advertising, I’d be wasting words discussing the very forgettable campaign which surely contributed to the mediocre result. Relativity and Europacorp made this pic as part of an overall co-production and financing deal, with Relativity releasing in the U.S., Europacorp overseeing international distribution, and EOne taking Canada.
Here’s the Top Ten list based on weekend estimates:
Missed them first time round? Check them out:
Squash Those Petitions! Why Ben Affleck As Batman Is Good Move For Warner Bros
By Mike Fleming Jr - OPINION: I was as surprised as anyone when Ben Affleck was named the new Batman by Warner Bros.
EXCLUSIVE: Relativity Naming New Film Marketing Team; Russell Schwartz And Dana Precious In, Terry Curtin Out
By Nikki Finke - EXCLUSIVE: I understand that New Line veteran Russell Schwartz is already signed to become President of Theatrical Marketing. And Marvel veteran Dana Precious is in final talks to assume the newly created position of President of Creative Advertising and Research.
Fox Makes Epic First-Look Deal With Online Venture For Film-Centric Journalism
By Mike Fleming Jr - EXCLUSIVE: 20th Century Fox has made a two-year first-look pact with Epic, a fledgling online platform designed to be a catalyst for film-centric investigative longform journalism that had formerly been the domain of national magazines.
EXCLUSIVE: Relativity Sets ‘Act Of Valor 2’: Scott Wiper To Write/Direct About SWATs
By Nikki Finke - EXCLUSIVE: Relativity and the Bandito Brothers scored a #1 domestic opening when they brought Act Of Valor about U.S. Navy SEALS to the big screen in February 2012 and grossed over $70M all in.
Clint Eastwood In Negotiations To Direct ‘American Sniper’ For Warner Bros
By Nikki Finke - I’ve learned that Warner Bros wants to fast-track production for the first quarter of 2014 and is in “tentative negotiations” with Clint Eastwood to direct.
‘The Butler’ #1 Again, ‘Mortal Instruments’ #3, ‘The World’s End’ #4, ‘You’re Next’ #6
By Nikki Finke - As Summer 2013 …
“It’s hard even when you know it’s coming, and we knew,” Justified showrunner Graham Yost told Deadline of Elmore Leonard‘s passing today. “Once he had the stroke – it was a left brain stroke, and he was really was non verbal after – we got an update every day or two on how it was looking. It was pretty clear that it wasn’t looking good.” Yost says plans are already underway to pay tribute to Leonard before the next season begins. “We’ll do something for the Season 4 DVD set, and I’m sure we’ll do something on the first episode of the new season.” Yost and his writers had already plotted to integrate more Leonard characters into the series’ upcoming fifth season. “Before he had his stroke we were thinking, you know, we’re headed to end of the series, we’ve maybe got two seasons left – so we wanted to bring in the Crowe family which is a big part of his world. We’ve got Dewey Crowe on the show but there are other Crowes that populated his books and we thought it would be fun to focus on that.”